The following statement has been issued by Unionist Voice Policy Studies following the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs conceding at the first stage of legal proceedings in relation to the implementation of the Union-subjugating Protocol.
Unionist Voice Policy Studies statement
On 21 December 2021 Unionist Voice Policy Studies initiated legal action, via pre-action protocol correspondence, against the Department of Enviroment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (‘DEARA’) in relation to the ongoing and future implementation of the Union-subjugating Protocol, which we contended was unlawful without Executive authority.
The respondent was provided with 14 days to concede on the substantive points, otherwise face High Court proceedings. It has now been confirmed by DEARA that, as requested, they will within a period of weeks refer the ongoing and future implementation of the Union-subjugating Protocol to the Executive Committee, pursuant to the provisions of section 28A (5) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. This is a significant and potentially defining victory.
This referral has the effect, both retrospectively and prospectively, of depriving the Minister of authority to act (see section 28A (10)). In short, the failure to refer the commencement of Protocol implementation has now been conceded as an error, therefore such illegality once recognised by DEARA can not be permitted to continue. As such, it will be necessary to halt all ongoing implementation of the Union-subjugating Protocol, until such times as there is cross community Executive approval restoring Ministerial power.
It is, of course, the duty of every Unionist Minister in the Executive to utilise the cross community mechanisms within the Executive in order to block there ever being Executive authority for implementation of the Union-subjugating Protocol.
UVPS had initially raised the section 28A point in a different context in an application to intervene in the case brought by Sinn Fein activist Sean Napier. Whilst this application to intervene was refused, it is notable that Mr Justice Scoffield did however insert extremely significant comments on the substantive issues, which had raised within that application, in his second Napier judgment (see paragraphs , -).
The weaponisation of the Belfast Agreement to Unionism’s detriment is a defining moment. We remain of the view the institutions should be pulled down. However, in the alternative, weaponising the legal mechanisms to frustrate the Belfast Agreement from within is preferable to inertia.