By Jamie Bryson
We are delighted that Dame Priti Patel has penned an exclusive article for Unionist Voice. That one of the United Kingdom’s most high-profile political figures has chosen to make such an important intervention via Unionist Voice rather than the so-called ‘mainstream media’ is a source of much enjoyment. It is bound to upset the self-appointed liberal elite and twitterati chattering class. That, in itself, is a good thing and one would imagine Dame Priti would concur.
In an explosive article, the former Home Secretary identifies the Windsor Framework as posing a “risk to the integrity of the UK” and says it must be re-opened to “put an end to the tenacles of EU control over Northern Ireland”. A core issue identified in Dame Priti Patel’s article is the continued imposition of EU rules on Northern Ireland which the influential Conservative MP, viewed by many as a future Tory leader and Prime Minister, describes as “undermining democracy”.
This contribution shoots down any prospect of credibly suggesting the constitutional damage which continues to be inflicted the Protocol can be remedied with a ‘deal’ which fails to re-open the Framework and end the application of EU law within the UK internal market.
As identified within the article for Unionist Voice, the Conservative manifesto made a commitment to protecting the UK internal market. This has not been fulfilled, and it is significant that Dame Priti has highlighted this issue, alongside making clear that the next Conservative manifesto must commit to restoring NI’s place in the UK internal market as a core issue.
It is difficult to see how any Tory who supports the Framework could support such a manifesto commitment, given the incompatibility of that treaty with the objective of protecting the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.
In consequence, Dame Priti Patel has via her significant intervention made Northern Ireland a key wedge issue internally within the Conservative movement. That this has been done openly and expressly, in her own name, adds significant weight.
It is known these views are shared by former Prime Minister Liz Truss, and Suella Bravermen who was recently pushed out of her job as Home Secretary by an increasingly weak Prime Minister.
Suella Braverman regularly expressed concern in Cabinet about the failure to deliver the NI Protocol Bill, or its objectives, and provided legal advice on restoring NI’s place in the UK. This advice was ignored by the Government who continue to deceptively pretend the Windsor Framework is compatible with the Acts of Union.
The intervention by Dame Priti comes when we are told, apparently, that the talks on the Protocol Framework are in their “final, final stages”. Any ‘deal’ which fails to restore, to its pre-Protocol status, Article 6 of the Acts of Union is constitutionally incompatible with Northern Ireland’s place in the Union. This requires, as a condition precedent, ending EU law for goods manufactured and moving within the UK internal market and removing the Irish Sea customs border. The so called ‘green lane’ creates such a customs border by virtue of the fetters on trade.
Priti Patel’s article clearly articulates the problems with the Framework, and it is obvious that the so-called Stormont brake, even if it did work, doesn’t in fact remedy the EU law issue given the vast swathes of EU law which already applies and would continue to apply, leaving Northern Ireland in a different regulatory zone than the rest of the United Kingdom.
The clarity of the former Home Secretary’s intervention should provide a dose of reality to all unionists, particularly any who believe that the Windsor Framework- or any ‘deal’ within its parameters- does anything other than not only continue, but in fact embed, the subjugation of Northern Ireland’s place in the Union.