UK government publishes deal which will set stage for Stormont return

Safeguarding the Union document was released online by the UK government on Wednesday

The text of the legislation which secured the DUP’s return to power-sharing in the North has been published.

The 80-page document, Safeguarding the Union, was released online by the UK government on Wednesday afternoon.

The measures outlined in the document by the UK government include, as previously signalled, legislation “affirming Northern Ireland’s constitutional position in the Union” and which amends the UK Internal Market Act 2020 to “guarantee Northern Ireland’s unfettered access to the UK’s internal market.”

It will also end dynamic alignment with EU law.


Legislative change will “recognise the end of the automatic pipeline of EU law”; Section 7A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will be amended, “reflecting the new reality that the law which applies in Northern Ireland is now properly subject to the democratic oversight of the Northern Ireland Assembly through the Stormont Brake and the democratic consent mechanism.”

The so-called Green Lane will be replaced with a UK internal market system, and the UK government “will commit that more than 80 per cent of all freight movements from Great Britain to Northern Ireland take place under the UK internal market system, with independent scrutiny.”

This will ensure “there will be no checks when goods move within the UK internal market system save those conducted by UK authorities as part of a risk-based or intelligence-led approach to tackle criminality, abuse of the scheme, smuggling and disease risks.”

There will be a legal requirement that new legislation will be “assessed as to whether it impacts on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and, if so, for ministers to make a statement considering any impacts on the operation of Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s internal market.”

The document includes more than 20 provisions, which includes the creation of an Independent Monitoring Panel to “provide oversight of the implementation of new arrangements”, the creation of a UK East-West Council and the publication of operational arrangements for the Stormont Brake.

The UK government will also “pursue an agreement with the EU on a long-term basis” to ensure the continued supply of necessary veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland beyond 2025.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said before it was published that the agreement will remove all post-Brexit checks on goods destined for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

His party has been using a veto power to block Stormont’s devolved institutions for almost two years in protest at the post-Brexit arrangements that have created trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

However, Mr Donaldson announced earlier this week that his party was prepared to return to Stormont, dependent on the UK government implementing the various legislative assurances and other measures it has offered.

This is expected to lead to the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland within days and will see Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill become the North’s first ever nationalist first minister.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris is due to lay a Command Paper before the House of Commons on Wednesday. “I believe that all the conditions are now in place for the assembly to return,” he said on Tuesday.

The return of Stormont will also see the Treasury release a £3.3 billion package to support under-pressure public services in Northern Ireland. The financial package includes money to settle the demands of striking public sector workers in the region this year.

Speaking on Tuesday, following meetings with other Stormont parties, Mr Donaldson said the deal would represent a “significant change” in addressing unionist concerns over Brexit’s so-called Irish Sea border.

He said: “On checks, on goods, moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and staying within the UK there will no longer by physical checks, identity checks, save where, as is normal in any part of the UK there is a suspicion of smuggling, of criminal activity; that is the same for every part of the United Kingdom.

“On customs paperwork, customs declarations, supplementary declarations, will be gone.”

Sinn Féin has focused on the imminent return of the Stormont Assembly, with party leader Mary Lou McDonald stating that Irish unity is now within “touching distance” as she hailed the significance of her party assuming the role of Stormont first minister for the first time.

Ms McDonald said the expected appointment of Ms O’Neill in the coming days would be a moment of “very great significance”.

Mr Donaldson announced his support for a Stormont return after receiving the “decisive” backing of the 130-strong party executive during a five-hour meeting on Monday night.

He said DUP party officers, a key 12-strong decision-making body, had also “mandated” him to move forward on the basis he was proposing.

Support for the deal is not unanimous within the DUP and several senior figures remain opposed to the proposed agreement. - PA