When Rishi Sunak was appointed to the post of Prime Minister, he promised to rebuild trust in politicians. Cut through his not-so-wafer-thin veneer of Brylcreem and he is more of the same Tory spin and deception.
He is guilty of misleading Parliament by describing his Windsor Framework as a new agreement for Northern Ireland. It is essentially the same as its predecessor, the Northern Ireland Protocol.
To those not examining him closely, he is plausible; that makes his deception more dangerous.
The Prime Minister he served as Chancellor committed, at the time, an unparalleled act of constitutional vandalism by agreeing to the Protocol. He earned an ignominious first by surrendering part of the United Kingdom to a foreign power without a single shot being fired.
Sunak is about to cement in the damage done by Boris Johnson and make it even worse with his Windsor Framework.
Under the WF, Northern Ireland would remain part of the EU’s Single Market for goods, subject to foreign EU laws, made by a foreign EU legislature and wholly adjudicated by a foreign EU court. The WF is crystal clear in all these respects.
Yes, it clarifies how EU State Aid law would be applied and it makes an exception for VAT rates applied to immovable objects, amongst other things, BUT it would not release Northern Ireland from compliance with the EU’s regulatory regime.
Indeed, in his pursuit of pleasing the EU, Sunak has agreed even closer regulatory and tax alignment across the whole of the UK.
The green and red lanes to be established by the WF would not be a new settled trading arrangement between GB and NI.
They effectively would be derogations from the existing requirements for goods moving across the Irish Sea.
The EU would retain the right, unilaterally, to withdraw the trusted trader system underpinning green lanes.
Even though the establishment of these lanes would significantly reduce the friction in trade they would not be frictionless, require their own set of regulatory approvals and the disclosure of sensitive trading data by British businesses to the EU; all the while with British businesses unable to rely on the arrangements being permanent.
And, crucially, while the EU has indicated it would withdraw its threat of legal action against the UK for not introducing checks on goods moving from NI to GB, it has NOT given up its right to make such a demand. Do not, for a moment, assume checks will not one day be required for goods leaving the EU’s Customs Union and entering that of the United Kingdom’s!
By no assessment could anyone claim the WF restores the Acts of Union and Northern Ireland to its rightful place in the United Kingdom.
Contrary to Sunak’s false claims, the WF is not a new settlement for Northern Ireland. It is essentially the same as the Protocol. That is why there will be no vote on it in Parliament.
The vote on the new Stormont brake, to take place on 22 March, equally is not required. It is choreography designed falsely to legitimise changing the foundations of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
Far from upholding that agreement, like the Protocol, the Windsor Framework drives a coach and horses through that peace settlement.
This brake, offered apparently to address the democratic deficit, created by new EU laws being foisted on Northern Ireland, by giving Stormont a veto of them, does not work. The brake could only be exercised in exceptional circumstances where a proposed EU law would demonstrably have a material adverse impact and then only if HMG agreed to apply the brake. And, even after all those hurdles were passed, the EU would be entitled unilaterally to impose sanctions on the UK for having the temerity of exercising the veto.
Even if the Stormont brake worked, it would only be applicable to NEW EU laws.
The body of EU law to which NI is already subject would be set in stone by the Windsor Framework.
In this important respect, far from changing the Protocol, the WF would reassert it.
Ultimately the effects of the WF on Northern Ireland would be at least as bad as the effects of the Protocol. This is not Getting Brexit Done – it is the defeat of Brexit.