Members of the Orange Institution said they met on Saturday to debate “a comprehensive review of the Framework’s content and impact”.
In a statement, the organisation said: “We have measured the content of the Framework against our publicly stated opposition to the existing Northern Ireland Protocol.
“The Windsor Framework has delivered some limited, but welcome practical adjustments to the existing Protocol. These changes were brought about as a result of unionism’s determined and united opposition to its implementation. However, it does not resolve the fundamental concerns which were articulated in the text of the Anti-Protocol Declaration of September 2021.
“Many aspects of the Windsor Framework have been oversold. The proposed Green Lane is not a frictionless border. Substantial levels of bureaucracy which will disadvantage traders, hauliers and consumers remain and trade is clearly not unfettered as within Great Britain. If it were, there would be no need for a Green Lane.
“The Windsor Framework continues to treat Northern Ireland as a place apart within the United Kingdom and equal citizenship has not been restored. Article 6 of the Act of Union remains in suspension and as such, Northern Ireland continues to be a ‘semi-detached’ part of the economic Union the Act created.”
The Windsor Framework, which was unveiled in February, is a legal agreement designed to adapt the current NI Protocol.
It was formally signed off on between the UK government and the European Union last Friday.
Under the Windsor Framework, the new ‘Green Lane’ means that goods coming from trusted traders in the UK to NI will not have to undergo paperwork, checks and customs controls.
Article 6, which the statement refers to, is a part of the Acts of Union, that came into effect on January 1, 1801 and essentially formed the United Kingdom. Article 6 ensures that Northern Ireland has the guaranteed and unfettered right to trade freely within the United Kingdom.
The DUP are continuing to oppose a return to power-sharing – which collapsed last year following the party’s concerns over the Protocol – as its leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson claimed the Framework did not deal with “fundamental problems” created by the Protocol, including this aspect of Article 6 needing to be ‘fulfilled’ and the avoidance of ‘any diversion of trade’.
The Orange Order seems to support and echo Mr Donaldson’s position.
The Order has also said that the UK government “must create new legislation which reframes and protects the trading relationship between GB and NI so as to fully restore Article 6 of the Act of Union and create truly frictionless trade”.
“The UK Government has the power and legislative authority to do this without the involvement of the EU as it would exclusively deal with internal UK trade issues,” they added.
Another issue mentioned is the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which can apply EU laws here unless 30 MLAs or more object to the legislation, thus triggering the Stormont Brake, under the Framework.
At that point, the UK government has the power to veto future EU law which would otherwise apply to Northern Ireland under the Protocol.
However, a government minister can ignore the 30 MLAs if the minister “considers there are exceptional circumstances that justify the adoption of the decision in the absence of an applicability motion having been passed” or that “the new EU act would not create a new regulatory border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.
The Orange Order thus continued: “The Windsor Framework does not address our other fundamental concern in that Northern Ireland citizens are still subject to laws made by Europe, and therefore subject to European Courts.
“In order to resolve this matter, EU laws and in turn, the ECJ should only apply to NI goods manufactured for export to the EU.
“Businesses will therefore have the option to opt-in to EU laws if they wish to trade in the European market, whilst the vast majority of our local business, which is carried out within the UK single market, would trade solely under UK rules.
“We believe there is still unity in purpose within Unionism, in that all parties continue to oppose the two fundamental issues that remain from the Protocol – namely the Irish Sea Border and the non-selective imposition of EU law on Northern Ireland.
“Like the Unionist political parties, we want these issues resolved so we can continue to work to make a Northern Ireland a better place for all.
“However, given the seriousness of the concerns outlined above, the Grand Lodge voted unanimously not to support a return to the Stormont Executive until there is substantial and tangible progress which resolves these fundamental issues.”