Response to the House of Lords EU Select Committee Brexit: Devolution Inquiry.
Summary of Key Points:
- The political and economic implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland are unique in terms of the nations and regions of the UK due to the land border with Ireland. Leaving the single market, in particular, would have the potential to complicate access to the EU market and restrict cross border trade. Brexit has also impacted upon the Executive’s flagship policy of adjusting corporation tax powers
- The Northern Ireland Assembly/Executive have not to date displayed the capacity to cope with these additional responsibilities. In contrast to Wales and Scotland, most dealings with EU matters have to date been concentrated in OFMDFM and the Assembly has rarely considered EU issues. If substantial new responsibilities are devolved to Northern Ireland the Barnett Formula funding model will likely have to be reconsidered.
- Brexit will see pressure to extend the competences of the Northern Ireland Assembly/Executive by taking on a range of repatriated EU competences, but also makes it harder for Northern Ireland to make effective use of recent transfers of competence, including over corporation tax.
- The balance of power between the UK Government and Parliament and the devolved bodies has been called into question by Brexit. Brexit included no safeguards to protect the opinion of majorities in Wales and Northern Ireland, and the UK Government has to date proceeded on the basis that the Sewel Convention is not relevant to Brexit.
- The UK Government’s ability to reflect the interests of Northern Ireland in the forthcoming negotiations is hampered by the state of flux imposed by the collapse of the Assembly as a result of the RHI scandal. Even in the wake of the forthcoming Assembly elections stalemate seems likely and a return to direct rule appears possible. The UK Government must do everything in its power to prevent this outcome and to ensure that Northern Ireland’s Executive is involved in Joint Ministerial Committee (European Negotiations). This is preferable to ad hoc dealings with a range of Northern Ireland parties in which the participants can avoid responsibility for the outcome.