The DUP has not tabled any amendments to the Bill. We do have some reservations, especially about the regulations that Ministers may introduce to give effect to measures set out in the Bill. Nevertheless, we want the Bill to go through the House intact.
Having listened to the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry), I could have understood it if his amendment had come from the Labour party. After all, we know that the Labour party really wanted to remain in the EU and would love to get back in the EU; it is pushing to keep Northern Ireland as close as possible to the EU so that it could eventually be a foot in the door for the rest of the United Kingdom. I could also have understood it if it had been a Liberal Democrat amendment. The hon. Member’s amendment, which would be similar in effect to new clause 4, tears at the very heart of the problem. Rather than addressing the problem of the protocol, it seeks to ensure that that problem remains.
The protocol has caused two issues in Northern Ireland. The first is the democratic deficit. As a result of the protocol, Northern Ireland is subject to a list of EU measures which—in annex 2 of the protocol—goes on for 82 pages. Those 82 pages do not contain the details of the law; they are merely a list of the EU laws, directives and regulations that apply to Northern Ireland. Moreover, not only the historic regulations themselves but any changes in those regulations apply, and there will be no opportunity for politicians in Northern Ireland to have any say on them. They will have no opportunity to amend them; they will not even have any say in whether they are enacted, no matter how damaging they may be to the Northern Ireland economy. That is what causes the democratic deficit, and the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for North Down is intended to ensure that that situation remains.
In our earlier debate, we talked about the need for consent and the need for accountability. In fact, in his own speech the hon. Gentleman talked about how terrible it would be for Ministers to take on the powers in the Bill, because that would take away the right of this Parliament to make any decisions and have any say. Yet he was quite happy to move an amendment that would remove the powers in the Bill to ensure that that list of EU regulations—82 pages of them—should no longer apply to Northern Ireland unless it is deemed necessary. He is quite happy for the Bill to be amended to leave those in place. We have elected an Assembly in Stormont. I know that people complain about the fact that it is not sitting, and of course it is not sitting because of the protocol; but even if it were up and running, it could not do anything to deal with the problems caused by the protocol, because it does not have a say on them.
That is the first problem, and stemming from it is the second: the range of issues contained in article 5, which the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for North Down seeks to keep in place. What is article 5 all about? It is all about the fact that laws in Northern Ireland are different from, and will become more different from, laws in the rest of the United Kingdom. Goods coming to Northern Ireland from Great Britain will have to be subject to checks either if they are made in Great Britain under different rules and regulations, or if they come from third countries into Great Britain and then into Northern Ireland, and maybe go into the Republic. If passed, the amendment would leave unaddressed both the issue of the democratic deficit and the problem of EU checks, with all the impact that that has on businesses in Northern Ireland.
It has been claimed—we have heard much about this today—that what we should be doing, instead of acting unilaterally, is negotiating. Why do the Government not negotiate on all the things that they wish to do in the Bill? Why, for example, do we not secure a veterinary agreement with the EU? Well, we have been trying to do that. Indeed, Lord Frost told the House of Lords last year:
“On the question of a SPS or veterinary agreement, we proposed in the TCA negotiations last year that there could be an equivalence arrangement between us and the EU. Unfortunately, the EU was not open to that. We continue to be open to such an equivalence arrangement, if the EU is interested in it.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 March 2021; Vol. 811, c. 970.]
The EU has not shown any interest.