Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

UK Government in chaos as it caves to EU again


Backs down on NI Protocol, then withdraws proposed rule changes, but wins in Appeals Court. 

The Government is busy on Ukraine but what about the integrity of the UK?

Despite past assurances of being willing to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol it continues in place after the British Government revealed its true self yesterday.

Firstly it announced the Ukraine war means Article 16 will not be invoked. Secondly, it brought forward regulations to stop using the name 'United Kingdom' in customs procedures – but then had to pull them as backbenchers rebelled. Thirdly the Belfast Appeal Court ruled in the Government's favour – five times. 

Don't expect a great deal of coverage in the mainstream media about the dissection of the United Kingdom by its own government – especially while there's a war on. Yesterday was "a good day for bad news".

As a result Facts4EU presents a report on the latest developments that the Government would prefer you did not know. These are the facts.


"The bad, the ugly, and the dreadful"

FIRST: Invoking Article 16 of the Protocol put on ice

  • On Saturday night it was reported the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, had written to the Prime Minister to say that due to the pressures of the Ukraine War this was not the right time to invoke Article 16 that would suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol pending its removal.
  • Instead she outlined a proposal to boost trade between Britain and Northern Ireland through an "economic stimulus" using tax breaks and a "unilateral green lane" allowing goods that would remain in the UK to cross the Irish Sea with minimal paperwork.
  • On Friday Steve Baker MP, former Brexit minister, said it would be "risible" to shelve the triggering of Article 16 until later this year because of the war in Ukraine, calling the Protocol "unfinished business"
  • DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP said, "The Protocol remains a problem, and it needs to be addressed."

SECOND: The Belfast Appeals Court rulings

  • Then yesterday morning the Belfast Appeals Court gave its verdict on the appeal brought by pro-Union supporters after their judicial review was rejected by the High Court – siding with the Government's case. Its rulings were:-
  • First ruling on the Protocol: The judicial review is of important public interest and should not be dismissed on the ground of being out of time.
  • Second ruling on the Protocol: On Article 6 of the Act of Union: Article 6 has been overridden by the Protocol but is not set aside by it. It is subjugated for as long as the Protocol exists.
  • Third ruling on the Protocol: The constitutional position of Northern Ireland has not "formally" been altered by the Protocol.
  • Fourth ruling on the Protocol: The changes made to the consent mechanisms in the Northern Ireland Act 1998, setting aside cross community consent, is lawful.
  • Fifth ruling on the Protocol: Foreign laws being imposed on Northern Ireland without any right to vote on these or object to them before their imposition is not a breach of human rights.
  • It is now expected that the Appeals Court rulings will be challenged in the Supreme Court by the pro-union supporters who brought the original judicial review.

THIRD: Chaos over regulations

  • There then followed a highly embarrassing moment when the Treasury tried to make regulatory changes for Customs Procedures that removed the name 'United Kingdom" and replaced it with 'Great Britain' for goods being shipped through Northern Ireland ports. This caused immediate uproar in the committee hearing the proposal, with Steve Baker and Craig MacKinlay objecting.
  • Once the new regulation was known, social media came alive and there was a flurry of activity behind the scenes with the Foreign Secretary clearly annoyed as it undermined her expressions of continuing to negotiate on the Protocol. Subsequently the proposed amendments were withdrawn.

Steve Baker MP

"Temperatures are running very high in Belfast .... this SI [Statutory Instrument] appears to run up the white flag and say "we're not negotiating on the Protocol."
"MPs want the issue of Northern Ireland's place in the union settled, by restoring it."
"The lesson here must be the time for cheery, unfulfilled promises is over."
- Former Brexit Minister, Steve Baker, House of Commons, 14th March 2022


The Government policy towards the NI Protocol is in a tailspin

Twice last year Lord Frost and Boris Johnson told us they were prepared to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol so that it would be suspended, pending procedures to renegotiate it away. Twice they sailed straight past the deadline they had set, losing all credibility as tough negotiators in the process.

There is no doubt that the Government has the right to trigger Article 16. It is a legitimate legal process intentionally provided for the eventuality that the Protocol disrupts the institutions of Northern Ireland, threatens the peace and causes trade disruption. It has achieved all of these misfortunes and the Government itself says the criteria for action have been met. Yet time and again it has been unwilling to do so – despite assurances to the contrary

Another disappointment for all who believe in the Union

Now the Government has let everyone down again, stating it will not invoke Article 16 this side of the Stormont elections and thus making it more of an election issue then it was six months ago. Polarising the electorate is not a good tactic for the British Government.

Then, as if they wanted to be caught in the act of betrayal, the Treasury moves regulatory changes in Committee that take away the name United Kingdom and replace it with Great Britain – effectively rubbing out Northern Ireland. This sends the message that the negotiations are a sham and made Liz Truss look out on a limb. The regulations were withdrawn at the eleventh hour to save face.

And where is the Northern Ireland Secretary?

Meanwhile the Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis is not even involved at this critical time. He's off to the USA for St Patrick's day celebrations. The phrase 'amateur hour' springs to mind.

All of that would have been bad enough. However it also came when the Appeals Court handed down its rulings on the relationship between the Protocol, the Acts of Union and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The result of which is that the protections that the Acts of Union and Belfast Agreement provide – the first being free trade within the UK and the second being democratic consent to constitutional change - have now been denied to Northern Ireland citizens.

All of this stores up trouble for the future and gives comfort to Sinn Fein. The UK Government is, at times like these, its own worst enemy and no friend of maintaining the Union.

This article first appeared on Facts4EU.Org

Font size: +

Contact us

Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
246 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street
London W1B 5TB
United Kingdom
Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames