By The Rt. Hon. Sammy Wilson MP - DUP Member of Parliament for East Antrim
As the U.K. edges toward a final deal on its future relationship with the European Union, it is important that we ensure the agreement delivers on what was promised. Already it is clear that last year's Withdrawal Agreement was fatally flawed. It leaves Brussels and the European Court of Justice in charge of huge swathes of UK economic policy, future payments that the U.K. will have to make to the EU, settlements in future trade disputes and rules governing EU citizens living in the UK. Crucially, it also splits the U.K. by placing Northern Ireland firmly within the EU single-market part of the EU customs territory and therefore subject to all future EU laws and regulations.
London is frantically trying to untangle the mess that this hastily agreed, badly thought-out and largely unscrutinized deal has created. The same can't be allowed to happen with the future trade deal that is now being finalised. This deal will decide the shape of our relationship with the EU for decades to come. If we get it wrong, we will not be a free nation. We will find our economy slowly strangled and our parliamentary sovereignty shackled by continued interference from Brussels.
Any deal brought by back by Prime Minister Boris Johnson should be judged by whether it fulfils the promise made during the Brexit referendum campaign to "take back control." That includes control of our laws, money, trade and fishing waters. It also means that the UK must be kept out of the EU single market and customs union, and that there should be no role for the ECJ in deciding the meaning or application of laws in the UK.
As a Northern Ireland MP, my primary concern in agreeing to any EU-UK deal is: Does the whole country exit the transition period as one United Kingdom? There is no point in claiming that we are regaining our sovereignty as an independent country and taking back control if we leave one part of the UK inside the EU.
Apart from breaking trust with the people of Northern Ireland and abandoning the central premise of the Good Friday agreement - that Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK as long as its people choose to do so - leaving Northern Ireland subject to EU laws has implications for national sovereignty right across the UK.
If we allow this to happen, Northern Ireland would be the EU's foot in the UK door. Any UK economic policies that benefitted businesses based in England, Scotland or Wales could be challenged by Brussels on the basis that if those firms traded, or potentially might trade, in Northern Ireland they might have an advantage over EU firms.
That is why the Withdrawal Agreement was so important to the EU and that is why the question of whether the future trade deal applies to the whole country - and whether every part of the UK leaves the EU on the same terms - is so important.
Any difference in treatment of the nations that make up the UK goes to the very heart of the Acts of Union. It would be inconceivable that the government would agree to any deal that meant that trade between the countries of the UK would be disrupted in order apply and collect EU taxes or apply restrictive EU regulations.
If the whole country does not leave the EU as one, many laws made in Westminster will not apply to Northern Ireland if they conflict with EU laws. This will include laws relating to employment, professional standards, the environment, building control and product standards. Laws covering 60 percent or more of life in Northern Ireland will be made in Brussels rather than London.
Such a situation would leave our part of the UK in a constitutional no man's land. That is not taking back control. That is abandoning the citizens of our own country.
Picture by Matt Bohill