Tuesday, April 23, 2024
HomeBrexit WatchThe flexible Mr Gove keeps up his good work for Brussels

The flexible Mr Gove keeps up his good work for Brussels


HAPPILY for democratic governance of the UK, Lord Frost continues to fight off the multiple attacks of the EU aimed at bringing the UK into regulatory alignment, using the Northern Ireland Protocol as their lethal weapon. Caroline Bell’s forensic analysis puts it succinctly: 

‘Let’s not mince our words – the Northern Ireland Protocol is all about politics. It was cooked up by the EU in cahoots with a fervent Remainer May government and civil service to negate the result of the Brexit referendum. It had absolutely nothing to do with protecting the Good Friday Agreement nor with ensuring there was no hard border in Ireland.’

The G7 Summit in Cornwall was used by EU attack dogs to pressure the UK into accepting EU food regulation, so reversing Brexit, as the way of ‘being sensible’ and ending the ban on UK chilled meat crossing into NI without grotesque paperwork hindrance and delay. So far Lord Frost is enacting a waiver to this paperwork to allow food and medicines to go to NI. PM Johnson has said he will not hesitate to trigger Article 16, designed for just such a crisis, as the Unionist anger builds and builds, and the ‘marching season’ draws nigh. The EU watches with glee, knowing that Johnson is incapable of making crunch decisions against the EU, notably the obvious one of making a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU with the kind of courage shown recently by the Swiss against EU bullying: Johnson just can’t face it and always caves at the moment of truth. But as long as Lord Frost is our chief negotiator, we can have some hope for our democracy and sovereignty. 

But why are we in this situation, given that the government, particularly Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove, passed the Internal Market Act, albeit with gross clumsiness, specifically to stop just this impact on UK internal trade flow? The Act merely confirmed the law applying to the UK. To cite our expert Caroline Bell again, at the time of the Act: 

‘So now with the Internal Market Bill we are back to high politics, and the government has raised the stakes considerably. It isn’t just trade talks with the EU that are going nowhere. Talks in the Joint Committee on implementation of the NI Protocol hit a roadblock some time ago, largely because the EU’s maximalist interpretation rides roughshod over its own treaty commitments. 

‘The EU’s insistence that NI businesses must fill in export declarations to send goods to GB is not just a breach of the “good faith” requirement in Art 184 of the WA, but of Article 6(1) of the NI Protocol, which states that “Provisions of Union law made applicable by this Protocol which prohibit or restrict the exportation of goods shall only be applied to trade between Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom to the extent strictly required by any international obligations of the Union.” 

‘The EU has no international obligations whatsoever regarding domestic trade in the UK’s internal market but has demanded implementation of the Union Customs Code in full in Northern Ireland, in effect creating a hard border inside the UK’s sovereign territory and customs territory.  This is in flagrant disregard of its obligation under the WA to respect the UK’s sovereign territory and legal order and to ensure that “the application of this Protocol should impact as little as possible on the everyday life of communities in both Ireland and Northern Ireland”.’

She points out that the EU’s maximal and twisted interpretation of the NIP, feared by the Internal Market Act, was and is illegal, according the NIP itself. So why did Whitehall lawyers fail to use the legal provisions revealed by Bell above? Her clear view is that civil servants have been working hard with Remainer politicians to keep  the UK under EU regulation and suffocate Brexit.  

 In particular we now know, thanks to a letter by Tim Ambler of the Adam Smith Institute in Saturday’s Times, that Michael Gove, on the very day the Internal Market Act gained legal effect, December 17, 2020, met Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission, and completely prostrated himself to each and every demand made by the EU, including scrapping the Act. Take a look at this document, minutes of the Joint Committee of the EU and UK, signed by Gove and Sefcovic. 

 Gove could not have given away more to the EU. Rather than take up the legal facts shown by Bell above, he ignored them and signed up to the ban on chilled meats going to NI, to all the suffocating paperwork. He gave the EU all the ammunition that was fired at the UK during the G7 meeting. This horrible document is well worth reading, a mini-Versailles Treaty signed by Gove on December 17 but Gove had already conceded all this to the EU nine days earlier, we are told  in the document: ‘On 8 December, the UK and EU announced that an agreement in principle had been reached by the Joint Committee. The UK agreed to drop the controversial clauses in both pieces of legislation.’ 

The public were being deceived: the Internal Market Bill was a charade, for public consumption only, not a real shot across the bows of the EU to get them to see sense.

So at the G7 PM Johnson was attempting to defend himself and the UK and peace in NI from the bullets handed to the EU by the flexible Mr Gove. I think at this point in reading the Joint Committee minutes I was somehow reminded of Gollum in Lord of the Rings; not sure why. 

Caroline Bell in the same article says: ‘Boris Johnson’s revised Protocol, written at great speed in October 2019, may not be a masterpiece of legal drafting, but it is clear enough. Applied correctly, it protects Northern Ireland’s status within the UK, ensures unfettered access for goods between NI and GB, and keeps the UK out of the EU’s regulatory orbit whilst avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. Yet ever since it was ratified, the EU, Remainer officials and judicial activists have been trying to warp its interpretation to include all the unacceptable elements of the old backstop. The role of the civil service in this is deeply troubling (one cannot go into detail here), but Whitehall officials have been fighting a rearguard action with ministers ever since January in a bid to keep the UK legally subordinate to the EU through the new Northern Ireland Protocol – regardless of the consequences for the Union or the economy and people of Northern Ireland.’

Mr Gove has duly made the NIP worse for the UK by agreeing to the EU maximalist twisting of the current NIP: he has crowned the work of the Remainer Whitehall army of saboteurs. Why? 

He is also hard at work, behind the scenes as usual, working to give the SNP MPs in the Commons power to vote on English-only laws.

On Wednesday the Times reported: ‘The Times has learnt that Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, has brought forward proposals to abolish English votes for English laws (Evel), the Commons procedure introduced after the Scottish independence referendum. Under the plans, which were put to cabinet ministers last week, the requirement that Bills, amendments and clauses of legislation affecting England alone be approved by a majority of English MPs would be abolished to make parliament work “for every part of the UK and every party in the UK”.’

So giving the hostile SNP the right to interfere and block English only legislation is Gove’s way of ‘saving the Union’! I wonder what his Surrey constituents will make of this? We must recall that Gove blocked the ‘no deal’ Brexit needed to get back the Scottish fishing grounds, and so he harmed the Union. As we see above, he has harmed the Union by his collusion with the EU over the NIP. Now he harms England in a mad attempt to bribe the SNP with controls over English-only affairs. This reform of the West Lothian injustice was long overdue, and it would need to be in an election manifesto before it could possibly be scrapped by Gove’s secret plotting. He has betrayed the Scots, the Unionists of NI, and now the English. Only the Welsh to go.

Keep up the good work, Michael, Brussels is really rooting for you: the UK may yet become segmented provinces of the EU.

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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