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Protocol undermines Northern Ireland’s right to self-government

Protocol undermines Northern Ireland’s right to self-government

While there has been some appreciation of the difficulties caused by the Protocol that the EU has seen fit to impose upon Northern Ireland as part of Brexit, the extent of the difficulties has been, and continues to be, massively under-estimated. One clear example of this tendency is provided by the Sub Committee on the Protocol of the Lords European Affairs Committee. While it is encouraging that the Committee has acknowledged the existence of a democratic problem related to the Protocol that is worthy of consideration, the way in which the Committee has characterised the difficulty as a “democratic deficit” is deeply problematic.

When discussing EU-related challenges, the term “democratic deficit” has a well-established meaning that relates to a difficulty of a wholly different order to that impacting Northern Ireland as a result of the Protocol. It pertains to member states and their electorates (not jurisdictions like the UK, and therein Northern Ireland, that are not part of the EU) and arises from the fact that a large number of EU decisions are made at a supranational level in respect of which it is difficult for national parliaments to secure accountability and yet in relation to which the powers of the European Parliament are either too weak or too inaccessible to voters who instinctively seek accountability on the more immediate national rather than distant supranational basis.

Crucially, however, whilst the democratic deficit is frustrating, it by no means leaves the peoples of the EU without democratic rights. There is a European Parliament representing the people of the EU in and through which they can and do, to some degree, seek to call European governance to account and people can, of course, seek to hold the EU to account through their national governments, which are fully represented in the EU institutions.

By contrast the nature and extent of the democratic problems resulting from the EU Protocol on Northern Ireland are of a wholly different order. Instead of presenting us with a challenge that weakens democratic accountability, creating a shortfall that needs to be made up, the Protocol completely removes representative democracy from Northern Ireland with respect to some 300 areas of law making. The two scenarios – democratic difficulties resulting from membership of the EU and democratic problems resulting from the NI Protocol – are thus like chalk and cheese. The latter requires an entirely different characterisation…

Read Full Story At: Politico.co.uk.

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