John Bruton, the former Prime Minister of Republic of Ireland, recently opined that the UK’s sovereignty over Northern Ireland has been partially sacrificed under the latest EU-UK deal, which has been implemented provisionally since January 1, 2021.
It is worth noting here that the aforesaid deal, which is officially known as the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), was agreed on December 24, 2020, and later was signed on December 30. One party to the agreement was the European Union (EU) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), whereas the other party was the United Kingdom (UK) and Northern Ireland.
The aforementioned veteran politician John Bruton, who also served as the EU’s Ambassador to the United States, sounded marginally optimistic about the deal in his recent Oped Column Syndication article, where he opined that the last-minute deal was better than no-deal. He believes that the dispute settlement aspect of the deal is valuable from an EU point of view, as any disputes would otherwise have had to be referred to the WTO, where disputes can drag-on for years because of the trade organization’s cumbersome and narrow system.
Alongside the optimism, Mr. Bruton is also concerned about the impacts the deal will bring-about. He predicted a crucial impact of the deal, that the deal gives the UK more sovereignty over the island of Britain, but loosens a considerable measure of its sovereignty over Northern Ireland.
In fact, sovereignty is what the British side aimed for, and that is what they got as far as the island of Britain is concerned. Indeed, now the British courts will not have to apply the decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The requirement of applying European courts’ decisions was seen in Britain as EU’s tacit interference with British sovereignty.
It is worth noting here that the EU sets the detail of social and environmental standards to be followed and implemented by the member states, which, until Brexit, included the UK. However, under the aforesaid EU-UK deal, the UK will now set for itself the detail of social and environmental standards, which may be different from those in the EU. Brexiteers perceive such divergence as an expression of the UK’s sovereignty, and that is why Mr. Bruton believes: “there will be strong temptations to use this power if only to show that Brexit was worth the effort.”
Furthermore, when mentioning about the presence of different views about sovereignty within the UK, Mr. Bruton said: “Traditionally sovereignty in Britain was seen as the unfettered power of the British Parliament to legislate. Brexiteers have interpreted sovereignty as taking back control into the hands of British Ministers, rather than into the hands of Parliament as such.”
Brexiteers’ success in achieving ‘full’ sovereignty for Britain came at the price of, as mentioned earlier, losing ‘marginal’ sovereignty over Northern Ireland. Because the EU rules, in which the UK will not have a direct say, will continue to be made for, and apply in, Northern Ireland. And “the more British rules diverge from EU rules, the more will Northern Ireland diverge from the rest of the United Kingdom.”