Northern Ireland

Brexit bill 'unacceptable' says North Down MP Lady Hermon

Lady Sylvia Hermon
Image caption Lady Hermon said she would not support the Brexit bill "unless it is heavily amended"

North Down MP Lady Hermon has said she will not support the government's Brexit bill moving all EU laws onto the UK statute books unless it is amended.

MPs are debating the EU Withdrawal Bill on Thursday.

Lady Hermon told the BBC the new government regulations would be put "beyond the challenge" of the courts and she said that was "totally unacceptable".

She said she would not support the bill "unless it is heavily amended".

Lady Hermon, who voted for the UK to remain in the EU, described the bill as a "bad piece of legislation".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is a key issue for Brexit talks

She added that Brexit presented "the biggest constitutional problem for a generation" and said it was crucial that devolution was restored in Northern Ireland.

Speaking from Westminster, the Independent MP said that "ministers ought to be at Stormont dealing with this instead of squabbling".

She said she hoped the DUP and Sinn Féin could agree to restore devolution and said she hoped for "a generosity of spirit".

'Profound implications'

The Alliance MLA for East Antrim, Stewart Dickson, said that the ongoing political impasse at Stormont means that Northern Ireland is missing its chance to have a say on the bill.

Mr Dickson said: "We are left with no plan or strategy on Brexit, while by contrast, the Scottish and Welsh first ministers are collaborating on their response, and the respective assemblies are engaged on the issue.

"Some of the UK-wide matters being discussed as part of this bill could effectively allow government ministers to impose new secondary legislation and for it, in turn, to take on the status of primary legislation.

"This has profound implications for devolution and potentially the delivery and implementation of some form of special deal for Northern Ireland," he added.

'Not going to happen'

Responding to news that the EU wants a special deal to resolve the border issue between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, DUP MP Nigel Dodds said any Brexit deal which separates Northern Ireland from the UK constitutionally would not be accepted.

He also repeated his party's opposition to special status for Northern Ireland, saying any deal which would keep Northern Ireland in the EU while the rest of the UK leaves "is not going to happen".

"Ultimately a sensible solution will be arrived at, but not one which involves Northern Ireland being treated differently from the rest of the UK in constitutional terms, but one that recognises the special arrangements that we have in having a land border with the EU, " Mr Dodds said.

"We can work on the best deal for Northern Ireland, but it must be on the parameters of being part of the UK leaving the EU like everyone else."

Image caption Nigel Dodds said Northern Ireland must not be treated differently from the rest of the UK in constitutional terms

However, Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd welcomed the EU position, which he described as it accepting "the principle of a unique status" for Northern Ireland and as "vindication of the Sinn Féin position".

He said: "The paper recognises the fundamental requirement to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts including rights and north-south working, involves protection of cross-border co-operation, the Good Friday Agreement and Irish membership of the European Customs Union.

"It recognises the need for an 'unprecedented solution' to the challenges of Brexit and the failure of the British government to bring forward solutions," he added.

The UK is due to leave the EU at the end of March 2019 following last year's referendum vote.

The government has insisted that the withdrawal legislation, informally known as the repeal bill, will provide legal and practical certainty for the UK as it prepares for life outside the 28-member bloc.

While overturning the 1972 European Communities Act, which took the UK into the then European Economic Community, the legislation will ensure all direct EU laws applying to the UK will be transferred onto the statute book and continue to have legal force after the UK's withdrawal.

Related Topics

More on this story