Mar 23rd, 2023
4 mins

MPs in the House of Commons have voted to pass the statutory instrument that will enable the government to implement the ‘Stormont Brake’.

The legislation passed by 515 votes to 29 , following a 90-minute debate, which saw only a small number of Conservative MPs voting against it despite speculation in the press.

The Stormont Brake will allow politicians in the Northern Irish Assembly to object to EU laws that could otherwise be introduced in the region, as the area is still subject to EU single market rules under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Whereas, under the previous implementation of the protocol, EU rules could have been applied in the region without Northern Irish politicians’ consent.

A petition of 30 MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) from two or more parties expressing concern about a new EU rule would trigger the Stormont Brake allowing the UK to suspend that law from coming into force in the region. This suspension would apply within a maximum of four weeks ahead of an independent arbitration with the EU via the Joint Committee which oversees the protocol.

However, MLAs must explain that they have met a number of conditions before the Brake can be triggered, as it is an “emergency” mechanism that should only be used in exceptional circumstances and as a last resort:

  • The Northern Ireland executive must be restored and operational – including with a first minister and deputy first minister in post – and the Northern Ireland assembly must be in regular session.
  • MLAs must first seek substantive discussion with the UK government, the Northern Ireland executive and relevant business and civil society stakeholders and look for other routes to resolution.
  • The content or scope of the change “significantly differs” from the original rule and would have a “significant impact specific to everyday life of communities in Northern Ireland” in a way that is liable to persist.

The UK government must then judge the MLAs’ explanation that the Brake has been triggered appropriately and if it does not confirm that three conditions have been met, the EU act will apply in Northern Ireland.


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