MPs set to vote on Stormont brake

MPs will vote this week on a key aspect of the Windsor Framework – the Stormont brake.

The statutory instrument, which was published on Monday, sets out in detail how the brake would operate.

Here are some of its key features:

– It would establish a new Assembly committee to scrutinise the Windsor Framework and any proposed new EU laws to be applied in Northern Ireland.

– The brake can be initiated by 30 MLAs from two Stormont parties or more – the parties can be from the same community designation within Northern Ireland, meaning a collective of unionists or nationalists could theoretically activate the mechanism.

Prior to activating the break, the 30 MLAs must demonstrate they have consulted widely on the move, including with the UK Government, the Stormont Executive and with local businesses.

– The brake will only be accepted by the Government if it meets set criteria designed to prevent trivial use of the mechanism.

If the Government accepts the criteria has been met, then the brake will be triggered.

This will automatically suspend the application of the EU rule in Northern Ireland until such point as the existing EU/UK joint committee on Withdrawal Agreement consider the issue.

At this point, the EU has the right to take retaliatory/remedial measures specifically related to the substance of the disputed rule.

The position the Government adopts in the engagement with the joint committee will also be governed by within certain criteria.

It will be obliged to veto the adoption of the new EU rule, unless:

– The rule has achieved cross-community support in a vote in the Stormont Assembly, with the definition of cross-community support mirroring the criteria already used within the devolved parliament in Belfast.

– the rule does not create a regulatory border within the UK.

– other exceptional circumstances apply, such as the powersharing institutions in Belfast being in a period of collapse.

The brake only applies to proposed new EU laws for Northern Ireland.

The Government contends that existing EU law in Northern Ireland will be subject to a consent vote in 2024 under the original terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol.