Committee to launch wide-ranging inquiry into the implications of the Withdrawal Agreement for North

Cate McCurry

A COMMITTEE is to launch a wide-ranging inquiry into the implications of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will examine the implications of the backstop and no-deal preparations while also investigating mechanisms for avoiding the backstop.

The UK government's Brexit agreement sets out plans for the Britain's withdrawal from the EU and starts the clock on a 21-month transition period in which a future relationship between the UK and the EU must be established.

The Withdrawal Agreement includes a controversial provision – the so-called backstop, which is intended to prevent a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the event that the future UK-EU relationship is not secured in time.

The committee is seeking written evidence on four separate issues arising from the agreement including how implementation of the backstop would work in practice for Northern Ireland and scrutiny of the mechanisms in the Withdrawal Agreement which govern implementation of the backstop.

It will also look at what steps need to be taken during the implementation period to secure an overall EU-UK deal which removes the need for the backstop and Northern Ireland's preparedness for a no-deal Brexit.

Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Dr Andrew Murrison, said: "The backstop has emerged as a central concern in the government's Brexit agreement and uncertainties remain about the effectiveness of no-deal planning.

"My committee's inquiry will explore the implications of the agreement for Northern Ireland."

As part of its scope, it will examine the impact of implementing the backstop in Northern Ireland, including what goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland would require extra checks from day one of the backstop.

It will look at where these checks would be carried out and what additional infrastructure and resources would need to be put in place to carry out these checks.

The committee will also consider how would trade in services between Great Britain and Northern Ireland would be affected by the backstop and whether goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Ireland would undergo any additional checks or customs processes under the backstop.

It will also assess whether UK politicians or Northern Ireland civil servants should represent Northern Ireland in the continued absence of a devolved Northern Ireland government.

In the event of a no-deal scenario, the committee will examine key actions the government must take ahead of March 29 to prepare Northern Ireland and to what extent has the government worked with businesses in Northern Ireland to make contingency plans for a no-deal scenario.

The committee is inviting written evidence submissions by Monday January 21.

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