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Read the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's and Equality Commission for Northern Ireland's consultation response to the House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Protocol’s call for evidence for its new inquiry into the UK Government’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill

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Submission of the NIHRC and ECNI to the House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Protocol’s call for evidence for its new inquiry into the UK Government’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill

Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2022

Date produced November 2022.

Below is a summary of the recommendations.

You can also download the full document through the links provided.

The Commissions recommend:

The Commissions consider that the UK Government’s commitment in Protocol Article 2, as well as the establishment of the dedicated mechanism to oversee this commitment, is an important and positive development in relation to the protection of equality and human rights in NI.

The Commissions recommend that the UK Government work with the EU Commission to find a long-term solution which ensures Muslim and Jewish communities in Northern Ireland are able to access halal and kosher food products and ritual items respectively.

The Commissions recommend that the UK Government, working with the EU continues to monitor and address any outstanding issues relating to the supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to guarantee no diminution of the current provision, including for disabled people, and to protect the highest attainable standard of health.

The Commissions recommend that the UK Government work with the EU Commission to find a long-term solution which minimises checks on assistance dog owners travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Commissions recommend that compliance with Protocol Article 2 be considered from the earliest stages in the development of policy and legislation, and that there is early engagement with the Commissions on draft legislation to ensure compliance with Protocol Article 2.

The Commissions recommend that the UK Government ensures that Explanatory Memoranda on draft UK proposals that are likely to engage Protocol Article 2 set out what consideration has been given to ensuring conformity with Protocol Article 2.

The Commissions recommend that the Committee asks the Minister in charge of the Bill to set out, in detail, what consideration was given to compliance with Protocol Article 2 in the development of the Protocol Bill.

The Commissions recommend that Clause 13 be amended to make clear that subsection 1 does not restrict the role of the CJEU where it is asked to give a ruling under Article 174 of the Withdrawal Agreement (Disputes raising questions of Union law) relating to the interpretation of EU law relevant to Protocol Article 2.

The Commissions recommend that Clause 15(3) be amended to supplement the restriction preventing Ministers from designating Protocol Article 2 as excluded provision, to ensure that Ministers are also prevented from designating as excluded provision, any provision of the Withdrawal Agreement or Protocol insofar as it affects the interpretation, implementation and/or enforcement of Protocol Article 2.

The Commissions recommend that the Bill be amended to make clear that a Minister’s powers under Clause 14(4), or any other Clause of the Bill, do not extend to taking any action that weakens the interpretation, implementation or enforcement of Protocol Article 2, either by excluding provisions of the Protocol or Withdrawal Agreement insofar as they relate to Protocol Article 2, or by any other exercise of delegated powers under the Bill.[1]

The Commissions recommend that Clause 20 be amended to ensure that it does not impact on the duty, under Protocol Article 13(2), on domestic courts and tribunals to interpret EU law relevant to Protocol Article 2 in conformity with the relevant case law of the CJEU.

The Commissions recommend that there are no changes to the Protocol that would result in a weakening of either the Article 2(1) commitment or the Protocol’s rights, safeguards and oversight mechanisms relating to this commitment.

The Commissions continue to recommend that:

  • the Commissions are kept informed of any future EU equality law developments relevant to the Annex 1 equality Directives in the Protocol, and have the opportunity to highlight in advance any implications of those changes for equality law in Northern Ireland;
  • the NI Executive work with the UK Government and on a North-South basis to build strong open channels of communication to keep informed of key developments of relevance to Article 2;
  • any proposals between the UK Government and EU on the development of “structured groups” within the Joint Consultative Working Group includes consideration being given to establishing a group that focuses on issues relating to Protocol Article 2;
  • proposals on increased transparency relating to the Joint Consultative Working Group are extended to include the publication of agendas in advance of meeting.
The Commissions recommend that the UK Government and EU continue to undertake engagement with equality and human rights stakeholders in NI, including those working on cross-border issues.


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