Esmond Birine: The role of the European Court in Northern Ireland is an important question, not just a legal technicality

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The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. If the court retains the final say on whether the UK and Northern Ireland implement EU competition law in the single market, then the EU decides its own case.

The role of the ECJ is not some sort of legalistic Jarndyce against Jarndyce (the name of a never-ending legal case that runs through the Dickens Bleak House novel), which the UK government (Lord Frost) has now launched into negotiations.

If the CJEU retains the final say on whether the UK / NI government appropriately implements EU competition law in the single market, this gives the EU the privileged position of being a judge in his own business.

It is often argued that natural justice requires that “no one be a judge in his own cause” (“nemo judex in causa sua”).

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Dr Esmond Birnie is Senior Economist at Ulster University Business School

And EU law and how it is implemented (hence the question of whether the policy and practice of the NI should be the same as that of the EU27 or could they be considered ‘equivalent And related to all of this, which judges all of this) has very practical implications for NI’s economy and society.

To take an example, topical in view of the current deliberations of the Tax Commission, fiscal deconcentration. EU market law requires that any reduction in the level of taxation in a region requires a reduction in the cash transfer from the public treasury to that region equivalent to the reduction in revenue collected.

This was clarified in the Azores judgment of the CJEC. Thus, this was a decision of the ECJ which implied that if the Stormont executive had chosen to reduce the corporate tax in Northern Ireland, there would be a corresponding (considerable) reduction in the block subsidy. to NI. Under the protocol (as it stands), the Azores decision still applies to NI. A similar principle is likely to apply to any other future tax reduction proposals in NI.

It could be argued that HM Treasury would consider, in any case, that if a tax rate is reduced in NI from the UK average, it is only fair that the executive take a hit on the block subsidy. That may be the case, but the point is that under the protocol the UK government has no opportunity to show generosity to NI.

Dr Esmond Birnie is Senior Economist at Ulster University Business School

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