Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Northern Ireland and the Protocol

Northern Ireland needs a government to be formed at the Stormont Assembly. And it is clear that it will not get one unless progress is made to make the Northern Ireland trade protocol more workable.

It was never going to be easy for Britain to leave the EU without either re-creating a highly undesirable border on the Island of Ireland or an equally undesirable one within the United Kingdom in the Irish Sea. Indeed, my concerns about the difficulty of doing this was one of the three main reasons I voted Remain.

However, the majority of people voted Leave, and Britain has left the EU. Any deal to do so which had any chance of working was obviously going to have to involve a great deal of compromise, give and take - and to be brutally honest, probably more than a little fudging of the issues - on the part of the UK and Irish governments and the EU, to reflect the concerns of the various communities in Ireland.

It is my impression that the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol which was part of the exit deal contains various bits of language designed to protect the interests of both Unionist and Republican communities which, if interpreted in a hard-line and inflexible manner, are incompatible. It is also my impression that a number of actors, particularly the EU and certain EU member governments - this comment, by the way is not aimed at the Irish government,  but the French one - are interpreting the agreement in a flexible way, and in the process causing all manner of damage to the situation in Ireland.

If interpreted in that way the protocol is unsustainable, and therefore in the long term will not be sustained. I believe that Britain should always seek to live up to agreements that we sign, but we have to negotiate and act within the rules of international law to resolve this situation.

UK Foreign secretary Liz Truss made a statement today on this issue. What's written above is my opinion: what's written below is the view of the UK government. The Foreign Secretary's statement on the situation in Northern Ireland said that.

  • The current EU proposals on the Northern Ireland Protocol fail to sufficiently resolve any of the real issues affecting people in Northern Ireland and in some cases would make things worse. Prices have risen, trade is being badly disrupted, and the people of Northern Ireland are still subject to different laws and taxes to everyone else in the United Kingdom. This situation has left Northern Ireland without an executive and poses a threat to peace and stability.
  • That is why the Foreign Secretary has made it clear the UK will not shy away from taking action to stabilise the situation in Northern Ireland if solutions cannot be found. While our preference has always been for a negotiated solution, the answer cannot be more checks, paperwork and disruption.
  • The UK has worked hard and in good faith with the EU and we will continue to do everything we can to find the best solution for the people of Northern Ireland that protects peace and stability in the region.

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