So Conservative and Unionist leader Rishi Sunak has pledged there will be a negotiated settlement on the Northern Ireland protocol before the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday deal.
So much the better if this agreement can be sold by the Unionist parties to their electorate, ultimately resulting in the restoration of institutions. With 49% of trade unionists wanting the protocol removed entirely and a further 31% requiring significant changes to the protocol before reactivating it in institutions, there is not much room for manoeuvre. Surely only the UK Command Document Proposals as adopted in the NI Protocol Bill will suffice?
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (a former soldier who served in NI) recently told the European review panel that any protocol resolution “must be acceptable to all communities” in NI and unless trade unionists are “satisfied” with the result “it’s not going to work”.
In the weeks to come, this government will secure the Union and secure Brexit or the stage will be set for the UK to join the EU single market and customs union (in effect if not in name). And the protocol will be the Trojan horse to achieve such an outcome.
Pro-EU media in the UK and Ireland have been pushing this idea for some time, noting that it would virtually remove the Irish Sea border (and not just for NI). If the Prime Minister is content with a sub-par deal that lacks support from trade unionists, a new Labor government will use protocol and the restoration of NI institutions as a reason to bring the whole of the UK into line with the EU,
Which begs the question – wouldn’t the UK be better off in the EU with MEPs rather than under EU rules without representation (which is also the protocol’s democratic deficit)?
Alan Day, Coagh, Cookstown