Thursday, 12 May 2022

Northern Ireland Protocol 101: From a Northern Irish Perspective

 I see that this morning John Redwood has tweeted:

There are a number of issue with this that many of us here in Northern Ireland take umbridge with. Firstly John is assuming that those conducting the interviews also understand the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and the various subsequent agreements added to the original. You see this whole thing is complex and when in 1998 the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland voted to approve the Good Friday agreement they actually knew what they were voting for. It was written out in full and sent to every home. 

This of course contrasts to Brexit which there was never any clear plan of what it meant and the Conservative Government subsequently has been making up as it goes along. If John Redwood has read the GFA he would know how intertwined Northern Ireland, Ireland and indeed the EU institutions are within the agreement for a peaceful future for the island of Ireland. 

There were only 18 years from the GFA until the vote on Brexit but in that time things in Northern Ireland changed, for the better. Subsequently the people of Northern Ireland, who did know what was involved in the GFA actually voted against leaving the EU. There are number of reasons for that security, ease of access across the border, also realising how much interlinkage there is and that this would be threatened by an EU border stretching over 300 miles around Northern Ireland.

In these days of talk about energy security the fact that most of NI's gas and electricity is actually supplied from Ireland Her Majesty's Government threatening to get involved in some any sort of argument with the EU, by acting unilaterally is worrying.

The other issue that many of us have is that Redwood is saying what the Unionist community think of the protocol in relation to the GFA. By this he means the DUP and TUV rather that the Unionist community but why let convenient shorthand get in the way when making a point about having the facts. The fact that the DUP and TUV were opposed to much of the GFA and are using it to acheive their own ends and on this they seem to be pushing the button of consent. Consent of course that wasn't settled with the withdrawal from the EU in the first place. 

This wee pocket of the UK along with several others didn't consent to our exit from the EU and then the European Economic Area, for many of the reasons about supply of food, services energy etc. In fact since Brexit our supermarkets have had to replace some of their foodstuffs, which have been in short supply in Great Britain also, with some supplied from Ireland, thank you protocol. So the DUP playing the consent card and with holding their consent for the Assembly to form over an issue over which their monirity view was fed into the Tory Government's negotiating position ignores the greater issues and more largely held opinion.

The DUP stood in the recent election on their stance of the protocol as part of a five point plan. Since the election is appears that four of those points education, housing, health service and cost of living are not really important enough right now for them to work on. However, that didn't go down too well with the electorate they lost 6.7%* of their vote and 3 MLAs. Hardly a ringing endorsement for what they were pushing. Yet somehow their performance at this election is now not just enough to hold the majority of NI voters hostage but the entirity of the UK.

Does anyone else remember the Prime Minister saying his deal was oven ready? Incuding the Protocol which Johnson and the DUP said was better than Theresa May's deal.

Does anyone else remember their 2019 election pledge that there would be no more negotiation over Brexit?

Well here we are we have a Government arguing that the Protocol that they agreed to as part of the process is not fit for purpose and that if the EU will not renegotiate it they will unilaterally chnge or scrap it.

We live in strange and worrying times. Can someone in the Coservative Party please listen to the people of Northern Ireland who are not linked the DUP, TUV or Jamie Bryson (now that is a story for another time).

* I will note here that the TUV gained 5.1% but if you also add in the 1.7% that the net loss for the  unionist parties is still 3.3%

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