IT is very easy to spot people who don’t know what they’re talking about with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Politicians in the US and EU constantly talk about it as though what is at issue is “peace” within Northern Ireland. And that anyone who wants to repeal it is risking the peace.
The UK only signed the protocol (which effectively put a customs border down the Irish sea) because we had no other option[/caption]
Boris Johnson meets with Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Fein while visiting Northern Ireland[/caption]
What they seem not to realise is that the Northern Ireland Protocol (signed in 2019) and the Good Friday Agreement (signed in 1998) are not the same thing.
It was the 1998 agreement that assured peace on the island of Ireland.
Whereas the 2019 protocol was something signed in order to ensure that this country actually acted on the 2016 Brexit vote.
I can usually clear a room in about five minutes by talking about Northern Ireland. But it is important. And here’s the crucial thing.
The UK only signed the protocol (which effectively put a customs border down the Irish sea) because we had no other option.
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Back then the EU and others were desperately trying to break up the UK in order to punish us for Brexit.
They seemed to think that if they split our country up or pretended that it was impossible to solve the customs border issue we might accept we’d been wrong in 2016 and rejoin the EU.
It was a disgraceful stance. Even more disgraceful was the way in which politicians in Europe and America, as well as this country, threatened us with the return of the IRA. It was very close to armed diplomacy.
Just imagine the outrage if the British government had done something similar during the Brexit talks.
imagine if Boris Johnson had said “Look, the loyalist terrorist groups haven’t put all their guns away you know. And if you don’t do what we want in the Brexit deal then we can’t promise those guys aren’t going to pick their guns up again.”
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There would have been outrage. But that is what we were threatened with by our counterparts as regards the IRA. It was despicable.
And, of course, the Government was in a bind in 2019. After three years of deadlock, this country was in a constitutional crisis.
Remember, that not only could the Government not get Parliament to vote on a Brexit deal, there were also plots by the then Speaker, and cross-party group of the worst people in Parliament, to form some kind of replacement Government, which could trick us into staying in the EU.
If that had happened, our country would have descended into chaos.
So it was right for the Government to sign the deal in 2019. Imperfect though the deal was. Mainly because it effectively left Northern Ireland in the EU customs union.
But it is equally right that today the Government changes that part of the agreement.
No other country would agree to being sliced up in this way by foreign powers. If we said we would treat Catalonia in a different way to how we treat the rest of Spain there would be outrage. Rightly. For it would be meddling with another country’s sovereignty.
Certain know-nothing politicians in America are even worse. Some in Congress are open supporters of Sinn Fein. And these people consistently talk about the need for a united Ireland with one breath then talk about not changing the protocol with the next.
Imagine if we did the same. Imagine if the British government supported Florida or California breaking away from the union of the United States. Or said we wanted to have a separate customs deal with them. There would be outrage from the Americans.
Well, so there should be over the way our country has been treated. And by our country, I mean all of it. All four nations that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The EU is already threatening a trade war, food shortages and much more. Which is a nice way for friends to speak to us. But that is what they are doing because they want to punish us for Brexit.
Or believe that if we can keep the current unworkable deal, some future Labour or Conservative government will lead us back into the EU.
It doesn’t help that our own national broadcaster — the BBC — seems to always take the EU’s side on these matters. But what a terrific waste of everybody’s time and energy this is. We have much bigger threats to face.
Abroad we have Vladimir Putin and a rising China. At home, we have runaway inflation and a cost-of-living crisis which is affecting every single household.
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The Government in Westminster needs to get these things under control. As do governments across the EU. We could do with concentrating our time and energies on these things and much more.
Instead of on a protocol that was a thing of its time — and is no longer fit for purpose.