Of course the trading and economic consequences are great, but it is the dire constitutional impact which causes me to regard the protocol as the greatest threat to the Union in my lifetime.
By leaving Northern Ireland, while the rest of the United Kingdom exits, in the EU’s single market for goods, subject to its Custom’s Code, under its VAT regime, ruled by all the EU laws which govern these areas — laws which we did not make and cannot change and which number hundreds (Annex 2 of protocol), and subject to the supervision of the European Court of Justice a transfer of sovereignty has occurred.
Until now an identical sovereignty relationship existed for Northern Ireland with the EU as existed for Great Britain, because we were legally regarded as a single member state.
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Now, under the protocol, the EU retains sovereignty/control over all the above matters — which shape our economic destiny — while GB escapes.
It is because of this significant transfer of sovereignty and divergence from the one nation status that constitutional change has been wrought.
Now, isn’t the Belfast Agreement supposed to provide a protection against constitutional change without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland?
Clearly not, or the protocol could not exist because it has attained no such consent.
Sadly, under the Belfast Agreement the consent principle only seems to apply to the ultimate and final handover, not the stepping stone losses of British sovereignty.
So, unionists can be trussed up and made ready for Irish unity without ever consenting.
That is the purpose of the protocol — create an economic all-Ireland, believing political union will easily follow.
That is why unstitching the protocol is an imperative for anyone who cares about the Union. Easements, mitigations, grace periods — they all do nothing other than bed it in. They equate to palliative care for the end of the Union.
Thus there is no option but to defeat the protocol, in all its parts!
• Jim Allister QC is TUV leader
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