Disruption from the Northern Ireland protocol is disastrous but the principle behind it is even worse

Edwin Poots has massive political challenges ahead of him, and needs to be able to find his feet.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 6:00 am
News Letter editorial

But the clock is ticking hard and there is not that much time for the incoming DUP leader to get up to speed and to make hard decisions.

His latest comments on the Northern Ireland Protocol include important and sensible observations. Yet there are also a number of reasons to be concerned by his remarks.

Mr Poots, who was narrowly elected to lead his party, was speaking after a report said businesses are having problems exporting and importing goods from and to NI.

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Mr Poots talked about not having enough staff to do what is required under the protocol, and pointed out that there are not enough vets. “The problem with the protocol is that it is undeliverable,” he said.

Without wishing to put every remark by Mr Poots under the microscope, it is also important to keep emphasising that that is not the problem with the protocol. Staffing and checking issues are a very, very harmful manifestation of a protocol that has bad, even disastrous, constitutional implications.

If unionists keep emphasising the disruption caused by them, or the impossibility of carrying them out, then the UK-EU can minimise the checks and then decree that all is well, and thus the essential principle gets lost. The UK government has said that the Act of Union is partially repealed, insofar as it relates to internal UK trade. If that is not totally and permanently unacceptable to unionists, then what might be?

And why should unionists feel that they have to adhere to the letter of North South arrangements, when East West has been torn up in this way without consent?

Mr Poots also said he wants to facilitate the EU protection of its single market. We hear this sort of talk a lot, including from London. But again, why?

The internal market of the UK has not merely gone unprotected, it has in been partly destroyed, at the behest of the EU.

It is hard to see yet a change in DUP policy re the protocol.

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