The impact of Jamie Bryson’s argument on Northern Ireland Protocol checks is evident in Edwin Poots pledge to bring forward paper

News Letter editorial of Thursday January 6 2021:

By Editorial
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 1:00 am
Updated Thursday, 6th January 2022, 1:50 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The loyalist Jamie Bryson, opposite in the print paper (see web link below), outlines his assessment of why the implementation of the NI Protocol has not been properly authorised.

It is a remarkable article because of its simplicity. Parallel points about the Irish Sea border lacking the cross-community approval that is the bedrock of the Belfast Agreement have certainly already been made — indeed they formed a core plank of the joint unionist legal action against the internal UK barrier.

But this is a simpler procedural point about the need to have the protocol checks approved by the Stormont execuive.

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Mr Bryson says that the key relevant provision of the 1998 Northern Ireland Act which requires “significant or controversial decisions to have executive authority”.

The impact of Mr Bryson’s argument is evident in the response of the agriculture minister, Edwin Poots, who said he will bring a paper to the executive soon in relation to implementation of the protocol. That seems to imply an acceptance of the view that he should already have done so.

This is a peculiar political time. A big constitutional shift has occurred, vis a vis Northern Ireland, in that the Act of Union has been partially and impliedly appealed. That is the government’s own legal argument in defence of a protocol that, for a while, until recently it almost seemed to want scrapped.

If London has see-sawed over this issue, so too have unionists — the DUP talked of the opportunities of the protocol, now wants rid of it. The UUP has seemed robust on the Irish Sea border at times, at other times more pragmatic in tone (while insisting that it still opposes it). John Kyle, an ex PUP leader, has reopened the case for it providing “opportunities”.

Overall since 2019, the unionist response has been mild, as if rooted in defeatism. Nationalism made clear it would not accept even CCTV at the land border. If that frontier had the disruption and legal change that has been introduced in the Irish Sea, nationalists would have rejected it furiously and fully — and been backed by Dublin in that opposition.

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