Jim Allister: Boris Johnson flew into Northern Ireland with weak message on the Irish Sea border

Whether because of his own nefarious role in putting the iniquitous Northern Ireland Protocol upon us, or a failure to grasp the constitutional magnitude of what it does, the prime minister’s response in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday was weak and wholly inadequate.

By Jim Allister
Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 12:00 pm
Boris Johnson is greeted by an official at Hillsborough Castle. He met five parties there but not TUV
Boris Johnson is greeted by an official at Hillsborough Castle. He met five parties there but not TUV

Repetition of ‘no strategic or economic interest’ in Northern Ireland is neither a good start nor confidence-building.

If he thinks tweaks to the protocol between now and 2024 will be enough, then, the response of unionism needs to awake him from his sloth.

Boris Johnson is titled the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but because of the protocol it is not his writ which runs in Northern Ireland in respect of trade, the manufacturing of goods, customs rules or vat regime, but that of the foreign power of the EU.

It is Brussels’ laws, not Westminster or Stormont’s laws, which govern the EU single market for goods into which we have been annexed.

Under the protocol Great Britain is deemed to be a ‘third’ or foreign country when it comes to trade with Northern Ireland.

That is unbearable for any one who believes in the integrity of the United Kingdom, and should be unbearable for its prime minister.

This is the nub of the protocol issue: are we EU or UK subjects?

Just as under Brexit you can’t be both in the EU and in the UK, so the prime minister can’t have both Stormont and the protocol, because the price of Stormont is now to implement the Union-busting checks that the protocol demands.

Hence, the unyielding necessity for unionism to force him to choose.

Unionism can’t afford to be bought off by promises of future changes, but meantime operate the very thing we repudiate.

Such would guarantee the Irish Sea border remains.

Thus, there can be no return to Stormont now or until irreversible action is taken to remove the protocol.

Likewise a ‘landing zone’ which leaves Northern Ireland in a foreign single market for goods, under a foreign customs code and vat regime, with all such laws made in the foreign jurisdiction of the EU, is not a landing zone acceptable to anyone who believes in the Union and the Acts of Union which created it.

Fundamentally, the issue here is one of sovereignty and that cannot be fudged.

The fact that on his trip the prime minister underscored his commitment to Westminster action to implement full abortion services and Irish language legislation, again raises the question of what worth is Stormont if it can be so easily overridden on the demand of Sinn Fein?

Article 6 of The Acts of Union has been ‘subjugated’ by the protocol, according to the Court of Appeal, and the response of the prime minister is to prevaricate, but on Sinn Féin’s shopping list it is to pay the Danegeld and subjugate devolved functions!

Not for the first time unionism is facing challenging times.

The response must be strength, not weakness.

Thus empowering Stormont before the protocol is disarmed is not an option.

l Jim Allister QC is leader of Traditional Unionist Voice and MLA for North Antrim. His party won 65,000 votes and almost 8% of the vote in the recent Stormont election, by far the highest share of the vote received in any post 1996 assembly election contest by a party which won only won Stormont seat

l Morning View, page 16