Jim Allister: It may well be a choice between Stormont and the Irish Sea border, as Peter Robinson says

Unionism needs to heed the perceptive and timely article from Peter Robinson.

By Jim Allister
Sunday, 14th February 2021, 9:28 am
Updated Sunday, 14th February 2021, 9:30 am
Preserving our Britishness and the integrity of the UK should matter more to unionist politicians than Stormont, if operating the NI protocol is its price
Preserving our Britishness and the integrity of the UK should matter more to unionist politicians than Stormont, if operating the NI protocol is its price

(See below for a link to the article)

When it comes to the Northern Ireland Protocol we do indeed face a stark choice of either suck it up or resist it.

Statements, speeches, petitions and debates all have their place but, as Mr Robinson observes, nothing will be achieved unless the government is made to feel so uncomfortable as to force change.

Mere tinkering with the protocol undoes none of its dire constitutional consequences. It still remains a direct assault on our position in the UK.

Those with position of governmental power in unionism have, sadly, been administrating the protocol while claiming to oppose it at the same time. That is an untenable position which cannot be taken remotely seriously. Edwin Poots’ department built the Irish Sea border.

In December 45 EU directives and regulations were meekly voted through the assembly with only Jim Wells and I in opposition.

Today inspections are being carried out at the border checkpoints in our ports by officials under the control of a DUP department.

That must cease if unionist opposition to the protocol is to be taken seriously.

As Peter Robinson said you cannot credibly urge the ditching of the protocol while administering it at the same time. A choice must be made.

This week we had the ineffectiveness of DUP MLAs boycotting a section of a committee meeting, which members of the Irish Parliament attended, which went ahead in spite of them not being there. But the week before DUP junior minister Gary Middleton facilitated a North South Ministerial Council meeting on inland waterways by his attendance. It couldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been there.

Our East/West relations have been trashed by a calculated assault on our constitutional position as part of the United Kingdom. Sixty per cent of the laws governing our economy are made not in London or Belfast but in Brussels. This transfer of sovereignty is a constitutional issue of immense significance.

This is an intolerable situation but unionist concerns will only ever be taken seriously if there is a threat to something which matters more to London than the protocol.

What is that, if it is not Stormont? So destabilising Stormont and its north/south institutions is a necessary and legitimate tactic.

Yes, it may well be a choice between Stormont and the protocol, as Peter Robison has put it.

We must make the PM face that choice.

I believe many grassroots unionists have recognised the threat which the creation of an all-Ireland economy and the sea border between us and the rest of the nation is to our position in the United Kingdom.

Preserving our Britishness and the integrity of the UK should matter more to unionist politicians than Stormont, if operating the protocol is its price. Now, is the time to act in defence of the Union.

• Jim Allister QC is MLA for North Antrim and leader of Traditional Unionist Voice

——— ———

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Alistair Bushe

Editor