Far from breaching the principle of consent, the Northern Ireland Protocol resolves a breach caused by Brexit

A letter from Paul Roche:

Friday, 20th August 2021, 10:39 am
Updated Friday, 20th August 2021, 11:02 am
Letter to the editor

Professor Monica McWilliams, one of the Belfast Agreement negotiators, published an article in the Irish Times on February 25, which explains the complexities of the interrelationships created by the Belfast Agreement, Brexit and the NI Protocol.

My summary is:

Article 1 (i) of the Belfast Agreement sets out the consent principle in great detail, giving a majority of NI’s citizens the right to decide their constitutional future ie within the UK or in a United Ireland.

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Further the way that sovereignty is now exercised in NI is qualified by Article1(v) of the GFA, ie. “parity of esteem, and just and equal treatment” etc. must be the guiding principles for the sovereign.

This means that NI’s relationship with Britain, including its constitutional relationship, is not the same as other regions in the UK. So the UK’s majority vote for Brexit is not the end of the matter for NI.

Because Brexit created a change in NI’s status that was actively opposed by a majority of people who live in NI, it breaches the consent clause (Article 1 (i) of the Belfast Agreement).

And so it is Brexit itself that breaches the consent clause by taking NI out of the EU against the wishes of a majority in NI.

In my view The NI Protocol is an attempt to partially redress this breach of consent by keeping NI partly in the EU, despite the current serious difficulties with east/west trade arrangements.

Paul Roche, Dublin

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