There isn’t even a real threat of unilateral action on protocol

So, after all the excitement and anticipation, our foreign secretary’s big announcement in Parliament on the Northern Ireland Protocol was not a declaration of unilateral action.

By Ben Habib
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 7:02 am
Ben Habib is a former Brexit Party MEP
Ben Habib is a former Brexit Party MEP

It was not even a genuine threat to take unilateral action. She opened her speech by re-confirming the government’s commitment to the protocol.

Sure, she went on to regurgitate most of what was in Lord Frost’s command paper of July 2021 but there was nothing new. There was certainly no action taken. It was yet another word smithing exercise designed to placate unionists, encourage the EU to negotiate and kick the can down the road.

Within minutes of her speech, the EU had declared they would not entertain a single change in substance to the protocol. If Mrs Truss had been at all serious, the EU response would have prompted her straight back to the dispatch box with a definite declaration.

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None was forthcoming.

The EU sussed out our government back in 2019. Brussels knows it can stand firm against London; London has a habit of buckling.

Thankfully unionists in Northern Ireland and their leaders, notably Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Jim Allister, have also sussed this out.

That is why they both, rightly, stood for election giving voters a choice between Stormont and the protocol.

There should be no further negotiations with the EU. The only satisfactory way out of this mess is by unilateral British action.

Instead where we are heading was laid out in Boris Johnson’s op-ed in the Belfast Telegraph on May 16.

On our present trajectory it is towards a border poll. Our prime minister casually dropped in a reference to one and did not rule it out. That was no accident.

He also said Michelle O’ Neill is someone with whom he could work. He was in Belfast pressing the DUP to take up its seats in Stormont whilst declaring implicit support for another party which does not take up its seats in Westminster. And one which openly wishes to break up our country. What sort of British prime minister would sidle up to Sinn Fein and shun unionists?

Let’s remind ourselves, peace in Northern Ireland is a British matter. It does not concern the EU or the USA or even the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is British.

These external actors, who have been flattered by our engagement for far too long, must now be shown the door.

The protocol does not present an existential threat to the UK, it has already broken it. So enough about green channels for Northern Ireland and red ones for the Republic. Enough of trusted trader schemes. Enough about complex negotiating command papers setting out the basics of what is required to reclaim that which should naturally be ours, our sovereignty.

The prime minister has a binary choice: ditch the protocol and save the UK or become the prime minister who oversaw its irreversible breaking. He seems to have made his choice. It would appear to be the latter.

Pro-unionists will not just roll over. The months ahead are going to be difficult for Johnson’s government and pro-unionists must maximise the pressure. I am sure Sir Jeffrey and Jim will do so.

Then there is the judicial review brought by myself and others against the protocol.

The Supreme Court is due to hear our case in November. Those of us who believe in our country are relying on British justice to protect British citizens and our United Kingdom.

l Ben Habib is a former Brexit Party MEP