Unionists returned to the Stormont assembly despite the fact that it was clear that the Irish Sea border was coming

A letter from Dr Edward Cooke:

Arlene Foster and Steve Aiken led the DUP and UUP back to the Stormont executive in January 2020, weeks after the Irish Sea border had been agreed by Boris Johnson
Arlene Foster and Steve Aiken led the DUP and UUP back to the Stormont executive in January 2020, weeks after the Irish Sea border had been agreed by Boris Johnson

The New Decade New Approach Deal to return Stormont was signed on January 11 2020, three months after the unionist parties first knew, or should have known, that the Northern Ireland Protocol would destroy the Good Friday Agreement (GFA)!

Several leading unionists including Arlene Foster, Emma Little Pengelly and Lord Trimble were solicitors or barristers and they have all been at the forefront of politics in Stormont and Westminster since October 2019 when the details of the NI Protocol were agreed and then reported.

The main unionist political parties have had sufficient time and expertise to understand that the protocol destroyed the foundation of the GFA. The NI power-sharing executive and assembly are founded upon the GFA, that has been obliterated by the protocol.

Knowing that the protocol was coming down the line, unionists made a strategic mistake returning to Stormont last year.

Increasingly throughout 2020, the unionist parties should have known that the only way to prevent the protocol taking effect was to collapse Stormont but this was, and still is, the political strategy they refuse to contemplate.

No other course of action was ever likely to stop the protocol. The reality was, and still is, that because the DUP and UUP were never prepared to walk away from Stormont, the DUP had to try to change the hearts and minds of the NI public by arguing that there was an acceptable ‘one foot in-one foot out’ trade-off that unionists should accept.

DUP ministers in effect accepted the NI Protocol and advocated that unionists see it as an opportunity! This suggested it was politically expedient to surrender a part of the Union and accept taxation without representation to get imaginary economic benefits from the EU.

Today, the unionist parties scramble to re-write their failed 2020 protocol strategies before the assembly election in spring 2022. They will not succeed and their demise is imminent.

(The EU Commission published the details of the NI Protocol on its website on the 17 October 2019 click here three months before the New Decade New Approach Deal was signed)

Dr Edward Cooke, Newtownabbey

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