Whither unionism? Action must be taken unless Union supporters want to be seen as ‘full of sound and fury signifying nothing’

Northern Ireland lives in immensely challenging times.

By Jeremy Burchill
Wednesday, 22nd December 2021, 8:00 am
A pro-Good Friday Agreement leaflet from 1998; the letter-writer says the sole positive thing unionists got out of the agreement – a commitment to consent – has been wrecked by the Protocol
A pro-Good Friday Agreement leaflet from 1998; the letter-writer says the sole positive thing unionists got out of the agreement – a commitment to consent – has been wrecked by the Protocol

The Prime Minister claims that he has “got Brexit done”. Even if one is reluctant to call this controversial proposition a lie, it is at least a “terminological inexactitude”, in Winston Churchill’s phrase.

British citizens living in NI, no longer part of the EU, are now more subject to EU dictat than they ever were before. Indeed more is due to follow after New Year when EU interference with domestic trade is due to get much worse.

One national newspaper recently ran a story warning that the EU may even impose restrictions on how iPhones may be sourced for sale in NI. No other country permits an external body of which it’s not part to impose internal trade restrictions.

Letter to the editor

The resignation of Lord Frost is greatly to be regretted as at least he had a firm grasp of the problem.

Unfortunately his replacement Liz Truss appears to have far too many responsibilities on her plate as Foreign Secretary to have the necessary time to commit to actually delivering Brexit. Only time can tell.

Sadly time is not on our side. Every day that the Protocol remains in place the economy of NI is progressively eroded, the number of product lines available in supermarkets reduced and the cost of consumer purchases raised even beyond the national inflation level. Everyone suffers.

The fact that the EU is belatedly prepared to allow people in NI full access to medicines, whilst welcome, is no major breakthrough. The EU have only recognised the PR risk inherent in further intransigence in this area occasioning patient deaths.

Talks must not drift indefinitely. Mitigation of the worst parts of the Protocol does not constitute a solution. The Good Friday Agreement contained many major concessions by the unionist community.

The only good thing in that “curate’s egg” was the guarantee that there would be no constitutional change without consent. That pledge was, however, overridden by the Protocol.

In the absence of a clear “drop dead date” for Liz Truss’s Protocol talks, now is the time for all Unionists to suspend further participation in the Executive until the talks conclude, and the ability to freely trade across the UK fully restored.

Without a clear drop dead date Unionists risk being seen, in the words of Macbeth, as “full of sound and fury – signifying nothing”.

Withdrawal from the Executive would be a reasonable responses to Mr Justice Scoffield’s ruling that it is not legally open to ministers to decline to engage with opposite numbers in the Republic.

It is never illegal for a person to resign from a position held. Sadly there is no alternative to this course of action. The threat of the Protocol is existential.

Jeremy Burchill, North Yorkshire

For more opinion pieces and letters, go here: www.newsletter.co.uk/news/opinion

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