Liz Truss hints at action on the Northern Ireland Protocol but unionists are right to be wary

News Letter editorial of Wednesday May 11 2022:

By Editorial
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 3:11 am
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2022, 7:18 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The see-sawing in the government’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol became more pronounced yesterday.

There was a report in the press that Liz Truss was planning to take action over it.

There was a tweet from the ITV political editor, Robert Peston (see below), suggesting that concrete moves against the Irish Sea border were going to be taken.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

There was a media account of critical things that Boris Johnson reportedly said to the Taoiseach Micheal Martin about it.

There was a vague reference in the Queen’s Speech to the “continued success and integrity of the whole of the” UK being “of paramount importance to my government, including the internal economic bonds between all of its parts”.

Support for “the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and its institutions” was a priority for the government, we were told.

A longer, written version of the Queen’s Speech had further references to the Irish Sea border, but still there was no detail as to how and when it would be rectified.

Meanwhile, the Irish language was not mentioned in the shorter version of the Queen’s Speech as red out by Prince Charles at the opening of parliament. But an elaborate commitment to legislate for a gaelic law was buried in the longer Queen’s Speech.

This was just the scenario that this column warned of yesterday. That, once again, a Tory government would give greater weight to a nationalist demand than a unionist one. Indeed, worse than that, it would give greater concern to a nationalist demand on a matter of limited significance, language, than to unionist demands on a matter of constitutional significance.

But last night the see-sawing continued. Liz Truss said Northern Ireland is “subject to different laws and taxes than those over the Irish Sea, which has left them without an Executive and poses a threat to peace and stability” (see below).

Is this the awaited breakthrough? It sounds like it might be. But who can be surprised if unionists can’t quite believe it.

• Other commentary:

• Peter Robinson May 11: Ignore those who are urging DUP to just go back into Stormont