Liz Truss statement on the Northern Ireland Protocol is a major step in the right direction

News Letter editorial on Wednesday May 18 2022:

By Editorial
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 6:46 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 6:50 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

As the DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said yesterday, it was a good start.

Liz Truss, the UK’s foreign minister, unveiled plans in the House of Commons to overhaul the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Her statement to MPs was short but covered much of the ground that any unionist would want to see covered.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The protocol, which creates the Irish Sea border, was a self evident disaster for the Union from the time agreement on it was announced in late 2019.

However, the details on the internal trade barrier get worse and worse. Yesterday, the chair of Marks and Spencer Archie Norman spoke to the BBC about how bringing in a single wagon of goods Great Britain to Republic of Ireland entails filling in 700 pages of paperwork and hours of administration.

The only reason this does not yet apply GB to NI is the grace periods that have been introduced (sometimes unilaterally by the UK) prior to the protocol kicking in fully at a later date.

That Boris Johnson and Brandon Lewis ever tried to deny the existence of the Irish Sea border looks all the more lamentable with the passage of time and the ever emerging detail of the range of things affected by the protocol.

Those who called for rigorous implementation of the Irish Sea barrier look ridiculous now, given the severity of even the partially introduced protocol.

The government is right to say that it agreed the protocol in 2019 under duress, amid the political paralysis in the House of Commons at the time. And right to take unilateral action given the EU refusal to budge.

Some cynics say that the government might yet retreat on its pledge to fix the protocol. It previously removed sections of the Internal Market Act that pertained to Northern Ireland.

The DUP does not have enough evidence of London’s intention to do the right thing on the protocol for it to abandon its pledge yet, but even so, yesterday’s statement from Ms Truss was a major step in the right direction.