Lord Dodds is right that the EU’s Article 16 bid was hypocritical, and can’t just be swept under the carpet

News Letter editorial of February 1 2021:

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The DUP deputy leader Lord Dodds makes key points in his article on page four of today’s paper.

The first is that the UK has much greater reason to trigger Article 16 of the NI Protocol than the EU ever did.

Brussels sought to trigger the article (which can be used to mitigate serious harm caused by the protocol) suddenly over a specific EU-wide dispute about the rollout of the vaccine programme. Northern Ireland however has been hit by major disruption to trade within the UK, including, it now emerges, movements of military equipment. These are not concerns in which NI can be used as a device to influence the outcome of a bigger disagreement, but relevant to the protocol.

The second key point that Lord Dodds makes relates to the hypocrisy of an EU which for four years agreed with the Irish that there could be no change whatsover at the Irish land border, not even CCTV. Then, when it suited them, they discarded this position and acted aggressively, swiftly and without the slightest concern for a sudden hardening of the border.

A third key point in the article is that the EU have not taken using Article 16 off the table.

A fourth is that these truths about what the EU has just done cannot be swept under the carpet.

The response of the UK government has been diplomatic rather than robust. It depicts itself as unionist, yet has presided over great damage to the NI-Great Britain Union.

The essay by Lord Dodds is welcome but this is not just a story of bad EU conduct. It is also a story of London’s failures.

Calling out Boris Johnson is not of itself going to change someone so brazen. Yet it could cause the government, which is more focused on saving Scotland than NI, occasionally to pause. The UK will certainly not break up prior to 2024 but it would be embarrassing even to be seen to have set the Union on a path to destruction.

Unionists acting as if the border was fine would please London and make the next concession all the easier, so Lord Dodds is right to emphasise how bad it is.

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Alistair Bushe