Protocol court ruling clarifies key aspects of prime minister’s Irish Sea border betrayal

News Letter editorial of Thursday July 1 2021:

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 4:35 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

A high court judge in Belfast has found against all the core arguments in court levelled against Boris Johnson’s Irish Sea border.

It is noteworthy that the judge has concluded that it is legitimate to set aside cross-community Stormont safeguards for the Northern Ireland, that the consent principle does not apply to the partial repeal of the 1801 Act of Union, that the lack of democratic oversight of the major new trade barrier is not illegal and that the Act of Union can be impliedly repealed, rather than explicitly so.

This is a case of such constitutional significance that it will have to be decided in the Supreme Court. But in the meantime, a number of important matters have been clarified.

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The judge has accepted the government’s legal argument that the Act of Union has been partially repealed. Yet when Sir Jeffrey Donaldson put it to the prime minister recently that the protocol “has not resulted in an implied repeal of Article 6 of the Act of Union which enables Northern Ireland to trade freely with the rest of this UK,” Boris Johnson agreed.

It is beyond parody that we have a head of government who is first so reckless with the integrity of the nation state he leads, then so shameless that he denies the calculated damage he has done to that nation by contradicting the position of the lawyers he has appointed to defend the said damage.

Sir Jeffrey is now leader of what is currently the largest unionist party, the DUP. We warmly congratulate him on that confirmation and wish him the best in such a challenging role. The protocol is by far his biggest political problem.

EU sources are spinning the current deal with the UK over the protocol as a bid to give NI businesses time to alter their sourcing of chilled meats. If this is so, it is confirmation of the original betrayal of the protocol as well as a betrayal of recent pledges to overhaul it. In that case, Sir Jeffrey will need to elaborate on his welcome comment yesterday that this constitutional outrage will “have potential consequences for the future stability of political institutions”.

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Alistair Bushe

Editor