Liz Truss needs to take a Frost-style approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol, not a Smith-style pro Dublin one

News Letter editorial of Monday December 20 2021:

By Editorial
Monday, 20th December 2021, 2:08 am
Updated Monday, 20th December 2021, 2:31 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

When Julian Smith was sacked as secretary of State for Northern Ireland early last year, both the then DUP leader Arlene Foster and then UUP leader Steve Aiken paid tribute to him.

This was a troubling response to a dismissal which was, from a unionist perspective, richly deserved.

In fact, of the many matters that give rise to the persistent concerns about Boris Johnson’s judgement, his appointment of Mr Smith was high among them.

Within a few months, Mr Smith had criticised the DUP for not striking a deal (having never criticised Sinn Fein for being the instigator of a three-year collapse), he had delighted republicans and surprised everyone else by including legacy in the Stormont restoration deal, and he had torn up the three strands by letting one of the most partisan and interfering pro-nationalist ministers in decades, Simon Coveney, jointly author an agreement that delved far into issues that should be solely the reserve of Northern Ireland politicians.

But his dismissal did not seem to cause Mr Smith much concern. He has since commented on multiple political controversies in a way that always emphasises his warm view of Dublin leaders, seemingly regardless of how unfriendly their approach has been towards the UK.

On Saturday, just after the resignation of the pro unionist Lord Frost, Mr Smith tweeted a call for “pragmatism and solutions for both unionists and nationalists ... dogma has run its course”. Mr Smith did not mention Frost, but his implied criticism of the outgoing Brexit minister seemed clear.

Mr Smith represents an influential strain within the Tory Party. The excellent Lord Frost represented another strain.

We hope that the prime minister, in appointing Liz Truss as NI Protocol negotiator, is signalling that he is standing by the Frost approach — of resolutely defending the sovereignty of the UK, and showing a determination to rectify the unacceptable ways in which the protocol undermines that.

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