Unionists combine to send out an important signal against the Northern Ireland Protocol

News Letter editorial of Wednesday September 29 2021:

Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 4:09 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 4:12 pm
News Letter editorial

The joint statement against the Northern Ireland Protocol yesterday was very welcome.

The main unionist parties all came out together to emphasise their rejection of the Irish Sea border betrayal of NI.

This shared approach is important above all because it shatters any sense that unionism, due to it encompassing a large range of opinions, is ambivalent about the protocol, or un-bothered about its constitutional implications.

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A political analysis on the BBC website on September 19 for example said that leaving a cloud of uncertainty over the Stormont institutions had been “mission accomplished” for the DUP, after its new harder position against the protocol, then continued: “But for Sinn Féin, SDLP, the UUP and Alliance, it is nothing more than a smoke screen”.

Anyone reading that might think that SF and the UUP are on the same page against the DUP, when in fact there is gulf between SF and UUP on the protocol, but only a tactical disagreement between the UUP and DUP on how to remove it.

So it is a mistake to conflate the diversity of unionist thinking with disagreement on core points of principle.

It would not make a lot of sense to be part of a political party that has unionist in its name but to fail to come out against such a fundamental breach of the Act of Union.

That is what the DUP, UUP, TUV and PUP did emphatically yesterday when they issued their statement to “reaffirm our unalterable position that the protocol must be rejected and replaced by arrangements which fully respect Northern Ireland’s position as a constituent and integral part of the UK”.

As Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says, the EU has changed its tune on the protocol. For all the scolding of unionists (as by Declan Kearney on page four) to be realistic and accept the new sea border, it is those who called for its rigorous implementation who have retreated in tone.

Pressure from unionism can help, and has helped, to undermine the appalling protocol.

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