Welsh Tory: The ramifications of the NI Protocol have turned my life upside down — I am joining the DUP and moving to Northern Ireland
An article by Dr Dan Boucher, a Welsh Conservative who has joined the DUP over the Northern Ireland Protocol, and intends to move to the Province:
As a Welsh Conservative my year started in the midst of great activity, preparing for the Welsh Parliamentary elections on May 6.
Although I had, of course, heard about the Northern Ireland Protocol, as a non-parliamentarian I had not read it and only got time to do so once the election was over.
I was deeply disturbed by what I read. Its ramifications have since been turning my life upside down!
Why and how would a document pertaining to Northern Ireland turn the life of someone living in Swansea upside down?
The protocol presents a challenge on at least three levels.
First, it places Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the Union, in the same single market for goods as the Republic of Ireland in an act that has the effect of destroying, for some purposes, the UK single market ‘impliedly repealing’, in the words of the courts, Article 6 of the Act of Union.
Second, it disenfranchises the people of Northern Ireland so they have no input in determining the single market laws pertaining to them, which are simply imposed.
Third, it makes these changes without securing the prior consent of Northern Ireland.
Unionism only works if the four component parts of the Union are here for each other in the context of an ‘all for one, one for all’ ethic. It does not matter where you live in the Union, if one part suffers, we all feel it.
On this basis I have had to put myself in the shoes of people in Northern Ireland and ask myself some questions. How would I feel if Wales — uniquely within the Union — was effectively placed in a different single market from the rest of the UK, such that if companies in the rest of the union wanted to sell goods to me it would be like trading with a foreign jurisdiction?
How would I feel if any of the economic legislation pertaining to Wales — let alone 60% of it — was made at a level into which Wales had no representation and was voiceless?
How would I feel, if this arrangement — fundamentally changing the constitutional settlement defining my life — was simply imposed on me and I was told that not only would I not be consulted about this seismic change in the rules of the game informing my citizenship through a referendum prior to the change, but that the only form of consultation would come four years after its introduction and be limited to my elected representatives?
The truth is that unless I wanted to secure the break-up of the UK or just did not care about my citizenship, I would find this intolerable.
What has concerned me most about the protocol, though, is the role of the EU and the manner in which the imposition has been made.
The EU says the reason they insist on the protocol is out of respect for the Good Friday Agreement and yet, anyone can watch Michel Barnier on youtube telling his team that their policy was to maximise leverage over the UK by using the political implications of the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland land border.
When this is viewed in the context of the fact that the EU has not engaged properly with the other credible way of protecting the integrity of their single market that doesn’t require a hard border, ‘Mutual Enforcement’, and the fact that their approach violates two key Good Friday Agreement principles (namely, (i) the need to afford the nationalist and unionist community parity of esteem, rather than taking a step that helps one community move closer to its goal, while completely alienating the other and (ii) the need for constitutional change to come with consent) their assertion that the protocol is about upholding peace in Northern Ireland begins to look completely absurd.
The bottom line is that the protocol threatens to destroy the relationship of trust upon which the Union depends for its survival by insisting that steps are taken towards creating some economic aspects of a united Ireland in a way that leaves one community feeling abandoned and without respecting the principle of consent in relation to either community.
Moreover, in considering this from the unionist perspective we should not just think about the relationship between the Union centre and Northern Ireland but also about the integrity of the Union as a whole.
The people of Wales, Scotland and England may not share all the priorities of Northern Ireland, any more than they share all the priorities of each other (unionism is, by definition, about the relationship between national traditions that are not completely identical), but they have a keen sense of fair play.
If they feel that EU pressure has resulted in Northern Ireland being treated unfairly, this will inevitably prompt the question amongst some, ‘Do I want to remain in the Union if it allows its smallest member to be treated in this way?’
In this context, as a committed unionist, I cannot passively watch the underhand way in which the EU is imposing these indignities on a fellow part of the Union and remain unaffected.
I need to do my bit in demonstrating to the EU and the world that the union is not dead and that as a unionist, if Northern Ireland is engaged, then I am engaged.
In this context, I have concluded that the best way of demonstrating the reality of the Union ties that bind us together is to relocate to Northern Ireland to stand, and physically identify with Northern Ireland at this very difficult time.
I have further concluded that the clearest way that I can underline this identification politically is by joining the party elected to represent Northern Ireland unionism in the democratically elected chamber of our union Parliament, the DUP, something I have been very pleased to do today.
I hope that my taking this radical step will assist the prime minister and Lord Frost by providing them with a living demonstration of the impact of the ties that bind and animate our United Kingdom in the hope that the EU might begin to appreciate that any attempt to impose the protocol on us is not just unsustainable because of its impact on people who cherish their citizenship in our United Kingdom who come from Northern Ireland but also because of its impact on people who cherish their citizenship in our United Kingdom who come from England, Wales and Scotland.
As the prime minister Boris Johnson wrote of the protocol in the Daily Telegraph almost exactly year ago, on 12 September 2020: ‘we cannot leave the theoretical power to carve up our country — to divide it — in the hands of an international organisation. We have to protect the UK from that disaster.’
We certainly do and the imperative for doing so is now pressing because, as the events of this year have demonstrated, the ability of the EU to carve up our country is proving to be rather more than theoretical.
I will be moving to Northern Ireland as soon as I can and look forward to blogging extensively on the union going forward and already have a book on the Protocol Conservative thought and the Union under way.
• Dr Dan Boucher was born in England but lives with his family in Swansea. He has stood for the Conservative Party standing at election. Dan is an author, including of a book on Welsh Conservative ideas called The Big Society in a Small Country. He says that in 2012 he suggested to the DUP chair, Lord Morrow, the private members bill that became the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015
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