Bryson hits out at stream of ‘fire and fury’ from nationalists over his ‘classic judo move’ anti-Protocol strategy

Mr Bryson described his set of proposals as a “classic judo move” – in the sense that he has sought to harness the text of the Good Friday Agreement as a weapon against those who support the ongoing Irish Sea border.

Friday, 7th January 2022, 4:18 pm
Updated Friday, 7th January 2022, 5:20 pm
Jamie Bryson

The new proposals were set forth on Wednesday in a publication from Unionist Voice Policy Studies (UVPS), a group run by Mr Bryson.

He was aided in writing the report by several people from the fields of law and academia, though he has declined to name them.

In simple terms, the report sets out a collection of legal arguments based on the exact wording of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the subsequent 1998 Northern Ireland Act, and the written Ministerial Code which governs how ministers are meant to behave.

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An anti-Protocol poster in Rathcoole, north Belfast, backed by flags and paramilitary murals

Taken together, the report concludes that it is unlawful to carry out border checks on goods entering NI from GB because:

> A) The nature of the Protocol cuts across a number of different departments, plus;

> B) The Protocol qualifies as a “significant or controversial” matter;

> And that in either case, the wording of the law means such matters must be debated and decided by the full 12-minister NI Executive – or else the checks are technically illegal (this is explained in more detail at the links below).

DAERA minister Edwin Poots has since said he agrees with this analysis, and that he will now move to end the border checks, regardless of whether Sinn Fein tries to block it from being discussed by the Executive.

Checks on goods from Great Britain have been happening since January 1 last year at the ports of Belfast, Larne, Warrenpoint, Foyle, and at Belfast International Airport.

Speaking to the News Letter amid the fallout from his report, Mr Bryson (who strongly opposes the Good Friday Agreement) said: “The significance of the strategy set out by the UVPS report can be distilled from the observation that minister Poots has adopted it wholesale...

“I have spoken to those in senior positions within political unionism, and the report has received widespread support and endorsement, including publicly by the DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson.

“I welcome the strategic move to turn the Belfast Agreement, and Protocol inwards on itself: a classic judo move.

“And given the fire and fury flowing from many within nationalism – albeit without actually engaging with the substantive points – it’s clear they find themselves in a bit of a bind.

“Unionism is upholding the law as guardians of the Belfast Agreement. I find it hard to see why the most prominent and vocal supporters of the Agreement would do anything other than welcome that.”

More from this reporter:

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