Northern Ireland Protocol Bill: Jim Allister warns of ‘danger’ for unionists in ‘succumbing to the pressure to jump first’

There is a possible “danger” for unionists “succumbing to the pressure to jump first” before the UK Government’s NI Protocol Bill is fully implemented, TUV leader Jim Allister has warned.

Jim Allister
Jim Allister

The North Antrim MLA pointed, in particular, to a clause of the Bill which said has not had much attention but could allow the government to “save the Protocol”.

In a statement issued after the Bill was passed by a majority of MP’s in the House of Commons last night, Mr Allister said: “A clause of the NI Protocol Bill which has not had much attention is clause 19.

“It provides that HMG by mere regulation (negative resolution) can give effect to any agreement with the EU “that modifies, supplements or replaces the whole or any part of the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

“There is a school of thought, which is wholly credible, that the purpose of HMG is not to actually implement the NI Protocol Bill (remember it of itself changes nothing and relies for such change on subsequent regulations), but to engender circumstances where the EU will in the end negotiate to save the Protocol. If it did, then clause 19 provides the mechanism whereby any such deal, without parliamentary scrutiny, can be given effect as a fait accompli.”

He continued: “Herein could lie danger for any section of Unionism tempted to accept this Bill as a ‘settlement’, particularly in succumbing to the pressure to jump first before the Bill in all its parts is fully implemented.

“This taken with the reality that the Bill does not remove the Irish Sea border - but both confirms and ameliorates it by the introduction of green and red lanes - should cause unionists to be wary of being double crossed, again, by the government that brought us the Union-dismantling Protocol in the first place. Nor, should the power in clause 15(2) for a subsequent government to reinstate the full Protocol be forgotten.”

Mr Allister added: “Finally, as the rest of the text bears out, the reference in Clause 1 to the Acts of Union is merely cosmetic and is not followed through with substance. The Article 6 promise of all parts of the Kingdom being on the same footing cannot be met by a Bill which embraces green and red customs lanes and obligatory declarations, through a ‘trusted trader scheme’, as the basis of trade within that Kingdom.”