The former UUP leader and First Minister, writing in the Daily Telegraph this week, said: “John Hume and I made huge sacrifices to help Northern Ireland find peace. Now it’s all at risk.”
He said of the Good Friday Agreement that its central premise was that NI would remain in the UK as long as the people of the province wished to do so.
“Importantly” he added, it guaranteed that ‘it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of the majority of its people’.
He added: “The people of the province, nationalist and unionist, supported the Assembly because of the assurance that cross-community consent would be required when decisions on a controversial or significant issue were to be made.”
However he said that “it grieves me now that the arrangements which I and others gave so much to achieve are in danger of collapsing, as a result of the imposition of the Northern Ireland Protocol”.
The High Court in Belfast ruled that the Protocol changed the constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the UK, he noted.
And the Protocol also removed any votes from NI on the laws which will be made in Brussels.
“Consent and democratic legitimacy have been torn from the province by the Protocol. That is why I and other unionist leaders intend taking our legal challenge to the Supreme Court.
“American politicians and the EU say that they support the Good Friday Agreement, yet this denial of democratic control and dilution of British sovereignty over part of the UK has had the opposite effect. If they did care about the Good Friday Agreement, they would realise that this Protocol doesn’t command support from any unionist representative in Northern Ireland. How does anyone expect the Assembly, which is based on decisions being made by consent, to function?”
He added that products coming into the province have to be inspected at EU border posts.
“Goods sent even for personal use are subject to customs procedures. Transport costs have increased by 27 per cent. Many firms in Great Britain will no longer supply to Northern Ireland, reducing choice and increasing prices.
“There has been significant displacement of trade from Britain to the Republic of Ireland. Yet the EU has shown nothing but rigidity in the application of border checks. Although only 0.2 per cent of goods going into the EU flow through Northern Irish ports, they account for 20 per cent of the total number of EU border checks. This situation cannot continue.”
He added: “I know only too well the many personal and political sacrifices John Hume and I made to deliver the Good Friday Agreement and peace. Which is why the Government must now act on its responsibility to safeguard the future of Northern Ireland and replace this damaging and community-splitting Protocol. Surely the EU should cooperate in resolving this, as I did with John Hume 25 years ago.”