I keep hearing my fellow unionists complaining that their anger over the existence of the Northern Ireland Protocol is not being recognised or taken seriously.
I have to tell them that they are wrong, it is recognised and acknowledged, but the solution involves compromises that some find difficult to hear.
Those of us who warned in advance that Brexit would be disastrous and create problems on the border were ignored, we were told this was ‘project fear’; pro-Brexit unionists just did not want to know.
People have been encouraged to believe the myths spread by the fanatical followers of Ukip and the ERG (European Research Group) and to ignore the fact that if NI business does well under the protocol it will embarrass the English politicians who damaged the UK economy through Brexit.
The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) was supported in a referendum by 71% (compared to 52% for Brexit) and was successful because the common membership of the UK and Ireland in the EU permitted our border to be invisible, allowing nationalists to ignore the fact that NI remained in the UK, focussing instead on our common identity as Europeans.
In essence we unionists could believe NI was as British as Finchley by allowing nationalists to believe that we were as Irish as Dublin. For most this was good enough, for a minority it wasn’t, they craved proof that ‘our side won’.
Those who promoted Brexit failed to warn unionists that because of our cross-border links with Ireland which remained within the EU, we would need some special measures to keep the balance that was agreed in the GFA, there was never going to be a Brexit which applied to NI in the same way as it would apply to England, this was simply not possible.
There will be negotiated changes to the protocol, it will probably be given a new name to spare the blushes of the DUP, but there will still be checks and we will still follow some EU rules.
The only real decision is the timing; will we reach a negotiated settlement by October, or will it be in the interests of Boris and the ERG to string this out until next year so that they can have a sham fight with the EU around election time to distract the electorate from their horrific trashing of the UK economy?
Let’s be blunt, when an English MP talks about getting rid of the protocol, their focus is on getting Boris re-elected, not the interests of Northern Ireland.
Arnold Carton, Belfast BT6