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You link to a good article by Jonathan Powell where he writes as a British unionist. He argues that the continued operation of the Protocol should be subject to a cross-community rather than a majoritarian vote of the assembly, on the grounds that that is what is required for devolved issues under the Good Friday Agreement.

But Brexit was never a devolved matter - if it had been N. Ireland would have remained fully paid up members of the EU. When it comes to constitutional matters, the GFA provides for a 50%+1 vote for sovereignty to be transferred, i.e. a purely majoritarian decision.

Whether that is a good idea or not is a matter of debate, but that is the Constitutional Status quo. N. Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom until 50%+1 decide otherwise.

It could be argued that the Protocol institutes a sort of half way house - A N. Ireland outside the EU with the UK, but remaining within the Customs Union and Single Market. The UK remains the sovereign power implementing customs rules by agreement with the EU.

That all of this discommodes the DUP is transparently obvious. Their concept of majoritarianism was always winner takes all, and they opposed the Good Friday Agreement because it guaranteed "equality of Esteem" to nationalists and promised UK neutrality in the event of a referendum.

But the DUP weren't simply betrayed by Boris. They were enthusiastic cheerleaders for Brexit because they thought it would erect a hard border within Ireland. They vetoed Theresa May's deal because it required no such border.

So ultimately it was the DUP which forced a transition towards something they feel could be a slippery slope towards a united Ireland. Let that be a lesson to them: Try to have everything your own way all the time, and you risk losing everything.

Deep down the DUP know they overplayed their hand and made a colossal misjudgement on Brexit. Arlene Foster, as leader, is now paying the price. They can retreat deep into their sectarian bunker, but that won't bring their majority back, and they could even lose their status as the dominant unionist party.

It is not schadenfreude to observe they have reaped what they have sown, and will have to live with the consequences. Yes this could be unsettling for the peace and the status quo, but how could this ever not going to be the case as N. Ireland transitioned into having a nationalist plurality?

Seen within the larger historical narrative, a transition towards a united Ireland is as inevitable as the eventual Chinafication of Hong Kong.  It is a question of how well that transition can be managed, and how well minority rights can be safeguarded.  After all, the GFA can continue to apply after re-unification.

But Jonathan Powell is deluded to believe that we can go back to some pre-Brexit status quo as if Brexit never happened. Brexit broke the constitutional link between the UK and the EU, and hence between the UK and Ireland. The Protocol is merely papering over the cracks.

We cannot fix what Brexit and Britain broke, and I suspect they know that and don't want to either. They just like to create the illusion that this is now, somehow, our problem to fix. The protocol is that fix. Suck it up. Make it work. It is the new reality until a majority of the assembly or the people of N. Ireland decide otherwise.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Apr 30th, 2021 at 10:13:30 AM EST
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