by Frank Schnittger
Tue Feb 23rd, 2021 at 11:24:58 AM EST
"Those whom the gods wish to destroy...they first make mad" is an apt description of N. Ireland unionists theses days. David Trimble, Arlene Foster and a rake of DUP luminaries are going all out to try and bring down the N. Ireland protocol - having welcomed it when Boris first announced his deal last year. Legal actions are threatened together with dark mutterings of loyalist unrest. It doesn't seem to have dawned on them that it is part of an international treaty which cannot be unilaterally abrogated, although, sadly, the European Commission may have given them that idea. The Irish Times has published my letter on the subject... (fourth letter down and see below).
Trimble and the NI protocol
A chara, - David Trimble writes that, "the Northern Ireland protocol ignores the fundamental principle of consent. Northern Ireland is no longer fully part of the UK - it has been annexed by the EU and is subject to EU laws and an EU court without any right of dissent."
Where was his concern for Northern Ireland consent when he and the DUP continued to pursue a policy of Brexit even after a large majority in the North had voted against it? The 56 per cent of Northern Ireland voters who voted remain do not appear to matter.
The Northern Ireland protocol he complains of is a direct result of the Brexit deal negotiated by the UK government on their behalf. Moreover, the Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May would have avoided any need for a Northern Ireland protocol, but was roundly rejected by the DUP.
It seems unionists are all in favour of British rule when they do their bidding, and all against it when it is not to their liking. In practice, consent for David Trimble means consent by unionists only.
It may also have escaped David Trimble's attention that article 18 of the protocol provides for the Northern Ireland Assembly to vote on a regular basis to consent to the continued operation of the protocol.
Is he concerned that unionists may not be able to command a majority of the Assembly?
How much angrier will David Trimble be when "50 per cent plus one" vote for a united Ireland, a vote required by the Belfast Agreement he negotiated and still claims to support? The British government will then be legally obliged to transfer sovereignty over Northern Ireland to Ireland, regardless of what unionists might say.
He should be glad that the Northern Ireland protocol gives Northern Ireland the best of both worlds - relatively untrammelled access to both the UK internal market and the EU single market - to the envy of Scotland and many who voted Remain in the rest of the UK. - Yours, etc,
Just to add a little more fuel to the fire, I am also submitted a slightly longer letter to the Belfast Telegraph which may not be well received, if published...
David Trimble writes that "the Northern Ireland protocol ignores the fundamental principle of consent. Northern Ireland is no longer fully part of the UK" in his opinion piece in the Irish Times, where [Belfast Telegraph columnist and former Unionist party communications director] Alex Kane also writes that he "can't remember a moment when unionism has been so unsettled."
But the DUP had a glorious opportunity after the Brexit vote to take on the leadership of both communities in N. Ireland and accept the decision of the 56% who voted remain. They could have negotiated on behalf of the large majority to secure a future in both the UK and the EU. Instead, they chose to go a narrow sectarian route and tried to impose a hard border within the island of Ireland just to spite their nationalist neighbours.
It never occurred to them that Ireland, as part of the EU, would have the negotiating clout to prevent that from happening.
And now they have the gall to argue there is a lack of consent to the protocol when it was negotiated on their behalf by their conservative "partners" in the UK government after they had thrice rejected Theresa May's deal which required no such N. Ireland protocol.
They also have the gall to ignore the fact that article 18 of the protocol requires the N. Ireland assembly to approve the continued operation of the protocol on a regular basis. Apparently "consent" for Trimble means not consent by 56% of the electorate or consent by a majority of the Assembly. It means consent by and for Unionists only.
But that is not what the Good Friday Agreement, negotiated by David Trimble, says: It requires just a 50%+1 majority to transfer sovereignty in total over N. Ireland from Britain to Ireland.
Unionists should be happy to still have the best of both worlds: continued membership of the United Kingdom and relatively free access to both the EU and UK markets, but of course some unionists are only happy when they can lord it over nationalists and claim to be victims at the same time.
Of course, what is really happening is that those unionists who supported Brexit in defiance of a large majority in N. Ireland are now furiously trying to deflect attention and the blame for this mess onto others - the EU, the British Government, the Irish Government - anybody but themselves where the responsibility truly lies.
They have overplayed their hand, and if they do so again, they could find the British government washing their hands of them completely. Just wait for the wailing and gnashing of teeth then.
It appears Sophocles had a point when he wrote: "Those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad" (Antigone)