Tuesday, 17 May 2022

The NIP: how it came to be.

 I am indebted to my friend and fellow Liberal, John Cole of Bradford, for this succinct analysis of how the UK government, apparently in good faith, signed the International Treaty containing the Northern Ireland Protocol.

1. In 2017 Mr Johnson, then a member of Theresa May's government, spoke vehemently against any customs sea border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

2. In an effort to avoid a sea border Mrs May negotiated a complex “Northern Ireland Backstop”. The Backstop became almost universally hated on the Conservative benches and in consequence:

3..When he became prime minister Johnson re-negotiated with the EU to get rid of the Backstop, but only by replacing it with a customs sea border between Great Britain and Ireland. (see 1 above)

4. The Northern Ireland Protocol (including sea border) was part of the agreement reached with the EU and signed off by both parties.

5. Johnson presented this “oven ready” agreement to the Commons where the Conservatives voted for it - and them went out to win the 2019 general election off the back of it - having “got Brexit done”.

6. Today Unionists in Northern Ireland plus our Conservative government rail against the Protocol and insist that the EU must now sit down and either amend it or scrap it.

7 . I [John Cole] acknowledge that the NIP is causing considerable damage to trade and making life difficult for exporters. But this was known in early 2016 when Sir John Major and Tony Blair jointly issued warnings.

8. These sage warnings were dismissed by Brexiters as part of “Project Fear”. Now their arrogance, wrong-headedness and unwillingness to engage with reality is reaping its comeuppance.

 So there we are: no ifs, no buts, no arguments about the EU being "inflexible" or "over-implementing."  They were told, they knew,  they signed it -  there is no point in their trying to blame someone else.

1 comment:

  1. The fundamental problem is that in 2019 the government's hands were tied by the surrender bills which compelled them not to leave the EU without a trade deal. It would have been quite simple to not have a customs sea border in the Irish Sea, simply by leaving the EU without a trade deal — but that had been ruled out by Parliament. So the government was negotiating with one hand tied behind its back.

    It's perfectly reasonable, now that impediment is removed, and given that the Protocol is causing significant difficulties, to either renegotiate it or simply drop the entire trade deal with the EU (of which the Protocol is a part) in order to re-establish Northern Ireland's position as an integral part of the Union.

    The fundamental problem seems to be that some people think the God Friday Agreement either established some kind of gradual transition to a united Ireland, or made Northern Ireland into a sort of area of joint sovereignty between the UK and the Republic. Neither of these are the case and it would be good if those who have such false notions were disabused of them, and some kind of customs border on the island of Ireland would be an excellent way of doing that and stating once and for all that Northern Ireland is part of the UK and that that is not going to change.