EDITORIAL: Unionism must dismantle both the Protocol and the Belfast Agreement in order to save the Union
By Jamie Bryson
The objective of the Protocol- set out within their own communique- is to reorient trade away from GB and towards the Irish Republic. It is an obvious conclusion therefore that continuing- for any period of time- to implement the Protocol is to assist it to embed.
So too is it intellectually dishonest to continue to operate the Belfast Agreement when it has been shown, beyond all reasonable doubt, to be a ‘process’ which far from offering any protection for the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, is instead designed to incrementally deconstruct the Union.
It requires intellectual backflips to reconcile the obvious outworking of the past twenty-three years- which has demonstrated a consistent trajectory of diminishing the Union in favour of an all-Ireland trajectory (which is no surprise; a ‘process’ by its definition has a pre-determined end point)- with a mistaken belief that unionism gains anything out of the Belfast Agreement.
Every constructive ambiguity is resolved in favour of nationalism, but then again- that is precisely how it was supposed to be.
Those who continue to support the ‘process’- spawned via the Belfast Agreement- are engaged in a self-destructive deceit. Their logic is that to save the Union, we must perpetually accede to weakening and watering down the Union.
If we put it another way; unionism is permitted to remain within the Union, but only on the understanding that that unionism engages in a process which is designed to ultimately end the Union.
The nefarious and self-defeating (and wholly irrational) thought process set out above hides behind its own simplicity. However, when you step back, it is obvious and the biggest shock of all is that a significant proportion of the unionist community has been wooed into self-deceiving for over two decades. And now, when it comes to the truth so patently floating before the eyes of all those who wish to see, there are still some who are infected with a form of pro process Stockholm syndrome.
The ’peace processers’ (those who have turned the past two decades into an industry and talk in echo chambers, back slapping each other, then believing each time it is the hand of history on their shoulder) alongside some elements of the media (Brian Rowan’s permanent audition for the role of truth commissioner, alongside the dramatically shifting pieces of the mythical jigsaw, is quite something to behold) has been wheeled out recently to talk up the benefits of the Protocol.
In short, they have waffled and weaved, seeking to blind the unionist community by firing out like confetti every page from the ‘peace process’ linguistic playbook. Most of these contributions is little more than hot air, which is best left to the echo chambers of when processors talk to processors, about how they are each vital to the process.
An elementary analytical overview of the past twenty-three years, not to mention the recent imposition of the violence-rewarding, Union-dismantling Protocol, illuminates that this is a ‘process’ with only one destination: the destruction of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom.
This must be confronted by unionism collectively, and especially those elected within political unionism. You can not claim to resist the Protocol, whilst assisting its implementation. In a similar manner, you can not claim to want to protect the union by participating in a process designed as a ‘slow surrender’, the end point of which is the final mutilation of the union. The self-deceit within unionism must stop.
It is long past the point whereby the DUP should have collapsed the Assembly. Why would any self-respecting unionist continue with this charade? How can even those who advocate for the pernicious Belfast Agreement advocate for continuing in the Assembly?
The Agreement is based upon a fundamental pillar of cross-community consent, however when it was necessary to put the foot on the neck of unionism, this core provision was unilaterally disapplied to placate nationalist threats of violence, and so we have the Protocol.
The same principle applies to each and every nationalist demand, the latest being the Irish Language Act which the Government (who have shown themselves appeasers in the model of Chamberlain) promise to deliver over the heads of unionists.
No one should be surprised; the ‘process’ has a fundamental ethos: unionism must give, and nationalism must get.
The DUP, if they are not prepared to take the obvious and principled step of collapsing the Assembly, must at the very least demolish North-South institutions. The one lever unionism has left is the operation of the institutions and the outworking of the Agreement. If East-West is trashed, then why isn’t there robust political retaliation on North-South arrangements?
Here is the fundamental truth- to save the union not only must the Protocol be demolished, but so too must the Belfast Agreement be fatally undermined.
The apparatus of both is (both together, and separately) a noose around the neck of the Union. It is time to face up to that reality.