By Jamie Bryson
It is patently obvious that there is a clear and obvious (likely Northern Ireland Office inspired) effort to condition unionism and loyalism to accept some form of Protocol, and thus by extension the fundamental erosion of the core tenets of the Union.
We have seen this in the increasingly bizarre language coming from the UUP (who are known to be close to Secretary of State Brandon Lewis- who of course pretended there wasn’t even a Sea Border), the incoherent comments of Dr John Kyle (undermining the policy position of his own party) and a sprinkling of anonymous briefings (apparently from ‘loyalists’- which I doubt) seeking to fracture opposition to the Protocol. This, naturally, also includes the Stockholm syndrome obsession with the Belfast Agreement and thus the ‘process’.
If however we take the anonymous claims at their height for arguments sake (in order that they can be definitively debunked), one wonders why anyone who wishes to cling to the Belfast Agreement and the Union-dismantling Protocol “in some form” would not openly come out and debate this issue. This platform (and I am sure others such as Let’s Talk Loyalism) is open to any such persons within unionism or loyalism who would like to set out the case for the Belfast Agreement and the Protocol.
A failure to engage intellectually and open up for debate and challenge sends a message that proponents of the apparent anonymous pro Agreement and pro Union-dismantling Protocol briefings do not have the capacity to open their arguments up to scrutiny, or worse still don’t care that their position is harmful to the Union, because the motivation is rather rooted in a core objective of staying on the ‘peace process’ financial gravy train.
All that being said, I seriously doubt that any genuine loyalist- from any background- is in fact seriously briefing their support for some form of Protocol, or the pernicious Belfast Agreement. Such a position would be so stupid, it is hard to believe anyone would actually believe it, let alone open themselves up to the intellectual massacre which would flow from any effort to publicly argue it.
It should be remembered that loyalist representative group the Loyalist Communities Council withdrew support from the Belfast Agreement, and has robustly opposed the Protocol. The Progressive Unionist Party set out their opposition to what the Belfast Agreement has become in their detailed and comprehensive constitutional statement issued around three weeks ago.
It is therefore hard to imagine who is credibly (anonymously) briefing that loyalism is split on opposition to the Protocol and Belfast Agreement. It seems to me that loyalism is wholly united on this issue; I can only therefore conclude that there are efforts, external of loyalism, to divide and fracture opposition to the Protocol.
The leaders of political unionism (albeit the UUP are backsliding by the day) have also signed a declaration in opposition to the Union-dismantling Protocol.
It is of course impossible to be pro-Agreement (or pro-Protocol) and pro-Union, because the Agreement (or at least the contrived ‘spirit’ of same) and its child in the form of the Protocol, are both designed to incrementally dismantle the Union.
The claims that the Protocol could be the “best of both worlds” is so naïve it is verging on stupidity. The best of both worlds theory (constitutionally idiotic as it is) means Northern Ireland would be symbolically in the UK internal market (with a border between NI and GB) and in substance in an economic United Ireland within the EU internal market.
The best of both worlds theory requires there to be a border somewhere, and that in exchange for the EU allowing NI access to the EU internal market, the border must be between NI and GB. It can’t be anywhere else in the best of both worlds theory, because if it were to be where it belongs (between NI & RoI) then NI couldn’t have access to the EU internal market.
However, for arguments sake, let us chase the unicorn and pretend there was some possibility that NI could be in two internal markets (EU and UK) and this could be so without any border anywhere (I am struggling to even type this such is the sheer idiocy of this suggestion).
That fantasy position- which Dr Kyle tried (hopelessly) to advocate for- would still dismantle the Union because placing NI on an different (either at an advantage or disadvantage) trading footing vis-à-vis the rest of the United Kingdom would offend Article VI of the Acts of Union.
The Union, as a legal construct, is the Acts of Union. Therefore, if you advocate a ‘solution’ which requires a fundamental erosion of the Acts of Union, then you argue for a dismantling of the Union. It is difficult to comprehend why this most simple and basic reality seems so hard for some people to grasp. It is elementary stuff.
Anyone who supports the Belfast Agreement or Protocol should be asked three simple questions:
(1) Please explain how you reconcile fundamentally eroding the Acts of Union (which it has already been established is the effect of the Protocol), with being a Unionist?
(2) Please explain section 1 (1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and whether you are content that ‘core protection’ (which formed the basis of pro Agreement unionist support for the Belfast Agreement) does not in fact protect against dismantling the core fundamental constitutional statute, handing lawmaking powers to foreign jurisdictions (which means, they could also be handed to Dublin) or leaving NI subject to foreign courts? (It should be noted that even Lord Trimble has argued the principle of consent has been reduced to a deceptive snare).
(3) As a supporter of the ‘process’, please explain the end point of the ‘process’ which has (by the very definition of a process) to have a defined end-point (please further point out what the end-point is envisaged within the Northern Ireland Act 1998)?
I can guarantee you one thing, there is no coherent pro Union answer to those questions. It is time to stop tip toeing around the repulsive aroma of intellectually vacuous flatulence emanating from career peace processors or naïve do-gooders.