NEW: Open letter from all loyalist groups in Ards and North Down area
We are a group which has come together in the Ards and North Down area. Our group is representative of the views of all loyalist groupings within the local area.
It is a matter of deep and profound concern for those under our umbrella that an Irish Sea border, imposing an economic United Ireland upon our community, is being forced on us against our will.
This is even more concerning given that the imposition of this internal UK border has been put upon us as a reward for republican threats of violence. We are deeply concerned, and are repeatedly hearing from those at a grassroots level, in relation to the worrying precedent this has set.
We as a group differentiate between the two distinct issues flowing from the Protocol. There are firstly the practical day-to-day effects of the Protocol in terms of the impact of the increased paperwork and checks on importing and exporting goods. That is a matter which can be resolved via political solutions.
However, notwithstanding the ability to mitigate the worst excesses in terms of the practical outworking of the Protocol- there are no practical solutions which can alter the reality of the constitutional implications of any form of Protocol which imposes an internal UK border.
It is for this reason we represent to you, as an elected representative, the clear and robust view of those under our umbrella- within the area we represent– that no form of Irish Sea border will ever be tolerated.
We also note that the cross-community consent mechanism within Strand 1 (5) (d) of the Belfast Agreement has been shredded via a unilateral amendment to the apparently sacrosanct Northern Ireland Act 1998 on 10 December 2020. This amendment disapplied the provisions of Section 42, a key Belfast Agreement safeguard, to facilitate nationalist objectives in terms of imposing the Protocol against the wishes of the entire unionist/loyalist community.
Our collective shares the growing sentiment across the unionist/loyalist family that it is illogical and inconceivable that political unionism should continue to operate the very institutions which are designed to act as a pathway to a United Ireland.
The transitionary process is designed to shunt us by stealth from incremental all-Ireland harmonisation to economic unity (which is delivered via the Protocol) and eventually to the final solution (and indeed the only ‘end’ envisaged by the Belfast Agreement) of a United Ireland.
In this vein we ask you as a local representative for your commitment to taking all steps necessary to resist the imposition of an economic United Ireland, which places us on the window ledge of the Union.
Support from within our community for the Belfast Agreement was predicated upon the understanding that the Union was safe. This can no longer with any credibility be said to be true. It is natural therefore that there will be growing sentiment against all aspects of the peace process, should our community be forced down this path against our will.
Given the urgency of these issues and the societal difficulties which are not only liable to persist, but certain to grow, we would anticipate an urgent response setting out your position as to steps you intend to take to represent the views of your constituents.
Finally, we state our commitment to work to play our role in campaigning for the triggering of Article 16. However, we recognise that Article 16 is merely a temporary solution and it remains our firm view that in order to restore the necessary cross-community equilibrium, that the Protocol must be removed in its entirety.