The constitutionally “confused” UUP
By Jamie Bryson
The UUP leader took to twitter to effectively urge grassroots unionists/loyalists to disregard the legal text, because people like me would “confuse” them by reference to such legally binding provisions.
It is important to note that whilst even the most elementary reading of a legal text seemingly confuses Doug Beattie, he ought not to assume the others in the unionist/loyalist community are incapable of reading and understanding that which is plainly set out in the legal text, which is all that in truth matters.
The reason the UUP of course wish divert the gaze from the legal text of the Windsor Framework, and the Protocol which it entrenches, is because reading the legally binding material exposes the fundamental constitutional damage which the UUP are not only willing to turn a blind eye to, but to implement.
It is important we are clear. Let us start with a basic proposition: the Union is an economic and political Union, which- as a matter of law- is given by Article 3 and Article 6 of the Acts of Union respectively.
The late Lord Trimble, architect of the Belfast Agreement and former UUP leader, said in 1998: “the Act(s) of Union is the Union”.
The Protocol, and Windsor Framework, “subjugates and places into suspension” (and don’t take my word for it, simply read the Supreme Court judgment in Allister et al) the Acts of Union.
That, applying the (plainly correct) interpretation of the UUP’s own former leader Lord Trimble, means that NI’s place in the Union itself is subjugated and in suspension.
And, according to the High Court in Rooney and JR181 v Poots, any Minister in the Executive is legally bound to implement the Protocol (and, the Windsor Framework).
It follows, as a matter of the most basic and compelling logic, that therefore any unionist who enters the NI Executive is compelled as a legal obligation to implement the subjugation of the Union.
It doesn’t take you to be a constitutional law expert to arrive at that conclusion. And yet, the UUP- “confused” by the legal text- appear unable, or deliberately unwilling, to accept that reality.
Of course, the reason is obvious. They have Stockholm syndrome when it comes to the NI Executive (which, by the way, they themselves rightly walked out of in 2015 over ongoing IRA terrorism) and Belfast Agreement, and the basic ethos of the present day UUP is this: we will incrementally assist in dismantling the Union, to buy some time to convince those who want to destroy the Union, that they should have mercy upon us.
It is as weak as it is pathetic, and it is symptomatic of the type of roll-over unionism which brought us into this mess in the first place.
Moreover, the UUP told unionism that their reason for supporting the Belfast Agreement was the principle of consent provided a safeguard for the Union. That myth has been exploded by the Supreme Court in Allister et al. However, despite the supposedly solid foundation upon which the UUP rested their argument for pro Agreement unionism collapsing, they are still flailing around in the quicksand, urging others in unionism to plunge in with them. All unionists should realise the UUP aren’t waving, they are drowning.
As if the Beattie-engendered confusion wasn’t bad enough, we had another UUP representative develop new ‘key tests’, which apparently are now ‘loyalism’s’ tests. The first, and most important thing to say, is that they aren’t loyalism’s tests at all. The vast majority of the grassroots unionist and loyalist community wholeheartedly endorsed the people’s seven key tests.
But, for sheer amusement, it is worth exposing how these new ‘tests’ don’t infact lead to the result the UUP seemingly think they do.
These apparent ‘three tests’ are, we are told, derived from the Ulster Covenant, and are apparently the “only tests for loyalism” (aside from the fact, loyalism doesn’t think so, of course).
They are (i) material wellbeing; (ii) equal citizenship; (ii) civil and religious liberty.
Let us just deal with each in turn:
(i) Material wellbeing has, as an important component part, an economic dimension. If you believe in the Union, then you must believe in the economic component of the Union. That component, Article 6 of the Acts of Union, is “subjugated and in suspension”. Test failed.
(ii) Equal citizenship. A core aspect of equal citizenship is again derived from Article 6 of the Acts of Union; the ‘equal footing’ guarantee. Plainly therefore the Protocol and Windsor Framework fail this test.
(iii) Civil and religious liberty. I’d be interested in hearing the UUP explaining how liberty sits with laws being made by a foreign power, adjudicated upon by a foreign court and with the citizens of NI being treated as the entry point into a foreign territory, carved off from our own country.
It is, it would seem, elementary to point out that the Ulster Covenant was about protecting the Union. That, in case it isn’t obvious, is the Acts of Union. The declaration didn’t create new tests to supersede or override ‘the Union’, but was in fact about protecting the Union. The party of Carson and Craig really ought to understand this.
Moreover, the UUP must have forgotten the solemn pledge they signed on Ulster Day 2021 of “unalterable opposition” to the Protocol, and the key test that declaration set out of restoring the Acts of Union. That solemn pledge doesn’t appear to feature in the UUP’s thinking very much anymore.
It has been clear for some time that the UUP, and particularly their leadership and their most ardent social media fans, have absolutely zero understanding of the constitutional issues arising from the Protocol and Windsor Framework. It is never more evident than when any of the UUP’s social media activists, or indeed their leader, is challenged to engage on the substance of this issue, they can only ever respond with childish jibes designed to win the applause of nationalists and Alliance supporters. People who will, of course, never vote UUP.
If the UUP want to adopt their misguided “shrink to grow” strategy to their own party, that is a matter for them. But let us not allow them to pursue this Union-dismantling strategy at the cost of the NI’s place in the United Kingdom itself.