By Jamie Bryson
The UUP leader’s contribution on today’s Stephen Nolan Show was nothing short of extraordinary.
Mr Beattie claimed, “the Protocol does not trump the Act of Union”. This fundamental error gives rise to serious concerns that the UUP do not actually understand the constitutional issue arising from the Protocol.
It is trite to point out that the Act of Union is “subjugated” by the Protocol. That has been clearly determined by the Court of Appeal, therefore the UUP’s entire thinking on the Protocol is infected by their fundamental misunderstanding of the effect of its provisions, which flow through section 7A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
However, the related positions adopted by the UUP leader are quite simply extraordinary.
Mr Beattie told Nolan that (i) the Act of Union was not a red line for the UUP; (ii) that the weakening of the Act of Union did not pose a constitutional threat; and (iii) that the UUP supported NI being on an unequal footing (and thus in breach of Article VI of the Act of Union) via being within the EU single market.
Taking each of these incredible positions in turn.
Firstly in 1998 David Trimble, the UUP’s then leader and the main proponent of pro Agreement unionism said as follows:
“Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom has been secured. The Act of Union, the fundamental piece of legislation which defines Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom, remains firmly in place. The Act of Union is the Union.”
In a further High Court affidavit (which is summarised by Keegan LCJ in the Protocol Court of Appeal judgment) Lord Trimble said the principle of consent (which has turned out to be a deceit) which supposedly protected the Act of Union was the sole basis for unionist support for the Agreement.
Notwithstanding this clear averment, the UUP of 2022 have now weakened the fundamental red line of the UUP in 1998. They are willing to accept changes (without consent) weakening the Act of Union. That is a remarkable position for any unionist party, and makes the UUP of 1998 look like hardliners.
Secondly, Mr Beattie claimed the weakening of the Act of Union did not occasion a threat to Northern Ireland’s constitutional position. Presumbly the UUP would not demur from Lord Trimble’s accurate assessment that ‘the Act of Union is the Union’, therefore how can it credibly be said that subjugating the Act of Union does not amount to a threat to our constitutional position.
So idiotic is this claim, it barely requires a rebuttal, but let me provide a definitive one by none other than Lord Trimble himself. He said this in relation to the Protocol’s effect on the Act of Union in a sworn averment:
“Our primary objection to the Protocol is that it fundamentally changes the constitutional relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom”
He continued “this amounts to a seismic and undemocratic change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and runs contrary to the most fundamental premise in the Belfast Agreement and section 1 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.”
I will not even delve for the purposes of this piece into the reality of the UUP’s sycophantic puppy relationship with the Belfast Agreement which prevails despite clear evidence that the sole basis for pro Agreement unionism has been exposed as a fraud and a deceit.
Instead let us focus on Lord Trimble’s words. Do you the UUP endorse the position of Lord Trimble or that of Doug Beattie?
Not even the UUP can be all things to all people on that salient point because it can only be one or the other. Which is it?
Thirdly, as if the UUP’s position could not get any more ridiculous, we then had the additional policy position of supporting Northern Ireland remaining effectively in the EU single market, and thus on an unequal footing with the rest of the United Kingdom.
Another example of how they simply have zero understanding of the Act of Union which is the Union.
Article VI of the Act of Union expressly prohibits such unequal footing.
This constitutional illiteracy is even more concerning given Steve Aiken of the UUP is a party to the Protocol legal case. How does he feel about the increasingly ridiculous constitutional positions being adopted by the UUP leadership, which run entirely contrary to the submissions being made on behalf of the applicants (including Steve Aiken) before the Court?
If this idiocy only effected the UUP that would be one thing, but there is a danger that some misinformed people might actually start to believe these weak, Union-dismantling positions are reflective of unionism.
They aren’t. The UUP are out on their own, so far across the Unionist picket line they can’t even see the line anymore. In their pursuit of twitter likes and the approval of nationalism and ‘liberal’ elite establishment that they so crave there is barely a unionist principle they haven’t thrown on their constitutional bonfire.
We have candidates calling for the Irish Parliament to sit in Northern Ireland and saying the Protocol is here to stay. We have other candidates labelling Northern Ireland as being “steeped in bias and oppression towards catholic and other minorities” and bizarrely in some pre-planned strapline referring to the West of NI as the “new border” and the South of NI as the “old border”. What type of utter lunacy is this?
It is clear the leadership of the UUP have completely lost all grip on constitutional reality and are close to being beyond any redemption.
There must surely be people of influence in the UUP who will now finally speak up, and to adopt a phrase deployed at the anti-Protocol rallies, finally say enough is enough!