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"Fixing" the N. Ireland Protocol

by Frank Schnittger Fri Aug 12th, 2022 at 11:15:41 PM EST

Doug Beattie, leader of the Ulster Unionist party, has recently had two articles published here and here on Slugger O'Toole, the leading independent political blog in N. Ireland. In them he makes all the right noises about having the courage the make the right decisions, rather than the popular ones, and working together for the betterment of all living and working in Northern Ireland.

But his articles are also a policy free zone, making no specific proposals for moving the current impasse over the protocol forward, and blaming the DUP and Sinn Fein for the current dysfunctionality of N. Ireland politics. He is in danger of getting a reputation for talking the talk, while making no positive contribution to the lives of ordinary people whatsoever.

So I have taken it upon myself to suggest to him one positive action he could take which might also restore some credibility and relevance to the Ulster Unionist Party he leads. I am not waiting with baited breath to see him action my proposal, but at least it has the merit of calling his bluff.

On the 13th. of October 2021, the European Commission issued proposals to resolve the impasse around the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol following discussions with political leaders, businesses, civil society, and other stakeholders in Northern Ireland.

The proposals seek to differentiate between goods intended to stay in Northern Ireland and those going on to the Republic of Ireland or the EU by providing an "express lane" for goods intended for consumption within N. Ireland with a 50% reduction in paperwork, and an 80% reduction in official checks and vastly simplified procedures for phytosanitary certification.  

Unfortunately, the EU proposals have been completed ignored by the UK government, who seem hell bent on expanding the conflict with the EU by breaking international law, unilaterally dis-applying parts of the Protocol, and introducing other elements into the impasse such as removing the Jurisdiction of the European Court and the power of the devolved NI Legislative Assembly to vote on the continued operation of the protocol.

On the 13th. June, 52 out of the 90 MLAs elected in May representing three of the north's main parties, Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Johnson saying they "rejected in the strongest possible terms your government's new reckless protocol legislation" which they said flew in the face of the wishes of most businesses and the majority of people in Northern Ireland. Whilst the protocol was not ideal, they said it was the best option to protect Northern Ireland from the worst excesses of a hard Brexit.

They further rejected the UK government claim that its intention was to protect the Good Friday Agreement. "To complain the protocol lacks cross-community consent, while ignoring the fact that Brexit itself - let alone hard Brexit - lacks even basic majority consent here, is a grotesque act of political distortion," they wrote. "Your claims to be acting to protect our institutions is as much a fabrication as the Brexit campaign claims you made in 2016."

They said the way to fix the issues with the protocol was to engage properly with the EU to find a negotiated settlement." We will resolutely oppose this reckless Bill and continue to promote post-Brexit solutions on the basis of trust and honesty," they concluded.  

Doug Beattie, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, did not sign the letter, despite casting himself in the mould of David Trimble as a peacemaker, and seeking to distance his party from the "scrap the protocol" line of the UK government, DUP and TUV. However, he has recently called on the DUP to allow the Assembly to convene and elect a speaker and nominate a deputy first Minister, having refused to say he would do so during the election campaign.

He has also expressed the fear that the DUP will seek another election to overturn Sinn Fein's win last May based on a "win" on the Protocol and hoping that any votes haemorrhaged to the TUV will return to the DUP to prevent the nomination of a Sinn Fein First Minister. If so, the UUP will be entirely irrelevant to the contest between Sinn Fein and the DUP for the First Minster post.

But is Doug Beattie in agreement with the NI Protocol Bill removing the power of the Assembly to vote on the continuance of the operation of the Protocol? The Brexit slogan "Take back control" wasn't supposed to be about taking control away from the devolved institutions.

He invokes the spirit of Dunkirk, but is he going to stand idly by while the UK lays the groundwork for a trade war with the EU?   N. Ireland could be damaged far more seriously by such a trade war, given that so much of the N. Ireland economy, and especially its agribusiness sector, is intimately integrated with that of Ireland and the EU.

If he wants his party to become relevant again, he must join with the other three party leaders and travel to Brussels to discuss how the EU's October proposals for operating the protocol could be made more acceptable to unionists and all others in NI.  

Technically, the EU negotiates only with sovereign states when it has a mandate from its member states to do so. But there is nothing to prevent "clarificatory" talks with NI party and business leaders. Indeed, the October EU proposals came about through precisely such consultations where the EU committed itself to "enhanced engagement with Northern Ireland Stakeholders and Authorities' and unilaterally changed its legislation around the import of medicines to ease a perceived difficulty in N. Ireland.

In welcoming the proposals, Aodhán Connolly, the director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, stated that `the EU had listened to business stakeholder demands and had shifted from its position in the summer when it said the protocol was not negotiable.' He maintained the EC `proposals looked almost like a carbon copy' of requests made by Northern Ireland business leaders.

Customs enforcement is ultimately an operational matter, to be tweaked in response to random discoveries of contraband produce, risk assessments, and intelligence reports. It needs to be constantly updated as new risks emerge and old risk assessments prove unfounded. If Beattie and other NI party leaders could come to an agreement with Brussels as to how the process can be managed, the purported need for the N. Ireland Protocol Bill will disappear.

If parties representing two thirds of the NI electorate and seats in the Assembly can find a way to make it work, the rationale for the NI Protocol Bill and risk of an EU/UK confrontation and trade war can be averted.  

Doug Beattie speaks a lot about having the courage to do the right thing rather than the popular thing. He may, of course, be referred to as a "Lundy"* for being prepared to work with other parties for the betterment of N. Ireland. But it is time for him to match his positive words about making N. Ireland work for all with courageous actions.

Not since the signing of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement has N. Ireland had such an opportunity to make such a positive contribution to peace and harmony in Europe, the UK and Ireland. Doug Beattie would be following in the footsteps of his predecessor, David Trimble. Having been side-lined by the DUP for so long, this may be Doug Beattie's last chance to make the UUP relevant again.

He could make the UUP the critical swing vote enabling the good governance of N. Ireland in the interests of all who live there.

* Lundy was the reviled governor of Derry who sought to surrender the city to a Catholic force in 1689 and whose name has become synonymous with traitorous weakness in loyalist demonology.

If the DUP had not changed the Belfast Agreement at St Andrews, it would be unionism nominating for the First Ministers post. But thanks to the changes made at St Andrews, the First Minister is now appointed from the largest party, rather than the largest party of the largest designation. Sinn Fein is now entitled to be appointed to the role of First Minister despite being from the smaller designation.

Diversification on the Unionist side, largest designation?? But not equality in a democracy by admitting the largest party takes the lead to deliver the First Minister which is most common. Just talk to shut out the Catholic vote?

The Ulster Unionist Party: Country Before Party?

NI General election - 2005 - David Trimble UUP reduced to 1 seat.

Another nice paragraph ...

I have said previously that I do not believe there will be a United Ireland in my lifetime or my children's lifetime. I say this because I am confident in the pro-union argument. It's a confidence I maintain because that is my brand of unionism; confident, optimistic and inclusive. That is not to say that the road ahead is easy. The impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol has created instability within the UK. Northern Ireland is now a pawn in a game of chess between the EU and the UK and between One Nation Conservatives and the ERG, with a new Prime Minister who will be desperate for allies from all corners of the party.

A staunch conservative Doug Beattie the main problem in Irish society for centuries ...

"Regardless of what others are saying, there will be no fundamental change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom."

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Sat Aug 13th, 2022 at 12:53:05 PM EST
Just a little point scoring at the expense of the DUP. They made the constitutional change which means SF is now entitled to the First Ministership. They forced a form of Brexit which has now resulted in the Protocol and a border down the Irish sea. As a unionist party leader, he has to repeat unionist talking points to reassure the faithful he has not lost the faith. But did you notice any policy proposals in his post? Me neither. It's dead end street unless he does something on the lines I suggested.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 13th, 2022 at 02:37:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Northern Ireland Protocol Bill
Volume 717: debated on Monday 27 June 2022

Second reading ...

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs  (Elizabeth Truss)

We are taking this action to uphold the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, which has brought peace and political stability to Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland protocol is undermining the function of the agreement and of power sharing. It has created fractures between east and west, diverted trade and meant that people in Northern Ireland are treated differently from people in Great Britain. It has weakened their economic rights. That has created a sense that parity of esteem between different parts of the community, an essential part of the agreement, has been damaged.

Mr Andrew Mitchell
(Sutton Coldfield) (Con)

I have an immense amount of sympathy with what the Foreign Secretary is saying, and it does seem to me as though the EU is not being particularly constructive in trying to get the solution that we all want to see. But many of us are extremely concerned that the Bill brazenly breaks a solemn international treaty, trashes our international reputation, threatens a trade war at a time when our economy is flat, and puts us at odds with our most important ally. Can she say anything to reassure me in my anxieties on these points?

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sun Aug 14th, 2022 at 02:44:08 PM EST
Diplomatic whataboutery between EU and UK Government must end - Beattie | Aug. 8, 2022 |

At this stage we don`t care who said what when. The EU is as culpable as the UK Government and right now we need proper negotiations and Northern Ireland politicians must be in the room. 
"What we do care about is Northern Ireland and its people. The Protocol needs dealt with once and for all because it continues to damage the Belfast Agreement and places a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
"The Ulster Unionist Party`s alternatives and solutions are there for all to see and have been since 2019. They also formed part of the UK Government`s Command Paper published in July 2021 and the Protocol Bill which has passed through the House of Commons.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sun Aug 14th, 2022 at 02:44:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]

So Boris succeeded to pass Brexit and NI Protocol on to the new PM Elizabeth Truss ... after David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris himself, to confront the EU with a new face in Downing Street 10 and a restart for negotiations ... do you think?

  • Commission launches infringement proceedings against the UK for breaking international law and provides further details on possible solutions to facilitate the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland | June 15, 2022 |
  • Brussels launches new legal action against London over Northern Ireland Protocol | July 27, 2022 |
  • The European Commission launched four new infringement procedures against the UK over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

    The EU's executive accuses London of failing to comply with the applicable customs requirements, supervision requirements and risk controls on the movement of goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

    'Sapere aude'

    by Oui (Oui) on Sun Aug 14th, 2022 at 02:46:31 PM EST
    [ Parent ]

    Northern Ireland: PEACE PLUS programme will support peace and prosperity across Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland

    The Commission has adopted the PEACE PLUS, a new cross-border EU programme to strengthen peace and reconciliation and cross-border cooperation between Ireland and Northern Ireland. It combines the previous INTERREG and PEACE funding strands into a new programme for the 2021-2027 EU period.

    'Sapere aude'

    by Oui (Oui) on Sun Aug 14th, 2022 at 02:47:25 PM EST
    [ Parent ]

    'Sapere aude'
    by Oui (Oui) on Sun Aug 14th, 2022 at 02:52:39 PM EST
    What a joke.  The UUPs will never come near the DUPes, so Beattie is just Mr. Irrelevant, which means he has nothing to do but spout inanities and claim both main parties are causing the current mess.  Over here that's called "both sidesing" ("Both sides have good people."  "Both sides are causing the current crisis."), which is the bleating that always spews forth from good little "centrist" tools.  Which is why they're about as useful as goose shit on a pump handle.
    by rifek on Mon Aug 15th, 2022 at 04:46:04 AM EST

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