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Does Johnson care about Northern Ireland? If so, he must fight for it

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THE Northern Ireland Protocol is lawful, ruled the High Court in Belfast on Wednesday. The judge said the NIP did not breach the Act of Union as the Withdrawal Agreement was an implied constitutional change passed by Parliament. He also rejected the challenge that the NIP breached the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement since government lawyers had ensured that no consent process needs to be implemented for four years, as the EU demanded. The famous consent principle to both sides in the GFA had been subtly undermined by the government. The judge, Mr Justice Colton, interestingly said that the analogy  with Vichy France of the EU enforcing economic regulation on a British province was ‘unhelpful’ – perhaps a mask slipped slightly on that! What analogy would the judge prefer? How about the status of Danzig in the 1919 Versailles Treaty, a German port given over to the League of Nations control? You can read the whole ghastly judgement here.  

What strikes me (as a non-lawyer, please note) is how very hard and effectively the UK lawyers, so lax and uninterested in pursuing British interests, worked for the EU interests in ensuring that the Withdrawal Agreement and NIP were watertight against the expected anger of their victims in Northern Ireland. It reminded me of the recent Benn Act conspiracy, when EU lawyers were being used to help write the Remainer legislation preventing the UK from leaving the EU without ‘a deal’ – from which we now suffer great humiliation. It is astonishing that UK lawyers are arguing passionately for the de facto sea border with NI, and indeed are increasingly internalising the merits of this neuralgic protocol. 

And it is grotesque that our PM, in answer to a question by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson about this issue, gave the answer which Judge Colton rejected, that Article 6 of the Act of Union cannot be overridden by a border inside the UK. Boris Johnson assured Donaldson that the Act of Union could not be overruled by the economic border in the sea. This very probably confirms what a Guardian headline has told us, that Johnson isn’t remotely bothered at the fate of Northern Ireland despite very specific promises to the Unionists. He does not care a whit about his own people, and is utterly reckless with his language and the consequences of his actions. 

In one of Caroline Bell’s forensic analyses, which I make no apology for citing again, she speaks of the civil servants desperately trying to keep the UK tied to EU alignment, to suffocate Brexit with the chloroform of bureaucratic Brino. This has been ingrained in Whitehall since 1972 when a mandarin penned an attack on UK sovereignty in favour of ceding democratic political power to the managers of Brussels.

In FCO 30 1048 the civil servant wrote:

‘To play an effective part in the Community, British members of the Commission and their staffs and British officials as negotiators will necessarily assume more political roles than is traditional in the UK. The Community, if we are to benefit to the full, will develop wider powers and co-ordinate and manage policy over wider areas of public business. To control and supervise this process it will be necessary to strengthen the democratic organisation of the Community with consequent decline of the primacy and prestige of the national Parliaments. The task will not be to arrest this process, since to do so would be to put considerations of formal sovereignty before effective influence and power, but to adapt institutions and policies both in the UK and in Brussels to meet and reduce the real and substantial public anxieties over national identity and alienation from government, fear of change and loss of control over their fate which are aroused by talk of “loss of sovereignty”.’ 

 The UK has just signed a military treaty with Germany, gaining us nothing and handing the Germans, presumably, more vast opportunities for procurement contracts. More appeasement and kowtowing to a power currently waging economic war with us, and seeking to split NI, and Scotland, from the UK. The Foreign Office, like the Treasury, is virtually subverted. Frau Merkel, according to Ciaran McGrath, has dedicated her final months in office to damaging the UK economically as a final gift to the EU. 

What is also amazing is that the UK government now seems to be in the grip of Stockholm syndrome, enjoying and defending the NIP as it chokes the life out of the Union. The ludicrous claims by the EU and Ireland that the Protocol is for the good of the people of NI – for its peace, even as it is lighting the blue touch paper of sectarian outrage – is truly grotesque. Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney piously tells the UK to be sensible and align its trade regulations with the EU, thus killing off Brexit – not a ‘hard Brexit’, but Brexit. The Irish EU commissioner for finance and trade, Mairead McGuinness,  sounds off repeatedly for the UK to be held totally to the NIP, and repeatedly refuses any financial deal with the EU – although the UK could take the EU to court on this, but is so utterly weak and fawning that it fails to act. When the EU itself triggered a hard border between Eire and NI, thus destroying its canard that a hard border would be impossible, McGuinness said that what ‘really troubled’ her was that ‘anyone would doubt the sincerity of the commission, of the EU, towards Northern Ireland’, as the EU has been key to the peace process. The claim of good faith rather than reigniting sectarian violence in Europe in order to weaken and punish the UK, is presumably an Irish joke. The politically motivated refusal of a normal smart border is clearly the cause of the current crisis.

Louis Ashworth in the Telegraph reports that Ms McGuinness ‘has ruled out offering British access to its financial markets as a bargaining chip in talks over Northern Ireland, as the EU presses ahead with an assault on the City’. 

The EU is not our ‘friend and ally’: it is an aggressive imperium seeking to bind us into its centre of gravity, with the help, alas, of our civil service and no doubt the Remainer politicians in Parliament still refusing to accept neither the referendum result nor the confirmatory general election result. It is disturbing to read that the UK has been trying to use NI as a ‘bargaining chip’ for the City. How duplicitous is that? 

Why the UK is now accepting the EU false narrative that the NIP is a good thing, to be sandpapered a little then enforced on an infuriated segment of the Province, baffles citizens. The EU is acting in bad faith, for political reasons, does not want a mutually friendly relationship with the UK but a client state. PM Johnson apparently does not even understand what is happening legally, he has nothing to bring to the negotiation with the EU but fear and cowardice. Neville Chamberlain was a man of principle: he tried to negotiate with Hitler in good faith, but found himself facing pure malice and subsequently admitted his own deep failure of judgement. He did care. But it took Lloyd George to force his resignation and make way for Winston Churchill.

Johnson needs to show that he does care and will fight or, on present evidence, we must conclude that he isn’t bothered.The blindingly obvious remedy lies within the NIP itself: Article 16, already used by the EU, exists for just this purpose – see Jenny McCartney’s final paragraph here purpose – and can be quite legally triggered by the UK unilaterally. That is what the EU signed up to, as well as the UK.

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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