It is time for Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to play hardball with Brussels, writes former Brexit minister DAVID JONES
Ever since the UK departed the EU, it has become plain that the Northern Ireland Protocol is causing huge disruption to the lives of the people of that part of our country.
The Protocol was aimed at protecting the EU Single Market, ensuring an open border on the island of Ireland and thereby maintaining the stability established by the Good Friday Agreement.
But its operation in practice has been deeply damaging.
Northern Ireland has been left behind the rest of the UK, stuck in a no-man’s land of EU bureaucratic control.
At a crucial meeting on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator to discuss Northern Ireland’s future place in the United Kingdom
Keeping the border open with the Republic has resulted in another border, in the Irish Sea, making trade with the mainland much harder.
Goods passing into Northern Ireland are subject to burdensome checks, slowing up and sometimes destroying supply chains.
Food supplies have been hit. There are fears that it may become impossible to supply British-licensed medicines in Northern Ireland.
No wonder there is growing resentment, amid fears that the Protocol has changed the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without the consent of its people.
In effect, the province has become an EU colony, subject to decisions made by a foreign administration and to the jurisdiction of a foreign court: the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
This is intolerable and must end. In fact, the issue could be relatively easily resolved.
Ever since the UK departed the EU, it has become plain that the Northern Ireland Protocol is causing huge disruption to the lives of the people of that part of our country. The Protocol was aimed at protecting the EU Single Market, ensuring an open border on the island of Ireland and thereby maintaining the stability established by the Good Friday Agreement. But its operation in practice has been deeply damaging
The Centre for Brexit Policy suggests a proposal for mutual enforcement of customs regulations, whereby the UK and the EU would each take responsibility for ensuring that no non-compliant goods were exported into the other’s territory, thus protecting both internal markets.
Although Brussels is offering relatively small, cosmetic changes, it refuses to alter the substance.
Crucially, Liz Truss wants to see rapid progress toward resolving the issue. She has indicated that the threat to invoke Article 16 of the Protocol, so as to make unilateral changes to it, remains live.
The Foreign Secretary’s star is in the ascendant. She attracted high praise at International Trade for negotiating trade deals. But Thursday’s talks will be of a wholly greater magnitude.
Ms Truss must make clear to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator that the time has come for Northern Ireland to be freed from the intolerable constraints of the Protocol.
If her Brussels counterpart won’t agree, the UK should trigger Article 16.
For what is at stake is nothing less than the very future of the United Kingdom as a nation.