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The abandonment of Northern Ireland continues

Jayne Adye
March 10, 2022

Regardless of the crisis in Ukraine, the Government must not continue to disregard the seriousness of the failings in the Northern Ireland Protocol – currently costing £100,000 an hour. The Prime Minister's gamble to pile extra responsibilities onto the plate of Liz Truss has clearly failed, and now with his boost in the polls during the conflict, Boris is unwilling to admit his mistakes, argues Jayne Adye, Director of Get Britain Out.

When the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, was confirmed as taking over responsibility for leading negotiations over outstanding issues with the European Union, there was undoubtedly optimism over her potential to bring the same energy and belief in Brexit which she had displayed as Secretary of State for International Trade. However, there was also great concern over the workload on Truss's plate and her inability to give the ongoing negotiations with the EU the attention needed to bring about change. Unsurprisingly – through no fault of her own due to time constraints – this is now the situation we find ourselves in.

No MP would have the ability to both represent the UK on the world stage in the middle of an international conflict as well as conduct separate detailed legal negotiations with the EU. Unfortunately though, the consequence of this has been we are continuing to see the people of Northern Ireland abandoned to the control of the EU. While it would be wrong to equate the invasion of Ukraine directly with the Northern Ireland Protocol, it is impossible to deny they are both clear attempts to gain control over the sovereign territory of another country.

This is a fact which simply cannot and must not be ignored in Westminster.

The Government have claimed negotiations are ongoing between both parties. However, since the start of the Ukraine Crisis, Liz Truss and her opposite number Maros Sefcovic have not met to discuss the issue. The previous five meetings between the two have all resulted with no changes and the joint statements released would fit onto the back of a small napkin, so little progress has been made.

This week a meeting of the UK-EU Specialised Committee took place. You would not know what was discussed, because no minutes were released for the public to see. Hardly a bastion of transparency to give the public trust in the process.

What's more, last week Liz Truss was invited back to Brussels to attend an EU Council Summit, but following the meeting she confirmed no conversations took place regarding Northern Ireland. Yes, the West wants to display a united front to Russia in support of Ukraine, but this does not mean the people of Northern Ireland should continually be forced to comply with EU regulations, despite no longer being an EU member state.

What is 'not' happening is hardly surprising as Boris Johnson seems to have given up devoting any time or political energy to Brexit. With the UK leading the way on sanctioning Russia – and the PM receiving a big boost in the polls, with his personal rating now back above the level it was before 'Partygate' – Boris clearly feels discussing Brexit and the possibility of creating a debate around triggering Article 16 is too big a political risk.

This is not the attitude the people of this country need in a leader. The longer the Prime Minister ignores Northern Ireland, the more the EU will simply believe no renegotiation is necessary, hoping there will be a change of Government at the next General Election, and Labour will take the UK back into the European Union.

In 2016 the UK voted to get Britain out of the European Union. The Prime Minister knows this all too well, yet we have clearly seen an abandonment of Northern Ireland to the EU in recent months. It is now nearly nine months since the UK released its official Command Paper, setting out the failings of the Protocol and detailing the changes which need to be made – but we are still no closer to seeing any meaningful reform, or the triggering of Article 16.

Meanwhile the Protocol continues to cost the Northern Irish economy £100,000 an hour and with the purdah period for upcoming local elections coming on March 28th, if no action is taken before this, then no meaningful negotiations will be possible until well into May.

In fact, instead of further distancing ourselves from EU integration, this week Liz Truss repeatedly and deliberately refused to deny a new deal will be signed with the EU on Defence and Foreign Policy integration and cooperation. This is something which Boris Johnson and Lord Frost rightly refused to consider during the original negotiations for the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, signed at the end of 2020.

We currently stand at an impasse with the EU over Northern Ireland. Ahead of the local elections in Northern Ireland in May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss must not allow themselves to forget about the crisis we are currently experiencing over our own sovereignty. The Government may be working with the EU on Ukraine, but there can be no doubt, abandoning Northern Ireland to the control of the European Union is not an option for the people of the UK.

Jayne Adye is the Director of the leading cross-Party Eurosceptic campaign Get Britain Out
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