YESTERDAY, a crowdfunding campaign was launched by a coalition of pro-Union supporters, led by Ben Habib, as they commence legal proceedings against the Northern Ireland Protocol. Those involved are committed to defend the integrity of the UK and ensure unfettered trade across all parts of the Union, thereby protecting the country’s Internal Market.
Those behind the judicial review are asking all who care about Northern Ireland and the Union of the UK to join the campaign by both adding their voice and contributing what they can towards the costs of the case (go to the crowdfunder here). In addition to Mr Habib are leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Dr Steve Aitken OBE MLA, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice Jim Allister QC MLA, current first minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Arlene Foster MLA, former Labour minister Baroness Hoey and former first minister of Northern Ireland the Lord Trimble.
Those involved claim the Northern Ireland Protocol is a serious breach of the UK constitution. Northern Ireland has remained a part of the European Union’s single market for goods so products arriving from mainland Britain must undergo EU import procedures. In the opinion of those initiating the proceedings the Northern Ireland Protocol partitions the UK and leaves Northern Ireland behind in the EU. They argue the Act of Union and GFA require the people of Northern Ireland to be treated on an equal footing with all British citizens. The Protocol, it is claimed, is inconsistent with the GFA which provides that among safeguards for democratic institutions in Northern Ireland are “arrangements to ensure key decisions are taken on a cross-community basis”.
To emphasise the urgency of the case, just recently – and at a time when the UK needs to be fully out from the EU’s clutches – Northern Irish businesses could be locked out of the UK’s government-backed loan scheme due to EU state aid rules. Some UK companies with large Northern Irish operations could also be subject to EU rules, meaning – as Brexiteers frequently warned – the Protocol could “reach back” into mainland GB. Meanwhile, food manufacturers could endure millions of pounds of new costs if and when the European Commission introduces new layers of bureaucracy on food imports from next month, with particular implications for Northern Ireland, shipments to which may soon become unviable for many firms.
Writing in the Irish Times recently, Lord Trimble argued for the Protocol to be torn up to save the GFA. He also claimed the Protocol ignores the principle of consent. According to Lord Trimble, “rather than the Protocol protecting the Belfast Agreement, the fact is it is pulling it apart” while changing “fundamentally the constitutional relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.”
It is argued the GFA does not prohibit a border on the island of Ireland, but simply requires the removal of security installations and a reduction in force to a level compatible with a peaceful society. As such, the real breach of the GFA’s spirit is the Protocol, which changes Northern Ireland’s status in the UK without consent; consent that was enshrined in the GFA. A smart border could have been created where the existing two jurisdictions meet. To safeguard the Union, the Protocol surely has to go.
All those who cherish and wish to defend the Union are asked to join the campaign in any way available. As with the rum deal negotiated on fisheries and finance, the arrangements for Northern Ireland do not constitute a true and proper Brexit. The fightback begins now.
Please join Ben Habib and his co-litigants to protect Northern Ireland and the Union of the United Kingdom by visiting the crowdfunder here.