The positive relief from the latest agreement is inescapable. The Windsor Framework – is it the solution? It is not a miracle, but is pragmatic, at last.
The Ulster Protocol was out of date within months of signature: it was part of the initial Withdrawal Agreement, written at a time when it was not known if Britain and the European Union would sign a zero-tariff agreement, and so the main focus was how to charge customs duties across an invisible border. That became irrelevant: what remained was the imposition of a complex customs code and the banning from Ulster of everyday things brought from Great Britain.
You would think that when the Trade and Co-operation Agreement was signed, the Protocol could have been dropped – however there was still a lot of political anger in the air at the time, and the greyheads of the Commission were fired with a desire to punish Perfidious Albion.
Year have passed now, the greyheads have been inched out. We have all been through COVID and the tide of outrage is withdrawing. I have said before that the concept of common sense is culturally understood only in the English-speaking countries, one of which of course is long-suffering Ireland: maybe Ursula von L has a sense of it too.
Rhetoric rarely makes sensible decisions. The idea at the time of the Withdrawal Agreement and its Protocols was that Ireland and Ulster should not be hurt by hindering the trade across the invisible border. Indeed, that was a sensible consideration. However trade across the North Channel is many times greater that that between North and South. The words of the latest document suggest that this realisation has been brought to the fore at last.
There is no need to wreck the greater trade route to preserve the lesser, but also no need really to harm either. There are no customs duties, so there is no need for the Protocol, but for the incomprehensible need for Brussels bureaucracy. That bureaucracy was a big reason for our leaving.
A solution seems to have been found, according to the press release, in a “green lane” or free and unhindered passage of goods, while those destined for the South may still be hindered. That is good for the United Kingdom; not so much for the Republic of Ireland.
The restrictions which remain need only be one-way restrictions: there is no reason for Britain to hinder imports from the European Union. If they choose to hinder imports from us, we roll our eyes at their self-harming eccentricities and our government should try to limit the harm through the mechanisms of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement.
What of the Irish Republic? The vast bulk of it trade too is with Great Britain. I have stood watching the thundering lines of lorries crossing Anglesey from Dublin and Dún Laoghaire. The concern should have been to stop the Irish losing that trade, but this deal still leaves Ireland punished. If the EU’s rules hinder the majority of Ireland’s trade, the obvious solution would have been to give the dual position, in and out of the EU restrictive market, to the Republic, or simply for the South to leave the EU market entirely.
- Brexit and Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response by Tom Connelly
- Beyond Brexit by Vernon Bogdanor
- From Partition to Brexit: The Irish Government and Northern Ireland by Donnacha O Beachain
- Brexit: Its Necessity and Challenge by Tony Kosuge
- All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman
- Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union by Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin and Paul Whiteley
- Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 by Linda Colley
- Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British by Jeremy Paxman
- A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver
- Brexit: How the Nobodies Beat the Somebodies by Sebastian J. Handley
- Rising Tides: Facing the Challenges of a New Era by Liam Fox
- By Boris Johnson:
- For the Record by David Cameron