By Jude Collins (judecollins.com)
“It doesn’t cut the mustard”. That was the judgement yesterday of Ian Paisley, ever keen to draw attention to himself on any topic (with the obvious exception of sponsored holidays). What the mustard wasn’t being cut by, of course, was the latest (and, one hopes, final) version of the Protocol agreement between the EU and the UK.
In general the new arrangement for trade has been seen as an outstanding success for British prime minister Rishi Sunak. So why would Ian the Younger opine that it lacks mustard-cutting edge?
Well, most important for the DUP if not the rest of us, there’s the continuing role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as the final arbiter in any dispute about EU law. Jamie Bryson and Jimmy Allister have both said that any trace of EU law over our stateen will mean unionist rejection. Several big beasts in the DUP would agree with them – Sammy Wilson and Gregory Campbell spring to mind. Well guys, do you feel lucky? Well, do you? Because like it or lump it, the ECJ is here to stay.
Then there’s the Green Lane and the Red Lane. Goods from GB to NEI in the Red Lane will be acknowledging that they’re on their way to the EU, via entry into the south of Ireland. Those in the Green Lane will declare they are bound for NEI and not an inch further. But as I’ve pointed out before, the Red Lane will naturally be subject to constant monitoring; but the Green Lane will be subject to monitoring and checks at least from time to time. Business is not composed entirely of saints, and there’s always the risk that goods which claim to be bound for NEI only will in fact be bound for the EU. So monitoring at some level will be necessary in this Lane too.
You’ll probably think of other minor drawbacks to this new arrangement of the protocol. But overall, nationalists and certainly unionists should be bending low to kiss the hem of Rishi’s garment. He’s made the idea of grown-up politics and the severing of knotty political problems doable.
Meanwhile, the DUP will try to impress us all by frowning over the new deal and humming and hawing as much as they dare; but if they don’t get on this train, they’ll find themselves permanently stuck in the station lavatory.