Power without responsibility
Ireland, the EU and the Northern Ireland Protocol
Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney’s words on the United Kingdom Government’s plans to ‘disapply’ elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol could hardly have been more confrontational.
Coveney said in his statement, “Such unilateral action in respect of an internationally binding agreement is damaging to trust and will serve only to make it more challenging to find solutions to the genuine concerns that people in Northern Ireland have about how the Protocol is being implemented.” “He added, “At a time when people in Northern Ireland have chosen their elected representatives and want to get the Executive back up and running, the path chosen by the British government is of great concern. It undermines political stability and confidence in Northern Ireland’s economy.”
Note that he is speaking explicitly on behalf of Northern Ireland.
Euronews reporter Shona Murray got some even stronger quotes, notably that publishing the Protocol legislation “would breach the UK’s commitments under international law, the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol” and “is deeply damaging to relationships on these islands and between the U.K. and EU.” “The UK’s unilateral approach is not in the best interest of NI and does not have the consent or support of the majority of people or business in Northern Ireland. Far from fixing problems, this legislation will create a whole new set of uncertainties and damage relationships .” And: “it marks a particular low point in the UK’s approach to Brexit, especially as Secretary Truss has not engaged with negotiations with the EU in any meaningful way since February.”
We might see in this flood of words that Coveney, as the Republic of Ireland’s Foreign Minister, has effectively taken on a role as a spokesman and a representative for the majority in Northern Ireland, claiming to represent its interests to the UK Government, thereby asserting the Republic of Ireland’s right of jurisdiction over the province, at least in relation to economic affairs and borders.
I think that this might be the best demonstration of why the Northern Ireland Protocol is ‘unworkable’ in the technocratic jargon sometimes used. For it has given the European Union economic jurisdiction over Northern Ireland, with the Irish government primed to speak on its behalf politically, like a member state would, while the United Kingdom still remains responsible for the physical territory and arrangements.