THE Northern Ireland Protocol mess was not created by Liz Truss. Yet it risks undermining her
entire premiership if not decisively dealt with by her likely Government in its first few weeks.
When Liz Truss introduced the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill back in June, the EU gave our Government an ultimatum: fall into line by September 15 with our interpretation of the Protocol or face legal action in the European Court of Justice.
The EU’s interpretation of the Protocol – which it would be formally and legally enforcing for the first time – would, amongst other things, require we implement checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
Reflect on that a moment.
The Irish Sea border has thus far only affected a limited number of goods moving in one direction, from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The EU now wants to block goods going the other way.
Clearly, this has nothing to do with the protection of its precious Single Market. It is a vindictive action against the people of Northern Ireland.
So much for the best of both worlds!
When Liz Truss is appointed, as is expected, to the office of Prime Minister, she will have no more than three months in which to execute her plans. Any delay beyond that and she risks not having the results she needs in order to win an election in 2024.
She surely will not want to go into that general election with the future of Northern Ireland still up in the air?
Her Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is a step in the right direction but by itself it will not get her to where she needs to go. The Bill only establishes a framework for future regulations that then need to be put to the House of Commons – it does not, in itself, solve the problem.
The passing of the Bill and then all the other regulations which must follow would be a constant running sore for her.
They would expose her to continuous criticism in the Commons and the Lords. The media would have a field day over the alleged breaching by her of International Law. She would also have to contend with the legal action against her government by the EU.
With this constant wrangling and bad media her premiership would be dragged through the mud.
But this recent and unjustifiable EU aggression creates an opportunity for Truss. No one in Government ever interpreted the Protocol to include checks on goods coming into Great Britain. Johnson guaranteed this would not happen.
So fundamental have the differences between the EU and ourselves now become over the Protocol.
There is now a way for her to neuter the Protocol virtually immediately whilst maintaining the moral high ground. All she need do is accept the truth: Parliament did not approve removing Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom.
With that one statement she would gain the ability to declare the Protocol unlawful ab initio. And with the Protocol being unlawful, she could legitimately ditch it under the Vienna Convention which governs international treaties.
Thereafter the customs border would be where the border already separates Northern Ireland from the Republic – and is recognised by the Good Friday Agreement. And, yes, there would be no customs checks on our side of the border.
Truss could and should have the Protocol problem elegantly resolved by Christmas. It really depends on whether she wants to go down in history as a vacillator or an iron lady.
The electorate want an iron lady!
Ben Habib is founder and CEO of First Property Group plc, an award winning commercial property fund manager www.fprop.com. An ardent Brexiteer, Ben is Chairman of Brexit-Watch.org and former MEP for London on behalf of the Brexit Party 2019-2020.
24 August 2022