Lord Lilley is a former Secretary of State for Trade & Industy and for Social Security.
Defenders of the Protocol assume that the only sensitive border is the border between Ireland and the Republic.
It is important that people – particularly in the United States – understand that creating a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is at least as great a provocation to Unionists as border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic would be to Nationalists.
We need to keep citing the paradox spelt out by Lord Hannan:
“The Protocol is unsustainable because it is based on the absurd and unequal proposition that: checks on goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic would threaten the Good Friday Agreement and possibly even threaten the peace, whereas checks on [the far greater volume of] goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would have no such consequences.”
One way to illustrate this is to ask Americans how they would feel if the US government were required to impose Canadian customs controls on all goods going from US West Coast ports to Alaska (let alone applying Canadian laws within Alaska) – just to avoid the need for customs controls on the border between Alaska and Canada?
The EU wants to increase Great Britain/Northern Ireland border checks, not to reduce them
The Protocol in the Recitals and Article 6.2 commits both sides to agree that the Joint Committee “shall adopt appropriate recommendations with a view to avoiding controls at the ports and airports of Northern Ireland to the extent possible”.
The EU is flagrantly in breach of this commitment. Far from removing controls at the GB/NI border, it is demanding more. The EU claimed, in response to the UK Command Paper, that it is offering to “reduce” checks at Northern Ireland ports. Its apologists have reported them as offering to reduce checks by up to 80 per cent – though with no figures to justify this number.
In any case, this is a sleight of hand. The EU is still demanding far more checks than are currently being applied. It has just reduced the number of additional checks it is demanding once the so-called ‘grace periods’ end.
Moreover, since claiming to reduce the number of extra checks it wants, the EU has increased its demands for checks following a Commission Audit. It was the demand for spot checks on passenger cars coming from GB which proved to be the last straw as far as DUP Ministers were concerned.