David Trimble feels 'personally betrayed' by the protocol and warns that it risks a return of violence
LORD David Trimble has said he feels "personally betrayed" by the Irish Sea border and warns that it risks a return of violence.
Calling for the protocol element of the Withdrawal Agreement to be scrapped, the former Ulster Unionist Party leader who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Good Friday Agreement, said it did not protect the 1998 peace accord but instead “wilfully tears it up”.
He echoed claims by DUP MP Sammy Wilson that there have been "threats to inspectors at ports" and cites "empty supermarket shelves" as evidence of disruption to east-west trade.
The Tory peer warned that the “unintended but unquestionably escalating tensions” created by checks on goods arriving from Britain “represent a real and present danger to the lives of people living in Northern Ireland”.
“If the genuine grievances and resentments caused by the protocol are not addressed politically, then there is real potential for those who have engaged in past violence to take action again into their own hands,” he wrote in the Irish Times.
Lord Trimble, who in October 2019 described Boris Johnson's Brexit deal as a "great step forward" and said UK-EU agreement had been brokered within the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, now argues that the protocol “changes fundamentally” the constitutional relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. He also claims "it is damaging our fragile economy".
“I personally feel betrayed by this. I made huge personal and political sacrifices to persuade the people of Northern Ireland of the Belfast Agreement’s benefits,” he wrote, adding that the majority unionist population in Northern Ireland “feel betrayed too”.
He accuses Brussels, the Dublin government, nationalist parties in the north and "even Joe Biden" of employing a "false mantra" about protecting the Good Friday Agreement.
"My primary objection to the protocol is that it changes fundamentally the constitutional relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK," he wrote, adding that laws applying to the economy, the environment and agriculture will be "determined by a foreign authority in Brussels".
"The protocol lists 70 pages of EU laws to which Northern Ireland must adhere. This amounts to tens of thousands of separate regulations. In addition, all future EU laws on which no one in the UK or Northern Ireland is able even to discuss – let alone vote on – will apply to Northern Ireland. Moreover, they will be enforceable by the European Court of Justice. This amounts to a seismic and undemocratic change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and runs contrary to the most fundamental premise in the Belfast Agreement."
Lord Trimble argues that an ‘invisible border’ can be "restored to the natural Irish land border".
"There would be no hard border, no border down the Irish Sea and no threat to the Belfast Agreement," he said.