The EU never understood Northern Ireland

At the heart of the crisis over the Protocol is its failure to deliver on its own stated aims. To understand this crisis, it is necessary to know some key aspects of the Protocol’s genesis and history. Exactly a month after Theresa May triggered Article 50, the European Commission was instructed by the member states (the European Council of 27) with ensuring the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU, including finding arrangements for the island of Ireland. That meant securing the Good Friday Agreement and avoiding a hard border. This was set out in legal guidelines on 29 April 2017 and elaborated in directives for the negotiations the following month:

Will Westminster ever fix the Northern Ireland protocol?

Last night’s spat between the Foreign Office and the Treasury was hardly reassuring for Unionists. If you missed it, a Treasury amendment proposed a change to customs regulations where ‘UK’ was replaced with ‘Great Britain’. What’s so bad about that, you might ask. The answer is that it would have codified the carving-out of Northern Ireland as a separate legal entity. This is something that the protocol establishes: Northern Ireland continues to follow EU customs rules while Great Britain is able to diverge. But this breaking off of Northern Ireland is something the government was supposed to be trying to prevent. Sure enough, the amendment was pulled and Liz Truss

Ripping up the Northern Ireland protocol is diplomacy in action

Lord Frost’s Lisbon speech represents the most cogent argument yet for replacing the Northern Ireland protocol. So naturally it has been buried under a slurry of snark, solemn head-shaking and breathless indignation. It is worth stepping back from the noise. Switch off the shouty man on LBC, mute the ‘this is not normal’ people on Twitter, and avoid at all costs the catastrophist-analysis of the academic-activists. You will miss nothing. In fact, read Frost’s speech for yourself. It was meant to send a message about the protocol and it does so directly. The Irish are our neighbours. It is in both our countries’ interests that we maintain and enhance the ties

Will the DUP’s Edwin Poots win his war on the Northern Ireland protocol?

What to make of the triumph of Edwin Poots, the new leader of the Democratic Unionist party, who defeated the party’s Westminster leader Jeffrey Donaldson by 19 votes to 17 in its first ever leadership election? Poots’ victory marks for some the definitive end of the party’s moderate turn instituted by Peter Robinson in 2008. Those not au fait with the intricacies of the DUP may find the suggestion of moderation risible. But Robinson – and indeed his own successor, Arlene Foster – recognised that for unionism to succeed, a more open approach was needed. While the execution of that strategy was often lacking, the intent was there. For many within