David Trimble: Tear up the Northern Ireland protocol to save the Belfast Agreement

The withdrawal agreement protocol ignores the fundamental principle of consent

A unionist sign protesting against the Northern Ireland protocol is seen in Larne town centre. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

A unionist sign protesting against the Northern Ireland protocol is seen in Larne town centre. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

The Northern Ireland protocol agreed by UK prime minister Boris Johnson as he struggled to get a Brexit deal in time for the 2019 general election is already leading to problems. Not only does it shatter Northern Ireland’s constitutional relationship with the UK, but it also is damaging our fragile economy.

The disruption to trade has been well documented. Empty supermarket shelves are evident as some food imports are prevented from entering Northern Ireland from Britain. Customs declarations are required for personal online purchases from Britain for everything from clothes to ink cartridges. Horticultural trade by retailers and personal orders worth hundreds of millions of pounds every year have virtually stopped. Petty rules have been enforced by European Union inspectors who oversee the work of UK officials at Northern Ireland ports – to the extent that used machinery has been turned away if there is soil in the treads of the tyres. Some businesses have been waiting weeks for supplies of parts.

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