Trimble and the NI protocol

Sir, – David Trimble writes that, "The unionist population . . . would have the final say over any change in the status of Northern Ireland" (Opinion & Analysis, February 20th). As a key contributor to the negotiation of the Belfast Agreement, as he repeatedly states in his article, it comes as a surprise to read such a comment. As he well knows, the Belfast Agreement clearly states that it is for the majority of the entire electorate to decide any change to the North's constitutional status, not "the unionist population". The traditional unionist veto no longer exists. The political landscape of the North has changed and will continue to do so. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – I was most impressed by David Trimble’s article and that he was able to write so much about the problems caused by the protocol without mentioning Brexit and that the only reason the protocol exists is to prevent the abrogation of the Belfast Agreement which is so dear to his heart. Memorable writing indeed. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – David Trimble places great emphasis on the role of the Belfast Agreement in protecting the status of Northern Ireland. In doing so, he quotes the second clause of the agreement which states, “it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people”.

Notwithstanding my respect for Lord Trimble on foot of his endeavours in helping to bring the Belfast Agreement to fruition 23 years ago, I don’t recall him making any reference to this clause after a majority of the people of Northern Ireland voted against Brexit – an evolution that, very clearly, was going to change the status of Northern Ireland very significantly and was ultimately the root cause of the need for the protocol in the first place. – Yours, etc,


Ennis, Co Clare.

A chara, – David Trimble writes that, “the Northern Ireland protocol ignores the fundamental principle of consent. Northern Ireland is no longer fully part of the UK – it has been annexed by the EU and is subject to EU laws and an EU court without any right of dissent.”

Where was his concern for Northern Ireland consent when he and the DUP continued to pursue a policy of Brexit even after a large majority in the North had voted against it? The 56 per cent of Northern Ireland voters who voted remain do not appear to matter.

The Northern Ireland protocol he complains of is a direct result of the Brexit deal negotiated by the UK government on their behalf. Moreover, the Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May would have avoided any need for a Northern Ireland protocol, but was roundly rejected by the DUP.

It seems unionists are all in favour of British rule when they do their bidding, and all against it when it is not to their liking. In practice, consent for David Trimble means consent by unionists only.

It may also have escaped David Trimble’s attention that article 18 of the protocol provides for the Northern Ireland Assembly to vote on a regular basis to consent to the continued operation of the protocol.

Is he concerned that unionists may not be able to command a majority of the Assembly?

How much angrier will David Trimble be when “50 per cent plus one” vote for a united Ireland, a vote required by the Belfast Agreement he negotiated and still claims to support? The British government will then be legally obliged to transfer sovereignty over Northern Ireland to Ireland, regardless of what unionists might say.

He should be glad that the Northern Ireland protocol gives Northern Ireland the best of both worlds – relatively untrammelled access to both the UK internal market and the EU single market – to the envy of Scotland and many who voted Remain in the rest of the UK. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – David Trimble’s bare-faced chutzpah is astounding. He tells us that the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol wilfully tears up the Belfast Agreement, changes fundamentally the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and “ignores the fundamental principle of consent”.

This is the same man who, in his enthusiasm for a hard Brexit deal, told the Spectator in 2019 that the protocol was “a great step forward”: “Whilst, previously, the people of Northern Ireland were to have an agreement imposed on them, now we have a mechanism for the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. This is fully in accordance with the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement”.

To see David Trimble using that which he endorsed so emphatically to stoke resentment in the unionist population is to witness a staggering example of political irresponsibility. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The Irish Times is currently providing significant space to unionist voices. Given the substance of the arguments being presented, I can’t decide if the purpose is to underpin or undermine unionism. – Yours, etc,