Alert unionists in 1998, and increasingly since, identified the Belfast Agreement as not a settlement but as a process whose anticipated destination is Irish unity. Hence the fact that the only referendum it permits is one to sanction that outcome.
Its delivery mechanism for the intended outcome was through increasing harmonisation across the island, economically, politically and practically, for example, in health, energy and infrastructure, with guaranteeing IRA/Sinn Fein a place at the heart of government part of the softening up process.
Then, unexpectedly, along came Brexit, which if properly delivered would engender divergence, not harmonisation, with Northern Ireland tied into the UK increasingly making its own way in the world, while the Republic in a different economic and political orbit stuck with the EU. The entire strategy for gradual unification was in jeopardy. Hence the fury of Sinn Fein over Brexit and of all other disciples of Irish unity, whether in Dublin, Washington or London.
The Protocol was the carefully crafted countermeasure to thwart Brexit in Northern Ireland and not just guarantee but intensify harmonisation on the island of Ireland. By retaining NI in the same single market as the Republic, under the same Customs Code and VAT regime, governed by the same laws, then, not just was harmonisation intensified but it is the divergence from Great Britain which follows.
Just as the Union with GB is an economic and political union, with Art 6 of the Acts of Union guaranteeing that all parts of the U.K. will be on the ‘same footing’ when it comes to trade (something which the Protocol trashes), so the key building block towards Irish unity is economic coalescence. It is this which the Protocol assures. It is, of course, then a short step to political union. Indeed political union through economic union is the very template of the EU itself.
The not so subtle strategy of the Protocol for Irish unity and our extraction from the U.K. is the very reason why any awake unionist repudiates and will never come to terms with this Union-dismantling Protocol. And the reason why no awake unionist can implement the Protocol through Stormont.
While a brazen attack on the economic integrity of the United Kingdom and our part therein, the Protocol above all is a calculated assault on our constitutional position. This is why TUV from day one identified the Protocol as a sovereignty issue going to the very heart of our chosen position within the United Kingdom. And, of course, it is why the Protocol must go in all its parts.”