Conservative peer Lord Moylan called on the EU Commission’s President to fix the ongoing spat surrounding the so-called “border in the Irish Sea”. It was created as a direct result of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in which both the EU and UK agreed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
This has in effect kept the province in the Single Market – leading to customs checks on some goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The 11-hour fix avoided a hard Brexit, but outraged Northern Ireland’s fiercely patriotic Unionist community.
They are vehemently opposed to a united Ireland and see any divide between them and the rest of the UK as an assault on their British identity.
Protests over the protocol have already turned violent, with rioting in Northern Ireland over recent months.
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“To address the democratic deficit a bit?”
Should such a referendum take place it would be unclear how the province would vote.
The 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought the Troubles to an end, was highly divisive at the time and not universally backed by the Unionist community.
A referendum on the protocol could split the Nationalist vote – as some see it as a signal that the province is moving towards unification with the Republic of Ireland.
Either way a poll on the protocol could solve the issue – as unlikely as it is to take place.
The protocol has yet to be fully implemented – and the UK has threatened to unilaterally extend the grace period for implementing some checks on goods entering Northern Ireland, due to start taking place from 30 June.
EU leaders acted with dismay at the government’s announcement, with europhile French President Emmanuel Macron saying that the UK must honour the terms of the agreement.
Speaking at the ongoing G7 summit in Cornwall, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hit back.
He said that the EU was constructing “all kinds of impediments” instead of applying the protocol “sensibly”.
He added: “I think we can sort it out, but it is up to our EU friends and partners to understand that we will do whatever it takes.
“If the protocol continues to be applied in this way, then we will obviously not hesitate to invoke Article 16, as I have said before”.
He also said that some EU leaders he had spoken to “do seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country, a single territory.
“I just need to get that into their heads.”