Senior Conservative MP eviscerates UK government handling of Northern Ireland Protocol

Simon Hoare MP, Chair of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, condemns the “naïve nonsense” of expecting anyone to believe the government didn’t understand the agreement that it signed.

Boris Johnson on a recent visit to Sweden and Finland. Photo: Number 10 (Flickr).

As the UK government swings wildly from bellicose to diplomatic language, it has failed to spell out its negotiation goals on the Northern Ireland Protocol. Boris Johnson is facing opposition to the UK-EU agreement from hardline unionists, with the Democratic Unionist Party blocking the creation of a power-sharing government at Stormont. Yet, at the same time, a clear majority in Northern Ireland now support the Protocol.

Ultimately, the government cannot find a “landing zone” due to the contradictions of its own position, and its un-willingness to implement the deal that it signed up to.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of Boris Johnson’s visit to Northern Ireland, Simon Hoare MP condemned his government’s handling of the dispute and its disingenuous reasoning.

“It’s, frankly, a naïve nonsense for the government to ask anybody to believe… that it didn’t understand what it signed up to. We were told and I think we all knew what it meant.

“It wasn’t perfect, but it squared a circle… It’s extraordinary to ask us to believe that people thought, or ministers thought, that one signatory to it, i.e., the EU, would behave in a way entirely different to that which was… stipulated within the agreement, or, indeed that we would be allowed to, as well.

“You sign agreements, you understand the small print, and if you don’t then you shouldn’t be signing it. I just think these… arguments won’t wash.”

As a Conservative and Chair of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, Hoare’s party affiliation and seniority will make his frank statement difficult for the UK government to digest.

In the end, Johnson is simply getting caught up in the crossfires of his flawed Brexit vision. Having ruled out a deal with the EU for the UK as a whole, which would allow relatively unhindered access to the single market in exchange for shadowing key regulations, he is left with only two options: (a) implement the Protocol as it stands, with some technical and face-saving mitigation measures, or (b) renege on their previous commitments to maintaining an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The second option would mean, in effect, tearing up the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, as well as the UK-EU trade deal, igniting a trade war and imperilling Northern Ireland’s fragile peace. In other words, it isn’t really an “option” at all. Will Johnson’s visit to Northern Ireland mark his final reckoning with this reality? We can only hope.