The situation in Northern Ireland needs cool heads. It is overwhelmingly in the interest of the people of the island of Ireland, north and south, that the UK and the EU should reach a calm and orderly resolution to the genuine difficulties the Northern Ireland protocol has created.
It is also overwhelmingly in the self-interest of the UK and the EU that there be as open trading conditions between the two entities as possible, following the UK’s withdrawal from the union. The difficult current economic environment – with Britain’s GDP shrinking in April – makes it all the more vital there are no additional barriers to trade. Indeed, a trade war between the UK and its largest export market would be economic madness, not least for the people of Ireland.
Yet there is a very real danger that we might slide into this. The need to make the protocol work more smoothly is not in question, but the government’s proposed revisions to it are unnecessarily divisive. There is a sharp division within the UK, for Boris Johnson claims that the changes “are not a big deal”, whereas Keir Starmer argues the difficulties with Brussels could be resolved “around the negotiating table with statecraft” and not with legislation that “breaches international law”.