It’s all bonfires and marches in Northern Ireland at this time of year. Specifically, on 12 July the victory of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, an event that secured a protestant king on the throne, is commemorated and celebrated. And although Covid has splintered the normally large parades into numerous smaller ones, for Ulster Unionists The Twelfth this year was more significant than ever. It provided an opportunity to bang drums in anger over the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol that appears to have left the union fraying at the edges.
When it comes to the movement of goods, in effect NI remains in the EU. The UK’s border with the EU is not along the contours of Ulster counties but in the middle of the Irish Sea, a situation that sits uneasily with Unionists but is a useful thorn for the EU to press in its battle with a former ally now turned persona non grata. Every protocol breach increases the friction and lessens the chance of favourable new deals. Not that anyone is expecting the EU to do the UK a favour, but it’s always useful to have evidence of a real grievance when you are adopting a hard-line approach.
If that is the bed we’ve made, then no time can be wasted chasing a reconciliation. It’s a question of moving on and being bold. The moving on is happening through initiatives such as the new Office for Investment while the plan of action for financial services instigated by regulators and government is the bold bit.