The British military has to fill in forms and alert NATO when moving forces from one part of the United Kingdom to another under the Northern Ireland protocol of Boris Johnson’s deal with the European Union, it has been revealed.
Prime Minister Johnson’s deal, hailed as a great success because it allows free trade in goods — but not services — to continue, preserving the EU’s massive trade surplus with the UK, came at the price of continued, heavy concessions on Northern Ireland, which shares a land border with EU member-state the Republic of Ireland.
These included leaving the British province — an integral part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as the name would suggest — subject to EU rules and regulations, and in some respects part of its customs territory, too, with an internal trade border overseen by EU officials being established in the Irish Sea.
Now rules related to the ability of the British military to operate in Northern Ireland are being highlighted, heaping further humiliation on Johnson and casting serious doubt on whether Northern Ireland can still be considered British sovereign territory.
“[N]ot only will the [terms of Johnson’s deals with the EU] affect goods coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain, but it will stop the free movement of UK Armed Forces and their equipment,” lamented Doug Beattie MC MLA, an Army veteran and justice spokesman for the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), which supports maintaining Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom.
“As of the 1st of January any movement of materials and equipment from Great Britain will be required to give 15 days notice and complete a customs declarations form. Even more incredibly to move from Great Britain to Northern Ireland they will have to complete a NATO form that is designed for movement of NATO forces around the globe,” he added incredulously.
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“[W]e have asked the Secretary of State [for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis MP] to immediately and unilaterally derogate from these regulations. If that is not possible he should invoke Article 16 [of the EU protocol on Northern Ireland] to stop the ludicrous situation where UK Armed Forces cannot move around the UK, with equipment, without permission,” Beattie implored.
“This shows how ludicrous and unacceptable the outworkings of the Northern Ireland Protocol are in practice.”
Before becoming Tory leader and, consequently, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson had lambasted the European Union’s efforts to turn Northern Ireland into a “semi-colony”. The Northern Ireland “backstop” which once haunted Brexit watchers disappeared from the EU debate not long after he entered office, at least in name, but he has in practice accepted much of Brussels’ demands.
“[F]or some [British] unionists, the very thought of the military having to give notice and fill out forms before moving equipment from one part of the UK to another is a bitter pill,” observed the BBC political editor for Northern Ireland, Enda McClafferty.
The First Minister for Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), evidently concurs, having commented that it was “another example of the hundreds of problems with the protocol which we vehemently opposed” and that “No sovereign country should have barriers to trade and customs arrangements placed within it.”
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