The Northern Ireland protocol is the biggest source of mistrust between us and, for all kinds of reasons, we need to fix this problem.

I recognise that’s not easy. The history here does matter. I do understand why the EU finds it difficult to come back to an agreement that was reached only two years ago, though that itself is far from unusual in international relations.

Equally, there’s a widespread feeling in the UK that the EU did try to use Northern Ireland to encourage UK political forces to reverse the referendum results or, at least, to keep us closely aligned with the EU.

Moreover, that the protocol represents a moment of EU overreach when the UK’s negotiating hand was tied. And, therefore, cannot reasonably last in its current form.

Whether or not you agree with either of those analyses, the facts on the ground are what matter above all.

Maybe there was a world in which the protocol could have worked, more sensitively implemented. But the world has now moved on and we now face a very serious situation. The protocol is not working. It’s completely lost consent in one community in Northern Ireland, it’s not doing the thing, it was set up to do: protect the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

In fact, doing the opposite. It has to change.

No one here is expert in Northern Ireland and we’re not asking you to be. We’re asking you, the EU, to work with us to help us manage the delicate balance in the Belfast Agreement – and not to disrupt it; to help us reflect the concerns of everyone in Northern Ireland, from all sides of the political spectrum, and to make sure the peace process is not undermined.

The key feature of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement is balance between different communities and between their links with the rest of the UK and with the Republic of Ireland. That balance has been shredded by the way this protocol is working.

The fundamental difficulty is that we’re being asked to run a full-scale external boundary of the EU through the centre of our country, to apply EU law without consent in one part of it and to have any disputes arising from these arrangements settled ultimately in the call to one of the parties.

The way this is happening is disrupting ordinary lives, damaging large or small businesses and causing serious turbulence, to the institutions within Northern Ireland.

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