Viewers may have got the false impression that when speaking on The View last week, Dr Kyle was being pragmatic. Upon reflection, he was more idealistic than realistic, and reading between the lines, ill-advised regarding what some of the real problems with the Protocol actually are.
In his own way, he rehashed the already debunked “best of both worlds” aspiration that naively argues for all the Protocol’s problems to be solved and all its opportunities to be seized.
At the heart of this perspective however lies a knock-down contradiction. What Dr Kyle does not seem to appreciate, is that the most serious problems with the Protocol are inextricably intertwined with its supposed opportunities.
The main problems with the Protocol in fact emanate from creating the very opportunities Dr Kyle thinks Unionism ought to exploit.
Take for example a core component of the Irish Sea Border, Northern Ireland’s regulatory alignment with the EU single market for goods. It is both a problem and an apparent opportunity.
It is a problem because Northern Ireland now follows different economic regulations than Great Britain and therefore this creates trade barriers within the UK internal market.
It is also an opportunity because Northern Ireland follows the same economic regulations as the EU and therefore has unrestricted access to the European market.
To fix the problem means forfeiting the opportunity, and to make the most of the opportunity means accepting the problem.
Problems and opportunities are the conjoined twins of the Protocol; they are inseparable. To solve the former is to remove the latter. They either both live or they both die.
That is not to say that one cannot argue, as Dr Kyle evidently has, to minimise the problems and maximise the supposed opportunities. If the Protocol cannot be eradicated, or at least substantially modified, then that is the position Unionism could eventually, and reluctantly, find itself in.
In the meantime however, as negotiations between the UK and the EU intensify, Unionists ought to ask themselves what problems they are unwilling to accept and what opportunities they are willing to disregard?
Changing the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is one Protocol problem no Unionist should consent to, regardless of what supposed opportunities are on offer.
It seems obvious to point out that just because a certain course of action comes with opportunities, it does not necessarily mean it is a course of action worth taking. In everyday life we turn down opportunities all the time, and more often than not, it is because the opportunity comes at the expense of something else.
It is the same with the Northern Ireland Protocol. The opportunity of unrestricted EU market access comes at the expense of creating customs barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, our largest economic market.
The opportunity of effectively remaining in the EU single market for goods comes at the expense of impliedly repealing Article VI of the Act of Union and changing Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom.
The opportunity to incorporate swathes of European Union law into Northern Ireland’s economy comes at the expense of undermining our democratic human rights; periodically locking Northern Ireland into a foreign jurisdiction’s laws and handing that jurisdiction judicial and legislative authority without any democratic representation.
If Dr Kyle, or the “civic unionists” he curiously claims to represent, are prepared to accept these problems in favour of “exploiting” the supposed opportunities, then they should say so.
If they think these problems can be resolved while maintaining the Protocol’s apparent opportunities, then they should explain how?
Until then, rather than resurrect the “best of both worlds” fallacy and mislead Unionists toward a false Protocol utopia, Dr Kyle would be best restating the position of his party and using his influence to call for Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom to be restored.
By Moore Holmes