As the UK prepares to overhaul parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Richard Thomson MP – the SNP’s shadow Northern Ireland spokesperson – has found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place: how can he attack the government for changing the protocol while also supporting the SNP’s plans to unlawfully ram through another independence referendum, even without Westminster’s legal required consent? Surely, if he thinks the former is illegal and should be prevented, so should the latter?
Thomson apparently hasn’t given this question much thought. Yesterday, he declared the UK’s plan is “utterly reckless and dangerous”, and suggested it breaks international law:
“The UK Government has form when it comes to breaching international law. However, this latest threat to unilaterally scrap aspects of the Northern Ireland protocol […] is utterly reckless and dangerous. Rather than reneging on its commitments the UK government should instead be working constructively to address the particular challenges facing Northern Ireland while ensuring that the Good Friday Agreement is protected.”
Yet even ignoring – as the EU appear to be doing – the fact that Article 13.8 allows for changes if the protocol is disrupting everyday life, it’s surprising to see Thomson suddenly develop an acute understanding and respect for the letter of the law. Speaking last month on the SNP’s plan to hold another referendum, Thomson said:
“Everybody knows there is a referendum in the works, it’s priced in […] I am confident the legislation will be laid in order to allow for a referendum in 2023. I have full confidence in the Scottish Government that it will deliver on that.”
Which has much the same tone as the government’s line on the Northern Ireland Protocol in relation to the EU. Nicola Sturgeon has now confirmed the SNP is prepared to steam ahead with that referendum legislation even without the permission of the UK Government – as is actually required under international* law:
“if we are to uphold democracy here in Scotland we must forge a way forward, if necessary, without a section 30 order.”
First he condmens the UK’s supposed threat to “breach international law“, now his own leader is preparing for an illegal referendum. Thomson must be furious.