Boris Johnson has proved himself a “lousy unionist” with his Brexit “betrayal” of Northern Ireland, a leading Orangeman has said.
Rev Mervyn Gibson said the region had been left a “place apart” from the rest of the UK as a consequence of the Brexit achieved by the Prime Minister, with the creation of economic barriers with Great Britain.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Rev Gibson, who is Grand Secretary of the Orange Order, said unionists should focus not on protests but on strengthening the Union going forward.
He acknowledged that the consequences of new trading arrangements agreed in the Brexit Withdrawal deal would see Northern Ireland’s economic orientation shift toward Dublin.
“I think we’ve been betrayed, there’s no other way to say it,” said Rev Gibson.
“Sadly we trusted Boris Johnson when he said there would be no border down the Irish Sea, that we wouldn’t be any different, that we leave Europe as one United Kingdom.
“Sadly that is not the case. He has made Northern Ireland a place apart, he has given up some sovereignty to Europe, you’ll have Europe making certain laws and enforcing certain things in Northern Ireland and we’ve no representation at the European Parliament, so he’s abandoned us in that way.”
He added: “Actually some of Boris’s speeches he’s referring to ‘Britain’ and not the United Kingdom anymore.
“We’ve been betrayed before. Churchill tried to betray us, Thatcher betrayed us.
“They were great prime ministers but they were lousy unionists. The jury’s out whether Boris is a great prime minister, but he’s already proved to be a lousy unionist.”
Winston Churchill offered a united Ireland in exchange for the Irish state joining the UK’s war effort in 1940 and Margaret Thatcher signed the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, which gave the Irish Republic more of a say in the affairs of Northern Ireland.
“We have to make the best of it,” said Rev Gibson.
“There is no good shouting about it, there’s no good protesting about it, we need to get on with strengthening the Union and the centennial gives us a great opportunity to do that, to build on the next 100 years for Northern Ireland.”
Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson also characterises the Northern Ireland Protocol as a “betrayal”.
He has penned a rebuttal to the contention of the European Research Group’s legal advisory committee that Brexit has not undermined UK sovereignty.
Mr Bryson has called for unionists of all shades to come together in a collective forum to co-ordinate their opposition to the protocol.
“It seems that such a forum is an essential mechanism for the development of a collective unionist and loyalist campaign to see off the threat to the Union posed by the protocol,” he said.
“The unionist and loyalist community is a broad church, with many differing views on social and broader political issues, however the one unifying component is the Union.
“It would be a derogation of duty to defend the Union if such a collective body did not come together with the sole purpose of developing a legal, political, community and civic strategy.
“Such a strategic movement is necessary to resist efforts to annex Northern Ireland off into what effectively amounts to an economic united Ireland.”