With unionism in crisis, Editor-at-Large Gail Walker finds out the views of opinion formers.
Unionism is a threat to unionism and a threat to the union. The Irish Sea border is just the proof of this. The DUP thought it could shout "no surrender" in Parliament and use Brexit to get back to the good old days, when the border was the border, there was no "north-southery" and they could ignore the "other side", crocodiles, Lundy's and all.
They said it didn't matter that 56% of NI voters wanted to remain in the EU, it was a matter for the UK as a whole. They ignored all the evidence that Northern Ireland would suffer and held out for the hardest break possible. The sea border was the inevitable outcome. Arlene Foster recognised this when she said she would try to make it work, before the boys got at her and everything went hysterical.
Now those who never wanted Brexit in the first place are left trying in the interests of stability to get the Protocol to work, while the DUP follows the ghost of Paisley past, Jim Allister, as he tries to plunge us right back to 1800 and the Act of Union.
The UUP meanwhile just tags haplessly along because it can't think of anything better to do. A few old paramilitaries have obligingly shown up to let us know the unionist family is reunited at last, and Sammy "Go to the chippy" Wilson has declared "guerrilla war" on the combined forces of the UK and the EU.
What should unionism do? None of the above. It should stop digging.
It should sit down respectfully and in a spirit of equality with the other parties and start trying to make Northern Ireland work, recognising that if others want to work towards a different constitutional future, it is their right to do so.
Susan McKay's Northern Protestants - On Shifting Ground will be published by Blackstaff in April when her Northern Protestants - An Unsettled People will be re-issued 20 years after its first publication. She is writing a book about borders with the support of an Arts Council of NI award
Here's an irony. Nationalist agitation about Northern Ireland's status would subside, Brexit supporters assured me, once the UK and EU reached agreement. Details of trade flows don't motivate people. Banners in unionist areas rejecting an Irish Sea border beg to differ. The Protocol has become a symbolic threat not only to trade but to deeper affinities connecting Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK. Here's another irony. The issue unites unionist parties for the first time in a generation. But unity does not mean effectiveness.
The current situation, some argue, is a problem for which unionists must "take ownership". Politics loves Schadenfreude though it's rarely a wise response.
Many don't share the affinities of unionism but everyone has an interest in economic well-being.
The unionist response has to be careful that playing up the emotional force of the first doesn't detract from the practical effects of the second.
Concerns about the disproportions in East-West trade, their unbalancing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, are legitimate but the argument shouldn't be a communal one. Only those who thrive on polarisation want to make the Protocol fester as a sectarian toxin, feeding demands for a dangerously divisive border poll. It's important to find common ground with others, north and south, who acknowledge those dangers.
UK/EU committee arrangements are in place to address practical difficulties arising from the Protocol's implementation.
Frustratingly, there appears no urgency. A principle of creative writing is "show, don't tell". It's the principle of creative politics too.
We're told peace and stability here is the objective, yet Brussels and London have a funny way of showing it.
The first acts with contractual pedantry and the second avoids acknowledging the significance of the issue.
If a Protocol there must be, it needs to be workable and acceptable to everyone.
Arthur Aughey is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Ulster University. His publications include The Politics of Northern Ireland: Beyond the Belfast Agreement (2007) and Nationalism, Devolution and the Challenge to the UK State (2001)
The Irish Sea border is most definitely a threat to the cohesion of the union and the future of unionism. It undermines the central pro-union argument of economic strength and stability. More significantly, it's an outward symbol of the threat unionism poses to itself.
My party warned of our genuine fear that Brexit would provide an historic opportunity to weaken the union. A leave vote risked providing an opportunity to those who were just waiting on a window of instability to push forward their plans for Ireland and Scotland. Why hand such an historic opportunity? 'Take back control' meant the complete opposite for unionism in NI.
Unionism needs to seriously reflect on how it has found itself in a self-inflicted weak and vulnerable state and, ultimately, to break the captive relationship it has with the DUP.
The DUP encouraged a vote that irreversibly destabilised the UK.
It then gained a significant mandate to play a central role in shaping the outcome. They shirked this responsibility and chose to put a price on their co-operation, offering few solutions to NI's unique problems, losing the run of themselves, intoxicated by proximity to power.
They embarrassed Northern Ireland and unionism.
The UK had just voted to relieve itself of an expensive EU burden and yet the DUP thought it a good idea to become the next expensive problem to make English headlines.
The Protocol is in many ways the terrible culmination of the DUP's negligent role in Northern Ireland's Brexit, yet they now have the audacity to try and spin themselves as the vanguard fighting against their own failure.
This must serve as a warning to pro-union voters.
If this is how the DUP act on our behalf at an historic referenda, you can be guaranteed of their performance at a border poll and how they'll subsequently spin their first election campaign to the Dail Eireann.
Stephen McCarthy is a former UUP councillor from a working class nationalist background
Does the Irish Sea Border present a threat to unionism? Are you having a laugh?
Unionists are now expected, no, required, to wear the gullibles mantle.
Suddenly, without a by-your-leave, we find ourselves on the wrong side of the portcullis.
As if slipped a Mickey Finn, we are waking up to literally and metaphorically seeing stars.
The few plants on offer in gardening sections of DIY stores now bear the EU logo, trumping their English provenance. The words of Thomas Paine are adorning the lampposts of Markethill, with the added frisson of his having been an Excise man.
Unionists are conditioned to worrying about their security.
Not unreasonably, having seen Border Force retreat to the coast, they wonder. What if such and such? Whose army?
A united front is needed to approach the EU and Westminster and Dublin. Show us the precedent. There isn't one?
Ok then, show us the risk assessment. Oh right, you haven't done one yet?
Or, as we suspect, did it comprise Leo Varadkar's (deeply offensive) stunt of brandishing the image of a bombed Customs building?
That plus the myth of the hard border? (Less than 20 roads had customs posts. They were only manned during the day. The border was like a sieve. A sieve with holes in it. Until, that is, the Provos started to murder along it and use it as an escape route.)
Best remind the EU and others that IRA targets extended beyond symbols of state. Jeffrey Agate, John Haldane, James Nicholson, Thomas Niedermayer and other top businessmen were murdered in the cause of uniting Ireland. Northern Irish powerhouse you say?
Lest we forget, there was the makings of one of those at the end of the 1960s.
And look what happened.
This time three years ago, at the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, I wrote (in Irish Pages): "Unionism feels aggrieved, isolated and anxious. Push is coming to shove and somebody needs to get a grip before that happens." Is nobody listening?
Jean Bleakney is a writer and the daughter of a Border Customs Officer
On Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol, the actual words of the Good Friday Agreement should speak for themselves.
The agreement states: "The present wish of a majority of people of NI, freely exercised and legitimate is to maintain the Union and, accordingly, that NI's status as part of the UK reflects and relies upon that wish; and that it would be wrong to make any change in the status of NI save with the consent of a majority of its people."
Brexit required something had to give on the "status" of NI's relationship, either with the Republic and a hard border, or with GB and the current Irish Sea border.
Yet the main unionist parties ploughed on exhorting us to vote for Brexit even though one way or the other the Belfast Agreement was bound to be broken. Now we have the Protocol, altering "the status" of NI's relationship within the UK, rejected by all the main pro-Union parties, and without "the consent of a majority of its people". The logical conclusion should be a vote in NI on the Protocol in line with the Belfast Agreement's requirement.
However, given that the unionist leadership failed to convince a majority of people here to vote for Brexit in the first place, any anti-Protocol campaign might well end in failure too.
The best hope may be that the business community itself has more influence on this issue in Brussels and London than the unionist leadership, which appears worryingly friendless at Westminster and in dire need of a new, more media-savvy future direction. When it comes to winning hearts and minds, regrettably Arlene Foster is no Nicola Sturgeon. Mrs Foster's strategy to scrap the Protocol is falling on deaf ears. As the unionists' pilot she is making a habit of overshooting runways.
Her only realistic option may be to buy time, accepting an extension of the grace period for trade to sort itself out by this time next year.
Ed Curran is a former Belfast Telegraph editor