Like it or not, the use of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill has put the Province front and centre politically on who will succeed Boris Johnson as Conservative leader and PM next week.
The opinion polls may be suggesting Tories will opt for ‘Trust in Truss; Sunak Sunk’, but it is how the two candidates will apply the NI Protocol Bill which is the deciding factor putting clear blue sky between the Tory leadership rivals.
While both support the Bill - which has now passed the Commons stage where outgoing PM Johnson delivered a thumping 80-plus seat majority for the Conservatives at the last General Election - it is how Truss or Sunak will use the Bill to get the European Union back to the negotiating table in the ongoing delivery of Brexit.
This Protocol Bill is crucial for the next Tory administration in both taking on the EU and resolving the impasse in the Stormont peace process.
Put bluntly - which candidate has the courage to use the Bill as a battering ram against the EU to force it back to the negotiating table for a new deal?
While Truss currently appears to have given the strong impression she is prepared to use the Bill as a political battering ram, Sunak is more cautious, seemingly prepared to put the Bill in his back pocket as a last resort in the hope he can use a ‘softly, softly’ approach to gently nudge the EU to that negotiating table.
The flip side of the political coin is that either Truss or Sunak must use the Bill to also convince the DUP the time is right to kick start the Assembly by nominating a Speaker and deputy First Minister.
On paper, the Bill seems to provide many of the solutions - but not all - which the current DUP leadership requires to allow it to return to the Assembly without losing face - or votes - in any future election.
After all, with council elections looming next year, where might the 65,000 votes the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice amassed in May’s Assembly poll go?
Which is the real challenge DUP boss Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and his leadership team is facing? Is it maintaining the ‘DUP says no go’ into Stormont until the Protocol is dead and buried politically; is the DUP nervously looking over its shoulder at the impact of those 65,000 TUV votes in the expected 2023 council poll, or is it a case the Donaldson camp in the DUP still has problems keeping the traditional Paisleyite fundamentalist wing of the party in check?
Whatever the excuse for remaining outside the power-sharing Executive, the DUP certainly should not relish an autumn election this year, whoever is Northern Ireland Secretary of State.
A snap Stormont poll would hand Sinn Fein a propaganda coup on a silver plate. Republicans will scream to high heaven that the current Assembly is not fit for purpose as a devolved body as Sinn Fein - as the largest party - is being discriminated against by the DUP boycott of Stormont.
While the DUP might be hoping to lure many of those 65,000 TUV voters back so that Sinn Fein’s slim numerical majority over the Donaldson party could be overturned in favour of making the DUP the largest party, this is a huge gamble by the DUP.
What happens if the DUP boycott of Stormont turns into a Unionist boycott of the ballot box and Sinn Fein returns to the Assembly with an ever bigger majority under a ‘Smash the Stormont Unionist boycott’ ticket?
What happens if Sinn Fein’s present two-seat majority over the DUP turns into a 10-seat majority? Does this make a border poll more likely, especially with polls in the Irish Republic predicting a huge swing to Sinn Fein in the next Dail General Election?
The bottom line is that saving the Good Friday Agreement, Stormont and ultimately the peace process may well come down to the tactics adopted by the next PM using the Protocol Bill.
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Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.