The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland will come into force at the end of the transitional period. It was designed as a stable and sustainable solution and can be expected to apply alongside any agreement on the future partnership. The protocol also contains a unilateral exit mechanism for Northern Ireland: the Northern Ireland Assembly will vote every four years on whether these rules, which require a simple majority, should be maintained. These votes take place two months before the end of each four-year period, with the first period beginning at the end of December 2020 (when the transition period is scheduled).  If the Assembly is suspended on that date, the GG vote shall be held. If the Assembly expresses inter-community support in one of these periodic votes, the protocol will apply for the next eight years instead of the usual four years.  However, if the Assembly votes against the continuation of these rules, the UK and the EU will be given two years to adopt new rules.   Although the agreement on the democratic approval mechanism allowed Johnson to assert that the backstop had been abolished – although he did not call it undemocratic – the mechanism is not without his critics, particularly in Northern Ireland. 176.Article 16, the security provisions invoked, allows both parties to unilaterally take “reasonable guarantees” when the application of the protocol entails “serious economic, societal or ecological difficulties”. These safeguards must be “limited” in their scope and “strictly necessary” to remedy the exact situation.179 A procedure for regulating the imposition of safeguards180 is contained in Appendix 7 of the protocol. On November 26, 2020, a delegated legislative committee of the House of Commons debated the regulations. On behalf of the government, the Minister of State for the Northern Ireland Office said: Robin Walker, that the ordinances fulfilled a key commitment to enable northern Ireland`s Irish to approve the agreements that will affect them: Arlene Foster, who launched her party`s manifesto for the 2019 general election, agreed with Dodds`s position and argued that the approval mechanism was “contrary to the Belfast agreement” , because the continuation of the protocol does not require the approval of a Unionist and nationalist majority of the MLAs. The statement stresses that the approval process for the ongoing application of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland will have no bearing on the “constitutional status of Northern Ireland”, which remains subject to the provisions of the Belfast Convention and Good Friday 1998.
I have heard arguments that this approach is somehow compatible with the Belfast agreement, and I do not accept that.