The DUP has been accused of treating Brexit like an “embarrassing relative” by failing to make any mention of it in the party’s election broadcast for next month’s Westminster poll.
The 2 minute and 40 seconds broadcast aired on Tuesday night and featured contributions from party leader Arlene Foster alongside MPs Nigel Dodds, Gavin Robinson and Emma Little-Pengelly.
But it doesn’t make a single reference to Brexit – the issue most commentators believe defines this election.
Academic Jon Tonge said the broadcast showed that Mrs Foster’s party now regarded Brexit as “the embarrassing relative you try and keep away from family events and that no one wants to mention”.
“The family has reared him, he’s part of them and you can’t get rid of him but you don’t like talking about him,” the Liverpool-based lecturer said.
“Whilst the DUP still formally backs Brexit it would rather have Remain than a Boris Brexit.”
The DUP ambivalence comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed down from a plan last month to impose a ‘border zone’ through Ireland as part of a jingoistic Brexit agenda to crash the Six Counties out of the EU.
It was also revealed this week that former British Prime Minister Theresa May had previously changed her mind about a hard Brexit after being told of the difficulties posed by the return of a remilitarised border in Ireland.
Former Cabinet minister David Lidington revealed that May ruled out a no-deal Brexit after meeting Crown Force chiefs and community groups in Belfast in February, when she was told of the potential for a resurgence of Irish republicanism.
Lidington told the Sunday Times: “What really struck her was how the prospect of no-deal was driving them towards actively supporting a united Ireland, rather than being content to let sleeping dogs lie.”
Lidington said they learned that anything on the border itself -- “even cameras” -- was certain to produce an increase in tension. “I sat in meetings in [Derry] and in Newry and County Fermanagh, and I was told that in no uncertain terms,” he said.
The decision to avoid a return of conflict in Ireland was in line with British public opinion. A majority of British people said this week they would be happy to see the north of Ireland leave the union with their country, according to a YouGov survey.
The poll found that 45% of Britons who had an opinion said they cared “little or not at all” about the north of Ireland and would not be concerned if the union ended, while an additional 10% they be “actively pleased to see them go”. Support for ending the union increased further for those who believed that it would benefit their preferred Brexit outcome.
Sinn Féin has consistently opposed Brexit. At their Ard Fheis [annual conference] this weekend, senior party figures said the party had worked to protect Ireland from the threat posed by the “architects” of Brexit -- the Tories and the DUP -- and praised the party’s Six County MEP Martina Anderson.
A number of speakers, particularly those from Border counties, stressed there must be no return to a hard Border.
“There will be no hard border between Donegal and Derry or Tyrone and Fermanagh ever again,” said Senator Pádraig MacLochlainn. “Those days are over, the future lies in a united Ireland.”
NO EU, NO BOTHER
A small number of Irish republicans have argued that Brexit could be beneficial for Irish unity by challenging the normalisation of partition, while most Irish socialists, such as People before Profit, have always opposed the EU. Saoradh, which is not contesting the Westminster election, has said it supports Brexit from this socialist point of view, as a challenge to the “super imperialist” EU.
“We see Brexit as a defeat for the business and political elite of Britain, Ireland and Europe,” according to party chairperson Brian Kenna at the party’s Ard Fheis [annual conference] last weekend. He was critical of those who he said had “sided with the oppressor in the form of the EU, British and Irish elites against the working class”.
Meanwhile, loyalists have planned a further rally for the Ulster Hall in Belfast next month following a series of smaller town hall meetings to voice opposition to the proposed Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
Billed as a ‘Stop the Betrayal Act - Preserve the Union’ rally the gathering will take place on December 6, less than a week before the general election.
It is the latest in a series of loyalists meeting described by loyalist lobbyist Jamie Bryson as ‘organic events, aimed at encouraging friends and family to vote’.
Nominations for the Westminster election closed on Thursday. The following is a full and final list of those candidates who are running:
Naomi Long (Alliance); Carl McClean (UUP); Gavin Robinson (DUP)
Nigel Dodds (DUP); John Finucane (Sinn Féin); Nuala McAllister (Alliance)
Paula Bradshaw (Alliance); Claire Hanna (SDLP); Michael Henderson (UUP) Emma Little-Pengelly (DUP); Chris McHugh (Aontú)
Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit); Monica Digney (Aontú); Paul Doherty (SDLP); Donnamarie Higgins (Alliance); Paul Maskey (Sinn Féin); Frank McCoubrey (DUP)
Steve Aiken (UUP); Danny Donnelly (Alliance); Oliver McMullan (Sinn Féin) Angela Mulholland (SDLP); Philip Randle (Green); Aaron Rankin (Tory); Sammy Wilson (DUP)
Gregory Campbell (DUP); Richard Holmes (UUP); Cara Hunter (SDLP); Chris McCaw (Alliance); Sean McNicholl (Aontú); Dermot Nicholl (Sinn Féin)
FERMANAGH & SOUTH TYRONE
Matthew Beaumont (Alliance); Tom Elliott (UUP); Adam Gannon (SDLP) Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Féin); Caroline Wheeler (Ind)
Colum Eastwood (SDLP); Rachael Ferguson (Alliance); Darren Guy (UUP); Shaun Harkin (People Before Profit); Elisha McCallion (Sinn Féin); Anne McCloskey (Aontú); Gary Middleton (DUP)
Robbie Butler (UUP); Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP); Sorcha Eastwood (Alliance) Ally Haydock (SDLP); Gary Hynds (Tory); Alan Love (UKIP); Gary McCleave (Sinn Féin)
Mel Boyle (Alliance); Keith Buchanan (DUP); Denise Johnston (SDLP); Francie Molloy (Sinn Féin); Conor Rafferty (Ind); Neil Richardson (UUP)
NEWRY & ARMAGH
Mickey Brady (Sinn Féin); Pete Byrne (SDLP); Jackie Coade (Alliance) William Irwin (DUP); Martin Kelly (Aontú); Sam Nicholson (UUP)
Margaret Anne McKillop (SDLP); Cara McShane (Sinn Féin); Patricia O’Lynn (Alliance); Ian Paisley (DUP); Stephen Palmer (Ind); Robin Swann (UUP)
Alan Chambers (UUP); Alex Easton (DUP); Stephen Farry (Alliance); Matthew Robinson (Tory)
John Blair (Alliance); Paul Girvan (DUP); Declan Kearney (Sinn Féin); Danny Kinahan (UUP); Roisin Lynch (SDLP)
Paul Brady (Aontú); Patrick Brown (Alliance); Glyn Hanna (DUP); Chris Hazzard (Sinn Féin); Jill Macauley ( UUP); Michael Savage (SDLP)
Grant Abraham (Tory); Kellie Armstrong (Alliance); Joe Boyle (SDLP); Ryan Carlin (Sinn Féin); Martin Macartney (Green); Jim Shannon (DUP); Philip Smith (UUP); Robert Stephenson (UKIP)
Doug Beattie (UUP); Dolores Kelly (SDLP); Carla Lockhart (DUP); John O’Dowd (Sinn Féin); Eóin Tennyson (Alliance)
Órfhlaith Begley (Sinn Féin); Thomas Buchanan (DUP); Stephen Donnelly (Alliance); Susan Glass (Green); James Hope (Aontú); Daniel McCrossan (SDLP); Andy McKane (UUP)