By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)
You couldn’t fail to notice a striking imbalance in the heat and noise generated here this year about the consequences of the Brexit the DUP supported.
Not surprising of course since the DUP, like the British government, had been denying the inevitable.
There was a bit of a time delay with Arlene Foster – remember her? – talking truthfully about “gateways to opportunities” for trade the protocol offers until the shock opinion poll on February 1 showed a ten point drop in DUP support. That forced an instant spectacular somersault.
Since then, the various DUP ‘leaders’ as they’re called for want of a better word, have been desperately trying to separate the protocol from the type of Brexit deal they supported. Their voters aren’t fooled. They know the protocol is the unavoidable result of the hard Brexit the DUP insisted on. As Maros Sefcovic said last week, it’s required by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) so it’s a component part of it.
Noisy unionist opposition to the protocol was a godsend to Johnson’s Brexit government which was also denying the inevitable consequences of their disastrous deal with our clueless proconsul tweeting, ‘there is no Irish Sea border’. How could the new sovereign ‘global Britain’ have left part of the UK behind in the EU single market? Er… simples: actually the part of the UK that isn’t in Britain, or part of Britain.
Confusion still reigns in the mind of Johnson’s lickspittle Frost who told the Mail on Sunday, “the protocol goes to the heart of our territorial integrity, of what it means to be one country and one market.” Except that it’s not one country; one state maybe. Then again, Frost, who negotiated the protocol and TCA, has repeatedly shown he clearly doesn’t know the differences between a state, a country and a nation.
Nevertheless, in pursuit of the shimmering Shangri-la of sovereignty Frost weaponised unionist opposition, encouraging provocative language from unionist politicians and supplying them with ammunition and hope with his repeated threats to ‘trigger Article 16’. He evidenced unionist blow hard rhetoric and street violence to further the policy of Johnson’s government to undo as much as possible of the TCA and protocol, neither of which they’d prepared for. Remember, the British still haven’t introduced checks on imports from the EU, and won’t until next summer, since they’d nothing ready.
Jeffrey Donaldson, who’s rarely off the airwaves reporting what he said to Frost or threatening to wreck the executive, thinks he’s a player whereas he’s a crash test dummy for Johnson’s never ending anti-EU strategy. One man band Jim Allister has apparently unlimited access to the BBC’s angry man radio programme. Neither offers an alternative nor has any discernible strategy.
In the midst of all this unionist sturm und drang northern nationalists have remained largely silent, relying on the EU and Irish government to uphold the law and abide by international treaties. The comparative silence masks growing sullen alienation peaking now after a decade of partisan Conservative government overtly biased in favour of unionism despite its being a minority in the assembly and unionism being a dwindling minority in Ireland.
The behaviour of unionism generally this year, false provocative rhetoric, faux surprise when sporadic violence erupts as a result, endorsing unlawful breaching of the ministerial code while pretending to support the Good Friday Agreement, blocking any implementation even of the New Decade Same Approach con trick, refusing to reciprocate any Sinn Féin compromise, all paradoxically combine to demonstrate the truth of what republicans assert: namely this place doesn’t work.
In fact reforming the north has failed repeatedly because unionists have always conspired by boycott, walk-out, veto, to prevent any attempt to make the north work unless they are the only people in charge. No unionist leader has the political wit to say this stance has to change. Instead they offer their supporters a false prospectus guaranteeing doom for their project.