Notwithstanding its numerous other pitfalls, there can be little doubt that Theresa May’s agreement (WA) with the European Union would have been endorsed by Parliament had the hated ‘Irish backstop’ either been removed or time limited. As it is, the WA was rejected by the biggest margin of defeat for a sitting government in history. It knocked the previous record of 166, which occurred under Ramsay MacDonald, out of the park. That said, there seems little prospect of the EU agreeing to modify the backstop proposal so long as it takes its guidance from that prince of Europhilia, Leo Varadkar.
For Unionists such as myself, the stance of the Irish state over the backstop – nay over Brexit in its entirety – has been a revelation. Here is a country founded on the back of a violent terrorist uprising, lecturing the United Kingdom on its own quest for independence from a larger entity. Successive patronising Irish journos, such as the odious Fintan O’Toole, play the role of ideological shrinks to the London chattering classes (whose contempt for their own country has contributed significantly to the impasse we now see), seemingly oblivious to the fact the Brexit debate here has thus far taken place in the absence of actual violence. We are told the UK’s decision to go ahead with Brexit will ‘harm Ireland’. Funny, I never remember one Irish scribbler saying how launching a violent putsch against the UK whilst we were in the middle of fighting the Kaiser in 1916 was a direct act of harm against Britain. Given the Republic maintained an illegal, terrorist-succouring claim over part of the UK for 62 years; allowed its territory to be used as a safe haven for fleeing terrorists; and did everything in its power to encourage the Northern Catholic minority to withhold support for Northern Ireland itself in its infancy, I think the Republic is the LAST state whose sensitivities we should be cognisant of.
If the backstop imbroglio has taught us anything, it has taught us three principal lessons:
1. It matters not what agreements or treaties the UK signs with the Republic concerning Northern Ireland. If that legal text is anyway contradicts the nationalist narrative at a given point, it will be ignored or cast aside as quickly as a steak dinner at a vegan festival. The Belfast Agreement mentions little about Northern Ireland’s place in the EU, yet nationalists and their cheerleaders in the legacy media have managed to convince themselves (and sadly many others) that membership of the bloc is a crucial part of the underpinning of peace and the agreement’s institutions. It’s been a sight to behold as politicians and journos seek to brainwash their followers into believing Brexit is a direct threat to the outworkings of the Belfast Agreement – even though both the High Court in Belfast and the Supreme Court in London have definitively ruled otherwise.
2. Whether or not the Irish government ever actually wants to absorb the territory of Northern Ireland formally into its own jurisdiction – with all the massive financial burdens and civil unrest such a move would cause, its stance over the backstop is certainly confirmation it wants to maximise its own influence and say over the province, leaving the UK to stump up the huge subsidies to keep the place afloat. Under the backstop, Dublin would essentially represent a Northern Ireland locked into the EU’s regulatory and Single Market ambit in Brussels. In short, the backstop isn’t really about maintaining peace – especially as Dublin’s definition of a ‘hard border’ even includes regulatory divergence necessitating customs checks taking place well away from the border. What it’s actually about is the persistent conceited republican delusion that the island of Ireland really constitutes a single nation. When Dublin signed the Belfast Agreement, which confirms Northern Ireland is an integral part of the UK unless its people decide otherwise, it didn’t do so in a true spirit of reconciliation. That Dublin demands Northern Ireland be treated differently to the rest of the UK, constitutionally dividing the province away from its sovereign entity and by far its largest trading market, is proof of its insincerity. And all for the sake of the comparatively small volume of trade that passes across that border!
3. In the improbable event of Ireland becoming an all-island republic sometime in the future, you can forget all the honeyed talk about ‘parity of esteem’ between unionism and nationalism. If Dublin is incapable of understanding Unionist sensitivities over being treated differently to the rest of the United Kingdom whilst those same Unionists are CURRENTLY subjects of the United Kingdom, could we honestly expect any understanding of their fears, aspirations, identity and security after they become citizens in an all-Ireland state?
I don’t know how this Brexit pantomime will play itself out. What I do know is that Varadkar and Coveney are preparing the ground for a distinctly possible coalition with Sinn Fein after the next Irish General Election. Put out of your minds all the nonsense about peace preservation. What we have here is statecraft – and statecraft geared to the potential inclusion of a minority Sinn Fein partner in Irish national politics. Everything those two nincompoops have done with respect to Northern Ireland and Brexit should be seen from that perspective.