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‘It’s our precious Union’, declared Theresa May. ‘It’s our precious, precious Union’. That woman has used the word ‘precious’ so many times over the past year, I thought she was gearing up to do an impression of Gollum! In fact if Andy Serkis isn’t able to provide that voice in the next ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie, I’m sure Theresa can step into the role with ease.

Well, all I can say is if that’s how May treats something she regards as precious, I’d hate to see how she’d deal with something she can’t stand. The publication of the Attorney General’s legal advice with regard to the Northern Ireland backstop was devastating. The protocol, if enacted, would tie the province into an economic orbit aligned to that of the Republic and the EU, even though sales to and from the rest of the UK account for 63% of its total external trade. In short, in order to buy off potential terrorists and those who might support them, Northern Ireland’s economy would be expected to erect barriers between it and by far its largest market. And all because a few people can’t stomach the odd customs check or erected camera on what is, after all, an international frontier – one which has been in place since 1922.

May probably likes to think of herself as Odysseus, negotiating the vessel of Brexit negotiations between the monsters of Scylla and Charybdis in the Strait of Messina. In truth she’s Captain Smith, in charge of a strategy more akin to that of the Titanic as it heads for the iceberg 200 miles off Newfoundland. Because even if, by some miracle, this Withdrawal Agreement clears the Commons next Tuesday evening, the DUP will immediately pull the plug on the Confidence and Supply Arrangement. Thus, we’d be facing a General Election shortly in the New Year.

With typical metropolitan arrogance, the Independent’s John Rentoul suggested the DUP were bluffing in their threats to take down the government over this issue. Let me say, as someone who understands and has strong affinity with the Unionist mind set, these people aren’t bluffing. If there’s one thing Northern Ireland’s Unionists don’t bluff about it’s the Union itself. If you think they’re bluffing, Mr Rentoul, just watch the cards fall for this Conservative government if they pull off this meaningful vote next week.

Anyway, why shouldn’t the DUP pull out of the agreement they have with the Tories? One of the jointly-agreed endeavours of the partnership was ‘strengthening and enhancing the Union’. Tell me, how does a Withdrawal Agreement that….

1. Treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the country.
2. Entraps the entire UK in a customs arrangement with no compulsion for the EU to enter bona fide trade negotiations.
3. Enslaves future governments in year after year of protracted trade talks with no guaranteed outcome.

….possibly dovetail with that original mission statement?

The only chink of light in this very depression legal document is Article 18 of the Protocol. This is the Safeguards Clause,
that allows either party to unilaterally suspend the Protocol if its continued application “leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties liable to persist, or to diversion of trade.” In other words, should hiving off Northern Ireland from its principal market trigger a massive drop in living standards and the possibility of the re-ignition of communal strife, the UK would then have the legal power to end the backstop of its own accord. It’s just one hell of a pity that an Irish Taoiseach desperate to be a modern incarnation of de Valera, alongside an EU equally determined to punish a Member State for exercising its democratic right to quit, should use a part of the UK as their own political patsy.



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