Here’s what the UK and the EU agreed last December regarding the British border in Ireland:
- They agreed that there would be no hard border in Ireland and that they would uphold the Good Friday Agreement.
- They remained unclear how an open border would be possible, but agreed that in the absence of a later agreement , the UK would make sure that there was “full alignment” with the rules of the customs union and the single market that uphold the Good Friday Agreement.
Diane Dodds (wife of the deputy [for now] leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds) writes in today’s Irish Times that the north of Ireland is being used as a bargaining chip by the EU to keep Britain in lock-step with the EU for the foreseeable future.
“Recent comments from Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney that ‘there will be difficulties’ if the backstop Border option – continuing North/South customs and regulatory alignment – is not legally translated by June are interpreted by the people I represent as an ultimatum.”
Diane figures such “threats” are holding up important trade talks that would avoid a hard off-the-cliff Brexit. She urges the British government to face down these “threats” and follow through on Theresa May’s promise that there’d be no border in the Irish Sea between the north and Mother Britain: “There will be no internal barriers created within the UK post-Brexit and no amount of bully-boy tactics will change that.”
She urges attention to all EU borders, not just the one in Ireland. What’s more, “fixating purely on the backstop not only lacks creativity but represents an act of bad faith toward the foremost commitments in options one and two”.
The DUP’s strategy is obvious, and Diane is as good a puppet as any to use in enunciating it. They want the famous back-stop – that the north will remain in full alignment with the customs union and the single market, thus maintaining an open border – to be seen as a threat, and a threat that can be kicked down the road until everything else between the UK and the EU is sorted. At that point, the DUP hopes, the EU will not want to jeopardise a hard-won deal and will agree to a hard border in Ireland. That’s their strategy. Anyone who opposes that is being petulant, threatening and a bully boy.
There’s something oddly familiar about this situation. The British government would gladly forget about the consequences for Ireland and forge a deal with the EU, ignoring the north. Unionist politicians, scenting this, are yelling blue murder and worse still, petulance, and demanding it does not happen. For now, Theresa May has convinced them that neither she “nor any other British Prime Minister” would allow the north to be any different from any other part of the EU.
But if you saw UTV Live last evening, you’ll have heard their Business editor Jamie Delargy saying that the only answer is for the north to be treated separately and for some reassuring words to be cobbled together so that it doesn’t sound as though there’s a border in the Irish Sea, even though there will be.
Dear Diane, I feel your pain. It must be awful to see your economic future linked with the rest of Ireeland and the EU. And it’s such a pity that the Curragh is in the south of Ireland and in the EU, otherwise a mutiny might have been organised.
It couldn’t be said often enough: the UK and the EU have agreed that trading relations throughout Ireland will remain as they are, regardless of UK-EU negotiations. Britain (for once) should stick by its word, given in December 2017, and the DUP should be left to find out what it’s like when you defy not just the London government, but the 27 governments of the EU.