Another Monday morning, another picking through the entrails of Brexit. If you say the word often enough – Brexit Brexit Brexit Brexit – it begins to sound like a clanking machine part you don’t understand. Which makes sense.
Bright-eyed and smiling as ever, Nigel Dodds spoke on BBC Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster just now. Noel Thompson asked him if a formal exchange of letters between the EU and the UK, as distinct from hauling out and changing bits of the withdrawal agreement , would work for the DUP.
Nigel did a quick-shoe shuffle and began talking about how poisonous the backstop was and how it’d put a border in the Irish Sea and shackle the UK – or was it just North-East Ireland? – into a “never ending customs union”. Given Nigel’s distaste for customs unions, you’d wonder why anybody gets into them. Me, I’d always thought a customs union was good for trade, not bad.
Noel Thompson went on to point out that the EU has said it won’t be re-opening negotiations on the withdrawal deal. Nigel, ever the chuckling optimist, said the EU would have to whistle a different tunes. That’s how how the EU operates, he explained – right up to the last minute of the eleventh hour, then they do what they said they’d never do. So write that down in your notebook now and look at it again on 30 March: the EU will re-open the negotiated package and change bits at the last minute. You heard it first from the DUP’s laughing boy himself.
“I want a deal” Nigel told Noel, “people in parliament want a deal, but this is not the deal. More work needs to be done.”
As for any suggestion that there’d be an increase in smuggling or that law-abiding firms would be damaged by a cliff-edge exit: Nigel explained this this was “a lot of propaganda”, and that the idea the world would end if the present deal wasn’t accepted was totally untrue. Mmm. I suppose it depends on how you see the end of the world.
Then Noel quoted Boris Johnson writing in the Daily Telegraph, in which he claims that a no-deal Brexit would be closest to what people voted for. Would Nigel agree with Boris? Nigel quickly went into his twinkle-toes-body-swerve mode and dodged the question. He stressed instead that we were headed for what nobody wants.
He’s (almost) right – hardly anybody wants the economic plane-crash that a no-deal Brexit would involve (except maybe Boris and associates). What Nigel left out in his interview is that, should the EU not have a last-minute conversion and a no-deal Brexit became a reality,, he and his party will be clearly identified as one of the pilots who pointed the plane’s nose in the ground. So do look out, Nigel. Any time after 30 March, there may be people from all parts of the UK coming after you with a portable noose and gibbet.