The four horsepersons of the Backstop

 Normally Brexit is a topic that’s unlikely to tickle your funny-bone. It may well involve the loss of thousands of jobs, the tanking of the pound, farmers out of business, increased food prices and decreased food quality, social division, political antagonism and family shouting-matches.  But The Irish Times has a Brexit report this morning that should ease the wrinkles of worry from your brow and have your belly heaving with huge shouts of laughter.

The article is about  (Lord) David Trimble. No, don’t laugh yet, Virginia.  It also involves (Lord) Paul Bew (stifle it, Virginia), Jeff Dudgeon and  (drum-roll)…Ruth Dudley Edwards.(OK, now you can giggle, Virginia.) With the good Lord Trimble at their head, these four horsepersons are galloping into the Brexit fray with a mission: to mount a legal challenge to the backstop.  The three possible defendants of this legal assault are expected to be Theresa May, the cabinet office’s David Lidington and our own pro-consul Karen Bradley.

The claim of the four horsepersons is that the backstop contravenes the Good Friday Agreement (and the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and  the Union of Ireland Act 1800).  Their claim is that the backstop would create a border in the Irish Sea and so change the constitutional status of the north of Ireland within the United Kingdom – something that the Good Friday Agreement says can only happen with the consent of the majority of people in the north.

A number of things about this cavalry charge puzzle me:

  1. Can you mount a legal challenge against something that hasn’t happened and may never happen?
  2. If the case is built on the backstop creating commercial barriers between the north and Britain, won’t it have to contend with the fact that commercial barriers for such things as cattle coming from Britain to the north have existed for years but don’t seem  to have made much constitutional difference?
  3. The Irish Times article says that £24,000 in support of the case has been raised by crowd-funding.  Assuming that the average crowd-fund contribution is a fiver, can there really be in existence nearly 5,000 people who are so easily parted from their money? And how can I locate them?
  4. Will Donald Tusk be checking out an even hotter corner of hell for the four horsepersons, or will he be too busy rolling around the floor convulsed with laughter?
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