Doug, Jeffrey, Billy and Jim: all together now

So – the leaders of all the unionist parties in our stateen have signed a  document of protest against the protocol: 

“We the undersigned  unionist  political leaders, affirm our opposition to the NI Protocol, its mechanisms and structures, and reaffirm our unalterable position that the protocol must be rejected and replaced by arrangements which fully respect Northern Ireland’s position as a constituent and integral part of the United Kingdom.”

They didn’t quite go the whole Ulster Covenant and declare that they would be “using all means which may be necessary to defeat the present conspiracy”, and I don’t think any of them took blood from their arm and used that to sign with; but the echoes of the 1912 defiance are there.

Why, though, did they release this declaration to the media? Why not send it by email or post to the British government, who after all are the ones who signed up to the Protocol?  Jeffrey Donaldson in recent days has muttered about the end of October being as long as they would put up with the protocol, which seems to be generally interpreted as a threat to walk out of government at that point. But wouldn’t that be politics as ritual self-disembowelling? It might damage politics here, but it’d damage Jeffrey and unionism much, much more.

Mind you, Billy Hutchinson seems to have a grip on who’s to blame: “The British government tore up the Act of Union and also the Belfast Agreement. In doing this, they diluted our Britishness.”

Well actually, Billy, if they did what you say, they didn’t so much dilute your Britishness as pour it down the toilet. But of course the British government did neither. We’re talking about checks on goods, not the tearing up of the GFA or the Act of Union. The only way your Britishness might be threatened would be if a majority in the stateen were to vote for a united Ireland. So just to satisfy public curiosity: hands up, Jeffrey, Doug, Billy, Jim – which of you would be equally adamant in your rejection of a border poll that didn’t come out the way you want it?

Morepressingly, when you go to the polls in May or earlier, how are you going to  disentangle this tight knot of unity you’ve just fastened?  Or  will you all ditch your party and form one new, glorious, big pan-Unionist party?  And will there be a mud-wrestling competition to see who gets to lead it?

Meantime, guys, here’s a suggestion: don’t cry wolf until you actually hear the wolf chewing at your back door.  

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