After a long day of uni, I return home to retire for the evening. I slump on my sofa and flick on the tv to a comedy channel for my daily intake of shits and giggles. The comedy channel I refer to is, obviously, BBC News. For the last two weeks, I have watched the comedy sketch, that is Her Majesty’s Government, with crippling anxiety and debilitating uncertainty.
At this point, I think I will be one of the first to say it: Theresa May has come away with a workable deal.
The deal I refer to is the “Irish-Backstop Deal” which states that in the event of a no-deal being reached by 2020, no hard border would arise between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Intended to prevent a resurgence of the sectarian violence of the Troubles and significant economic damage to border businesses, the backstop deal would keep Northern Ireland as part of the UK, but in an annexed EU customs union. The Backstop deal was agreed as an acceptable contingency by the UK, the EU and the Republic of Ireland on Sunday.
In my opinion, the Irish Backstop is favourable to everyone and finally puts the uncertainty of the border in Ireland after Brexit to bed.
Those in Generation X should be happy with the deal. If like me you’re confused by generational labelling, this is our parents! Now be honest with yourself and admit it: your parents are massive Brexiteers. The impending sense of doom you feel at the dinner table when you invite your European friends over to stay during the summer sound familiar? The UK finally leaves the EU customs and is freed from the clasp of Brussels, which for many in the generation before us was a key reason for voting Leave.
The Tommy Robinson’s (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), UKIP/BNP/EDL supporters, and the generally racist should be happy at the more stringent immigration laws in Britain. Even businesses inside and out of the UK should be reassured at the prospect of a more definite and final deal being reached, rather than the calamity of a no-deal, hard Brexit. As the border has been a key issue in Brexit discussions for some time now, it would show strength and stability to finally have a contingency for this aspect. And those that live on the Irish/Northern Irish border are just glad that they don’t face the prospect of having to produce their passports or file for visas just to drop the kids off to school in the mornings or to pick up a pint of milk across the border.
Everybody is, admittedly questionably, happy. Everybody, bar the Democratic Unionist Party.
The DUP defied their allies, the Conservatives, last week with a blatant political warning shot. The DUP, who have 10 parliament seats, top up the Tories to form the government in a Confidence and Supply agreement, after May failed to secure a majority in the 2017 snap election. However, the DUP breached the arrangement this week when they voted with Labour on a number of amendments to the Finance Bill, helping them passing through the Commons, in response to the latest Irish-Backstop deal. DUP Brexit spokesman, Sammy Wilson said “the deal breached a fundamental assurance that NI would not be treated separately.” He went on to say, “consequences were inevitable,” referring to their withholding of support on the budget vote.
Essentially, the DUP have shown they are not afraid to hold the government and the success of Brexit for the entire UK to ransom if the terms of Brexit are not to their liking.
For many on the mainland, this may be too much to handle. There’s a part of Ireland that’s in the UK? And they use the pound too? (I’ve overheard these exact questions be asked on a flight to Belfast when a passenger was informed NI doesn’t use Euros.) Who are the DUP, and what gives them the right to dictate our Brexit?
The Democratic Unionist Party is the largest political party in Northern Ireland and the single-handed reason for why Northern Ireland can’t have nice things.
Are you gay and want to get married? Sorry, DUP says no.
Are you gay and want to order a cake to console your sadness at not being allowed to get married? Nope, can’t have your cake nor eat it either.
How about teaching scientifically proven basics about the Big Bang and the origins of the universe to secondary school children? Of course not! However, some NI schools are looking forward to introducing the BTEC in Flat Earth Studies next academic year (Worth 4 A levels!).
They believe they can be Northern Ireland’s Brexit Champions by stalling any deal that treats NI differently to Britain, when they can’t even be the champion for their own citizens in basic human rights. What’s funnier is the DUP think they can lead/dictate the UK government during these Brexit talks, yet they can’t even form a basic government back home in NI.
Only recently, Northern Ireland celebrated setting a world record for the longest time for a democratic nation to have no elected government. How did this happen you ask? The NI Assembly disintegrated after Sinn Fein, the nationalist equivalent of the DUP, failed to get into bed with their equally dysfunctional partner (as required in the Good Friday Agreement) after it emerged the DUP had been paying local businesses almost £500million to needlessly keep their boilers burning. It’s called the RHI Scandal – look it up! No other government in the world, bar Trump, would have survived this colossal fuck up. MLAs (NI Assembly Representatives,) to this day, are still receiving pay even though no legislation has passed since January 2017.
The accountability of the DUP is perfectly summarised in their MP for North Antrim, Mr Ian Paisley Jr. Paisley Jr was suspended from the Commons for two weeks in September after it was discovered he had made an error of “gross misconduct” when he failed to declare a bribe from the Sri Lankan government.
The DUP are the epitome of political ignominy and have no right to oppose the government on this deal from behind the tactical facade of “protecting the interests of Northern Ireland” when they themselves fail their constituents on a daily basis.
The cause for their opposition to the Irish Backstop can be found in a fragile insecure sense of British identity. I cannot stress enough the magnitude of and effect this insecurity has on NI. In December 2012, Belfast City Council voted to reduce the number of days that the Union Flag would be flown over the City Hall, in a minor cost saving attempt. This technique had already been adopted by numerous councils on the mainland. Unionists, however, believed this an attack on the Britishness of Northern Ireland and sparked two months of violent riots in the capital, costing businesses £50 million in damages and lack of sales over the festive period.
Their exception to the Irish-Backstop deal is rooted in their belief that this too is an attack on Northern Ireland’s future in the UK. Regardless if a hard border in Ireland will return our economic prospects back to that of the time of the Potato Famine, spark a resurgence of IRA hostilities (as the Police Service of NI has warned it would) or directly damage the lives of those living on the border, the DUP will not settle unless Northern Ireland is treated exactly the same as the rest of the UK.
As a Unionist, I do not fear for the future of Northern Ireland in the UK with this deal. Theresa May has continuously highlighted NI will remain part of the Union in this deal for as long as we wish to. I will still feel British and retain my British passport. Life, I believe, will be largely the same. The economy should remain similar thanks to no nasty fuck ups from a hard border and benefits from remaining in the single European market. Travel to and from the mainland could not be much harder than it currently is. Present an identification document at the airport gate? Already do that. Have my bags checked by customs/security? Already do that. Submit to a voluntary strip search? Perhaps not.
The border in Gibraltar is what I envisage what the Northern Irish border could become. Passengers off flights from Gibraltar still have to pass through customs regardless of the fact that most Gibraltarians hold British passports. Goods also pass across the Spanish border with very little inspection. It has been proposed a digital surveillance system could be used in NI to inspect cross border movements and this would negate the need for any physical border.
Do not let the DUP’s disproval of the backstop deal miscolour Northern Ireland in your mind. The NI Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Directors NI, the Director of the Civil Service and the Ulster Farmers Union all publicly support the backstop agreement. Large business with close logistic links with the Republic such as Primark, McDonald’s and Tesco’s have all backed the deal. Some consultancy firms have highlighted the proposed strategic advantage of Belfast post-Brexit for simultaneously enjoying the benefits of being both in the UK and EU, leading to a potential for huge development in the city. Border communities rejoiced at the proposal; many can still remember the border checks during the Troubles.
I went home to Belfast last weekend. Talking to a local, he remarked “it almost seems everyone is happy with the backstop agreement bar the DUP.” And I agree with him. It seems Paisley taught them to stick by their club motto “Never!” far too literally.
So where does Theresa May go from here.
She can’t just get rid of her DUP crutch. She signed a deal with the devil and has to live with it now.
Furthermore she can’t implement the Irish-Backstop deal thanks to the inevitable opposition she will face from the DUP and the rest of the Commons in passing any Brexit bill through the Commons. Even though this is the option most acceptable to Brussels as well.
I think the technical term is she is fucked and by deduction, the UK is also fucked.
To be fair, you did bring this upon yourselves. You voted Brexit because a big red bus said the NHS would get £350million more each year, with no consideration for what Brexit actually meant for the country. You also deserve this fate for thinking a bunch of Belfast politicians would help make Brexit a success. Belfast couldn’t even build a ship without sinking on her first voyage, what made you think Brexit would be any different?
You may have noticed I also changed referring to the UK from “we” to “you.” Yes, well that is because I’m jumping ship. Residency in Northern Ireland allows dual citizenship of the UK and the Republic of Ireland and I’m in the midst of applying for my Irish passport. You may be leaving the EU and have to file for a Visa every time you want to wear your Speedos in Magaluf, but I’m not. That’s my bets for Brexit fully hedged.
I wish you all the best, and I will see you on the other side of whatever way this shit show ends up. But when you have meme sources like Jacob Rees-Mogg and BoJo leading the country, who needs luck, eh?