Now clearly disregarded and outdone by Johnson and his fellow Brexiteers, the DUP is powerless and betrayedby Siobhán Fenton / October 17, 2019 / Leave a comment
Since the fluke parliamentary arithmetic of the 2017 general election propelled them into the heart of Westminster, the DUP’s relationship with their Conservative party confidence-and-supply partners has often been tense.
Despite public joviality and the professed shared passion for preserving the union, many in the DUP have continued to harbour deep distrust towards their Tory colleagues as they fear the latter’s unionist credentials could ultimately come second to their desire to see Brexit achieved if forced to choose between the two.
As the DUP’s 10 votes in the House of Commons became essential for the prospect of any Brexit deal gaining Westminster backing, the Conservatives have been keen to keep their new partners on side. The DUP’s chief demand has been that there can be no border down the Irish Sea, with their party leader Arlene Foster even going so far as to describe this as a “blood red line” for the unionist party.
What’s more, hardline Brexiteers, including those in the European Research Group, have insisted they could only accept a Brexit deal which would also be palatable to the DUP as well.
Indeed, during the Conservative party leadership contest this summer, Boris Johnson’s close relationship with the DUP and his apparent ability to keep them on side were cited as qualities which would make him a suitable Prime Minister.
It seems, however, that the DUP’s worst fears have now materialised. The new deal announced this week appears to amount to a border down the Irish Sea, with Northern Ireland being subject to different future conditions to the rest of the UK.
While Stormont will have some say over this, the design of the veto will favour Remain parties such as Sinn Féin rather than the DUP.
This is because it will require a simple majority rather than the usual cross-community majority mechanism used in the Northern Ireland Assembly, which would have allowed the DUP to effectively veto changes. As the majority of politicians at Stormont are pro-Remain, this will almost certainly see the parliament opt to continue close alignment with the EU, contrary to the DUP’s wishes.
For staunch unionists like the DUP, different conditions for Northern Ireland and an internal border within the UK amount to an unforgivable undermining of the…