MPs must reject this terrible agreement and then take Johnson down in the election that followsby Jonathan Lis / October 17, 2019 / Leave a comment
And so, when push came to shove, Boris Johnson did after all throw the Democratic Unionists under the bus. Perhaps he thought they were expendable. Perhaps he cared more about Brexit than preserving a full economic union. Perhaps he just didn’t care about the DUP to begin with.
Let us be clear. The deal presented this morning is much worse for the DUP than Theresa May’s ever was. May’s agreement kept the whole UK tied to the customs union indefinitely and placed just Northern Ireland in the single market for goods. For that reason alone the DUP rejected it three times. This deal preserves the divergence for the single market (necessitating regulatory checks on goods leaving Great Britain) but adds divergence on tariffs too. While the new framework cleverly keeps Northern Ireland effectively in two regimes—so Northern Irish goods can benefit from the UK’s trade deals when being exported—it will have to apply EU tariffs on goods being imported, unless it can be proven those goods will never leave the UK. The real risk here is that a de facto economically united Ireland will eventually precipitate a psychologically united one as well.
The issue of consent is also key. Whereas the backstop was intended to be temporary (even though the promised “alternative arrangements” for the border were never likely to emerge in the short or long term), this arrangement has the potential to become permanent. The wording of the text ensures that the Stormont Assembly has to vote to stop arrangements, not to allow them. In the end it may not matter whether such votes use a simple majority (requiring a new vote every four years) or a weighted cross-community majority (requiring a new vote every eight years). If Sinn Féin senses that the Assembly might vote to terminate the arrangement, thus risking a hard border, it might simply choose to pull out of the Assembly and thus disband it. Ironically enough, the DUP might have been better off with the promise of alternative arrangements after all.
As things stand, the DUP cannot support this deal. Indeed, they must be apoplectic that Johnson approved it without their consent and is now attempting to bounce them into accepting it. The Union is more important to them than Brexit. It is more important to them than financial inducements. It…