Even as a unionist, I can live with the Withdrawal Agreement because there doesn’t seem to be a viable alternativeby Sarah Creighton / November 20, 2018 / Leave a comment
We’re nearly there. After two years of negotiations and political drama, a draft Withdrawal Agreement was published on the November 14 by the EU and the UK Government.
In Northern Ireland, the Agreement has been welcomed by most of the Remain supporting parties. Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance have made it very clear that their first choice is to remain in the EU, but they are glad progress has been made.
The DUP and the Ulster Unionist Party had a very different reaction. Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann says that it will make Northern Ireland “drift further away” from the United Kingdom. The DUP have made it very clear that they will be voting the deal down and view the Agreement as a betrayal that puts the Union at risk, refusing to vote for Conservative budget measures and warning Theresa May that she must “keep her side of the deal.”
The Withdrawal Agreement breaches all the DUP’s red lines on an Irish Sea border and Northern Ireland being treated differently from Great Britain. This isn’t what the DUP foresaw when it signed its Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Conservative Party—especially after it secured “commitments” from Theresa May in December 2017 that their red lines would not be breached.
If the UK Backstop comes into operation, goods from Britain will have to be checked upon arrival in Larne or Belfast. There could also be divergence from Britain because Northern Ireland will have to remained closely aligned to the Single Market to smooth trade with the Republic of Ireland.
It is perhaps for this reason that the position of the DUP and UUP isn’t supported by businesses in Northern Ireland, many of which have come out in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement. Significantly, the Ulster Farmer’s Union, traditional allies of unionism, have voiced their support.
Similarly, despite all their clout, their leverage, the DUP has failed to convince the Prime Minister to back their point of view. Arlene Foster and her colleagues now sit in a mess of its own making. They chose to back the Brexit articulated by Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage: a Brexit that can’t marry up its ambitions to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market, and to not have a…