Being sidelined suits the DUP’s unspoken wish for soft Brexit

Posted By: April 06, 2019


The Tories have sidelined the DUP and its MPs in the latest stage of the Brexit enigma

Newton Emerson. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, April 6, 2019
THE sudden sidelining of the DUP at Westminster, with Prime Minister Theresa May reaching out to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has forced differences of opinion within the Unionist party out into the open.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson promptly mentioned a customs union, albeit as a transitional measure, before distancing himself from the idea the next day.

Fellow MP Sammy Wilson continues to push the hardest of Brexit lines. Wilson has always been the most stalwart of the Brexiteers within the parliamentary party, so Donaldson’s wobbling is likelier to reflect pragmatic panic among his colleagues.

However, one cabinet minister told the influential Politico website: “The DUP if anything has moved further away [from the government]. Their demands are almost less reasonable than Labor’s.”

Being sidelined clears the way to a more cynical and typical pragmatism.

It means the DUP can sit back and let others deliver a soft Brexit for it, while it roars and flag-waves from the back benches.


The DUP has condemned May for turning to Corbyn.

“It remains to be seen if sub-contracting out the future of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn, someone whom the Conservatives have demonized for four years, will end happily,” the party said.

But the DUP itself has notably stopped short of demonizing Corbyn because threatening to do business with Labor is its ultimate hold over the Tories and one it has to at least pretend to keep plausible.

The DUP held talks with Labor while negotiating its Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Conservatives two years ago and both parties have been careful not to fall out since occasionally collaborating on votes against the government.

In 2017, Sammy Wilson threatened to put Corbyn in Number 10 over plans to manage Brexit by devolving more powers to Stormont.


Expect to hear more on devolving Brexit powers to Stormont now the so-called ‘Stormont lock’ has been expanded to a ‘Devo lock’ – a British government proposal granting backstop powers to Belfast, Cardiff, and Edinburgh.

Any nationalist nervousness at this would be misplaced.

London would still have to maintain Northern Ireland’s open Border and backstop alignment with the EU as an international treaty obligation.

The Stormont lock is about minimizing the sea border within the UK, by stopping Britain diverging from the same Backstop rules as Northern Ireland.

Extending that power to Wales and Scotland would create a triple lock against Britain leaving Customs Union and Single Market alignment with the EU.

This is a poisoned chalice for Unionists, as it could lead to mounting English resentment.

Nationalists should marvel at a policy that would give them a veto over Britain’s most fundamental levers of economic policy.