Best hope after Brexit lies with the Republic

Posted By: July 19, 2017

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, July 19, 2017

There’s a lot of rubbish being talked about the absence of a Stormont executive preventing The North’s case on Brexit being argued with the British government. It doesn’t. Here’s why.

First, The North doesn’t have an agreed case. The DUP supports Brexit. Sinn Féin opposes it. Don’t be misled by people in the DUP talking about an open border, ‘frictionless’ border or any other version. The DUP wants a border in Ireland because the only alternative is a border between Britain and Ireland north and south and they’re resolutely opposed to that.

Most people don’t read DUP speeches at Westminster and why would they, stuffed as they are with sycophantic crawling to try to ingratiate themselves with Conservative Brextremists.

In that vein here’s Depooty Dawds [Deputy Dodds] on the Queen’s speech in June. “When people voted to leave the European Union, they voted to leave the single market and the customs union, and I believe that Northern Ireland… must do likewise. We must not find ourselves allowing borders to be erected between the island of Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom; that would be totally unacceptable. We must be imaginative, flexible and pragmatic in ensuring that there is an open border, as frictionless as possible, between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.”

Now that’s a ludicrous position dismissed by Michel Barnier. You can’t leave the single market and customs union and have no border and indeed Depooty Dawds admits there will be a border on the island. Anything, as long as it’s not in the Irish Sea.

Secondly and perhaps even more important, anyone reading the shabby deal to keep Theresa May in power will see that far from putting a case for The North the DUP have already sold the pass. “In line with the parties’ [Conservative and DUP] shared priorities for negotiating a successful exit from the EU… the DUP also agrees to support the government on legislation pertaining to the UK’s exit from the EU.” So there you have it.

Depooty Dawds and his nine nincompoops will support any (and all) of the eight Brexit bills proposed in the next two years. So what’s the point in whingeing about The North’s case going by default? It’s already been sold.

There’s another snag. Theresa May wouldn’t pay any attention to anything a northern executive if there was one, would propose. Both Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones have complained bitterly that they are ignored and all their representations dismissed. The Joint Ministerial Committee of leaders of devolved governments hasn’t met since February after Westminster closed for the Easter recess and then an election campaign ensued. Carwyn Jones accused the British government of giving “zero respect to the devolved governments”.

No, the best hope for The North avoiding the catastrophic effects of Brexit and the DUP’s complicity in wrecking the agriculture industry and cross-border trade lies with the Irish government, not in futile meetings in Whitehall.

It was the Irish government that successfully insisted on making the border problem one of the top three priorities before any talks of a trading relationship between Britain and the EU27. So this week the British are compelled to focus on that along with the rights of EU citizens (including Irish passport holders in The North) and the UK’s divorce bill. All through the negotiations at every stage,  Irish officials will have an input into Michel Barnier’s negotiating position and Sinn Féin TDs and MEPs will be able to meet those officials to put The North’s case.

As time goes on the role of the Irish government will grow in importance because any deal has to be agreed by a majority of the EU27 and by the European Parliament. In all this, the DUP are purely supine suckers since they’ve already signed up to support anything the British government does.

So far,  we’ve no idea what the British want because neither have they.

Open warfare has broken out in the Conservative party exemplified by the public rows in the cabinet with several members displaying depressing ignorance about the EU. Like some DUP MPs, they don’t even know the difference between the customs union and the single market. Even so, the DUP will still be their nodding dogs.