DUP MPs are suffering from an acute form of amnesia as Brexit bites

Posted By: January 20, 2021

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said Dublin used the protocol to deliberately isolate The North from Britain.


Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, January 20, 2021


We’re witnessing an astonishing phenomenon among DUP MPs: collective amnesia, or more accurately collective double amnesia, where not only can some of them not recall facts and past experiences, they also have difficulty forming new memories.


Out in front are Sir Jeffrey ‘I could live with 40,000 job losses’ Donaldson and the unrepentant Sri Lankan wanderer Ian Óg. These guys, along with some of the others, used to chant: “No deal is better than a bad deal.” They were warned repeatedly that no deal would be an economic catastrophe whereas a bad deal would only be an economic disaster. No matter: the point was to get out of the EU regardless of cost or loss. Infamously, when confronted with an expert civil service report predicting 40,000 job losses here in the event of no-deal Donaldson, in what was surely unique for any politician, replied that he could live with that.


Yet now that the entirely foreseeable consequences of a bad deal are hitting Donaldson and Ian Óg are up protesting about shortages, red tape, and customs declarations. Do they not remember (and why do interviewers not remind them?) that they and their colleagues were saying in 2017-9 that leaving the EU regardless of the cost was the priority? Why now do they profess to care about problems in supermarkets? Why do they claim the difficulties are news to them when they were warned explicitly exactly what would happen? It can only be because they have forgotten they dismissed the inevitable hardships, insisting instead on a shimmering Shangri-La nirvana only they could discern.


Do they not remember they voted against any proposal Theresa May, presented however maladroitly, that would avoid a border in the Irish Sea, instead hitching their cart to the headbangers in the European Research Group? Did they not realize that those same headbangers were prepared to do anything to get out of the EU and that expelling The North from the UK’s internal market was for them zero cost to pay? As a senior member of the ERG said to one of the DUP MPs, “Suck it up.”


So acute is their form of amnesia that the DUP can’t form new memories and learn from their complete betrayal. Rather they have decided to pursue a new Shangri-La: they call it Article 16. They believe it is a silver bullet to get rid of the hated Irish protocol, or more likely in their case, a magic bullet, like the magic technology they advocated which could see into lorries at the British border in Ireland.


Article16, a normal clause in any trade agreement, is not designed to address foreseeable changes or temporary disruptions in an agreement. It doesn’t do away with the protocol. In fact, the cat’s cradle of joint committees to administer the protocol must strive to make the protocol work as fast as possible after it’s invoked. Furthermore, if it’s invoked unilaterally by the UK (which it won’t be because the protocol is working exactly as foreseen) the EU can retaliate. As if things weren’t going badly enough at Dover and Felixstowe and with Scottish seafood. Besides, Article 16 is not a way to undo the protocol; that’s Article 18 which can’t be used until the end of 2024. Invoking Article 16 as the DUP MPs (but note, not Arlene Foster) demand, would simply produce chaos as road haulers and traders have warned.


In short, the DUP MPs have completely forgotten that chanting a slogan that is demonstrable nonsense makes them look like fools when it turns out to be a false prospectus. Do they not realize that people here, including their own voters, know that they advocated the most extreme form of Brexit, and what is happening is precisely what the DUP voted for?


Floods of crocodile tears now will not make people share their selective amnesia. A period of silent contrition would be more appropriate.