DUP must share blame for no deal

Posted By: December 12, 2020

Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Saturday, December 12, 2020

IT is a year to the day since the fateful general election which saw Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party secure a remarkable landslide victory, propelled to an 80-seat majority by the promise that he could ‘get Brexit done’.

Yet today Mr.  Johnson stands on the cusp of being the prime minister who delivers a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Britain’s year-long transition period for leaving the European Union will unavoidably end as 2020 becomes 2021 – in that sense, Brexit will indeed be ‘done’ – but unless a comprehensive free trade deal is in place, it will only be done at enormous cost.

This is a self-evidently catastrophic state of affairs, but both Mr. Johnson and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen have intimated it is likely.

Some will point to the coronavirus pandemic as mitigation for Mr. Johnson’s failure to have a trade deal in place months ago.

Covid-19 has undoubtedly been a Herculean challenge to every government in the world, just as it has tested the resilience of every individual, family, business and society itself.

All administrations have made mistakes along the way, but few have handled the crisis as poorly as the British government. It has exposed the inadequacies of Mr. Johnson and his cabinet.

With his large majority, Mr. Johnson has not had to pander to the DUP at Westminster this year.

But that cannot fully absolve the DUP from blame for the shambles, even as the party smarts from seeing Mr. Johnson rubbing out the “blood red” lines that Arlene Foster confidently predicted couldn’t be crossed, such as the so-called sea- border.

Its efforts to distance itself from the inevitable out-workings of the fantasy and hubris that fuelled Brexit have been thoroughly unconvincing.

The DUP was, for example, central to the funding and management of the Vote Leave campaign that inexorably led to the Johnson government. It aligned itself with those promoting a hard Brexit. And it allowed itself to be wooed by Mr. Johnson – a fatal error of judgment.

It is possible that the Northern Ireland Protocol finalized between Britain and the EU this week may soften the blow of a no deal Brexit.

And if there is any prospect of a trade deal, however remote, both the EU and the UK must continue to negotiate.

But that cannot change the truth that a majority of voters in The North do not want a Brexit of any sort.