Smell of DUP climbdown on Brexit is in the air

Posted By: December 04, 2018

Tom Kelly. Irish News. Belfast. Monday, December 3, 2018
Climb down: A withdrawal from a position taken up in argument or negotiation.

That is the definition given by the Oxford Dictionary. I put it out there because the smell of a climbdown pervades the air.

Since the start of the entire Brexit referendum, Sammy Wilson has been to the fore of the DUP’s full frontal assault on the EU. His views on the EU, like his views on carbon emissions, are not subtle. Nor are they sensible or sound. Sensible or not; he is the man most responsible for hoisting his party on its own petard.

And so it has started. A few days ago the DUP deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, said that leaving without a deal with the EU or remaining in the EU would both be preferable to the withdrawal deal as presented by the prime minister.

The South Belfast DUP MP, Emma Little-Pengelly told BBC radio during the week that they didn’t want a no deal scenario but that they wanted a better deal.

And now the DUP leader Arlene Foster has suggested that the DUP might favor a Norway model of Brexit going forward.

For the record, the Norway option has always been on offer to the UK government. During many debates during the referendum, DUP MPs argued against a Norway or Swiss model post Brexit. Their rationale was that in exchange for access to the single market, it would make the UK a rule taker and not a rule maker. Norway also accepts the EU principle of free movement of labor. So securing borders would sound a bit hollow.

Perhaps in more rational moments, the real reason why the DUP opposed the Norway model was because it excludes a trading deal on agriculture and food – both cornerstones of the Northern Ireland economy.

And the DUP is starting to listen to business organizations and in particular farmers and the agri-food sector. The bullish claims by certain DUP MPs that no deal was preferable to any deal is now off the party’s table. A deal with the EU has to be struck.

A Norwegian style Brexit deal would cover 80 percent of good and services within the British economy. It does achieve some of the Brexit aims but for others like David Davis, ‘It’s the worst of all worlds’.

Sammy Wilson pontificating that economic Armageddon hasn’t happened since the referendum predictably ignores two fundamental points: the first is that two years on we have not left the EU, so everything in terms of rights and trade remains the same. And secondly, every time the  prospect of a no deal is mentioned share prices drop and the pound weakens. Exporting goods bolstered by a weak currency is like trying to balance on two legs of a three legged stool. The uncertainty created by dithering politicians at Westminster has meant that businesses cannot plan ahead. The business community in Northern Ireland contains many staunch unionists but being business people their outlook is truly global, unlike DUP-style unionism which is insecure and insular.

Boris Johnson – the proponent of Global Britain – doesn’t proclaim Global UK which includes Northern Ireland. It’s a bit like Team GB; Northern Ireland doesn’t quite fit. Frankly, the darling of the DUP conference is schizophrenic over the EU. Earlier this year he said he feared that we were drifting slowing towards a Norway model of soft Brexit. That’s the Norway model now apparently being favored by the DUP leadership. Johnson also told Sky News in 2016, “I would vote to stay in the single market.” In 2012 he said, “We could contract a relationship with the EU that more closely resembled that of (wait for it) Norway!”

How can anyone take seriously any of the views of Brexiters when they have more options for the post-Brexit UK than a packet of Rowntree Randoms? What is worse is that they can’t agree around any single option.

Many members of parliament are guilty of mass cowardice. The will of parliament is overwhelmingly against a no deal scenario. So it’s time parliament put down the anti-EU zealots like Rees Mogg and Kate Hoey. If parliament can’t agree what they do want, they should at least coalesce around what they don’t want, i.e., no deal.

It is quite incredible that those who are most vocal about leaving the so called evil empire of the EU are quite content to condemn their fellow citizens to domestic serfdom under the tyranny of a small group of Tory elites.