The DUP have become turkeys voting for Christmas as they steer us toward a no-deal Brexit

Posted By: December 12, 2018

The party have clearly learned nothing from the long history of British Conservatives shafting Northern Irish unionists
 Ben Kelly. Independent. London. Tuesday, December 11, 2018

As Theresa May’s deal hit a wall yesterday, the DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted, “The backstop must go. Too much time has been wasted. Need a better deal. Disappointed it has taken so long for Prime Minister to listen.”

Surely it is Foster who is not listening. The EU has already made clear that without the backstop – which prevents a hard Border in Ireland – there can be no deal. “We will never let the Irish down,” tweeted Guy Verhofstadt yesterday. And with no deal, some sort of Border will almost inevitably have to be erected. 

Speaking in the Commons yesterday, May said she had listened to the concerns of people living along the invisible Border in Ireland, who want it to remain that way.

“If this House cares about preserving our Union,” she said, “it must listen to those people because our Union will only endure with their consent”. How this didn’t raise alarm bells is beyond me, for she is correct. 

The principle of consent means that Northern Ireland will only remain in the UK for as long as the majority there wish. When a majority want to join a united Ireland, they may do so – and that prospect is an ever-growing reality.

Pundits frequently pick and choose their polls, but I have watched across the past two years as public opinion has shifted in Northern Ireland, and it is only shifting in one direction. 

Northern Ireland is divided, but a united Ireland is now a possibility

A year ago, I wrote that DUP support for Brexit would only accelerate Irish reunification, and that prediction has proven to be true. A survey last week by Lucid Talk for The Times had the most dramatic findings yet.

If we leave the EU under the terms of May’s deal, 48 percent of people in Northern Ireland would likely vote to join a united Ireland. If we leave with no deal – with that dreaded hard Border looming – that figure jumps to 55 percent.

The evidence is clear – a no-deal Brexit will lead to a united Ireland, and Foster will only have herself to blame.

It is one thing for Conservative hardliners to take this risk. For many of them, the “Unionist” half of their party’s title matters not. They are English nationalists at heart, and Brexit is an English nationalist foray. 

But for the DUP to hitch their wagon to this magical unicorn ride to Britannia 2.0 beggars belief. Brexit Britain doesn’t care about Northern Ireland. It is too much trouble, too much money, and if it stops them escaping the shackles of Europe, they will gladly see it cast away rather than compromise.

It was almost comical to see Boris Johnson attend the DUP conference last month, in a naked attempted to buy up their support for a potential leadership bid. The DUP has clearly learned nothing from the long history of British Conservatives shafting Northern Irish unionists.

It was the Ulster Unionist Edward Carson who lamented in 1921, “What a fool I was. I was only a puppet, and so was Ulster, and so was Ireland, in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party into power.”

He went on to lambast “those who will sell their friends for the purpose of conciliating their enemies, and, perhaps, still worse, the men who climb up a ladder into power of which even I may have been part of a humble rung, and then, when they have got into power, kick the ladder away without any concern”.

After almost 100 years, those words could easily have fallen from the lips of Foster – at least once she realizes her complicity in the domino effect that leads all the way to Irish unity. 

Is it any wonder that Sinn Féin, whose raison d’être is Irish reunification, don’t take their seats at Westminster? Their job is being done for them by Conservatives and Unionists so hell bent on delivering an impossible Brexit that they will sacrifice the Union by destroying the one option on the table which offers a realistic balance of both.

May’s deal would create a Border down the Irish Sea – an already unavoidable geographical frontier. It would also see Northern Ireland have special economic status, with access to GB and EU markets, something which Scotland is bemoaning. But the DUP argue this makes them feel less British. 

Just yesterday, Sir John Major spoke of the “breathtaking ignorance” of Unionist leaders in rejecting the backstop, which he described as “a vital national interest for Ireland and the UK”.

Regardless of what they say, the truth is the DUP would rather accept a hard Border. They are rejecting special dispensation for Northern Ireland, preferring to see us all suffer together as a Union – such is their blind, unrequited devotion to Britain. But, as the great John Hume once said, “You can’t eat a flag.”

If the DUP put Northern Ireland through a no-deal Brexit – from which we will be hit with the worst economic fallout, with a

Border disturbing our hard-won peace – sooner, rather than later, the people will see a better way forward in a prosperous united Ireland, back inside the EU.

By rejecting May’s deal, and pushing us towards this, the DUP truly are like turkeys voting for Christmas.