Is the United Kingdom about to compromise on its hardline negotiations with the European Union over the issue of the open border around the UK legacy colony in the north-east of Ireland? That seems to be the press rumour circulating in London right now, with news from Belfast that there are growing signs of alarm among the leaders of the Democratic Unionist Party; the parliamentary partners of the governing Conservative Party in Britain. According to Sky News, the DUP is:
…”pushing back hard” against an attempt to win its approval for a potential Irish border backstop compromise already signalled by Theresa May…
Sky News has established that informal sounding out with the DUP to accept some increased forms of checks “in the Irish Sea” between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is occurring – including at the margins of Conservative Conference.
The Tory prime minister, Theresa May, has caved in to political threats by the DUP boss, Arlene Foster, several times before during the Brexit debacle, and there seems no particular reason to believe that she won’t do so again. That dismal track record hasn’t stopped the right-wing Daily Express newspaper in Britain from reporting the claims in typically hyperbolic terms:
BREXIT BOMBSHELL: May preparing to offer Brussels Irish border CONCESSION to unblock talks
THERESA May is planning a Brexit climbdown on the Irish border
However, Dominic Raab, the relatively new British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and a staunch anti-European, is already casting the rumours in a duplicitous light, demanding that any compromise backstop deal must be time-limited. Meaning that London can string out its Irish-focused agreements with Brussels and Dublin until the regulatory-alignment clause lapses.
The DUP exists to say no, and they’ll certainly say no to the sea border needed to achieve a (minimal) deal.
The only slim chance for it would be a rebellion by sufficient Brexiteer Labour MPs. I don’t know how many of these there are apart from the usual suspects of Hoey, Fields etc.
Do you think they’d care enough to do that?
I’d have thought about 5-10, but 5 committed ones.