Despite some British press claims to the contrary there seems to be precious little evidence that the so-called European Research Group, the influential hard-right faction within Britain’s governing Conservative Party, is ready to accept a cosmetically reworded version of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement between London and Brussels. While Jacob Rees-Mogg, the effective leader of the Europhobic tendency within the Tories, may have made a few conciliatory noises about the proposed deal in the news media, the Tory Brexiteers and their allies in the Democratic Unionist Party continue to demand the impossible: the removal of the Backstop Protocol. Or at the very least, so many changes and addenda as to render it meaningless. Given that the backstop is an essential legal mechanism to maintain the tentative peace in the north-east of the island of Ireland, there are very few people at a leadership level in the European Union who will agree to a deal that will inevitably destabilise one of the bloc’s member states. Yet elected representatives in Britain continue to play their dishonest propaganda games for domestic consumption, as The Guardian reports here:
The former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has vowed to vote against Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement unless the EU accepts “substantive legally binding changes”.
“…frankly the dishonourable way that they have tried to bully us and shove us around and it time for us to stand up and show some mettle.
“It is very clear that they [the EU] have used … Northern Ireland with all the sensitivities around that, in order, effectively, to try and lock us into a range of their laws really just to undercut our competitive advantage … Trying to use Northern Ireland, given the history of that conflict, given the successionist [secessionist] tendencies in other European countries, in order to put pressure on us in the way that they have, I don’t think that’s right.”
The only party to the Brexit negotiations behaving in a dishonourable manner in relation to the north of Ireland is the United Kingdom, which is attempting to worm its way out of a regional and international peace treaty it signed up to in 1998 and which it now finds inconvenient for contemporary political and economic reasons. That is not how international law works among democratic nation-states. Meanwhile, as the Cedar Lounge Revolution notes, a surprisingly forthright claim from Steve Aiken, a backbench MLA with the Ulster Unionist Party, speaking at a Brexit conference in Galway:
“There are people within the DUP who seriously believe a hard Brexit is what they want because that would be able to deliver them a hard border, and if it was a hard border, it would reinforce the divisions in Ireland, and for them, that would be electorally successful going into the future,” he said.
Given that the UUP has been attempting to out-Brexiteer – or out-loyalist – its rivals in the DUP since the selection of its hardline leader Robin Swann in early 2017, this bit of honest analysis from within the pro-union camp is more than a little surprising. Though it is also accurate.