Current Affairs Politics

The UK Offers Power Over Brexit And The Backstop Protocol To The DUP

So it seems that the perennial wrecker of Irish and British politics, the Democratic Unionist Party, is being asked to support the Draft Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom on the understanding that it and its allies in the Conservative Party’s anti-EU faction, the European Research Group, can collapse the whole deal at a future date. In an attempt to win over what was once perceived as a party too extreme for mainstream politicians in Britain, Theresa May’s minority administration in London is said to be offering all sorts of political, legal and financial blandishments to the DUP’s leadership, with pledges of backdoor-access to the Cabinet in Downing Street, a behind-the-scenes presence at future EU-UK talks and decision-making, and several billion pounds of further state aid for Britain’s legacy colony in the north-east Ireland (that is, on top of the hundreds of millions of pounds already paid out in a partially failed attempt to secure the loyalty of the hardline DUP MPs in the House of Commons).

Will the Democratic Unionists be persuaded by the British premier and her colleagues that they can have their cake and eat it too? That they can gain further political and legislative influence in the UK, further cash for their communities, while achieving Brexit and hardening the soft border with the rest of the island of Ireland? Which remains, despite all media claims to the contrary, the primary goal of many in the party.

David Trimble, Paul Bew, with the British revisionist historian Ruth Dudley Edwards, commemorating the passing of the notorious Irish informer, Sean Callaghan, a frequent guest of the right-wing think tanks in London

The Policy Exchange, a right-wing think tank in London, seems to be giving some weight to Theresa May’s argument that Britain can pull a legal and diplomatic sleight of hand in its Brexit treaty with Europe. Under the alluring title for the europhobic factions in Westminster, “The Irish Backstop: Nothing has changed? It has actually“, the authors David Trimble and Paul Bew, a pro-union politician and a pro-union academic respectively, suggest that the UK can simply walk away from those aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement it disagrees with through the application of some interpretative chicanery.

While the Withdrawal Agreement itself has not changed, the potential practical functioning and probable duration of any future backstop has been significantly changed in the course of recent negotiations.

Having ignored the issue for too long, the UK Government has finally begun to invest in a serious consideration of the technology that might render the backstop meaningless in practical terms.

Crucially, the Government has now admitted the point that there are circumstances in which the backstop may undercut the 1998 Good Friday Agreement rather than protect it, as it is intended to do. This could constitute the ‘socially destabilising effect’ by which certain provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement might be ‘disapplied’.

While a temporary backstop for a short period is acceptable to all parties (including the DUP), it is clear that the prospect of an enduring structure, with expanding and dynamic functions, is untenable in the long run and could lead to socially disturbing effects and potential instability. It would be unpalatable for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

As a result of this shift in position, the UK Government is now correct in asserting the right, in extremis, to appeal to international law under the Vienna Convention.

It is now perfectly clear that if the DUP-ERG axis in the House of Commons is cajoled into supporting Theresa May’s deal it will be on the understanding that the UK intends to break that deal at a later point, utilising the slightest of pretences, to prevent the application of the peace-saving Backstop Protocol in the north of Ireland. Furthermore, it is equally clear that the Democratic Unionists will only lend their votes to the Tory leadership in the House of Commons in return for an input into London’s planned post-Brexit relations with Brussels and Dublin. Which can only be interpreted in the most pessimistic of ways.

The DUP has travelled a long way since the days when it was the de facto political wing for British militancy in the Six Counties. All the way into the British corridors of power in Downing Street and Westminster.

Update 19.00: The political crisis in the UK has taken a new and unexpected turn into a full-blown constitutional crisis. Unbelievable.

25 comments on “The UK Offers Power Over Brexit And The Backstop Protocol To The DUP

  1. Is it not time for Washington to intervene? If not now when? And does Mrs May not have access to the DUP’s MI5 files? How to hell has it got this far?

  2. When Paisley was first elected to Parliament in 1970 the Young Conservatives campaigned to have him not sitting on the Tory benches. Boy have times changed.

  3. The GFA as Michael Gove has said has run its course.

    Leaving with a backstop and then welching on it a few years later is therefore the new game in town.

    Washington under Trump want the UK out of the EU and as such it is difficult to think that there will be any international intervention on the matter of the repudiation of the GFA.

    That said, the DUP at around 37% of the popular vote do not represent the majority of the electorate in NI – hence the mega multi billion pound bung to sweeten at least some of the remaining electorate.

    But money isn’t everything and who gets it as ash for cash showed is a question. It may also be a drip in the ocean in relation to the economic hit that Brexit could occasion pan Ireland.

    But we will just have to wait to see what happens this week. The decision is certainly out with the democratic wishes of folks in NI, the ROI or Scotland across the water.

  4. Robert Buckland, the UK solicitor general, on Bercow saying he will not allow a repeat vote on the Brexit deal.

    “We are in a major constitutional crisis here.There are ways around this – a prorogation of parliament and a new session. We are talking about hours to March 29. Frankly we could have done without this.
    Now we have this ruling to deal with, it is clearly going to require a lot of very fast but very deep thought in the hours ahead.”

    So they have put themselves into a Constitutional shit storm added to the Brexit Chaos , and the DUP are now irrelevant . General Election looking the most obvious way out if they want EU extension.

  5. Part of the reason the DUP has such outsized power is because the government depends on a party or coalition keeping a majority in the House of Commons.

    Quite frankly, that’s a top downside to having a Parliamentary system of government where, where the government can fail without pleasing a small group.

    (Yes, I’m aware that Parliamentsry systems also have advantages, but watching how the DUP can just call the music and the Tories all dance has been an eye-opener.).

  6. The British people are starting to turn on the DUP. Just look at Twitter. If this turns out to be a unmitigated disaster there is no doubt the DUP will be the ones carrying the can for it. That’s why Jacob Rees Mogg is waiting to see what the DUP decide to do. With great power comes great responsibility.

    • I’m not sure how popular they ever were outside their immediate base.

      One thing for sure. I shall bring this monkey business up next time my brother’s effete friends
      prate about just how much Presidential or semi-Presidential absolutely suck compared to The Superior Westminster Parliamentary model.

  7. They are talking about pulling the Queen into all this. If they close down Parliament and reopen it again a couple of weeks later. She will have to open parliament and have another Queens speech. It all reminds of the line from the TV series The IT Crowd. Have you tried switching it off and then on again.

  8. as others have remarked, Speaker Bercow pulling Meaningless Vote III also stymied bungs and blandishments to the DUP.

    I really do wonder how many English, Welsh and Scottish MPs appreciated being under the DUP domination.

    PM May is reportedly going to write to President Tusk requesting a long extension.

    The EU have repeatedly said they want to see a plan before granting any extension (short or long) but Westminster MPs say “There’s no plan yet, everyone is just trying to come to terms with it,”

    An extension looks like . . …?
    The goodness of the EU hearts (as long as it doesn’t harm us) or . . .?

  9. How long before something like this happens for real.

  10. Here’s what Bercow had to say, and then if you’re still paying attention, an analysis of the Vienna Convention regarding backing out from the Backstop :

    • I can see one way Britain could rebuild the world’s trust and perhaps rehabilitate itself from the whole “Perfidious Albion” image. However, I’m aware that some Britons WILL NOT like the idea one blind bit:

      Get a written Constitution like most modern nations have. And make sure it has a strong clear cut provision that says that treaties must be honored as The Law of The Land.

      • While I’m putting my thoughts together on your point, here’s an interesting Scottish take on all of this :

        • That’s a very interesting video from the standpoint of talking about Scotland’s options right now.

          However, as far as I can tell Scotland has two competing documents for a Constitution of its own, yes? One is that Devolution Act, and the other was a proposed “A Constitution for a Free Scotland”. As far as I can tell both seem to recognize The Queen. Would that likely be the case if Scotland fully declared independence? Or is that recognition more a “Commonwealth” measure like Canada and Australia have?

          In the event Scotland got full Independence, would most Nationalists see a system with a fusion of powers in Parliaments, an extremely powerful Prime Minister, and an Irish style “referee” sort of President, as a foregone conclusion? Or would some Scots be open to considering a Semi-Presidential system with a Cabinet under dual leadership, or Presidential system with a “trias politica” model?

  11. Did anyone see Alan Partridge tonight?

    • That’s a fine figure of a man. And a great voice. How many acres does he have to his name?
      I’m just asking for a friend.

  12. I think the DUP just lost their leverage.
    There are much bigger fish to fry than bribing bigots at this stage.

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