Current Affairs Guest Article Politics

The Politics Of A No-Deal Brexit For The Tories, The DUP And Sinn Féin

Call my bluff?

I sometimes wonder if the threat of a disorderly no-deal exit from the European Union on October 31 is a negotiating ploy by the Johnson government in London. Whether, in fact, despite the bellicose rhetoric, the prime minister and his Brexit “war cabinet” is actually prepared to make a last-minute deal with Brussels if, as seems almost certain, it proves impossible to get the European Union to budge on the backstop. The calculation in Downing Street being that the heightening of domestic public fears resulting from its attempts to exert pressure on the EU will, in fact, work in its favour. Such will be the over-riding sense of relief at a crash-out having been avoided, so the thinking may go, a deal (any deal) will be greeted as though a victory.

Unfortunately my suspicions of careful game-playing by Johnson and crew soon evaporate when some glassy-eyed zealot from the outer reaches of the Tory backbenches pops up on television to warn of an in-house bloodbath if the Conservative leader gives so much as an inch to Europe.

To digress for a moment, this kamikaze approach by the UK government has brought an abrupt halt to all talk of remaining in the EU. It’s as though the Remain argument has been taken off the table as an option, and the only thing left to decide is the manner of the UK’s exit. Some kind of agreement is undoubtedly better than none, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that Remain is still an option – and by far the best option.

Johnson may not be feeling pressure, but others should

Does Boris Johnson feel under any pressure? Is he actually capable of feeling pressure, in the way that ordinary people (i.e. those not subject to extreme narcissism) do? Who knows! But it’s a sure bet that any concerns he has are entirely related to his own future prospects and not those of the millions of people across the United Kingdom and Ireland who will be negatively impacted by Brexit. Which brings me, albeit circuitously, to two groups that should be feeling some pressure because of the havoc that Brexit will wreak on the lives of many of their supporters.

Brexit a tipping point for the DUP?

Over the past few years the Democratic Unionist Party has been involved in quite a few high-profile, invariably money-related, scandals. These include, but are far from limited to, the “cash-for ash” fiasco at Stormont; one of their MPs receiving undeclared gifts to lobby on behalf of foreign governments; a mysterious EU campaign donation of £425,000 to the party; various elected representatives not declaring conflicts of interest in respect of planning applications; and an assembly member working, undeclared, for a lobby group that regularly sought to influence a planning committee on which his wife, a councillor, sits as a member. Yet the party remains electorally unscathed. It would be easy, especially for its members, to begin to imagine that the DUP can do almost anything it wants and not be punished by the electorate. But there is always a tipping point where public tolerance is concerned. And for the DUP that could well prove to be Brexit.

“A billion criticisms”

Speaking at the Féile an Phobail in West Belfast, DUP MP Gregory Campbell claimed he’d “take a billion criticisms” over his party’s Brexit deal with the Tories. This was a none-too-subtle reference to the £1 billion promised for Northern Ireland in return for the party propping up the Tories at Westminster. Now, this is not to pretend that Campbell is on the intellectual wing of his party. I think it’s a fair to assume that most of the DUP’s thinking and strategising is done by other of his colleagues. But his remark struck me as revealing, nonetheless.

Campbell is bound to have been coached before going to West Belfast and questions on the DUP’s relationship with the Tories were surely anticipated. Yet the best the party spin-doctors could come up with to justify delivering Brexit is a promise, still to be fulfilled, of £1 billion for Northern Ireland. Let’s see how that flies post-Brexit when havoc is being wreaked on the sink estates and among the farming and business communities where the DUP derive a considerable amount of their support. As soon as Brexit begins to bite any talk of a £1 billion bonus will be totally counterproductive given the DUP’s pocket-lining history. And nor will electors be in any mood to listen to the old bogey-man excuse of, “It’s all the fault of the Irish government and the EU.” They know, and will remember, that there could have been no Brexit without the DUP.

And what about Sinn Féin?

Just as the DUP will stand charged, post-Brexit, with the sin of commission, so its occasional partner in devolved government, Sinn Féin, runs a considerable risk of being charged by its electors with the equal and opposite sin of omission, if it doesn’t change tack.

Along with many other commentators I derided Fintan O’Toole’s well-meaning but seemingly naive suggestion that Sinn Féin’s seven MPs should temporarily vacate their seats to allow others to travel to Westminster to oppose Brexit. By doing so, he contended, the party could help avert the worst crisis that Ireland, North and South, has faced for decades.

As expected, within a couple of hours of it being published, Sinn Féin poured scorn on the suggestion. Upon reflection, maybe O’Toole wasn’t being so naive after all. Maybe his suggestion was a “heads I win, tails you lose” gambit that achieved exactly what he intended. We shall never know, and nor does it much matter. What is beyond question is that his intervention has drawn widespread national and international attention to the fact that, despite its ability to do so, Sinn Féin is not prepared to intervene to help alleviate the impact Brexit will have on Ireland. How does a party that styles itself as dedicated, above all else and above all others, to the best interests of the people of Ireland explain this to its northern and southern electorates? With great difficulty is the trite, but accurate, answer.

Principle or people?

If Brexit only threatened the welfare of people in the UK, then Sinn Féin supporters, even those amongst the worst affected in Northern Ireland, would understand its position. But Brexit doesn’t only threaten the UK. It will destroy economies and the lives of many thousands of people across Ireland. Sure hasn’t Sinn Féin’s been amongst the loudest voices warning us of this.

Sinn Féin may yet decide to suspend its abstentionist policy in the face of the national crisis that Brexit will bring, and send its MPs to Westminster to do battle. It’s hardly as if discarding abstentionism is without precedent (the Oireachtas and the reformed Stormont). If the party does not change tack, when Brexit begins to make itself felt across the northern and southern heartlands of its support, the argument for putting principle (abstentionism) ahead of people will seem very thin indeed to those most affected. It will, I suspect, be afforded a similar level of contempt to the DUP’s talk of a £1 billion windfall from London.

A guest article by Elizabeth Cady Stanton

30 comments on “The Politics Of A No-Deal Brexit For The Tories, The DUP And Sinn Féin

  1. Des Monaghan



  2. Not according to Fintan O’Toole, Des: “This last point is crucial. It is highly likely that Johnson will face a motion of no-confidence in the Commons and quite possible that he will lose it. But under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2011, this does not automatically trigger a general election. There would be a period of 14 days after the vote during which an alternative government can be formed and seek to win a confidence vote.
    It is unlikely that Jeremy Corbyn could command such a majority but quite conceivable that a less contentious figure such as Keir Stamer or Caroline Lucas could get enough backing to form a short-term unity government. This matters immensely because only a prime minister can ask the EU for an extension beyond the deadline of October 31st. Seven anti-Brexit votes from Northern Ireland would make this seismic shift much more feasible.”


  3. Meanwhile, SF sit on their hands and many, many jobs will be lost both North and South, who cares about the little people


  4. I wonder does Seamus dress in drag for these “Elizabeth Cady Stanton” articles?


    • Jim McGettigan

      If so, only to play devil’s advocate since all prior indications are to continue with abstensionism to avoid SF’s having to indulge in rimming the queen.


  5. UK has been heading for a no deal crash out Brexit for at least a year. Johnson’s cabinet are ideally suited to fulfilling this destiny. Barring a black swan event it is where the UK is heading.

    Where are the DUP voters going to go? UUP? APNI? The harder the Brexit the greater the DUP’s vote share will be because after a no deal Brexit, all elections are now solely about the border. The DUP sent “Curry my yoghurt” Campbell to Féile. They know what game is afoot and are already playing it hard.

    SF will point to Kate Hoey and cohorts (who are more than 7) that would cheerfully trot across to vote down the WA if SF took their seats to get it passed. The only people that won’t believe this are people that don’t and never will vote for SF. As the next GEs north & south will demonstrate.


    • Voters aren’t like starlings, and don’t necessarily move en masse anywhere. It’s individual people we’re talking about. Don’t kid yourself, when Brexit kicks in the DUP will lose votes to Jim Alister, some to the UUP, and other of their erstwhile supporters will sit at home rather than vote. The question is how many votes can the DUP afford to lose. Brexit will also motivate moderate unionism to get off its arse and vote Alliance, as happened during the recent European elections. But all of that will be after Brexit. In the here and now, the Kate Hoey and cohorts defence is a false one, as every calculation has them already factored in as supporting Brexit. So SF can hardly cite that as reason for them doing nothing to help stop or alleviate Brexit.


      • We will soon find out. Despite the parity in Colonial/Native populations and the Black Swan event Brexit, I still see Settler Colonial psychology being the decisive factor – the Derry ABOD Soldier F march controversy this past weekend is a manifestation of this.

        The UK Dáil calculus is assuming everyone in Labour, LibDem, Green, SNP, PC, Syliva Hermon will all vote with SF. There are more than 7 MPs in that group that will never vote with SF on anything. The same people attacking SF for not taking their seats today, are the same people that have been attacking SF’s abstentionism as long as they’ve had a public platform. The same people that taunt SF for accepting a peerage from the British queen when they resign as MPs. These same people have longed for the end of SF, if their analysis is correct then SF not taking their seats should deliver their heart’s greatest desire. So noble of them to look out for SF in this way. Scorpion/Frog.


        • “The UK Dáil calculus is assuming everyone in Labour, LibDem, Green, SNP, PC, Syliva Hermon will all vote with SF.” Actually, isn’t assuming anything of the sort. There are more than enough disaffected Tories to make up for Labour and other outliers. And would others be voting with Sinn Féin as opposed to SF voting with others? But all of that is to argue whether it is WORTH SF making the effort, rather than if they SHOULD. I think they should (and that it would be worth it).

          Incidentally, your talk of colonial/native populations makes me wonder who, in your estimation, qualifies as “native” and what are the qualifications you apply.

          It also made me think of this, from The Wake of William Orr,
          “Hapless nation—hapless land,
          Heap of uncementing sand!
          Crumbled by a foreign weight;
          And by worse—domestic hate”


          • If there are disaffected Tories, then you don’t need SF. The Tory majority is only 1. Problem is solved and all this is simply bashing on SF. Again.

            Read Fanon, Césaire, Reich. You clearly need an education on colonialism. Keep your projections to yourself.


  6. Believe me, I’m not bashing on anyone. SF votes are indeed needed to be certain of a majority, taking account of the Labour and other outliers you mentioned earlier. Actually, the Tory majority is two (the MP who lost the Whip can be relied upon to vote with the Tories). But again that’s to do with whether it is WORTHWHILE for SF to make the effort to help alleviate the effects of Brexit on the Irish people. Whereas the question is WHETHER they should do all in their power to ease if not dissipate the impact of Brexit on the Irish people.

    And nor am I projecting. You used the terms Native and Colonial to distinguish between current populations in Ireland. Please enlighten me, I’m genuinely interested to know what in your estimation qualifies someone to be considered “native” or otherwise to Ireland. Where they were born? How long their antecedents have been in Ireland? Their surname? How they vote? How they worship? Can someone become “native” overnight by simply changing their beliefs or habits?


    • I believe you are mistakenly conflating “do something worthwhile” and “taking their seats at WM”. They are not. Nor is it going to happen. Surely your efforts are more likely to be rewarded working on one of the potential Tory rebels that already has taken their seat, rather than SF who have made it clear they will not be?

      Native & Colonial – can’t avoid reading Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth), Césaire (Discourses on Colonialism), Reich (Mass Psychoanalysis of Fascism) if you want to come to grips with this topic – you can find legal free copies online if you poke around. This is boiling down to over simplifications. The Natives are the indigenous people, and their descendants, that were colonised by invaders. The Colonists are the invaders, and their descendants, who continue to require political subjugation to the foreign colonial occupier. A Colonist can become a Native anytime they choose: intermarry, identify as one of the Natives and assimilate (the Normans in Ireland). Look up Settler Colony/Colonist psychology.


  7. Intermarry? Sure that has been going on in Ireland for centuries. In fact, I’d challenge you to point to anyone on this island that you can confidently claim has a pure Irish bloodline (whatever that means). Identify as one of the natives? Explain how a person would do something like that. Just call herself/himself Irish? Assimilate? Does that mean become like everyone else? But sure there is no identifiable “everyone else” in Ireland. There is no identikit Irish person, thank God. Ireland is home to a rich diversity of people (again, thank God).

    Sorry, but I’m afraid your talk of natives and colonists (literally centuries after colonisation) smacks of nativist nonsense. And differs little from what people like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage are saying.


    • Should at the very least take a look at the author’s wiki pages before you embarrass yourself any further.


  8. Ha, ha, ha, don’t worry I already know the authors. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of conveniently separating people into who belongs and who doesn’t, regardless of the pseudo-intellectual excuses and manipulations put forward for doing so. And, if I’m not mistaken, Sinn Féin are of the same mind as me on such matters. Let’s leave it at that.

    On the original point of contention. Dress it up how you like, or try to bury it in the undergrowth of dodgy arithmetical equations however much you like, the fact remains that Sinn Féin have, up to this point, chosen not to set aside a principle in order to try to help alleviate the impact of Brexit on the people of Ireland. They have their (unstated by them, but quite obvious) reasons for doing so. Let’s see how it works out for them.


    • “Ha, ha, ha, don’t worry I already know the authors. ”

      Then you should have no difficulty giving us their definitions of Native & Colonist.


      • There’s been an entertaining variation on “definitions of Native & Colonist” in France, where an organisation called Indigènes de la République campaigns – among other things – against indigenous French demands that immigrants “identify as one of the Natives and assimilate” when they don’t want to.


        • Far from the first time the right has played that game. Immigrants from colonies to the imperial nation are categorically different from colonists from the imperial nation, residing in the colony and opposing independence of the colony from the empire.

          Whether it’s Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, British – the end game of colonies have a tremendous amount of overlap.


  9. Sorry? You’re the one who has cited these “intellectuals” to affirm your worldview. Yet you have studiously avoided giving definitions of labels that you’ve ascribed to groups of people in Ireland (based on the writings of these “intellectuals”) but you’re asking me to do that. The people you cite are bad philosophical jokes. Nobody takes them seriously, thank God (present company excepted, of course). Let’s just say that anyone who buys the proposition that fascism stems from “sexual repression in the home environment” seriously needs to get out more. Or to at least find herself/himself another guru.


  10. And we emerge again into the real world, after spending some time down a rabbit hole in pursuit of borderline-lunatic “philosophers” (and this after the distraction of all sorts of mathematical contortions) to find that the question of how Sinn Féin can justify putting principle before people has still not been addressed.
    Whose musings will serve as the next distraction in the discussion, I wonder. Those of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro? Or maybe Adolf Hitler, even?


  11. “the question of how Sinn Féin can justify putting principle before people has still not been addressed”

    This if accepted, would mean Britain’s necessity would become a moral code and that when this necessity became sufficiently great, other people’s rights were not to count.


  12. In fact, as the British electorate have voted to leave the EU, this would mean Ireland’s necessity would become a moral code and that when this necessity became sufficiently great, other people’s rights – especially if they are British – were not to count.



    • You missed the joke there.
      But the point was in relation to SF being morally obliged to put on their superman pants and fly over to England to save us because Westminster has dysfunctionally walked itself to the edge of a cliff.
      As for invoking the British electorate and their rights, SF representatives were voted for in UK elections and so the rights of their voters has equal weight to anyone else in Westminster if SF choose to exercise them. If that was to oppose leaving the EU no-one could have any quibble with it.


  13. Pat Murphy

    Bobby Sands was a British mp. Couldn’t see him ever taking his seat. He sacrificed his life to get Britain out of Ireland not ball lick a bunch of imperialist bastards. Let shame Féin do what they want they no longer represent me.


    • Out of interest, which elected representative would represent you?


      • Pat Murphy

        Antou have some very good policies. There are a number of excellent independents who appear to be able to think for themselves. Not like the robot parties. Now who do you follow? Honestly the whole bunch aren’t worth a hill o beans.


  14. Pat Murphy

    Cat got your tongue?.


  15. I wouldn’t have any strong political leanings to be honest. But it’s not important anyway – I just asked as you said SF didn’t represent you any more so the natural question is who does? Tis fortunate Aontú appeared on the scene in the last few months or you’d have nobody to look to.


  16. Pat Murphy

    I sense a slight sarcasm in your reply. Have I struck a sore point?. Appreciating someone’s points is not in my eyes looking to them as you assertain. I can agree with certain points the DUP promote but I certainly don’t see myself looking to them. Perhaps as you grow older and mature a bit you will begin to realise that you have a mind of your own and can make Your own decisions and not be led by the nose by those probably less intelligent than yourself.


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