If the United Kingdom is confused on how to proceed with leaving the European Union, imagine how the other twenty-seven member states feel as they view the ever-changing plans or indications of plans coming out of London. The latest idea seems to be focused on the suggestion that the UK and the EU could agree to a return to a “Northern Ireland”-only backstop protocol in the draft Withdrawal Agreement, leaving the British more or less free to embark on whatever mad Brexit adventures they have in mind. Except that Westminster’s expectations of such a deal being possible have been tempered by claims that the Democratic Unionist Party has got a firm commitment from Boris Johnson that there will be no regulatory and customs divergence between the UK legacy colony on the island of Ireland and the motherland. Giving the DUP’s most ardent supporters their favoured outcome. Hollowing out the Good Friday Agreement to the point of near-collapse while rejoicing in the imposition of a visible frontier around the Six Counties. A new partition for a new century and just in time for the anniversary of the first attempt to do so one hundred years ago.
Then comes today’s news that the courts in Scotland have ruled that the prorogation of the sitting parliament in Westminster by the minority Conservative Party government was unlawful. Leading to accusations from sources close to Number 10 that the Scottish judiciary is not to be trusted. And sure, what this Scots’ Law nonsense anyway?
Meanwhile, the DUP leader Arlene Foster has set out her priorities in the north-east, securing popular support for her party and strengthening the “union” (the one currently being disparaged by the Brexit zealots in London) by appealing to, in order of importance, unionists, ethnic minorities, and the northern nationalist community. You know, the one that nominally makes up some 40% of the population in the disputed region.
Of course, it could be that the bold Arlene has her mind on bigger challenges. Like building a bridge across the North Channel to physically link the islands of Ireland and Britain in order to bring about a watery Anschluss for the pro-union minority. A sort of comfort blanket that admittedly falls somewhat short of the preferred option of filling in the Irish Sea altogether and making one super-island to be named Britland.
Talking of annexation, the general election in Israel has thrown up the oft-repeated threat by Netanyahu that he intends to incorporate up to a third of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and other controlled areas into the Jewish State. Except that this time around, rather than making just an idle vote-getting pledge, the hard-right leader may actually intend to go through with it, supported by the Trump administration in the United States.
None of which fills one with much hope for the future.
Update: Johnson rules out a Six Counties’ backstop or any other backstop arrangement to protect the Good Friday Agreement while facilitating Brexit. The message from London is clear: British pounds are more important than Irish peace.