Judging by the more informed speculation in the Irish and international press it seems that after two years of prevaricating the United Kingdom is now prepared to offer a “compromise” Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the European Union so close to the original as to be almost identical. Indeed, the rumoured proposals discussed by the British premier Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar apparently take us back to the end of 2017 and the agreement reached by Theresa May with her European counterparts and promptly scuppered by the Democratic Unionist Party and its hard-right allies in Westminster because the remit of the Backstop Protocol was confined to the north of Ireland only. London subsequently requested a change to the stalled treaty so that it could apply to the UK as a whole and now May’s successor is in the process of asking for a return to a slightly tweaked version of the Six Counties-only backstop. It is a bizarre situation but such is the nature of contemporary British politics.
Meanwhile the DUP is moving from a period of uncharacteristic silence in the face of media speculation to murmurs of unease at the rumoured plans being put forward by their erstwhile parliamentary allies in Westminster. Not unrelated to this is the sudden reappearance of threats of violence by pro-UK terror groups – or “paramilitaries” as the British press prefers to call them in contrast to Irish “terrorists” – should a compromise deal be reached between the UK and the EU. Which brings to mind the attempts to revive the peace-brokered regional administration in Belfast during early 2018, which fell apart after the blunt intervention of loyalist terror bosses in concert with the extremist core of the DUP, humiliating the then Conservative Party premier in London, Theresa May, who had staked much of her dwindling political capital on reestablishing Stormont. Which makes one wonder what sort of Brexiteer-unionist electoral front might emerge should a UK general election take place in the coming weeks, as predicted.
Meanwhile the people of Ireland remain as observers as the Brexit madness continues to twist and contort the politics and culture of Britain. As Bill Neely, the Antrim-born correspondent for NBC News in the United States, notes:
Brexit conjures up old fears in Ireland of an English ruling class that will happily sacrifice the Irish on the altar of its own nationalist ambitions.