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Analysis

DUP should back People’s Vote, not get DUPed

by Hugo Dixon | 09.03.2019

The government has angrily rejected the EU’s idea that Great Britain could quit its customs territory but leave Northern Ireland on its own inside it. So has the DUP, which is propping up the government.

But the cat is out of the bag. How can the DUP be sure her successor won’t take up the EU’s solution to the notorious backstop?

In a tweet yesterday, the European Commission’s negotiator said: “EU commits to give UK the option to exit the Single Customs Territory unilaterally, while the other elements of the backstop must be maintained to avoid a hard border.”

The DUP should be worried. After all, they know that Theresa May won’t be prime minister for long and that, when she goes, a hardline Brexiter could take over. Her replacement might be tempted by the EU’s offer, pull Great Britain out of the customs territory and leave Northern Ireland stuck there.

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The DUP will remember how Michael Gove wrote in December 2017 when the Cabinet agreed the precursor to the backstop: “By the time of the next election… if the British people dislike the arrangement that we have negotiated with the EU, the agreement will allow a future government to diverge.” The DUP knows that, after the next election, they are unlikely to have anything like the same leverage over the government as they do now.

May has undoubtedly made errors in her negotiations with the EU. But the main reason we are in such a mess is because Brexit has disrupted the carefully balanced peace process in Northern Ireland. Because both the UK and the Republic of Ireland are EU members, it has been possible to keep all the borders open.

If Brexit goes ahead, there is no good way forward. Either the whole UK is turned into a vassal state – following EU trade rules without a vote on them. That’s the prime minister’s plan. Or Northern Ireland is split off and turned into a vassal province. That’s Barnier’s new “compromise”. Or we crash out of the EU with no deal at all. That wouldn’t just be bad for the UK economy. It would mean the return of border controls in Ireland – and that might lead the people of Northern Ireland to conclude they should quit the UK and unite with the Republic of Ireland.

It’s time the DUP wised up. The only good way forward is for the whole UK to stay in the EU as a full member with full voting rights. That’s what the people of Northern Ireland voted for in 2016. Now the DUP can see what a horror Brexit is turning into, they should back a People’s Vote.

Edited by Jenny Sterne

2 Responses to “DUP should back People’s Vote, not get DUPed”

  • It is undemocratic to allow the tiny DUP anti-EU, and anti-Irish party to drag the UNWILLING NORTHERN IRELAND out of the EU in exchange for May’s Judas shekels. The majority voted To REMAIN in the EU – these anti-.abortion, anti-gay, anti-everything that the UK stands for are dictating the terms to the UK government. Without them, we would have the general election the country desperately needs.

    What does “the people’s will” really mean Mrs May?

  • The Ipsos/Irish Times survey on DUP Brexit record the following (07 March):

    Voters in Northern Ireland overwhelmingly reject a hard Brexit, would vote to remain in the European Union in a second referendum and would prefer checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and the North rather than checks on the Irish Border, according to a special Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll in Northern Ireland.
    A parallel poll in the Republic finds that almost half of all voters favour a referendum on Irish unity and a clear majority would vote in favour of reunification.
    The poll finds that Northern voters are deeply dissatisfied with the management of Brexit by the UK government and, most significantly, with the Democratic Unionist Party, with more than three-quarters of all voters saying they are dissatisfied with the UK government’.