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Analysis

DUP were bought, now they are being sold

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 09.11.2018

A leaked letter from Theresa May to the DUP leadership has given the game away. The UK will sign up to a “backstop to the backstop”, which would leave Northern Ireland tied to single market rules and the customs union, and put a new customs border down the middle of the Irish Sea.

May hopes to sell this deal by saying it’s not really important. It will “never be… the preferred outcome”. It’s an “insurance policy that no one in the UK or the EU wants or expects to use”. She “could not accept there being any circumstances or conditions in which that… could come into force”. And besides, if it did we’d make sure regulations did not “diverge between Great Britain and Northern Ireland during a backstop scenario”.

In short, May is hoping that her usual tactic of procrastinating and obfuscating will allow her to avoid making difficult choices today. Sure, we’ll sign up to the backstop, but it’ll never come into force because of the amazing but still unspecified deal we’ll negotiate once we’ve got this withdrawal agreement sorted.

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Is it possible the DUP are deliberately misinterpreting May’s letter? They are not fools. And anyone looking at this shambles of a negotiation must be wondering how on earth they could be expected to believe May’s assurances.

After all, in February she said that “no UK prime minister could ever agree” to a plan of this sort. To date, May hasn’t successfully negotiated an opening bid with her own cabinet. And there is a good chance that she won’t be able to get whatever emerges from Tuesday’s meeting through Parliament. Hardline Brexiter Steve Baker is insisting that no matter the status of the backstop, if the deal isn’t value for money then Brexiters won’t vote for it.

The second block to getting this deal through the Commons is that the DUP – as things stand – are unlikely to vote for it, with Arlene Foster saying the letter “raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious Union and for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole of the UK”. And May needs those votes for her deal to pass.

The thing is, turkeys are more likely to vote for Christmas than unionists to vote for division. And unlike their English counterparts in the Conservative and Unionist Party, the DUP do seem intent on living up to their name.

Edited by Quentin Peel

One Response to “DUP were bought, now they are being sold”

  • Arlene Foster’s statement that a border down the Irish Sea would be a ‘blood red line’ for the DUP; further still it ‘would be a red line in blood red, it’s very red’, is reminiscent of another Ulster Unionist, Enoch Powell, whose ‘rivers of blood’ speech is calculated to have had a lasting and malign effect’ on race relations in the UK since 1968. The parallels are alarming and potentially very destructive at this time of Brexit. It has also to be noted that Enoch Powell double-crossed his Tory party after the 1974 election, thus allowing Labour to take power. Will we witness a similar event with Arlene Foster on the back of Theresa May’s letter?