Another grim day for Northern Ireland as a cynical prime minister abandons UK internal market protections

Yesterday was one of those days — and there have been many since 2016 — which would have been almost unthinkable only a few years ago.

Wednesday, 9th December 2020, 9:32 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th December 2020, 9:50 am
News Letter editorial

There is nothing remotely surprising about Boris Johnson agreeing to withdraw the aspects of the Internal Market Bill to protect Northern Ireland.

The prime minister will always do what is right for him personally, then for his party, then for England.

He showed pure cynicism when he came to Northern Ireland to denounce Theresa May’s border backstop in late 2018 at the DUP conference. Within months he had the premiership he had spent a lifetime coveting, and within weeks of achieving that goal he was cutting the Province adrift.

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Then he showed his contempt for unionism when he installed Julian Smith as secretary of state, a man who tore up the three strands, made clear that Ireland had joint control of the process and then delighted Sinn Fein, and surprised everyone else, by giving republicans their demand of a commitment to the legacy structures on which they are so keen.

Incredibly, the unionists parties then returned to Stormont, rather than agreeing to walk in disgust. It has been one problem after another since then, including Sinn Fein’s flagrant breach of social distancing at the IRA funeral.

There has been ‘show’ opposition to the Irish Sea border, but as Jim Allister writes opposite only he and Jim Wells voted against NI protocol implementation. And Lord Empey, near opposite, who has been such an insightful critic of the unending concessions, again details the Irish Sea disaster.

Is there anything that the bulk of unionist MLAs will oppose? Dublin and London could be forgiven for thinking not. The two governments certainly act as if not.

There is a view within unionism that London is indifferent and so little can be done to stop events. It is not a view that lacks evidence. But if so we should not deny that politics in Northern Ireland has become a stream of concessions to nationalism. Such pretence just makes watching it even worse.

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Alistair Bushe