Ben Lowry: The mild DUP response to the protocol will cause Boris Johnson little concern
There he goes again.
Boris Johnson thinks his betrayal of Northern Ireland is a laughing matter.
The man who flew to Belfast in 2018 to make specific pledges to the DUP that he would not accept a regulatory or tariff border in the Irish Sea, in order to get his boss’s job, then promptly agreed to both when he succeeded in ousting her, is joshing about the lasting constitutional damage that he has done.
This is the man who turned on Nigel Dodds days after his betrayal in October 2019, and mocked the then DUP deputy leader for wanting “a veto” on the protocol, a prime minister who would never dare to criticise the Sinn Fein actual veto.
This is the man who, days after that cruel display of cowardice, taunting a party that had kept his party in power while not uttering a word against republican blackmail, was basking in the adoration of EU leaders, enjoying his moment as ‘king of Europe’ (having as a boy wanted to be ‘king of the world’).
And why were those European leaders so thrilled with Mr Johnson? Because he had dropped the core UK attempts to avoid the trade separation of Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
This is the man who denied there was a Irish Sea border in either direction to Sophy Ridge (at least his ‘throw forms in the bin’ denial to the NI Tories had a bit of truth, because he was talking only about NI to GB movements).
And he has been in and out of Northern Ireland several times since, warmly greeted by unionists, and clowning around, as is his way.
Yesterday, this wretched figure was joking about the ‘wurst’ of the sausage wars being over. In other words, he is edging towards a technical solution that will not alter the legal position that the 1801 Act of Union has been partially repealed.
But why would Mr Johnson not joke?
His conscience doesn’t trouble him, we know that. But more significantly, what heat is he getting from leading unionists in London?
This is partly because so many critics of the protocol chummed around with Johnson as a Brexiteer and have never fully made the break from him. Some of these people told us in 2019 that this Irish Sea border disaster was not a problem.
Last week David Burnside wrote: “All unionist ministers should decline any meetings with Irish counterparts and the Dublin political establishment should be made unwelcome at a political and social level throughout the Province.”
I agree that North-South should not proceed as normal after the unforgivable trashing of East-West due to the repeated warnings of a revival of the long tradition of Irish republican terrorism if the UK so much as exercised its right to use surveillance cameras at its own frontier.
But what about snubbing Tory leaders too?
I realise of course that unionists need to make friends and argued as much in a recent column some weeks ago. But they also need to show steel, and seize on leverage.
It would actually be deeply embarrassing to Boris Johnson to be repeatedly confronted as the man who not only partially repealed the Act of Union to get himself out of a fix, but lied about it in answer to Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in the House of Commons (when he said that the act had not been partially repealed, as his lawyers were arguing it had been in court, and which a judge has just found to be the case).
He should be called the Conservative and Unionist Destroyer until repeal becomes restore.
Instead it could hardly be clearer that he is not remotely concerned by the weak mainstream unionist reaction to this.
Apologists for the protocol, including secretly thrilled republicans, talk down what has happened. It is only partial repeal of the Act of Union. Maybe, but it deals with something as central to nationhood as free internal trade.
Peter Robinson in his News Letter column this week wrote: “The answer [to the protocol] will not be found in grace period extensions, nor indeed in easements and flexibilities it can only be found in the return of unfettered trading between Northern Ireland and Great Britain – in both directions.” (see link below)
But, despite the unattributable DUP threats to Nolan about the treat to Stormont if the protocol remains, I see nothing at all in the party’s response under any of its now three most recent leaders that will be causing a man as a ruthless as Johnson more than five seconds of concern.
• Ben Lowry (@Benlowry2) is News Letter deputy editor
Other articles by Ben Lowry below, and beneath that information on how to subscribe to the News Letter:
• Ben Lowry June 26: Neither Dublin nor IRA have been put under any pressure on legacy
• Ben Lowry June 26: A slight sense of sadness as the days again begin to shorten
• Ben Lowry June 19: Somehow the appeasement of Sinn Fein got worse
• Ben Lowry May 22: Instead of ‘moving on’ from IRA funeral, we still need proper answers
• Ben Lowry May 22: If Joel Keys, 19, wants to help unionism he should get a law degree
• Ben Lowry May 15: Edwin Poots and Doug Beattie will offer two distinct shades of unionism
• Ben Lowry May 8: Formal UK ideas for an amnesty are almost exactly 20 years old
• Ben Lowry May 8: Let us hope that the brilliant Eoghan Harris keeps on writing
• Ben Lowry May 1: Unionism can’t just be about managing long-term defeat
• Ben Lowry April 17: DUP still has to choose between managing this disaster or total rejection of it
• Ben Lowry April 10: His enduring marriage to the Queen was key to our understanding of Prince Philip
• Ben Lowry Mar 20: We have made it through the worst of the dark, dreaded winter lockdown
• Ben Lowry Mar 20: MLAs lost control of abortion by rejecting modest law reform
• Ben Lowry Mar 13: Scotland tunnel isn’t fantasy, but something kids of today might see
• Ben Lowry Mar 6: The cost of victims’ pension has ballooned without explanation as to why
• Ben Lowry Feb 20: We still lack answers as to why IRA funeral got special treatment at Roselawn
• Ben Lowry Feb 13: Peter Robinson has long experience of what is and is not politically feasible
• Ben Lowry Jan 30: At last, clear reason for UK and unionists to stop being weak towards Ireland/EU
• Ben Lowry Jan 16: The Irish Sea border was imposed because UK knew unionists would take it
• Ben Lowry in 2020: Last night unionists celebrated a move towards Irish unity
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