Samuel Morrison: I recall the DUP consultation after St Andrews so I feel I have seen this movie from the party before
The obvious exclusion of voices within the party who have been critical of the Government’s efforts to repackage the Protocol has already been remarked upon by many. Interestingly it includes one member, Ross Reid, who backed Theresa May’s deal telling the Financial Times in January 2019 that the time for compromise had arrived as "the agreement that’s on the table is not perfect but would any agreement be perfect?”
Arlene, now Baroness, Foster is on record as describing the Protocol as “a gateway of opportunity” and was in charge of the DUP while the party’s Agriculture Minister began the process of building the infrastructure necessary for the Protocol to operate.
A cynic might think that, particularly with a process insider like Independent Monitoring Commission member John McBurney included, the findings of the DUP panel could already be written.
Being someone who was in the DUP when they engaged in a “consultation” exercise following the St Andrews Agreement I have a worrying feeling that I’ve seen this movie before.
The panel will be careful to avoid the sort of public meetings TUV is engaged in at the moment. The DUP’s panel meetings will be very much behind closed. And their recommendations? I don’t expect the DUP will ever endorse the Windsor Framework. Back in 2006 I remember being told repeatedly by those appointed by the leadership to go out and sell St Andrews to rank and file members that the deal was not the DUP’s agreement. It was the Government’s. This allowed the salesmen (one of whom, Peter (now Lord) Weir, serves on the panel) to neatly sidestep a number of difficult questions.
Rather, I expect the panel to tell us that considerable concern remains within Unionism. They will even try to tell us that the campaign against the Sea Border will continue. However, they will claim that progress has been made as a result of the DUP’s boycott of Stormont - while ignoring the fact that it was pressure from outside the party which forced them to change their policy of being Protocol implementors. They will tell us that the campaign against the Protocol will now be fought within the Assembly. They will claim that they are going into the Assembly on a conditional basis and will carefully observe how the new arrangements work. A new “graduated response” to borrow a phrase from the panel's chair.
In practice, however, if that happens it will be the end of DUP opposition to the Sea Border. Their bluff will have been called and they will have folded.
The Seven Tests, like their pledge describing government with Sinn Fein as “out of the question” before the 2005 Westminster election, seem forgotten. Why? Maybe it’s because the Windsor Whitewash obviously doesn't meet them.
Article VI remains in suspension.
Northern Ireland remains in a single market and customs union which is foreign as far as the rest of the U.K. is concerned.
The European Court of Justice remains the "sole and ultimate arbitrator of EU law" in Northern Ireland as Ursula von der Leyen was so keen to remind us on the day the Windsor Whitewash was unveiled.
Trade from Great Britain is still subject to customs paperwork - even in the misnamed "green lane".
Small wonder that former Brexit minister, Lord Frost, has observed: "I think the British people would not accept this in any other part of the United Kingdom’s territory, but many seem willing to accept it in Northern Ireland."
Surely all Unionists should be united in our demand for equal citizenship?
Sadly, this “consultation” has the feel of a bad sequel to those of us who remember the 2006/7 release. The script is familiar. Many of the actors are the same. Some seem even to have come out of retirement to reappraise their roles.
I hope I will be proved wrong and we will end on a final scene with all Unionists still united behind our solemn pledge to the people of Ulster Day 2022.
But I doubt it.