History has made unionists fearful PM will accept backstop

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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There are all sorts of rumours flying around Westminster.

Rumours as to who will next resign within the Tories, rumours as to what any examination of government advisor’s phones might reveal, rumours as to what the prime minister is planning to do with regard to an election, and with regard to the backstop.

BBC Newsnight was yesterday reporting that senior Tories were saying that Boris Johnson plans a Northern Ireland-only backstop, and would throw the province under a bus.

There are short-term and long-term reasons for unionists to be concerned.

The long-term reasons include the fact that Edward Heath’s cabinet considered Irish unity, and we recently discovered that a British general advocated the same in the early 1970s. In 1985, that most robust of unionists, Margaret Thatcher, suddenly signed the Anglo Irish Agreement.

The short-term reasons to be concerned include Theresa May saying that no prime minister could accept the division of the UK, and then introducing a Withdrawal Agreement that seemed to do just that.

The most recent reason of all to be concerned is that Mr Johnson was scathing about the backstop and then in March voted for it.

As Sammy Wilson says on page 6, the government cannot do without the DUP just now. But it might be prepared to abandon the party if it concludes it can neither deliver no deal nor a general election and so tries to push through a barely changed variant on the Withdrawal Agreement with the backing of the expelled Tory MPs and a rump of Labour MPs. Then Mr Johnson could go to the nation, claiming that he had secured Brexit.

Nigel Dodds seemed relaxed last night that such a prospect was not in view.

Let us hope not, because there is now very little that any unionist can do to stop it if such a betrayal is on the cards.