Simon Coveney, the man who has been at the heart of the greening of Irish politics yet about whom some UK ministers still talk of as a friend, has been in touch with the US Joe Biden administration about Brexit.
The Irish foreign minister implied that his contacts in Washington were not a threatening move but rather “to try to encourage progress in the vice-president Sefcovic/Lord Frost discussions”.
In any event, Lord Frost seems — worryingly — to be pulling back from the threat of triggering Article 16 to suspend the Irish Sea border.
This all highlights a number of priorities that need to remain firmly within unionist sights.
One such priorities is the importance of cultivating contacts in Dublin who are friendly, or at least not hostile, including Micheal Martin, the Taoiseach, who in spite of his own blunt language about Article 16 has adopted a less confrontational approach than his predecessor Leo Varadkar.
Another priority is the importance of London lobbying much harder in Washington not just in favour of Britain’s position as one of America’s most important allies (a position widely accepted in the Republican Party) but specifically against Ireland, in the way it relentlessly lobbies against London (while speaking the language of friendship).
The UK sees eye to eye with America on many foreign policy issues in a way that Ireland does not.
A further unionist priority is actual change to the Northern Ireland Protocol, as opposed to change to its implementation. If the UK government ends up accepting reduced checks rather than substantive legal changes to the protocol then the constitutional damage will be intact.
It is the government that has articulated so well, particularly in Lord Frost’s speech last month, the problems with the Irish Sea border, including its infringement on UK sovereignty.
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