Unionism needs to be honest that there is no pro unionist Brexit deal on the horizon

If any unionist was labouring under any illusions that there is a purer form of Brexiteer than Boris Johnson who is going to save them, then forget it.

Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 12:01 am
News Letter editorial

Nigel Farage has just given the Conservatives a free run in the 317 constituencies that they won in 2017. Yesterday he called on the Tories to reciprocate and give the Brexit Party free run in seats they cannot take from Labour.

Yet there is no suggestion that Mr Farage sought or got any commitment from the prime minister over the integrity of the UK and the importance of avoiding an Irish Sea border.

Again and again we need to stare a simple fact in the face: not a single eurosceptic Tory MP was prepared to vote against the biggest move towards Irish unity since 1921. Not one.

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Given that the most anti EU faction of the Conservative parliamentary party, the ERG, has a barely distinguishable world view from that of the Brexit Party, it is little surprise that the latter shows little sign of standing up for unionism.

The DUP is campaigning in this election to implement Brexit and the Ulster Unionists are saying they will support implementation if it can be done in a way that does not divide the UK. But unionism needs to be honest that this is unlikely.

It might have happened if the UK had left the EU without a deal, but that would have caused fresh crises, and might in have led to an even greater betrayal by Mr Johnson, to avoid republican violence here. Therefore the unionist choices are:

Remain

A soft Brexit that is implemented equally across the UK by a non Tory coalition.

Or Mr Johnson’s deal, in which Northern Ireland nominally leaves the EU but stays in its economic structures.

The (rather grim) unionist argument for the latter is that it might secure long-term support for NI staying partially in the UK.

Forget any new deal with the EU. Mr Johnson will either be in a position to implement his deal, which even the Brexit Party is prepared to tolerate, or not.

But there is no pro unionist Brexit deal on the horizon.