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The other day, when we were discussing the startling success of Sinn Fein in the Northern Ireland elections, we touched on the importance of the “protocol” that was put in place to manage the inconvenient situation in which Northern Ireland had to be part of the Brexit idiocy and also, you know, not really. We had not reckoned with the native ability of Prime Minister (and Boris Yeltsin Starter Kit) Boris Johnson to screw up a two-car funeral if you spotted him the hearse. Johnson is now meddling with the protocol, and getting on the American president’s last nerve while doing so. From the Times of London (via the Guardian):
The White House made clear its opposition to the strategy in its first public comments since the Times revealed that ministers had given up on talks with Brussels and planned to introduce legislation scrapping large parts of the controversial protocol. “The best path forward is a pragmatic one that requires courage, co-operation and leadership,’ a spokeswoman for the White House said. ‘We urge the parties to continue engaging in dialogue to resolve differences and bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.’
When Brexit passed, there was a general agreement that Northern Ireland was going to be one of the stickiest wickets. There was even talk that Brexit might achieve what 800 years of insurrection failed to achieve: a united, 32-county Ireland. The protocol was supposed to untangle the whole mess, but, once again, domestic British politics behaved with heedless disregard for Irish realities. As Patrick Cockburn wrote in iNews:
Yet Conservative Party politicians have been extraordinarily cavalier about the way they deal with the Irish border, careless when Brexit in 2016 reopened the question of Irish Partition and uncaring again when Boris Johnson persuaded a credulous Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that he would never allow a new sea border in the Irish Sea.
Now the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is threatening to unilaterally scrap key parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The move will be regarded sceptically in Northern Ireland as a bit of Union Jack waving aimed at bolstering Truss’s patriotic credentials – and hostility to the EU – in the event of a Conservative leadership contest. In practice, the government in Westminster will be encouraging the DUP to be intransigent about entering the Northern Ireland Executive until the protocol is dropped.
If the latter eventuality comes to pass, it will force another election in Northern Ireland, probably around Christmas, and that would force Sinn Fein to campaign in an election in which it would likely be meretriciously cast as a stumbling block by the actual stumbling blocks. This process may already be underway.
This is somehow supposed to save the Good Friday Agreement because public opinion in Northern Ireland is against it, despite the fact that 54 of the 90 newly elected members of the Northern Assembly accept the Protocol as it is. The DUP put opposition to the Protocol at the heart of its election campaign. But this did not do it any good at the polls where there was a sharp fall in its vote share…Sinn Féin can now claim the post of First Minister in any new Executive in the unlikely event of the DUP failing to veto its formation.
Boris Johnson is clearly not politician enough to puzzle this problem out, and he apparently is intent on applying his distinctive bull-in-a-china-shop approach to the question. Again, from Cockburn:
Brexit made partition an international issue for the first time. It is this smouldering dispute that Truss and the British government are threatening to prod into life – though with what degree of seriousness it is impossible to say. The British Government may be happy to have permanent friction in its relations with the Republic of Ireland and the EU, but not with the US with Joe Biden as president.
Boris Johnson is a cockeyed wonder at screwing things up. With regards to Ireland, this puts him in line with every other British PM since Magna Carta.
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