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Analysis: Time for the DUP to end its self-serving bias

Ian Paisley asked his former Tory allies what the DUP did to 'be screwed over by this protocol'?

‘SELF-serving bias’ is a term psychologists use when people take credit for the positive things in life but lay blame on others and external forces when things go bad. It’s something often evident in young children who’ve yet to fully grasp how the world works. Self-serving bias has been apparent over recent weeks within the DUP’s ranks and yesterday it appeared to peak.

Not to downplay the disruption to trade that the fledgling protocol has caused, minor reductions in product selection and an absence of Marks & Spencer’s ready meals do not a crisis make. And loath as this writer is to agree with Boris Johnson, less than fortnight after the protocol began operating, the issues experienced with certain goods being shipped from Britain surely can be characterised as “teething problems”.

After all, this is a system with few parallels that has been put in place at short notice. Back in August there were warnings that the necessary IT was behind schedule and that hiccups could be expected. Things were so much simpler when there were no barriers to trade.

While there is a degree of discontent about how the protocol operates and an urgent need to address its shortcomings, the DUP’s calls of ‘we told you so’ ring hollow. The party eagerly got into bed with the ERG, believing together they would deliver a hard Brexit that would cement the union further. Instead, the DUP MPs were discarded when they’d served their purpose, with the British prime minister’s jingoistic rhetoric giving way to pragmatism.

They now stand friendless and humiliated but still are unable to concede that throughout this process they continually made the wrong call.

Read more: DUP's Sammy Wilson should apologise for 'go to the chippy' remark says SNP 

Playing the victim yesterday at Westminster, Ian Paisley – he who once bragged that “Leo Varadkar was done over by the EU, the UK and the DUP” – pitifully asked his former Tory allies what the DUP did to “be screwed over by this protocol”? Next he’ll be asking for the £425,000 that paid for those ‘Take Back Control’ Metro ads to be refunded.

Sammy Wilson meanwhile took aim not only at his pro-EU political adversaries but a range of business groups who sought to mitigate the mess he helped create.

More sensibly, he asked for measures that would ease the current disruption, such as an extension of the grace period and greater engagement from the Joint Committee.

However, unionist calls for the British government to invoke Article 16, the safeguard that would allow the UK or EU to act unilaterally if the protocol causes "serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties”, are premature – akin to calling off the marriage because the earth didn’t move on the honeymoon.

What’s required instead is patience, a sense of perspective and less self-serving bias.

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