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Brian Feeney: The DUP is in control of nothing

Brian Feeney

For an hour yesterday DUP assembly members whinged and whined about the protocol as if it had nothing to do with them.

They were ‘downtrodden people’, ignored, put upon, cast aside.

Yet in the debate on the queen’s speech Theresa May pointed out to Jeffrey Donaldson, who was engaged in the same victimhood dirge in his Westminster remarks, that he had had the chance twice to vote for her plan which would have avoided the protocol but voted against. It was the DUP’s intransigence in resisting a customs union that brought about the necessity for the protocol.

Indeed, you will remember that, so desperate was Donaldson to have a hard British border in Ireland, that he told Radio 5 he “could live” with 40,000 job losses.

So much for his concern about the damage to the north’s economy he falsely claims the protocol is causing. Falsely, because the latest statistical evidence is that the north has performed better than any other UK region because of the protocol.

Another false assertion DUP MLAs made repeatedly was that the whole basis of the Good Friday Agreement is based on consent and that therefore their consent is necessary for the protocol and that accordingly the GFA is damaged by the protocol. Boris Johnson, who, unsurprisingly, exhibits no knowledge of the GFA, also spouts this fallacious nonsense.

The DUP with others have tried this argument up to the north’s court of appeal and it has been comprehensively rejected on several grounds

First, and most obviously, it is not for a regional assembly to give its consent to an international treaty, a matter categorically beyond Stormont’s competence.

However, there is provision which the British government insisted on, for the assembly to give its consent in 2024 to the continuation of the protocol but that will be by simple majority.

The only major matter where unionist consent is required is to constitutional change in a border poll again by simple majority.

In short, what the DUP is trying to do, as unionists have always done, is to twist and expand consent to constitutional change into consent to any change whatsoever.

Naomi Long pointed out the hypocrisy of the DUP position of victimhood by reminding them that the people of the north and a majority of MLAs did not consent to Brexit, but nevertheless MLAs turned up to work at Stormont.

What we now have is, "yet another blow to business and investor confidence" as the president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry said after the failure to elect a Speaker.

There is the inability to spend over £300 million sitting available, the inability to produce a three-year budget for health, the inability to address the growing cost of living crisis, all of which the DUP ignored yesterday.

These dire consequences are all based on false arguments and concocted statistics rejected by the courts and demolished by economists.

On top of that, woe, woe and thrice woe, we heard yesterday the ludicrous DUP claims to be the most opposed people ever.

Even more disgraceful is the role of this dreadful, mendacious British government which has refused to operate the protocol and connived with the DUP in the dismantling of the GFA, simultaneously claiming the EU is inflexible and damaging the GFA – the reverse of the truth.

As usual, because of its servile, peasant-like forelocking-tugging allegiance to the Conservatives, the DUP is in control of nothing.

It is entirely up to Johnson how long and to what extent he will maintain his latest confrontation with the EU. What happens to the north and its waiting lists or its access to the single market doesn’t matter in the least.

As with everything else he does his sole consideration is how it will benefit Boris Johnson, in this instance earning the support of the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail for, altogether now, “standing up to Europe”. Despicable.

 

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