DUP must not lose sight of the benefits of the Northern Ireland deal
The author was chief British negotiator in Northern Eire from 1997-2007
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, chief of the Democratic Unionist social gathering, now faces an invidious alternative over the so-called “Windsor framework”, the deal to reset post-Brexit preparations for Northern Eire.
Is he going to channel the Ian Paisley who, as chief of the DUP, bellowed “Ulster says No” to Margaret Thatcher’s Anglo-Irish Settlement in 1985? Or the Ian Paisley who mentioned sure to the St Andrews Settlement in 2006 and arrange a power-sharing government with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness which introduced prosperity and stability to Northern Eire for greater than a decade?
I spent a great a part of my grownup life negotiating with the DUP over Northern Irish points, and the issue they at all times face at this stage is understanding when to twist and when to carry.
Based mostly on expertise, you wouldn’t wager they’d at all times select the suitable choice, particularly when beneath stress from DUP dissident Jim Allister to their proper, crying betrayal. This time, nonetheless, the reply ought to be clear.
There is no such thing as a doubt that unionists had been betrayed by prime minister Boris Johnson in 2019. He grabbed an settlement with the EU that sacrificed their pursuits so he may get to a fast deal for his English Brexit supporters and win an election. A few of us identified on the time that this settlement would trigger unionists critical issues by undermining their id.
Brexit was at all times going to have an effect on the id of 1 or different of Northern Eire’s communities. If the UK was going to depart the EU single market and the customs union, there needed to be a border someplace, whatever the magical pondering of Brexiters who claimed it may very well be offered by non-existent expertise.
If the choice had been to place that border on the island of Eire, between north and south, it will have been a catastrophe for the Good Friday Settlement, the purpose of which was to take away the poison of competing identities from politics within the province.
Nevertheless it was, and is, unsuitable to fake that by placing the border within the Irish Sea there have been no penalties for unionists — who would then be separated from the remainder of the UK.
There’s an unattractive tendency in some larger reaches of British politics to disregard the views of unionists as a result of their traditions appear odd and quaint. That’s unsuitable — they’ve as a lot of a proper to have their views revered as anybody else.
The DUP is correct to take its time to review the settlement concluded on Monday. Its method has at all times been that of a doubting Thomas, desirous to verify and double verify the element of any settlement to see whether it is being cheated.
They shouldn’t get misplaced within the weeds, nonetheless. After they have a look at this settlement they’ll see that it solves the sensible issues posed by the applying of Johnson’s Northern Eire protocol. It meets the “Sainsbury’s take a look at” they initially set, which requires that folks in Northern Eire should purchase the identical items in a grocery store in Lisburn as they might in Lowestoft.
The Windsor framework meets the opposite checks they set as properly. It establishes a inexperienced lane and items can movement freely each methods between Northern Eire and the remainder of the UK. It protects Northern Eire’s place within the union, which might solely be modified by a majority of the folks of the province. And it supplies for a higher democratic function for politicians from the province within the utility of the protocol.
What the brand new framework doesn’t do, and will by no means do, is take away the border altogether. There must be a border someplace, and the unionists haven’t any various suggestion of the place it ought to be.
They might be clever due to this fact to simply accept this settlement, which can present Northern Eire with a lot wanted stability and the prospect to draw funding and jobs whereas making that border to all intents and functions invisible.
Even when the framework doesn’t ship all the pieces the DUP needs, they need to not let the most effective be the enemy of the great. It does shield the Good Friday Settlement and it does shield their pursuits. Demanding the negotiations be reopened received’t work, and they’ll discover themselves caught in a lifeless finish with no meeting at Stormont and everlasting political instability in Northern Eire.
Donaldson walked out of the Good Friday negotiations simply because the deal was being struck in 1998. This time he has a chance to redeem himself, simply as Paisley did by remodeling himself from Dr No in 1985 to Dr Sure in 2006.