As we wait to see if the historic Brexit deal will pass today or, the more likely result, the Letwin amendment passes and the real vote comes sometime next week, there is at least one thing that is absolutely clear about the deal that Boris Johnson has struck with the Europeans and that is the continued existence of the Union is subservient to the Brexiteers’ desire to leave the EU.
As Josh Marshall wrote, “has this[sic] UK in their epic reclamation of ‘sovereignty’ agreed to a customs barrier WITHIN their own country?”. The decision to basically hive off Northern Ireland from the UK was certainly a way to get a deal with the EU. But the Tories have basically abandoned the Unionists in Northern Ireland and vastly increased the likelihood of a unified island of Ireland. The ridiculous scheme will undermine the already fragile peace in Northern Ireland and provide a magnet for smuggling, VAT fraud, and associated crimes. In addition, those in Northern Ireland, especially the Unionists, are fearful of being frozen out of future deals the England, or whatever is left of the UK, will make.
On the other hand, For certain business, moving to Northern Ireland under the proposed agreement would potentially provide a competitive advantage. That is certainly what those in Scotland believe. The SNP leader in Westminster stated that Northern Ireland would now have a competitive advantage over Scotland and, even worse, will be essentially allowed to vote on remaining in the EU, an option that is not available to Scotland. He raged, “This prime minister and his Brexit fan club in Number 10 don’t care about Scotland…This is the beginning and end of their precious union.” Nicola Sturgeon told the SNP conference that the government “has shattered the case for the Union” and would seek to hold another independence referendum in 2020. Polls show that support for independence has now reached about 50% and would actually be higher if the UK goes through with Brexit.
Whatever Parliament ultimately decides, Johnson’s decision to essentially cast off Northern Ireland in order secure a deal with the EU, whether just a cynical ploy to get him to a new election or not, has made the Brexiteers’ position, in both Labour and Conservative parties, quite clear — if the Union must dissolve in order to get Brexit, then so be it. David Cameron made this outcome likely. Boris Johnson has just confirmed it.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that Johnson is bringing this deal up for a vote in Parliament with absolutely no economic analysis of its impact. The government has said it will not provide any economic analysis of the plan before today’s vote. This, in effect, is yet another reprise of the original Brexit vote where the voters were asked to vote on an option that provided almost no clarity on its real impact other than bogus propaganda.
Originally published at https://thesoundings.com on October 19, 2019.