It is ironic that one of the worst newspapers in the country, the editorially repulsive newsletter, is also home to one of the country’s best journalists, the tireless Sam McBride. The publication’s longtime political correspondent and author of the report on the complex cash-for-ash scandal in the six counties has graciously avoided the extremist mindset and rhetoric that characterizes the hard-boiled unionist title he works for. Instead, he continues to offer thoughtful and well-informed insight into the essence of Stormont politics. Or what counts as politics in the institutionally dysfunctional intercommunity assembly outside Belfast.
With all the focus on the global pandemic and subsequent national and regional lockdowns, the details of the ongoing Brexit – or more precisely Trexit (Transition Exit) – negotiations between the UK and the European Union are being lost. As McBride notes, the overlooked effects of Britain’s exit from the EU are already being felt in the British outpost on the island.
… This week we saw some of the first direct impact the Irish Sea border had on our lives – and what is now a trickle of cost and red tape is likely to be a flood soon.
… Academic Vivian Gravey was one of the Northern Irish clients of the Welsh gardening company Real Seeds who received an email from the company saying, “Unfortunately, due to the way the new UK seed laws are going to do this next year will not be able to ship seeds to Northern Ireland as we (or a UK seed company) will not be able to issue a plant passport suitable for sending seeds to NI. “
Another company, the Agroforestry Research Trust, issued a similar notice that it would stop selling crops to Northern Ireland.
Last week, BBC Spotlight aired an insightful program by John Campbell – a journalist who has been shown to understand Brexit better than the vast majority of our politicians – detailing the practical implications of the Irish maritime border.
He stated that when goods come into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK it will legally be like entering the EU from a foreign country …[There is] … The possibility is that supermarkets like Tesco will continue to trade in Northern Ireland but fill their shelves with Tesco Ireland products rather than UK – because trading across the Irish border would be seamless while trading with UK would be expensive and bureaucratic.
If Brexit means we all pay more as we struggle for benefits, and we push towards harmonization of all islands in myriad areas, what will that do for the DUP in the short term and for the Union in the long term?
An excellent question. As many commentators have noted and rigorous polls have confirmed, most Conservative Party members and their constituents have little to no attachment to “Northern Ireland” and would like to say goodbye to the pesky remnant of the first and last colony of Greater England. And some suggest that many on Downing Street, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his closest adviser Dominic Cummings, share this view.
While Brexit could in some ways represent a dramatic break with Britain’s recent ties with Europe, it could in part be seen as a continuation of Britain’s slow withdrawal from the island of Ireland. A staggered retreat that began spectacularly in 1921, stalled for decades and then received renewed impetus from 1966, with accelerations in 1985 and 1998 and now most evident in everything that has happened since 2016.
What will the DUP, or the tougher elements of the union community in general, do when events overtake them? Events that primarily set them in motion.