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  • Writer's pictureFriends of Sinn Féin USA

Brexit, Brits, DUP and Illegal Paramilitaries

The DUP Joined Boris's Brexit Crusade and are Paying the Price

Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, came to power on the back of Brexit. The DUP, the largest Unionist party in the North was the only party to support Brexit in Ireland. The majority of people in the North voted to remain in the EU. The DUP continues to be on the wrong side of the agreement. They are the minority opinion. Brexit is turning out, as expected, to be a disaster for Britain and the North. With elections planned for next year, the DUP is losing support.

Brexit meant Britain and the North leaving the European Union along with access to its markets. This would mean a customs and trade border with the EU and as with all borders it means customs checks to ensure goods meet all regulations for safety and trade.

The EU offered a deal; if the British committed to maintaining the same standards as the EU then there would be no need for many of the checks. Boris Johnson, with the support of the DUP, rejected a deal and created the necessity for checks at ports between Britain and the EU.

But what about Ireland? Placing a land border across 300 miles of open roads in Ireland would be unworkable and would restrict essential North-South trade.

The British government agreed with the EU on this. The Irish Protocol means that the North in trading terms would retain full access to the all Ireland and EU markets as well as access to the British market. The necessary checks would take place at ports with new checks agreed for products moving from Britain to the ports of Belfast, Larne, and Warrenpoint. These checks would be similar to those in Dublin.

Port customs checks are the cost of the DUP and British Government's Brexit

Brexit changed almost fifty years of trading practices overnight. The British government's refusal to properly prepare has come home to bite them and the DUP.

There have been teething issues and that is to be expected. A committee between the British government and the EU under the joint leadership of Micheal Gove (UK) and Michael Maroš Šefčovič (EU) was established to iron out implementation matters. The joint leaders of the Northern Executive Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Féin Vice President and Arlene Foster (DUP Leader) also attended.

Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O'Neill has Shown Real Leadership

This committee met on the 24th of February and agreed to work jointly to resolve outstanding implementation issues including a possible extension to a grace period for additional checks. The committee was due to meet later this month to review progress.

A sensible approach to resolving practical issues, you would think.

As Brexit began to hurt them politically, the DUP moved to create a crisis blaming the ills of Brexit on the Irish Protocol. Raising tensions, fabricating threats to port workers, and meeting with illegal loyalist paramilitary groups. This is a distraction.

Meanwhile, in Britain, as exporters to the EU are facing additional costs and delays Boris Johnson is blaming the EU for his Brexit and looking to a future negotiation.

This week in response to the DUP, a British government Minister said that the British government would unilaterally extend the grace periods. This move is illegal and was announced without the consultation or support of the EU. Britain feels she is not bound by agreements or laws. The EU response was immediate. They rejected the move, threatened legal action and stalled the process of ratifying the EU/ British Trade Agreement. An Irish government minister even said the British government cannot be trusted!

Later that day the loyalist paramilitary groups that had previously met with the DUP announced that they would no longer support the Good Friday Agreement due to Brexit and the Protocol. These criminal gangs are engaged in internal feuds and drug dealing yet they appear have a seat at the negotiating table.

The British government is not dependent on Unionist support and will dismiss their concerns when expedient. They have consistently tried to use the North and threats to peace as leverage in their negotiations with the EU. A cynical and dangerous position. This cannot be acceptable by nations that support the rule of law and cherish the Good Friday Agreement.

The US has always been clear, the Good Friday Agreement must be protected and a hard border on the island of Ireland prevented. There is a need for the British government to hear this message loud and clear. Irish-America will continue to make our voices heard.

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