Don’t blame the DUP for the EU’s mess
The Brexit crisis has been caused by the elites’ war on democracy.
We are used to Brexit – and the 17.4million who voted for it – being bizarrely blamed for everything today, from the UK’s long record of poor economic productivity to the delay in casting a female Dr Who.
Now that bloodsport of political scapegoating has reached a new pitch of hysteria, with the concerted attempt to blame the Brexit crisis – and hence all of the UK’s problems – on Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, and the 292,316 souls who voted for it in June’s General Election.
This week the DUP leadership rejected prime minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Shrill critics claim that the government and all of our futures are thus being ‘held to ransom’ by the minority Tory government’s dependence on the support of the DUP’s 10 members of parliament, variously denounced as ‘Medieval revivalists’ or a ‘gang of creationist, homophobic nutters’.
If anybody sounds like nutters in this debate, it is those who want to blame the little DUP for the mess caused by the EU elite’s escalating war on democracy. Juncker and Co are determined to teach the UK’s disobedient Leave voters a harsh lesson, and warn the other revolting peoples of the EU to do as they are told.
This crisis has been created by the EU’s attempts to impose a sort of neo-colonial settlement, whereby the UK remains under its sway even after Brexit – and by the pathetic grovelling of May’s stricken government before the demands from Brussels. The DUP can hardly be blamed for that.
To be clear, I am no fan of the DUP. Some of us have long believed that Ireland is one 32-county nation and should be united, rather than divided by a border that leaves six north-eastern counties incorporated into the UK. The role of the late Reverend Ian Paisley and his Protestant party in inflaming loyalist passions during the ‘Troubles’ is a matter of record.
But whatever anybody’s feelings about Paisleyites might be, we should not accept the current attempts to scapegoat the DUP as a singularly malign political force blocking the road to progress. The DUP is often branded ‘medieval’, or even ‘fascist’ on the fringes of social media, for its conservative social policies. Why?
So the party opposes legalising gay marriage. German chancellor Angela Merkel also voted against that. Yet somehow the most powerful figure in the EU escapes the opprobrium of her UK Remainer fan club. The DUP is also opposed to legalised abortion. That reactionary attitude should be opposed, of course; women in Ireland, north and south, need the right to choose. Note, however, that Northern Ireland’s main nationalist party, Sinn Fein, has long shared the DUP’s backward attitudes to abortion. Yet we don’t see the Remainer republicans being branded medieval misogynists. On other issues, meanwhile, the DUP might be considered on the ‘left’, having got the Tories to increase welfare spending and keep the ‘triple lock’ on state pensions as part of their confidence-and-supply agreement. But that has not saved the DUP from the wrath of Remainers who normally bang on about the evils of Tory austerity.
No, the DUP has been singled out for scapegoating solely because of its firm stance on Brexit. Yet in rejecting the reported May-Juncker deal on ‘regulatory alignment’ between Northern and southern Ireland, leader Arlene Foster and her MPs are surely only trying to live up to their party’s name as Democratic Unionists.
‘Democratic’ because they are doing their job in representing those 292,316 people who voted DUP in the June election. Leave aside for a moment the vexed question of whether the statelet of Northern Ireland can be called democratic. Those voters backed the DUP on a clear pro-Brexit platform. Indeed, the DUP might even claim a wider democratic legitimacy on this issue. Despite 52 per cent voting Leave in June 2016, the DUP is now the only party in the UK parliament not led by politicians who backed the establishment’s Remain campaign.
And, like it or not, they are living up to their mandate as a ‘Unionist’ party by insisting that Northern Ireland remains an integral part of the UK. The deal that May and Juncker discussed reportedly proposed a system of ‘continued regulatory alignment’ in post-Brexit Ireland, between the economies of the north and south. That harmless-sounding technical term could effectively mean that Northern Ireland remains part of the Single Market in practice, subject to EU political rules – and separated from the rest of the UK. As Brendan O’Neill notes elsewhere on spiked, the implications of that were quickly grasped by everybody from the Scottish nationalists to the Labour mayor of London, demanding a similarly special relationship with the Single Market. In their desperation to remain part of the anti-democratic EU, leading Remainers seem prepared to destroy national democracy across the UK.
Don’t blame the DUP for trying to do what it says on the tin, or in their manifesto. This mess has been created by the EU elites’ war on democracy. They are not interested in doing a ‘good’ deal with the UK. They see the Brexit ‘deal’ as more like a punishment beating for upstart British voters. The fake talks and sham diplomacy simply represent the continuation of that war by other means.
Before the talks broke down this week, we were assured that hopeful progress was being made between the UK government and EU officials. That should have been a warning sign to all democrats. Because the EU has made no concessions at all. Any ‘progress’ could only mean a further retreat from a meaningful Brexit on the British side.
Look at the three areas on which, we are told, agreement must be reached before a trade deal can be struck. First, the ‘divorce bill’ that the UK must apparently pay to leave the EU club. May’s government has reportedly agreed to this blackmail demand by promising to pay some £50billion, without as yet getting anything in return. Perhaps next the Brussels blackmailers will demand that it all be paid in used notes, to be left in a luggage locker at St Pancras Eurostar station.
Second, there is the supposed stand-off over the post-Brexit rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK. Contrary to the impression sometimes given by the Remainer media, nobody wants to round up our European friends and neighbours. This is really about the ‘right’ of the European Court of Justice (sic) to continue interfering in the UK’s affairs as part of the neo-colonial settlement. Here, too, May and Co have made major concessions, promising to abide by Euro-court rulings during the ‘transitional’ years post-Brexit.
And third there is the Irish issue. Nobody in Britain is proposing the return of a ‘hard’ border in Ireland. Yet this possibility has been turned into a political weapon to use against Brexit.
As mentioned above, I have long supported the idea of a 32-county democratic Irish republic. But that is not what this is about. Instead, forces in the UK and EU elites that have always shown contempt for the Irish and their democratic freedoms now want to use Ireland cynically as a stick with which to beat down the demand for greater democracy in Britain.
Are we supposed to have forgotten what happened when the Irish people voted no to the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, rejecting the political elites’ attempt to sneak the already-defeated centralising EU Constitution through the backdoor? The normally referendum-phobic EU officials demanded that Ireland hold a second vote – then spent a year morally and financially blackmailing the Irish into voting ‘yes’. Or what happened shortly after that, in the depths of the financial crisis? The ‘Troika’ of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund effectively replaced the elected Irish government with technocrats appointed to make the cuts that nobody would vote for.
Now these same authorities pose as the defenders of Irish sovereignty and democracy, using Ireland as a stick, a convenient cat’s paw, with which to drive back the British people’s demand for greater sovereignty and democracy through Brexit. In this they are sadly aided by the EU patsy posing as Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael.
Whatever anybody thinks of the historic ‘Irish question’, this battle is about something else. However it is disguised, a defeat for Brexit would represent a real setback for democracy not only in Britain but across Europe.
We need to step back from the daily ins and outs of the secret diplomacy and look at the big picture. The Remainer elite appear rampant in the UK and EU. Nobody in British politics represents the 52 per cent who voted to Leave. Top Tory ministers assure us we will have to swallow whatever Mrs May agrees or ‘there will be no Brexit’. Such a deal could mean remain by another name. Many of us would expect whoever governs Britain to leave such a ‘deal’ on the table. Yet the idea that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ – which increasingly looks like the only rational attitude, faced with the EU’s intransigence – is now widely condemned as ‘Brexit extremism’.
If we are in crisis now, it is not because of ‘too much’ democracy in the Brexit vote. It is down to the elites’ war on democracy over the past 18 months. The stakes could hardly be higher in this fight for the future. The situation is far too serious to be distracted by a bout of DUP-bashing, which has simply become the respectable way for Remainers to beat up democracy today.
Mick Hume is spiked’s editor-at-large. His new book, Revolting! How the Establishment is Undermining Democracy – and What They’re Afraid of, is published by William Collins. Buy it here.
Picture by: Getty Images.