EDITORIAL: An imposed backstop would see a unionist reaction that would dwarf Drumcree or the flag protests
By Jamie Bryson @JamieBrysonCPNI
It is clear that the European Union, and aggressive pan-nationalism in the form of Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance, are working in collaboration in a desperate attempt to use Brexit as a means to advance their shared objectives of promoting a ‘progressive Europeanism’, which will aid pan-nationalism by virtue of promoting greater all-Ireland harmonisation.
For SF, SDLP and Alliance the main Brexit objective is to have Northern Ireland annexed from the rest of the United Kingdom; in other words the mutilation of our precious Union. That is the big attraction of special status or a so called backstop that would see Northern Ireland being trapped inside the Customs Union and/or Single Market.
There have been many criticisms of the DUP in recent weeks around their use of language, but there will be many within the Unionist community that feel the DUP have not gone far enough. There is however universal agreement within unionism that the DUP are standing firm for Union, and all genuine unionists will surely rally behind their stance.
The threat to the Union by aggressive nationalism and subversives within the United Kingdom collaborating with the European Union is greater than it has ever been. An emboldened pan-nationalism is seeking to frustrate the democratic will of the British people and use the process of Brexit to wedge Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom.
The response within Unionism to any form of backstop or special status- which would effectively mutilate Northern Ireland’s constitutional position by stealth- would almost certainly trigger a grassroots unionist reaction that would dwarf the anger of the flag protests and Drumcree.
Remember that the DUP and mainstream unionism largely set their face against the flag protests. The protests didn’t have universal unionist support, but when it comes to the very survival of unionism itself there would undoubtedly be a reaction.
There is, of course, no appetite within unionism or in the mind of any sensible person for violence. That is something that no sane person would ever advocate. I believe those who are whipping up fears of violence are scaremongering, and that anyone that would threaten violence has no place within any civilised democratic society. Let me be unequivocal about that.
However peaceful civil disobedience on an industrial scale would clearly have the capability to render an annexed Northern Ireland ungovernable. The greatest disruption caused by the union flag protests stemmed not from rioting or violence, but rather from the peaceful protests across the province.
Parallels have rightly been drawn by DUP leader Arlene Foster with the Anglo-Irish agreement. A lesson from history will show the strength of unionist resistance that particular attempt to tinker with the constitutional position of Northern Ireland stirred up.
The proposed backstop is unacceptable in any shape or form. It doesn’t matter how it is dressed up, how it is manipulated or spun, it is unacceptable to the unionist community and detrimental to the Union.
If the choice, as it appears it is, for the British Government is between cutting through the constructive ambiguity known as the ‘spirit’ of the Belfast Agreement- which exists largely as an ambiguous understanding to appease Nationalists- or annexing Northern Ireland, then evidently the British Government must protect the Union at all costs.
The written text of the Belfast Agreement itself, nor the 1998 Act, will be altered in any shape or form by Brexit. The only thing threatened is the constructive ambiguity which floats between the lines. It is long past time such nationalist appeasing clap-trap was washed away anyway, so it would be much better if the British Government hurried up and killed two birds with one stone.
The pretence that many have tried to keep up that we must somehow bend over backwards to avoid a hard border is running out of road. Due to the intransigence of the EU, and the insatiable demands of pan-nationalism, some of us predicted long ago that a no deal Brexit and a well-defined border would be the inevitable outcome. That presents unique opportunities for unionism to roll back the serious majority misjudgement that lead to the Belfast Agreement and to drive a horse and cart through pan-nationalism’s harmonisation agenda. Let us embrace the opportunities.