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By Jason Michael
As Britain considers giving special UK and EU status to Northern Ireland after Brexit, Scotland should now demand the same.
Shortly after lunchtime today news broke in Ireland that the UK was considering a proposal for Northern Ireland that would break the deadlock in the Brexit negotiations. Ireland’s state broadcaster, RTÉ, reported that the UK was “considering giving Northern Ireland joint UK and EU status,” effectively taking the hard border option from the table and safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement. This would be consistent with the GFA settlement in which the people of the province are entitled to both UK and Irish (EU) citizenship and where at least the idea of power-sharing is well established.
This is a proposal, if actually put forward, Ireland and the EU can accept, and so the optimism at the news was understandable. It was not long, however, before Downing Street was denying it would even consider an idea that would see Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of the UK. The fact appears to be completely lost on David Davis and the British government that Northern Ireland is and has always been treated differently to the rest of the United Kingdom.
There’s me at the Brexit negotiations. https://t.co/sVuFOahZ3o—
The Irish Border (@BorderIrish) February 08, 2018
Since its creation in 1921 – following the partition of the island of Ireland – Northern Ireland operated a constitutional form of Apartheid unlike Britain, between 1969 and 2007 it was under a de facto military occupation wherein many civil and political rights, taken for granted in the rest of the UK, were suspended, and since the signing of the GFA the lived experience of its constitutional reality is closer to that of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus than to any country in Britain. Northern Ireland is very different to the rest of the UK.
London has every reason to deny it is currently considering the idea. May’s government depends on the support of the DUP, the political representatives of Ulster Loyalists – a community in the province that wants to see no difference between its “country” and the rest of the UK. But the British government has a nasty habit of denying its plans around Brexit. It denied a power grab in Scotland, and we all know what happened next. Denial is a British tactic designed to limit resistance to its plans until they are ready to be rolled out. In all likelihood this denial is the same; with the Tory government waiting until it no longer needs the support of the DUP before stabbing it in the back. The Irish lesson is simple: If you’re Britain’s enemy it will buy you, and if you’re its friend it will sell you.
Having had a recent experience of British government denials, the Scottish government would do well to pay close attention to events in the north of Ireland. The UK is in a bind in Northern Ireland because of the stake Ireland has in the GFA and the fact that Ireland has the full backing of the EU. The North has become a thorn in London’s side, and to keep the Brexit of the British establishment on course it is altogether probable the DUP will in fact be sold out; giving Northern Ireland both EU and UK status, and thereby solving everyone’s problems.
Who needs the Taliban when you've got the DUP striking a sectarian note wherever they go whilst pulling the string… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Harry Leslie Smith (@Harryslaststand) June 01, 2018
Northern Ireland will get this reprieve because Northern Ireland is different to the rest of the UK, and this will create an opportunity for Scotland. In Scotland Brexit was rejected by a 62 per cent majority, that’s 6.2 per cent more than the vote to reject it in Northern Ireland. Undoubtedly, in order to save face, London will make this concession on the grounds that the people of the six counties voted to Remain. Scotland voted Remain – and by a greater margin.
Scotland is then uniquely situated to help end the exception of Northern Ireland and so help David Davis ensure that the province isn’t different from the rest of the UK. We can demand that the exception about to be made for the North is made also for us. Westminster, after making it possible for Northern Ireland to have the best of both worlds, cannot claim the same exception isn’t possible for Scotland. Seven of the North’s eighteen Westminster constituencies voted Leave, but not a single one in Scotland failed to vote Remain. Our claim to an exception trumps that of Northern Ireland.
snopes.com (@snopes) June 27, 2016
But something tells us that won’t happen. The British state won’t make the same exceptions for Scotland as it will for Northern Ireland because Northern Ireland is different. Scotland is different to Northern Ireland in the eyes of the British government because Scotland is useful; it has valuable resources. Why would a kleptocratic Westminster make it possible for legislative divergence to begin in its most valuable cash cow “region?”
The good news is that we don’t have to make that case to London. Our job is to hammer this home to those in Scotland who voted against independence in 2014. Unionists in the north of Ireland – as the Brexit referendum shows – know that their economic partition from Europe and the rest of Ireland will be their ruin. If unionists in the six counties are smart enough to see this and join the dots then we must assume their brethren here in Scotland are capable of the same. Their ability to think at least as well as their Northern Irish friends makes things easier for us: All we have to do is drive the point home that we are the only ones now working for their benefit.
They’ll be No Irish Border. They’ll be a 10 mile wide Irish Border!