Northern Ireland’s Brexit: Sunak’s orange lane

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
1 March 2023

Sunak is crossing his fingers that Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party politicians will give his 300-page “Windsor Framework”, the thumbs-up.  He says this will be the real test of success for his NI Brexit Protocol deal with the EU.

    Yes, this minority of political and religious unionist bigots in the DUP (with around 20% of the vote) have the final say over Northern Irish affairs, just as their predecessors always had, courtesy of successive British governments.  But lately, since Brexit, only because they provide back-up to the far-right, Brexiteer wing of the Tory Party in Westminster - despite their shrinking electoral support (due to Northern Ireland’s “demographics”).  It seems to have been forgotten that the majority of the NI population voted against Brexit.

    So the question is, will the Unionists say yes to “Windsor”?  And will they then agree to end their boycott of Northern Ireland’s mini-government - the Stormont Assembly?  In fact Stormont has been prevented from sitting for much of its existence, by either Loyalist Unionists or Irish Nationalists, thanks to the sectarian veto powers built into the power-sharing terms of the Good Friday Agreement.  But lately Stormont hasn’t sat simply because the DUP, which lost the last election to its “enemy” Sinn Fein, refused to play second fiddle to SF’s (now) first minister, Michelle O’Neill.

    Of course, what’s not being stressed too much in the current discussion of Sunak’s “breakthrough agreement” with the EU, is the fact that the new framework is just superimposed on top of the old Northern Ireland Protocol, which mostly remains.  Or that Northern Ireland retains its hybrid status inside the EU Single Market - which is just as well for NI business people, since this direct access to the EU is an advantage.  In fact, Sunak has highlighted this as a selling point, much to the amusement of Remainers.

    Yes, it’s not for nothing that this is one part of the “United Kingdom” which has already shown some economic growth, while the rest of the British economy has been shrinking...

    So now a “green lane” with reduced checks at the “Border in the Irish Sea” is to be opened for goods destined to stay in Northern Ireland, while goods continuing into Ireland and the rest of the EU will take a “red lane” so as to be checked.

    As for the “Orange Lane”, that is, the deeply reactionary Unionist one, it remains open all the way into the heart of the Westminster government, as always.