Fintan O’Toole: DUP has foolishly trusted Johnson – who will always put Brexit over union

Northern Ireland will be in the United Kingdom by law, but European Union by fact

A file image of DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds leaving 10 Downing Street.  The party has foolishly trusted Boris Johnson. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

A file image of DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds leaving 10 Downing Street. The party has foolishly trusted Boris Johnson. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

So the backstop has become the frontstop. British prime minister Boris Johnson and his allies will claim victory: the hated backstop has been ditched. It is in Ireland’s interests not to contradict that claim too vehemently – allowing the Brexiteers to save face is a necessary part of the process.

Given that Johnson came to office in July declaring that he would not even begin to negotiate with the European Union unless it agreed in advance to scrap the backstop, there is a lot of face to save. If a good outcome for Ireland is to be achieved, a certain amount of strategic amnesia will be required. We must forget, for example, Johnson’s speech to the DUP conference less than a year ago, warning that if Northern Ireland had to continue to follow EU rules, it would “leave Northern Ireland behind as an economic semi-colony of the EU and we would be damaging the fabric of the union with regulatory checks and even customs controls between GB and NI”. We must not say too loudly that this is exactly what Johnson has now agreed to do.

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