Newton Emerson: DUP wants cover for its Brexit retreat

EU concedes backstop needs democratic oversight and Stormont is no threat

Nobody has ever proposed that Stormont has a veto over anything – British government proposals admit its role would ultimately be consultative. Photograph: Eric Luke

Nobody has ever proposed that Stormont has a veto over anything – British government proposals admit its role would ultimately be consultative. Photograph: Eric Luke

An air of absurdity and exhaustion hangs over the idea that Stormont is the solution to Brexit. The northern institutions have collapsed, the British government is collapsing and London’s sincerity in seeking a deal remains in question. These are shaky grounds on which to place the contention and complexity of Stormont input into the backstop, or some backstop-like arrangement. A new layer of accountability can be imagined and Northern Ireland is hardly a stranger to arcane government systems. But where would the energy come from to make this work, when only the DUP wants it and most nationalists would see Stormont administering Brexit as adding insult to injury?

It is not as if the DUP’s need is fundamental – it merely wants a fig leaf to cover its retreat. When then British prime minister Theresa May unveiled the so-called Stormont lock in January this year, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds dismissed it as “cosmetic and meaningless”.

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