UNIONIST Brexiters who keep believing that the Irish Sea border is going to be removed by risibly small street demos and hysterical warnings from a tiny cabal of very loud people were handed a deafening wake-up call this from the United States. They would do well to heed it and to cut their cloth accordingly.
Make no mistake, Boris Johnson went to the White House not to articulate the concerns of those standing on the back of a lorry addressing a crowd of 40 people – he went there to cut a trade deal that would provide him with a lifeline in the roiling sea of Brexit woes in which he and his colleagues are drowning.
Here is a man who devised and signed a deal which – after it had served its electoral purpose – he then attempted to bin. But that deal was struck under the watchful eye of the United States, to whom no deal that failed to uphold the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement would have been acceptable.
Before the talks had even begun, President Joe Biden described the lie of the land in no uncertain terms. Mr Biden said he felt “very strongly” about the Protocol and added: “We spent an enormous amount of time and effort, the United States, it was a major bipartisan effort made. And I would not at all like to see, nor I might add would many of my Republican colleagues like to see, a change in the Irish accords, the end result having a closed border in Ireland.”
It’s been excruciating to watch unionism pin its hopes on the ‘dream team’ of Boris Johnson and David Frost, who have been tickling loyal Ulster behind the ear in recent weeks with tough talk about a unilateral suspension of the Protocol. Lord Frost’s bluster and bluff may have gone down well amongst those who cling to the hope that the devastation caused to the union by Brexit can be reversed, but just as he is in Europe, Mr Frost is seen very differently in the United States.
Here is a man who devised and signed a deal which – after it had served its electoral purpose – he then attempted to bin. But that deal was struck under the watchful eye of the United States, to whom no deal that failed to uphold the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement would have been acceptable. And if Mr Johnson thought that the lies and bad faith of his government would be overlooked by the new administration, he was brusquely told to think again.
The British government playing fast and loose with solemnly struck international agreements was always going to come back to haunt them, but coming back to haunt unionism is its decades-long failure to court any support worth the name in the United States. Alone and without friends in its most perilous hour, unionism is reduced to crossing its fingers and pinning its hopes once again on Boris Johnson, the man who turned the North into the Siberia of the union. And while the duplicitous and disreputable behaviour of Johnson and his minions has zero consequences in these six counties where they are in search of not a single vote, it has massive and profound consequences in Brussels – and in Washington.
It would be nice to think that reality will now once more slap unionism in the face. But after so many slaps the numbness is clearly taking its toll.