THERE can’t be a unionist anywhere across the North who doesn’t understand that Brexit has been catastrophic for the union. The human addiction to cognitive dissonance means that the DUP and the TUV will never admit to having made a mistake by backing a hard departure from the European Union. But the truth of their plight – and of their knowledge of it – is revealed by every whiney utterance as further layers of the Brexit onion are peeled away to reveal more unpalatable truths about what they’ve done to their precious union.

The ruling this week that the UK government’s deeply cynical and racist Rwanda policy cannot be applied to these six counties was the latest in a long line of inevitable legal setbacks that have bedevilled No.10’s efforts to reap political reward from the elevation of divisive wedge issues and culture wars talking points to the realm of policy. Equally inevitable was the performative carping from a familiar gallery of front-bench Tory never-weres and wannabes who are rolled out on such occasions to present a legal ruling as a slap in the face to the will of the people.

The DUP has not only been willing but eager to play along with this grubby charade.

Their brand of Britishness demands that they are included in whatever crackpot political and constitutional shenanigans the Tories dream up to distance themselves from the consequences of the Brexit firestorm they themselves ignited.

And so we are presented with the deeply unedifying sight of unionist politicians pleading to be part of the shambolic Rwanda plan. There are two kinds of people in Britain who want to see planes take off loaded with black and brown people: the first are those who are nakedly and openly racist; the second are those who have allowed themselves to be persuaded that the flights are a serious attempt to address a serious problem, even though the mooted numbers involved in the Rwanda scheme show it to be a inconsequential sideshow.

The DUP have created a third kind of Rwanda supporter: those who, whether they support the plan for reasons of racism or naivety, want to see it implemented across the UK primarily because it is essential to their sense of self. But if they took a second to stop and consider the bleak truth that an identity which is subservient to the political needs of others, regardless of what those needs demand or result in, is an identity desperately in need of a reboot.

Unionism has been offered an economic advantage as a result of Brexit that the Scottish government has said it would give its eye teeth for – a best-of-both-worlds GB-EU arrangement that has the potential to turn this place into the Malaysia of the North and bring about a prosperity that would be the biggest boost the union has ever had. They want none of it. What they do want is to be part of an arrangement sending desperately vulnerable people to Africa. 

It’s a grim vision. More importantly, it’s a massive act of self-harm.