With President Biden due in Northern Ireland in April 2023 bringing international attention to Northern Ireland the stakes could not be higher in the blame game over the stalled Peace Process.
A truly dishonest op-ed by an arch-conservative writer in The New York Times casting blame for the stalled Northern Ireland Protocol on the Irish side likely signals that a major offensive between now and the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement on the Irish stance on the tangled issue has begun.
The European Union (EU) and Britain agreed to a treaty in 2019, which set the legal parameters of the EU-Brexit relationship, including a deal on how the Northern Ireland issue known as the Northern Protocol should be handled.
The article is by Christopher Caldwell, who is a fellow at the arch-conservative Claremont Institute, which has close ties to the Donald J. Trump political machine (the Daily Beast stated Claremont "arguably has done more than any other group to build a philosophical case for Trump’s brand of conservatism”).
Caldwell, this newly minted Irish expert, begins by claiming the new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak bears no responsibility for the Northern Ireland Protocol impasse as he was not in power.
Rishi Sunak voted for Britain to leave the EU in the 2017 referendum which landed us in the current mess. As a prominent member of the party, his opinion counted and he had many pro-Brexit backers when he ran for leader of the Tory Party.
Here is the BBC's comment on his position:
“Mr. Sunak has previously been critical of the protocol and garnered recent endorsements from high-profile Brexiteers in the Conservative Party.”
Some hold out hope Sunak will be more pragmatic in power but as regards having clean hands, it is palpably not true that he can claim no ownership in the Brexit mess before he became Prime Minister.
Caldwell muddies the waters further by claiming the treaty approval was a massive blunder ignoring the fact that both the EU and the United Kingdom (UK) voted for it.
He calls the protocol a diplomatic blunder, which indeed it has turned out to be for the British, who reneged on their commitment to it.
Caldwell then turns to the likely upcoming elections in Northern Ireland and wagers that one of three outcomes will prevail - a return to violence which is an absurd notion on the Irish Republican Army (IRA) side given Sinn Fein’s progress, north and south, or a move to get a border referendum which nobody told him has been underway for years when it was allowed for in the Good Friday Agreement.
An uprising Sunak's own Tory party is the final possibility but then, Caldwell neglects to mention that the Brexiteers have gone through five prime ministers in 12 years and are increasingly regarded as a busted flush their influence waning.
Opinion polls show Tories up to 30 points behind Labour with botched Brexit the main reason for voter anger. Nobody on the Tory side will be voluntarily giving up their seat given the inevitable wipeout if an election was called.
Caldwell says the agreed treaty means that the “European Union is laying claim to a territory that does not belong to it.”
How absurd is that? The constitutional position of Northern Ireland as a British entity has been in place for over 100 years. How does he propose to change that? Send in the Luxembourg army?
“There is a lack of reciprocity in the treaty that is reminiscent of 19th-century agreements between European powers and their colonies,” he writes.
Well tough luck, you already voted for the current language.
Caldwell then turns on the EU bogeyman, Maros Sefcovic, a Slovak diplomat and European commissioner who Caldwell writes “has been the European Union’s point man on protocol negotiations, has spoken of British moves to change the Northern Ireland protocol as a 'breach of international law.'"
British efforts to abrogate the treaty should be allowed, he says and then adds incredibly “after all countries leave treaties all the time.” (This might be the Trump influence in not heeding democracy.)
Really? He thinks the British should just wash their hands of the Brexit treaty signed off on internationally and by even the Britons themselves because their strategy has failed miserably. That is the truth of the matter.
What the British are really up to is seeking a Unionist veto over any new Northern Ireland treaty signed even though after the last election the nationalist side outnumbered them. Democracy it ain’t!
Ireland has a long enough history of failed treaties imposed by the British and this is where the line in the sand is drawn.
Caldwell is missing the old British Empire when "Paddy" could be dictated to and Europe rarely interfered. Those days are long gone. Alas, for him the Northern Ireland Protocol steed is out the gate.