Theresa May kicked her own goal last week, calling an election she didn’t have to call, only to lose enough of her Conservative/Tory party seats to put her own office of Prime Minister in distinct jeopardy. Parliament has no clear majority now, including a Conservative one.
Scrambling to put one together, May is calling on the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party to prop the Tories up in the Westminster Parliament (the DUP won the most seats in the Westminster Parliament election, ten to Sinn Féin’s seven, with no other party winning a seat, and the DUP won one more seat than did Sinn Féin in the NI Parliament, Stormont). The DUP platform is anti-same sex marriage, anti-abortion, climate change denying, anti-special relationship with the Republic of Ireland and anti-EU. The DUP is also the only party in Northern Ireland that did not agree to the groundbreaking treaty known as the Good Friday Agreement, or the Belfast Agreement of 1998, which created the fragile peace that still exists today, and defined the relationships of Northern Ireland to Britain, to the Republic of Ireland and that of Britain to the Republic of Ireland.
Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in 2016 (56% to 44%), the referendum that May’s predecessor, David Cameron, called needlessly, only to lose and resign. Since that day, a hard Brexit has been on the near horizon for Britain, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The charge was taken up by the new and possibly ex-PM Theresa May.
But now? It seems as though everyone forgot about Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which naturally have a special relationship. The Republic of Ireland has not considered leaving the EU. The Belfast Agreement gave everyone in Northern Ireland an absolute right to Irish citizenship and therefore to EU citizenship. That special relationship is the definition of the “special status” that Sinn Féin hopes will open a back door to a reunited Ireland.
After the UK voted to leave the EU, the EU could do nothing other than offer Northern Ireland a special Brexit, one which is refundable: if Northern Ireland chooses to join the Republic, it may re-enter the EU, which Britain can never do.
The DUP is in favor of tearing up the Belfast Agreement. The treaty is registered with the United Nations, and guaranteed by the EU and the US, including its human rights protections. Will the countries willing to enter into trade deals with Britain post Brexit and post the tearing up of the Belfast Agreement please step forward?
The EU Brexit negotiations are set to start June 19th, and as with all divorces, there will be steep financial and emotional repercussions. By negotiating with the DUP, Theresa May seems poised to kick another goal into her own net, as interest in the UK increases for a second referendum on Brexit, a second look at leaving the EU.