If anyone bothers to read the full text of the Attorney General’s advice they will be shocked at how uncontroversial it is. There is nothing there that hasn’t been trailed or leaked for weeks. However, there are three stupidities surrounding it’s publication that need to be addressed. Firstly, by trying to suppress it the government gave it a sinister status that it doesn’t warrant. Secondly, by acting against the will of the House which ordered its disclosure previously, it gives a wonderful opportunity for MPs to jump on their high horses and proclaim that they need to strike a blow against their masters in the executive. And the last really moronic stupidity is to pretend that Northern Ireland is treated no differently from the rest of the United Kingdom.
The whole bloody history of the place is based on its differences with the U.K. Apart from the election of MEPs, who nobody has ever cared about nor really understood what they are there for, proportional representation plays no part in our electoral life. Stormont is elected by proportional representation. We have always prided ourselves on our jury system, but in Northern Ireland it was abandoned for years and replaced by the Diplock Courts. And we certainly wouldn’t tolerate thousands of marches every year with bowler hatted orange sashed people marching through the streets of England proclaiming territorial rights. And we tolerate abortion and welcome same sex marriage over here too. Oh, and they haven’t had an elected government for months. So please don’t let’s pretend that the Province is not different nor treated differently from the rest of the U.K. . It always has been and always will be.Northern Ireland does not represent the easy going tolerance of the rest of the U.K. The Gaels, whose badge is republicanism, like to see themselves as part of the whole of Ireland, whilst the Celts whose badge is Unionism tend to be Leviticans protecting their way of life and culture which they have always perceived to be under threat by endless betrayals. There are very good historical reasons for both these positions. Both are steeped in blood and injustice. And neither the Gaels nor the Celts have right on their side or occupy the moral high ground.
Of course, Brexiteers never gave much, if any, thought to the consequences of leaving the EU would have in Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. Both are historical anomalies. The irony is that despite its many imperfections the EU gives stability to both. The Spanish wouldn’t have dared send a warship into our waters playing their national anthem were we not exiting the club. The EU has always stepped in to prevent the Spaniards from blockading the rock. The backstop provides them with protection until we reach an agreement. Talk of joint sovereignty is rather chilling. And in the Province the Gaels enjoy the illusion that they are part of the island Ireland of Ireland because they are citizens of the EU. The backstop preserves that.
So the EU has prevented the Spaniards from wrecking the Gibraltarian economy, and kept the Gaels and Celts from slaughtering each other in another civil war. The total irresponsibility of the Brexiteers is that they shut their minds to all of this. The hard border issue has little to do with commerce and everything to do with symbolism.
What May and her team have done is keep all the plates spinning. If she loses the vote then they all come crashing down and all those banks and companies who have put their exodus on hold will get the last stage out of Dodge.
But Huzzah! Parliament now has the last word on it all. It can instruct the government on how to proceed. May and Juncker are smart enough to realise that once you let the Genie out of the bottle of re negotiation you have to be very careful what you wish for. Cox warns in his advice that the backstop is not necessarily in the interests of the EU. Oh, and if the U.K. wins the right to unilaterally withdraw from the agreement so will the EU. Not a happy place to be.
Whatever happens nobody will be totally happy. It is the nature of politics that they never are. At the moment both sides are accusing the other of betrayal. That is not a bad starting point. But nobody knows where it will all end. My instincts lead me to believe that May will eventually win. But this is not the the end, nor even the beginning of the end. It’s just the end of the beginning.