The silence that tells Joe Biden who his real allies are. Henry McDonald

Irish reluctance to support Ukraine offers federalists an opportunity to counter US Brit-bashing over protocol reforms

This article is taken from the August/September 2022 issue of The Critic. Why not subscribe to get the full magazine? Right now we’re offering five points for just £10.


YouCrane’s existential struggle with Vladimir Putin partly relies on what is being built inside a factory in a corner of eastern Belfast, away from a monotonous industrial estate. Since Russia’s invasion in February, thousands of NLAW anti-tank missiles have been sent to Ukraine, where they have been used to lethal effect destroying Russian armor.

Ukrainians have also deployed surface-to-air Starstreak missiles to reduce threats from Russian aircraft that are bombing both military and civilian targets. Both weapon systems are manufactured by French weapons maker Thales at its base in eastern Belfast, which Boris Johnson oversaw back in June.

He came to thank the firm for building the anti-tank rocket, which proved decisive against the Russian armored columns that threatened Kyiv and Kharkiv in the first few weeks of Putin’s “special military operation”. Other anti-tank weapons used in the British Army’s main camp in Ireland, about 135 miles south, lie unused and are now the headquarters of the Defense Forces of the Republic of Ireland.

These weapons would not end up in Ukrainian hands and would remain dormant in Quragh’s arsenal because although the Irish Republic has a small but highly respected professional armed force, the coalition has not been aligned since the state’s inception. The Irish constitution stipulates that not a single bullet, let alone a bazooka, will be given to the Ukrainians fighting for the survival of their country.

Federalists in Northern Ireland have not been slow to point out the difference between the deployment of the NLAW and Starstreak by the Ukrainian military, and images posted on Twitter by an ex-Irish Army soldier inside a stockpile of unused anti-tank weapons Stacked inside. Quragh.

They point to the Dublin government’s double standards (with some justification) that rebuke the British over recent moves to replace the Northern Ireland Protocol, and their ability to break international law, while also providing it with military aid. does not join the international community. The democratic country is fighting for its existence.

But while Dublin has not militarily raised a finger in aiding Ukraine, the coalition government is “arming up” elsewhere, most significantly across the Atlantic.

The Irish government, along with the Irish-American lobby in the US Congress, has been trying to persuade the Biden administration to join its campaign against pressure from the UK to override the protocol, with some success.

This is a line to which Joe Biden is naturally receptive. As of September 2020, the then Democratic presidential candidate was warning the British that, “Any trade agreement between the US and Britain must depend on respecting the agreement and preventing the withdrawal of a hard border.”

President Biden has since pledged that he is “only a phone call away” if Dublin needs him courtesy on Perfidious Albion and a conspiracy to undermine a post-Brexit trade deal. Why then does the Conservative government risk a trade war with the EU and a possible free trade agreement with the United States to improve the protocol? In a word the answer is consistency.

The protocol destabilizes Northern Ireland and its power-sharing system, requiring both communities – federalist as well as nationalist – to support it. Federalist parties believe that the protocol separated Northern Ireland from Great Britain economically and constitutionally. All goods coming into the province from the British mainland are now subject to EU customs scrutiny, even those consumed within Northern Ireland, along with any disputes over trade and other matters at the European Court of Justice. to be decided by To federalists, it seems as though Britain, the smallest of the four countries, is being pulled from the union and into the orbit of the European Union.

To many federalists, as well as to BBC and Channel 4 news producers and journalists, it appears that the pro-union population is being caught in a diplomatic pincer movement, with the combined forces of Dublin, Brussels and Washington against them. . Yet the Ukraine war provides an opportunity for federalism. Already some in Washington are questioning the wisdom of the White House bashing Britain. The first was John Bolton, the former US National Security Adviser, who wrote in Wire In June, America’s interests are on the side of Britain’s most important NATO ally.

Mr Bolton characterized the anti-British rhetoric by the likes of Congressman on Protocol, Nancy Pelosi, and US Congressman and friend of Gerry Adams, Richard Neal, as “far from the hard reality”. He said the use of the EU protocol to establish dominance over Northern Ireland was like “allowing Canada to set the terms of trade between the lower forty-eight states of Alaska and the United States”.

Referring to Ukraine, Bolton reminded the White House who was providing military aid to Kyiv and who was not:

What Washington really needs is a strong Britain, strategically and politically, that is helping to lead the NATO alliance both in the immediate crisis and in the long term, in re-strengthening the special ties on a global basis after years of tension. . With all due respect, Ireland is not a member of NATO. Even though Finland and Sweden apply for NATO membership, Ireland is silent. It’s definitely Ireland’s choice; So there are results.

Less than a month after Bolton’s comments, former CIA director and senior diplomat Mike Pompeo told a Policy Exchange gathering in London that interventions by the likes of Pelosi and Neil were “undermining” the Belfast agreement.

Pompeo even said that the British search for an alternative to some of the more controversial and union-threatening aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol was designed to save the Belfast Agreement, a deal that is based on the support of all parties. . Provinces – including federalists.

With the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which aims to unilaterally amend parts of the original deal, continuing its route through Westminster, whoever emerges as Boris Johnson’s successor would be spared a trade war from Brussels and a transatlantic Will face interruption of trade deal. from Washington.

The new prime minister may start by reminding the White House of the UK’s crucial role in arming and training Ukraine’s military to resist Russian aggression, while some of the Biden administration’s new EU friends are trying to help Putin by buying Russian gas. funding the war effort. There may also be merit in reminding Washington which country still supports the US in other potential conflicts in the Pacific.

Among the claimants, a one-time Remainer like Jeremy Hunt, has also insisted that the government should continue with legislation that would fundamentally change the protocol. On the Sunday before the climax of Ulster’s loyalist marching season, Hunt told the LBC (and Brussels in turn): “I think we should be very clear with the EU that no British prime minister would allow such a situation.” where we do not have an internal market, where businesses in England cannot export freely to businesses in Northern Ireland.”

At least so far, this summer’s marching season has been relatively peaceful. While there is almost universal opposition to the protocol in the federalist community, it appears that Boris Johnson’s decaying administration, just before his extinction, was a move to introduce bills that could replace the post-Brexit agreement.

More experienced observers than Northern Ireland can find in London’s newsrooms and editorial circles that the law has bought some time for the main unionist party, the DUP, to strengthen its argument that political pressure might work. . Potentially violent mass demonstrations against protocol were called off ahead of the assembly elections in May. Since then no one has returned to the streets.

This is why the DUP refuses to return to a power-sharing executive with the Nationalists in a new Sinn Féin First Minister-led administration. The DUP is using its veto on the Stormont institutions to pressure the government to dump aspects of the protocol that they believe threaten the union.

It would certainly be strategically disastrous if the DUP was tempted to hold until late autumn and go for another election after the passage of the law. It is likely that this scenario will probably end in a major vote for Sinn Féin and the almost complete demise of its nationalist rival SDLP.

In the case of forming an alliance at Westminster and appealing to Tory MPs who are skeptical of the DUP’s intentions, it may be strategically wise for the party to re-enter the Northern Ireland executive, before there are signs of good faith. As the ink on the law dries up. ,

Political and media sections in Dublin rejoiced after Boris Johnson’s exit and calls for a “reset” in Anglo-Irish relations – protocol for a new prime minister and Northern Ireland to be more compliant to EU demands code. Turns out Whitehall’s desire would be flattery combined with warnings about the Taoiseach picking up the phone to Uncle Joe in DC.

Whoever walks into 10 Downing Street must put up their courage and protest. They will stand up for friends and allies, some of whom, when it comes to defending Ukraine, have stood idle.

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