The logic of what Liz Truss laid out in her first speech as Conservative Party leader suggests that if it averts a trade war with the EU, she will fail Northern Ireland trade unionists.
Of course, politicians aren’t always logical—and even when they are, events disrupt the loftiest strategies. But the nature of the new Prime Minister’s words today – and the lack of any reference to Northern Ireland – will have ruffled a DUP leadership nervously interpreting conflicting signals at the Irish Sea border.
Ms Truss, supported by many of her predecessor’s allies, no doubt felt she had to give hearty credit to “my friend Boris Johnson”. But that doesn’t explain her decision to laud the outgoing prime minister in one of the areas where he has spectacularly failed – something she knows well, having worked to rectify those failures.
Ms Truss said emphatically: “Boris, you got Brexit done”. That perpetuated a fiction that could only be plausible within the Tory narrative of the benefits of Brexit if Northern Ireland – now separated from Britain by a trade border in the Irish Sea – is still subject to swathes of EU law, but without influence on how and by whom it is done The final place of jurisdiction for many important disputes is Luxembourg – didn’t matter.
Ms. Truss made no mention of the NI Protocol or her relationship with the EU. And she went on to set other priorities, saying she would “manage the energy crisis”, cut taxes and let the UK economy grow.
If those are really their priorities then it would be illogical to provoke a trade war with the EU over the NI protocol – which is not mentioned as a priority. Another issue she mentioned – winning the next general election in two years – also collides with an economic war. With inflation at a 40-year high, tariffs – trade taxes – on imports and exports would push prices even higher, fueling public discontent with a ruling party that will be in power for 14 years before the next election .
Would that endanger them for a part of the UK that doesn’t elect a single Tory MP? So far, in her plea for legislation to tear up the NI protocol, Ms. Truss has essentially said she would do it – but so did Mr. Johnson, up until the moment he came to the helm.
Indeed, some of Ms Truss’ alleged plans to go well further than her predecessor by dropping parts of retained EU law would harden the Irish Sea border, as the Protocol would require Northern Ireland to remain bound by many of those rules .
That was not Churchill’s rhetoric – or even Johnson’s rhetoric. They were the superficial words of someone who seemed reluctantly pushed at an event but wanted to say as little as possible. Tomorrow Mrs Truss will take over as Prime Minister and will deliver another speech from Downing Street, possibly more consciously aimed at the UK as a whole.
There is a risk of subjecting it to a detailed analysis a kind of language that should have been the product of painstaking elaboration, but in fact may have emerged from a less serious process.
Some of this needs to be seen in its own empty context. Ms Truss’s speech was spongy with cliched nonsense such as the absurdly banal ‘Throughout this campaign I fought as a Conservative and I will govern as a Conservative’.
That such a line was met with acclaim gives a glimpse into the absurdity of so much modern politics, where silly slogans (“Brexit means Brexit!”) are received by partisans as the wise utterances of a guru of unique spiritual insight.
Whether it’s due to careful planning or an accidental glimpse of what Ms Truss is thinking if she doesn’t consider her words carefully, today’s speech by Britain’s 56th Prime Minister will unsettle the trade union movement.
It’s not the only ominous tip for unionists. The Sunday Times reported that Ms Truss is planning an early trip to Dublin to meet the Taoiseach in hopes of “reaching an agreement” with him over Northern Ireland. Smart unionists know that any agreement on the protocol will include part of the remaining sea border.
Today, Mujtaba Rahman, a Brexit specialist, said he had been told by senior UK officials that Ms Truss would not trigger Article 16 of the NI Protocol, contrary to what the Truss camp had briefed just last week.
Once again, the Prime Minister who most unionists wanted to win has won. Not only did their last election prove stupid when he ruled as expected — wallowing in frivolity, incompetence and dishonesty — but he also abandoned what he had made as solemn promises to always uphold the Union’s constitutional integrity.
If Ms Truss follows in the footsteps of her predecessor, it will weaken Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, make Stormont’s recovery highly unlikely and further isolate the trade union movement in Ulster – without necessarily leading more than a handful of trade unionists to reconsider their support for the union itself . Nothing has been resolved.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/liz-trusss-first-words-as-conservative-leader-suggest-she-will-betray-unionism-41963347.html Liz Truss’ first words as Conservative leader suggest she will betray the labor movement