, 19 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
Something quite important has shifted in last few days

Labour are now more explicitly admitting that they are not seeking real changes to the backstop but to the political declaration on our future relationship (rather than our divorce)

This matters A LOT. Here's why 👇

DUP are so far pretty implacably opposed to Backstop in its current form as my colleague @dcshiels has documented in various ways ( eg 👇)

[Although there seems some nuance between comments by Geoffrey Donaldson vs @eastantrimmp or @NigelDoddsDUP]


However if both main parties are now willing broadly to accept the Backstop in its current form, the possibility (perhaps never that likely) of the DUP choosing a Labour Brexit (whatever that is), to kill off the Backstop, over a Tory Brexit, seems less realistic

Back when Corbyn was saying things that sounded tougher on the backstop, the DUP's policy supremo @LeeReynoldsDUP was quick to point this out 👇

And DUP have been busy flexing muscle 💪💪💪 and reminding PM how much she relies on them - fair enough


But now we know Labour's policy (in so far as it is defined) has shifted

It seems to be to accept backstop - & seek to add a UK-wide customs union on top plus UK wide alignment on certain Single Market rules

Is that really so different from Toriew from DUP's point of view?

Obviously there already is a customs union at heart of the backstop & the DUP will know the Govt has already committed that if we ever got to backstop the whole of the UK would align with Northern Ireland anyway (unless Stormont signed off the divergence via a Stormont lock)

To my mind there now seems little advantage to DUP in choosing a Labour Brexit (whatever that is) over May's deal

And @DUPleader slapped down a story in @thetimes that they were open to a softer Brexit via permanent customs union

Obviously it's true that DUP are crucial to Government retaining keys to Downing St (because of supply and confidence) but we also saw last week that PM was v close to winning a confidence vote anyway

That she was obviously to win it derisked anti-Corbyn Labour voting for it
[ @NigelDoddsDUP even joked about this in the Commons as @michaelgove reminded the Opposition benches]


The PM could have won last week, even with DUP opposing, if she secured just one more independent (Field, Ashworth, Stephen Lloyd)

Or if a couple of Corbyn-critical Labour abstained

Anyway, for now Libs say they won't back a confidence vote (having demanded them before!)

The DUP's current threat is to bring down the Government if the deal passes

That needs to be taken seriously and the Government are right to prioritise changes around the Backstop

But however much I may or may not dislike the backstop it will not be disappearing entirely

So the DUP may be faced with a situation where they have to decide whether to bring down the Government over the deal

I think this is highly risky for them

They may be sincere in saying they would choose 5 years of Corbyn over a potentially permanent backstop

But they would be risking something far greater

Of course they would be saying goodbye to bungs, billions, bridges or whatever else Westminster throws their way

And to their first chance in 40 years to hold balance of power

I think there's a bigger risk though

That's a Tory majority

A Tory PM with a majority could grab the easiest solution to the Backstop - throwing Northern Ireland under a proverbial bus - by going back as @EU_Commission sources agree would be possible, to a NI only Backstop

I'm not advocating a Irish Sea customs border. I think it's a bad idea.

But if DUP give up their chance to have a key role in shaping phase two of Brexit - the future bit - they are surely making it more likely that their voice & that of NI is not heard in those key months

The DUP are of course serious in highlighting the many real issues with the backstop

They are not alone in pointing to the profound problems it throws up, including to the Belfast Agreement/GFA itself. See for example Lord Bew's comments or view of UUP

The PM needs to work to address these, above all by clarifying the terms on which the Backstop could be exited.

The EU will be loath to listen. But the mess of recent @MichelBarnier Schrödinger's border comments shows the EU don't have their plan clearly worked out either

Ultimately it remains bizarrely ironic that the biggest single risk for a harder Irish border remains the problematic nature of the backstop - designed of course to prevent that very hardening of the Irish border 🤷‍♂️

But at some point DUP may recognise that their best path - including over next few years (when our future treaty is being negotiated) - is to find a deliverable change to the Backstop, get it secured, declare victory & move on to ensuring phase 2 works for all the UK

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