Farrukh Dhondy | Northern Ireland deal with EU is a big win for Rishi: But will it work?

Columnist  | Farrukh Dhondy

Opinion, Columnists

BoJo’s Northern Ireland Protocol created what the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) call a “border in the North Sea”

Rishi Sunak. (AP Photo/Aberto Pezzali)

“O Bachchoo the poets insist

That Koyalls and nightingales sing

Do they suffer from acoustic twist?

Or do they metaphorically cling

To the doctrine that chirps are a song

And tweets are sweet melodies

Why don’t you tell them they’re wrong

Do we need romantics like these?”

From La Jawaab the Answering Lady, by Bachchoo


Gentle reader, I have constantly referred to the British Prime Minister as “Hedgie Sunak”. That’s appropriate for someone who has amassed millions by gambling on the money markets -- a far cry from those who rise in the early morning or stay up late into the night toiling for a pittance all their lives… (Yes, okay we get it, Karl… get on with the column --Ed. Yaar, Koochh tho convictions hona chahiyeh? --fd).

Lately, contemplating the fate of some of his predecessors at 10 Downing Street, BoJo and head-girlish Trussy, I started thinking of him as Rishi Soongone… Wrong, so wrong. Hedgie-baba has pulled a startling comeback coup with his renegotiation of the Northern Ireland Protocol with the representative of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen.

He has got an agreement which may settle three or four major problems that have beleaguered Tory governments since BoJo “delivered Brexit”. Here they are:

BoJo’s Northern Ireland Protocol created what the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) call a “border in the North Sea”. They consequently refused, while this “border” was in place, to enter the Northern Ireland Parliament at Stormont as the main Opposition party as Sinn Fein, the Catholic representative party, had a narrow majority. That put what is known as the Good Friday Agreement, that was formulated a quarter century ago, to ensure that the Catholics and the Protestants of Northern Ireland stopped murdering each other and shared power in a government of the province, in jeopardy.

Ye olde Catholic President of the USA, Joe Biden, signalled to BoJo, Truss and Hedgie that there would be no favourable trade deal with the UK unless the Good Friday Agreement was back in place.

There are two further steps before Hedgie stands outside 10 Downing and waves a piece of paper in the air, as Neville Chamberlain did (announcing his pact with Hitler and “peace in our time”). The first is the DUP’s acceptance of the deal. They haven’t said yes yet, but they will probably go along with it. Then there are the hard-line Brexiteers in Westminster who may pause at the clause which gives the EU some hold on Northern Ireland’s procedures. My feeling is that these are trivial concerns. Hedgie rides the tide. These idiots will come around and there will be a deal.

That will mean a new détente with the European Union, which could lead to talks about migrants coming to these shores seeking asylum in dodgy boats. It’s a difficult question and an absolutely global one. The politics of most -- no, all -- European nations want to find ways of keeping those who seek residence in their countries and systems away. Some favour detention and processing and sending them back with gifts of £5,000 (true) to their countries of origin and some try the Rwanda solution, in imitation of Priti “Heartless” Patel’s scheme to pay Rwanda to absorb unwanted asylum seekers who arrive in Britain on dangerous rubber dinghies.

The Rwanda plan is a scam. So far, hundreds of million British-taxpayer-pounds have been assigned to the scheme and sent to Kigali, but not one person has been dispatched there. Even if 800 of these asylum seekers are sent there, it will not solve any of Britain’s and Hedgie’s fundamental problems.

Inflation is at a point it hasn’t been in decades, the National Health Service is in a severe, perhaps irreversible crisis, the cost of living has risen to crippling levels for millions of people, most public servants and professionals have seen inflation depress their standard of living and some, including junior doctors and teachers, are threatening interminable strikes, the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister of the Scottish Parliament has left the fate of the union of England and Scotland in limbo….

Yes, every government in every nation of the world encounters problems and issues it has to solve. Hedgie has with his protocol solution seen off the opposition of BoJo and any other hopefuls within his party, but his party is still considerably behind Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party in the polls.

Hedgie wanted his triumph in reversing or modifying a BoJo-signed agreement to be as widely recognised as possible. He made sure that he and Ursula met in Windsor, where King Charles III lives, and he calls the agreement the Windsor Declaration or some such. Then he ventured further, getting Ursula to meet King Charles in the palace, in a gesture which betokens an assertion of friendship and goodwill between Britain and the EU.

His next venture, building on the Windsor Agreement, will almost certainly be some initiative to curb immigration and to seek the EU’s cooperation on turning away the wretched of the earth and some not-so-wretched who arrive as asylum seekers to Britain’s shores.

Is there a solution to this problem? Not while the world has regimes that starve, torture, imprison, enslave and slaughter their own people. There can only be populist gestures from the likes of Hedgie whose “initiatives” in this direction will garner votes without making the slightest improvements to his Brexiteer, ultra-free-market government’s real, if ideologically inspired, failings.