If Boris Johnson had any doubt about how emphatically the Commons would back his Brexit deal, it will have evaporated when veteran Brexiteer Bill Cash unwound himself to his full height to sing the prime minister’s praises.
Describing him as a great classicist, he said Johnson was “like his hero Pericles, the first citizen of his country and, like him, has saved our democracy. Like Alexander the Great, Boris has cut the Gordian knot. Churchill and Margaret Thatcher would have been deeply proud of his achievements, and so are we.”
The DUP’s Sammy Wilson was up next, telling the House that his euphoria about Brexit becoming a reality was “tinged with sadness” because the Northern Ireland protocol created a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea. He was confident that the people of Northern Ireland would choose to remain in the United Kingdom rather than join “a small nation which will bob about in the future storms of economic chaos” but his party was voting against the deal.
“That does not mean we have any common cause with the petulant Remainers in this parliament who want to undo the referendum; it is because we are disappointed Brexiteers,” he said.
The Brexiteers on the government benches were too busy congratulating Cash and joking among themselves to notice Wilson’s assertion of his party’s loyalty to their cause. It has been like this all the way through the Brexit drama, when the DUP won the balance of power at Westminster, only to make the wrong choice for themselves and their community at every turn.
Drunk on hubris, they rejected Theresa May’s proposal to keep the whole of the UK aligned with some European Union rules rather than leave Northern Ireland under a separate regime. Instead, they plotted with Conservative hardliners to replace her with Johnson and they have been rewarded with one betrayal after another.
Northern Ireland protocol
Only two Conservatives – Owen Paterson and John Redwood – withheld their support for the deal because of the Northern Ireland protocol. And Paterson cited David Trimble’s arguments about how the protocol is being implemented, not the DUP’s.
May’s speech included barbs directed at Keir Starmer and criticism of the agreement’s inadequacies and a reminder to the prime minister that he has signed up to perpetual negotiations with Brussels.
“A whole structure is set up under the treaty. One thing it does not do is to excise the EU from our lives, because a whole structure of committees is set up, some of which, like the partnership council, will be able to amend the arrangement and make determinations on its operation and interpretation without, as far as I can see, any formal reference to this parliament,” she said.