The DUP save our bacon

The result of yesterday's election wasn't too far away from what I expected. I had put the Tories on 310 and Labour on 275. So I'm disappointed to some extent, but I can see a bright side.

In the Six Counties, two things coincided to produce a perfect storm. The first was that the DUP did well in the Unionist community, gaining two seats, but the second was that Sinn Féin did even better in the Republican community, gaining three seats and wiping out the SDLP. Because Sinn Féin do not take their seats in Westminster, the result is a solid block of MPs who are prepared to support the Tories, and who have just come to a deal to keep Theresa May in a weak and wobbly position of power. The SDLP would, of course, have opposed the Tories.

There is only one thing that the DUP really want from this deal, which is that the Six Counties are not treated in any way differently from the rest of the UK. If the DUP were not in such a pivotal position, I would have put money on the eventual solution to the problem of the border between the Six Counties and the Twenty-six being that the effective border between the EU and UK post-Brexit would be the Irish Sea, and that customs and immigration checks would have been carried out at the ports and airports rather than at the land border. Logistically, that is by far the best way of handling things because the tickets of any people or goods would have to be checked anyway when they boarded the ferries or planes to cross the Irish Sea, so discretely checking their customs/immigration documents at the same time as their tickets would result in no additional inconvenience.

However this arrangement is the one thing that the DUP will absolutely oppose, because in the event of a hard Brexit it will make the Six Counties—in practice if not in name—part of the EU single market and customs union and therefore economically, as opposed to politically, part of a united Ireland.

The only alternative to this is for the UK as a whole to remain part of the EU single market and customs union. And for me this now looks to be the most likely outcome. Essentially, the UK will have a similar relationship with the EU as Norway, and the border between the Six and Twenty-six counties will become as irrelevant for day-to-day purposes as the border between Norway and Sweden. Such an arrangement will also solve the problem of the border between Gibraltar and Spain, allowing Gibraltar to remain British without taking a massive financial hit from the loss of thousands of workers who make the daily commute from Spain.

Those who wanted a hard Brexit (UKIP and the Tory hardliners) were well and truly defeated in yesterday's election, so the UK having a Norway-style relationship with the EU can now be politically justified. And the Tories, if they have any sense, will grasp the fig leaf of spinning this compromise as the only practical way of ensuring that their precious UK stays together and that Gibraltar remains British.

The huge benefit for people in the UK is that we will remain part of the EU for economic purposes, and will only have opted out politically. It means that when Wales and Scotland become independent, we only need make the political decision whether we want to be part of the EU, because there will be hardly any economic consequences either way.

If I'm right in this analysis, the DUP have saved our bacon.

Now for those of you who will argue that this means that the UK will have to continue paying money to the EU, my answer is that we would always have had to do this if we wanted seamless access to the EU single market. We were fooling ourselves if we thought the EU27 would allow us any other deal.

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