During the EU referendum, the “leave” side almost entirely ignored the implications for Northern Ireland, and when concerns were raised, dismissed them as part of “project fear.”
When it became clear that Brexit would have a seriously destabilising effect on Northern Ireland, Johnson and the hard-line Brexiteers (including the DUP) opposed the May government’s “backstop” which, for all its faults, was an attempt to mitigate the problem and avoid a hard border.
Now, together with his Brexit tsar, the malevolent clown David Frost, Johnson is deliberately using Northern Ireland and agitation against the “protocol” that the two of them negotiated and hailed as a triumph to provoke the EU and keep Brexit xenophobia alive as a potent force within UK politics. But it’s no secret that (in the words of a “former cabinet colleague” quoted in the Guardian), “Boris doesn’t give a stuff about Northern Ireland”. The problem for left Brexiteers (or “Lexit” supporters, as they like to be known), is that although they largely agree with Johnson, they do also care about Ireland — or at least care about appearing to.
The Morning Star and the Communist Parties of Britain and Ireland attempt to square the circle by blaming the EU for the problem. “It is not Britain’s border, or Ireland’s border: it is the EU’s border. It is up to the EU to sort out this problem in the interest of its members, in other words Ireland, the only member affected by it” claimed the CPI in their paper Socialist Voice in 2019. As an Irish blogger (Sraid Marx) commented: “The idea that the border of the EU in Ireland affects only the Irish state and not the rest of the EU demonstrates such an ignorance of the issue at stake that it is hard to work out what this writer actually does understand.”
But this “line” has been repeated time and again in the Morning Star ever since, most recently in a bizarre editorial last Friday (15 Ocobert) commenting on the latest Johnson/Frost provocation. The piece starts out by trying to make out the blame is shared equally (“Neither the British state nor the European Union are above endangering the peace by engaging in a little brinkmanship”), before going on to blame Johnny Foreigner: “During the EU-UK withdrawal negotiations, prominent EU politicians and bureaucrats hinted that any failure to agree arrangements that respected EU neoliberal capitalist rules by — in reality — keeping Northern Ireland within the European Single Market could force the EU to impose north-south border controls.”
This is a truly breathtaking re-writing of history: the truth is that it was always the EU that sought to avoid a hard border, while Johnson’s Brexiteers showed no such concern. Any EU warnings about “north-south border controls” were raised because Johnson is known to be unconcerned about honouring promises made about protecting the single market — thus forcing the EU to do so. In effect, the Morning Star is (once again) backing Johnson against the EU. Even bourgeois commentators have been astounded by Johnson and Frost’s new elevation of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) as an obstacle to reaching a settlement (the Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin has stated that Johnson never once raised it in their discussions).
But the Morning Star once again takes Johnson’s side, denouncing the ECJ as playing “a central role in enforcing the pro-big business, pro-market, anti-worker rules that govern the EU, bringing as they do job insecurity, lower pay, lower pensions and privatisation to the workers and peoples of Ireland and other EU countries.” Not a word, you note about Johnson’s government and its record on all those issues.
The Morning Star claims to be Britain’s socialist daily paper: when it comes to Brexit and Ireland (north and south), it has shown time and again, that its obsessional hated of the EU means it objectively backs Johnson, Frost and the xenophobes and little-Englanders behind the entire Brexit fiasco.