Will the DUP’s election gamble backfire as Northern Ireland heads for another poll?

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party has forced the province into another election after the Assembly there failed to elect a Speaker, or First or Second Ministers.

The DUP has refused to participate in the power-sharing arrangement at the Stormont Assembly since elections in May, when Sinn Fein became the largest party there for the first time.

Its members say this is because of the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit Agreement, which keeps Northern Ireland aligned with some EU trade rules to ensure goods can move freely across the Irish land border.

If you want evidence of this, here’s Sky News:

This is very odd behaviour, though – because the Protocol puts Northern Ireland in a better position than the rest of the UK. NI businesses are much better-positioned to profit from the current situation because they can still trade with the European Union relatively frictionlessly.

And think of the practicalities. Suppose you are a trader in goods that perish relatively quickly. Wouldn’t you want to pass them on to another trader just across the Irish land border than go through the rigmarole of having to send them across the sea to Scotland, by which time they may well have gone off?

One is led to question whether this is just sour grapes from the party that used to have the largest number of members in the Assembly.

And the simple fact is that the NI Protocol isn’t going to change – for the foreseeable future at least. It would take a considerable amount of negotiation between the UK and EU, and changes to the policy positions of both that would most likely be acceptable to neither, in the current political climate.

Irish voters know that. They’re not like voters in England who allow the right-wing press to lead them by the nose. They can see that the DUP is on a hiding to nothing. And I wonder what they will do about it in an election that will most likely take place on December 15.

My bet is that the DUP will lose more seats, and another party replace it as the second most well-represented in Northern Ireland – one that might be able to meet agreement with Sinn Fein and restore the Stormont Assembly to full working order.

It wouldn’t be politics. It would simply be good business.

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