Edwin Poots’s brief tenure as DUP leader has come to an abrupt and somewhat farcical end. The nature of his rapid rise and fall, however, underlines the deep instability, not just in his party, but in the ‘peace process’ as a whole.
Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill have been nominated as First and Deputy First Minister, following the British government’s commitment to introduce Irish language legislation over the heads of the Stormont politicians, and despite the opposition of a large majority of DUP MLAs in an internal vote.
While the institutions may stumble on for now, however, this crisis is not over. These events - and the deep divisions within the DUP - reflect the reality that the ‘peace process’ has entered a new and turbulent phase.
Four and a half years after the vote to leave the EU, a trade deal was finally agreed at the eleventh hour before Boris Johnson’s deadline of 31st December 2020. Parliament had just days to look at the deal before ratifying it, making a mockery of the idea that for the right-wing Tories’ Brexit was all about ‘taking back control’.
After four years of extremely painful and sometimes tedious negotiations, the ‘deal’ to leave the EU now looms. The pendulum has swung backwards and forwards between a likely deal and then the prospect of a ‘no deal’. Within days, we will know the outcome but it is once again necessary to go over the likely prospects for the working class, whatever the outcome.
“Remember Brexit?”, was the title of the New York Times’ main editorial on 11 September. It summed up a sensation that was palpable during the Spring and Summer months of 2020, in Britain and elsewhere.
In Stormont, Sinn Féin, the DUP and other Executive parties united to vote through significant parts of the Tory immigration bill through the Assembly via a Legislative Consent Motion. Minister for Communities Carál Ní Chuilín was responsible for moving this attack on immigrant workers.
Now, with the end of the ‘transition period’ on 31st December looming, pressure is on for a trade deal between the UK and the EU. Johnson and the EU have set deadlines of 15th and 31st October respectively for a deal to be made if it is to be implemented by the end of the year. If no deal is reached and there is no agreement to extend the transition period, then a ‘no deal’ Brexit would be the consequence.
After years of constitutional crisis and division, the UK left the European Union at 11pm on 31st January 2020. But while the Brexit saga has entered a new chapter, the book is far from finished. Under Boris Johnson’s deal, a temporary “transition period” will run until the end of the year. It will maintain EU rules that block state intervention into the economy and wholesale re-nationalisation of privatised industries.