THEY don't call it perfidious Albion for nothing, and likewise there is a reason why Spanish speakers use the expression “hijo de la Gran Bretaña” (son of Great Britain) in much the same way and with much the same meaning as the English term "son of a b****.

It is because Britain has a reputation abroad for being untrustworthy, underhand and duplicitous in its dealings with other countries. The British nationalist self-image of Britain being characterised by fair play and incorruptibility is a fantasy that is not shared by anyone else.

This week we witnessed yet another reason why a Spanish speaker might wish to spit out hijo de la Gran Bretaña with disgust and anger. The British Government is reportedly considering ripping up the Northern Irish protocol – requiring checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from other UK countries – because the DUP are in an almighty sulk after losing last week's Stormont elections to Sinn Fein and threatening to refuse to go into government with a Sinn Fein first minister. 

The DUP backed Brexit in the hope that it would bring down the Good Friday Agreement and create a hard border on the island of Ireland, which they believed would make Irish reunification less likely.  Instead, they discovered that parading about in sashes and bowler hats while waving Union flags and proclaiming undying loyalty to the Crown and to Westminster is no defence against being a victim of that infamous perfidy of Albion. 

Despite assurances from the Conservatives that if the DUP supported them in getting the Brexit deal done, the UK would never agree to customs checks on ferry crossings between Northern Ireland and Britain, the hijo de la Gran Bretaña in Downing Street went ahead and did exactly that.

In order to placate the DUP and Tory backbenchers, Michael Gove today said that "no option is off the table" and added that he is "super cool" with British threats to renege on an international treaty agreement which the British Government itself negotiated and signed up to. This would blow up what little good will remains in Europe towards the UK and potentially risks sparking off a trade war with the EU in the middle of a cost of living crisis and when prices are already soaring, pushing many families into poverty and hardship.

The truth is that the DUP and other parties opposed to the protocol lost the recent election, and there is a clear majority in the newly elected Stormont for parties which support the protocol – 52 members in the 90-seat assembly back the protocol against only 38 who oppose it.

The DUP and their Unionist allies lost a democratic election, but are unwilling to accept the verdict of the people. A British government which respected democracy and the will of the people of Northern Ireland as expressed through the ballot box would slap the DUP down instead of pandering to the undemocratic demands of bad losers. But instead we have a Conservative government of hijos de la Gran Bretaña.

The Good Friday Agreement must be protected in order to ensure peace in Northern Ireland. However, we have a Conservative government which is threatening to rip up a protocol which is only necessary because of the decision of the Conservatives to exit the European single market and customs union for party-political reasons and in the process not only destroy a key principle of the Good Friday Agreement, but also demonstrate to the world that the UK cannot be trusted to adhere to international treaties which it itself negotiated and signed up to.

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