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Northern Ireland, Issue 1484

boris-dup.jpg BORIS JOHNSON gadded over to Belfast last weekend to have a quick snog with Arlene Foster and address her party’s annual conference. He was among friends – not only his new Westminster besties from the DUP, but also plenty of think-tankers from the notorious hive at Tufton Street, London SW1. One of the main fringe events was hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs; another – on “a low tax future for Northern Ireland” – by the Tax Payers’ Alliance.

The Democratic Unionists have long championed a different tax regime. In 2015 their MPs pushed successfully for a law change allowing Northern Ireland to have a lower corporation-tax rate than the rest of the UK. They did so with the fervent support of David Cameron’s former NI secretary Owen Paterson – the same Owen Paterson MP who wailed in the Commons last week about “the horror of Northern Ireland being split off from the UK” by the backstop.

‘Booze flowing freely’
Aside from the familiar DUP-supported divergences on libel and equal marriage, plus licentiousness and its foetal consequences, Paterson and his Paisleyite chums also wanted to differ from the UK in reducing air passenger duty, as well as VAT for hoteliers and, er, pubs. (What would the Revd Dr Paisley have had to say about the booze flowing freely at last Friday’s dinner? In the dry Papa Doc years, Shloer was the strongest tipple available.)

But that is not the only sin about which the DUP is relaxed. The Gambling Act 2005 doesn’t apply in Northern Ireland, and nor will prime minister Theresa May’s recent decision to cut the top stake on fixed odds betting terminals to £2 next April. There are hundreds of FOBTs in Northern Ireland: the Department for Communities doesn’t record the exact number.

‘Withdrawal agreement’
So what is the horrific new threat that will “split off” the Union? The draft EU withdrawal agreement allows NI businesses to trade with the Republic of Ireland/EU market as at present and to sell goods to the rest of the UK unhindered. The only restriction along the Irish Sea is on goods and products coming from Britain to Northern Ireland – including, perhaps, trade secretary Liam Fox’s finger-lickin’ American chlorinated chicken.

And, er, that’s it. That is why MPs with zero record of interest in Northern Ireland are acting as the reincarnation of Randolph Churchill during the First Home Rule Crisis of 1886, when he coined a phrase which must be familiar to Johnson, author of a recent book on Randolph’s son. “I decided some time ago that if the GOM [Gladstone] went for Home Rule, the Orange card would be the one to play,” Churchill senior confided in a letter on 16 February 1886. “Please God it may turn out to be the ace of trumps and not the two.”

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Next issue on sale: 11th December 2018

More top stories in the latest issue:

New Brexit secretary Steve Barclay was a strident Leaver during the referendum, but a big fan of euro-dosh for his constituency..

Aaron Banks may have a harder time denying previous offshore business connections with wealthy Russians than he did denying Russian support in the referendum camapign.

Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government invites civil servants and business pals to a private dinner.

The further misadventures of multi-millionaire Tory donor and Chelsea landlord Christopher Moran.

Former Ukip leader Henry Bolton finally files the paperwork to launch his new “100 percent Leave” political party.

Another former Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, can’t stop name-dropping his relationship with Donald Trump.

As the government struggles to reach its new homes target, conversions of former office space are creating the slums of the future.

Private Eye Issue 1484
In This Issue
Lemming leadership crisis averted… Duchess Ding Dong! Yes, it’s Kate v. Meghan… Flu epidemic sweeps through Nurseryland community… A child’s guide to those online betting communities in full… Theresa May should stand up to Brussels bullies or we’ll get her… Let’s Parlez Franglais! President Macron et Les Riots… New Film: The Grinch who stole Brexmas

Deathly prose
CJ Sansom’s Tudor detective returns in hot-house bestseller

Lords back Lester
Old chums vote to overturn suspension

Under Nissan’s bonnet
The arrest of former chairman Ghosn

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11th December 2018
Private Eye Issue 1483