In no particular order of significance:
1. Surely Theresa May would/should have known that the DUP would never accept anything approaching the deal she discussed with EU chiefs? The DUP had made it clear a day or so before her lunch with European Council President Donald Tusk that it would not accept any deal which diluted NI’s membership of the UK. Doing a deal behind the DUP’s back would also torpedo the confidence and supply agreement May struck with the party in order to sustain her government in power. Did she not realise that treating NI is such a way would set a precedent for Wales and/or Scotland, and that the road she proposed travelling could lead to the break up of the UK as we know it?
2. This question follows from what I wrote above: Is Theresa May therefore just stupid or has she failed to understand the last century or so of Anglo-Irish politics?
3. If Leo Varadkar did insist that the DUP should not be told about the ‘regulatory alignment’ deal before it has been settled between May and Tusk, as has been reported inter alia in the Guardian, what does this say about his lack of understanding of Unionism? Since the days of Daniel O’Connell and the Home Rule crises of the 19th century, Unionists have never trusted governments in London, always fearful of being sold out, always suspicious that they were being tricked and/or lied to. It is part of their political DNA and explains why conditional loyalty has defined political Unionism for decades (and why the British body politic and media have always found difficulty getting their heads around the concept of Loyalism). Varadkar’s insistence that the DUP be kept in the dark played to all these fears, meaning that even if May had done the deal with the EU, May’s government would probably have been brought down by the DUP, notwithstanding the possibility that a fresh election would have brought Corbyn into Downing Street. The reality is that the DUP would probably have calculated that if it had allowed the deal to survive, Arlene Foster would have been overthrown, the DUP riven by dissension and the hard men of Loyalism would be back on the streets. Neither Varadkar nor May appear to have understood the fires they were playing with.
4. A crucial event was the leak to RTE yesterday morning, just before May’s lunch with Tusk. Seemingly intended to signal an Irish diplomatic triumph (the EU had already given Dublin a veto on the deal), it instead alerted and alarmed the DUP, by all accounts, and led to Foster’s angry phone call to May as she prepared to break bread with the EU chiefs. RTE journalist, Tony Connelly, the station’s Europe editor who broadcast details of the deal, has denied that the leaker worked in or for the Irish government. Hmmmmm. That proves nothing. If I was Leo Varadkar and I wanted to leak the document without leaving telling fingerprints that would be the easiest thing to do. If you want to know who leaked something ask two questions: which outlet was chosen as the conduit (i.e. whose audience was targeted?) and cui bono?
5. I am entirely out of touch with who is who in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (a bunch of people I never had easy relations with by the way) but I do wonder about the calibre of the people dealing with the North these days, assuming there any. When all is said and done they were the guys who allowed this to happen.