“We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK” DUP leader Arlene Foster said yesterday as she brought down a deal over the Irish border post-Brexit.
That’s funny, because she and her party didn’t seem to have a problem with doing exactly that when it suited them before.
Here’s just a few examples of the DUP’s long history of insisting on regulatory divergence with the rest of the UK…
Abortion was made legal in Britain in 1967, but remains banned in Northern Ireland – even in cases of rape and incest.
That was ruled “incompatible with human rights” by the High Court in 2015, but Arlene Foster’s fundamentalist DUP are resisting change.
Foster has said: “I would not want abortion to be as freely available here as it is in England and don’t support the extension of the 1967 act.”
Only last year a 21-year-old woman was given a suspended prison sentence for inducing an abortion with pills.
Arlene Foster says it’s “complete nonsense” to call her party homophobic. The history suggests otherwise.
When homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967, the then leader of the DUP, Rev Ian Paisley, launched the infamous “save Ulster from sodomy” campaign and initially Northern Ireland was exempt from the law.
Thankfully, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that illegal. But the DUP are still fighting progress every step of the way.
A vote on an equal marriage bill was actually passed in the Northern Ireland Assembly by 53 votes to 51 in 2015.
But the DUP used a petition of concern – a mechanism from the Good Friday Agreement designed to ensure legislation has cross-community support – to stop it becoming law. It remains the only place in the UK where equal marriage is not legal.
A new libel law for England and Wales was introduced in 2013 with the aim of strengthening freedom of expression.
It made it more difficult for individuals and companies to sue the likes of journalists or academics who might have criticised them by introducing a test to assess whether their reputation suffered “serious harm”.
Objecting to the move in Westminster, DUP MP Ian Paisley Jnr protested: “This law could have the effect of creating even greater freedom for the press.”
The Equality Act 2010 was one of the final pieces of legislation passed by the last Labour government. Despite being watered down by Theresa May when the Tories took power, it introduced new protections against discrimination in the workplace and the banning of age discrimination.
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland said “significant gaps” existed with the rest of the UK before the Act, which have been “heightened” since.
They have called for “urgent reform” of Northern Ireland’s equality legislation to ensure there’s no regulatory divergence with the UK.
So far none has been forthcoming from the DUP.
Zero hour contracts
In 2015, then Business Secretary Vince Cable took a tiny step towards tackling zero hour contracts by banning companies from including exclusivity clauses which would stop staff from taking other jobs.
Even this inadequate gesture has not been adopted into law in Northern Ireland. The DUP has described zero hour contracts as a “lifeline for small business”.
We forward to all these regulatory divergences being resolved before Brexit…