Boris Johnson
© AFP / Tolga AKMENBoris Johnson
Brexit has given Boris Johnson a golden opportunity to separate Northern Ireland from Britain. Border checks on goods and pets are the first steps in BoJo's mission to dump Ulster for good.

It's easy to smell a rat when even the iconic British Bulldog needs a pet passport to get into Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson has a nasty habit of words coming back to bite him - as was evident this week when he, once again, shafted the good folks of Northern Ireland.

He once very clearly said, "There will be no checks on goods from GB to Northern Ireland or Northern Ireland to GB." Of course, it has now been announced that as part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement there will be "new checks on goods entering NI from GB," as one BBC headline put it.

Incidentally, it was a headline that also drummed home the point that Belfast is not actually part of Great Britain, but rather the United Kingdom. It's a bizarre anomaly that somebody - i.e. a Unionist - who perceives themselves as British, isn't even technically from Great Britain. I can't get my head around that one. Sooner or later, it's going to create an 'us and them' division every single time this elephant in the room is mentioned by the English media.

To make matters even worse, the good old-fashioned British Bulldog will need a pet passport to visit Northern Ireland from January 2021, it was announced on Friday. This is barking mad because it means "you can't refer to the UK at all in this case as a single unit anymore," as correctly pointed out by Joe Moran, the deputy coordinator of the UK-EU Animal Welfare Taskforce, who also works for the lobby group, Eurogroup for Animals.

It makes you wonder if this new internal pet border is a stepping stone to even more extreme measures for Ulster? It seems like the government is drip-feeding information - one day the goods control story, the next day the pets' passports nonsense - with the aim of a death by a thousand cuts.

Inept BoJo

There can be no denying the prime minister's lackadaisical and inept attitude toward the Six Counties in his Brexit dealings. Regardless of the next inept step, Boris Johnson will go down in the history books as the bumbling fool to blame for the dramatic rise in reunification talks. We can only hope he doesn't end up giving some of the more extreme elements of the Nationalist and Unionist factions the ready-made excuses they're desperately seeking to reignite violence.

It's hard to fathom Boris Johnson's sheer lack of understanding of Northern Ireland considering he himself was once a political journalist who regularly socialized with Irish colleagues when working in Brussels. But, then again, perhaps it's not so surprising, seeing as one popular Irish broadcaster and journalist, Sam Smyth, who got to know the British PM, once observed, "Boris rarely bothered mastering the details of any brief."

Smyth ominously added, "Brexit, his prescribed cure, threatens to kill the ailing Britain he has pledged to save." Those two new announcements this week are prime examples of a supposedly 'United' Kingdom, being "hoist with its own petard" to slightly paraphrase Britain's great cultural icon Shakespeare. There's nothing "uniting" about it.

There is "no doubt about it," the Unionists have been "sold out" by Boris, as one senior Nationalist figure told me on Thursday. "If [Rev. Ian] Paisley was alive he would have every Unionist out on the street. He would bring Northern Ireland to a standstill. It's hard to believe the Tories have got away with this, and there has been hardly a word from Unionist leaders," he said.

The current Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, is far from a strong leader like Paisley. "He was a leader and when he shouted, everyone sat up and listened. Boris knows the Unionists are weak now. He can do what he wants with them and they have no say since they lost their deal to prop up Theresa May," my source added.

Northern Ireland is hardly a cash cow. The hard truth for Unionists is that Boris Johnson has done the maths here and immediately realized that the North - with its insignificant population of 1.5 million compared to the mainland UK's 65 million - costs the British Exchequer a staggering ยฃ10.8 billion a year. It's simple - he wants shot of them.

Boris is a man who knows an opportunity when he sees one, and Brexit is a golden one to dump Northern Ireland and blame it all on the EU.

United Ireland

Seeing as it's increasingly looking like Boris himself would probably welcome a border poll, I don't think my Nationalist source was speaking with just blind patriotism when he told me, "There is no doubt we will see a united Ireland in the next 10 years. I would not have said that a few months ago, but while Boris acts stupid, he's not stupid; he knows exactly what he's doing. If he can get rid of Northern Ireland without any backlash from Unionists, that's the way he will go. Arlene's weakness is his key to that plan."

"Arlene is a gift to Boris. She is not a leader. Once Brexit happens he will set up his border at the Northern Irish ports. He will then slowly reduce the subsidies the UK pays Northern Ireland. When the Unionists start to complain, seeing as Northern Ireland will still be part of the EU, he will tell them to get the money from the EU."

It's often puzzled me that there's such a black and white presumptive attitude that the people of Northern Ireland must obviously want either unification or unionism. As an Irishman myself, I'd much prefer to see the Six Counties become an independent state in the same way the Scots are now advocating. But it's not something you ever hear being championed.

Believe it or not, there's a significant percentage on both sides of the Irish border who actually don't want reunification. Apart from the fact the Republic can't afford it, I'm also against reunification because I feel our nation has much less in common with the North than everybody likes to pretend. Before anybody starts accusing me of being a so-called West Brit, you can take a closer look at all my reasons outlined here.

I would prefer to see a Celtic nations pact with Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, similar to the Scandinavians with their Nordic Council. In layman's terms, you could describe their set-up as a mini-EU with its inter-parliamentary co-operation between Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Greenland and other smaller islands.

It makes sense for the Celtic nations to swim off together into the sunset, while Boris Johnson sinks England with Brexit.
Jason O'Toole, who has worked as a senior feature writer for the Irish Daily Mail, a columnist with the Irish Sunday Mirror and senior editor of Hot Press magazine. He's also the author of several best-selling books.