Boris Johnson and prime minister Rishi Sunak clash. (Picture: HM Treasury and The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP)

Wrangles over trade rules for Northern Ireland are emerging as a potential wedge, dividing the Conservative Party. And Boris Johnson, nursing his grievances and his ambitions and with his fat bank balance renewed, could seize on the issue. 

He was set to claim that his Brexit legacy is under threat from the nay-sayers and the whingers who ousted him from Downing Street. There was talk of backbench rebellions and ministerial resignations and speculation about Rishi Sunak’s future.

The Tories don’t have a lot further to fall in the polls. Labour leads by 25 percent or more in many surveys, even though there is very little enthusiasm for Keir Starmer.

Behind the details of the Northern Ireland Protocol, there is one certainty. It is that whatever the question, Sunak, Johnson and the Democratic Unionist Party will have different answers. But they will all be the wrong answer. And Starmer will play his role of standing up for big business by bailing out Sunak if he needs Labour MPs’ votes to carry through a pro-corporate deal.

The message we should take is that the government is weaker than ever. Its crisis means it will intensify scapegoating and encourage the far right. But it should also be a signal for workers to increase the strikes and protests that can drive them all out.

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