Prime minister Rishi Sunak faces pressure from striking workers. (Picture: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street)

The government, bosses, the European Union (EU), the Financial Times bosses’ newspaper, Labour’s Keir Starmer and most Northern Ireland politicians were crowing about a triumph on Monday. That should be enough to raise doubts among Socialist Worker readers.

The supposed success is the Windsor Agreement, a deal between the British government and the EU to smooth trade flows. Boris Johnson’s previous thrown-together agreement left stringent checks on goods moved from Britain to Northern Ireland—a “border in the Irish Sea”.

This enraged the bigots of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who saw this undermining the status of Northern Ireland as part of Britain. They used this as an excuse to flounce out of the Northern Ireland assembly, halting its operations. The new deal makes most goods exempt from checks, and weakens the hold of EU law in Northern Ireland.

Politicians and the media may polish up their sweet phrases about peace, but this is a deal about capitalist economics, not weakening sectarianism. Indeed, the tortuous negotiations and bending to the DUP’s concerns have entrenched the idea that Unionists must always have a near-veto on everything.

At the start of the week, Sunak was basking in a rare moment of congratulation from all around him. But the DUP still had to give its verdict. And if it raises any sort of objection, that might trigger Boris Johnson into spluttering opposition, claiming Sunak is destroying his Brexit legacy. As he did with Brexit itself, Johnson has probably prepared two versions of his response, both of which will boast his own role.

Bosses will be grateful that Sunak has delivered the sort of deal they wanted. They will have new respect for a Tory regime that can do more than lurch from chaos to crisis. At the next election, they have a choice between Sunak and Starmer, two reliable friends of the corporations.

But it doesn’t mean Sunak is problem free. He is still in direct confrontation with millions of workers over pay, and the Tory budget on 15 March will confirm the harsh squeeze on welfare and key public services. Very few people will see the Windsor Agreement as a reason to vote Tory at the next general election.

All of this is about borders. It’s about the European Union controlling what and who is allowed into its area. At its softest that’s about the movement of goods. At its hardest, it sees people drown in the Mediterranean.

And it’s about the borders of the Northern Ireland statelet, born in 1921 to preserve a pro-imperialist Unionist majority. It survives in the interests of the British state and reactionaries such as the DUP.

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