But a potential compromise is achievable and workable - a special new Customs Union between Northern Ireland and the European Union post Brexit could well be the compromise which the staunchly euro skeptic DUP could compromise on, allowing it to reform an Executive and potentially avoiding a February 2023 Assembly poll.
As the situation currently exists, the DUP appears not to agree to Northern Ireland remaining in the present Customs Union, but if past experiences of DUP compromises during the Irish peace process are taken as a benchmark, a completely new – and unique – Customs Union could be on the cards.
The political wild card which must be factored in is the collapse of the Executive could trigger an election which turns into a Green/Orange showdown between Sinn Fein and the DUP as to who is the biggest Assembly party.
If there is no agreement on restoring devolution, Direct Rule from Westminster would seem the likely option. But unlike when Theresa May was PM, the DUP has no cash boost for Northern Ireland. Rishi Sunak does not need the support of DUP MPs under a confidence and supply arrangement.
But the DUP could compromise on a new deal which would see the creation of a special one-off Customs Union between Northern Ireland and the EU, thereby making the Protocol redundant.
What is at stake in dictating which format any proposed new Customs Union could take will be the type of Direct Rule over Northern Ireland.
Traditionally and historically, Direct Rule from Westminster has involved the Government of the day appointing MPs from British mainland constituencies to run the various political departments in the Northern Ireland Office.
However, could the DUP be in a position to negotiate which MPs are appointed to the NIO? Even better for the DUP, could the party actually demand that the NIO ministerial team be staffed by MPs elected from Northern Ireland?
Given that Sinn Fein and the Dublin government oppose Direct Rule, for Rishi Sunak to appoint a team of DUP, SDLP and Alliance MPs to run the NIO could be a step too far and destabilise the entire peace process established by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, as Sinn Fein MPs still refuse to take their Commons seats.
The compromise which the DUP could agree to is that it could negotiate with the Prime Minister which Conservative MPs are appointed to run the NIO.
This would allow PM Sunak to select Tories from the euro skeptic Right of the party who would be favourable towards the DUP – even through Northern Ireland overall voted ‘remain’ in the referendum.
The Dublin government, likewise, would naturally prefer the existing EU Customs Union to be in place to avoid the economic nightmare of the so-called ‘hard border’, which would make cross-border trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic very cumbersome.
While euro skeptics in the DUP point to the fact that Northern Ireland does more trade with mainland Britain than with the Republic, the DUP will have to adopt an economic all-island – as opposed to a political all-Ireland – compromise to secure the financial stability of both states on the geographical island of Ireland.
The key question – if some form of Direct Rule is inevitable – is who would negotiate this unique Customs Union between the EU and Northern Ireland? Would this be done as part of the overall UK negotiating team, or could an NIO – staffed by either Tory or Northern Ireland MPs, or a combination of both – be given special negotiating rights to agree an EU/NI Customs Union compromise?
London and Dublin must also keep uppermost in their minds that the DUP2022 is not the same political beast as the DUP1982 led then by the late Rev Ian Paisley.
While Paisley senior – later Lord Bannside – is perhaps best known for his ‘Never, never, never’ speech against the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, he did compromise and negotiate the St Andrews Agreement of 2006 which heralded in the power-sharing Stormont Executive between the DUP and Sinn Fein. The bottom line is – in spite of the DUP’s perceived Hard Right image, it can be pragmatic enough to compromise when called upon.
On paper, a unique EU/NI Customs Union is the obvious solution to guarantee the required ‘soft border’ option between Northern Ireland and the Republic. It is the clear compromise which could politically palatable for the EU and the UK – and especially the DUP.
But this all comes with a severe health warning. If Northern Ireland gets a unique Customs Union deal, the Scottish nationalists will equally demand one given that Scotland also voted ‘remain’.
Could this see the formation of a Celtic Alliance between Ireland and Scotland? Then what happens if Westminster compromises on Dublin and Sinn Fein’s demands that a peace deal be negotiated for Northern Ireland using the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference?
The Conference is currently only a recommendation-making body. What happens if it is upgraded to a decision-taking forum? That could leave a unique EU/NI Customs Union looking like an exact mirror image of the current structure - and it’s back to square one with the Protocol!
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.