Ten questions for Johnson’s reshuffle

7 Sep

  • What does the Prime Minister do about economic policy?  His instinct is for government to spend a lot; Rishi Sunak’s is for it to spend less.  Boris Johnson would clearly be reckless to lose his second Chancellor in less than two years, and we don’t believe that he will try to move him. Furthermore, it isn’t at all clear who would play Anthony Barber to the Prime Minister’s Edward Heath.  But Sunak’s public pitch for loyalty over social care yesterday only confirmed the tensions between him and the Prime Minister. Johnson will be brooding over the future of the man who is favourite eventually to replace him.
  • Who runs Downing Street?  The Prime Minister frets about the unresponsiveness of the official machine.  He has lost Dominic Cummings.  He is installing a Delivery Unit.  He is beefing up his own political operation.  Does he take the radical option of creating a Prime Minister’s department?  Or the established one of relying on the Cabinet Office?  Either way, who does he put in charge?  Does he keep Michael Gove?  Move in Dominic Raab.  Or else send for Oliver Dowden – just as David Cameron’s former Deputy Chief of Staff is enjoying his own place in the sun in his own department (and perhaps eyeing Education)?
  • What about the Home Office and the Foreign Office?  Some in Number Ten share our panel’s lack of confidence in Priti Patel; Raab has been in place for almost two years.  Gove has been punted for both posts but, for all his talents, there is only one of him.  And if he moves out of the Cabinet Office, who will take the lead on Scotland?  Our bet for Foreign Secretary were the shuffle to come late would be Alok Sharma, now that he has globetrotting experience wearing his COP26 hat.  Will Johnson really promote the Cabinet League Table-topping Liz Truss, who he is bound to see as a potential rival?
  • Who does Johnson bring back and at what level?  John Whittingdale was brought back to support Dowden.  James Brokenshire was returned to help Patel.  When his illness worsened, another former Cabinet member, Damian Hinds, replaced him.  The message is: keep your nose clean, and there’s a way back.  But is the Prime Minister prepared to do the same at Cabinet level – summoning Liam Fox or Jeremy Hunt or Iain Duncan Smith or Geoffrey Cox or Robert Halfon or other members of the Alternative Cabinet?  For given the scale of the foreign and domestic policy challenges, there’s a lack of experience at the top.
  • Which women…?  The optics will be an inevitable feature of the shuffle, whenever it comes.  Johnson will want to increase the number of women at the top table.  Anne-Marie Trevelyan must be top of the list to return, but she only recently started her job as Energy Minister.  The Prime Minister will be keeping a watchful eye on the ambitious Penny Mordaunt.  Kemi Badenoch must be on any list for promotion, but is she ready to run a department?  Look out for Lucy Frazer, a potential future Justice Secretary; Chloe Smith if her health allows and, if media deployment is any guide, Helen Whateley. Will Tracey Crouch return?
  • …Ethnic minority members?… Nadhim Zahawi is being punted for co-Party Chairman, but he could also slot in at Education, where he has served as a junior Minister, or perhaps at Culture.  James Cleverly has been out of the domestic media eye at the Foreign Office and must be due to go back in it again.  Kwasi Kwarteng has only recently been appointed and will presumably stay where he is.  Lower down the ranks, Claire Courtino will go up sooner rather than later; then there is Ranil Jayawardena and, down in the Whips’ Office, Alan Mak.
  • …And Red Wallers…?  If promoting ethnic minority members is playing identity politics, so would be favouring white working class people.  MPs for the new Conservative northern and midlands seats aren’t necessarily working class – nor Red Wallers, strictly speaking – but they are yet another group that Johnson must consider.  Cabinet promotion from the 2019 intake would be drastic, and Johnson is more likely to turn to the trailblazers of 2017.  That might mean, say, Lee Rowley, the Tory Deputy Chairman, but the name most frequently raised is that of Simon Clarke, the former Business Minister.
  • P.S: what about appointment on merit?… Beware, Prime Minister, of the backlash from your average Conservative MP: male, white, and (in his view) overlooked because of political correctness.  “With one exception, those promoted in our intake have been women, ethnic minority members, or gay,” one 2019er complained to ConHome.  What about the Kit Malthouses and Edward Argars?  (The latter has had much to do as a Health Minister during the pandemic.)  Is there a quota on Old Etonians that keeps out Jesse Norman?  What about able backbenchers, such as Richard Fuller?
  • …And communicators?  The Government is short at the top of people who can get on the front foot on TV, if that’s quite the right way of putting it.  There’s Sunak, Gove, the Prime Minister himself, a more relaxed Grant Shapps, and Kwarteng.  And that’s about it.  Which is why Cleverly is due a return, and perhaps Brandon Lewis too.  He would fit in at Housing were Robert Jenrick to be moved, but on balance this is unlikely.  Jacob Rees-Mogg has been confined to the Commons as Leader of the House, and were he appointed Chief Secretary, he would be restricted to the Treasury.
  • What’s the least bad timing?  The infallible rule of reshuffles is that the anger of those sacked outweighs the gratitude of those promoted.  A shuffle this week would refresh the Cabinet before the conference season.  But one later would ease moving Raab, Ben Wallace or both: besides, it isn’t yet clear that Covid has run its course.  We assume when the shuffle comes Gavin Williamson will be moved, and at least two Cabinet members fired.  More, and Johnson will risk a “night of the long knives”.  Fewer, and what’s the point?  P.S: the promotion of the Johnsons’ old mucker Zac Goldsmith is a possibility.

Our Cabinet League Table. Raab plummets from third from top in July to fourth from bottom last month.

5 Sep
  • Last month, Dominic Raab was third from top in our Cabinet League Table, on 73 per cent.  This month, he drops by 21 places to fourth from bottom, coming in at 6 per cent and narrowly avoiding negative ratings.  It’s one of the biggest falls ever in our table – almost on the scale of Theresa May’s dizzying fall from top of the table into negative territory in the wake of the bungled 2017 election.
  • Meanwhile, Ben Wallace moves up from ninth, on 51 per cent, to fourth, on 64 per cent.
  • The Westminster story of the last week or so has concentrated on Raab v Wallace – and this finding seems to show Conservative activists taking sides.  Our take is that it’s more of a verdict on how British servicemen and the Foreign Office have reacted to events in Afghanistan; and on Wallace’s robust take on Joe Biden and, perhaps, Pen Farthing.  The Defence Secretary seems to be morphing into a politician who, like the Prime Minister himself, is seen by many people outside Westminster as authentic.
  • Boris Johnson drifts up from fourth from bottom on three per cent to seventh from bottom on 13 per cent.
  • Otherwise there’s little change in the table, but it’s worth closing by having a look at Priti Patel.  Last month, she was tenth from bottom on 26 per cent.  This month, she is eight from bottom on 18 per cent.  As recently as May, she was among the top members of the table: sixth from top on 64 per cent.  You will have your own view on the reasons for her fall.  Ours is: channel boats.

Henry Hill: SNP faces police investigation over ‘missing’ independence campaign cash

22 Jul

SNP facing fraud probes over missing independence campaign cash

It was an unhappy day for the country when the scandal brewing over Nicola Sturgeon, over her government’s abysmal handling of allegations against her predecessor, ran out of steam shortly before the Scottish elections.

Given that she missed out on that crucial overall majority by only one seat, it can’t be ruled out that the smoke made a crucial difference. But her career did not, as it at one point appeared it might, go up in flames.

But one escape has not fixed the deep-seated problems facing her party. The First Minister is caught between her instincts as an adept political realist and a base hungry for a second vote towards which the SNP has no easy path.

Indeed, it now appears as if the Nationalist leadership’s conviction that there won’t be another referendum anytime soon may have landed them in legal difficulty. The party is facing a police probe into allegations that it has fraudulently misused funds raised to fund the next independence campaign. The Daily Express reports:

“Police Scotland say they are investigating after saying it had received seven complaints about donations made to the party. The allegations surround claims made by whistleblowers who say that more than £600,000, which has been ring-fenced for holding a second independence referendum, is missing from the party’s accounts.”

This story has been brewing for months, ever since members of the SNP’s Finance and Audit Committee resigned after being refused access to the party’s accounts by Peter Murrell, the SNP’s chief executive and Sturgeon’s husband.

It remains to be seen if the allegations come to anything, but the fact that they have been brought by other nationalists highlights the deepening divisions opening up inside the separatist tent. And if the funds have been spent elsewhere (whether criminally or not) it will be further evidence to the base that their leaders don’t really believe that another referendum campaign is in the offing anytime soon.

Ministers allow six weeks to propose alternatives to Troubles amnesties

The Government will give opponents of its plan to issue a de facto amnesty for killings committing during the Troubles time to come up with alternative suggestions, according to the Times.

Last week, Brandon Lewis unveiled plans to protect ex-servicemen from the threat of so-called ‘legacy prosecutions’. However, in order to do so similar protections had to be offered to IRA killers. I previously wrote about how this policy is basically an extension of a long-standing campaign by Tory backbenchers against so-called ‘tank-chaser’ lawyers, which originally focused on prosecutions brought over Iraq. The Northern Irish Office exempted troops who served in Ulster from the new protections at the time.

The move has prompted outrage on all sides. Some of it, however, must be taken with a pinch of salt. If Labour want to attack the Government on this, it must explain the difference between this ‘bad amnesty’ and its own, presumably ‘good amnesties’. The party oversaw both the early release of convicted terrorists and issued ‘comfort letters’ (a de facto amnesty) to on-the-run criminals.

Likewise, to see Gerry Kelly – Sinn Fein MLA, convicted IRA killer, and recipient of a Royal Pardon for involvement in the Old Bailey bombing – clutching a sign opposing the amnesty is a morbid joke.

For their part, ministers are confident that the plan will stand up to the inevitable legal challenges. But the question remains: is it worth it?

Prosecutors recently dropped the case against ‘Soldier F’, the individual facing the most serious charges in relation to Bloody Sunday. Whilst there are legitimate concerns that London has allowed the legacy investigations process to focus too heavily on the state and security forces, if the investigators can’t even get Soldier F into court it may well be that the real risk of prosecution for ex-servicemen and former RUC officers was already very small.

Government squares off with the devocrats over freeports and development funding

More news from the front lines of ‘muscular unionism’ this week, with the papers reporting that the Government is to press ahead with plans to open freeports in Scotland despite efforts by the Scottish Government to scupper the plans.

Crucially, ministers have a staunch ally in Aberdeen Council. I previously wrote about how independent-minded local authorities in Scotland are looking to Westminster to help buttress their autonomy from a rapaciously centralising SNP administration in Edinburgh, and it is very heartening to see that dynamic in action.

Not that the old guard are going down without a fight. The Institute for Government, that bastion of devolutionary orthodoxy, have put out new analysis suggesting that ministers risk undermining the Union if they don’t give devocrats partial control over the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Ministers are not likely to accept this claim – it rests on fundamentally different premises to the new unionism embodied in the UK Internal Market Act and upcoming Subsidy Control Bill. But it is a taste of the battle they will have to fight over and over again over the years ahead as they press ahead with this long-overdue change in approach.

Two by-elections and one Health Secretary – losses see Johnson fall by 16 points in our Cabinet League Table

3 Jul

It’s been a month in which the Prime Minister lost two by-elections and his Health Secretary. We are also now past the point at which England was supposed to unlock, which is testing the patience of the grassroots. What impact has this had on our league table?

  • Boris Johnson’s score falls from 55 to 39, putting him back in the lower half of the table. Has the shine come off, or will a successful unlocking on July 19 put him back in our panel’s good books?
  • There’s little change at the top, with Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak, and Dominic Raab holding on to their podium spots, albeit with the latter’s scores falling back a little. Lord Frost likewise holds on to fourth place as he continues to square off with the EU over the Northern Irish Protocol, although for some reason none of the glory seems to have reflected on Brandon Lewis.
  • Sajid Javid is straight in at fifth place. Is this because members expect great things from him on thorny issues such as social care reform – or simply due to his public commitment to ending lockdown?
  • Our anti-podium is also stable, albeit still sinking. Robert Jenrick and Amanda Milling both slip into negative territory, which is perhaps not surprising after two by-election defeats one of which is being pinned on opposition to (urgent and necessary!) planning reform.
  • Gavin Williamson’s tanking score perhaps reflects anger at the Government’s refusal to end the self-isolation regime causing huge disruption in schools – but Javid’s one-for-one appointment means the reshuffle to replace him has likely been delayed again.

Stephen Booth: The Northern Ireland Protocol. A crisis is averted. But for how long?

1 Jul

Stephen Booth is Head of the Britain in the World Project at Policy Exchange.

Last week marked five years since the EU referendum. It was a seismic political event, and Leave/Remain political identities look set to continue to drive political changes across the country for years to come.

Most polling suggests that, in hindsight, most voters have not changed their minds about their 2016 decision. Nevertheless, both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats appear to see little political mileage in reopening the Brexit debate or mooting the prospect of re-joining. Perhaps this is because, while Remain and Leave identities continue to be strong forces in domestic politics, the question of actually re-entering the EU is a different matter.

A poll conducted last week by Opinium found that, when presented with four options, just 27 per cent think that Britain should re-join the EU. Of the other options, 22 per cent think we should negotiate a closer relationship than we have with the EU now, 20 per cent think the current relationship is about right and 22 per cent think we should form a more distant relationship. This suggests that future political debates about the EU are more likely to be about the type of relationship we have with Brussels and the various member states, rather than reopening the fundamental membership question.

In the here and now, the UK-EU dispute over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol continues to rumble on since it came into force six months ago, and still threatens to sour the broader relationship. A range of issues are being discussed, including chilled meats, pet travel, VAT on used cars, tariff quotas on steel, medicines, and customs processes.

Last week, appearing respectively before the Northern Ireland Affairs and Foreign Affairs Committees, Brandon Lewis and Lord Frost repeated the Government’s position that the current state of play is unsustainable, due largely to the “chilling” effect on Great Britain-Northern Ireland trade, and that all options are being considered to deal with the situation.

Yesterday, the EU formally confirmed its agreement to the UK’s request for an extension of the grace period for trade in chilled meats, which has avoided an imminent potential ban on sausages and the like being imported into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. The agreement on the extension avoids a further escalation, which might have occurred if the UK had unilaterally extended the grace period, as it did with other grace periods in March this year. Meanwhile, the EU appears to have taken the view that a further public bust up isn’t in its interests at this stage.

However, the extension merely buys time over the summer rather than fundamentally resolving the situation regarding checks on food, or the wider Protocol, where the UK and EU positions remain at odds in many areas. The EU suggests the time be used for Northern Irish retailers to adjust their supply chains to source products from the Irish Republic and the rest of the EU – a further diversion of Great Britain-Northern Ireland trade. Meanwhile, the UK insists that the time be used to find permanent solutions that respect Northern Ireland’s position within the UK’s customs territory.

On Monday, Maroš Šefčovič appeared before a Stormont committee, and repeated the EU’s position that the long-term solution to reducing or removing checks on food and animals should come in the form of the UK adopting Swiss-style dynamic alignment to EU agri-food rules. This would, he has suggested, remove the need for 80 per cent of checks. The alternative model – a New Zealand-style mutual recognition of standards – would reduce checks but leave many in place, he added.

Yet, the fact that Switzerland and New Zealand each have their own arrangements would suggest that a bespoke arrangement for Northern Ireland ought to be possible. This is what the UK is proposing. Frost has rejected a Swiss-style approach, describing it as an “abrogation of sovereignty”, since the EU would insist on the “ability to police it through its institutions”, such as the EU Court.

Frost outlined to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that the UK’s proposal is based on a bespoke equivalence arrangement, whereby both sides acknowledge each other’s current high food safety standards, and if either side diverges from those standards, then the other side can increase checks and controls accordingly. Ultimately, this is likely to require the EU to change its own border rules, which Brussels has fiercely resisted up to now, insisting that any flexibilities must be agreed within the legal confines of the Protocol and existing EU law.

However, in a significant departure form that stance, Sefcovic told this week’s Stormont Committee session that the EU would be prepared to change its own legislation in the particular case of medicines placed on the NI market, which under the current terms fall within the purview of the EU, rather than UK, regulator. “We want to ensure that citizens in Northern Ireland have full access to all the medicines they need,” he said. “This will not be easy, as this would require a change of our EU rules but I am committed to do this important effort if it requires actual legislative change on our side.”

If EU law can be tailored for medicines, why not in other areas, since it is not only medicines that are a publicly sensitive issue under the Protocol.

poll of voters in Northern Ireland by LucidTalk for academics at Queen’s University Belfast, published yesterday, found that, while 67 per cent said they believe that Northern Ireland does need “particular arrangements” for managing the impact of Brexit, 43 per cent agree that the protocol is, on balance, good for Northern Ireland, whereas 48 per cent think that it is not. And, while 57 per cent think the Protocol provides Northern Ireland with a “unique set of post-Brexit economic opportunities”, by providing it access to both EU and UK markets, more than two thirds see the Protocol impacting negatively on political stability.

The UK’s current approach appears to be to grind away at the EU position, rather than adopt further unilateral measures at this stage. However, with the Protocol continuing to cause major problems on the ground, despite the current stop-gap easements in place, this position may be revisited in the autumn if the stalemate continues.

Henry Hill: Frost secures a stay of execution for British trade with Northern Ireland, but no sign of a pardon yet

24 Jun

Progress? This morning’s papers report the the UK and the EU may be on the cusp of an agreement to extend the ‘grace periods’ for fresh foodstuffs being shipped from Great Britain into Northern Ireland. The FT reports:

“The EU offer of an extension would be subject to broad conditions, including UK commitments to work towards longer-term, more sustainable solutions for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and steps ensuring there are no threats to the single market.”

If true, this would spare the Government having to unilaterally extend them, as it has previously, in order to prevent east-west supply chains being severed by the Irish Sea border.

Obviously it is too soon to celebrate. It remains entirely unclear what ‘more sustainable solutions’ there are that reconcile the EU’s attitude towards what Maroš Šefčovič calls its “economic border” and the Government’s current determination to defend the integrity of the British internal market. Talk of ‘win-win’ outcomes from the Irish side usually end up meaning UK alignment with EU rules.

The border is also already undermining that market, redirecting trade southwards, undermining Northern Ireland’s economic links with the mainland and placing much of its economy under the political control of external institutions. Even if Lord Frost can secure a win on food supplies, it will take much more to truly offset the harm the Protocol is doing to the Union.

Nonetheless, he and Brandon Lewis surely deserve credit for at least getting Brussels back to the table. I reported in March how his appointment to his current post signalled that the Government recognised that there was a battle that needed to be fought over the Irish Sea, and so far Boris Johnson has backed that up. It signalled a welcome shift from last December, when it looked as if Michael Gove might be resigned to the loss of Britain-to-Ulster supply chains.

The EU’s decision to grant an extension also suggests that the Government’s strategy of taking small, carefully-targeted steps and taking pains to look like the reasonable party has paid off. Brussels clearly didn’t think that provoking the UK into another unilateral extension was a winning move.

But the real question is whether or not this signals any deeper shift in attitudes on their part. For all their warm words about solidarity with Ireland and protecting the peace in Ulster, the reality is that the EU has consistently prioritised the sanctity of its commercial frontier over either. Hence the insistence that they would demand the full panoply of checks on any land border, or failing that, that they might even introduce a sea border with the Republic.

If mutual respect and the warm words about the Belfast Agreement had any meaning, the breadth and depth of unionist and loyalist opposition to the Protocol would demand a rethink. Instead, as usual, they are being told to lump it. But if Agreement and the architecture it laid down continue to be wielded in a manner so obviously dismissive of unionists’ rights and concerns, their support for it will come under increasing strain.

The Irish Sea border is the product of a humiliating diplomatic defeat, blundered into by Theresa May and the old Northern Ireland Office. It is symptomatic of a deep-seated malaise in London’s approach to Northern Ireland that will be a long time in the fixing. But recognising the need to deliver fundamental changes to the Protocol is a good start.

Why Poots has departed and what it means

19 Jun

It has been driven off the front pages by last night’s shock result in Chesham, but across the water the Democratic Unionist Party is in the process of thoroughly beclowning itself.

Edwin Poots, who only three weeks ago orchestrated a coup against Arlene Foster, has resigned – but not before putting forward his protege, Paul Givan, to be First Minister.

As a result, the post is now held by a man who’s CV largely consists of different ways to say ‘worked for Poots’, and the only way to get rid of him is for him to resign. But Poots is gone, and the DUP are now in the process of electing yet another new leader.

Where does this leave those who felt that “splitting the role of party leader risked “demeaning the office” of first minister”? Who knows.

As I explained a couple of weeks ago, all this has consequences beyond what’s left of the DUP’s dignity. The whole fiasco seems to have put Northern Ireland’s devolved system on life support. Again.

Why? Well, Sinn Fein had been threatening to collapse the institutions (again) over Givan’s nomination as First Minister, due to his opposition to an Irish Language Act. Or rather, opposition to having to pass one. Poots was entirely quite content to constitute an executive if Westminster passed the offending legislation instead.

So Brandon Lewis stepped up and said the Government would do just that. At which point elements of the DUP pointed out, not wrongly, that this was effectively a total capitulation on the substance by Poots, in exchange for a mere face-saving measure. So they teamed up with allies of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to bring him down.

Perhaps Sir Jeffrey will get to be leader now. Perhaps not.

How long must this cycle continue before we start to have a serious conversation about the fact that Northern Irish devolution manifestly doesn’t work? How many more times will the Secretary of State let one party or the other knock Stormont over and insist on getting bribed back into it before deciding enough is enough?

The aftermath of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal has exposed serious and systemic failures in now Ulster has been governed. If Lewis or his successor were prepared to grasp the nettle, even for a couple of years, they could do a lot of good: introduce delayed legislation, drive through reforms, integrate the Northern Irish Civil Service into the Home Civil Service, and much more besides. A chance to demonstrate to local voters the value of being part of the UK.

In many ways, Northern Ireland is coming to embody the problems with the ‘devo-max’ model that Luke Graham, the former head of the Union Unit, recently warned against. If a woeful devolution model is so deeply entrenched that Westminster can’t correct it, the utility of the British connection is hugely reduced. Then parties which don’t want the Province to work are free to disrupt it, holding out a ‘united Ireland’ as the only alternative.

Maybe the DUP and Sinn Fein will talk their way through this crisis. It is hard to care. We’ll surely be back here again soon enough. The cycle will continue for as long as Westminster is prepared to enable it.

Yes, the row over the Protocol really is about the British sausage

11 Jun

So the row over the Irish Protocol is now the ‘sausage wars’. Whilst the trade barriers the EU seeks to erect inside the United Kingdom impact a broad range of products, including medicines, it is the humble sausage which has come to be emblematic of the issue. Jim Hacker remains one of our most consequential Prime Ministers.

Defenders of the European position say this is unfair, yet another misrepresentation by the Brexiteer press. Tony Connelly, of the Irish broadcaster RTÉ, has set out the counter-case in a Twitter thread which opens by asserting that “this is not about the EU and UK banning each other’s sausages, never mind a “sausage war””.

(This helps skate over the awkward question of what purpose the controls are actually serving. One analyst pointed out to me that illegal sausages have been flowing into Northern Ireland for six months – “at what point do the market distortions turn up?”)

He then sets out the EU’s perspective on the case: that the United Kingdom had pledged to halt the movement of chilled meat products from the mainland to Northern Ireland after July 1. He also states the following:

This is a telling claim. When Michael Gove presented his negotiated settlement on the Protocol to Parliament in December, we reported that Democratic Unionist MPs pressed him on precisely this question. They cited Irish claims that the grace periods were to led Ulster businesses find new, south-facing supply lines, rather than buy time to secure a feature for existing east-west chains.

Gove had no answer for them, and if Connolly is correct it seems the Government may have actually conceded that principle, even if it wouldn’t admit it in the House of Commons.

But of course, the UK’s approach to the Protocol is under new management. Both David Frost and Brandon Lewis, the Northern Irish Secretary, have been robust about London’s determination to keep the Province open to British foodstuffs. They seem, for now, to enjoy the support of Number Ten.

Some Irish commentators have made much of Frost’s refusal to invoke Article 16 or declare the Government’s intention to simply resile from the Protocol. But that misunderstands the strategy, grasped by cannier EU observers, which is to keep making targeted, more defensible moves on grace periods. If the EU’s retaliation is too heavy-handed – and there are press reports of a ‘trade war’ or, no kidding, a sea border with Ireland – it risks looking like the bad guy.

Which brings us back to Connolly’s claim. Is the row over the Protocol about high legal principle, or sausages? The truth is that it is very obviously about both. Yes, the UK is resisting implementation of the existing deal with the EU. But enforcement of that deal would mean barring (chilled) British sausages from Northern Ireland. If Brussels would defend the principle, it cannot disown the consequences.