A compelling case for more flexibility from both sides in the next stage of Brexit

19 Nov

Anand Menon the director the UK in a Changing Europe and as near to objectivity as it gets, has been issuing correctives to  the Brexit positions of both the UK government and the EU Commission. In separate articles his analyses provides sage advice for both sides after the election.  Does it mean a smoother  passage for all goods in both directions across the Irish Sea? In the Guardian yesterday, with Catharine Barnard Get Brexit done….”  The simple answer is that … Read more

What the Green Party 2019 manifesto says about Brexit

19 Nov

The Green Party has today published its manifesto for the 2019 General Election, and their Brexit policy has barely changed since their 2017 manifesto. You can read it for yourself here, but its key points on Brexit are summarised below. The Greens are committed to remaining in the EU and are offering voters a second […]

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For Northern Ireland and the Union, the choices after the election are all to play for

18 Nov

Peering into a crystal ball however cloudy is as irresistible for the curious voter as the compulsive gambler. Favourable predictions for the Conservatives range from an overall majority of over 100 to fewer MPs than May won in 2017 but still the largest party. Serious hopes of a Labour majority are round about nil. They are likely to need the support on some basis of minority parties, the SNP, the Lib Dems and who knows? – even the DUP. Johnson’s … Read more

The voters sense that the DUP and Sinn Fein are all at sea. What are they to make of it?

17 Nov

Pity the local voter, trying to discover a clear outcome in this election.  Anoraks may shiver with anticipation at the prospect of change in a couple of local seats but what are they claiming for turnout? Who could blame the people for staying away?  Voting for the Union or Remain or bringing a border poll closer doesn’t come close to guaranteeing any of these outcomes.  The secretary of state has floated the idea of deciding on an Assembly election in … Read more

A limited amnesty not only for soldiers but for all? Another case of a Boris Johnson election wheeze, without understanding what he’s proposing?

11 Nov

The High Court in Belfast On Armistice Day Boris Johnson is announcing what he would like to think sounds like a partial amnesty for former soldiers involved in the Troubles as well as foreign engagements like Iraq and Afghanistan. The subject is of course emotive but the substance is far from clear. What does the proposal to draw a line under Troubles prosecutions really mean? Mr Johnson said the party will introduce legislation to ensure the Law of Armed Conflict … Read more

“Next Generation Unionism?”

1 Nov

As anger over Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement grows, one group of unionists has put out an “anti-betrayal act” poster. It sums up the current state of unionism. The poster portrays a baying mob with pitchforks. Apparently all unionist men dress like junior members of The Bar Library and work in an office. The language used is macho and patriarchal. There are no women on the poster, presumably because they’re all at home rolling their eyes. The poster comes at a … Read more

Stormont Consent-what does it mean?

4 Oct

Angela Merkel gave Boris Johnson 30 days to submit alternative proposals to replace the backstop. After a long wait (where it was speculated that the Prime Minister would merely amend the Withdrawal Agreement with tip-ex) the UK Government has finally submitted its plans. Spanning seven pages, Johnson’s proposals are a mis-mash of different ideas. All the hits you know and love are back. Remember Max Fac? It’s there. Nostalgic for Customs checks? Want a border down the Irish Sea? The … Read more

Boris Johnson to propose a No Deal deal, ask the EU to refuse an extension and challenge his tormentors to an election

1 Oct

It reads like a trailer for Boris Johnson’s leaders’ speech on Wednesday. The British  “non-papers”  have gelled into what is in effect a No Deal plan masquerading as a negotiating position. The BBC, RTE and the Daily Telegraph are all reporting that the UK government will propose checks on either side of the border but away from the border itself. As this in no way acts as a substitute for the backstop it will be rejected by Dublin and the … Read more

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay addresses Tory Party conference: end delay to unlock Brexit opportunities

29 Sep

Delaying Brexit has come at a cost. It has cost us trust in our democracy. For those who voted in good faith at the last General Election; who believed the promises of MPs who said they would honour our vote to leave the EU. And it has a massive financial cost – in extra payments […]

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Deal or No Deal, the UK could still leave the EU on 31 October

29 Sep

Despite rumours to the contrary, this week will find it hard to match the turbulence of last week.  It’s pretty clear that at this point, the combined opposition majority can’t agree on a strategy to turf Johnson out of office. This could prove fatal to their main aim.  In the absence of a policy to unite around, passing a vote of confidence against him would only set a clock ticking that would defeat their essential aim of preventing the UK … Read more

The present state of Northern Ireland’s governance can no longer be ignored as October deadline looms, says the Institute for Government

26 Sep

The think tank closest to Whitehall the Institute for Government has published the most comprehensive report on the state of government in Northern Ireland since the breakdown of Stormont. Here is its executive summary. It deserves to be read in full. Here is the launch video. Not before time the IfG reminds the UK government of the perils of ignorance and neglect. Rather over generously in my opinion it attributes blame for failures as much to the  persistent and to … Read more

Boris’s bullying and bluster blinds him to the chance of agreement behind the sound and fury. He is own worst enemy

26 Sep

This exchange will be remembered… Paula Sheriff Dewsbury, Lab I genuinely do not seek to stifle robust debate, but this evening the Prime Minister has continually used pejorative language to describe an Act of Parliament that was passed by this House. I am sure you would agree, Mr Speaker, that we should not resort to the use of offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language about legislation that we do not like. We stand here, Mr Speaker, under the shield of our … Read more

The Supreme Court decision may be momentous but does change anything over Brexit? Can a ” government of national unity” unite the country around a New Deal altogether?

24 Sep

Supreme Court President Lady Hale  The Supreme Court decision is a constitutional big deal, but has it changed  anything  in the Brexit timetable?  The Conservative party with most if not all of the dissidents included will not overthrow Boris Johnson and plunge themselves into another leadership crisis.  The DUP will endorse that.  If  Johnson wants to continue slash’n burn, he challenges  Corbyn to an immediate general election tomorrow.  This means he’s compelled to abandon withdrawal “ no if’s  not buts … Read more

Basic flaw in Labour’s referendum plan makes it unworkable

22 Sep

We have arrived at one of those moments when something that’s agonising lots of clever people for  years has a basic flaw which people caught up in controversy have been more or less  blind to.  Corbyn’s fence sitting has been well and truly exposed as absurd.  Why should the EU offer Labour a Brexit deal if most of its members want to campaign against it?  But if they somehow succeed, how could the leadership stay neutral on the deal they’ve … Read more

Brexit blues take over again as confusion reigns

21 Sep

Confused? Join the club which I believe includes the principals, the British and Irish governments and the EU.  The idea of “non-papers”  from the UK government expresses the confusion perfectly. Do they mean what they say or not?  Are they the last word in the last ditch or feints in a game ? We last left off on an upward note when Foster met Varadkar. The direction of travel seemed to be towards NI as a special economic zone between … Read more

Arlene Foster and Leo Varadkar must do business together on Brexit after last night’s ice breaker

19 Sep

The most important thing that Arlene Foster has just done is to talk to Leo Varadkar for the first time in ages. This was a meeting that was apparently kept under wraps until it had happened.  Only a short time before, the Dublin government were saying they were hoping for as meeting “soon.” This brief encounter at last opens up the possibility of genuine north-south cooperation to help hammer out an agreement on the border – and perhaps the Assembly … Read more

Is this really it? ” Northern Ireland would effectively become a special economic zone inside both the UK and the EU”

18 Sep

So  Johnson has been talking up a deal based on an expansion of  the original  agri foods proposal. An actual outline has been show to the EU negotiators, but not to  take  home with them . ( Why did they tamely agree to only a sneak preview?)   The media have all been briefed. The Johnson style seems  to be to test out all the elements of a plan in “concept” discussions  before tabling an actual plan. This avoids a single … Read more

Only if Johnson comes up with a firm proposal can the DUP’s true position be revealed

14 Sep

Despite Arlene Foster’s public denials, the Times stands by its story that  ahead of any return to Stormont ,the DUP would support the idea of the Assembly signing off on a deal to replace the backstop that would involve some ( no doubt de-dramatised) “checks in the Irish Sea” . This is based on the hope that DUP all-Ireland agreement on agri foods is only a stage on a journey rather than the final destination. It would mean the DUP … Read more

Now it’s two to one in UK courts declaring parliament’s suspension not a matter for the courts

12 Sep

The Belfast Telegraph reports  A legal challenge in Belfast High Court that argued the Government’s Brexit strategy will damage the Northern Ireland peace process has been dismissed. Lord Justice Bernard McCloskey delivered his ruling on Thursday morning on three joined cases against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the UK’s European Union exit. In his written judgment, the judge said: “I consider the characterisation of the subject matter of these proceedings as inherently and unmistakably political to be beyond plausible … Read more

“Potential lifeline” for Harland and Wolff amid the backstop blues

12 Sep

  The FT reports on a potential lifeline to build Royal Navy frigates for Harland and Wolff.   A consortium led by defence group Babcock International has won the competition to build new frigates for the Royal Navy, securing hundreds of jobs at British shipyards, including in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Under the original proposal, the plan was to assemble the vessels at Rosyth using “blocks” built by H&W and Ferguson. It remained unclear if the role of H&W and … Read more

The De Souza case has major constitutional ramifications for citizens’ rights in Northern Ireland

11 Sep

Emma DeSouza personal photo The Guardian reports Fundamental questions over the enforceability of the 1998 Good Friday agreement have been raised in a test case over the residency rights of an American who is married to a Derry woman. Emma DeSouza found herself at the centre of a legal battle after her application in 2015 for a residence card for her US-born husband, Jake DeSouza, was rejected. Any EU citizen living in the UK in accordance with EU regulations can bring their family … Read more

Backstop fever subsided as quickly as it flaired. But the virus is still live…

10 Sep

This must be the barmiest idea emerging from the current bout of backstop fever – an “exclusive” from Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News.    Boris Johnson has told government officials to explore the possibility of building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.. The prime minister wants to know “where this money could come from” and “the risks around the project” – which appear to include “WW2 munitions in the Irish Sea…” The DUP, the party supporting the Conservatives … Read more

Slugger O'Toole 2019-09-10 13:04:48

10 Sep

The SDLP still haven’t managed to shake off  strategic ineptitude. They’ve   achieved the worst of both worlds by wishing former SDLP leader and MP Margaret Ritchie well but “ fundamentally disagree” with her decision to go to the Lords. This is in fact an enlightened  move by Margaret which deserves SDLP backing. The SDLP attack Sinn Fein for persisting with abstention from the Commons when their voting presence might have made a difference in narrower Brexit votes.  The absence of … Read more

Will Arlene be confronted with an amended backstop today? How would she react? (No prizes!)

10 Sep

I was watching the Commons feed last night and missed Nick Watt’s report on Newsnight, raising the hare  that Boris Johnson was  going further than an all-Ireland agri-zone and was about to revive the NI specific backstop.  Sam McBride of The Newsletter was watching. Last night’s report suggests that Mr Johnson may be preparing to abandon the DUP for the second time in six months, despite the party having ensured he became Prime Minister..  Newsnight said Mr Johnson was understood … Read more

Is the backstop beginning to slide towards a deal the DUP won’t like?

8 Sep

On the eve of Boris Johnson’s visit to Dublin it comes as no surprise that Sinn Fein claims that Leo Varadkar has conceded the backstop “at the eleventh hour.”  Deniable though it may be, do they yet make a plausible case, as the squeeze tightens on Dublin to try to reconcile the defence of the single market with the serious threat to jobs and the all-island economy? Does Vardakar’s concession on the one hand  that checks will be phased in … Read more

Cabinet ministers demand Plan B, The Times reports. And it may include Northern Ireland staying in alignment with the EU if GB diverges

7 Sep

The Times reports: Boris Johnson was under pressure from cabinet ministers last night to abandon his Brexit strategy and “come up with a plan B” after opposition parties pledged to veto any bid for a general election before he asks the EU for an extension On a chaotic day it emerged that: Rebel Tories expelled from the party by Mr Johnson have struck a deal behind his back with European leaders to secure a three-month Brexit extension. The group, which also includes … Read more

“Die in a ditch?” It could come to that. And Ireland hunkers down for a new border

6 Sep

As long as 24 hours ago, Boris Johnson seemed to have the edge in a deadly struggle with the new anti No Deal Commons majority. But with a Tory backlash mounting over sacking of  21 senior rebels and the influence of Dominic Cummings;  and with Tory traditionalist  MP resignations coming thick and fast led by brother Jo, I’m no longer so sure. Squeezed by the new majority, Johnson  looked to be buckling under the pressure at his dire appearance at … Read more

Concern deepens in both parts of Ireland over the state of paralysis in Brexit negotiations

5 Sep

Evidence mounts of the economic damage of No Deal to the economies north and south and the implications for the border which are disputed between the British and Irish governments. A no-deal Brexit would mean Northern Ireland’s economy would be at least 3% smaller compared to if the UK stayed in the EU, a new analysis highlighted by the BBC NI Economics correspondent John Campbell suggests. That is a much less severe impact than a UK government analysis which suggested a … Read more

Johnson may be a zombie PM but he could still win through, as the combined Opposition are united only on barring No Deal

5 Sep

After suffering three defeats in two days, by early next week Boris Johnson may well be forced to swallow his words and accept a Commons majority Bill to ban No Deal. The pressure on Labour would then become irresistible to lift their ban on a general election. But that poses at least two dilemmas for Labour.  Do they follow Corbyn’s instinct and go for an election almost straight away on say 15 October, two days before the EU Council meeting? … Read more