Remain in Northern Ireland still looks on top. Will the DUP heave a sigh of relief if it wins?

The arguments continue right down to the wire. The referendum has cut across the unionist/nationalist divide and – (nothing unusual here) – has split unionism. What is rarer is the DUP’s failure to press home their traditional case with the traditional fervour, suggesting they have doubts about it themselves, as Stephen McCaffery argues in The Detail. Sammy Wilson’s pitch for Leave has only one sentence directly about Northern Ireland and steers clear of concerns over a hard border.

A leave vote will release billions of pounds which we currently pay to the EU for public spending in Northern Ireland.

The Impartial Reporter no less, secured an interview with David Cameron who gave his most explicit  warning yet about the threat of a hard border. He uses the interview to slap down the local champion Arlene Foster.

“Arlene Foster is fundamentally wrong in her assertion about free trade agreements..

“The UK has free trade with the rest of the EU, including the Republic of Ireland, because we are in a single market. That means no tariffs, no barriers; meaning more jobs, prosperity and opportunities. It’s improved living standards for people in the UK and Ireland immeasurably.

People might say ‘well, the Common Travel Area has been in existence since the 1920s, that would just continue regardless’. But a lot has changed since then. Indeed, many in the Irish Parliament, the Irish Government and indeed two of my predecessors as prime minister have all suggested the agreement might become redundant if the UK leaves the EU.”

“Then there are the symbolic implications, of passport checks being conducted between the two nations on the island of Ireland or the similarly unpalatable prospect of checks on people from Northern Ireland travelling within the UK. Life could look very different for people in the Border counties and beyond,” he said.

In terms of cross-Border trade, Mr. Cameron claimed that exports “would be subject to so-called rules of origin that would require customs procedures of some sort at the North-South land Border.”

“That would mean added time, costs and complications for companies. That would affect business. It would hit jobs. It would slow growth.”

The Leave side has created strange bedfellows from David Trimble to the dissident republican political group Erigi, as Henry McDonald points out in the Guardian.

In  the Irish Times, the normally urbane historian Roy Foster lets  rip against  the Leave supporters in the cabinet. No hesitation here about  playing the woman.

I also have to say that the people heading Brexit – there is not a single figure among them who I would see as intellectually reputable or worth listening to. I think the repellent opportunism, superficiality and implicit racism of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and Nigel Farage is the worst of Britain.

“And I also reserve a special fury for the dimwitted secretary of state forNorthern Ireland, the incredibly inadequate Theresa Villiers, who has, purely for opportunistic political reasons I should think, put herself in the front row of the Brexit people when, as everybody knows, this is one of the most divisive issues in Northern Ireland and a Brexit vote would be a disastrous setback for the advances that we have seen in the province and in relations between the Republic and Northern Ireland.”

According to an Ipsos Mori poll for the Belfast Telegraph published yesterday, support for  Remain is slipping but not enough to reverse the overall trend in favour. There is a large number of undecided. Expectations of turnout at 68% are higher than those for the Assembly elections last month.

37% of all respondents want to Remain, down from 44% in March. And there was a 6% increase in the number of people across both communities who believe that the UK would fare better out of the EU, up from 20% to 26% in the past two months.

38% of Protestants surveyed believe that the UK would be stronger out of the EU – a 10% increase on the last poll, while 27% favour the Remain position, a drop of 7%, and 36% are still undecided. Nationalist support for staying in the EU has fallen since the last survey, down from 56% to 49%. But Catholics are still strongly in favour of Europe, with just 12% opting for the Leave argument.

However, more say they are undecided or don’t know, up from 27% to 38%, perhaps reflecting the levels of confusion caused by the strident claims and counter-claims of campaigners on both sides.





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  • Barney

    “I also have to say that the people heading Brexit – there is not a single figure among them who I would see as intellectually reputable or worth listening to.”

    Roy Foster has hit the nail square on the head this time.

  • Nevin

    “The Leave side has created strange bedfellows”

    Brian, if you gave it some thought, you could probably list a few strange bedfellows in the Remain fold from the urbane David Cameron and the less than urbane Jeremy Corbyn to the republican political group, Sinn Féin.

    Rude-boy Roy Foster may be a Brexitphobe but he’s a far from committed EUrophile:

    “Economically, clearly the record is far more mixed. And bureaucratically there is far more reform needed – nobody would argue that for a moment. I think the EU has over-extended itself. I think the euro wasn’t a policy thought through as carefully as it should have been.

    “I think there has been a recognition that extending membership of the EU cannot be done lightly and should be done with far more rigour and care.

    “The tragedy that is modern Greece has shown that. But no institution is incapable of reform and I think the quantity of disillusionment with Europe that is showing itself in various new parties that have sprung up over the Continent is going to enforce rethinking and reform.

    “But I would far rather see Britain stay in the EU as a leading voice for reform and enjoying its own partially semi-detached approach. I think that is far more what the future should be.”

    EU empire-building may well have created some of the political instability on its eastern front.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Isn’t Foster’s point more that those leading pro-leave base their campaign on specious argument and selfish interests as opposed to long term vision and in Villiers’ case the responsibilities (e.g. promoting stability) of her particular ministerial position?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Not much mention of the European Court of Justice as a higher Court of Appeal. This article is illuminating in relation to British law not being fully trusted by a large section of NI’s population:
    UK law is not fully trusted by all UK lawyers it seems.

  • Nevin

    Ben, Roy could have made those points in a civil manner. I’ve not been impressed by the actions of either camp.

  • Brian Walker

    Nevin, Entirely consistent with a Remain position.Yes, strange bedfellows all round, some stranger than others.

  • Dan

    Tedious boring old fart with little else but to cry racism.

    Still, could be worse, could be Claire Hanna, who some people were praising to high heavens for her excellence on the EU issue last week. What a clot.

  • ted hagan

    Hey, foul, what about Sammy Wilson surely?

  • ted hagan

    I think you’re just proving Barney’s point. Plus the fact that the DUP has shown little real conviction for the cause and even fairly reputable commentators like Alex Kane can only defend Brexit by saying he ‘feels it in his bones’ rather providing any solid evidence to support his case.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Surely if the result goes as expected on Thursday, Villiers will get the door pretty quick. The Irish govt if it has any balls re NI at all should be having a serious word with Cameron about her.

  • Nevin

    “Yes, strange bedfellows all round”

    You could have made that point first time around, Brian.

    ‘But no institution is incapable of reform’ is probably a little bit of wishful thinking and presumably wouldn’t impress the dithers or those, like Irwin Armstrong, who are in favour of leaving:

    Back in the Autumn, Irwin was leaning towards Brexit, but was “persuadable” on the question of EU membership.

    “That was before Cameron came back from the EU negotiations with his so-called deal which amounted to nothing of value,” said Irwin, a long-time Conservative Party member. “That convinced me that the UK is better out of the EU.” ..

    “As far as my business is concerned, there’s no advantage for us being in the EU,” he said. “It’s 28 different markets and they will nearly always find rules and regulations to keep you out. ..

    “The Remain camp can’t tell us what the EU will look like in ten years or how much it will cost to be a member.”

    It’s little wonder that folk are confused.

  • Chingford Man

    I hope his books are better than his hysterical bitching. But I suspect that Foster has already arranged his life in such a way that the pressures of open door immigration will never affect him or his family. Immigration isn’t going to be driving down the salaries of history professors, filling up the schools and the surgeries or inflating house prices near him.

    Shame about the poor people that it does hurt, but that’s just their fault for not being as urbane and sophisticated as him.

    There’s nothing funnier than watching someone as academically decorated as Foster making a complete a*** of himself.

  • Chingford Man

    “Sammy Wilson’s pitch for Leave has only one sentence directly about Northern Ireland”

    it’s rather commendable that the DUP, often criticised for its parochialism, is expounding the big argument of Brexit: that the UK should be a self-governing state like 168 of the world’s 196 countries.

    It’s a pleasing change from Remain’s petty emphasis on the EU cow being easier to milk than a Treasury one.

  • Nevin

    I’ve just received an email from the Labour party:

    I remember how I felt after last year’s election. But at least with a General Election there is always the chance to put things right in five years’ time.

    This is different. Thursday’s vote is forever — and it’s also your chance to say you were a part of a historic victory for our country.

    Can you spare an hour on polling day to remind Labour voters to cast their ballots? Here’s where we’ll be in your area — let us know you’ll be out with us:

    Surprise, surprise, my postcode isn’t ‘valid’! Perhaps NI ‘jobs, workers’ rights, the economy and the NHS (are not) at risk’.

  • Chingford Man

    She thought labour surplus was necessary for a growing economy. Isn’t it wonderful being a middle class South Belfast progressive: some virtue signalling here, a liberal cause there, and a handy Stormont salary to fund it all. No chance of her wages being undercut by migrant labour. The Labour Party is stuffed with people supporting Remain just like her and a day of reckoning lies ahead.

  • Anglo-Irish

    I’m in the remain camp but I have to say there aren’t too many intellectual giants among that lot either.

    We are currently cursed with a bunch of second rate politicians ( and I’m trying to be kind here ) and for me that is an additional reason to vote Remain.

    The thought of being out on our own with the current lot – from any party – in charge of guiding us to the sunny uplands of the land of milk and honey isn’t exactly confidence inspiring. : (

  • Surveyor

    Get the popcorn in for the upcoming Tory civil war. There’s a lot of scores to be settled.

  • articles

    As Roy might usefully quote from WB. …. The best lack all conviction, while the worst. Are full of passionate intensity…..

  • Kevin Breslin

    Ask the DUP, frankly they are entitled to exercise their self-determination as they see fit but to be honest the empty promises they have assisted on the Vote Leave side will be exposed.

    Northern Ireland is not a net contributor to the EU, so they’d need to take more money off of England. So off the off … There’s no Pork, only Porkies.
    Northern Ireland has low migration
    Northern Ireland has high high-skills emigration
    Northern Ireland GDP share for agriculture and therefore reliant on CAP is double that of England’s
    Northern Ireland MEPs get paid less in a week than Nolan gets for his TV show.
    Northern Ireland will have the lowest wages in the UK whatever happens.

    And the sitting UK Chancellor is suggesting a 1 billion pound drop in the Northern Ireland economy if there’s a Brexit.

    Let’s play Devil’s Advocate with regards benefits …

    With regards to deregulation …

    Northern Ireland could choose to deregulate environmental laws

    And well since it doesn’t have control over energy, labour laws, health and safety, taxation, trade or financial regulation, that probably is just about it.

    In terms of migration it could …
    Woops no control over that one either.

    With no net contribution to play with financially …

    Northern Ireland could choose to cut rural development and community funds for something else. Northern Ireland could choose to cut agriculture and fishery funds for something else. Northern Ireland could choose to cut science funds for something else. In theory it may get some disproportionate money for the state from the Republic of Ireland if the UK introduces customs charges.

    With lower VAT … it is likely in terms of 1st order effects Northern Ireland will contribute less towards is upkeep in the UK.

    If the UK leaves the European Court of Human Rights …
    Government commitments to the Past cannot be challenged.

    …Let’s now assume the UK government tries to pass some sort of Free Trade Deal where UK goods are free from the EU export tariff, basically the Economists for Brexit experiment

    What would be Northern Ireland’s unique selling or buying point from this?

    The UK will simply put no tariffs on imports, which is fine for the EU and Rest of the World to compete in. The EU and the Rest of the World are free not to reciprocate this free lunch.

    Republic of Ireland already has bilateral free trade with EU neighbours, not a unilateral one like Northern Ireland would.

    To me this arrangement suits the larger consumer power of England than Northern Ireland and is likely to inc

    Northern Ireland supplying the UK internal market would be damaged from competition from cheaper imports from outside the UK. Production becomes out-sourced and the “Maker Culture” of UK production is somewhat undermined.

    The effects of this Rexit (isn’t that the opposite of the Lexit?), is that the Rich (Southern England) gets richer and the poor (Northern Ireland) gets poorer.

    We can look forward to an aging population, diminished production reduced by overseas imports that are even off-continent, and a naive hope that England and Westminster trying to be the spendthrift of the world throws money into the public sectors.

  • Ryan A

    Is there any evidence that migrant labour has impacted wages in NI?

  • Old Mortality

    Not so far as I’m aware. Migrants are overwhelmingly engaged in work that locals prefer not to do such as meat processing. They don’t seem to have infiltrated the building trades to any great extent as yet. If they ever do, you can expect to hear some distinctly illiberal views on immigration.
    The significant presence of migrant labour in NI tells us either that the true level of unemployment is much lower than statistics suggest or that something is very wrong with our social welfare arrangements.

  • ted hagan

    Surely Brexiteer Trump trumps everything?

  • Pete

    I don’t see why? I’m strongly pro-remain, but I don’t see what’s so controversial about someone supporting Brexit?