Why Fianna Fáil aren’t just waiting for their poll numbers to improve…

Smart comment from World By Storm drawing on analysis in the latest edition of the Phoenix…

However in considering election timing FF will prioritise setting up a sustainable narrative over pure numbers. Micheal Martin has been careful to draw a line between his party’s boomtime past and its more recent crafting of what looks, smells and often tastes like a centre left agenda.

Numbers do matter, of course. But how any mid sized party leads a fragmented Parliament is a serious  poser, particularly since Sinn Fein has replaced Labour as the largest potential partner against FG (although I disagree with the Phoenix’s conclusion: it’s a non starter under Martin or Adams).

The current set up allows FF to continue to squeeze the independent vote (now most of them are inside a tent of some description, be it government, party or quasi party) and SF, whose poll ratings are now in line with their low end gain line result than the significantly higher rates indicated beforehand. 

Whether that’s just a return to cold reality or a cooling off, Fianna Fáil, with its continued pretension to representing the broad middle ground of Irish politics again, must fight a broad (and highly exacting) battle to make even the modest shifts needed to regain pole position again.

They won’t go to the county on poll numbers alone, because it would risk re-embedding the Haughey era impression of putting ‘party before country’ (a line he prefers to push onto SF). 

Mr Martin has more of a conciliatory ‘Jack Lynch’ profile in mind. It remains to be seen whether that includes ambitions for Northern Ireland. Some obliquity in that regard might be helpful: not least to give “the Republican Party” of its long form title actual meaning.
Because the truth is that the offering that you make to the public matter a great deal more than we have, in our own cynical, post modern way come to think. 

And Fianna Fáil’s offering is, as yet, far from complete.

  • Gopher

    One sometimes gets the impression that the site is reporting on minor skirmishes at the edge of Europe rather than embracing the wider world. The one consideration for every political party in the Republic despite all the lines that have to fill a banal press, is the party of government in about two years will have to negotiate and pass a workable relationship through its parliament with the UK that Europe cannot block. FG might be in a domestic “limbo” but I will counter the premise of the opening post and suggest that any other serious political party (one has to exclude SF) would take that position when the negotiations begin as it will likely define the Republic for the next 50 years or even in perpetuity .

  • Roger

    You seem to assume there that there will be lots of bilateral deals between continuing EU states an ex-EU UK. That’s possible but we really don’t know if that will come to pass. There may v well be a single agreement between Ex-EU UK and EU. We don’t know if IRL will be able to or required to negotiate any separate agreement. Trade agreements for EU states are through the EU anyway, though there could be non trade matters outside EU scope that could fall to be agreed between IRL and UK. We don’t have much idea yet.

  • Gopher

    Nope I’m just assuming the Republic will want a say with regards it’s only land border and such a say will have to dovetail with the EU and UK making the final agreement trilateral. Obviously the simple form would mean the Republic and the U.K. making a deal and Brussels signing off on it. Either way as I point out the party in Government is not the party in “limbo” To use a cricketing analogy if FF don’t bowl FG out they won’t get to bat and risk a FG declaration before stumps. I would not fancy campaigning against a deal with SF as your opening partner

  • kensei

    There can’t be bilateral deals, on trade at least – the EU has competency.

  • Roger

    You said “the party of government (in IRL) will have to negotiate and pass a workable relationship through its parliament…”. We (as in ‘Kensi’ and I) have pointed out that’s not correct. IRL is not leaving the EU. It will continue to be unable to negotiate on trade and customs, matters pretty fundamental to its border arrangements with the UK.

  • Roger

    Yes. That’s the point I made in the penultimate sentence.

  • Gopher

    Are you suggesting the EU will be able to force a deal on the Republic which does not take on board any of their concerns?

  • Katyusha

    It will continue to be unable to negotiate on trade and customs,

    It will be able to negotiate on trade and customs… as part of the EU. As the member state most exposed to negative effects of Brexit, and the one most closely intertwined with the UK, they have good reason to have direct input into the negotiations, and the EU is not going to want to trash the economy of its only austerity success story. The European Union is about pooling and sharing power, not ceding it to a foreign overlord like the Brexit camp like to compare it to.

  • eamoncorbett

    I hope what you mention doesn’t happen , it would be a disaster . From my own point of view I think the EU will give a very attractive deal to Britain for the first few years in order to encourage another referendum in 5 or 6 years or so . If at the end of that period there is another “no” vote then things could be very tricky for Ireland North and South and it’s then we’ll see the real results of Brexit . The big boys Germany and France and to a certain extent Italy will surely crack the whip as far as trade is concerned and the island of Ireland will become a pawn in their deadly game . The GFA will be lucky to survive.

  • Gopher

    The EU cannot foister a deal on the Republic without the Republic having a far ranging input. That input will come from the Irish government which will likely be FG and in all probability will have to pass that deal through parliament. This means the “minority” government is not in “limbo” but in the business of State which will define the Republic for years to come.
    Without an election prior to those negotiations I feel it is FF that are in “limbo” and will be left with little room to maneuver. FF will simply be damned if they oppose the deal (with SF) and damned if they do (by supporting FG deal). Then there is always the abyss one stares into to consider if you successfully oppose a deal in Parliament between the EU, UK and ROI.

  • Roger

    Sure. I take it you’ve agreed with me and take the point about it not being the case that IRL gets to enter an agreement about these EU matters.

  • Roger

    Yes. To the extent the agreement relates to matters requiring only qualified majority vote. Dem are da rules. IRL hasn’t left the club.

    That said, the EU usually tries to do things by consensus as much as practical so one would expect they will at least take IRL position into consideration. No guarantees though.

  • Roger

    Qualified Majority Voting.
    How many votes does IRL bring to the table?

  • Gopher

    Like I said any deal will likely be ratified by the Irish Parliament. How is any deal that is contrary to the well being of the ROI going to be passed? Now the if the EU goes down that route as you seem to believe it will are you suggesting that any government will recommend such a deal to its people?

  • Roger

    I must point out to you that national parliaments don’t ratify EU-Third Party agreements. What I believe or think isn’t in question. Qualified Majority Voting is a reality. IRL has no control and only limited say on the process.

  • kensei

    IRL has a veto.

  • Declan Doyle

    The excitement of hitting 33% in the polls is wearing away now that they have dropped back to mid twenties.

  • Gopher

    If the EU put in jeopardy the well being of the Irish Republic I imagine the parliament will be an interested party.

  • Katyusha

    Depends on the process, right? We don’t even have the first inkling about how this will work out. The EU’s future relationship with Britain may be very different to its relationships with other countries – it’s the first former member state, and a major partner at that, and it’s the first example of a former state that may disintegrate with former territories (Scotland) wishing to continue/regain/acquire EU membership.

    Additionally, theres a lot of discussion that this may force the EU to change itself, and if it requires a treaty change, that won’t just have to be ratified by every parliament, including the Irish parliament, but also by the Irish people.

    Having said that, I’d rather it doesn’t go down such a path. Ireland’s relationship with Britain is too sensitive to leave it up to every member state to ratify, some of whom will have their own local agenda or seek to extract concessions. As it is, Ireland will have direct input into negotiations and a good argument that its interests be reflected in the eventual settlement. Qualified Majority Voting isn’t just a thing: it’s a good thing.

  • Katyusha

    I agree with the points you’ve been making mostly, but there’s one little detail missing before I can agree with that statement.

    “about it not being the case that IRL gets to enter a separate
    agreement about these EU matters.”
    Ireland can’t have a bilateral trade agreement with the UK. However there’s no reason why it can’t have specific terms included in a future UK-EU agreement. For example, enshrining the continuation of the Common Travel Area in EU law, or agreeing to implement immigration and customs checks at Irish ports and airports rather than at the NI/ROI border.

    Ireland will have a direct say in the overall negotiations as a party with a stake in the outcome, and can also negotiate terms for itself. Look at how many opt-outs and exceptions the UK arranged for itself (grossly weakening their political clout at the EU top table, but that’s a discussion for another day)

  • Roger

    IRL doesn’t get to enter any agreement. Separate or otherwise. The EU and UK do, assuming they can reach an agreement. IRL will have as much say on the EU-UK agreement as the rules on Qualified Majority Voting provides for.

    That said IRL has a good track record on EU negotiations so we’ll see what influence they yield this time.

    The non-law based, informal “CTA” is already enshrined in the treaties. However, I agree with you that new politically agreed arrangements about the CTA may be needed (from IRL/UK perspective). QMV will apply to extent those matters concern matters within the competence of the EU.

  • Katyusha

    Ireland get to enter an agreement with the UK as part of the EU an organisation if which they are a member. It’s as simple as that.

    If a trade union ballots its members on an issue, and then negotiates with an employer to secure better terms for its members,would you say those workers aren’t party to the agreement? Would you say that there is no agreement between the employer and the workers that the union represent?

    I’ll pull you up as well on “IRL will have as much say on the EU-UK agreement as the rules on Qualified Majority Voting provides for.” Voting is the latter, and least influential, part of the battle. The real influence comes in drafting the legislation that the members vote on.

    I wouldn’t overestimate Ireland’s hand, but they’ve been pretty canny in their dealings with the EU, and they’ve been highlighted as a channel of communication between Britain and the EU in the past. Certainly, they hold more influence in these negotiations than a simple share of castable votes would indicate.

    The big question is, is Brexit important enough to stay at the top of the EU’s priority list? Another major European crisis could shift the EU’s focus elsewhere, but Ireland’s stake in the negotiations is unlikely to change. It’s not like the Irish coast is likely to be overwhelmed by Syrian refugees, the Irish banking crisis is supposed to be over and done with, and we’re not at risk from Russian aggression any time soon. The same cannot be said for all EU countries, which may have more important matters at hand than Brexit.

  • Roger

    “Depends on the process”. EU (fka EC/EEC) marks its 60th birthday next year. Its processes or procedures are governed by the various treaties that built it up over the decades. Including treaty provisions dealing with the withdrawal of a member, trade, customs etc. We know a lot about the process already. It is not Day Zero. We know already that national parliaments will have no role in ratifying any EU/Third Party agreement.

  • Roger

    I’d only be repeating myself so keep it brief EU enters agreement; IRL doesn’t. UK enters agreement; Scotland doesn’t. The component parts of the entity that enters are of course stuck with its terms.

    QMV is what applies to IRL. You agree with me on that and beyond that what influence IRL can yield is only something we can speculate about.

  • Roger

    No doubt the Oireachtas would be interested. I, Roger, personally would be very interested too. Both the Oireachtas of Ireland and Roger would play an equal formal role in approving or ratifying the EU-UK agreement. Precisely none. Dem are da rules. IRL can leave EU if application of the rules becomes intolerable.

  • Roger

    Tell us more. Where’s the veto? It’s not in Art 50.

  • Katyusha

    The processes change over time as reality and necessity dicate. The current rules on QMV and the withdrawal of a member state were only approved with the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, and the QMV rules are still in a transitional phase.

    Until 31 March 2017 any member of the Council can request, on a case-by-case basis, that the old voting rules be applied.

    So the fact that there has been some form of European cooperation in myriad different guises for the last sixty years does not give us any real insight into its future. The EU changes and continues to change over time.

    The process for registering refugees and asylum seekers in the EU was that they register in the member state they first arrive in. This lasted until the EU actually had to deal with any considerable influx of refugees. Many of them didn’t register on the first country they camr to, nor the second, nor the third. We saw Germany and Sweden inviting refugees to cross over other the territory of other member states. We saw fences and border controls beong put up in Hungary and Austria. We saw Italy threatening to give Schengen visas to refugees. Was this part of the processes that had been built up over the last sixty years? All according to the statute book?

    You say we know the process on the withdrawal of a member state. Do we? What about the status of Britons living abroad? Do they need to return to the UK? Will they be deported? Do they need to be granted a special visa or a work permit? If they return to the UK, will they lose the right to emigrate back into the EU? Can they claim citizenship from their host country? As a specific example, Germany only usually permits dual citizenship with other EU member states (with rare exceptions). Do dual British-German citizens who earned their German citizenship through naturalisation now have to renounce either their UK or German citizenship?

    If the UK wins concessions on the four fundamental freedoms, what happens then? Does it need ratified by every member state? Does it require a treaty change? Can the EU legislate on freedom of movement with an external state without ratification by individual member states?
    No-one knows. We’ve never been here before. We don’t really know the process. We don’t even know if the provisions in current treaties are adequate or fit for purpose. There are almost certainly areas where either domestic or European law needs to be amended.

    We have had the possibility mentioned recently that Scotland might be put into a “holding pen” or transitional relationship with the EU if they vote to secede from the UK. Do you know the process for this? Would their entry into the holding pen have to be ratified by every member state? A kind of pre-approval for future EU entry? No one knows. As yet, there is no process.

    In the Scottish indyref, there was doubt over whether an independent Scotland would have to go through the usual process of accesion of new EU member states, given that, as a constituent of a member state it could already demonstrate compliance with many of the criteria. Does the time Scotland spent as part of the EU within the UK count towards verifying its compliance with EU rules? Before a Scottish Constitution has even been drafted? What exactly happens when part of an EU member state secedes? Nobody really knows. It’s never happened before. But Europe’s turbulent history makes it almost an inevitability.

    What if an EU member complies with the EU’s accession criteria on joining, but eventually slides away from democratic principles? Can they be forced to exit the EU? Would their exit need to be ratified by every member state -including the state in question? The recent curbs by the Polish government on the powers of the judiciary demonstrates this is not an academic argument. They can be stripped of voting rights at the Council of Ministers, but the process for the forcible ejection of a member state is not something I’m aware of. Yet it is not difficult to imagine a scenario where this may be required. Again, European history is not reassuring in this regard.

    You are making a mistake that many people who focus on narrow points of law make. Laws can make perfect sense on paper, but, particularly in international politics, can crumble upon contact with the real world. I am not a lawyer, and it is possible some of the scenarios I’ve listed have been legislated for, but it is impossible to legislate for every eventuality. I’d be very surprised if Brexit is a smooth process and we don’t end up with contested legal arguments.

  • Roger

    I see here a lot of confusion over what’s within EU competence and what’s not. For example German citizenship laws via-a-vis former EU citizens. Similarly mostly immigration isn’t either. What’s within EU competence will be agreed, if it’s agreed, in accordance with well established legal procedures that don’t involve national parliaments having a direct say or individual members being party to the agreement. What’s not within EU competence is up to each member state to decide about including for Germany its citizenship rules in accordance with German procedures.

    I really can’t take “Scotland” as an EU issue seriously. It will be treated the same way as Devon or Leeds. It’s not a state. If it or Devon or Leeds cedes from UK, it can apply to join just as Serbia and Turkey have.

    The EU treaties are not about to be amended before Brexit either. Can you seriously see that? Convening an IGC and setting off on the multi year process? No. Current rules will be followed. The EU is a creature of law. It’s not made up as they go along.

    Whatever transitional provisions there may be, Brexit is not going to happen before the end of March v

  • Katyusha

    I see here a lot of confusion over what’s within EU competence and what’s not. For example German citizenship laws via-a-vis former EU citizens.

    Sure, citizenship is entirely within the hands of the member state. I’ve made the same argument myself on these pages time and again. The point is that the status of former EU citizens is not currently defined under EU law.

    But if you know the limits of EU competence, perhaps you can tell us? What exactly <i<is the status of British citizens living and working in the EU? Are they allowed to continue to work under the freedom of movement laws under which they emigrated? Do they need to acquire work visas or permits? Can they be deported? And, most importantly, can the EU force member states to allow the citizens of a non EU state to have residency within their borders, without it being ratified by individual states?

    If the agreement at the end of this contains a provision such as “the rights and privileges gained by citizens of a former EU state living within the EU shall continue to apply until the citizen ends his residency within the European Union”, then its not hard to see how that would impact those who hold dual citizenship, and by extension, domestic law.

    I really can’t take “Scotland” as an EU issue seriously. It will be treated the same way as Devon or Leeds. It’s not a state. If it or Devon or Leeds cedes from UK, it can apply to join just as Serbia and Turkey have.

    Sure, they’re not a state. Yet. That’s the issue.
    It doesn’t have to be Scotland. There needs to be a process to deal with the secession of a member state. The borders of Europe have changed constantly over time, states have formed, merged, fallen, split, reunited… you name it.
    Do you think that the borders of EU nations, having changed so much over the last century, are now frozen in time?
    What happens, for example, if Catalunya secedes, with Spain as the successor state? Does the time they spent as part of Spain mean nothing?
    What would have happened if Czechoslovakia had dissolved while it was within the European Union,peacefully and with no clear successor state? Do both countries automatically face ejection from the EU? Can one of them retain EU membership? Both?
    The situation is definitely not the same as Serbia or Turkey, which were never part of EU member states and so have no track record of compliance with EU standards.

    The EU treaties are not about to be amended before Brexit either. Can you seriously see that? Convening an IGC and setting off on the multi year process? No. Current rules will be followed. The EU is a creature of law. It’s not made up as they go along.

    Not within the next two years. But I can definitely see a treaty change within the next decade, as a direct result of whatever lessons are learned from Britain’s exit.
    The handling of the Eurozone banking crisis and the refugee crisis don’t lend a lot of credibility to the idea that the EU doesn’t make up things as it goes along. There are certainly suggestions that the ECB overstepped its legal mandate and role with its intervention in Greece. Emergency legislation is also a real thing, as is the use of previous events as a precedent to shape the interpretation of international law.

    Whatever transitional provisions there may be, Brexit is not going to happen before the end of March

    Of course. That’s not the point. The point is European law is constantly being updated and changed. For a political union, it’s remarkably fluid. Your “60 year history of the EU and its predecessors” does not give us any guarantees about how it will operate in the future.

  • Roger

    You’ve accepted the treaties are not going to be amended before UK departs EU. That means you’ve accepted that we already know the EU rules that will govern the process. What happens to EU treaties after Brexit could be speculated about endlessly but isn’t relevant here. Your opinion that the EU treaties should cater for the splitting of a member state into more than one state may have merit. Others would doubtless disagree for pretty obvious reasons. But no such procedures exist. And the treaties are not going to change before UK exit. And Scotland would have to apply for membership in exactly the same way as Serbia and Turkey have. I agree that it might get membership quicker because of its circumstances but the process is exactly the same. Iceland was in a fast track to membership before it dropped the idea too. The status of former EU citizens is already covered by EU law. The key word is former. They will no longer be EU citizens. Their status vis-a-vis EU citizenship will be the same as an EU citizen who legally renounced his or her citizenship for that of a third country.

  • Katyusha

    You’ve accepted the treaties are not going to be amended before UK departs EU.

    Depends very much on whether the eventual settlement requires treaty changes. There was discussion about treaty changes being required even during Cameron’s negotiations prior to the Brexit vote. I don’t think there will be treaty changes implemented within two years. The EU cannot work on that kind of timeframe. That does not mean that an eventual agreement cannot include a statement of to change treaties. I don’t see it happening, I think it would be a disaster for all involved if negotiations were held up or failed because the two negotiating parties can’t agree on a settlement that fits within current EU law, but it’s possible. Neither does it mean that transitional phases can’t be written into a UK-EU agreement.

    Regarding the timeframe for leaving the EU, we haven’t even submitted Article 50 yet. There is, as yet, no legal commitment for Britain to exit the EU.

    What happens to EU treaties after Brexit could be speculated about endlessly but isn’t relevant here.

    Only if you believe Britain is pulling up the drawbridge. Otherwise, Britain, and their relationship with the EU, is going to be affected by any future treaty changes.
    The UK had input into European integration projects long before they were actually a member of the EU.

    I agree that it might get membership quicker because of its circumstances but the process is exactly the same. Iceland was in a fast track to membership before it dropped the idea too.

    If it can earn a fast track to membership because of its membership of a former state, then the process is not the same. So I’ll ask you again. Can compliance with EU norms under the membership of another EU state be used to demonstrate compliance for a new member state?
    If so, then they aren’t following the same process as Serbia or Turkey. The only similarity is that they submit the same application forms.

    If they even have to apply. Lets take another look at that, shall we? http://www.scottishlegal.com/2016/07/01/brussels-insiders-reveal-plans-to-preserve-scotlands-eu-membership-in-event-of-independence/

    The status of former EU citizens is already covered by EU law. The key word is former. They will no longer be EU citizens. Their status vis-a-vis EU citizenship will be the same as an EU citizen who legally renounced his or her citizenship for that of a third country.

    That tells us what status they don’t have, but doesn’t get us any closer to determining what their status will actually be . Not all third countries are equal as far as the EU are concerned. Their status will dependent on the outcome of any EU-UK negotiations, on the domestic law of the EU nation they are resident in, and on – yes – bilateral agreements between the UK and member states.

    Or maybe if you know, you could tell us. Straight question. Will British citizens currently resident in another EU country retain their right of residence?
    Can the EU force a member state to respect the right of residence of non EU citizens?
    Its not hard to find arguments for both sides of that debate. Lets compare what the British and French press say.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/11698875/Emigration-Why-British-expats-have-nothing-to-fear-from-Brexit.html
    http://www.connexionfrance.com/Vienna-Convention-1969-expats-rights-residence-Brexit-17867-view-article.html
    It’s worth noting that even if the Vienna Convention did apply, France isn’t a signatory.

  • Roger

    I think we ought to acknowledge that we’ve both agreed that our expectation is that there are not going to be any treaty changes before Brexit happens. So, on that basis, we know the EU rules that will govern the Brexit procedures. That’s the first point. What happens after Brexit could be endlessly speculated about, but it’s not relevant to the UK exit process. It goes without saying that future post-Brexit evolution of the EU treaties could affect the UK and I certainly agree with you there too. UK won’t be party to any future EU treaties, as it won’t be a member.

    A process and how a process goes are not the same things in my book. But, we are basically agreed, any independent state, whether Scotland, Donegal, Devon or Belarus all have to fill out the same application forms and go through the same process. Those more ready for it will probably get through it quicker. Iceland was certainly much more ready than Turkey. Scotland would be too. Scotland would not be earning a fast track “because of its membership of a former (EU) state”. Nothing so unique. Rather, it would from a technical perspective be better placed to speed through the various chapters of negotiations on admission because its existing laws would already be so closely aligned with those required by EU membership. That said, one can’t predict with certainty how long Scottish accession process would take. Politics could crop up, putting a break on it.

    I do not for a moment wish to suggest I know what special rights (if any) UK citizens will enjoy in any of the EU27 post Brexit. That will be up to each of the EU27 to decide on. You’ve mentioned that the Vienna Convention may help some of those UK nationals. I can’t speak to that. I do know their rights will not be governed by EU concepts like EU citizenship.

Join us for the Slugger End of Year Review Show, Wed 14th Dec 2016
Get your tickets