United approach to Brexit? Well done, Arlene and Martin.

Rather out of the blue, this joint letter from Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness   to the prime minister Theresa May changes the impression of a divided Executive heading for  a fresh stand-off and is to be warmly welcomed. It is artfully couched in calling for no weakening of cross border measures to deal with crime and implies that border posts could create targets for dissident republicans and others – points that will hit home with the former home secretary.

It also reveals that the DUP have  taken part in discussions on Brexit with the Irish government through the obvious forum of the north-south ministerial council. This removes early impressions of a DUP reluctance of engage with Dublin after Enda Kenny’s  clumsily handled suggestion for an all-Ireland forum.  Honour would appeared to be satisfied on both sides, at least for now.

This region is unique because of its land Border with the Republic. We therefore appreciate your stated determination that the border will not become an impediment  to the movement of people good and services..

The border must not become “a catalyst for illegal activity or compromise in any way the arrangements relating to criminal justice and tackling organised crime.

“It is equally important that the Border does not create an incentive for those who wish to undermine the peace process and/or the political settlement.”

There is little sympathy here for the case for an emergency cap on EU immigration which seems key to the UK position, and yet  could hamper attempts  to gain close access to the single market.

“Policies must be sufficiently flexible to allow access to s unskilled as well as highly skilled labour”

Inevitably Arlene Foster has had to deny claims of a DUP U turn. The same might be said of Martin McGuinness as Claire Hanna of the SDLP suggests   However picking over the early post- referendum positions should not detract from the welcome this joint approach deserves.

It is even accompanied by a sense of reality “ recognising the possibility that it cannot be guaranteed that outcomes that suit our common interests (of the British and Irish governments about the border )  are  ultimately deliverable.

The approach  augurs well for the process  to achieve an agreed Article 50 position  which the Irish government can support – even though as they admit, full success cannot be guaranteed.

It should for the moment at least take the wind out of the sails for the proposal to mount a legal challenge  to Brexit in the Belfast High Court, unless the prime minister were to reply favourably to their demands.


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  • Skibo

    The DUP is not a UK wide party and lost the argument in their own back yard.
    Theresa May said she would take into consideration the interests of the devolved areas. Fact is, Arlene does not speak for the majority of voters in NI on the Brexit subject. That is why the letter, while seems as a climb down by the DUP, is actually quite representative of NI electorate.

  • Skibo

    Perhaps, had they been given the choice, you would have seen the difference.
    All English, so I assume we can take it that Northern Irish and Southern Irish are all Irish then?

  • Skibo
  • Skibo

    Johnny can you post a link to the letter. I cannot find one but do remember them stating movement of labour, rather than people?

  • Skibo

    Sounds very like Brexit without the Exit!

  • Skibo

    I wouldn’t say it was a defeat but does show that the Lady does turn.
    To me the letter is realistic and proactive approach to the issue of Brexit but in the end stands for nothing as Stormont will not be involved in the negotiations.
    Any chance we have will be via the Irish Government trying to soften the EU negotiating stance.

  • NotNowJohnny
  • Angry Mob

    As some only like to read the headlines heres is one to ponder:
    “Britain would bring more influence to EFTA”

    Also, heres an article on why Norway has little to lose from UK membership

    In reality the only thing Norway has too lose, is the ambitions of some of it’s political class who wish to join the EU. A stronger EFTA significantly reduces that possibility.

  • Roger

    To assume is to make an ass of u and me.

    Have you ever met any person who gave his nationality as Southern Irish? I haven’t. I don’t think there are a statistically significant number of persons who would do so. It clearly isn’t the same thing as Northern Irish.

    I don’t think the census gives choices. I think nationality is a write in thing too. Though if some one digs out the form, we could bottom that one out too.

  • Roger

    Check out the disclaimer on page 2. I am sure there are restrictions on rights to freely settle around the EU.

  • Angry Mob

    Interestingly, they were the only governing party who were in touch with the UK electorate.

  • Hugh Davison

    Ah, so! What headlines have I been reading, then?

  • Skibo

    Try page 15 of the census results, Ethnic groups and then two tables for National identity. Interestingly enough,
    48.41% ticked some element of British while 57.79% ticked some element of Irish. Why are we not having a border poll based on these facts alone?
    As for the use of the word assume, I tend to use it as I, unlike some posters here am not infallible and sometimes have to assume!

  • Skibo

    Nice letter, well written. Wonder how Martin convinced her to sign it? Well done Marty.
    Just one thing, the people referenced in the next paragraph are all labour, high skilled and unskilled. Guess that covers everyone bar the beggars!

  • Skibo

    Cheap political stunt to an electorate where they are immaterial. The UK does not want to know about NI.

  • Angry Mob

    Not you specifically.

  • Roger

    “some element”….if that means Northern Irish, there’s little Irish about that. It’s a UK concept. Originates from the Act of 1920.

  • Skibo

    AH Rodger, that would be what I would call an assumption and you know what assume means, don’t you.
    On this one I can confirm that my wife filled out the census forms for herself and our children. She ticked Northern Irish and I can assure you that she and my children do not consider themselves British. Much like a number of Irish people I know also.
    For the next census come 2021 we will see a better view on British and Irish identity as the issue of Northern Irish being looked at as making the Irish element acceptable will not be used by those who consider themselves British.

  • Roger

    There’s no assumption there. Your wife picked a British box. Northern Irish is inherently a UK concept. Its origins are the 1920 Act. It has no history before that.

    Yesterday day I googled the form to take a look. The form I found from 2011 does not contain an Irish box. I must admit that rather takes from its value as a tool for gauging identity. It’s understandable that some Irish like your wife might tick a British box if the only way to identify as Irish is to write in.

    I didn’t understand your last sentence about the 2021 census. Is the form going to change?

  • Skibo

    Please note, Rodger, item 15 includes National identity: British, Irish, Northern Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh and other.
    Northern Irish does not essentially mean British. People who reside in NI can be British OR Irish. Remember the GFA?
    So Irish can quite confidently pick NI as meaning Irish, as can those who want it to mean British.
    I included the last statement as there will be a census in 2021 and those who look at themselves as British will think twice about ticking the NI box only as this leaves it open to believe they are confident to be known as Irish.
    By the way, Northern Ireland is not a country. It does not have a citizenship. It is either a region of Ireland or a region of the UK depending on your political outlook.
    The fact that it has a soccer team has more to do with the fact that the southern region had to split from the IFA for Southern players to get a fair shake at international football.

  • Roger

    Well I was wrong about there being no Irish box. We must disagree about Northern Irish. It is a UK concept. Pretty much no one called himself Northern Irish before the Government of Ireland Act 1920. That’s the statute that partitioned the former Ireland. Northern Irish is quite plainly a UK creation and a partitionist concept, not that I mean that in a negative way. How on earth you think the GFA has anything to do with this, I’ve no idea. Northern Irish quite clearly suggests a happiness to self-identify as regards nationality with the 1921 creation. If you can’t see that, I doubt I can say much more to clarify.

    As regards your last two paragraphs, please be at ease. I am not from the DPRK. I am, after all, a reader of this website.

  • Skibo

    Rodger, It is good to recognise when you are wrong. It shows character.
    Northern Ireland did not exist before 1920 and should not have existed after. It was an idiotic and sectarian move to create a Unionist majority on a sectarian head count.
    Doesn’t change the fact that if you are born on the island of Ireland you can claim to be Irish.
    What I am trying to get through to you is that you cannot claim that those who picked Northern Irish are British. There was a box to tick for British or for any element of Britishness. Approximately 48.8% chose that option. That is less than 50%.
    The issue raised by the GFA is it formalised the fact that anyone born within NI can claim Irish citizenship.
    As for DPRK, there is another example of a country that should not have an internal border either.

  • Roger

    It seems you haven’t accepted that Northern Irish is a UK / British concept. I did not make the claim you referred to. Rather, I claimed all those who ticked Northern Irish ticked a British box. Whether they perceived it as such or not. They could have ticked Irish but chose not to. They chose to tick a partition nationality rooted in the 1920 Act.

    You haven’t addressed how the GFA in any way related to ticking Northern Irish. That the GFA recognises British and Irish in no way concerns that Northern Irish is a British concept. I’ve never met an Irish person who would describe himself as Southern Irish for example.

  • Skibo

    No Rodger I have not accepted that NI is a UK/ British concept. It is a UK/ Ireland concept and could not have come about without the Irish element or acceptance of the treaty.
    To not accept that those who picked NI as meaning Irish with a northern tinge is idiotic. Most people who filled out the census will have no notion what the 1920 Act even is.

    On the issue of the GFA, if you care to read my posts above, you will see I have answered it but here goes again.
    The GFA permits all born within NI to be British or Irish so someone can chose NI and perceive themselves as Irish just as someone can chose NI and perceive themselves as British.
    As is a previous post, those who are turned off by any assumption that they are Irish, will not tick the NI box the next time in 2021.
    Perhaps the census in 2021 will ask the question more directly.

  • Roger

    As regards Northern Irish we understand each other I think but don’t agree. No more can usefully be said I think but I still go on here. The facts are plain but we draw different conclusions. You haven’t disagreed with me with regards to the fact that no one called himself Northern Irish before partition yet you don’t accept its a British partitionist concept. Perhaps you think partition was an Irish idea. You suggest ignorance on the part of the populace in some way changes things. I disagree. You suggest it’s perfectly reasonable for a person to pick the Northern Irish box instead of the Irish box but still claim he is plain Irish. If he is, why didn’t he tick that box? Presumably because he feels he’s not plain Irish. Presumably because he feels he has a separate identity from the plain Irish. You haven’t touched on the fact that hardly any one in Ireland proper would dream of calling himself Southern Irish. The very notion would offend a great many there. They are Irish, they say; not qualified somethings.

    You haven’t really added anything further as regards the GFA. You’ve repeated remarks about British and Irish but said nothing relevant to Northern Irish. I suppose maybe you draw no distinction between Northern Irish and Irish then maybe it makes sense in your head. As far as I’m aware, the GFA doesn’t mention Northern Irish.

  • Angry Mob