Brexit or Flexit, for a time UK politics will take sole control of the stage

There’s a plethora of speculation around Brexit and how it might affect Northern Ireland. For all the heartfelt nature of Brian Feeney’s attack on Arlene Foster highlightly the fact that she doesn’t represent majority opinion in NI – her Euroscepticism is aligned with majority opinion in the UK.

And for the foreseeable future, so far as internal politics are concerned, it’s the only opinion that counts. UK Labour under their ingenue and (if news from their last regional bastion is anything to go by) lame duck leader has no visible means to block any solution handed down by the British PM.

One thing ripping up the UK’s historic committments to the EU on foot of a single [ahem, advisory? – Ed] vote means is that the British PM can no longer control the external outcome. So it was always unlikely, at this stage that she will cede any influence over internal arrangements, at this stage.

This, after all was part of the Eurosceptic play to repatriate soveriegn powers to Westminster (not Stormont, Hollyrood or Cardiff Bay). What comes next will be interesting. From an NI point of view the DUP will look for the means of getting replacements for the impending loss of EU funding.

From a Scottish point of view the debate line has receded from membership of the EU to access to the Single Market. In that respect, James Millar in the New Statesmen argues that a hard Brexit makes for a hard political life for the SNP:

If Sturgeon is opposed to the increasingly likely scenario that sees the whole of the UK crash out of Europe swapping single market access for full immigration controls, it’s because first and foremost it’s bad for her cause.

For if there is to be a hard Brexit, Sturgeon would have to sell the prospect of Scotland leaving the UK, joining the EU and being confronted with not just border posts for anyone wanting to travel south but tariffs for anyone wanting to trade with England.

She’d have her work cut out.The UK is a significantly more vital trading partner for Scotland than the remaining 27 countries of the EU. Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK outstrip what it sell to Europe abour four to one, and it’s estimated that while 250,000 Scots jobs are tied to the EU, a million more rely on being in the UK.

It’s why Sturgeon for all her fighting talk is trapped. If there is to be a hard Brexit she needs to get Scotland out of the UK before the reality of that dawns. That’s looking like a two-and-a-half year window.

And the spin war on that has already begun in Scotland…

Until further notice, all enquiries from Devolved First Minister’s Offices are to be directed to David Davis’ office…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Zorin001

    “There’s a plethora of speculation around Brexit and how it might affect Northern Ireland. For all the heartfelt nature of Brian Feeney’s attack on Arlene Foster highlightly the fact that she doesn’t represent majority opinion in NI – her Euroscepticism is aligned with majority opinion in the UK.”

    Is she personally Eurosceptic though or did she play politics with the issue to appease the DUP base while secretly expecting a Remain vote?

    She was in charge of DETI long enough to see just how much ERDF money Northern Ireland received and rumour has it that very little forward planning was done for a Leave vote as no-one saw it coming.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well what powers could be devolved to the Assembly from Europe …

    None really …

    Agriculture … think there’ll be a DEFRA program covering everything, there’s going to be less of it anyway.
    Migration … oh no no
    Trade … again unlikely
    Labour/Human Rights … DUP petition of concern will probably kill it.
    Additional Money … in real purchasing power, none.

    This is a Sword of Damocles over the institutions as they are rendered impotent at least in strand 1 politics.

    The opportunities for growing the Second strand in terms of cross border co-operation seem more needed, given the decision does leave Northern Ireland a bit worse of.

  • ted hagan

    Your use of the word Eurosceptic is hardly strong enough to describe what the Brexiteers stand for, surely?

  • Oriel27

    Our Arlene’s home place is 6.9 Km from Clones, Her home place is 3.4 Km from the Monaghan border.
    Now, our bowl Arlene should know only too well what would happen around her area if the border closes. …
    I hail from that neck of the woods myself. Does she need to be reminded again of the troubles her border caused the area 20 years ago??? Why does she tread so dangerously with such an extremely touchy subjects?? why has she no regard for her fellow neighbours safety both North and South? Does she honestly believe a border post would last 24 hours outside Roslea village again?? ….

  • the rich get richer

    I suggest that there may be a few that would see the “in-advertent” misplacing of Northern Ireland to be a happy side effect of Brexit.

    After all one should never let a good crisis go to waste .

    There are even a few that wouldn’t break into much of a sweat if Scotland managed to go its own way .

    Never a cloud without a silver lining and all that………..

  • hgreen

    Yes for people who are supposed to love N.I. the DUP have a strange way of showing it.

  • Tochais Siorai

    The siege is dead. Long live the siege…..

  • Kevin Breslin
  • Oriel27

    Your really tryin got scare me Kevin with this information !!. This Brexit thing hasnt been thought out at all. Has there been any consideration for the people that live along the border and cross it everyday?. I know Arlenes relatives and family cross the border on a daily basis, i see them all the time. My own parish is divided by the border, i go to mass in the North. I can definitely see a returned to armed conflict if this hard border happens.

  • LiamÓhÉ

    Yes, although CTA border discussions are mooted it may be that a hard brexit makes it politically unpalatable for Rep. of Ireland to be siding with the UK ruling on facilitating the control of movement of workers from outside the CTA. Divided Northern Ireland is caught in-between, thus putting pressure on the peace process while also pushing a few percentage points towards unification, but probably not enough to make that a viable scenario in the brexit timeframe (unlike Scotland).

  • Kevin Breslin

    I feel the unresolved issue of freight and services movement may be bigger than that of people. In Northern Ireland the migrancy issues are mostly outward as local people flee the place. We have a hard border problem here from peacewalls.

    The critical issues that will have to be asked surround the Republic of Ireland’s social, political and economic ties to Great Britain supplementing and accomodating those of Northern Ireland in the wake of additional Brexit barriers.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Archy and Mehitabel.

  • Angry Mob

    I got excited when I seen the word flexit, hoping it was a misspelling for the cunning Flexcit plan.

  • Jollyraj

    “Our Arlene’s home place is 6.9 Km from Clones, Her home place is 3.4 Km from the Monaghan border.
    Now, our bowl Arlene should know only too well what would happen around her area if the border closes. …”

    Are you suggesting that she should move further away from the border?

  • Jollyraj

    Eh? But NI is just another region of the UK which, as we all know, has voted as a national unit to Brexit

  • Oriel27

    Not in the slightest jollyraj. I just find it extremely strange, disappointing, unbelievable that someone from the border region would vote for brexit. She should know how dangerous that region was at one time – because there was a hard border there. Is she not first minister of everyone or just her voting base ??

  • Sir Rantsalot

    “devolved to the Assembly from Europe”

    I think you mean devolved from Europe back to the national parliament in Westminster. At the time of devolution, the powers that the national parliament had, were considered for devolution. Some were devolved and some retained. When powers return from Europe to the national parliament, they could be considered for devolution then. That’s the process, no need to create a false impression that Brexit is doing the regions out of something !!

    All your Brexit points turn out to be false. Dear oh dear….

  • chrisjones2

    “NI must not leave the Single Market” – but that decision is for our UK Government during the negotiations

  • chrisjones2

    If we cant get to Mass we will have to start murdering poeple (again)!!

    What a strong debating point.

    and if you do, go ahread.Worked well last time didnt it

  • chrisjones2

    Shocking news today. The economy is still growing bespite Brexit!!!

    Businesses along the border and in Belfast are thriving

    What will we do!!! What will we complain about now?

  • Kevin Breslin

    No I meant “devolved to the Assembly from Europe” it’s very clear what I meant before the pathetic attempt to reinterpret my statement.

    As I’ve said before there was 5 main issues I highlighted too…

    1 . No additional money for Northern Ireland leaving the European Union. Very Recently a DUP Economy minister talked down a UUP proposal for additional investment from these non-existent funds.

    2. No significant additional powers for the devolved administrations apart from agriculture spending, and given the challenges it faces a central national policy seems more likely than a devolved one.

    3. The Vote Leave NI assertion that there would not be “No chance of a customs border” and checks has not simply been raised by Southern Irish and Irish nationalists, it’s been clearly stated by David Davies, David Trimble and Nigel Lamont.

    4. The belief the UK government was going to fund the Corporation Tax decrease here now because it would be free from EU State Aid rules evangelized by some on the Leave side has been shot down by the Conservatives already. Labour is hardly going to be more sympathetic.

    5. The migration “benefits” trying to control around 2,000 people is some sort of fiscal stimulus or an respite of the plight of the working classes here is ridiculously naive. People need to apply for jobs and pass interviews, they don’t get jobs from Romanian gypsies being chased away to Louth.

    I could’ve thrown heaps of hyperbolic nightmares and doomsday fictions, but these calm assertions have not been proven wrong in anyway next.

    The fact is Northern Ireland is not getting anything more from this than just impediments to its cross-border, cross-continental and perhaps global trade also.

    English nationalism also damages cross-island trade with overzealous migration demands.

    Why should it get extra funding, extra powers, or something else to make business easier here?

    I see no reason why it will.

    Everything is mitigation of the extremes.

    All five matters of the OFMDFM are five concerns, not five opportunities, pretty much nothing on extra funding or extra money … Full surrender and that day isn’t coming.

    I think it’s a false rational to say Remain supporters should not express the sort of concerns that many Leave supporters also feel, but are more likely to want to hide them.

    The DUP has to demonstrate that it knows the difference between faith and blind faith here.

    The majority of local people here do not share their blind faith in Brexit.

    The Democratic Unionists generally play the man on this issue, play tribal politics and seem to focus on catharsis of this rather than seeing how Northern Ireland must reform with less Westminster funds, less or no European funds and less Dáil Éireann funds, while at the same time cutting investment in third level, higher and vocational education.

    Their narrative is not working with a population that was 56% Remain supporting.

    Sinn Féin have clearly been assigned as the NI government’s voice for that choice, equally tribal, equally man-playing … as yet to propose one mitigating effort other than of course a border poll and a legal challenge to the extremes of Brexit.

    It’s clear that their grounded warnings on Hard Brexit are clearly boosting their profile however.

    They have the advantage that Northern Ireland voted Remain in such a bulk vote. They can actually resonate with the people of North Down and North Belfast a bit more on this issue.

    I will give them both credit for their honesty, but I think the DUP are particularly ignorant or perhaps even terrified about on the issue of customs and freight.

    The main opposition parties UUP, SDLP and Alliance have all highlighted that any unique opportunity that Northern Ireland gets from Brexit comes from its proximity to the Republic of Ireland. Even the Ulster Unionists.

  • Zorin001

    I wouldn’t be totally overjoyed Chris as only the Services sector grew, everything else shrank. Below figures c&p form the Guardian:

    “Britain’s service sector, which makes up three quarters of the economy, is the only part which grew in the last three months.

    Service sector output grew by 0.8% in July-September.

    Construction shrank by 1.4%

    Agriculture shrank by 0.7%

    Industrial production shrank by 0.4%

    And manufacturing (part of production) shrank by 1%”

    For a country that wants to increase its exports its this silver lining comes with a cloud.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Much closer to home there has been bad news …

    Something needs to be done from the DUP other than evangelize about Brexit and criticize those who opposed them on the EU matter.

    The whole Remain supporters talk down the economy thing is getting tired, when the pound bounced despite talks of bad news over inflation.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Services can be exported, but you need to have the freedom of movement of people to export them.

    So I guess good thing so many North Antrim and East Belfast people got Irish passports, so they can dodge what will happen to their British colleagues in that tit-for-tat dispute.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Financial services won’t be doing so good soon, as Frankfurt, Paris, even Dublin and in the future, Edinburgh, lure the banks away from London. It is happening already.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Yes. It’s an ill wind that blows no good – Scottish independence is coming, aided by Teresa and her rabid clowns.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Just her voting base, of course.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    “Our” UK government? You mean “your” UK Government. It certainly isn’t the Scottish Government, and I and many more Scots disown any interest in Westminster, which has consistently acted against the interests of Scotland whenever these have conflicted with those of England, and where a minority of Scots MP’s have no chance of effective action on behalf of Scotland.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Your flippancy clearly shows your lack of morality or any sense of responsibility. I would almost say you should be ashamed, but BritNats are seldom able to access such feelings.

  • Anglo-Irish

    You guys haven’t forgotten the poll tax have you?

  • eamoncorbett

    Brexit doesn’t happen for two and a half years , the economy is growing because the UK is still in the EU and most EU economies are bouncing back after years of austerity . Business along the border has always been a two way street with gains and losses on both sides depending on currency fluctuations . The idea that Britain alone is the only economy with growth is a myth , the Republic is also growing and it is staying in the EU . The US is also growing and it has nothing to do with Europe . Just heard May has bribed Nissan to stay in Sunderland with tax payers money.

  • Oriel27

    I dont think you have a right to talk on the effects Brexit will have on border communities. You appear to be from somewhere far away from the border and you obviously dont know the effects of a closed border. I find your contribution to any debates on Brexit somewhat disrespectful.

  • Zorin001

    The US and parts of Europe have been growing for a number of years, it was Osbournes financially illiterate Austerity policies that held the UK back; we should have seen this growth years ago.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    You would be wise not to forget it either.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Yes. Or maybe if there is any dissent the British Army will start murdering people again. No brackets required.

  • Anglo-Irish

    The Irish and the Scots are basically cousins. Have you heard of Irish alzheimer’s?

    You forget everything except a grudge.

    Sound familiar?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    This has nothing to do with grudges. The population of Scotland, without exception in every constituency, voted to stay in the EU. If a whole country, which votes for something positive, can then have that vote overturned by a neighbouring country, then the arrangement under which this takes place is no longer viable. (Sorry about the convoluted syntax).

  • Anglo-Irish

    Sorry, being a bit flippant there.

    You are correct, the wishes of the majority in both Scotland and Northern Ireland are being ignored because a majority of people in England – who don’t give a second thought for any part of the UK other than England – have decided for mainly jingoistic xenophobic reasons that they ” Want their country back “.

    The country they are talking about is England.

    I believe it is fair to describe their reasons as jingoistic and xenophobic because as yet not one poster who voted Brexit has been able to explain precisely what we are now going to be able to do that we were being prevented from doing while EU members.

    As they apparently have no logical rational reason for wanting to Leave then the only conclusion that I can reach is that they voted emotionally on ‘ gut instinct ‘.

    Not the way to decide something which will have enormous impact on the country’s future welfare in my opinion, but that’s where we are.

    The breakup of the United Kingdom ( which clearly isn’t united in this instance ) may come about as a result of this situation.

    As to whether that is a good or a bad thing is a matter of opinion.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    A ‘National Unit’ which is moving in two opposite directions, can no longer be regarded as a viable ‘National Unit’. This ‘National Unit’ has passed it’s sell-by date, and is no longer contributing to the welfare of the constituent parts. Logically, it must break up, for the good of these parts.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Yes. Exactly. But also, see my reply to ‘Jollyraj’ below.

  • Jollyraj

    “A ‘National Unit’ which is moving in two opposite directions, can no longer be regarded as a viable ‘National Unit’.”

    Eh? Democracies allow for, indeed are founded on, disparate opinions. That’s healthy. Only dictatorships cannot tolerate disagreement and alternative POV’s.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    It’s not a question of ‘disparate opinions’ – it’s a question of two countries overwhelmingly voting for opposite options. Why should one whole countries express wishes be subordinated to another’s because they are in an agreement which is supposed to be to the benefit of both? The union under which this happened is clearly not to the benefit of Scotland and is now non-viable.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m beginning to think the only reason you supported Leave was out of sectarian bigotry.

    I hate to break it to you but Northern Ireland indeed Ireland as a whole needs sectarian bigotry like a hole in the head. It’s English bigotry that’s driving the demands for people going to the island of Britain to be vetted before arrival.

    It really does nothing else more than cripple our economy.

    And so much for claims of it being cosmopolitan decision.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa