Backstop terms are in prospect in any final deal. Unionists cannot afford to stand apart

Unfashionable though it may be to ask: do the DUP have a point when they object so strongly to the backstop? Undoubtedly it confers special status on Northern Ireland but in a form nobody likes, even nationalists who called for it.  Mrs May’s deal a.k.a. the withdrawal agreement,  is presumed dead ; the backstop is only sleeping. The bitter controversy surrounding it dramatically expresses the fundamental  difference of outlook  between the legalistic approach of  people schooled from the beginning  in … Read more

No, Brexit Britain doesn’t want her Empire back…

Brexit is about a lot of things, but one thing I agree with John Lloyd it is not (for the vast majority at least) is lost Empire. The sheer narrowness of the vote even in England ought to give some our more enthusiastic purveyors of this line some pause for thought. During the week, John Lloyd, an unenthusiastic remain voter, laid out a more realistic view of the matter to Ivan Yates on Newstalk.. The interview came on foot of … Read more

From triggering to extending Article 50, there’s a scarcity of good news & options for the embattled May

Two and a half years on from the decision to Brexit, there is no greater clarity about what that actually means nor the form it will actually take. What has become clear in the interim is that Britain’s political class is hopelessly and haplessly divided, devoid of political leaders on either side of the benches with sufficient stature, cunning and guile to navigate a clear course ahead. On the BBC’s Inside Politics programme tonight, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern didn’t hold … Read more

In the Brexit chaos political maturity is becoming a scarce commodity…

It is hard to escape the impression that there’s been a creeping but potentially catastrophic loss of political maturity across the west. Every opportunity to act as a states(wo)man, it seems, is actively being refused because… Well, you can take your pick of excuses.  In the capital of the richest country in the world, federal civil servants now face the loss of a second monthly cheque, and are turning up on breadlines, or serving up to fellow workers. They continue to … Read more

Ian Paisley splashes charity’s cash, whilst tanaiste goes economy to New York…

Nice work if you can get it. Brendan Hughes of the Irish News has been doing a little digging… IAN Paisley billed a Belfast charity for almost £6,000 to fly first-class to a peace conference in New York. Others travelling to the event from Ireland and Britain, including tánaiste Simon Coveney, flew in economy – more than 10 times cheaper in price. Political opponents branded the DUP MP “truly shameless” for recouping the high-cost travel from a charity. Sam McBride … Read more

Brexiteers at bay after the first day of May talks widens internal party splits

As Paul Waugh aptly says in Huffpost.. The lectern moment’ really is wearing thin as a useful dramatic device for Theresa May. She’s stood on the steps of No.10 so many times now that she’s devalued the currency of its impact. And after this week’s shattering defeat of her Brexit plan, more than ever it seems like her Downing Street announcements are all words and no action. May rightly said the nation needs to ‘come together’, but showed little flexibility or humility needed to make … Read more

O’Neill “government is clearly still not listening to fears of the public who are aghast at the pantomime currently playing out in the Westminster parliament”

Sinn Fein Vice President, Michelle O’Neill held a phone conversation with the Secretary of State to discuss the impasse over the Withdrawal Agreement; “I had a frank discussion with the British Secretary of State and I told her that her government is clearly still not listening to fears of the public who are aghast at the pantomime currently playing out in the Westminster parliament. “With each passing day, our business community, our farmers, our community and voluntary sector are growing … Read more

Break-up of the parties or No Deal Brexit – the looming choice

As matters stand, we’re either heading for crash out No Deal or the main parties are heading for break-up. The Conservative and Labour leaders are dolally.  Theresa May is listening but not  to anybody who wants  a customs union or a second referendum.  Jeremy Corbyn will not only not meet her but has urged all Labour MPs not to meet her either.  But this request in a letter to his MPs came too late to stop former ministers Yvette Cooper and … Read more

Eastwood “Continuing to chase after the DUP, who hold a minority view in Northern Ireland is a mistake”

The SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood has criticised Theresa May for her lack of consultation with other parties in Northern Ireland. He said; With each passing day, the British Government show an ever increasing disregard for the people of Northern Ireland. The sheer lack of communication, and indeed recognition that Northern Ireland will be devastated by a Brexit set to be delivered by dysfunctional politics in London, speaks volumes. “Despite false utterings from the DUP about a border down the Irish … Read more

Tony Blair calls for extension of Article 50

Extending the #Brexit deadline is “inevitable” says Tony Blair: “If I was the government now, I would already be having discussions with Europe about the terms of an extension” #r4today https://t.co/55w4Ws2GFr pic.twitter.com/lxWzAYZr4x — BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) January 17, 2019

Book review: Brexit and the bridge too far…

Walking the dog through the silent streets and avenues of an unusually deserted south Belfast, the scene reminded me fleetingly of Sunday mornings during the industrial, asthma-inducing nineteen fifties when there wasn’t a soul about. Everyone then would have been indoors in semi-darkness, putting down fires and making fries before the call of whichever church service they adhered to or simply ‘turning over’. Not so here and now. It was a bright morning, the air clear as a bell. Shop … Read more

Varadkar “words aren’t enough” to avoid a hard border

Taoiseach – “Words aren’t enough” to avoid a hard border. Says there must have an agreement on customs union & regulatory alignment. “Its not good enough to say there won’t be a hard border because nobody wants one.” #brexit pic.twitter.com/dLHoQZrwG5 — Darran Marshall (@DarranMarshall) January 16, 2019

“what a political party should never do, is to try to censor an artist’s work…”

Good from Brian Feeney, who put his customary Belfast bluntness to excellent use on that cartoonist-is-censoring-me story from last week: It turns out that Sinn Féin didn’t like a cartoon Spencer had drawn last year about Sinn Féin’s response to the Barry McElduff Kingsmill loaf controversy. At the time Spencer received a barrage of criticism from Sinn Féin but he replied: ‘The job of an artist is to observe events and point out hypocrisy and wrongdoing wherever it exists.’ True, … Read more

In spite of a day without precedent, it’s still party before country from the Conservatives and Labour

At the very moment Conservative and Labour MPs are passionately proclaiming the need to work together, the two parties are locked in the elemental struggle for power after a major defeat, a vote of confidence in the government. This is Labour’s ritual act to stave off having to commit to a policy. For  theirs is a unicorn with a mighty horn, a customs relationship that allows unilateral free trade negotiations and a single market relationship that restricts  free movement. On … Read more

The Meaningful Vote: Welcome to Political Bandersnatch

It’s hard to believe that Theresa May secured a draft Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union in November 2018. I feel as though I’ve aged 500 years since then. After weeks of parliamentary wrangling, countless amendments,a confidence vote and Sammy Wilson’s angry face on the television every night, the big day is here. I’ve written elsewhere about my thoughts on the Agreement. I would reluctantly vote for the Prime Minister’s deal. It is lukewarm tea, a soggy biscuit trapped at … Read more

Excuse the dampener -don’t be surprised if the moment of truth is postponed – again

To be fair, in her direct appeal to MPs “to take a second look,” Theresa May made a better fist at making the case for her Deal in the Commons  than she did earlier at the Doulton pottery in Stoke.  For the first time she was saying that the Scottish nationalists and the “Ulster” nationalists of the DUP would carry the can for a catastrophic result. As a proud Unionist, I share the concerns of Members who want to ensure … Read more

Nothing new to offer as Theresa May misfires the last shot in her locker in support of her deal

With her back to the wall Theresa May exposes  her own and her speech writers’ monumental ignorance of  UK devolution by bizarrely invoking the  creation of the Welsh Assembly based on a squeakingly narrow referendum result. as a killer argument   against calling a second referendum on Brexit.   What a pity that that she is such a poor  advocate  of what would otherwise be a viable proposal.  Extracts from May’s speech released by Downing Street last night show she will invoke … Read more

“Sinn Fein’s Arder Carson said that it was his democratic right to choose not to be painted…”

Or, indeed, not to wear clothes…  ANYhoo…  On Thursday The Belfast Telegraph reported Sinn Féin’s ‘farcical’ attempt to prevent Belfast City Council granting permission for local artist and political cartoonist Brian John Spencer to “sketch the Council Chamber and the Council meeting in January”.  At a Council Strategic Policy and Resources Committee meeting in December 2018 a Sinn Féin motion rejecting the request – which “would involve Mr Spencer being allowed access to the Chamber for a couple of hours … Read more