Reactions have been predictable in Ireland to the“hard Brexit” tone of Theresa May’s brief conference speech in Sunday and her rejection of the idea of giving a Brexit veto to Scotland or Northern Ireland .
The Irish government are as worried as they are ignorant of British intentions. The DUP remain defiantly pro-Leave and opposed to all – Ireland consultation at this stage. The Dail as a whole is now gloomier about prospects for an open border.
Poor Ireland, bursting with goodwill towards all, and yet stuck between at least two rocks and two hard places; one, over wooing reluctant unionists and looking after their own political interests; and the other, perhaps before too long, having to choose between supporting an EU position and keeping close to the British. Ireland has a veto power in the Council of Ministers but would be most reluctant to use it.
And so as foreign minister Charlie Flanagan has told the Irish Times, the Dublin government will go for “special legal recognition of the unique status of the North and the circumstances on the island.” Contacts with the Northern Ireland Executive are likely to intensify before the next meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council, which includes all the ministers from the Dublin Government and the Northern Executive, in Armagh on November 18th”.
The Irish government will also convene an All Ireland Civic Dialogue in Dublin ion 2 November, minus the unionists.
Arlene Foster, speaking in Birmingham and Stormont is equally ignorant of Westminster’s intentions but is playing it cool. The DUP should take advantage of the 18 November NSMC meeting to find common ground with Irish ministers and their Sinn Fein colleagues. For Sinn Fein and the SDLP realisation must come that the prospect of stopping Brexit in its tracks is receding.
Martin McGuinness had a better point covered in a concise report on Irish thinking by Patrick Wintour of the Guardian.
Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister in Northern Ireland and Sinn Féin’s leader, spoke to David Davis, the UK’s Brexit minister, on Sunday, to discuss government plans after speeches at the Conservative conference revealed a cabinet leaning towards leaving both the EU single market and the customs union.
McGuinness said the UK was facing a “head-on collision” with the EU over Brexit, and suggested Northern Ireland was likely to be “collateral damage.”
NI Secretary’s James Brokenshire’s conference speech did not go beyond the familiar mantra – best evidence of no developments after three months.
We will work to ensure that Northern Ireland’s unique interests are protected and advanced.
That’s particularly the case when it comes to the land border with the Republic of Ireland and the Common Travel Area which has served the UK and Ireland well for many decades.
No-one wants to see a return to the borders of the past.
Truth to tell and despite all the froth and frustrated comment, there’s little anyone can do in Ireland until the quality of the British government’s consultations on Article 50 terms become clearer. And even then, at least as much will hinge on the EU’s response. This could take months or even a couple of years to emerge.
In the meantime it looks as if Dublin will work hard to agree a compatible position with Westminster and Stormont. It will be no easy task. Will the Dublin government go public with detailed proposals for “recognition of the unique status of the North and the circumstances on the island,” and risk being slapped down by the British or the EU or both: or will they hold off and produce them in the withdrawal negotiations? The pressure within Ireland to spell out a position will be immense but may not fit in with opening moves by the high contending parties. Nor unfortunately can they expect any thanks from the DUP unless there’s a change of heart.
Also from Guardian Live, on the news that the £ has hit a 31 year low against the $..
Chuka Umunna MP, Chair of Vote Leave Watch, has seized on the slump in the pound to berate the leaders of the Brexit campaign.
In a resounding blast, Umunna says:
“Leave campaigners promised that the economy would be unaffected by a vote to leave the EU. They dismissed every economic warning as ‘scaremongering’ or ‘Project Fear’.
“Today we see how hollow their assertions were. This collapse in the value of the pound means ordinary British workers will be worse off, as prices in the shops soar and the pound in everyone’s pocket is worth less.
Ireland on Tuesday cut its gross domestic product forecast for 2017 on concerns about the fall-out from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and said risks were centered “firmly to the downside.”
The finance ministry cut its 2016 GDP forecast to 4.2 percent from 4.9 percent and for 2017 to 3.5% from 3.9% and said there was considerable uncertainty to the outlook for next year with the impact of Brexit still unfolding.
“We have reduced next year’s forecast by around half a percentage point to take into account the uncertainty associated with Brexit,” John McCarthy, the finance ministry’s chief economist, told a parliamentary committee.
Around 40% of Ireland’s food and drink exports are sold to the UK, in an example of the close trade links between the two countries.
Dublin is particularly anxious about the prospect of the UK leaving the EU customs union without any new trade agreement. The future of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is another obvious issue — leading to calls today for a new agreement to prevent a ‘hard border’ being established.
For serious students of Brexit I’m posting two articles by Charles Grant, the unrivalled authority who is the director of Centre for European Reform. The first is “Why the 27 are taking a hard line on Brexit.”
British negotiators need to understand why the 27 are taking such a tough line on the four freedoms. … There is a real worry that if the British achieve some special status, with their own institutional arrangements, other countries – inside or outside the EU – might ask for equivalent deals. And that could undermine existing institutional structures, to which the Commission and the European Parliament are especially attached, and possibly even lead to an unravelling of the EU. The biggest reason why most governments take a tough line on the four freedoms is their fear of populism. (Ireland is probably the exception in some respects).
The second is “Theresa May’s six pack of difficult deals,” a sobering corrective to the “pull out and see what happens” school of radical Brexiteers. (This doesn’t include any thoughts of special status for the island of Ireland or a special relationship for Scotland. They are just not first order issues at the moment – though that is bound to change at some point.).
The first deal, the divorce settlement prescribed by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, will divide up the properties, institutions and pension rights, and deal with budget payments. It will also cover the rights of UK citizens in the EU and vice versa.
But even a Canadian-style FTA will require the British government to make painful trade-offs.
Both the European Commission and Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, have said that work on the FTA should not start until the UK has left the EU.
That gap requires a third negotiation, for an interim deal. Without such a deal, British companies would face great uncertainty and depend on WTO rules – which set maximum levels for tariffs – to prevent unfair decisions or practices by EU countries.
The fourth deal that May needs to strike is attaining full WTO membership.
The fifth negotiation concerns the series of deals that must be struck with the countries that have FTAs with the EU. By some counts there are 53 such countries,
The sixth negotiation will cover UK-EU ties in areas like foreign and defence policy, police and judicial co-operation and counter-terrorism.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London