Tony Blair has made the case for a rethink on Brexit and Northern Ireland will need a new financial deal. Is anybody listening?

Hurtling at us like a comet but unnoticed by the local worthies is the prospect for repatriating powers direct from Brussels to Stormont, Holyrood and Cardiff Bay. Among them are powers over agriculture and energy, which in Ireland are linked or integrated north and south. How they’ll be divvied up is  hasn’t  even been examined. The British government retain a substantial interest in these areas where powers currently rest with Brussels as it  negotiates new trading arrangements to replace membership of the single market.

A power grab by London will be bitterly resisted in Edinburgh whose request for special status has been rebuffed by Theresa May. The same ought to apply in Stormont if only anybody had  the faintest idea about it. The complexities here are as yet unexamined but they’re certain to be very great – so great that they formed the centrepiece of Tony Blair’s call today to think again and ask for a new verdict on Brexit          

The two great achievements of British diplomacy of the last decades in Europe, supported by Governments both Labour and Conservative, – namely the Single Market and European Enlargement – are now apparently the two things we most regret and want to rid ourselves of!

“The Single Market has been of enormous benefit to the UK bringing billions of pounds of wealth, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and major investment opportunities; our trade with an enlarged European Union has meant for example that trade with Poland has gone from £3bn in 2004 to £13.5bn in 2016.

“In addition to all this, the possibility of the break-up of the UK – narrowly avoided by the result of the Scottish referendum – is now back on the table, but this time with a context much more credible for the independence case.

“We are already seeing the de-stabilising impact of negotiation over border arrangements on the Northern Ireland peace process.

How, therefore, can it be wise for us, during this epic period of global evolution, to be focused not on how we build partnerships, but how we dissolve the one to which we are bound by ties of geography, trade, shared values and common interest?

“This is not the time for retreat, indifference or despair; but the time to rise up in defence of what we believe – calmly, patiently, winning the argument by the force of argument; but without fear and with the conviction we act in the true interests of Britain.”

In an article in le Figaro Theresa May makes the diametrically opposite case.

As we leave the EU, we will seek the greatest possible access to the European single market through a new, comprehensive, bold, ambitious free trade agreement,” she wrote.

“This cannot, however, mean retaining membership of the single market.

“President Hollande and other European leaders have been very clear that this would mean accepting the ‘four freedoms’ of goods, capital, services and people and I respect their position.

Britain understands that EU leaders want to continue with the process of integration…We do not, to borrow the phrase, seek to cherry-pick which bits of membership we desire.”

Mrs May also highlighted French interest in a good Brexit deal, pointing out that the UK is France’s fifth-largest export market with bilateral trade worth more than €50bn last year.

“UK companies are responsible for an estimated 230,000 jobs in France, and French companies for about 370,000 jobs in the UK.”

Apart from delivering warm words that her anxious interlocutors receive as patronising little pats on the head, she has shown little interest in the entirely valid fears for the Brexit future in the nations and regions of  the UK.   Not a word of appeasement is contained in the uniform mantra delivered by her minsters flatly rejecting the special status which is code for continuing membership of the single market. No briefing on the issues discussed emerged from two Brexit joint ministerial council meetings. It’s as if they sat there, silent and obedient.

Mrs May  is gambling on producing the same free trade result for the UK outside the EU as within it and ignores all  the denials.  She seems insensible to the threat to the very existence of the UK, as Tony Blair warns today, relying instead on calling Nicola Sturgeon’s bluff over a second indyref because of fears of the consequences of ending the single UK market. As for Ireland,  she hands most of it over to the EU 27  to make an open border possible.

The  best case for  her position is made by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian  For him Blair  the former emperor  has no clothes. Jenkins makes the appalling admission that Mrs May is  putting  party before country and that  there is a case for a second  referendum. But Blair’s not the one  to make it.

Theresa May has followed a clearly political strategy. She has opted for hard Brexit, not because she may think it the best outcome but to cover her extreme anti-EU flank at the start. She has read the public mood, nobbled the Labour opposition, and held her negotiating team steady against a flailing EU leadership. She knows there is trouble ahead, but for now she does not want a split party.

Were Blair to warn May not to assume that hard Brexit is the public’s wish, he would have a point, if a banal one. It may well be that the eventual deal is so messy and controversial that another vote, by referendum or general election, would be wise. But the last vote is done. Former prime ministers should not campaign against the people.

 Today the FT warns that Theresa May’s strategy on Brexit has triggered a fierce political backlash in some parts of the UK. Nowhere has resistance been more acute than in Scotland, where the implications of repatriating powers from Brussels could prove particularly complex.

in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, they will want funds from the UK Treasury that replicate the role played by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. They will therefore press for a new financial settlement with London that supports agriculture in their nations. The second issue will be the impact any new settlement has on London’s ability to sign trade deals with non-EU states. If the UK wants to sign bilateral trade pacts with, say, the US, Australia and New Zealand, those countries will almost certainly seek unencumbered access for their agricultural exports. But Mrs May’s government might find it hard to sign such deals if the devolved administrations are able to pursue radically different agriculture policies.

Concerns about the future of a substantially integrated agriculture and the energy market  have been flagged up on both sides of the Irish border. But so far they have failed to make an impression on the tediously familiar election debate. What does the old verse say? “ so it’s to hell with the future and long live the past.”     

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  • mickfealty

    You put 30k in the donation basket and I’ll provide 24/7 moderation service. We trust people, because we have to. (Teddy bear reinstated after short off line chat)

  • mickfealty

    See my comment to Madra Uisce?

  • The Irishman

    ‘People can live free’ – how were they not free? How was your freedom impinged?

    ‘Talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober’ – Again, how was any of that affected in anyway, please give me examples of personnel experience when any of what you have listed has been denied.

  • The Irishman

    And how has lack of immigration control negatively affected you?
    Immigration for a start? Ok, if that’s the start, what else?

  • Msiegnaro

    Well it has meant people getting into the UK who really should not have.

  • Enda

    If that conceited orange mass manages to stay in office, I think you might find that Uncle Sam’s teat will only get suckled by the select few, which won’t include you. This is what he means by ‘America First’.

    Of course you could always try and join the generations spawned by your antecedents along the Appalachian and Ozark mountain trails, I’d imagine they’re staunch Trump supporters.

    Although that would make you an immigrant.

    Nope, I’m afraid there’s nothing for you out of a Trump administration… and probably even less out of Brexit.

  • Msiegnaro

    That’s utter nonsense, Trump is proving all the doubters wrong.

  • Enda

    Except if you live in Derry, Strabane, Newry, Crossmaglen, Aughnacloy, Muff, Lifford, Clady, Clones etc etc… free to go one direction with realitve ease, but not the other.

  • Enda

    But he really isn’t though

  • Kevin Breslin

    It is rememenesent of those early factories that caused so many explosions and killed so many people at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Yip, agree. Arguably they should’ve had an election over what type of Brexit they want.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Why did your lot vote against the Good Friday Agreement?

  • britbob

    What you think is contrary to what the UN thinks. Self-Determination.-The ICJ has made 4 Advisory Opinions and 1 Judgment that all confirm or state, ‘that the right to self determination is applicable to ALL non-self-governing territories.’ Reference : Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia 1971, P31-32; Western Sahara Advisory Opinion 1975, p68, para 162; East Timor Judgment 1995, P102, para 29; Legal Consequences of Wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory 2004, p171-172 para 88 and the Kosovo Advisory Opinion of 2010, p37, para 79. There are no exceptions. A motion to place restrictions on the right was defeated by the UN Fourth Committee on 20th October 2008 making it an inalienable right. (GA/SPD/406, 20 Oct 2008)

  • Enda

    I remember insulting a SA guy in Uni by calling his country an apartheid state.

    He looked at me and rolled his head back in laughter.

    Glass houses and all that.

  • lizmcneill

    On what basis?

  • mac tire

    Immigration from the EU made up less than half of immigration into the UK. Now that the UK is about to leave the EU, that’s that 45% sorted.

    Now, what will the UK do about the other 55% from non-EU countries? And why have they not been able to reduce that non-EU immigration before now?

    Theresa May is telling you she will put a stop to something she couldn’t do when she was Home Secretary. But people like you lap it up.

  • lizmcneill

    According to Donald.

  • murdockp

    problem is Sun, Express, Mail, Telegraph and Times are pretty much pro brexit.

    The Mirror and The Guardian are anti Blair.

    Which leaves no one to champion Blair, only to ridicule.

  • file

    Sorry, who exactly are my lot?

  • file

    Tony Blair is what is known as a toxic brand. It does not matter what he actually says, no one will listen because he is the one saying it. So, if he wants to promote the argument (rather than himself) he would do better to shut up about it and let someone else make the case.

  • file

    So what was Hain’s attitude if Blair’s was ‘contemptuous’ but he was prepared to do the same thing?

  • file

    Can we get the island of Ireland defined as a ‘non-self-governing territory’ then?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Sorry, I thought that if you are prepared to ask hgreen bizarre presumptuous questions without thinking, then you should be able to deal with them yourself.

  • file

    Who are my lot? And which question of mine to hgreen are you objecting to? i was initially confused about what he was proposing, but he clarified that.

  • Msiegnaro

    Well it’s evident for all to see.

  • John Collins

    Who ever stopped your right to free speech over the last 44 years?
    Who ever interfered with your right to be drunk or sober?
    Are you for real?

  • Msiegnaro

    Come on the EU overstepped the mark on numerous numerous occasions.

  • John Collins

    Do you not realise that a little nonsence now and then is relished by the wisest men.

  • Msiegnaro

    One was not particularly bothered by it.

  • runnymede

    simple answer – no

  • Msiegnaro

    Well life in the EU was not particularly great so life out of it has to be an improvement.

  • Msiegnaro

    Derry, where is this?

  • Msiegnaro

    John Collins this country has not had freedom of speech for decades.

  • Msiegnaro

    Bring Teddy back.

  • mickfealty

    I brought him back this morning, but someone else bucked him out this evening over another incident. Not sure which of the team it was.

  • Msiegnaro

    I respect your rules but we need good contributors too.

  • grumpy oul man

    But we coild do all those things in the EU.
    what has changed?

  • grumpy oul man

    Examples please!

  • grumpy oul man

    Examples please?

  • grumpy oul man

    Ask a apprentice boy

  • grumpy oul man

    You must be the only person sees that.
    Trump is messing up in a different way every day.
    It is so much fun to watch.

  • mickfealty

    I agree. But, it’s hard to keep some people.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It’s instructive to read contemporary accounts of the war of 1689. “Londonderry” is the common usage in the Jacobite news-sheets printed by the Jacobitse in Dublin, while that numerious northern accounts use “Derry” commonly. But times change, I suppose…….

  • John Collins

    Could you give just a few examples of where your right to free speech was restricted since 1973. I have lived in a country that has been part of the EU since that year and I have never once felt that my right to free sppeech was ever in any way restricted

  • John Collins

    And you are the one who is talking about having your right to free speech upheld and this is the way you respond to a different viewpoint.

  • Msiegnaro

    I’m fed up with the left wing propaganda that is unfounded and based on fear which sums up project remain. You are correct to tick me off for my statement as you absolutely have a right to your views.

  • NotNowJohnny

    You made it up then.

  • britbob

    Unfortunately not. Only 13% of people in Northern Ireland want a united Ireland in the short – medium term: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34725746

    Perhaps the Republic would want to join the UK? Especially if they got a deal similar to Scotland’s – under the Barnett formula,
    an extra £1,623 per head, or 19 per cent, is given to Scotland compared to England.

  • file

    My question is more subtle than that: I want the island of Ireland defined as a non self-governing territory, ie the island of Ireland as it was before Partition, the Ireland of the First Dáil, a physical territory which currently does not govern itself as there is no 32 county government.

  • britbob

    The answer is no. The international law on SD was made between 1971 & 2010. The only time the international courts deviated was in 2010 with their Kosovo Advisory Opinion when they stated that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was not unlawful because Serbia had ‘failed’ to protect its citizens from ethnic cleansing, genocide etc. ”A state is responsible for looking after ‘all’ of its citizens.

  • file

    But a state is not a territory, surely? Any lawyer could argue that point for me.

  • britbob

    The actual term Non-Self-Governing territory and the list of territories came from the United Nations in 1945. Then in 1970 they decided – UN resolution 2625 XXV 24 Oct 1970, states, …”the free association or integration with an independent State, or the emergence into any other political status freely determined by a people constitute modes of implementing the right of self-determination by that people.” So NSGTs can remain NSGTs if that is the will of the inhabitants. A NSGT belongs to another country. Also worth noting that a country can be defined as a place with its own government and is capable of making its own foreign relations with other countries/states.

  • file

    Thanks for that, you are a mine. But it is only a UN resolution, so practically worthless (if you happen to be Israel). Again the terms ‘freely determined’ could be argued in a court of law using the premise that the Republic of Ireland agreed to Partition only under the threat of war from England, so agreement was not freely given. Slightly harder to argue there was any such blackmail involved in their signing away articles 2 and 3 in the GFA though.

  • Enda

    Don’t be a flippant child.

    Derry, you know that city where the Apprentice Boys of Derry are based.

  • Msiegnaro

    It would be a lovely gesture if from time to time Nationalists could call it Londonderry.

  • Fear Éireannach

    The moral principle of self determination and decolonisation existed before it was codified by the UN, Ireland was denied self determination and part of the colonial territory remains. But I’m sure the previous poster will not admit this, as many arguments here are defined in terms of a carefully designed time frame.

  • britbob

    All done before 1970. Also worth noting that it was perfectly legal to obtain territory by force up until 1919 and some would argue 1945.

  • John Collins

    Thanks. A very fair and decent reply

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    the Republic would want to join the UK?

    Only if the R strikes oil – then want’s to see it vanish from underneath it’s collective nose.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Don’t hold your breath.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Why would anyone bother with a half-arsed name like that, which was invented to make an illusory tie with the capital of the now almost defunct Empire?

  • Msiegnaro

    Factually it’s not called Derry.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Yes. Just as, factually Theresa May is the head of a “precious Union”, but it’s democratic deficit and in-built hypocrisy will soon make it a non-union.

  • Msiegnaro

    Well you can drive us out then.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    No one want’s to “drive” anyone anywhere. The Union is no longer in the interests of the Scottish people. I can’t see how it is any more in the interests of the Irish people, north or south of the border. But you can choose to stick your head in the sand if you wish. Events and time will overtake you if you do that though. Better to adapt and flourish.

  • Msiegnaro

    If it happens I’m out of here, I won’t be hanging around to be begging my pardon to the likes of you.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Why do you feel the need to beg anyone’s pardon? And what is the problem with “the likes of” me?