Back to life, back to Brexit reality

Given the superb contributions posted on Slugger over the past few weeks, I thought it best to voluntarily suspend my regular postings until the Assembly election was over.

So now that all the votes have been counted, the seats declared and the government negotiations underway, I thought I’d return to the massive elephant in the corner of the room: Brexit.

We are now into March and it is expected that this will be the month that Theresa May triggers Article 50 and notifies the European Commission that the UK intends to leave the EU.

Once Article 50 is triggered, the clock starts ticking and both sides have two years to finalise the shape of future EU-UK relations.

The initial two months will be largely a period of housekeeping as the matters to be negotiated, the format of discussions and the liability of payments are ironed out.

After that, the two negotiating teams led by David Davis and Michel Barnier will spend a period of roughly 16 months hammering out the negotiations themselves. Parallel to this the remaining 27 Member States will be in constant discussion formally through the European Councils and informally through the various Permanent Representations in Brussels.

Once all that is agreed, what comes thereafter, and presuming some form of deal covering 20,000 pieces of legislation is agreed, is a little unclear.

From the EU side, consent must be received from the European Parliament. Responsibility for guiding this process lies with former Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofsdat MEP, before being signed off by the European Council.

The UK is still deciding whether the terms of Brexit will need to be voted on by Westminster and many are pushing for a second referendum.

To be fair, a second referendum, on the actual terms of Brexit rather than an Utopian ideal, makes absolute sense. However, as we have seen from the first referendum, sense rarely comes into it.

The case for Ireland and Northern Ireland is well known in both Brussels and London. Much effort has been made to press this unique situation on many levels, we will soon see how this pans out.

Senator Neale Richmond is Chairman of the Seanad Select Committee on the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    “Sense rarely comes into it.” I should remind you that the EU referendum result was the biggest ever popular mandate in British history.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Which makes it all the more remarkable that it makes no sense and that those who favour it cannot articulate how it makes sense.

  • the rich get richer

    Will the EU survive ? How then for Brexit ?

  • Bertie Fulton

    Er, I think you may want to check the result of the 1931 General Election there Jeffrey (the Conservatives took 55% of the vote and 76% of the seats if you can’t be bothered). I could go further back but women were only fully granted the vote in 1928 so I wouldn’t be convinced that they are comparable.

  • Gavin86

    The argument for Brexit seemed to garner most support from those in working class backgrounds, that somehow by leaving the EU that it would make their lives better.

    There have been numerous stories since the vote about companies thinking of leaving and some staying, but in the most part it is companies talking about leaving. Over the last number of days there have been stories about various car manufacturers leaving Britain, it may not be solely due to Brexit but it gives those companies an extra incentive to up sticks and leave. Some may stay and produce for the domestic market, but that is much more limited than producing for Europe.

    Even looking here there is a fairly large company based in Craigavon that is moving some of its’ business south of the border. The fallacy of Brexit is that the people it was meant to benefit is actually going to harm them the most, through the loss of jobs and limited career prospects amongst other things.

  • GUBU

    Er, I think you might want to check the result of the 1931 General Election Bertie.

    The National Government only received just under 14 million votes – less than either side achieved in last June’s Referendum.

    John Major won the 1992 General Election on the back of a popular mandate of just over 14 million votes (and a 77% turnout), so there is no need to go further back.

  • scepticacademic

    What it really “the biggest ever popular mandate in British history”? When you factor-in the ever-increasing size of the UK electorate, simply having the most votes ever cast does not make it so. The 17.41 million votes for Brexit was 37.4% of the electorate. In the 1950 UK GE, for example, Labour’s 13.27 million votes was 39.9% of the electorate (then 33.27 million) on a whopping 83.9% turnout. Then, in 1951, the Conservatives were supported by 39.6% of the electorate. More importantly, in the 1975 EEC referendum, 17.38 million backed staying in the common market, which was 43.3% of the electorate at that time.

  • scepticacademic

    er, the electorate was much smaller back then (1931)

  • Conchúr Ó Conghaile

    Yeah it will.

  • Bertie Fulton

    Do you need me to explain percentages to you and what they mean?

  • GUBU

    Mr Peel was not referring to percentages, which I understand very well.

    He was referring to a ‘popular mandate’, which I take to be simply the number of votes cast.

  • Fraser Holmes

    You obviously have to factor in the size of the electorate to make meaningful comparisons. To me the elections of 1945 and 1983 demonstrated a broad consensus for change.

    On the other hand the Brexit result was not exactly overwhelming – if Bojo had decided his career would progress better with remain the result could well have been different.

  • GUBU

    Of course it was, but I take Mr Peel to be taking about a popular mandate in terms of the votes cast, in which case he is right, is he not?

    It is also misleading to compare referenda to general elections.

  • Bertie Fulton

    How else could one take a ‘popular mandate’ but as a percentage vote? As you have stated yourself, both sides got more in the referendum than in the 1931 general election, yet one side has a mandate and the other has none.

  • Bertie Fulton

    Generally yes, because most have only two choices whereas there are more choices in a general election hence it is unfair to the mandates gained in a general election. Taking this into account, it only further illustrates my point.

  • Fatlad

    “To be fair, a second referendum, on the actual terms of Brexit rather than an Utopian ideal, makes absolute sense”….if you want to scupper Brexit and undermine the UK’s negotiating hand.

  • Madra Uisce

    Brexit was sold on a bunch of lies backed by a bunch of Little Englander,s and driven by a xenophobic and Racist English press. It was all Johnny foreigners fault that the economy and Health service was in crisis. Britian will not get the wonderful deal that the brexiteers are promising and that will cost many people their livelyhoods.

  • Fear Éireannach

    At least some of those who worked in Craigavon can simply drive to their job in Dundalk, the people in Sunderland will not be able to commute to a car plant in Slovakia.

  • GUBU

    That’s because the Referendum offered voters a binary choice.

    Whatever way you look at it, a mandate is simply the authority from the electorate to act on its behalf, and that mandate can be obtained in different ways.

    As you will know, in UK elections the combination of FPTP and the constituency system tend to result in relatively small percentage differences between parties being significantly magnified when it comes to the number of seats won. Very few MP’s win seats with a ‘popular mandate’ as you define it – they simply win by having a plurality of votes over their nearest opponent. There is usually more of a correlation between the number of votes cast and the party that then forms a majority (and not always, as recent events in the US have demonstrated), than there is between the percentage of total votes each party receives.

    If you use your definition, the Referendum result last June carries more of a ‘popular mandate’ that most general election results in our lifetime.

  • Dan

    Those damn working class oiks. Too stupid to make a decision of such importance, eh?

  • Bertie Fulton

    I’m sorry but you are now arguing against points I have never made.

    My point can be made very succinct (and here I will leave it), if Mr. Peel’s ‘popular mandate’ refers to total votes it is statistically meaningless, if it refers to percentage votes it is wrong.

  • lizmcneill

    Assuming they don’t spend half their commute tangled up with customs posts, that is.

  • the rich get richer

    At the very least it is interesting times for the EU and I would not be certain that it will continue………..

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    A second referendum on the actual terms is required as a democratic minimum. What are you afraid of? That the voters would see what a pile of sharn they have voted for, and change their minds? And why would it undermine the UK’s negotiating hand? We are supposed to be a democracy, not an oligarchy.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Thats right. And they won’t have a right of freedom of travel either.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    As ‘Bertie Fulton’ has comprehensively demonstrated, you and Jeffery are talking nonsense. Par for the course for Brexiteers.

  • GUBU

    And whilst you and ‘Bertie’ congratulate yourselves on discrediting the Referendum result with your psephological endeavours, Article 50 is about to be triggered.

    So just who is talking nonsense?

  • mac tire

    It is indeed about to be triggered. The fear is the gun is pointing towards our faces.

  • eamoncorbett

    Surely it was incumbent on the leave campaigners to spell out in clear and unequivocal terms what the effects on industry, movement of people and border controls would be when Britain left the EU ,after all the Brexiteers were the ones pushing this agenda . Instead they gave us platitudes about free trade , independence and a brave new world following departure.
    Not one of these leading campaigners has come up with convincing arguments with reference to their claims , they collaborated with the right wing press to demonise Europe , blaming it for too many foreigners walking the streets “taking our jobs “. These guys never once mentioned how beneficial Europe has been with regards to trade and a beneficial workforce both skilled and unskilled. The days of wrapping oneself in the Union Jack are over , Britain is a different place now ,yet there are those who would love to take us back . I can still remember the old Sun slogan “Up yours Delors” well those guys have won a Pyrrhic victory, and just like Trump they will have an alternative theory to propel when things don’t all go to plan.

  • Fatlad

    I think the voters have already seen what a pile of sharn Project Fear’s wailings about immediate economic meltdown have come to.

    If the EU think they can get a second bite at the cherry with another referendum they’re hardly going to go out of their way to offer reasonable terms during negotiations. If I were them I wouldn’t.

    Part of the reason why the EU is disliked is its track record of getting member states to re-run inconvenient referendum results.

    We were given an In Out vote, not a succession of votes until the ‘right’ answer was arrived at.

    “Either you believe in democracy or you don’t. When democracy speaks we obey. All of us do. If you put the nation first you make the best use with the decision you have got.”

    Best thing Paddy Ashdown said during the campaign.

  • Cea Hare

    So, I think we may just be better off with some form of direct rule or supervision from Westminster during this turbulent priest of Brexit. It might force Westminster to really look hard at the implications for NI. The last Executive, the SF-DUP coalition thing, had no plan, having shelved the civil service report they commissioned about the possible consequences.

  • William Kinmont

    If and its a big if. Following the election results a very minor piece of joint rule could be agreed, say in something as uncontroversial as possible .( Perhaps handing disease control of depart agriculture over to south’s department , to handle as an all island problem which doesn’t respect the border anyway) . Could this legal joint authority be used to drop a major spanner in the Brexit works forcing a special status for Ireland/ Northern Ireland. How could Europe block the joint authority having ratified? The good friday agreement .yet how would they deal with a member state having sovereignty within and without the union.

  • Gavin86

    I apologise if it comes across in that way, but I just think that the people it was meant to help is in actual fact a massive disservice to them.

  • Jeffrey Peel
  • Paul Hagan

    Those who I think are most to blame are the likes of Arron Banks, Boris Johnson etc the super rich who had nothing to loose from any of this

  • Ciarán Doherty

    There will be no second referendum.

    Right now English voters are determining the future of the entire British isles unilaterally and they are basing their decisions on ethnic-nationalism – the livelihood of the people of NI literally could not be more irrelevant to them – and the Tory govt is pandering entirely to this crowd for fear of losing their grip on the English public.

    History has set a precedent of the populations of the British peripheries basically cowering out of cutting themselves free of England and I don’t yet see any reason to think that they have finally grown the balls to go through with it – not even soft NI nationalists, let alone the unionists who are soon to have their living standards equally obliterated by Brexit as their green neighbours.

    So honestly it’s time for NI – it’s Irish nationalists and it’s Ulster nationalists, and the vague “neutrals” – to put up or shut up. This is your last chance to avoid being dragged into one of histories most significant self-inflicted injuries, and one which will hit you many times harder than the English who made it happen.

    The entire public conversation about the constitutional status of NI needs to go way way beyond emotional/historical irish naiobalism. It is a matter of economic survival now, it doesn’t matter what church you go to or how emotionally attached you are to the union, this is about you, your family, how you’re going to feed them, how they’re going to be taught and treated etc

  • Bertie Fulton

    ‘yet one side has a mandate and the other has none’ – What part of this discredits the result? I think you have answered your own question

  • Old Mortality

    “English voters are determining the future of the entire British isle? unilaterally and they are basing their decisions on ethnic-nationalism”
    No they are basing their decision on being unhappy at

  • Old Mortality

    …heavy concentrations of eastern European migrants who are driving across Germany and France because they can’t speak and don’t want to learn their languages. And what is the only English-speaking state in the EU after Brexit?

  • GUBU

    And I thought you had declared this discussion closed.

    Enjoy the rest of your day.

  • Old Mortality

    You know perfectly well that’s not going to happen, you just like to hope that it will.

  • Bertie Fulton

    Enjoy your day too. Always good to end a debate on a nice note.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Not the sort of thing Farage was saying just before the referendum – if the result was close he would be trying again asap.

    Your version of democracy stops when you get a result that suits you. This is not the generally accepted view. Otherwise we would possibly still be governed by the Whigs.

  • Paul Hagan

    ‘the vague “neutrals”‘ – would you care to explain that? Being neither unionist not nor nationalist doesn’t make one vague…or neutral

  • NMS

    Interestingly, you make no reference to the Irish position on Enhanced Co-operation or a “Two speed Europe” if you prefer & how this completely changes the dynamic.

    The conference called by the French for the 25th March, (in advance of the main EU meeting) to which Ireland was not invited, makes it clear that the intention is to move quickly forward, leaving the Visegrád Four, the Greeks etc. behind.

    The points you make above are valid, only on the basis that Ireland opts to be in the slow lane. Otherwise, moving into Enhanced Co-operation leaves no room for opting out of Schengen or many other positive pieces of legislation.

    Is Ireland to allow UKNI an effective veto on its approach to the EU, lest it hurt a group of people who live in another State?

  • John Devane


  • John Devane

    Neverendums for you until you get the result you want…..That’s not democracy

  • The Republic of Ireland is an independent State and can make its own decisions in its own interests. If it wishes to stay with the EU 26, that is its decision alone. It can always seek help and assistance from its 26 EU partners if it feels that is necessary.

  • Ciarán Doherty

    The north and the south are inextricably linked not just geographically, culturally and familiarly but economically. Whilst you might have thought yourself able to resist the notion that reunification was justifiable based on the first 3, when it comes to economics I’m afraid you’re going to have to accept the hard truth that the north is at grave risk of having serious barriers built between its economy and that of the south.

    If unionists are still adamant about the constitutional status of NI then I hope they are making that decision in the full knowledge that in all likelihood it is one that will cost them and their children severely – all in order to satisfy their emotional connection to a union that has shown many times recently that it has little awareness of care for their existence within it.

  • Ciarán Doherty

    If neutral means the status quo then it’s not a solution to Brexit. If neutral means not actively in favour of UI or federal sharing, then it’s de facto unionism and again, offers no solution to Brexit.

    Likewise the nationalists should be ready to make constitutional compromises if necessary to avoid the ramifications of Brexit because really it is loves and livelihoods at stake.

  • Ciarán Doherty

    It has been proven time and time again that those immigrants are not driving down wages or reducing the number of available jobs for locals except in yeh case of wages for the lowest paid workers, here it becomes an issue of government and its bias towards the profits of the business class – namely through the inadequacy of minimum wage and the absence of a basic universal income all over the world.

    Yes they voted for Brexit because their lives are getting worse but they have been successful deluded into believing that the ethno-nationalists have the answer. Meanwhile the business elite continue to laugh their way to the bank while the hysterical peasants fight amongst themselves.

  • Old Mortality

    I don’t think themain issue for most pro-Brexit voters was wages or employment but instead the scale and rapidity of immigration in relatively small communities outside the large cities. It has certainly put pressure on housing if not health or education services. We have fairly large concentrations in some parts of NI which have seen some schools largely abandoned by locals. However, there has not been the same pressure on housing, largely because of the surplus from the crash and our very lax planning regulations.

  • Ciarán Doherty

    The developed world has practised a model of economics for the past 30 years in which wealth is systematically extracted from the population to be siphoned off by the rich at the expense of public services, wage growth and working hours/conditions, and part of that process includes the underfunding of schools, hospitals and other infrastructure and the massive decrease in the construction of social housing – it is very easy to chart these and see how they correspond to one another, and not to levels of immigration.

    The question is, why are the pro-Brexit population so keen to lap up factually incorrect claims that the decrease in their quality of life and degradation of society is the result of immigration, rather than the result of massive wealth inequality – I mean we had the biggest economic crisis in almost 100 years just a few years ago, but so quickly they lost interest in neoliberalism and financialisation and instead became totally obsessed with Poles and ISIS etc.

    Is it because the mainstream media and the neoliberal establishment have been so successful at vaguely redirecting blame onto immigration/the EU that the far right has been able to capitalise on that brain washing, or is it because they are inherently ignorant, racist pigs incapable of understanding economics?

    The answer is, of course, the former, which is why I have sympathy rather than spite for Brexit voters.. But sometimes it’s hard, when every single day in front of everyone’s eyes the rich get richer and the poor get poorer but somehow it’s still the fault of that guy down the road who wears a turban and his family who work hard to make ends meet instead of ultra rich snot nosed bankers and their totally alienated neo-aristocratic Tory defenders in government.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Stopping democracy when you get the result you want – that’s not democracy.

  • John Devane

    So you really do advocate neverendums. No surprise there!

  • John Devane

    The House of Lords are only trying to subvert the democratic decision to leave. Their amendments are designed to undermine the UK government negotiating hand with the EU. It will only incentivise the EU to give the UK a bad deal in the knowledge it will be rejected.

  • John Devane

    Your version of democracy? Is it one that accepts the majority decision?