Conservative manifesto very warm on the Union, cool and correct to the Republic, no mention of special status in ” a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement”

The main headlines of the Conservative manifesto are about the impact of striking a new balance between pensioners and what are excruciatingly called “ordinary working families.” and the tension   between the pledge – if that’s what it is, to cut immigration to tens of thousands and still expand the economy. But here I concentrate of those matters of specific interest to Northern Ireland.  Remember that while manifestos tend to be mainly broad brush, they convey a sense of direction.

The rhetoric of this one is modern British Unionist, as would be expected with the Union under threat but  it avoids Rule Britannia jingoism  And while the joint aims for the British and Irish relationship are  just about covered, the relationship itself is described briefly as more  of a practical necessity rather than something to celebrate and develop – unlike for example the  tone and detail of the Irish government’s recent position paper  which urges EU protections for EU citizens’ rights in Northern Ireland and argues for a lengthy period of transition and other matters. The detail of the Irish paper can be been seen as making  the case for “special status”.  However the Conservative manifesto doesn’t get drawn into the theme of   “special status,” however defined, but seems to be pinning faith on reaching   a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement.


Here the Conservatives pledge more powers for the devolved areas and no more  “devolved and forget”. This section is  both a striking admission of past ( and present?) neglect  but frustratingly vague on future detail

We are a United Kingdom, one nation made of four – the most successful political union in modern history. Its very existence recognises the value of unity – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales achieve less as two, three, or four, than as the United Kingdom together. This unity between our nations and peoples gives us the strength to change things for the better, for everyone, with a scale of ambition we simply could not possess alone.

This positive evolution of our constitution has given a voice to people who felt distant from the centre of power, and responsibility to people for their own part of our great country.

We will continue to work in partnership with the Scottish and Welsh governments and the Northern Ireland Executive, in a relationship underpinned by pooling and sharing resources through the Barnett Formula. We will respect the devolution settlements: no decision-making that has been devolved will be taken back to Westminster. Indeed, we envisage that the powers of the devolved administrations will increase as we leave the EU.

However, we can still do more for the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom Government has in the past tended to ‘devolve and forget’.

Conservative government will put that right. We want the UK Government to be a force for good across the whole country. So we will be an active government, in every part of the UK. We will work closely with the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish and Welsh governments, and the new devolved authorities in England, for the benefit of all our people – but that will not be the limit of our actions in the four nations. We are ambitious for everyone in Britain and will leave no-one behind in our efforts to spread opportunity and prosperity throughout the United Kingdom

Northern Ireland

While the commitment to the GFA is “ undiminished “  the Republic  is not specifically mentioned in this strong pro- Union piece of  rhetoric. Does this anticipate a more active role  to restore the Assembly? No clues here.  Dealing with the  Past  should be “fair and proportionate” ( without repeating  Brokenshire’s  claim that there was too much focus from prosecutors  on the army ( see my previous post). This may be an attempt to defuse the Sinn Fein charge of British bias.

Our steadfast belief remains that Northern Ireland’s future is best served within a stronger United Kingdom

Our commitment to the 1998 Belfast Agreement and its successors, together with the institutions they establish, is undiminished. The next Conservative government will therefore work to re-establish a strong, stable and inclusive executive at the earliest opportunity.

We will uphold the essential principle that Northern Ireland’s future should only ever be determined by democracy and consent.

Not a word about a border poll, one way or the other.

A Conservative government will work closely with an incoming executive to strengthen the economy even further, to improve productivity, reduce public sector dependency and promote Northern Ireland as a location for inward investment.

We remain committed to the devolution of Corporation Tax powers subject to the executive demonstrating fiscal stability.

As we leave the European Union we recognise Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances and will seek to ensure that Northern Ireland’s interests are protected.

That’s it!

A Conservative government will continue to work for the full implementation of the 2014 Stormont House and 2015 Fresh Start Agreements.

This includes new bodies for addressing the legacy of the past in fair, balanced and proportionate ways which do not unfairly focus on former members of the Armed Forces and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The immense contribution of the security forces during the troubles should never be forgotten. We will reject any attempts to rewrite history which seek to justify or legitimise terrorism.

Worth including the key point on a Scottish  referendum after the absence  of any reference to a border poll one way or another.

By contrast…


The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union but some would disrupt our attempts to get the best deal for Scotland and the United Kingdom with calls for a divisive referendum that the people of Scotland do not want. We have been very clear that now is not the time for another referendum on independence. In order for a referendum to be fair, legal and decisive, it cannot take place until the Brexit process has played out and it should not take place unless there is public consent for it to happen. This is a time to pull together, not apart.


Just in case there’s any lingering doubt.. “We will no longer be members of the single market or customs union but we will seek a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement.

. We will make sure we have certainty and clarity over our future, control of our own laws, and a more unified, strengthened United Kingdom.

We will control immigration and secure the entitlements of EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU. We will maintain the Common Travel Area and maintain as frictionless a border as possible for people, goods and services between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

 Workers’ rights conferred on British citizens from our membership of the EU will remain. We will pursue free trade with European markets, and secure new trade agreements with other countries.

We want to work together in the fight against crime and terrorism, collaborate in science and innovation – and secure a smooth, orderly Brexit. And we will protect the democratic freedom of the people of Gibraltar and our overseas territories to remain British, for as long as that is their wish.

 As we leave the European Union, we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union but we will seek a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement. There may be specific European programmes in which we might want to participate and if so, it will be reasonable that we make a contribution.

As powers return from the EU, we will be able to determine the level best placed to take decisions on these issues, ensuring that power sits closer to the people of the United Kingdom than ever before.

We expect that the outcome will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration but we must also ensure that as we leave the EU no new barriers to living and doing business within our own union are created. In some areas, this will require common UK frameworks. We will work closely with the devolved administrations to deliver an approach that works for the whole of the United Kingdom and reflects the needs and individual circumstances of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We look forward to the Executive talking in extra powers over  agriculture and fisheries and energy, to name but two. Do we not?  This is a natural area  for increased north-south cooperation. The two governments should start putting pressure on the parties to get on with it immediately if not sooner.

We will not bring the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law. We will not repeal or replace the Human Rights Act while the process of Brexit is underway but we will consider our human rights legal framework when the process of leaving the EU concludes. We will remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament.

The  insistence on disapplying  ECJ  jurisdiction will cause real anxiety in Dublin and  supporters of the GFA everywhere. The Human Rights Act is embedded in the Agreement and cannot easily be replaced  by a proposed British Bill  which would restrict appeals to Strasbourg.  Theresa May must be aware of this and the ructions about it in London and Edinburgh. Even so she seems unfazed and  determined to  overhaul the entire rights regime as soon as possible. This situation strengthens the case for an NI Bill of Rights as provided for in the Agreement.



Controlling immigration

With annual net migration standing at 273,000, immigration to Britain is still too high. It is our objective to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades. We will, therefore, continue to bear down on immigration from outside the European Union. We will increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas. We will toughen the visa requirements for students, to make sure that we maintain high standards.

. Leaving the European Union means, for the first time in decades, that we will be able to control immigration from the European Union too. We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs

The Guardian says

The Office of Budget Responsibility has estimated hitting the target could cost the economy £6bn a year net in lost skills and productivity. George Osborne has claimed that not a single senior cabinet minister privately supports the target.

The manifesto hints that future EU migration policy will close the door on low skilled migration from eastern Europe in particular. A new visa/work permit regime for skilled migrants from Europe is likely to provoke retaliatory visa regimes imposed on UK workers in Europe. There is also however a hint of widespread exemptions for skilled workers in “strategic industries” – which could open up a very large door for in any new immigration policy.

Finally, the vision of the post Brexit world of international trading with a place reserved for little old Northern Ireland

Increasing trade

Britain has always been a great trading nation. Trade will continue to be crucial to our future growth and prosperity. As we leave the European Union, we want to negotiate a new deep and special partnership with the EU, which will allow free trade between the UK and the EU’s member states.

As part of the agreement we strike, we want to make sure that there are as few barriers to trade and investment as possible. Leaving the European Union also means we will be free to strike our own trade agreements with countries outside the EU.

We will ensure immediate stability by lodging new UK schedules with the World Trade Organization, in alignment with EU schedules to which we are bound whilst still a member of the European Union. We will seek to replicate all existing EU free trade agreements and support the ratification of trade agreements entered into during our EU membership.

We will continue to support the global multilateral rules-based trade system. We will introduce a Trade Bill in the next parliament.

We will create a network of Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioners to head nine new regional overseas posts. These commissioners will lead export promotion, investment and trade policy overseas.

We will reconvene the Board of Trade with a membership specifically charged with ensuring that we increase exports from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England, and that trade policy is directly influenced by every part of our United Kingdom

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

  • runnymede

    Repeat after me. There will be no ‘special status’. No dilution of the union. That is not what the UK government is about.

  • Michael Dowds

    What does this add to the conversation?

    Brian Walker/ Mick Fealty, this kind of ill tempered trolling of threads needs to be addressed IMHO.

  • Korhomme

    We are a United Kingdom, one nation made of four – the most successful political union in modern history.

    Really? Are the Tories saying that the unification of Germany in the latter half of the 19th century wasn’t that successful?

    With annual net migration standing at 273,000, immigration to Britain is still too high.

    Really? Why is it “too high”? Is there a “proper level”? Or, who will do the menial jobs that so many immigrants do, for slave-labour pay and conditions? Certainly not the British.

    And so on; read carefully: the manifesto as presented here is strong on rhetoric and weak on actual facts. Just count the number of times it says, ‘we will seek’. Seeking implies discussions with others, and those others might not be so generously minded. And then, what compromises?

    As for NI: does Theresa really want NI? Wouldn’t she and a majority of the English be much happier if NI could be towed into mid-Atlantic and sunk? She’d get £10 billion, nearly 2p off income tax, and the problem would disappear.

  • Jim Jetson

    NI is already a special status region because everyone there is entitled to an EU passport. That makes it very much the EU’s business.

  • nilehenri

    no mention of the 98 billion that the one thousand richest people in uk® made off the back of the exit?
    no mention of the 500 pounds per family that the exit will have cost by year’s end?
    no mention that more than a quarter of the 100 wealthiest englanders openly support and fund the tories?
    no mention of the top twenty who are worth more than the education and health budgets combined?
    no mention of inflation at 2,3%, nor frozen salaries?
    no mention of the bank of england downgrading england’s financial outlook in the past few weeks?
    no mention of the million who use foodbanks, or the four million kids in poverty?
    no mention of the fact that 50% of their food is imported, that prices of food, clothes and electronic goods have risen? or that holidays to spain are already 17% more expensive? british homeowner spending accounts for approximately two thirds of demand on the bigger island. frozen salaries and inflation. deadly mix. 15 years of aquisitive power, down the drain.
    i thought this was going to be an honest manifesto. i mean it’s what we were promised, innit?

  • chrisjones2

    No …the Irish Government has granted that … the UK has granted the CTA

  • John Stafford

    Your probably correct, it is not what this ‘UK government is about’ and that is
    going to lead to severe transport problems especially for agriculture and manufactured goods.
    When the full impact of this occurs it will lead to expensive customs checks, the question is where?
    Along the land border within this island which would be very costly and disruptive or at the ports, airports in the north which are already border checks anyway.
    The British government is not going to spend any extra resources it doesn’t have to, Pragmatic the British way.
    ‘No dilution of the union’ will lead to second/third class status for the people in the north, internal customs control within the UK without the benefit of a special status within the European Union.
    You are British, you feel British, the British government subsidies your spending by at least 40% but you are not located on the island of Britain and sometimes location matters.

  • chrisjones2

    Very strange …over the last week we keep seeing demands that ‘something must be done’ about any unionist posts that challenge the republican pack opinion here. There are repeated pleas to Mick to do something about these individuals who disturb the flow of discussion or are ill tempered trolls.

    I freely admit that i have earned several of these

    And the odd thing is that many of them come from posters who have a hidden record on Disqus and / or a very short posting history. Strange that innit

  • Jim Jetson

    And the Irish government has granted the CTA…

    You are still entitled to an EU passport whether you like it or not, and that makes you different to GB.

  • chrisjones2

    Errrrr ……. I have got one and I’m no different to someone with an Irtish Grandparent for example who lives in GB

  • Jim Jetson

    No the difference is you are entitled to one from birth…unlike most GB citizens.

  • chrisjones2

    Well the German Union did have a difficult first 75 years didnt it

  • chrisjones2

    ….errr so what?

  • Jim Jetson

    That makes you “special”.

  • Korhomme

    What then of the UK union between GB and Ireland? Hardly problem free.

  • Michael Dowds

    Is it strange? Why is it strange?

    I have a very short comment history because I don’t comment very often. So what?

    That’s an ad hominem attack and it’s unbecoming of this forum. Play the ball etc.

    Perhaps you should concentrate on the comments rather than the people making them. If you can’t defend your ‘arguments’ against a first time poster, then that sounds very much like a ‘you problem’.


    1. yes, something should be done about commentors whose sole contribution is stating a ‘provocative’ fact and then advising that people ‘get over it’. This is a forum where ideas are DEBATED between civilised adults.

    2. I’m not a Republican nor am I part of any ‘pact’. Jesus, you might as well just have said ‘THOSE PEOPLE’.

    3. Being a Republican does not obviate an argument (and because I want to be equal opportunities, that applies to Unionists, Liberals and Islamist jihadis too).

    4. I’ve replied to SOME of your comments because they are so egregiously tenuous. I cannot stand people asserting things as facts when they are clearly just their opinions (you do that a lot, hence my comments).

    Sorry for going off topic. *my bad*

  • 1729torus

    As we leave the European Union, we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union but we will seek a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement. There may be specific European programmes in which we might want to participate and if so, it will be reasonable that we make a contribution.

    So far, I seem to be exactly correct in forecasting a Ukraine-style Association Agreement establishing a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, including measures for customs facilitation.

  • chrisjones2

    Inflation at 2.3% is good. BoEs target has been 2% and its been underperforming

    As for the rest I am afraid its a combination of waffle and false statistics. But there will be a short term cost for freedom

  • chrisjones2

    No ..I didnt suggest it was

  • chrisjones2

    I apologise if that annoyed you.

    I do debate and you will find that if you do that here you are subject to attacks from small packs of individuals who all come from a republican perspective and sometimes seem to be working together. They will make outrageous assertions and when you reply or question demand that you prove the un-provable or show evidence to support your views. Then demand that you are blocked by the Mods

    In my recent experience many of these have closed or short profiles. If I mis-identified you then i am sorry

  • Oggins

    But you suggested it was better than Germany

  • Oggins

    We all meet for coffee every Sunday, white boards and marker pens to discuss the strategy. Chris on many occasions you have back your point, but on equal parts you refuse to accept another person’s opinion, or there evidence.

    I think Mr Dowds is trying to highlight that we should all step back, and when we are challenged,not react initially by quickly the man. We all have that habit, and should be more aware

  • nilehenri

    here’s a photo of where i got the information from.
    never let it be said that i’ve a hidden record and/or a very short posting history.

  • 1729torus

    The United Kingdom Government has in the past tended to ‘devolve and forget’.

    I assume this contains an oblique reference to Tony Blair’s cute-hoorism in putting Agriculture and Fisheries in the Scotland Act, leaving a constitutional time bomb that would explode if the UK ever left the EU.

    We look forward to the Executive talking in extra powers over  agriculture and fisheries and energy, to name but two. Do we not?  This is a natural area  for increased north-south cooperation

    The “intergovernmental” British-Irish Council will be strengthened vis a vis the “supranational” United Kingdo , and discussions there will start more resembling informal discussions between sovereign states.

    The final agreement will nearly certainly cover all three of these fields, which introduces an additional constitutional wrinkle. The Association Agreement will have an Association Council to oversee it that meets a few times a year in whatever configuration necessary. In devolved matters, either Scotland would have to represent itself on the council, or the UK would represent it after agreeing a common position. In either case, the UK would be more like an EU-style confederation.

  • eireanne3

    According to Chrisjones2 these ” small packs of individuals all come from a republican perspective”

    Isn’t it very insulting to refer to people as “packs” of individuals?
    As if they were wild dogs or wolves?

    Chrisjones2 has obviously not read or taken on board the True Story of the “Hound of the UDAUKERVIlles

  • Starviking

    Well, Germany has lost a significant amount of territory since it was founded:

    They lost 13% of their territory and with that 10% of their population after WWI, and 25% of their remaining territory after WWII, with an associated explusion of tens of millions of ethnic Germans from the lost territories.

    GB and Ireland? Still have what is virtually “shared citizenship” to this day.

  • aquifer

    It is the job of HM opposition to keep HM Gov honest. How is that going?

  • chrisjones2

    Here we go again. Read or watch Irish Customs evidence in Dail. A 6% to 8% check on documentation only and only for Hgv. Time taken measured in seconds

  • chrisjones2

    In my experience they operate in groups.

  • Oggins

    Statistics can be used to back any argument. I don’t need to jump deep in any facts or figures on the British empire, as it would show what we know, but also go against my point of facts and figures can be used to suit any argument.

    Not sure what the shared citizenship has to do with your point. Can you expand please? If you are pointing out that you believe that the union of GB and Ireland was trouble free I think we would have to disagree….

  • Jim M

    Without getting into Germany-bashing (I rather like Germany), in its first 75 years Germany (arguably) started WW1, with disastrous consequences for itself, and then went ‘full Dark Side’ and started WW2 in Europe, committing untold horrors and getting itself defeated and divided for decades. Kind of puts the UK’s undoubted problems in the shade, even with the Irish Question and the many Imperial bad deeds…

  • Jim M

    Well that would be good, but how is it going to stop smuggling or illegal immigration? Won’t NI become the UK’s ‘lawless frontier zone’?

  • The Irishman

    I have no problems with unionist posts that challenge republican thinking, what I have problems is the way you go about posting. You sound like a primary school class clown for most, but not all your posts.
    When your not trolling, your posts can be engaging, but unfortunately, I would say 90% of your posts are trolling.
    So I have no problem with unionists challenging republican thinking.

    Mainland Ulsterman is one such poster who challenges republican thinking on nearly a daily basis, and whilst I strongly disagree with 99% of everything he posts, he, unlike you does not troll.

    Chris, you really lower the standard of what I would consider a serious website for political debate.

  • The Irishman

    Well said MD.

  • The Irishman

    “Who sometimes seem to be working together”…
    All I can say is, ffs Chris..

  • The Irishman

    What experience is this?

  • Michael Dowds

    chrisjones2 no apology was sought, nor is it required but it is appreciated. 🙂

  • Oggins

    Agree the few times I have been to Germany I have really loved it. I found Hamburg a fantastic place, but what got me was the civic pride the Germans had. Let’s not get carried away and say Germany had no problems, when it does. What I found alien to me and a friend was going to the train station and finding there was no turnstiles to control and force the use of the ticket. We thought we entered via a wrong entrance until we spoke to a German person who showed us the payment machines. We asked why is there no gates and turnstiles to show proof of payment, I’m which we were told it was your duty to pay. It is embarrassing to be on the train and asked for a ticket if you didn’t have one. Having lived in GB and Dublin, frequently in London, this was refreshing to say the least

  • Starviking

    Not pointing to The UK of GB&I being trouble free, just pointing out that German has had a lot of upheaval and troubles shince it was born, arguable much more than the UK.

    What I mean by shared citizenship is that a British Citizen can go live in the South, and enjoy most of the rights of a citizen, and vice-versa for Irish Citizens in the UK. This is not contingent on any EU rules, the rights exist because in the evolving relationship between the South and the UK they put value on having harmony (amongst other things).

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Huh? Not for the Germans it wasn’t. Post WWI reparations for 15 years at most and the last 3 years of the WWII were difficult for the Germans. The rest of that 75 years was difficult for whom and in what way?

  • Oggins

    Aaah! Get your point, but would have to disagree or point out it is more based on perspective. I could flag back that since the Act of Union there has always been trouble and upheaval. Civil war’s, risings etc. Dare say the Irish question has been about for over 800 years!

    There has been famines, and large scale immigration, particularly from Ireland and Scotland to other parts of the UK and further a field. Millions of people affected. Generations and areas decimated. As I said, it’s all perspective. We are comparing apples and oranges, and that was my point to Chris.

    In terms of the shares citizenship, yeah that existed due to Ireland being formally part of the UK. We are so entwined into each others culture, social and economical fabric, they couldn’t do a hard immigration control.

  • Enda
  • Jim M

    Yeah, lots to admire in Germany. I was in Berlin for NYE in 2006 – a similar outdoor gathering in Britain or Ireland would have been crawling with cops and security, but in Berlin there was a mood of ‘controlled anarchy’ and people just got on with it and had a good time.

  • Oggins

    In fairness I was in Glastonbury 3 years back, and considering the number of people, I saw no police. I am assuming there’s was plenty of plain clothes, but there was no need for uniform. Everyone there was there for enjoyment.

    It is the same with gaa matches and rugby games, the police are only there to control pedestrians and vehicles.

    It would be interesting to see if there was any studies done of this against soccer, where violence and tension is more regular.

  • chrisjones2

    Doh here we go again. Immigration is a separate issue ,. I suggest you look at literally dozens of earlier posts on this. Immigration is not controlled at the NI border (or the UK border)

  • chrisjones2

    Experience on here in last 3 weeks

  • HornyDude83 .

    All Runnymede did was restate the UK government’s position.
    How is that akin to trolling?

  • Michael Dowds

    You may be surprised to learn that UK Government ‘positions’ are not necessarily representative of future events.

    Implying that the UK Government, as it is currently constituted, has 100% accurate powers of clairvoyance is … odd.

    Runnymede’s post began with ‘repeat after me’, debate between individuals does not usually begin with one of the protagonists instructing the other to accept something.

    Debate involves persuasion using these incredible things called ‘arguments’.

    Hence trolling…

  • Jim M

    But wouldn’t the lack of a border mean that post-Brexit NI could see a lot more illegal immigrants, and a lot more contraband, than mainland UK? With a damaging effect on stability and social cohesion?

  • The Irishman

    Ok, so who in your paranoid delusion are operating in groups? I would like to see yourevidence of how you came to suspect, wrongly I might add, that small packs of republicans are operating together in groups on this web site.

  • Dardani

    I think a pretty good case could be made that in retrospect, after two world wars and one Holocaust the unification of Germany (and Italy and Romania while we’re at it) has hardly been an unmixed blessing for humanity.

  • Abucs

    Happy with May’s support for Catholic education.

    ‘……..“Existing Catholic schools are already popular with parents of all faiths and none. Our 2016 schools’ census showed that roughly a third of pupils in Catholic schools are not Catholic.”

  • Trasna

    And Ireland lost half its population under the ‘union’ through genocide and forced emigration, Which is worse, population loss or territorial loss?

    The CTA I would gladly sacrifice.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Aye, it’s enough tae mak yi boak.

  • nilehenri

    i just watched the andrew neil interviews back to back and i have to say i’m rather impressed tbh.