The DUP are barking up the wrong tree

The DUP’s kneejerk reaction to the Times story that the Brexit sherpas are working on a plan to “avoid divergence” of regulations and standards on our island proves how insecure they feel the Union really is. According to the ancient rule of our politics that the insecure pay more attention to their opponents than their candid friends, they’ll receive perverse validation from Sinn Fein ‘s parallel rejection and their old jibe, “We always knew the Brits would betray ye. Whadida tell ye”?

Even the slightest whiff of difference between NI and GB is enough to set them off even though the reports of a limited customs agreement are a far cry from the no-no of NI remaining in the single market and the customs union.

On the face of it, the DUP case gets intellectual heft from Trimble’s old economic adviser Graham Gudgin in the Newsletter.

A close reading however suggests that the idea of a customs agreement on selected items like agriculture and energy and a free trade agreement with the EU/Republic are not so far from what Gudgin has picked up from the British proposals of last August.

Where he falls down is to pander to unionist paranoia over a dark nationalist plot to subvert the Union by Brexit stealth.

Apart from the Irish specific disavowals, if you don’t trust them, what sense would it be to scheme for a UI and the huge upheaval that would cause, when your economic future is at stake?

The DUP would do better to press for answers and then for active participation in working towards an outcome which in whatever form will require close links between north and south. That would be the mature approach which combines working for the people’s interests with supporting the viable Union.

Such a positive approach would add a powerful argument to their case for restoring the Assembly, rather than howling into the wind.

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  • El Daddy

    Aren’t Irish governments in Dublin “nationalist” by definition?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    It says that the author has been around the blocks not like some fools who live in Suburbia La La Land in a political dreamland of wilderness !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Was up in your place on Saturday having a few beers in the Masonic Club in Bishop Street. Where you ever in this place ?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi 5O68, there were people within Unionism who tried in the1950/60s but found themselves marginalised by the not an inch tide. O’Neill may get a good press historically, but with my own family links to Unionism I was well aware he was a moderniser economically, but never a political liberal in any meaningful way. The sheer negativity of Unionism, it’s apartheid approach even today, is hard for anyone to grasp outside of here who is attempting to understand and be fair.

  • Barneyt

    About 7 months before the referendum I was over in England meeting up with my old uni friends. They’re a mixed bag that span the length and breadth of England, many with Irish ancestry and most of them right of centre in their thinking. Most were pro brexit and for different reasons. The most left leaning of these friends was remain. I find there is an irony there. The left ought to favour brexit more than the right. This shows it’s not based on economics but on something much more base in my view. As the only full blown paddy in the group the question of brexit turned to me. I said, if you want to put pressure on the U.K then brexit is a wee gift, particularly with respect to the island of Ireland. It was always going to dissolve the border in some capacity or drive a concrete wedge between us. The concrete option would never be selected which leaves us with the only choice we have now, (economic border in the sea ). That was the choice before brexit and it remains ( no pun intended) . Why on earth would most of unionism push so hard for brexit when this was the obvious outcome and choice we would have to make. It was always going to change the fabric of Northern Ireland. You could argue why would left leaning republicanism push for remain when that would only preserve the status quo.

  • Barneyt

    Here’s a thought. As the GFA is predicated upon both the ROI and UK remaining in the EU is the GFA not now sunk?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It isn’t though – and if you think it is, please quote where it says that. The Supreme Court looked at, all eleven judges no less, and none of them found the GFA was predicated upon both the ROI and UK remaining in the EU.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The DUP have never pretended to even begin to support the Belfast Agreement’s intentions for reconciliation, and appear to have supported the exit from the EU specifically because it destabilises the Agreement. Anyone at all familiar with the thinking within the DUp will have encountered the rife “GFA-sceptic” thinking which is common.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “the only choice we have now, (economic border in the sea ).”
    Why is this the only choice, when we do several times more trade over the sea to mainland UK than north-south (hardly suprising as there are 65 million people in mainland UK)?
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f7fc882b710be3cf7d658313e8e475a5941d7e33dbd1486ea3125264ddb2a74c.png

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Forgive me for reminding you that the judgement cannot be reduced to that simple black and white interpretation, MU. What the court decided was that the challenge was “non-justable” in British Common law as the terms of the Belfast Agreement is a matter for HM Government alone and consequently only parliament can decide on issues relating to the Agreement. It is clear that the Agreement as it stands currently relies on both UK and RoI remaining within the EU and it will need to be re-written to reflect changes.

    What the Belfast High Court and the Supreme Court judgements actually stated was:

    “The triggering of Article 50 is not in itself legislation covering matters devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

    and

    “The devolved legislatures ‘do not have a parallel legislative competence in relation to withdrawal from the European Union’.”

    and

    “The triggering of Article 50, whilst likely to lead to changes in the law, did not it itself alter legal arrangements at that stage.”

    This does not even begin to state that the Agreement is at all “Safe”.

    The EU briefing document “The Impact and Consequences of Brexit for Northern Ireland” clearly points out that:

    “Brexit must surely require deletion and/or revision of the references to the EU within the Good Friday Agreement. As one of the signatories to the deal will no longer be part of the EU, it is unclear how the required ‘implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework’, as outlined in para. 17 of Strand Two, can continue.

    References to ‘relevant EU programmes’ in the Annex may also require deletion as they may no longer apply. It is also a moot point whether the ‘arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the [North-South Ministerial] Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings’ in para. 17 could be deemed adequate if only one party to the Agreement, the Irish Government, can provide such representation.

    The UK’s obligations in international law, via its commitment in the British-Irish Agreement to uphold the Good Friday Agreement, are owed to Ireland. A breach is also a breaking of the commitment to the people of Northern Ireland to uphold the arrangements contained in the Good Friday Agreement. Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties declares that states cannot invoke domestic law – in this case the impact of a Brexit bill – as a basis for failure to undertake the obligations of a treaty.”

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2017/583116/IPOL_BRI(2017)583116_EN.pdf

    The situation is nowhere near as simple as you suggest and the judgement of the Supreme court does not actually state what you claim, although you could be forgiven for thinking it does, as the media reported it as such.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Of course those trade figures reflect an earlier situation where the UK was within the EU and three quarters of its economy was firmly based on brokering the EU trade to the world through our financial services industry. It also ref;acts a situation where NI farming is underpinned by EU farm payments. Neither of these things, along with so many other things, can be depended upon in the future.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “the last 10 years during which time we can agree was a golden age for the GFA and Northern Ireland devolution”
    Really, you think so? From where I’m standing, it was 10 years of two parties at loggerheads a lot of the time, with a poor working relationship, trying to get at each other and failing to advance genuine reconciliation and a coming to terms with Troubles legacy issues. It’s great that there was an executive of sorts running and that the assembly met, but that’s about the height of it. We have been crippled by having two hardline parties leading our respective blocks.

    I quite agree that the continued popularity of SF within nationalism has made life very difficult for political unionism and has resulted in the DUP’s pre-eminence. And I think Brexit is a damaging and difficult time for unionism. That said, the polls have been very encouraging on the future of the union itself – as even at this nadir, the pro-UI sentiment is still only polling in the mid 30s per cent and looks unlikely to get over 40 per cent.

    So the Union (as differentiated from political unionism) is not “destroyed”, it is a much more robust vessel than nationalism sometimes likes to imagine. It is going through heavy seas and there are further storms ahead but once through this, it has every chance of settling down again into the default option for most people, despite nationalist opposition being given a big booster injection.

    N Ireland within the UK has two big advantages over the united Ireland option, long term, in how NI people will weigh things up:
    – the “Troubles legacy” factor – fear of a return to violent breakdown in that scenario, better the devil you know
    – a belief in even-handedness and keeping the balance between the two communities – and in that, one side “winning” (a la united Ireland) is anathema. Only power-sharing (as associated with the GFA settlement) gives you that.

    NI inside the Union and under the GFA is still the only solution that deliver a feeling of approximate parity between the communities. Of course SF is trying to suggest there isn’t parity; but experience on the ground, especially among those in the centre (as reported to me anyway) is that NI is a changed place, it is a place owned now by both communities in a way it wasn’t before. This is what SF hate: that people get comfortable with something short of a united Ireland. Which is why they are hellbent right now on disrupting the GFA settlement.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “enemy” … noted. I thought we were fellow Irish people you’re wanting to build a positive future with?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the criteria for holding a border poll have not been met, as you well know, because Irish unity is still way too unpopular with people. Calls for one from nationalist agitators are understandable, it’s in their interests to have a poll even if they lose, so they can push NI into a long period of “referendumland” instability.

    Pretty cynical. It shows they value nationalist ideology over getting on with governing NI together in genuine partnership.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Which the EU has said is not enough and described it as “Magical thinking””
    Indeed, without giving a reason. Brilliantly constructive from them.
    They wanted to dismiss it initially in the hope the UK would go for customs union. I hope we do, or something akin to it, but let’s see. There are a few solutions that could work.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think strategically the Doddses, Fosters and Donaldsons of the DUP know the GFA is good for unionism overall. Aspects of it, like having to sit in government with former IRA leaders, are repugnant and I think it’s fine to go into the bathroom to vomit occasionally, which is what you’ll no doubt have heard. But stomach emptied, the DUP generally rinse out their mouths (or in the case Gregory Campbell, fill it with curried dairy products) and return to the dinner table – because they need to eat.

  • the keep

    At least you are honest about the enemy part. That’s why unionists loath Republicans and of course vice versa.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You are reading rather more pragmatism into the DUP position than there is in practice. They are willing to go into the arrangements of the Agreement to play out a fantasy of “first Minister, first Party” Unionism which is counter to the entire intent of the Agreement itself. They have never gone back on their rejection of the Agreement twenty years ago (please post anything you have which might honestly qualify this) and have taken every opportunity to stretch it in their favour rather than seek any genuine area of accommodation with their chosen enemy.

    Their approach to the exit from the EU is formed around the realisation that it challenges the Agreement and they are using the current position at Westminster to support those extreme Conservatives who themselves never supported the Agreement. The serious danger their superficially and recklessness presents cannot be overstated. Do not underestimate their extremism on the matter.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    exactly

    And this is one of the big architectural flaws in the united Ireland idea as a “solution” to our squabbles in NI. Dublin cannot be partial in NI affairs, it is very overtly for one side. Talk about potentially upsetting the balance …

  • El Daddy

    Do you think the same could be said about the Conservative & Unionist Party being in government in London?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No, I read the Supreme Court judgment and have some training in reading court judgments, so please don’t try and play the man and suggest I am only capable of black and white vision. This happens to be an area though – whether triggering Article 50 was in breach of the UK government’s treaty obligations or UK law – in which a pretty definitive answer was given by the court. There is nothing in the Belfast Agreement which precludes Brexit, or indeed Irexit had the Irish wanted to leave the EU – and nothing in Article 50 which places the UK in breach of its treaty obligations there. I would stand by what I said earlier about it.

    The EU briefing document gets a few things wrong, having just checked up some of the parts you quote. For example:
    “it is unclear how the required ‘implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework’, as outlined in para. 17 of Strand Two, can continue.”
    Para 17 of Strand Two though does not “require” the “implementation” of EU policies. What it sets out is for “the Council [NSMC] to consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes …” etc. So the obligation is to consider, not necessarily to implement. This is a f***ing massive distinction, legally, excuse my language. Whatever lawyer the EU had looking at this for the briefing document, they’ve taken some remarkable liberties with the Belfast Agreement language, to put it kindly. They’ve actually completely misrepresented it.

    This next bit isn’t a whole lot better quality:
    “A breach is also a breaking of the commitment to the people of Northern Ireland to uphold the arrangements contained in the Good Friday Agreement. Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties declares that states cannot invoke domestic law – in this case the impact of a Brexit bill – as a basis for failure to undertake the obligations of a treaty.”
    But there has been no breaking of the commitment. And if I’m not mistaken, the Vienna Convention says domestic law alone can’t be used to justify a breach (if there were one) but obviously can’t preclude courts having to refer to domestic law as well as public international law. So it’s actually wrong to say states cannot invoke domestic law as *a* basis for failure to undertake the obligations of a treaty. What the writer means is you can’t rely solely on domestic law. Not a big deal, but clumsy writing and misleading. The more substantive point though is that it assumes a breach of the treaty without actually showing one.

    Then the reference to “relevant EU programmes” in the Annex – ‘relevant’ means ones that apply, and if we’re not in the EU, they aren’t any that apply. No problem. So such a reference to “relevant EU programmes” is not breached, it can stay in the document without the need for excision – it just becomes otiose.

    I’m a Remainer but looking at this level of unprofessionalism in this document from the EU, or perhaps the political twisting of the work of its lawyers, is unedifying. It’s this kind of dodgy politicking that makes people cynical about how the EU is run and does not help the Remain cause. How can I defend this, in all conscience? I support the EU for other, wider strategic reasons. But this kind of dissembling does the EU no service.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    So answer my question then, as written above!

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Fyi, I live very close to Sandy Row.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    or Labour, the SDLP’s “sister party”, during the talks between it and the UUP …

    To some extent yes, but it is a much more distant relationship these days and has been for many decades. It was the Tories who shafted unionists in 1985. The Tories have little or no presence in N Ireland and while they are a pro-Union party (are in theory are Labour and the Lib Dems), their connection to Ulster unionism is one of sympathy from a distance, rather than close kinship. We saw that aplenty when the DUP deal was done – the DUP were widely portrayed even in Conservative circles as distasteful bumkins; some of the Tory press was at times verging on almost racist portrayals of knuckle-dragging Ulster unionists.

    So I agree it’s not black and white, but London, particularly when Labour are in, is much better suited to playing the neutral with no skin in the game than Dublin. Indeed this is the imbalance that has so often reared its head over the past 50 years and more: Dublin speaking vociferously for northern nationalist concerns, for long periods having very close relationships with northern nationalism in the SDLP’s heyday (less so now); and London trying to be the neutral facilitator of the two NI sides, just wanting some kind of settlement. Indeed Dublin’s role in the AIA was, semi-formally, to speak on behalf of northern nationalists (as the two governments had effectively suspended local democracy under that system).

    If Dublin wants to establish its credentials as a credible protector of Ulster unionist people, when is it planning on starting?

  • Marcus Orr

    Well yeah, it may well be cynical on the part of some/many nationalists, on the other hand many of them just feel like the Brexit problematic has changed the dynamics.
    The last opinion poll showed a much closer result, 62 – 38%. That may be a trend or it may not be.
    To my mind the only way to silence Sinn Féin and the Irish Govt. would be to have a poll and see what the people actually say. The advantage of having the poll and winning it (from a unionist point of view) is that far from ushering in instability, instead we get minimum 7 years of peace until the next one can possibly be held.

  • El Daddy

    Nice post MU. Another difference with the fall of the SDLP means that SF are now the main voice for northern nationalism, so then the Dublin govt will not be on as friendly terms with an Assembly joint-ruled by them then the other option. Of course that would change in the unlikely event of SF being in power in both jurisdictions.

    As for the last statement, I’m waiting too. I don’t really know if anything would he accepted, certainly the DUP would tell them to go and mind their own business, but as well as that I don’t know what Dublin could do.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “They have never gone back on their rejection of the Agreement twenty years ago (please post anything you have which might honestly qualify this)”

    The St Andrews Agreement:
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/249fdda7c0eca17cd8dda537ec05ccad16395890d2d2866bcd073a5a54677b84.png

    Paisley, then DUP leader, said of it: “Unionists can have confidence that its interests are being advanced and democracy is finally winning the day.” And the DUP proceeded to take part fully in the GFA institutions on the basis of that thereafter.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    where? Rather than making a pirate treasure map for me to work out, could you just ask me the question you want answered? I will be happy to.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You will notice that while some aspects of the Agreement may be there, the DUP have pointedly not signed up to the Belfast Agreement itself. The whole point of the St Andrews Agreement was that it was NOT the Belfast Agreement. You may be happy with these broad generalisations but it is the hard safeguards and intentions of an Agreement which we voted on North and South which most of us are concerned with.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’ll get back to you on the detail, but already I’m seeing that you are describing the legal meaning of the article 50 comments in the judgement in either an ambigious or evasive manner. What the Supreme Court judgement stated was that at that moment the triggering of article 50 alone in itself did not disrupt the Belfast Agreement. But it very clearly left open the possibility that the exit terms finally negotiated might very well deconstruct the Agreements provisions. What it is saying is not that the Agreement is at all safe, but that it has not been breached at the time of the judgement.

    I disagree with your reading of the briefing document. Back later with my comments, but anyone reading it can easily see that a redrafting of the Agreement will be necessary if only to reword issues directly relevant to the joint EU membership it assumes. To suggest that it , and consequently we, will be entirely unaffected is seriously misleading.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Banneyt, I’ve given a link below in a response to MU which gets you to the EU briefing document for MEPs. It’s well worth a read if you wish to know just how endangered the Belfast Agreement is.

  • Sub

    No you are not Irish ,You are British or so you keep telling me. Unionism in the NI context is a toxic brand which has entrenched sectarianism in every facet of life here.

  • 05OCT68

    No, when I sought solidarity and brotherhood I became a trades unionist. Anyway you couldn’t get a fag paper between the Masons, the OO, the Apprentice boys & the Black men. Did ye have a good day burning Lundy under the nollaig shona sign?

  • 05OCT68

    Are you saying there was a time when Unionism embraced the Tricolour?

  • Croiteir

    That still is a border which is not acceptable

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Always a good day in the maiden city

  • MainlandUlsterman

    to you

  • Croiteir

    Or the EU

  • Croiteir

    And the EU

  • Reader

    Neville Bagnall: It certainly means zero tariffs “at Newry” equals zero tariffs at Felixstowe.
    That sounds good. Let’s do that.

  • Reader

    The Saint: delete partition delete border crime
    That’s a bit like chopping off your foot to get rid of a verucca.

  • Reader

    Croiteir: So now you want the south to pay up for the British decisions?
    I would assume that the south would pay on a case by case basis to advance its own interests.
    You may assume that the UK will do the same.
    Or experts on both sides may decide that cooperation is cheaper and better. In which case I would approve. I don’t know how you would react.

  • Reader

    Superfluous: There is freedom of movement to and from the Isle of Man, you just need to apply for a work permit to gain employment 🙂
    Tecnincally I think that is free travel rather than Free Movement. The distinction will become much, much more significant in a year or so.

  • Reader

    Jess McAnerney: The UK want a free trade deal with the EU, but to refuse to accept the terms and instead make up their own new terms
    A free trade deal is almost by definition mutually beneficial and bilateral. The EU might prefer a more intimate relationship but those days are over.
    What sort of ex-partner would reject a mutually beneficial settlement out of resentment over the breakup?

  • Jess McAnerney

    Yes they are.

    The UK will as a result, lose its financial EU passport, estimated to cost 36Bn
    It will also trade agriculture for digital and other non financial services in the new UK CETA

    A deal will be reached and there will be no resentment from the EU

  • The Saint

    Do you think policing benefits from partition? Ive never heard this theory?

  • Croiteir

    I would assume they will not pay for Britain, Britain will pay.