“Can you explain the difference between ‘no regulatory divergence’ and ‘alignment’?”

It’s all gone a bit, Pete Tong. Just have a listen to this exchange at this evening’s presser at Government Buildings. As RTE’s Tony Connolly pointed out on the Drivetime programme this evening, when it comes to international trade there’s a hell of a difference.

Someone’s dropped the ball today, and in the desperate scramble to try and fix things we may never find out who or why. There is disquiet in some Dublin circles as to the potential consequences.

ADDS: Guido, with the telling context

With broadcasters starved of developments, because May and Juncker were lunching behind closed doors, they continued to pile up punditry of this kind. All this was despite RTE’s Tony Connelly having tweeted a corrective only four minutes after the first tweet that the phrase, as anathema to Brexiteers as it is to the DUP, had been replaced by “continued regulatory alignment”.

Meanwhile Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, waiting impatiently before the Dublin media at a pre-scheduled press conference, unwisely claimed that the wording was basically the same either way. It isn’t.

 

  • mickfealty

    Not sure you’re reading the detail Gopher at all.

  • Neville Bagnall

    I think its quite possible that Dublin thought May had the DUP and enough UK Brexiteers onside. That being the case, they probably viewed the detail of Irish accepting UK wording as helpful rather than harmful.

    That dig at May from Leo was the one gratuitous sour note (from GB rather than NI perspective) in the Irish presser.

    Sometimes incompetence can look like conspiracy, but I place my money on incompetence 9 times out of 10.

    Bum notes on both sides, Irish for jumping the gun, GB for failure to get ducks in a row. Probably a consequence of “structured talks”. Direct contact has been at official level so political level in Dublin unaware of UK political thinking on the deal.

  • mickfealty

    The quality of Leo’s statesmanship remains to be tested against the ultimate outcome, but I agree re Sammy. He’s somewhat in the box seat right now.

  • Nevin

    The basic detail is in 1998 Agreement, NNJ, but Leo appears not to be familiar with the totality of relationships.

  • Viduka

    Yes, Wilson kept referring to the twenty or so backbench MP’s who support the DUP’s stance, but there remains the possibility of a considerable backlash against the DUP among Tory Remainers if the DUP’s position results in no progress to Phase Two. Interesting that several political bloggers have referred to the increasing arrogance of Dodds and Co within the Westminster corridors. The DUP have a lot to lose as well. Any governmental collapse could result in that £1 billion dividend being consigned to history. Interesting day ahead…

  • Gopher

    I dont know the detail nor do I know the broad picture , everyone has a dog in the fight and with varying motives and degrees of inteligence. The guest list was long enough before the leak. Good luck discerning the truth .

    “Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business—the Prince Consort, who is dead—a German professor, who has gone mad—and I, who have forgotten all about it.”

    Lord Palmerston

    No offence I have not felt there have been many threads worth commenting on in a while it has been a bit narrow on substance lately. Pretty suffocating. The Berlin thread I felt was worth a few words as it is one of my favourite cities and I had a contrasting view of the various landmarks the OP visited. He who controls the past controls the future and all that and Berlin did a pretty good job on Tommy in my opinion.

    I just dont see where the clarity is on yesterdays events which if I may repeat there are so many individual and collective motives in play.

  • Neville Bagnall

    Would that be the totality expressed in the BIC that the PM can’t be bothered attending, unlike the Taoiseach?

  • Nevin

    The totality would be all three strands, including the BIC. There’s also a lack of transparency and therefore accountability in the activities of the BIIC Joint Secretariat.

    Simon Coveney’s ‘a balanced wording that protects the interests of the island of Ireland as whole’ [RTE News at One, December 4] doesn’t reflect the balance of the Agreement; it’s Strand 2 alone.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    It seems that old chestnut of that ‘Protestant Wind’ blew across both the Irish Sea and English Channel , “and the door locked, and the key safe in between the breasts of a loyal orangewomen and here’s a fart for the Bishop of Leo” !

  • Mike the First

    And how would any of that mean that those of us who aren’t Irish citizens are his responsibility?

  • Accountant

    But does this now leave us with a largely internal GB-NI solve, then ?

  • Mike the First

    Very little detail, yet people enthusiastically for it all the same, and slinging mud at those who won’t sign up?

    That’s odd.

    (Also not unlike Brexit, one might add…)

  • mickfealty

    I really have no clue.

  • Damien Mullan

    The EU team produced a compromise by deploying a new word in what is the lexicon for EU institutional speak, in the form of ‘alignment’, which as I’ve stated above is a word used extensively by the EU itself in accession nagoiations, that’s why the EU and Ireland was comfortable with changing the word from ‘convergence’ to ‘alignment’. I can’t see the EU even bothering to phone Dublin in the event that the UK attempts a formula of words that the EU is unfamiliar with in its own institualional lexicon. So if there’s budging to be done it’s internally in the UK position, as Varadkar and other EU officials stated they are on hand for helping to clarify and for presentational purposes, but the language must be that which falls into the EU lexicon.

  • Marcus Orr

    It’s understandable, the govt. of the ROI will show their sympathies and consider themselves to be representing the wishes of Irish nationalist people only in the North. That was ever so, is quite normal and not unexpected really.
    What is more revealing is that the UK govt. will not and cannot ever bring itself to represent the wishes of the Unionist population in NI. If push comes to shove we are on our own, as was always the case.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It gives the lie, does it not, to the idea of the Irish Republic as a future state for all in N Ireland. It’s clear a united Ireland would be very, very divisive in NI.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    But it was kind of funny when he went out of his way to point out how limited the DUP’s mandate in N Ireland was. That did raise a smile. He’s right that they don’t speak for everyone in NI, but the DUP did get 10 Northern Ireland MPs elected this year. Fine Gael not so much.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t want Dublin to represent anyone in N Ireland, N Ireland’s own elected representatives are supposed to be doing that. I think it’s fine for them to look after the ROI’s interests and even to speak up for northern nationalists who look to them to some extent, but they should not presume to negotiate the future of N Ireland over the heads of N Irish people and be dismissive of NI’s actual elected representatives. Very arrogant and high-handed.

  • mickfealty

    Then the leak is the f*** up.

  • mickfealty

    In a manner of speaking, yes.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You misunderstand, I don’t want him to speak for unionists, just acknowledge that in his speaking out for nationalists, regard also has to be had to the other bunch of people on the island.

    It’s fascinating as it goes to what Varadkar sees his role as and how he sees the island as a whole. Either he sees himself as:
    1. acting for all ‘the Irish people’, which in nationalist terms has usually in the past been taken to include unionists; or
    2. acting for Irish nationalist people only – which is more reasonable, but places him as regards the politics of Northern Ireland as taking a partisan position without regard to, and quite possibly deleterious to, unionist interests. Again, maybe that’s fine – and it is what we expect from Dublin of course – but it suggests strongly:
    (a) unionists are right to mistrust Dublin and should keep a close eye for creeping nationalist agenda from them; and
    (b) Dublin is too partisan towards one side in NI to able to hold the ring in a future united Ireland. It can’t be partial against unionists while claiming they should come to see the Irish Republic is their ultimate spiritual home.

    It is a definite change of tone from previous Dublin governments who while differing from unionists, have respected N Ireland’s borders and avoid stoking anti-British feeling among nationalists in Northern Ireland. I think it’s a really unwelcome change and a reversion to the bad old days of Dublin governments with a tin ear and lofty disregard for unionists.

  • Damien Mullan

    It was going through drafts, you can’t very well expect journalists to pass up on a story if they get wind of it. Sure look at all the hokey pokey that surrounded the GFA. At the end of the day, we are told by the UK that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, so that being the case, they need to acceded to the EU demand, that give assurances to the Irish government over the border issue, then the details can be ironed out in phase two as to what that means in practical terms. Less of the hissy fits from the DUP would progress things mightily.

  • Damien Mullan

    And those 10 MP’s have scuppered the prospects of concluding phase one and moving on to phase two for 65 million people across the UK, all because of a form of words, I hope the folks in Sunderland and across the UK dependent of EU trade can feed their families on the absence of those words.

    I didn’t hear that Donald Tusk or Juncker phoned Arlene Foster yesterday. They had to phone Varadkar for the Irish OK. Leo Varadkar wasn’t hobbled by his interlocutors.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Try again:
    Calling Unionists Irish who don’t want to be is really insensitive.
    Here’s what the Irish government committed to in the GFA on that:
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/075631c69862d5c730b97545439effa8f9b6d39fb6932cf6e6da953ea53971e7.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a2d73785c74875555d84e283232b165739367d2cd47d9cb97fea32416dc16885.png

  • Damien Mullan

    Sinn Fein are an all island party so I think the ship has sailed on that one. It’ll be Mary Lou who Arlene will be dealing with at principle level from early next year.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    This is unfortunately how it’s always been. At the same time, it is very liberating to have that independence of mind and it brings a deep inner strength to unionism in NI that few outsiders really understand. Rocks against which many a flimsier political vessel has crashed.

    Though not a DUPer and while I am a Remainer, as a unionist from Northern Ireland I felt a definite surge of pride when Foster told the whole of Europe to effectively go hang over any attempts to mess with N Ireland’s connection to the rest of the UK.

    And as people who know what we’re talking about when it comes to N Ireland, we should allow ourselves a chuckle at the hapless European politicians and yes the hapless Tories too getting in a fuss over their own failure to grasp the point over N Ireland. Some real ‘over-educated fool’ acts parading their stuff yesterday. Great – though galling of course – when you can see how little these people actually know. Not a great day for the Brussels or Downing St Brains Trusts, I must say. Tee-hee.

  • mickfealty

    BBCNI was far more measured. Like listening to two different stories. London’s going buck daft

  • mickfealty

    That was far more controlled.

  • MainlandUlsterman
  • MainlandUlsterman

    which is fine, no issue with that

    Let others make their choice too – and a lot in N Ireland choose British identity and citizenship.

  • Gopher

    One theory doing rounds today was related to me at the Royal Pomeroy Paleontology Society annual Christmas lunch after prayers was May had pulled the Mannerheim Cigar trick on the Irish Government. For those unfamiliar with this ruse it involved ascertaining Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim of Finland discerning the strength of Hitlers position by smoking a cigar in his company, Hitler was a passionate non smoker made no reaction so Mannerheim deduced Hitler was in a weakened state and rebuffed his overtures.

    Anyway the story of yesterday goes the UK simply said they had an agreement on the border and haggled over the wording eventually reaching the compromise wording . “Yeah the DUP are onboard and everything was said with a poker face”. The Republic they panicked and leaked, you don’t actually think the piddling trade with Northern Ireland or Northern Nationalist sensibilities counted against 11 odd billion that crosses the Irish Sea to The UK ? As the leak came from only the one place the Irish Government, the bluff had been called The DUP were duly wheeled out for a lacklustre statement and Sammy to muster some unconvincing righteous indignation. .Leo and there is some debate at the society whether he was in on it with his Casablanca press conference blaming the usual suspects the Brits and DUP but he did have the look of a relieved man yesterday. The negotiations now move on with pragmatism rather than emotion.

  • Damien Mullan

    The question isn’t the leak Mick, that’s an attempt to blame the media. The question is, did the leak have substance? Was that not a draft? Albeit an early draft?

    These are all very newsworthy, especially so in the 24/7 cycle we have.

  • Marcus Orr

    “Though not a DUPer and while I am a Remainer, as a unionist from Northern Ireland I felt a definite surge of pride when Foster told the whole of Europe to effectively go hang over any attempts to mess with N Ireland’s connection to the rest of the UK.”
    I agree with you completely on this and feel the same thing. Whatever anyone thinks about the difference between “no regulatory divergence” and “alignment”, it is clear that NI’s connection to the rest of the UK is being changed as a result of the agreement that was being brokered with the EU yesterday, no-one takes kindly being put into some kind of halfway house as regards constitutional status without being asked about it, and I am amazed if anybody thought that the DUP had any choice but to oppose the deal, even though they’ll get pasted now by all of Europe’s media for their temerity. But we the people…
    I still come back to my earlier point though, at some stage the ROI and the EU are going to get out the thrumbscrews for the DUP…at that point Arlene must say no and request the Secretary of State for a referendum on the status on Northern Ireland within the UK.

  • Zorin001

    Though Tony Connelly of RTE is denying the leak came from the Irish Government, following from the Guardian:

    “RTE’s Europe editor Tony Connelly has hit back at reports in the UK that his report of a leaked draft and amended document was part of “Irish propaganda” and unintentionally led to the collapse of talks.

    He said “RTE protects its sources” but he was able to confirm the leak did not come from the Irish government. He also pointed out he reported the leak at 11.15am, 15 minutes after Jean Claude Juncker confirmed to Leo Varadkar that the British had agreed the final wording.”

  • T.E.Lawrence

    At the end of the day someone knew exactly what they where doing and what the consequences was going to be with the issue of that leaked text it very much helped unionism once again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat hence my previous Protestant wind coment

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Granni, how do you see this sea border idea as serving all the people of NI? NI does the vast bulk of our trade with mainland UK. If you’re not careful I’ll get that chart out again showing NI trade with ROI vs mainland UK …

  • Damien Mullan

    Does ‘Brexit means Brexit’ really equate to ‘regulatory alignment’.

    It was a concession by the British.

    They couldn’t sign-off on it on Monday because the current British PM is a shambolic political operator. But that will have to come, if they don’t, December will be missed and it’s early next year before this is dealt with again by the EU27.

  • Damien Mullan

    When’s a concession not a concession.

  • NotNowJohnny

    You failed to answer the question. You called John Hume out for not addressing the NI – Rest of UK relationship pre 1998. So let’s be clear. What was the nature of the relationship issue between northern ireland and the rest of the uk that needed addressing prior to 1998?

  • Nevin

    There are two opposing constitutional aspirations in Northern Ireland: the nationalist one for Irish unity; the unionist one for NI to remain part of the UK. John just dismissed the second. The former SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt talked about NI as a region. When I invited him to expand on his idea of a region he said that it was a region of Ireland and a region of Europe but overlooked it also being a region of the UK. In my 1993 analysis I suggested that the development of relationships within NI was key and that relationships with the rest of these two islands needed to be developed in parallel, otherwise development just gets stymied.

  • NotNowJohnny

    You’re not other giving me much to go on here re John Hume. My understanding of the GFA was that it sought to address the three key historic relationship challenges on these islands through the three strands. John Hume was surely integral to that. I was never aware that there was a relationship issue between NI and GB that needed addressing (except perhaps the lack of impartiality by some British governments). Perhaps there was and I missed it. But if there was it was surely up to unionists to address that. I’m not aware of nationalists ever making it a priority. As for Mr McDevitt, it’s clear that he recognised NI‘s position in the UK, even if he didn’t agree with it. I’m really not sure what point you are making.

  • Gopher

    Reporters and politicains lie. Yesterday was a pantomime with a lot of questionable acting and plenty of faux surprise today was not much better.

  • epg_ie

    You may be wise to mistrust Dublin because, after this week, all Europe mistrusts you.
    Is HMG, supported by the DUP, “too partisan towards one side in NI to able to hold the ring”?

  • Marcus Orr

    Of course he is speaking out for nationalists in the North. The ROI sees the Irish nationalist population in NI as “our people in the North” and acts accordingly to support them.
    I don’t take it badly that Leo has threatened to use his veto and all that stuff concerning Brexit now at this stage. I do think that earlier this year he was way out of order in going to Belfast, lecturing the UK govt. on Brexit, and then attending a Gay Pride parade in Belfast, that was out of order, an unwarranted intervention in another sovereign state’s business, but here, this time, he is just trying to be the voice of Irish Nationalism in the North (this is the Republic Govt’s duty since time began)…
    What I do take badly is the complete inability of our own British govt. to represent the wishes of the unionist population of Northern Ireland in the whole process. Theresa May honestly couldn’t give a toss for us.
    So it falls to the DUP to do that. Good for Arlene.

  • Marcus Orr

    Is HMG, supported by the DUP, “too partisan towards one side in NI to able to hold the ring”?
    Forgive me while I laugh at this question.

  • Marcus Orr

    “I didn’t hear that Donald Tusk or Juncker phoned Arlene Foster yesterday. ”
    Come on Damien. Be serious. Donald Tusk owes his 0.5M Euro annual salary to the EU (like Juncker) and needs to defend that salary against the UK’s exit ambitions – considering that Tusk is defending that amount of money per year being ceded to his own bank account, I would have expected more than just his paltry one wee sentence in Irish language in his sublime tweet the other day…
    Come on Don, can’t ye give us a wee bit more Gaelic than that ?????

  • MainlandUlsterman

    What do they mistrust unionists about? Being unionist? That makes sense.

    Honestly, Europe’s political elite made fools of themselves on Monday, helped along by the British negotiating team. They say they took the UK’s word for it that this all-Ireland regulatory convergence thing was agreed and that’s fine. But for that to be the end of the story, that kind of means they mustn’t have been paying any attention to politics in N Ireland, the place at the centre of the whole thing – which is at best negligent and frankly pretty bizarre.

    On the BBC’s last Brexit podcast Katya Adler was reporting how genuinely shocked politicians in Brussels were by what the DUP said and the result of it. That shows a monumental lack of knowledge and reflects really poorly on their political antennae. I get they were entitled to trust the UK on an internal UK matter, but weren’t they even asking questions? A reasonable response to Monday’s collapse would have been: “Not surprised, we thought it was too good to be true. We never got how the DUP could agree to something like this. Oh well.” But, no, they seem not to have seen it coming at all. Astounding.

    Part of the problem is, I suspect, they see Northern Ireland through a Dublin lens. They have always *tended* to see it that way, but the present circumstances of Brexit, plus Varadkar’s decision to go on the attack against us now in the ROI’s interest and the convenience to the EU of having the UK on the back foot, mean that the green lens has gone so green they can barely see N Ireland at all.

  • Damien Mullan

    How’s your polish?

    If that’s the motivation, salaries, then the Maybot and Co must be doing their job on a voluntary basis. Tusk and Juncker already have income pensions from their respective times as PM of their own counties. Personal salaries clearly is not the dynamic.

  • mickfealty

    I mentioned this to a close friend who is not at all as invested in politics, and her view was that when the world can collapse over a tweet, we are all in trouble. See the post with Donnelly’s point about the lack of backchannels and I think we are getting closer to the nub of the problem.

    If we don’t want to have the world swallowed by Trumpism (a Twitter borne disease IMHO ;-)), we need to slow the feck down a bit. I hope the hysteria begins to subside soon, and people actually start listening instead of reflexively jumping on the digital gunboats.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The DUP are certainly not speaking for the majority in the north of Ireland who voted for remain. I think it’s pretty clear that what mandate they have is against Sinn Fein rather than one to undermine negotiations with the EU.

  • mickfealty

    I don’t think that’s how it is working out Cory, nor do I think it was planned. In fact, the DUP in a perverse way may have helped save the Tory bacon by easing the impact of the orginal omnishambles.

  • Damien Mullan

    Exactly, but those ‘backchannels’, were a matter between the Conservative government of May and her erstwhile friends in the DUP, who keep her show on the road.

    We know the substance. The substance and meaning are final, a form of words that comply with EU lexicon and speak of assurances that commit to avoidance of a hard border. The DUP are up a tree, it is up to May to get them down, by whatever means of presentation and clarity. With whatever additional wording and the like necessary, but the meaning and substance in the wording agreed cannot be altered. That was the ask by Ireland and the EU for phase one, and unless the UK wishes to progress to phase two, that must be acceded to. It’s May government, it’s her negotiation, it’s her version of Brexit, therefore it’s her job to get the interlocutors within the UK on side.

    It’s not the job of the Irish government, the EU institutions, or the media, to tip toe around that evolving process.

  • Marcus Orr

    Nie jest zly.
    Though I have to admit that for a while I thought you were asking me how my polish, not Polish, is, I was a bit confused.

  • Damien Mullan

    Ignorance is bliss.

    I myself always knew that Tusk was a former Polish PM, so that wouldn’t have been a problem had the reverse been the case.

    Maybe Irish people really are less insular than British, so you so aptly illustrate.

  • Marcus Orr

    Oh no, don’t worry, I was well aware that Tusk was once Polish PM, and when I was living in Germany I distinctly remember reading in the German press something about him taking the EU job on due to the huge differential in pay between Poland and EU.

    Oh and by the way I ‘m an Irishman I’ll have you know.

  • Damien Mullan

    I don’t think that is the reason the job was taken. There was talk after the successful Irish EU presidency in 2004, of Bertie Ahern taking the EU Commission President job, but although he ran a good show for the six months of the Irish presidency of the EU, he wasn’t particularly interested in it.

    Plus, if it was the money he’d simply nominate himself for an EU Commissioner job.

    Irishman, indeed, well as Daniel O’Connell famously said of the Duke of Wellington, “The poor old Duke! what shall I say of him? To be sure he was born in Ireland, but being born in a stable does not make a man a horse.”

  • Cory Kelly

    Yes I read it wrong, I think you are correct there. The DUP reaction might have saved us all a lot of nasty headaches.

  • 05OCT68

    I’m happy to be schooled on the subject, but all exports from the Island to GB have to go by boat or plane, I assume when they get to GB ports there is some sort of checks or cargo held in staging areas, given that these ports are already set up for custom & immigration checks whats the big deal. Can a ship unload non EU goods in Dublin, be put on a lorry & driven to NI without checks?

  • Marcus Orr

    You don’t think that was the reason, but ignorance is bliss.

    As for the rest, well as we go back many hundreds of years in the family, with the roots in Cork, Dublin and Belfast, and I am born and bred from here, that noise that you can maybe hear is my hearty horse-laugh at your Duke of Wellington piffle as I type this. Thanks for the entertainment though.