“I never could, and still cannot all these months later, get any clarity on how exactly we proposed to take back control”

The MP for North Down, Lady Hermon (the only pro-Remain voice within the Commons chamber from Northern Ireland) delivered a passionate speech today about the Good Friday Agreement and the process of leaving the European Union. There has been some focus on the encounter with Nigel Dodds but some other noteworthy exchanges are here;

Let me say ever so loudly and strongly to senior members of the Conservative party that I do not want to hear them or see them on television talking about pushing ahead and no deal—“Let’s just move on with no deal.” It is an absolute nonsense. It is so reckless and so dangerous. The Home Secretary stood here yesterday and made a statement about counter-terrorism. Dissident republicans are active. They are dangerous and ruthless—utterly ruthless. If I had a child or grandchild choosing a career—I have no grandchildren, by the way; I have two children, both of whom have chosen careers other than politics, sadly, because we need leadership in Northern Ireland and young people to come into politics—I would not encourage them to join the UK Border Force or Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in the event of no-deal Brexit, because inevitably we will have a hard border.

It must be a moral responsibility and duty on this Government to take care of all personnel, all officials, in HMRC, in the Police Service of Northern Ireland and in the UK Border Force. It is all very well and good to have talked about “taking back control” of our borders—that was a catchy refrain during the EU referendum—but I never could, and still cannot all these months later, get any clarity on how exactly we proposed to take back control.

However, in the event of no deal, we would certainly face a hard border, and dissident republicans would regard Police Service of Northern Ireland and HMRC officers, and UK border officials, as legitimate targets. I do not want that on my conscience, and I do not believe for one moment that the Prime Minister or the Government want that either. I plead with senior Conservative party members to stop the nonsense of talking up no deal. The Home Secretary wisely described no deal as “unthinkable”, and it is. She may not be here, but I quote her anyway, because I agree with her and hold her in very high regard.

Why am I so committed to this issue? It is because half my life has been blighted by the troubles. I was not involved in politics when the Good Friday agreement was signed. I was not then a member of the Ulster Unionist party, of which David Trimble was leader. He and I had taught together in the law faculty of Queen’s University Belfast. If anybody cares to look, they will see that my specialism was EU law; that is another reason why I am so passionate about this subject. David Trimble, who was such a remarkable, courageous leader of the Ulster Unionist party, never quite liked or understood my interest in EU law, yet now he is in another place and is asked for his views on so much. He and I will never fall out, but we have always disagreed over the EU. My love for it continues.

I accept that Brexit will happen. We as the United Kingdom have to come out together, and the Prime Minister made that quite clear at Prime Minister’s questions today, but in doing so we cannot risk undermining all that has been gained through the Good Friday agreement—the lives that have been saved and the normality that we have had. That will carry on, but people in Northern Ireland are extremely nervous. There is one party, the Democratic Unionist party—and I am just describing, factually. DUP Members are colleagues and friends, though sometimes I wonder, given the tone of voice that they use towards me. Let us remember the history: a previous Conservative Government, led by Margaret Thatcher, caused such divisions, hurt, anger, rage and outrage in one part of the community in Northern Ireland—the republican nationalist community—and there was the way that the hunger strikes were handled. It is critical that the Conservative Government, who are supported by the DUP, bear in mind all the people of Northern Ireland, and that the DUP do not speak for or represent all of them.

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  • runnymede

    Yes. She’s not very bright

  • runnymede

    Yes you are so terribly clever while everyone else knows nothing, we know that old chap.

  • Georgie Best

    Lady Hermon is a lot brighter than the average Brexit voter. She rightly points out that “taking back control” is not a simple thing in a world where you are inevitably connected to your neighbours by trade flows which sustain your standard of living.

  • Georgie Best

    The industry is certainly gone, and with it any sense of paying your own way.

  • sparrow

    ‘Lady Hermon is a lot brighter than the average Brexit voter.’
    Low bar alert.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    pay wall! What does it say, in summary?

  • lizmcneill

    *Yackety Sax*

  • Granni Trixie

    Never one to miss an opportunity. You really are obsessed with Naomi, aren’t you?
    But look, let’s stick to the debate which for me is around representation – who speaks up for Northern Ireland?

  • Granni Trixie

    ND usually has a core liberal vote. I wouldn’t take for granted that SH is likely to lose votes because of her take on current events. Or that, should she not stand, the DUP would necessarily benefit.

  • Granni Trixie

    Do you not think that the damaged DUP brand will impact on future elections? And we haven’t even got to the end of RHI investigation.

  • Granni Trixie

    When he joined HOL Trimble joined the Conservatives. Sounds like a plan?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    At Westminster it is 11 Unionists MPs as Republicans being such smart kids on the block have left the Nationalist Community with only Unonism to speak for NI in the Soveriegn Forum and Juristiction of the U.K. But hey I am not complaining about it but if I was a Nationalist I would ? What a bunch of mugs for voting the bearded cult leader mob

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Why is it a priority to preserve the interests of that single community rather than the entire community …”
    It isn’t. Plan A of avoiding both a hard land and a hard sea customs/regs border – i.e. keeping things as they are now – is in everyone’s interests and nearly everyone, across both communities, both wants that and benefits from it.

    The Agreement is not dead, but it is coming under heavy attack from nationalism right now – attack disguised heavily as ostensible support for it, while pushing an interpretation of it that is utterly divorced from the wording of the GFA itself. The DUP are not the ideal party to be defending it from a unionist point of view either. But as a centrist, I maintain it is the only show in town. And if you ripped it up, you wouldn’t be able to get cross-community agreement again on any other basis. It’s an illusion to think there could be something significantly different from it that would work better.

    I have always championed the GFA and have been on a mission since the Agreement was signed to show other unionists that it is a good and fair deal, containing protection for PUL identity and political voice. I happen to think it’s a fantastic agreement for modern nationalists too. Who it isn’t a good deal for are old school, muttering, f*** off t**gs loyalists and irredentist, Brits-out Republicans – because it forces both of them into a different world of tolerance, mutual respect and acceptance of the parity of esteem of British and Irish identities in N Ireland. It sets out a N Ireland in which one side can never push things through alone, where people are obliged to work on a cross-community basis to get things done. That is not easy of course, and we have the wrong parties leading us right now, but it is the only way – and it limits what even those twats can do to mess things up. At least the worst we get is stalemate; there is no chance of one side ‘winning’ (if that means anything as a concept in NI anyway – all ethno-national victories in NI are ultimately Pyrrhic as the two communities are still there and always will be – no one can ‘win’, not really, and attempting some ultimate ‘victory’ in NI is the sure sign of a buck eejit).

    Long way of saying, I am not championing it to defend unionist interests only. I talk about unionist interests because I am unionist and think they need defending – and fervently believe the GFA protects them. It doesn’t mean I don’t think it also protects nationalist interests.

    You say: “If you think that somehow the Agreement enables you to drag NI out of the customs union and the single market – against the wishes of all the other pro-Agreement parties, but at the same time think that those same pro-Agreement parties are obliged to protect your interests you are utterly wrong.”
    No, I want NI to be in the customs union and single market, together with the rest of the UK. This is a widely shared view, except for some of the Leavers (not even all of them) and one shared by all the pro-Agreement parties except the DUP. Do I think other parties are obliged to protect the interests of unionists (I guess here, in respecting the massive unionist concerns about a potential sea border)? Maybe not obliged, but I would like them to protect those interests as much as nationalist interests in this. I would hope they would treat both equally here and seek a solution that works for all. I think fundamentally that IS what they want; but I suspect they have not thought through the full implications of the sea border idea. I would ask them to think about it, look at the trade figures involved and think about what unionists are being asked to have within their own country – a customs border within our country, which nationalists reject for themselves in what they see as their own country (Ireland). Even-handedness requires the sea border issue be taken as seriously as the land border one.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I hope not, she’s generally a credit to Northern Ireland and to unionism. We need more independent voices like hers. But yes I wonder if she has misjudged this one. She’s an expert in EU law and is inspired by knowledge of it; I studied EU law at a much lower level but also buy into the ideas of the Treaty of Rome from having studied the jurisprudence coming out of it and the ideas around it. I understand her passion. But I think the sea border is a real genuine BIG BIG issue here.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Not really – what do you mean?

  • Zorin001

    Its hard to say, I personally hope that this years election was the high water mark for the DUP and the centre may be able to hold, possibly even with slight gains but again, hard to say.

    I’ve no faith that whatever the results of the RHI inquiry it will damage the DUP one iota, anecdotally I know a few DUP voters who swore blind before the Stormont election that they wouldn’t vote DUP that time because of the scandal; in the end they voted for them after all when the usual orange/green cards were palyed.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Agree, Hermon is a UNIONIST, someone concerned with the impact on the UK in both parts … the DUP are 9 Little Ulstermen and a “Little” Little Ulster-lady, defensively worrying about sabotaging a United Ireland or a United Europe without realising their making one or other or both a realistic alternative by being jerks.

  • Jess McAnerney

    What I mean is the UK is unlikely to get a quick free trade deal and there will be consequences to their economy which will take decades to recover from.

    The Canadian deal will be the most likely start template but unlike Canada, the UK has been deeply integrated with the EU from long term membership and will have to accept unpopular measures to unpick itself from this position without negativey impacting on EU citizens and vice versa before a new deal will be agreed.

    Even with the Canadian template, there will be difficulties for example.
    The EU will not accept US food imports which are modified while the UK who will need a new deal with the US will be expected to replace their agriculture with their cheap imports.

    Every single trade deal the UK go to make will have knock on consequences for the others and achieving a free EU deal could take a long time because of this.

    Dublin and the EU have been looking out for us and NI has been offered a safety net which the DUP is refusing to accept it on behalf of people they do not reprisent for selfish political reasons.

  • mac tire

    Ach, would you ever go away and read her speech. It’s there. available in Hansard.

  • mac tire

    Granni, it is clear that the DUP have their cross hairs on Sylvia – just like they did Naomi. I have a feeling she will go through what Naomi had to endure. It’s gonna be nasty.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ah, you’ve got it at last , Runny! Good man, now you can perhaps start listening to what is being said instead of simply reacting with the ideological default.

    Suggesting that one of the few honest and sincere voices upholding the Union is “ not very bright” reflects only on your own rigidity of thought.

  • Viduka

    The state of Unionism in 2017 is surely epitomised by the fact that we must spend an entire thread eulogising Sylvia Hermon for showing a semblance of moderation & “reason”.

    It best illustrates how the DUP have carefully sewn the seeds of bitterness & adversity within the wider Unionist community. No respect whatsoever for any form of cultural or social diversity.

    21st century Unionism has become a euphimism for intolerance & division. If the Union ultimately ends, there is a 90% chance that it will be entirely self-inflicted…

  • DOUG

    Ssshh – that’s the plan.

  • Cadogan West

    I meant BOTH DUP and SF! Wise up there. There is no one in NI worth voting for.

  • Kevin Breslin
  • Zorin001

    If I was sitting here, agnostic on the border and moderate to liberal on social issues, then the DUP are the worst possible party to convert me to being pro-Union.

    It would be even more difficult, probably impossible to sell it to Union agnostic Catholics of similar moderate social views, who take a look at the strides the South the has made on social issues and compare it to the DUPs “not an inch” strategy.

    As an intellectual exericse I began wondering if the integrationists like Robert McCartney may have been on to something long-term, without Brexit and an invisible border and closely aligned social policy’s between the RoI and UK would anyone but the hardcore on either side notice the difference?

  • Cadogan West

    My point was she is closer to the Tory’s than others, in NI no one votes Conservative or UU anymore.

  • Cadogan West

    Actually the earliest reference to the term Great unwashed is Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton who used
    the term in his 1830 novel “Paul Clifford.”

  • Cadogan West

    Ah yes the RUC before it was Pattonised into the PSNI

  • Granni Trixie

    I greatly admire anyone who joins the police especially in Ni – a dangerous job.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “your failure to engage with the difference between sea and land” – what do you mean?

    And what of the goods ‘export’ figures – why never any actual attempt to answer my concerns? You just keep pretending trade with mainland UK doesn’t matter. Yet it could barely be more important to NI.

    The big issue, at the risk of repreating myself, is not about harmonisation of rules with the Republic per se, it’s about divergence of rules with the rest of the UK. That’s what would create the need for an internal UK customs border. If both countries became 100 per cent harmonised, I would be happy as Larry.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    let’s hope – if so, all this can go away, which is what we all want I think!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the sea customs border is the whole issue – that is what Monday’s deal was proposing. I was agreeing with the DUP in rejecting the idea.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    They actually want a free trade agreement so trade can continue with the EU as is.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    What can Corbyn do that would be worse than the sea border? Bring him on.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think he just likes her when she disagrees with the DUP. I’d bet she’s less keen on what she has to say about SF.

  • Toye native

    Hundred percent spot on

  • NotNowJohnny

    If you thought Robert McCartney was onto something you are probably only one of two people who thought he was. His party certainly didn’t and neither did the electorate. Mr McCartney was one of the hardcore but struggled even to get people from the hardcore to vote for him. The great flaw in his integrationist policy was that while he claimed he was seeking to integrate NI into the United Kingdom, he was really seeking to integrate NI into Great Britain which is just plain daft when you think about it. I doubt he was even in favour of an open border given that he opposed both the GFA and the SAA and while I don’t know his views on Brexit it is worth noting that the last time he was spotted it was at a TUV event.

  • Cadogan West

    Indeed the question to ask is the Pattonised version more effective?

  • NotNowJohnny

    You’ve very cleverly avoided answering a question re the sea border again. This isn’t the first time. I never got a response to the following questions although I presume that you are now answering YES to the first one, so I’m now only awaiting the response to question (b)

    (a) did the proposals yesterday (now Monday) constitute the creation of a sea border; and
    (b) if they did then what changes would be required to be made in to them to result in them no longer constituting a sea border?

  • Zorin001

    I half realised using McCartney s name wasn’t the best idea and I think I’ve explained myself badly.

    Ireland and the UK, culturally, share a lot of similarities. We watch the same programmes, listen to the same music, hell most of the country supports either Liverpool or Man U (Brendan Gleason has the good taste to support Villa at least). With the decline of support for the Catholic church RoI and the UK pretty much mirror each other in social attitudes now as well.

    My long winded point is that the DUPs narrow social conservatism hurts their potential intake for moderate voters, agnostic on the border but who share similar cultural and social mores with both countries. Before Brexit (and the invisible border likely disappearing) a moderate Unionist party that tried to maintain parity with both constituencies, focusing on broad church civic Unionism could have secured the centre ground ALONG with those who value the union above everything else.

    The DUP valuing their social converatism as much as their Unionism left those cards on the table and it’s too late to try and play them now, especially if those recent survey results are accurate.

    I’m typing on the phone so that’s a brief summary of what I’m trying to get at.

    TLDR: The DUPs social views stop it from harvesting the moderate Unionist and Union agnostic vote.

  • Granni Trixie

    Much needed reforms, accountability mechanisms and interventions to broaden representation of the community has increased confidence in the police. Policing effectiveness cannot be taken in isolation from these changes.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    A border poll.

  • NotNowJohnny

    The DUP have never really been committed to gaining votes through social conservatism. They gain their votes by scaremongering and by playing the Sinn Fein bogeyman card. And people buy it. Create fear, then play on it and then claim to be the god who can deliver you from this evil. And the votes will come. They always do. They always did.

    And of course there’s no such thing as a moderate unionist party. There can’t be. You’re either for us or against us. You’re either one of us or you’re one of them. Where is the moderate ground in that? If you try to be the moderate ground the right wing of unionism will devour you and swallow you up. The right wing of unionism is a nasty beast. We see what it did to Faulkner, Trimble and O’Neill. What chance had Mike Nesbitt?

    Of course Swann would like to see his party as moderate. Decent people vote Ulster Unionist and all that. But even he himself can’t manage it. He has no problem with the Irish language so long as themuns don’t have the audacity to use it in public places and that it isn’t given any official recognition by the state. Not that he’d last long if he dared to be a moderate. The DUPs pack of mad dogs would destroy him if he did. It even looked like they’d had a bite at Foster the other day before coming down the Stormont steps.

  • Thomas Girvan

    L.O.L.!

  • Thomas Girvan

    They couldn’t stand the pong!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t think that’s worse that the sea border, genuinely

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think I did answer your question clearly and I’m a bit insulted that you say I’m trying to avoid that – but to close this off, I’m happy to again:
    – “(a) did the proposals yesterday (now Monday) constitute the creation of a sea border” – Yes, in the event of a no deal.
    – “(b) if they did then what changes would be required to be made in to them to result in them no longer constituting a sea border?” – today’s wording is fine with me.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    But if there’s a good chance of losing the border poll (and it’s certainly increased) then you have the sea border AND all the other carry-on that comes with united Ireland.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’ve checked and rechecked and I’m sure you didn’t answer the question. Of course I had no intention to insult you but then again I’m not sure how pointing out that someone didn’t answer a question when they didn’t insults them, but there you go. Unionists and republicans seem to get insulted so easily it seems harder to avoid insulting them.

    And then back to the sea border. The reason I was pressing you to explain what would and wouldn’t constitute a sea border before today was because I had a suspicion you would wait to see what the DUP would agree to first and whatever that was, that would become your definition of what DIDNT constitute a sea border. And you just did exactly what I suspected. It seems to me you’re merely peddling the DUP line.

    I’d be interested to get your view on what was the substantive policy change between the UK position on Monday and today that equated to the removal of the sea border between NI and GB that was definitely there on Monday and definitely gone today.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    But she’s in Parliament and can understand the limits of its actual power in the modern world.

  • Austen

    The clarity is there. It is spelt out. Hermon just refuses to understand it. She defies the British people daily with her attempts to block Brexit. If it were a genuine concern for the issues and she was genuinely trying to improve the issue then I would have sympathy but this is just a bitter ‘Remainer’ speaking in a soft voice who is trying to defeat the will of the British people.