Arlene Foster spoke no empty words. The road to renewed cross community cooperation may run through Dublin and Brussels

Arlene Foster’s demarche surely marks a truce or even peace  between the Irish government and the DUP in the squabbles over Brexit. It will also  consolidate Dublin’s  improving  relations with Westminster. All this is welcome. Neither wants a hard land border on the island or trade barriers between the Republic and Great Britain. It was just that Dublin’s priority was elevating no hard border to a position of veto over the UK government’s whole strategy, while the DUP had a veto on any prospect of British weakening  over no economic border in the Irish Sea.

But vetoes do not produce agreements and it’s high time the circus  moved on.

Colum Eastwood’s response to Arlene Foster is positive. The SDLP leader calls it “a step in the right direction” by which she “effectively argues for access to the single market and the customs union”.

While that’s correct,  Eastwood has shifted some ground to meet her.  Making every allowance for flexibility of language,  “access” to the single market and the customs union is not the same as special status to remain  inside  them.

Michelle O’Neill’s response is more grudging, a cautious welcome but then, it’s  back to clockwork. She welcomed “the acknowledgement by Arlene Foster” that “our economy, community, and future, North and South, are interlinked and interdependent”.

“However, this cannot distract from the fact that Brexit will be disastrous for all of Ireland. There is no good Brexit. Today was a difference in tone, but not in policy.”

Foster made no specific linkage between closer cooperation with the Republic on Brexit and prospects for the restoration of the Executive. That was left to Colum Eastwood.

.. what Mrs Foster refers to as a replica of the Nordic Council model cannot be a substitute for political leadership and a local government.

“What this statement this morning highlights is that Brexit must be a basis for talks ( about the Assembly).. No political leader here can speak for Northern Ireland alone but what the DUP Leader has exposed today is that there is some common ground. Political dialogue is needed here to explore that common ground, where there is room for compromise and if there is a way to move forward.”

Foster’s speech is indeed interesting for its change of tone, but also for its possibilities  Significant too perhaps that she concentrates on a desire for a closer intergovernmental relationship over Brexit rather than the restoration of the Executive, as if Brexit is the better immediate bet.

Even so, improvements in one area might lead to progress in the other. The governments can hardly engage over one alone.

On Brexit solutions, rather remarkably, Foster seems to believe that the default option of alignment of regulations agreed in the joint Report on Phase1 of the Brexit negotiations can be reconciled with her first priority of no economic border between NI and GB. Few are so sure of that. But  she’s right, a full free trade deal between the UK and EU is the better option for Ireland north and south if the reality of Brexit is accepted.

Remember that the DUP did not endorse the joint Report’s default position in the event of a failure to find “ agreed solutions” for Brexit.

 49.In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.

In the British view, this fell well short of  full membership and was  limited to  the specifics of north-south cooperation  in the  GFA. Even so Foster seized on their importance.

…we absolutely don’t want to see the creation of a hard border on the island of Ireland.  We value the trade that has developed at pace between Northern Ireland – and the entire UK – and the Republic in recent years. The UK market is critical to many Irish sectors and especially agri-foods with 40% of Irish food and drink going to the UK.

The Irish market acc“ounts for just over 30% of all of Northern Ireland’s exports and trade from Northern Ireland to the Republic rose by more than 16% in the last year.  It is, in short, an incredibly valuable market for Northern Ireland businesses.

But so too is Great Britain.  More so, in fact.  Of the £26 billion worth of sales by Northern Ireland firms that are outside of the region, 56% go to Great Britain.  Northern Ireland trade with Great Britain is worth 3.7 times more than Northern Ireland exports to the Republic.  It is, by far, our biggest external market.

 

Her fallback is  50 in the joint Report, that:

in the absence of agreed solutions, as set out in the previous paragraph, the United Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unless, consistent with the 1998 Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree that distinct arrangements are appropriate for Northern Ireland. In all circumstances, the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market.

Which means 50 gives a DUP veto on 49, any  “full alignment” with EU rules. That’s why they were  content for Theresa May to go and sign the joint Report at the second attempt.

Ireland’s role as a persuader in the Irish strand in the next phase of the Brexit negotiations will be crucial. Squaring this circle will be difficult, to put it mildly.  Foster is surely right to call for close British and Irish cooperation to try to achieve it and to continue ever afterwards. Through the pact with the Conservatives, she has  leverage which the Irish government will value, if things go well between them.  One could see a process whereby the DUP would exert influence with HM government and the Irish government with the EU, both in the interests of Ireland north and south and even perhaps in the whole Brexit outcome.

So a constructive effort for a change. But does it have any implications for Sinn Fein and the Assembly?.

The Irish government made the first move to clear the air with the DUP and are bound to respond further to re-establish a regular relationship with them. That in turn should put some pressure on Sinn Fein. So well done, Arlene. The road to  revived cross community cooperation  may run through Dublin and Brussels. Will Mary Lou McDonald change her tune from only last Wednesday or try to keep  the politics of Brexit and Stormont entirely separate?

 

 

.

 

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

  • Food First

    At some stage the E U will have to back of & leave this to the Irish & U K Governments unless they want more. countries to head for the exit

  • John

    I am not sure whether you are partaking of illicit material or perhaps suffering from a high fever as a result of Aussie flu.
    How any intelligent life form could even countenance such a conversion on the road to Damascus from the lady “who did nothing wrong” escapes me.
    Maybe you are simply mad.

  • Damien Mullan

    “Remember that the DUP did not endorse the joint Report’s default position in the event of a failure to find “ agreed solutions” for Brexit.”

    Has the confidence and supply agreement collapsed. The government that Arlene keeps in office did support it. Unless she’s under the illusion that the DUP can form a majority UK government of DUP MPs, then the confidence and supply arrangement is all she’s got, and that’s with this Tory government, and they’ve signed up. The only important bit to mention, less we get sidetracked by Brian’s analysis, is what has the UK Executive signed up to. Why yes the DUP could back away, but then the government either falls or embraces a No Deal.

    “Which means 50 gives a DUP veto on 49, any “full alignment” with EU rules. That’s why they were content for Theresa May to go and sign the joint Report at the second attempt.”

    That’s putting the cart before the horse. Didn’t the Taoiseach already provide an explainer on the sequencing of this and the ‘bullet proof’ nature.

    The language is also very important.

    49 states, “the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment”

    “will”

    50 states, “the United Kingdom will ensure”

    “ensure”

    There’s a semantic reason for this. “will” gives no wriggle room in 49, adding “ensure” reduces the definiteness of “will” in 50.

  • Damien Mullan

    Here’s that explainer again.

  • Georgie Best

    This entire thread is based on a false premise. Foster is still promoting Brexit and collaborating with the Tories to ensure that the DUP has more say in what happens than the majority of people in NI. There has been no truce that I can see or any attempt at conciliation of any sort.

  • Georgie Best

    The Irish government has no problem with the EU, it is the delinquent British government that should back off and respect the wishes of the people of NI.

  • Damien Mullan

    “ensure” alludes to the entirely domestic internal nature of 50’s implementation. 50 is at the sole digression of the UK, 49 is not, therefore the rigidness of it. 49 binds the UK-EU, while 50 is left at the digression of the UK as to how to implement.

    See the contrast with “ensure” removed.

    As 50 is with “ensure”

    “In the absence of agreed solutions, as set out in the previous paragraph, the United Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unless, consistent with the 1998 Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree that distinct arrangements are appropriate for Northern Ireland. In all circumstances, the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market.”

    Then with “ensure” removed

    “In the absence of agreed solutions, as set out in the previous paragraph, the United Kingdom will have no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, unless, consistent with the 1998 Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree that distinct arrangements are appropriate for Northern Ireland. In all circumstances, the United Kingdom will continue the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the United Kingdom internal market.”

    The semantic difference is clear.

  • Highfield

    Exactly
    She does not speak for most people in the North, just her own party.

    They know they’re on the wrong side of Brexit so maybe a scrambling to save face exercise. Best keep that for the RHI fraud inquiry

  • Jeff

    Yet again you need reminding it was a UK vote. Now you and i might be disappointed with the outcome that’s the reality

  • Damien Mullan

    Just re-reading paragraph 49, it strikes me again what a powerful and incredible achievement that bit of Irish-European diplomacy was/is.

    49 “now or in the future”

    What a feat that line is, utterly expansive as it is. Fantastic.

  • eamoncorbett

    The government doesn’t necessarily need to fall if the DUP don’t like the ultimate Brexit solution, if enough remainers in parliament like the deal on offer , they can carry the day. The government would not have to fall in this scenario.The only options realistically on offer are Norway and Canada with restrictions , neither of which appeal to Brexiteers but might garner support from members of the big 2 plus the Scots Nats . The idea of a free trade deal without obligations is still touted in some circles ,but this is fantasy as anyone paying attention to leading EU negotiators will tell you .
    There isn’t a hope in hell that the British parliament will allow 10 MPs from NI to dictate the economic future of the UK.

  • Damien Mullan

    Well we do await a possible schism.

    For the government not to fall and a cross bench approach would need to emerge and the non-enforcement of the three-line whip. I can’t see the government conceding that on Brexit policy, they hardly concede it on minor legislation.

    But then look how many times Tory or Labour backbenchers have rebelled against the party whip and they are still within their respective parties. So maybe expulsion is not likely as a consequence, we’ll have to see how brave enough they continue to be. We know Ken Clarke is game.

  • Food First

    Tick tick tick tock wait & see N I is part of the U K & the collective vote was to leave the U K operates a first past the post electoral system it is the U K Paiarlments duty to implement this for better or worse

  • Clyde

    “Best keep that for the RHI “”fraud” inquiry. What fraud inquiry? You need to apprise yourself on the remit. Ms Foster has been accused and convicted of theft, fraud, corruption and all sorts yet, her evidence has not been heard. Gerry Adams is on public record as saying, that “he did not believe she had done anything wrong”. So far, Ms Foster is coming out of the inquiry quite well whilst senior civil servants are not.

  • Georgie Best

    I am not concerned with the outcome. I think that the entire peace settlement will end if people in England force changes in the operation of the border in Ireland without the agreement of people on either side of the border. You seem pleased about the end of this settlement, I am not.

  • Highfield

    I have not accused her of anything

    Certainly the buck should stop with her and yes as no politician here ever gets sacked I am sure she will be well protected

  • Jeff

    With respect your totally concerned with the outcome. I’ve not read or heard anyone say they want anything other than the softest of borders between ni and the South. It’s just scaremongering to suggest otherwise. And For the record Wales voted leave not just England

  • Georgie Best

    If you want the softest of borders then you would simply leave things as they are. Anyone supporting Brexit by definition does not want the softest of borders and if they claim to do so then they are not truthful.

  • Mimi Balguerie

    The fact that it was a UK wide vote does not prevent the UK government from respecting the expressed wishes of people in NI, or indeed all of its population.

    When Norway held a vote on EU membership, it was rejected in a vote of 52% to 48%. The Norwegian government recognised close margin of the vote and how opinion was split, and sought a compromise deal in the form of the EEA.

    When the UK held its referendum on leaving the EU, the margin of the vote was the same, but instead of trying to strike a balance, the British government decided that the winner takes all and have seemed to be pursuing the hardest Brexit imaginable. Thankfully the intervention of the Irish government will have lessened some of the impact we could face.

    As it is, the EEA could be an ideal solution for Britain if it’s gripe is that the EU is a political union rather than a strictly economic one. But I suppose advocating such things makes you a treacherous europhile these days.

  • Brian Walker

    Of course she is still promoting Brexit. It’s the working reality Its an Alice through the looking glass world that assumes the imagined is real and the actual is unreal. If you read the oiece you’ll see I speculate if there might be an impact for the Executive. I assume nothing.

  • Brian Walker

    The consensus is that 49 and 50 together are a fudge that needs to be clarified in the details where the devil lurks.. This is not my eccentric interpretation. Bur it’s enough for all parties to work together. That was its purpose.

  • Zig70

    God, why do we get this constant misreading of speeches that are tailored to an audience? We had Enda talking about UI at an event in Donegal, endless Robbo’s and Mike unicorns. Suddenly, everything they have said is wiped from memory? Maybe we should be asking why politicians are so insincere?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    They are a fudge but one which makes it politically very, very difficult to have a customs border or significant regulatory divergence either at the land border or at the Irish Sea / North Channel. I think 49 and 50 are a highly significant defeat for the hard Brexiteers and I struggle to see their strategy for reviving their fortunes. It’s one of the real conundra of 2018 politics – what are their next moves …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The legal bindingness of 49 is no more than 50 – I think you’re indulging in wishful thinking without thinking about the law/politics of agreements like this. Any agreement can be breached, whoever the counterparty is – but it matters to think about why it is in each party’s interests to keep to their commitments. The UK government cannot get Brexit through parliament without sticking to 50 – that’s pretty stark.

    And with probably no election now till 2022, Brexit is either happening under the current parliamentary arithmetic or it may not be happening at all. Either way, I don’t see a scenario where Brexit happens and 50 is reneged on – can you explain to me the scenario where that happens?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the wishes of the people of NI was for the whole UK to remain, not NI on its own.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    As I commented before, the wishes of the people of NI was for the whole UK to remain, not NI on its own. Kind of makes a difference.

  • Damien Mullan

    Agreed Brian, its still to be fleshed out, much like the workings around the GFA in 1998, when phases and chapters of that process were agreed, they were took to be agreed, the final agreed text was still to be reached, but it worked on a phased basis, let us at least reach and hold to the conclusions and outlines of the first phase, because that’s the only agreement in this process we have thus far, as conditional as it is.

  • William Kinmont

    I still think that 50 doesnt rule out a customs border at the north channel for eu goods but not ni goods entering gb. Any eu goods entering ni for some sort of processing before transit to gb will support economy here and allow gb to reduce support just that little bit.
    Didnt take very much from foster speach but perhaps softening of tone is preparation of some sort of rebranding of special status

  • Damien Mullan

    My entire premise is on the basis of a UK-EU agreement being reached. I certainly do not argue that the EU can bind the UK without one. Other issues arise in a no agreement scenario in which the EU follows the process of relations with a third country. An obvious process of a diminution in the current relation between the UK-EU, along the lines of EU-third country status.

    As for the ramifications of these paragraphs come an agreement, the EU has no way of binding the UK on 50 though. How can the EU after Brexit, assuming they reach a Withdrawal Agreement, tell the UK how to “ensure” the internal market access of one country within the UK might have with another. The 49 paragraph is the substantive one, its the only one that has bilateral implications between the UK and EU. Whereas, 50 is basically the UK telling itself to keep its own internal market free between all parts of the UK.

  • Georgie Best

    The wish of the people of NI is that cross border trade not be disrupted. Arlene and her Tory pals are defying this wish.

  • Clyde

    I didn’t say that, merely pointing out that the RHI debacle is not a fraud inquiry. I prefer to await the outcome of the Judge led inquiry. I suspect a number of officials and others may have acted under the umbrella of gross incompetence. Anyway, for another day.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    50’s importance though is that it is a UK government public commitment, made in a formal agreement whether enforceable or not, which matches the reality of what they need to do to keep DUP support. And the EU has declared itself comfortable with the status of N Ireland set out in 50 – it is no longer advocating a sea border. Important change.

  • Deirdre

    It might be the working reality in Great Britain Brian but it’s not a reality yet in this part of Ireland it’s got to the point where Nationalism has the numbers to ensure this part of Ireland is not as British as Finchley. Without a working executive Britain will have to impose Brexit and whatever border controls that come with it and every election from then on in will be fought by nationalism on a border poll ticket.

  • Deirdre

    I think the point Highfield is making Clyde is who the main benefactors of the RHI scheme were and who they were connected to and if connections can be made then it’s fraud.

  • Damien Mullan

    I agree its for the optics of satisfying the DUP.

    But you do understand why the Irish government and the EU are so unfazed by the inclusion of paragraph 50.

    Paragraph 50 is to be fulfilled the UK by whatever internal machinations the UK devises to do so, it has no implications for the EU internal market, so who cares how or if they get there.

    “And the EU has declared itself comfortable with the status of N Ireland set out in 50 – it is no longer advocating a sea border. Important change.”

    Entirely agreed, but that’s because the UK has agreed in 49, “the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes I get why Dublin is unfazed by it as it’s good for them too. The people left behind are the “special status” brigade.

  • Damien Mullan

    To be fair it’s good for everyone, I certainly don’t want to see barriers placed between NI and GB, because of the obvious implications for unionists and businesses, likewise, I don’t want anything to disrupt or disturb the border regions, because of the obvious implications for nationalists and businesses.

    It’ll be full UK alignment, I certainly, given the current parliamentary arithmetic, think that the more likely outcome than special status.

    The lexicon of ‘special status’, certainly as the DUP interpreted in the draft agreement in early December, did have them running and pushing for full UK alignment during the rest of that week. It has its usefulness in shepherding people to ‘sensible’ solutions. That’s the politics of Brexit.

  • Cadogan West

    Arlene Foster and the DUP need to be more penitent over the RHI scandal and take responsibility for the lack of cost controls etc. It shows they cannot manage public finance. Why an Arts graduate with no business/accountancy background had to manage it alone needs explanation. The other parties went along with signing it off so all have a role in the shambles. With regard to Brexit, I think Sir Humphrey is spot on.

  • John

    Fraud
    In law, fraud is deliberate deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain. Fraud is both a civil wrong (i.e., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud and/or recover monetary compensation) and a criminal wrong (i.e., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities).
    Fraud – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Our lady “who did nothing wrong” is at the very least guilty of fraudulently impersonating an intelligent life form, how else could she have signed off and promoting this “scheme”.

  • Surveyor

    A border poll is the only show in town among Nationalists here Brain. Nothing she said yesterday changes that.

  • Deirdre

    Our Lady’s spads ensured the scheme stayed open so as others could get access to the money tree with one former spad using the scheme to heat his own home.

    Only a criminal mastermind could come up with a plan that simply involved burning money, the more money you burn the more money you get out and it was legal.

  • sam mccomb

    I

    I disagree. Here is why

    https://www.centreonconstitutionalchange.ac.uk/blog/brexit-deal-kicks-can-down-road-%E2%80%93-and-not-towards-soft-brexit

    ” The deal, by unlocking the next stage of talks, has brought Brexit substantially closer. Some have suggested the deal and commitments on keeping the Northern Ireland border, both with Ireland and with the rest of the UK, open will push the UK towards a ‘soft’ Brexit. But the outlook is, rather, for very tough talks on a free trade deal. Such a deal – with Canada as the template – would be enormously damaging to UK trade.

    And once they do start trade talks, the EU27 and UK will find it immensely difficult to square the circle on keeping Northern Ireland’s borders, both with Ireland and with the rest of the UK, open and frictionless, as the deal promises. The EU27 has made it repeatedly clear that if the UK does not want a Norway-style deal, then the EU-Canada deal represents the most ambitious EU trade deal to date. The 15 page deal agreed in the early hours of Friday repeat the UK’s position that the UK, as a whole, will leave the EU’s single market and customs union. So, for the EU, Canada is the template.

    A Canada-style deal would certainly mean harder borders between the EU27 and the UK. With a separate trade policy, different regulations and no free movement, there will be non-tariff barriers aplenty, even if there will mostly be tariff free trade. Services trade with the EU could fall by as much as 60%. And just-in-time production and rapid customs clearance will be a thing of the past.

    It is certainly very hard to see how a Canada-style deal can be squared with the backstop commitment, in the deal, that if no special solution is found, then the UK will ensure ‘full alignment’ with those EU single market and customs union rules which ‘support North-South’ cooperation and the Good Friday Agreement. This has been taken by many commentators as meaning alignment with all single market and customs union criteria, but that is not what the text says. And once trade talks do start, the UK government’s interpretation of these crucial phrases will become clearer.

    A difficult stand-off is likely to face the two sides in the talks once the UK starts arguing for full alignment in some sectors, similar rules in others and different rules in yet others. This sounds like cherry-picking – already ruled out by the EU – not like fulfilment of the 15 page UK-EU initial divorce deal.

    And whatever their interpretation, even if ‘full alignment’ is only in some sectors, this commitment is likely to get in the way of, and complicate, many of the UK’s future desired trade deals with other third countries.

    Overall, on Northern Ireland, in many ways the can has been kicked down the road. A soft Brexit could meet the commitments made by Theresa May in the UK-EU27 deal but a Brexit deal as outlined in her Florence speech will not (from the EU27’s point of view). But with the cabinet, shockingly, having yet to have a full, in-depth discussion of what the government wants from a UK-EU27 trade deal, the chances they would agree on a soft Brexit approach are pretty non-existent.”

  • Damien
    I do hope so but I was very disturbed by Davis’s remarks only a day or so after the agreement see for example https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/12/david-davis-has-damaged-trust-in-the-uk-for-brexit-talks-says-verhofstadt

    There are still many committed hard Brexiteers who think “no deal is better than a bad deal” so complacency is a bit premature I think.

    It will be good for everyone on these islands is Brexit is ultra-soft, both in terms of trade and time to get houses in order for future relationships.

  • Clyde

    Maybe so. If benefactors are using the scheme fraudently this aspect requires to be investigated by the PSNI. It will take time to get all the answers. There are other party MLA’s and/or committee members in oversight roles that fought to keep the scheme open when Jonathan Bell tried to close it down. Further it was public knowledge 10 months before Stormont collapsed.

  • Cadogan West

    Apparently even Balcas the pellet supplier used boilers to dry the pellets to sell them to burn in the boilers, it was a real closed loop suppliers-users !
    In Austria, we use Anaerobic Digestion (AD) linked to gas turbines to generate electricity pre-fab units can be set up and are more cost effective than wood pellets.

  • Deirdre

    Other people were doing the same it’s up there with bailing out the bankers and then the bankers handing bonuses out to the chosen few.

    In Austria they probably do things different you know stuff that actually benefits the people rather than shafting them.

  • Оптик от Изумрудения град

    It is a fudge which makes a customs border difficult in the context of a phase 2 deal. There does not have to be a phase 2 deal.

    We are effectively left with the choice of Norway or Canada. But regulatory alignment effectively means Single Market membership, ie Norway. And I doubt the EU are minded to allow much wriggle room, at which point, the UK is looking at No Deal, which will suit some down to the ground.

    All the hard brexiteers need to do is to set some redlines within the tory party that leave the UK government in the position of making an ask too far from the EU.

  • Damien Mullan

    Sir Humphrey is arguably right that sowing division has been the British impulse, but they have racked up some serious defeats, with a few wins (Single Market creation, Rebate, Eastern Accession) over the past 40 years;

    Single Currency
    Schengen
    Common Agricultural Policy
    German Reunification
    Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)
    European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism
    Jean Claude Juncker Commission President appointment.

  • ‘island man

    We might find that not to be the case in a year or two.

  • Sperrin

    What we need is a hard border. Then those pesky unionist politicians wouldn’t be traipsing down south with their divisive speeches!

  • Rapparee

    Unionism hasn`t copped on to the fact that they have shot their last bolt, and it went straight through their own head. Brexit is its death knell, its been over a century of slow but sure decline. It`s finished, unification is the only show in town. Unionism has lost the whip hand and has nothing to offer nationalism. No words or pleading will reverse the process. The north is now a zombified entity, and will be consigned to the dustbin of history within the next decade.

  • GavBelfast

    Mrs Foster did the right thing by going to Killarney, and speaking in a harmonious rather than hectoring tone.

    The content will also have been welcomed and encouraged an audience of listening ears: just because East/West (trading) relationship is vital for Ireland as a whole, and a Northern Ireland especially, doesn’t mean that the North/South one isn’t very important too, and crucial to border communities.

    It was an astute contribution from Foster, and astute of her to speak at all – particularly after the week that preceded it.

    Over to Mrs O’Neill. Anything new or signs of olive branches with you?

  • Surveyor

    But she doesn’t speak for the people of the North who voted to remain, even her own constituency didn’t vote for Brexit. Not sure what sort of olive branch you expect Michelle O’Neill to produce in such a diametrically opposed situation either.

  • Surveyor

    The DUP are very selective when it comes to aligning itself with the UK. Yes to Brexit no to gay marriage etc etc.

  • John

    Criminal seems about right, mastermind implies some credit which is not justified, rather a “cute hoor” with reportedly family connections to the forestry and wood pellet industries. With this degree of integrity and intelligence demonstrated, what can the one who “did nothing wrong” possibly contribute to our future that is of any value.

  • Jeff

    One of many reasons why I’d not vote DUP.

  • Mimi Balguerie

    Am I missing something here? Apart from containing little substance, Foster’s attendance and speech would appear to be aimed more at smoothing relationships with the south (frayed by her torpedoing a deal Ireland was content with and worked very hard to achieve) than with Northern nationalism or SF. If she wanted to mend bridges with that constituency she needn’t have gone to Killarney to do it – and if she wants to extend an olive branch, she knows exactly the token price for restoring the power sharing assembly.

  • Lagos1

    Not such a great feat when we consider the ambiguity of what is actually being committed to “now or in the future”.

  • Lagos1

    The regulatory alignment actually being promised is vague enough to allow plenty of options. The alignment is only required to
    support North-South cooperation, the all island economy and the
    protection of the 1998 Agreement. What does this actually mean in practice?

  • Damien Mullan

    If you read 49 you’ll see what the UK is committing to, “full alignment with those rules of the internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”

    It’s fairly explicit what the UK is signing up to in a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. As to whether there will be a Withdrawal Agreement, well that’s to be seen, they may crash out without one, then all bets are off.

  • Lagos1

    But it isn’t explicit. That’s the point. Which items unambiguously support North-South Cooperation and the all island economy and the protection of the 1998 agreement? This whole sentence is essentially what the British government has been saying from day one.

  • Damien Mullan

    Don’t you get the “now and into the future” when put together with “North-South cooperation and the all-island economy and the protection of the1998 Agreement”.

    The truely expansive portions are “now and into the future” and “all island economy”.

    Where’s the limitations in that, I don’t see any, can you.

  • Lagos1

    Sure I get the “now and into the future”. It means that now and in the future they agree to have in alignment so long as it support something which it appears that neither of us can find an unambiguous example of. It renders the phrase valueless.

    As for the “all island economy”, this actually adds to the ambiguity. It allows the British to reject any alignment that it might deem to be against the interests of any economic sector in Northern Ireland.

  • Damien Mullan

    “Support something”, it tells you what it supports, “North-South cooperation and the all-island economy and the 1998 Agreement”.

    Nothing ambiguous at all there. The ambiguity arises in a no deal scenario, that I don’t quibble with, but as for a Withdrawal Agreement, we do have the first agreed outlines.

    “All-island economy” Lagos1. Let that sink in then get back to me.

  • Lagos1

    Nothing ambiguous at all there.

    Yes, alignment is only promised when it supports North-South cooperation and the all-island economy and 1998 Agreement. Quoting it back to me doesn’t help in providing detail as to what items are definitely covered by these three simultaneous criteria.

    “All-island economy” Lagos1. Let that sink in then get back to me.

    This means that if chlorinated chicken can reduce the cost of chicken in NI then refusing it does not support the all-island economy and alignment on standards relating to chicken do not apply. Come back to me when that sinks in.

  • Damien Mullan

    “Full alignment with those rules of the internal market and customs union which support” “ the all-island economy”

    That’s deals with your chlorinated chicken. Which firstly would not be consist with the rules of the EU’s internal market and customs union, and secondly, would thus not “support…the all-island economy” as they would place economic barriers inside said “all-island economy”, therefore not “supporting…all-island economy” but damaging the “all-island economy”.

  • Lagos1

    No it doesnt deal with it because your argument rests on the premise that supporting the all island economy implicitly requires adherence to the internal market and customs union. But this is begging the question. It is precisely whether such adherence would be in the interests of the all island economy that is being questioned.

    And of course the argument would be that higher prices of chicken in NI or NI not being able to participate in an FTA with the USA without allowing such imports would arguably not be in the interests of the all island economy because it would cost the NI economy.

    Can you not now see? The statement is worthless – the British have committed to nothing really except what they have committed to the DUP. But there again, this never was about Ireland. it was about getting money for the EU.

  • Damien Mullan

    “Full alignment with those rules of the internal market and customs union” “support…the all-island economy”.

    That is the explicit obligation of the Whitdrawal Agreement as currently agreed in phase one, now being drafted in legal form, pending the conclusions of phase two. That’s what has been agreed to date.

    “Would be in the interests” is a subjective analysis, and it obviously cuts both ways, but I’ll explore that because it illustrates the ridiculousness of posing a hypothetical American FTA as against inviting barriers within the all-island economy.

    NI export trade with GB, it’s largest market, is around £13 billion. NI export trade with ROI, it’s second largest market, is around £3 billion. Given the population difference between, GB at 63 million people, and ROI at 4.7 million people, on a proportional basis, NI’s trades more extensively, proportionally, with ROI than GB. As GB’s population is 13 times greater than ROI, GB would have to import almost £40 billion in exports from NI, to match the proportionality of trade between NI and ROI. Now, if you can argue subjectively to me, that NI, with its place within the UK, trades proportionally more with ROI than GB, but yet a free trade deal with the US, or others, is going to create the greatest economic boom in all of recorded history, and thus will be “in the interests” of NI to erect barriers within the island of Ireland, barriers against its second largest export trading partner, and largest proportional export trading partner, then please make that case, I’d like to read the logic therein.

  • Lagos1

    That is the explicit obligation of the Whitdrawal Agreement as currently
    agreed in phase one, now being drafted in legal form, pending the
    conclusions of phase two. That’s what has been agreed to date.

    Sure. And my point is that explicitly obliges next to nothing. It is a face saver for both sides allowing movement onto phase 2.

    “Would be in the interests” is a subjective analysis, and it obviously cuts both ways

    I would agree with that. But that isn’t very useful if it is actually to be used to hold one side to definitive obligations.

    hypothetical American FTA as against inviting barriers within the all-island economy.

    It is all hypothetical at this stage. I was just illustrating with a much discussed example. The reality is that many EU standards are actually global standards and a good many that are not will likely be retained by the UK whether they are obliged to or not. Furthermore alignment is also ambiguous enough to include equivalency. And of course there will also be areas where NI will possibly happily align (even with the DUP) with the ROI away from GB.

    Now, if you can argue subjectively to me, that NI, with its place within the UK, trades proportionally more….

    Why would I want to argue such a thing? The idea that ROI trade should be prioritised simply because it is bigger per head of ROI population makes no sense. It is like saying that a shop should concentrate on a small customer that happens to do all their shopping there in preference to a far bigger and more profitable customer who happens to shop elsewhere as well. Where is the logic in that? Furthermore, there will be possible displacement of trade where NI displaces some of the ROI trade with GB after Brexit. It will make the ROI even less relevant to NI trade.

    And why do I need to argue that an FTA would ” create the greatest economic boom in all of recorded history”? I don’t have to. All I have to do is make a case that an FTA requiring regulatory divergence from the ROI might be in the economic interests of NI to blow a hole in the obligation to keep alignment because it would then, by implication, no longer be in the interests of the all-island economy.

  • Damien Mullan

    “And my point is that explicitly obliges next to nothing. It is a face saver for both sides allowing movement onto phase 2.”

    Phase 1 “obliges next to nothing”, but Phase 2 obliges what exactly? Does that mean that not merely the border, but the ‘divorce bill’, and citizens rights arrangements, outlined in Phase 1 ‘obliges next to nothing’. Is that the basis that the EU permitted moving onto Phase 2, or the 27 sovereign governments in December’s summit. Why don’t you e-mail the EU Commission and the Heads of Government of the 27 member states to illuminate them on this fresh analysis, there are all distinctly of the opposite opinion.

    “But that isn’t very useful if it is actually to be used to hold one side to definitive obligations.”

    What like your “obliges next to nothing”. Thus holds one side to non-definitive obligations.

    “It is all hypothetical at this stage.”

    What fake news is this. The UK’s current status and the trading relationship between the UK and EU, between UK and ROI, and between NI and GB, and between NI and ROI, are not hypothetical, they are measurable, and are statistically measured by countless public and private institutions, including among others, the OECD, IMF, CSO, Bank of England, ECB, Irish Central Bank, Office for Budget Responsibility, Fiscal Advisory Council, ESRI, UK Treasury, Department of Finance ROI, Department of Finance NI, Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service, Fitch, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, RBS, Lloyds, and many many others.

    Your proposition of a US FTA and what might arise is entirely hypothetical.

    “Furthermore alignment is also ambiguous enough to include equivalency.”

    Undoubtedly the UK would have pushed for ‘equivalency’ in the wording, but they quite obviously didn’t get that hence the ‘alignment’ wording. It’s clear what the EU understands the import of ‘alignment’ to mean and it doesn’t allow for an interpretation of ‘equivalence’.

    “The pace of the negotiations then depends on the speed of reform and alignment with EU laws in each country. The duration of negotiations can vary – starting at the same time as another country is no guarantee of finishing at the same time.”

    https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/policy/steps-towards-joining_en

    “The idea that ROI trade should be prioritised simply because it is bigger per head of ROI population makes no sense. It is like saying that a shop should concentrate on a small customer that happens to do all their shopping there in preference to a far bigger and more profitable customer who happens to shop elsewhere as well. Where is the logic in that?”

    I am at a loss as to discern anything cogent from this rambling, suffice to state, the “bigger and more profitable customer” who shops elsewhere, has not substantively taken advantage of the 10% slide in UK Sterling against the US dollar in the past 18 months since the June 2016 referendum. That, “bigger more profitable customer”, has over that period been stuffing massive amounts of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the eurozone economy of ROI, just as they have been doing since the 1980’s, while over those same 18 months, there has been a considerable fall off in UK FDI. That suggests to me, or anyone mildly economically literate, that they just don’t like what the shop has to offer, and given that’s against the greatest devaluation of UK Sterling against the US Dollar in 30 years, that’s truly appalling.

    “Furthermore, there will be possible displacement of trade where NI displaces some of the ROI trade with GB after Brexit. It will make the ROI even less relevant to NI trade.”

    Well I suppose ROI is quite worried about this, as ROI is among a few countries that the UK has a trade surplus with, but if the UK wishes to shoot itself in the foot, then I suppose we can hardly stop them. But it does beg the question, taking just Apple’s massive manufacturing plant in Cork, in isolation from the pharma, bio-medical, chemical, and many other advanced industries in ROI that export into the UK, EU and beyond, how exactly is NI to replicate the manufacturing of Apple products for instance, currently done in Cork and exported to the UK, EU and beyond. You really aren’t comparing like with like, ROI is a highly developed economy with permanent access to an unfettered EU26 market of 450 million. That Apple plant, as well as the countless others, are there because of the size of that market, so UK firms will just have to pay more for those products if tariff and non-tariff barriers are to emerge.

    “All I have to do is make a case that an FTA requiring regulatory divergence from the ROI might be in the economic interests of NI to blow a hole in the obligation to keep alignment.”

    As my analysis and the facts indicate you have a very long way to go to ‘making a case’ for much of anything.

    Lets face it, for NI and the UK, Brexit is, as US Vice Adm. Robert Harward would say, a gigantic “Sh*t Sandwich”

  • Lagos1

    Phase 1 “obliges next to nothing”, but Phase 2 obliges what exactly?

    Phase 2 hasn’t been concluded yet. Therefore we cannot say.

    Does that mean that not merely the border, but the ‘divorce bill’, and
    citizens rights arrangements, outlined in Phase 1 ‘obliges next to
    nothing’.

    I was discussing a particular passage in the document. I have not made any comment about the rest of it. What may be true about one passage may not be true with respect to the rest of it.

    What like your “obliges next to nothing”. Thus holds one side to non-definitive obligations.

    Not clear what you are trying to say here.

    What fake news is this. The UK’s current status and the trading relationship between the UK and EU

    But obviously that is not what I am saying is hypothetical at this stage. I am saying that commentary on future trading relationships involving post-brexit UK are hypothetical at the moment. I don’t know why this would be considered “fake news”.

    Your proposition of a US FTA and what might arise is entirely hypothetical.

    Of course. This is why I said it was.

    It’s clear what the EU understands the import of ‘alignment’ to mean and
    it doesn’t allow for an interpretation of ‘equivalence’.

    And its clear that the UK understands it differently. This is why they used the word ‘alignment’. It is ambiguous enough to satisfy both sides before moving onto actually trade discussions where they will find out whether there are real problems or not..

    I am at a loss as to discern anything cogent from this rambling, suffice
    to state, the “bigger and more profitable customer” who shops
    elsewhere, has not substantively taken

    Actually I was trying to explain why your “proportional” argument makes no sense. You were arguing of the importance of exports to ROI against GB based on concept of “proportion”. Telling me that I am rambling and then going off on a discourse about US investment in the USA really doesn’t explain why a small market, albeit with above average penetration, is so important compared to a much bigger market generating more sales albeit with lower penetration.

    but if the UK wishes to shoot itself in the foot, then I suppose we can hardly stop them

    Its more the point that there will be trade displacement in the case that market restrictions do occur. Therefore there will be some fluidity in the trading patterns that will have some mitigating impact for NI with respect to exposure to the ROI market.

    how exactly is NI to replicate the manufacturing of Apple products for
    instance, currently done in Cork and exported to the UK, EU and beyond.

    As I say, I was talking about trade displacement of NI exports to the ROI towards other markets – e.g. GB. Obviously it won’t be comprehensive but certainly in agri-foods there would be a good deal of scope. Therefore Apple products from Cork are really not relevant to that.

    That Apple plant, as well as the countless others, are there because of
    the size of that market, so UK firms will just have to pay more for
    those products if tariff and non-tariff barriers are to emerge.

    Are you actually familiar with the tariffs applying to the type of goods manufactured by Apple in Cork under WTO rules? I suspect not. Tariffs on such goods are very low. Perhaps you should find out a little more about the way higher tariffs on agrifoods, where the ROI exports agrifoods to and how much employment depends upon them in rural areas in the ROI?

    As my analysis and the facts indicate you have a very long way to go to ‘making a case’ for much of anything.

    But you haven’t addressed the issue at all. The issue is whether anything that can be justified by the British as helping the NI economy will allow it to diverge in regulations because it means that alignment no longer helps the “all island” economy, NI being part of the island.
    And that is even before the British open up the GFA and say that such a such regulation has no relevance. But perhaps you would like to show me where you have explained why NI is not part of the island of Ireland and where the GFA insists in comprehensive replication of trading standards between the two states? I ask in case I have missed these particular facts and analysis.

  • Damien Mullan

    “And its clear that the UK understands it differently. This is why they used the word ‘alignment’.”

    If it’s clear that the UK understands it differently why wasn’t that reflected in the use of, as you introduce, the word ‘equivalency’.

    “doesn’t explain why a small market, albeit with above average penetration, is so important compared to a much bigger market generating more sales albeit with lower penetration.”

    You do understand that ROI is part of the EU Single Market, which is the largest market on the planet, when we are talking about “full regulatory alignment” it is in an EU context, perhaps the nature of the negotiations hasn’t dawn on you yet. “Full regulatory alignment” pulls the “island-economy” into unfettered trade with the entire EU.

    “Therefore Apple products from Cork are really not relevant to that.”

    “Are you actually familiar with the tariffs applying to the type of goods manufactured by Apple in Cork under WTO rules? I suspect not. Tariffs on such goods are very low. Perhaps you should find out a little more about the way higher tariffs on agrifoods, where the ROI exports agrifoods to and how much employment depends upon them in rural areas in the ROI?”

    You are familiar with supply chains, its currently why there is much anxiety in UK car manufacturing. Every cross border movement has tariff implications. I think that satisfactory deals with Apple and all the many other advanced industries.

    I have little doubt that ROI will take a hit in the agrifoods sector, but you see here’s the rub, ROI on the day of Brexit will have an EU26 market of 450 million people to diversify into, a process already well underway, while NI will have the GB market of 63 million, and a load of hypothetical trade deals you can magically diversify into. That diversification isn’t just having success in the EU26, but in international markets not in the EU’s Single Market and Customs Unions.

    “figures show Ireland’s agri-food sector continues to diversify with exports to international markets outside of the European Union and the UK exceeding €4bn for the first time.”

    https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2018/0110/932217-agri-food-exports/

    Don’t you just love the resilience and power of the ROI economy, I suppose that’s why ROI is projected by EY to create 138,500 jobs over the next two years while NI creates a measly 5,800.

    https://www.businessworld.ie/economy/144-000-net-new-jobs-across-the-island-of-Ireland-projected-by-2020-569945.html

    “And that is even before the British open up the GFA and say that such a such regulation has no relevance.”

    For the love of god please re-read paragraph 49.

    “support North-South cooperation, the all island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”

    “and” its all three, it does not say North-South cooperation or the all-island economy subject to the 1998 Agreement, it says “and”.

    “But perhaps you would like to show me where you have explained why NI is not part of the island of Ireland and where the GFA insists in comprehensive replication of trading standards between the two states?”

    NI is absolutely part of the island of Ireland ,what gave you the impression it was otherwise, hasn’t that been the entire essence of this discourse. I don’t have to point to the GFA, I am pointing to the issue that is at hand. the agreement thus far between the UK and EU in Phase 1 of the Withdrawal Agreement. Again, I reiterate,

    “SUPPORT North-South cooperation, the all island economy AND the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”