May bids to extend the Northern Ireland backstop to the whole UK to buy time to solve the border problem

The Times reports the latest wheeze for sorting the border problem. The clear implication is that the UK government are admitting  that neither of their  transition ideas for a customs partnership or “max fac” will fly. But does it do any more than kick the can further down the road? Theresa May will ask the European Union for a second Brexit transition period to run until 2023 to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Britain will propose another transition covering customs and … Read more

Meanwhile in Scotland, courtesy of Brexit, the long march to Indyref2 is about to begin

Tomorrow Nicola Sturgeon will unveil the SNPs economic case for  another independence campaign.  As it will focus attention on Scotland’s sluggish economic performance under an SNP government on the defensive, it’s a high risk strategy. Support for Indyref2  would first exploit resentment that the UK government has given no weight to the  big Remain majority in Scotland and will ignore  the Scottish Parliament’s  refusal to give consent to a Withdrawal Bill   that would fail to devolve powers over agriculture and fishing  … Read more

DUP hard line on Brexit is shown to be at odds with supporters’ opinions, as tensions rise between Brexiteers and the Irish

As the days of Brexit reckoning draw near, rising tensions were on show yesterday at a conference held by the think tank  the UK in a Changing Europe to discuss the Queen’s University report and survey, Northern Ireland and the UK’s exit  – what the people think. Differences between Brexiteers and the Irish side were gaping wide. There was no meeting of minds over the UK’s options for withdrawal. A particular test case was over the feasibility of technology to keep … Read more

MPs urge the UK government to end “untenable” inaction over the absence of Stormont after the Bank holiday. But who believes anything will happen?

The call by the NI  select committee of MPs  to secretary of state Karen Bradley to “redouble” her efforts to restart talks aimed at restoring devolution has a ritual flavour about it. There seems no appetite for action on this front while the two governments are in  stand-off over the UK’s long awaited proposals  for exit and  backstop which are due to be submitted by the EU next month and agreed in October. The MPs also said she must outline … Read more

Reimagining the Union has begun. They have it all to do

Conservatives thinkers are hard  at work to make the long overdue case for the Union, now dubbed “the Union state,” after the unexpected shock  that still lingers (in England certainly) of discovering that devolution had whetted appetites for Union breakup and Brexit, you might think, makes their task more difficult.  So far their ideas  circumvent nationalism, described here as exaggerated “ identity politics,”  rather than tackling nationalism head on.  Although they  claim for the Union  “binding values”, they  recognise Gordon … Read more

Border poll recedes as polls show nationalist support for unity hinges on Brexit outcome

If two polls out today  are to be believed, pressure for  an early border poll will recede and unionists  fearing the worst, will heave sighs of relief For nationalists, while much hinges on the economic consequences of Brexit,  majority  opinion among them in favour of  unity hasn’t solidified, despite the UK government’s confused approach to Brexit and the border. The Newsletter gleefully reports Two separate polls have found no evidence that Brexit has yet caused a radical shift in public … Read more

The royal wedding: an entertainment that is also an investment in the future of the British state

The wedding of the Kilkeels belongs in that part of the human imagination that houses dreams and fantasy.   With identity such a great part of the imagination  on our island,  it is easily recognised as such, although what part of the imagination is affected can sharply differ. My memories are vivid of the pretty decent royal coverage in the Dublin media in 1973  when I was covering  the trial in Winchester of Gerry Kelly, the Price sisters and five others … Read more

Where Barra Magrory leads on dealing with the past, others will follow

No longer inhibited by  his former office, the ex- DPP Barra Magrory   isn’t alone in believing that an independent Historical Investigations Unit will produce few results for victims, survivors and families and could be more divisive than reconciling.  The best to be  hoped for is that once a renewed effort to bring cases to trial is made over five years, politicians and the public will face up to the issue of a calling halt to prosecutions, combined with a release … Read more

“Senior Unionists prepared to talk to Dublin about possible unification”

Gary Gibbon of Channel  4 News is one of few  Westminster- based  political editors to keep up a sustained interest in Northern Ireland affairs.. Who are  these  “ liberal unionists”? Do tell Gary. The source could  be  the Dublin government speaking from Sofia  Better still, unionists declare your hand! “Brexit: ‘The DUP’s hardline policies could be the quickest road to a united Ireland’” by “Brexit: ‘The DUP’s hardline policies could be the quickest road to a united Ireland’” is licensed … Read more

But a new customs backstop won’t be enough….

If the temporary extension  of the customs relationship was greeted with euphoria, it was shortlived, as the FT reports. It exposes the next big issue. The single market looms. Mrs May was accused by some Conservative MPs of “bouncing” the cabinet into adopting the scheme, and others said they had been kept in the dark. Senior EU officials also expressed doubts about the UK approach, warning that it diverges significantly from Brussels’ preferred outcome. “If this is it, we will … Read more

Breaking… The UK will meet the June deadline with a breakthrough plan for Brexit and the border, to a cautious welcome from Varadkar

Has  the fog started to clear?  Can any sense be made of the claim and denial about extending the transition beyond 2020 to buy time to solve the customs relationship and the border? The Guardian, RTE and the BBC all thinks so, reporting top level briefings from both governments  at the EU summit  in Sofia. Without overdoing  it sounds like a modest breakthrough on the hitherto incompatible versions of the stopgap . The longer term relationship involving a longer transition … Read more

New backstop plan ties the whole UK to the customs union to buy time for solving the border problem

The rumour has now become fact (almost) Britain will tell Brussels it is prepared to stay tied to the customs union beyond 2021 as ministers remain deadlocked over a future deal with the EU, the Telegraph has learned. The Prime Minister’s Brexit war Cabinet earlier this week agreed on a new “backstop” as a last resort to avoid a hard Irish border, having rejected earlier proposals from the European Union. Ministers signed off the plans on Tuesday despite objections from Boris Johnson, the … Read more

Avoid a battle of the narratives. The Chief Constable and Police Ombudsman appeal for agreement emerging from the proposed legacy process

Eamonn Mallie has published  transcripts of Chief Constable George Hamilton and Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire addressing a gathering at Queen’s University on the approaches they hope will be  adopted on the consultation just launched on dealing with the past. I shamelessly share them with warm thanks to Eamonn. Both  men plead for responders not to adopt a polarised or polemical position right from the start and take the broader view that works for reconciliation. They also call for a … Read more

Fears for the future of the Union move centre stage in Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, claims The Times

The Times has followed up on its report  on how Theresa May challenged the complacency of the arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees Mogg  in her series of back bench briefings in No10 when he claimed that a border poll could be won anytime  despite Brexit,   Mrs May said, ‘I would not be as confident as you. That’s not a risk I’m prepared to take. We cannot be confident on the politics of that situation, on how it plays out.’ ” This … Read more

May tells Rees Mogg: with a hard border I’d not be confident of winning a border poll

Times report Theresa May confronted Jacob Rees-Mogg at a meeting with Tory MPs designed to break the deadlock over Britain’s future customs arrangements with the EU, The Times has learnt. The pair clashed yesterday over the impact of rival plans on the Irish border, in what witnesses described as the prime minister “sending a tough signal” to hardline Brexiteers that she was not prepared to jeopardise the Union. It came after Mrs May went over the heads of her squabbling cabinet with a personal … Read more

The unintended consequences of an amnesty for security forces are forensically exposed

The case for a selective amnesty for former security forces is powerfully refuted by the leading lawyer in the field Professor Kieran Mc Evoy of Queen’s in a Guardian article ( see below). Clearly someone got to Theresa May after Wednesday’s PMQs to make her change her mind. She did a similar U- turn yesterday over nominating two lay assessors to sit with the retired judge in parts of the Grenfell fire inquiry.  The same scary changeability can be seen … Read more

With all respect to concerned former soldiers, Theresa May is right to see off last minute demands for a selective amnesty

After appearing to side with her Defence Secretary on Wednesday in favouring a selective amnesty for former security forces in Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister has thought the better of it as the long delayed consultation on the Legacy Bill was launched. We are in the peculiar position of Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill broadly welcoming the Bill, while the  DUP leader Arlene Foster  contemplates a legal challenge to the High Court ruling that she wasn’t entitled to refuse to submit a … Read more

On Brexit we’re about to enter the eye of the storm before the relative calm

It’s the solemn duty of all professional  commentators always to be interesting, even at the expense of consistency with writers in their own paper or even with  themselves.  And this is a terrific time for fascinating chaos and confusion.  Where  official  “lines to take” are  not banal they are tangled up  and  inconsistent,  reflecting  the fact that over Brexit, a chronically divided cabinet are singing like birds. Tension is ramped up before yet another deadline to be missed whether it’s … Read more

“Sat nav and a mobile phone in the cab.” One of two answers to two problems?

David Trimble gets breezier by the day as he dismisses with a  “ no problem” problems that may seem to him small beer compared to  those that won him a share in the Nobel peace prize twenty years ago.   “ Sat Nav and a mobile phone in the cab “ sorts the border problem out he claims. ( But what then, David? Do they never have to stop for spot checks? Or if they do so, where)?  His remarks … Read more

Superpatriotic ministers claim bias against soldiers in new Troubles investigations

Update.. May appears to back amnesty for former security forces   At Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday, Mrs May said the issue of a statute of limitations was “very important”. “At its heart, is the support and gratitude that we owe all those who have served in our armed forces,” she said. “The situation we have at the moment is that the only people being investigated for these issues are those in our armed forces or those who served in law enforcement … Read more