May’s “stable as it can be” text could just be “the end of the beginning…”

Well, as the former DUP SpAd Richard Bullick noted last night, whilst we have an agreed text (“as stable as it can be”), this is likely only to be round one of getting anything through parliament at Westminster. We may now have reached the ‘hunger games’ phase of this process … — Richard Bullick (@RichardBullick1) November 13, 2018 The DUP has signalled clearly that since its ‘blood red lines’ have been breached, it’s not biting. So there goes the government’s … Read more

Let’s play shuffle the Granny! The absurdity of our health service waiting lists…

Good report by Seanín Graham in today’s Irish News on the surreal situation of patients going abroad for surgery. Essentially a patient can pay to get treated in another European country and the health service will reimburse them the cost when they come home. With waiting lists up to 4 or 5 years for operations like hip replacements many patients are taking this approach, and who could blame them. From the article: A SPIKE in the number of patients travelling across Europe for … Read more

Arlene Foster should suspend judgement until the outcome of the negotiations

After Jo Johnson’s resignation from the government, the main focus today is the hardening view that Theresa May will fail to win a majority for any deal she negotiates with the EU.  This is in spite of claims that the UK and the EU are on the verge of agreement. It could be all- change next week. The DUP are an essential part of the calculations, but not the only part, as Mrs May is now assailed from both wings … Read more

Face it: A backstop is a necessary condition to avoid catastrophe. May’s conditions do not threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK – for now

The Times headline is unqualified: “No- deal will “include new border in the Irish Sea.”  So we know what side they’re on. Theresa May’s adoption of  a “temporary” backstop whose terms and conditions she insists would not play a part in a permanent deal with the EU was inevitable.   But here’s the bigger problem. To be temporary, it must mean that  the whole UK will remain  in long term close alignment with the EU.  A looser permanent relationship like a … Read more

Unionist objections to the backstop are more than DUP paranoia and need to be addressed

Cabinet approval for Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal proposals, is again delayed as demands mount from inside the cabinet and without to have sight of the Attorney General’s legal opinion in full. (I’m not sure why is meant by “legal.” What they’re really looking for is  a navigation chart around the treacherous rocks).   The idea of ministers trooping in like junior officers to a “ secret” room in the Cabinet Office like the general’s study  to view  a summary of the … Read more

For the sake of British-Irish relations also, the backstop gap must be bridged

The urgent task now is to close the gap between Leo Varadkar’s idea of a review clause for all-UK temporary membership of the customs union and Theresa May’s. The essential first move is to discover what each means.  Both leaders are under domestic pressure for compromising already. Both sides are desperate for a deal, both economies would suffer severely from the chaos of a crash-out no deal. Both leaders would experience the bitter taste of failure affecting their own positions … Read more

Even if Theresa wins cabinet support for her ” all-UK customs arrangement”, time is running out to knock it into shape for the negotiations

In a nutshell, this is   the first problem Theresa May will confront from up to a dozen cabinet ministers this morning.  “We must have control of the backstop. If Theresa doesn’t stare down the EU and win a mechanism that does this, the whole argument is immaterial as there is zero chance of passing the Commons.  The Taoiseach indicated an openness to consider proposals for “a review mechanism”, provided that it was clear that the outcome of any such review … Read more

Confusion over the state of the Brexit negotiations increases anxiety as May’s cabinet prepares to decide on a formula

Civil society in both islands  looking on anxiously at contrasting stories about the state of the Brexit negotiations are speaking out. Persistent fears of a hard border has prompted a group of nationalists to  approach Leo Varadkar  to protect northern nationalists’ rights. This the second appeal of its kind in a year. Latest 4pm  Leo Varadkar said this afternoon Ireland is willing to consider proposals for a review clause in relation to the backstop for the Irish border. The backstop … Read more

Most Northern Irish parties need Stormont more than it needs them…

Where are we after the presidential elections and Brexit? And when can we expect a return to actual politics in Northern Ireland? It’s difficult, not least because no one yet has an adequate response to question of why it collapsed in the first place (seriously, we don’t). Karen Bradley’s briefing to the parties on Thursday suggests it won’t be before new year (when we should know what Brexit looks like). As Jon Tonge noted on the Nolan Show on Thursday, … Read more

“Breakthrough on the backstop, claims the Sunday Times

In an “exclusive” pieced together from “dozens” of Whitehall and EU sources,  the Sunday Times claims that Theresa May has secured a deal that will keep the whole UK in the customs union for the transition.  A political declaration on  “a future economic partnership” (FEP)  will allow the UK to strike a Canada-style free trade deal that will appeal to Brexiteers. While the story doesn’t mention a specific time limit as demanded by the hardliners or a “break clause” floated … Read more

Can it be for real? Arlene is looking happy

While Mary Lou and friends were dismissing Brexit secretary Dominic Raab’s visit “ like a thief in the night” as  a “box ticking exercise”, Arlene  was  treating us to a rare public smile.  “Goodness, we have been here on a number of occasions and I think we are close to a deal that will work for Northern Ireland, that is what we want.” Raab was guardedly optimistic again at Stormont. But the  louder mood music came out of the intergovernmental conference … Read more

Trimble’s attack on the backstop has come too late

With prospects of a return to Stormont hovering around degrees absolute, the temperature is rising among unionists about the meaning of the backstop. They believe – and they’re not alone – that there is no outcome other than no deal that will not activate the backstop and “make Northern Ireland a protectorate of the EU.” Mixed messages are emerging as EU leaders have to decide whether to convene a special ratification summit on 21 November. Meanwhile a more parochial row … Read more

Future Ireland / Does motherhood unite or divide us?

Most mothers have more pressing things to think about than constitutional arrangements. While there are some differences in the lived experiences of mothers in the UK and Ireland, they are small. In fact, our struggles are pretty much the same across national borders. Beyond the obvious, that all mothers want the best for their children (and often disagree on what that is and how to achieve it), we are united in our systematic disadvantage by the states in which we … Read more

Backstop blues on both sides as another “deadline” approaches

Interesting that the Irish Times have published two opinion pieces this morning deviating a little from the paper’s  editorial line of unwavering support for the EU version of the backstop.  Newton Emerson accuses Varadakar of having “a tin ear” to unionist sensitivities while Stephen Collins bluntly urges Varadkar and Coveney to “ shut up.”  Sensitivities in both camps are heightening. The DUP are nervous that Theresa May will rat on them if she can get a deal that will pass … Read more

EU to offer “UK-wide customs treaty” and the backstop clause has changed

  The Sun and the Mail claim another “breakthrough” – but is it too good to be true? THERESA May got a Brexit boost today – as it emerged the EU will cave into her demands on the Irish backstop. But today RTE reported that the EU has accepted Mrs May’s plans could be workable as long as both sides sign a separate treaty to enshrine it into law. The compromise brings Britain and the EU a step closer to signing a … Read more

Theresa May is shaping up for a fight. I rub my eyes, but for the first time yes, she even looks like a winner

Anonymous briefings from Brexiteer backbenchers claiming Theresa May is “entering the killing zone” and “ drinking in the last chance saloon” have backfired as the prime minister goes on the offensive in the Sun  in advance of a Commons statement on Monday afternoon.  Breaking the normal protocol of informing  MPs first, her Sun piece is a departure from her normal defensive stonewalling and a sign of new determination  to seize the initiative. Reports that she’s facing a cabinet revolt sound … Read more

The odds are narrowly on May surviving the week and staggering through to a withdrawal deal before Christmas

By a long way, more of the public demonstrated for a second  referendum yesterday than were threatening the prime minister in lurid language with nemesis on Wednesday. Just now though, it’s the MPs uttering the threats ( at least to journalists), who matter more. One prominent Brexiteer is making a distinctive gesture. In a further headache for May, the former Brexit minister Steve Baker yesterday tabled a series of amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill, which is due in the … Read more

Future Ireland / Nation-States Are Yesterday’s Politics – Let’s Review Our Terms and Conditions 

Global trends indicate that we are graduating from ideological party politics to voting based on personal priorities such as financial security. Trump’s America is the prime example. But, like their hurricanes, everything from the US eventually crosses the water and laps our shores. Unstoppable cultural homogeneity adds to this. With lightning speed our young people adopt the same fashion, music and patois globally. The extent to which this is manipulated by media giants, arms of government and lizard overlords is … Read more

Would “more time” bring us closer to chaos or breaking the backstop deadlock?

Will “more time” do it for Theresa May and the rest of us? The option of a longer transition is intended to provide more reassurance that special measures would not be needed to avoid a hard  border — even if the UK and the EU fail to implement a new trade deal by the end of 2020.   Because the EU is mildly encouraging,  the chorus of opposition  in Westminster is all the louder. Remainers are as dead against as Leavers  … Read more