Meanwhile on Brexit … the British fog may be about to lift a little

Don’t get too excited, but this really could be a significant week for achieving greater clarity on British government aims for Brexit. The fiercely   anti-Brexit FT reports that on an awayday at Chequers on Thursday, Theresa May will nail her ministers’ hands to  the table  (well, the FT didn’t quite put it that way) until they agree on a high level of alignment between the UK and EU rules. Haven’t we heard something like that before? Oh yes, December’s joint … Read more

London and Dublin must clear their lines for close cooperation on direct rule

Clarity rather than coyness is now needed over moves toward direct rule. Working on its  scope and duration is one more compelling reason for London and Dublin  to stick together.  On Monday at the otherwise disastrous Stormont meeting, Theresa May and Leo Varadkar pledged “to work together on a new plan on how to achieve a frictionless Irish border.” Good luck to them with that. On the continuing local stand-off, two elements are essential. Enough action must be taken to … Read more

Two Irelands, One Planet: Thinking Like an Eco-System Can Help Bind New Executive

While the North continues to languish as one of Western Europe’s ecological backwaters a gap has begun to open up with the Republic of Ireland when it comes to policy innovation. Two recent developments may prove to be tipping points in legislating for climate justice and environmental rights in Dublin. The most recent came just last week in the Oireachtas with the successful passage to Committee Stage of an opposition-sponsored initiative, the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) Climate Emergency Measures … Read more

Irish citizenship may open the door to an extended role for Dublin and Brussels in the North after Brexit

Brian WalkerFormer 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

On the border, a cabinet split emerges and UK-Irish tensions are renewed, as negative impact assessments of Brexit options are published in full

Northern Ireland comes out third  worst in the full version of regional assessments by HM Treasury of the impact of Brexit region by region. These were leaked to Buzzfeed last week then issued confidentially  to MPs and now published by  the BBC. The assessments, discounted by Brexiteers as failing properly  to model their preferred option of a free trade deal, emerged in full as tensions rose once again over the implications for the   border both within the British cabinet and … Read more

The Customs Union contradiction in a nutshell

Further to Brian’s post on the border fudge, an example I came up with last night… Nobody in the United Kingdom makes red widgets. Which is unfortunate, as the UK makes lots of white and blue widgets. (boom boom) China makes red widgets (and some yellow ones.) Britain reaches a free trade agreement with China that involves no tariffs on red widgets (the puns shall continue until morale improves.) The EU’s agreement with China imposes a 30% tariff on red … Read more

The border fudge ” will not survive”

Michel Barnier’s warning that  trade barriers are “ unavoidable” if Britain leaves the single market and the customs union has been reinforced by EU briefings that  December’s  fudge on Irish border options will be difficult to  sustain. The Irish Times report puts it gently. EU and British officials are working to translate December’s political agreement – which includes guarantees from the British government that there would be no return to a hard border in Ireland – into a legal text … Read more

Splits widen in May’s cabinet and party as Varadakar comes closer to backing Hammond’s version of a soft Brexit

Brexit politics is hotting up amid the snows of Davos. The Brexiteer house paper the Daily Telegraph reports remarks from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar taking a soft Brexit line close to Chancellor Philip Hammond’s in the Swiss resort.  Hammond is the key figure here. He has  lit the blue touch paper to ignite the Tory right and  earned himself a rebuke from a No 10 which is trying to damp down the first flickers of new surge against Theresa May’s weak … Read more

Implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland: Have your Say…

When it comes to looking at the implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland, the BrexitLawNI project has been out and about gathering information about the concerns of people living in Northern Ireland. Townhall-style events have taken place in Belfast, Derry and Enniskillen, with more events scheduled next month. BrexitLawNI is a collaborative research project between the Law Schools at Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University as well as the region’s leading human rights organisation, the Committee for the Administration of … Read more

One thing that unionists might want

In a previous article, I made the bold assertion that “Nationalism has nothing that Unionism wants”. What I should have said was “Northern Nationalism has nothing that Unionism wants, and Nationalism in general has nothing that Unionism wants… yet”. While Northern Nationalism may still not have much to attract Unionism, after 30th March next year the Republic will have something that unionists may quickly find themselves jealous of. MEPs. While their colleagues in Stormont and Westminster get seemingly endless airtime, … Read more

Spain prevents Catalan independence leaders from taking office

The elections to the Catalan Parliament were just over 3 weeks ago but rather than lead to any settled political outcome in Barcelona problems look set to continue. Pro-independence parties again won an overall majority of seats but will the Spanish establishment permit all of those deputies to take up their seats and fulfil their mandate? Not likely. The Spanish Supreme Court has ruled that the former Deputy First Minister Oriol Junqueras must remain physically in prison on remand and may not … Read more

” Change should not be allowed to weaken the relationships so painstakingly put together across these British Isles. “

DUP Leader Rt. Hon. Arlene Foster MLA speaking at the inaugural Killarney Economic Conference this morning. Whilst the referendum was a vote by the British people, the ripples that flow from the referendum result will be far reaching with long-term implications for people well beyond the shores of the United Kingdom.  And I appreciate and understand that nowhere will be more impacted by the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union than Ireland.  I grew up only a few miles from … Read more

“As with the hardest essay questions, there is no right answer but many wrong ones.”

Writing in the Guardian, “former Downing Street Brexit spokesperson”, Matthew O’Toole [no relation – Ed] has some intelligent, and interesting, things to say about “the psychology of imagined identity” here, and the task facing the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, as well as the UK Prime Minister in the next phase of the Brexit negotiations. [Definitely no relation! – Ed] From the Guardian article As Bradley will discover, Brexit has unsettled one of the most intangible but … Read more

PM Tess and Good Queen Bess

Theresa May has made much of being a vicar’s daughter in seeking to build her image. Less remarked on is that she is from a particular sub-tradition within the Church of England, and so deeply formed by it that its particular take on English history will shape how she sees the UK’s relationship with mainland Europe. In thinking about Brexit, she must inevitably perceive echoes of the last time England was so bitterly riven about its identity and destiny, in … Read more

Nothing since the referendum has shifted the identities that underpinned the result…

Interesting piece from Professor Wynn Jones of Cardiff University on the role of competing identities unwriting the Brexit result in June 2017, which offers clues as to why attitudes are unlikely to change not least because cultural certainties will likely withstand economic hardship… Nothing since the referendum has shifted the identities that underpinned the result – quite the opposite. Far from seeking to manufacture what political scientists called “loser’s consent” following the close overall result, Theresa May’s administration has simply … Read more

Ireland and Europe: how Rugby could provide a very positive story in 2018…

The European club championships have now closed down until the new year. Rounds 3 & 4, played over the weekends of 9th and the 16th December, saw all 4 Irish provinces win for the 2nd weekend in a row. Leinster, Munster and Ulster (listed in alphabetical order) are all now well placed in their groups to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions Cup, with Connacht likewise well placed in the Challenge Cup. Since the European Cup started in … Read more

“The prospect written between the lines of this week’s letter is of Sinn Féin sidelining itself….”

I Newton Emerson points out the irony of that letter Chris blogged the other day, signed by 200 members of nationalist civil society. “We appeal urgently to you Taoiseach,” it concludes, “and to the Irish Government, to reassure us of your commitment to stand for equality and a human-rights based society and your determination to secure and protect the rights of all citizens in the North of Ireland. ” Varadkar’s office responded promptly by saying the way to address these issues … Read more

Westminster asserts its power over the executive and Whitehall

To all those who think Westminster is irrelevant, last night’s development could prove significant, if not actually decisive… Boom!! Government defeated… Brexit is in the hands of our Parliament, not Executive whim. — Mike Galsworthy #FBPE #NHSlove (@mikegalsworthy) December 13, 2017 It certainly won’t bring the government down, but it WILL give the DUP and other Brexiteers some serious headaches in landing a deal that must meet parliamentary approval, and it’s a reminder that Parliament still actually matters. NI’s … Read more

Time to look past this ‘dodgy’ Brexit to the material reality of how politics actually works

One of the remarkable things about Friday’s conclusion to the Phase 1 talks is just how happy everyone seems to have been. Either some or all parties are going to be disappointed as we go forward, or we are on for the blandest version of what Guido used to call a non-Brexit. What actually  happened is that the Real British position was finally brought to the surface, after months of wild propagandising in favour of a ‘hard Brexit’, which in retrospect looks … Read more

‘Specific solutions’ & ‘distinct arrangements’: more of the same for post-Brexit NI?

In the space of a few carefully-worded paragraphs, the Joint Report issued by the UK and EU on Friday has managed to utterly transform the prospects for Northern Ireland after Brexit.   The UK-EU Joint Report The UK has offered surety for maintaining an open Irish border, promising to maintain wide-ranging alignment with EU rules covering every aspect of the 1998 Agreement, north/south and east/west. Moreover, it has asserted that Northern Ireland will ultimately have the right to decide for … Read more