A border poll will not just be about the choice between the union and a united Ireland. Any border poll will be a referendum on Northern Ireland itself

Northern Irish politics has been all about polls for the past week. According to the Times, Theresa May isn’t too confident that unionists would win a border poll. The Prime Minister is that cack-handed people worried she’d triggered a border poll by accident. She hadn’t. Then, on the 21st May, two polls by ICM and MORI were released that showed support for the union, but with caveats that should keep unionists on their toes. The prospect of a border poll … 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

Four parties issue a joint statement on Brexit.

Four party leaders representing 49 MLAs have penned a joint statement on Brexit. On 23rd June 2016 citizens voted to remain within the European Union. Despite this, the British Government intend to exit the EU in March 2019. Sinn Féin, Green Party, Alliance and the Social Democratic and Labour Party all share the common position that we should stay within both the single market and customs union and that there should be no hard border on the island of Ireland … 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

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

Brexit: what the hell happens now? And Brexit and Ireland – Two interesting books on Brexit…

Let me be clear from the outset: I am a Remainer. I’ve not seen or read anything that would materially change my opinion. The European Union (EU) may have its problems, but overall I see it as a force for good. I live in N Ireland; here, we voted to remain in the EU. But the vote of the English outweighed this, and the vote in Scotland. The ‘will of the people’ is to Leave. The government triggered the Article … 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

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

Guardian exclusive. A home grown plan for checks at NI ports, rejected by the DUP but still in play

A backup plan to impose border checks on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK at ports and airports to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland after Brexit has been drafted by senior civil servants. Despite the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) angrily rejecting any suggestion of a border “in the Irish Sea”, a leaked paper reveals that officials have been working on a blueprint “to be deployed as necessary in the negotiation process” While acknowledging these … Read more

Dead parrots and delay: how they’re groping their way – towards 2023!

Boats with EU, UK flags sailing in opposite directions

The Guardian reports that No, the customs partnership  is not a dead parrot and is still in play with “ max fac” the high tec solution that doesn’t exist yet.  May’s enforcers are negotiating with her ambitious defence secretary Gavin Williamson to switch sides and support the partnership. Or a new combination of the two.  And the outcome? The Remain Guardian and Brexiter Daily Telegraph are agreed, although split over its desirability. The Guardian Senior civil servants are believed to … Read more

Fears of joint authority surface as the Lords approve no border checks without Dublin consent

Sometimes –only sometimes – debates in Parliament tell us a lot more  than a dozen columnists or a week of Nolan. And with much greater courtesy than the latter, needless to say. One such took place yesterday when the House of Lords supported moves to prevent a hard border after Brexit under which no new checks or controls could be imposed without the agreement of the Irish Government.  If you think this would be innocuous enough you’d be wrong. Approval for Patten’s amendment  … Read more

Ian Marshall makes maiden speech in the Seanad

Maiden @OireachtasNews speech: @IanMarshall_ :- “”It is a truly historic day for this house and for myself as the first Northern Unionist elected to the #Seanad and to represent the views and the opinions of the people of Northern Ireland and give their perspective.” pic.twitter.com/lJZ2daHnjD — RTÉ Politics (@rtepolitics) May 1, 2018 David McCannDavid McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

Is there something to be said for a British-Irish intergovernmental conference?

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Parliament_Buildings_Stormont.jpg

The blame game continued in Stormont last week with arguments about who was holding progress between the DUP and Sinn Fein. We are now 14 months on without a government and we seem further away from seeing any form of functioning assembly. For both of the main parties the failure to secure agreement on some of the main outstanding issues is holding up progress in restoring devolution. Contrary to some musings that it suits both the DUP and Sinn Fein … Read more

Will our protections for threatened species fall off a cliff edge come Brexit?

Christopher McAteer, Nature Matters NI The potential effects of Brexit on Northern Ireland are so overwhelmingly varied – and often alarming – that it may seem a touch masochistic to consider yet more concerns. But if worries over tariffs, the fledgling economy, and a hard border aren’t enough for you, then the cliff edge facing our environment might be just up your street. A whopping 80% of the UK’s environmental laws originate from the EU, which will now have to … Read more