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

If you were the EU’s chief negotiator, what would you say to Arlene Foster to make her happier?

Not exactly an unbiased report in the Daily Telegraph Michel Barnier has denied trying to split up the United Kingdom after strongly backing plans that would create a new border between Britain and Northern Ireland after Brexit. In an inflammatory address in Dundalk, Ireland on Monday, Mr Barnier denied there was a secret EU plan to pressure Britain into reversing Brexit by insisting on a backstop clause that would keep Northern Ireland in the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union. Arlene … Read more

DUP threatening to bring the government down over a customs union – or are they?

An interview with Nigel Dodds for the PolticsHome website is headlined: DUP warns it could bring the government down if Northern Ireland kept in customs union – and let in Jeremy Corbyn? (my addition). Mr Dodds said continued membership of the customs union would “cross a very big red line for” for his crucial bloc of 10 MPs. He said: “For us there is the fact that if as a result of the Brexit negotiations for instance there was to … Read more

The Border Force row exposes differences between British and Irish citizenship that have to be settled

Leaving aside the delicious irony, I would guess that Sinn Fein are right: the attempt to limit recruitment for the UK Border Force to British passport holders is discriminatory and would be overthrown  in court.  Why should anyone have to produce a passport for a job in Northern Ireland anyway?  This has echoes of the malign Windrush problem. without feeling the  pain – yet,   Up to now only when you go abroad and need to produce a passport has the issue … Read more

Political ferment is reflected in the GFA junketings, but no sign of a breakthrough

Will the DUP and Sinn Fein pay any attention to the eloquent pleas of the elder statesmen to return to the Executive?  On the surface the answer appears to be no, unless something is going on behind the scenes we don’t know about. Local politics suffers from elder statesperson fatigue. This generation has learned how to take in their stride the high sounding generalities from popes, presidents and prime ministers past and present.  The shock of the new wore off … Read more

“I think we must also recognise that there are real economic reasons why people have played up the issue of the Irish border…”

Played up is right.  Labour Party front bencher, the shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, a former NIO minister, has apologised for “informal remarks in a meeting last month“, in particular, that his “use of the word ‘shibboleth’ in its sense of ‘password’ or ‘test of membership’ gave the impression that I thought the Good Friday Agreement was in any way outdated or unimportant. I absolutely do not.”  Which is fine.  But his recorded comments, last month, during a Q&A session after a speech … Read more

Trimble rains on the GFA parade with supposed threat from loyalist paramiltaries over Brexit terms

Steve Punter's profile photo of David Trimble

David Trimble has many qualities but spreading sweetness and light is not prominent among them.   He has pricked the bubble of the GFA commemorations with a sinister warning. The one thing that would provoke loyalist paramilitaries is the present Irish government saying silly things about the border and the constitutional issue. If it looks as though the constitutional arrangements of the agreement, based on the principle of consent, are going to be superseded by so-called ‘special EU status’ then that … Read more

Fianna Fail going North would be a game changer. It implies an electoral pact with Sinn Fein in a bid to out poll unionists and lead a southern coalition towards unity

Poor old SDLP! What’s the point of voting in council elections next year for a party that says it may go out of business not now but maybe later? If Fianna Fail enter the lists, it has to be big, it has to be about more than rescuing the anti- Sinn Fein tradition of northern nationalism.  It can only be to rob Sinn Fein of its role as the pacemaker for a united Ireland.  Who ought to be better placed … Read more

A revised Belfast Agreement is needed more than nostalgia for 1998

Like Magna Carta, the Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement has acquired the status of icon of the constitution. This is not altogether in its favour.  A good deal of nonsense is talked about Magna Carta.  Back in 1215, no sooner had the ink dried on the vellum of the fair copy, than bad King John denounced it. But the idea of curbing the unbridled power of the monarch could not be unborn and it finally evolved into government by the rule … Read more

Angry nationalist reaction to plans to rename Europa Station to Britannia Station following Brexit…

Nationalist politicians have reacted angrily to plans to change the name of Europa Bus Station in Belfast to Britannia Station. The new transport hub is due to open in 2020, at a cost of £175 million. The project comprising: station concourse, 26 bus stands, 8 railway platforms, bus maintenance and parking, car parking and a new public square. The remaining land is proposed for phased commercial development. When we asked a Dept Of Infrastructure spokesperson about the new name they … Read more

With or without a good deal on Brexit, EU oversight of an all-island economy is looking likely

Jim Allister QC is not the only one to spot the potential extension of north-south areas of cooperation under “the backstop”, the notorious Option 3 of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, as Newton Emerson reports. There’s quite a bit more from Professor Dagmar Schiek of Queen’s University and from human rights organisations north and south. With cooperation, authority follows.  It is indeed a wonder that the DUP have not reacted more strongly. They seem to be putting their faith in  a … Read more