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

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

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

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

Focus on the West Tyrone by-election

Tomorrow the voters of West Tyrone head back to the polls for the 7th time in 4 years (don’t worry if you are an avid voter, only one year to go until the local elections in May 2019). Usual rules apply for this by-election, polls close at 10pm with the votes counted afterwards. As you can see from the results above this is a solid Sinn Fein constituency with the party holding a double digit leads over their main rivals. … Read more

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

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 takes aim at Leo Varadkar

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar was in Northern Ireland today much to the consternation of the DUP’s  Jeffrey Donaldson who said; Leo Varadkar’s visit is another demonstration of the poor manners and disrespect which appears to be the Irish Government’s Brexit strategy. Having told unionists just over a month ago that he recognised statements and actions by the Irish government were unhelpful or intrusive, he follows this up with a visit which no local representative is informed about and none of … 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

I voted for peace, and all I got was this lousy culture war

I found this week’s 20 year commemoration of the Agreement quite surreal. Maybe it was because I was sick at home in my pyjamas and missed out on the bling of the big events. No basking in the glow of disgraced elderly politicians for me… Instead, I was more struck by how sad and stuck everything feels right now. It feels like we voted for peace, but all we got was this lousy culture war. By culture war, in this … Read more

Peter Robinson speaks to Nolan about Jim Wells comments

Just a quick catch up on this story; Mr Wells accused party leader Arlene Foster of not standing by him. “Peter Robinson made the commitment that I would return,” the South Down MLA said. “Then Arlene took over as leader and Arlene, as leader of the party officers, ignored my two written requests for that commitment to be honoured,” he added. Former DUP Leader Peter Robinson spoke to Nolan today about the topic which is worth a listen and analysis … 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

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

A united Ireland remains an uncertain unknown. If it happens, the country will need strong leaders who can lead the country into a better future

A united Ireland is such a huge issue in Northern Irish politics that it’s hard to believe Tom Elliott hasn’t really thought about it. Ulster unionism’s raison d’être is to maintain the Union, Northern Ireland and avoid a thirty two country Republic. The prospect of a united Ireland drives and haunts unionists. It is never acknowledged as a possibility, but it is always there. During Patrick Kielty’s excellent programme, ‘My Da, the Peace Deal, and me,’ Arlene Foster said that … 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

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

Twenty years on, the key challenge is how we can make changes that only are seen to be fair and balanced

Peter Weir is a DUP MLA for Strangford, he writes for Slugger about his thoughts of the Good Friday Agreement. On Good Friday, twenty years ago, I found myself present at a central point in our history, not just as an observer but as a participant, albeit a minor one. I was in Castle Buildings as a junior member of the Ulster Unionist talks team. I was one of the so called baby barristers, a group of younger members of … Read more

It has to be faced. Brexit will happen. The Irish border problem will not stop it

It’s now clear to me that we convinced Remainers must accept that Brexit is going to happen. It will not implode through the weight of its own contradictions. There is no prospect of an alternative government that will halt the process. Yesterday felt like a real turning point.  As a result of yesterday’s agreement on the transition period the EU leaders will ratify on Thursday, the UK will remain within the single market and the customs Union beyond the Leave … Read more

DUP Mayor Paul Hamill speaking Irish ahead of an event.

Amid all the political wrangling over the Irish language -DUP mayor Paul Hamill practises his Irish ahead of event in Newtownabbey @UTVNews pic.twitter.com/EnCxSc2iEf — Judith Hill (@JudeHill_utv) March 14, 2018   Paul Hamill is the Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and just in a contentious debate about the Irish language is refreshing to see this engagement. David McCannDavid McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs