The Northern Ireland Protocol: The High Court has its say

Who knew constitutional law could be so dramatic? The High Court has dismissed a legal challenge to the Northern Ireland Protocol by several unionist politicians. The political ramifications are likely to carry us through July, a traditionally calm month in Northern Ireland. As always when there’s a high-profile judgment, people will take what they can and use it for political capital. You wouldn’t think the unionist claimants had lost. Others seem to think the matter is settled and we should …

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If Edwin Poots tried to crash the Assembly it would open the door to a border poll

Let’s assume Edwin Poots is a shoo-in for the DUP leadership. Comfortable in his minor elder statesman role at Westminster, Jeffrey Donaldson hasn’t the stomach for a contest. He might be willing to accept  it on a plate but that’s not going to happen. With more than a hint of desperation, some of us have been foisting the Nixon goes to China model onto Poots, meaning that the hardliner in politics may be better placed to compromise than the liberal. …

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Brexit breakthrough on the protocol? Try this for size

If you’re  one of those souls who follow every twist and turn of Stormont politics, there’s one thing you shouldn’t overlook; that  sorting out the Brexit rows which are stoking division are largely  beyond local control. Another is what Newton reminded us recently, that  Stormont  boycott is now  a risky strategy. The Executive can stagger on for the best part of a year in the absence of one leading party – guess who? –  but with an election somewhere along …

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The latest real world effects of the protocol standoff

There’s a mixed picture of trade in and out of both parts of Ireland, some of them temporary and perverse The good news?   Via Sky News   A lot of freight, up by 4.3% in February, is now sent from British ports to  Northern Ireland  on ferries and then driven down into Ireland. More goods are now moving between Britain and Belfast because freight can now be sent from Britain to Ireland through Northern Ireland without complex customs procedures. Ferry data analysed …

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Boris Johnson has refused Arlene Foster on the protocol. Both governments and the EU should now get off their high horses and fix it.

Time was when prime ministers visited somewhere they used it as the backdrop to make a substantial speech about where they stood on the policy or move things along.  Think back to Tony Blair’s “acts of completion”.  Can you imagine Boris Johnson submitting himself to questions about his post Brexit and pro Union strategies?  Nowadays it’s enough for Johnson to turn up for a box ticking exercise, high viz vested or in a white coat, elbows bumping, for a few …

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Authentic British and Irish patriotisms are needed. They are entirely compatible

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader    “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”, declared Dr Johnson, in a typically ringing remark that for over two centuries has been deployed against states trailing memories of  glory to repel criticism of today’s foreign adventures.  Remember though that when Johnson died in 1784, Britain was in the throes of expulsion from her North American Colonies. Parliament was divided between the Tories lamenting loss and defeat and Whigs who made no bones about …

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In a time of unprecedented threat, we need calm heads, and an ability to change our minds.

I do not think I need to overly emphasise how chaotic of a start to the year 2021 has been. From spiralling Covid-19 cases both sides of the border caused by a strain that came from Britain, the effects of Brexit, vaccinations programmes some of which have been thrown in the dark by pharmaceutical companies promising the world and the sun, any mention of an ‘All-Island Approach’ and not to forget, the heavy daily debates which surround all of the …

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When are the DUP going to ditch the Tories?

“What did we do to members on those benches over there, to be screwed over by this protocol,” Ian Paisley asked in Parliament yesterday, “ask your hearts, what did we do?” Oh Ian. It’s a cliché at this point to quote Edward Carson’s “What a fool I was…” speech. It’s boring. We all know it by now. I prefer the bit after that famous line: “And of all the men in my experience that I think are the most loathsome it …

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A more refreshing debate on Ireland’s future has just been ignited

We are looking at a border poll within the next ten years, and reunification could happen within 20 years. I believe events will move a lot faster than any of us could ever envisage. Just look at Brexit, who could have predicted that five years ago?  Brian O’Neill may be right or he may be wrong. But we need something more than speculation.  A new debate has been ignited in the Irish Times.  Prof Pete Shirlow  goes for developing the …

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Irish unity : going nowhere fast

So how’s the Irish reunification campaign coming along ? According to Sinn Féin President, Mary Lou McDonald, there doesn’t need to be one, because it’s already been won. A few days ago, speaking to Owen Jones, McDonald said of a United Ireland : ‘We’ll do it in the next decade. We’ll do it in this decade, actually.’  This is an example of the nationalist equivalent of the ‘inevitability doctrine’ I wrote about a few months back. In my previous article, …

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It’s strictly dancing up to the Brexit deadline. Meanwhile “the border in the Irish Sea” takes shape in Northern Ireland

Archbishops’ letter image. FT  The  off- on- off again  dance around the final stages of Brexit negotiations is taking place against  a mounting clamour of confusion and anger over the crazy politics  including the real implications of the threatened No Deal, about which the UK government postures so insouciantly. UK in a Changing Europe think tank says their modelling with the LSE of the impact of a no-deal Brexit suggests the total cost to the UK economy over the longer …

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It looks like a deal but what sort of deal? And it’ll go down to the wire

The idea of  extended deadlines right  down to a supposed last minute  will hardly surprise anybody in Northern Ireland. We’ve lived with them for a generation. Taking a tour round comment on the Brexit cliffhanger, the prospects for a deal are  looking good. British predictions of  going to the wire for  a decision by the big beasts of Merkel and Macron look like being fulfilled. But that doesn’t mean an optimal deal for British interests. From Peston The odds of …

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Notes of optimism from London about the Brexit talks are treated cautiously in Brussels and Dublin. Whatever happens, Northern Ireland won’t be ready

Briefing on the Brexit negotiations is growing more intense.  From the British side, hopes of a breakthrough are reported by the political editor of the Spectator James Forsyth.  Inevitably  this translates into a British claim that the EU are at last bending on their hitherto implacable insistence on  full  UK compliance with the Withdrawal Agreement including the Protocol, and the withdrawal  of the offending parts of the Internal Market Bill. The EU side are briefing differently but not quite incompatibly; …

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Why can’t the Johnson government see that pure parliamentary sovereignty is incompatible with the survival of the UK?

Fintan O’Toole has written another of his entertaining essays trying to get to the bottom of why the UK and the English in particular are behaving like lemmings throwing themselves over a cliff over Brexit.   In the Irish Times today he comes with up “England as Ireland.” The big problem with English nationalism is that it is naïve. Because it has been buried for centuries under two layers of disguise – the United Kingdom and the British Empire – it …

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Boris Johnson has thrown everything up in the air. The EU has to bring them down to earth

The roller coaster continues. In its story today the Times slips in unattributably Johnson’s terms for a deal. The right of government  to subsidise company development  is the Trojan horse  that has emerged as the biggest obstacle to a deal because it continues to apply to GB as  well as NI,  leaving a remnant of  EU regulation at the heart of the UK that the sovereignty zealots find intolerable.  On this apparently esoteric topic depends much of the future character …

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Shock tactics won’t help, but they needn’t kill all hopes of reaching a final Brexit deal

I don’t doubt that UK ministers want a free trade deal and more  with the EU. But rather than agree a comprehensive deal on what they regard as the EU terms, they are insisting on defining the terms of resumed British sovereignty first and proposing to bounce their unilateral decisions off the EU case by case as issues arise.  The procedure for this is the EU/UK joint committee created by the Withdrawal Agreement which is meeting today. There is also …

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Pause a moment. Could Johnson just pull it off?

The Protocol is a pawn on a bigger game;  to remove any trace of involvement by the European Court of Justice in ruling on applications for state aid for ailing or new industries . While that would remain the rule for Northern Ireland firms, it leeches into GB firms who invest or have branches in the North. And that breaches a cardinal Leave principle, of no involvement by the Court in GB affairs. There is surely another a Leave issue …

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Why is the UK sleepwalking into final Brexit chaos and towards breakup?

As the notional deadline of October for final Brexit negotiations draws ever closer, the clouds if anything are growing darker. The UK’s statements on their withdrawal position and the NI protocol have clarified very little. Johnson and co seem like General de Gaulle in 1940, holding out for an impossible position of victory against the odds. But at least de Gaulle had allies. A City University webinar I linked up with yesterday confirmed growing pessimism over Northern Ireland prospects.( video …

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Shared or united island? The Greens called it right.

The new banter coalition in the Republic has got off to a dramatic start. Ministerial sackings! A tax ruling from the ECJ! Infighting! It’s everything we could have hoped for. Among the chaos of this week came an interesting titbit from Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. According to Ryan our own Clare Bailey, the party leader in Northern Ireland, was behind the decision to rename the ‘united island’ unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to the ‘shared island’ unit. …

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It would be a mistake for Unionists to seek terms for Irish unity now. There’s a bigger future to discuss

The time, therefore, has finally come for unionists, particularly those in Northern Ireland, to consider the terms on which they could tolerate, if not accept, a united Ireland… On the eve of Northern Ireland’s centenary next May, Unionism needs to form an assembly of its own to answer that question. So what should unionism demand in exchange for its tolerance of unification? First, let’s acknowledge that unionism holds a pretty decent hand should it care to play it: the knowledge …

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