How wise is it to play Protocol poker with a weak hand everybody can see?

What do you suppose Boris Johnson is up to with his on the face of it, kamikaze tactics over the Protocol Bill?  By pursuing the most aggressive line he seems determined to court a confrontation with the EU.  Can he be serious, even as a survival strategy? As Peston points out, where Johnson is on shaky ground is that within the Protocol there is explicit provision to suspend it, where there are ‘societal difficulties… liable to persist’ via its Article …

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Update: Tory civil war breaks out over the Protocol as reports say Johnson is backing an even harder line defying the EU

Larne Harbour 

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Frost’s resignation dissolves fudging over the Protocol and faces Johnson with the stark choice. And Liz Truss the party favourite will make it.

The social libertarian reasons David Frost has given for quitting the government such as the “direction of travel” on Covid restrictions and increased taxes are hardly the whole story.  For if he thought he looked like winning in the Protocol negotiations he would surely not have quit. His letter to Johnson smacks of the same disingenuousness as his Protocol reports – a hard line written in the language of sweet reasonableness.  Frost knows very well he has set Johnson a …

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John Kyle has reminded us all that there is zero appetite for a DUP Lite…

In my post last week I stated my view that “of course there’s not a great depth of understanding of the protocol among those most vocally opposing it (just as there’s no great depth of understanding of it among those most vocally endorsing it).” It was encouraging that there was no real effort in the comments section to refute that view. That’s why I was heartened by Dr John Kyle’s contribution to The View on Thursday last. Discussion on the …

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Stiff medicine needed to get the Protocol over the line before Christmas

The pace of Protocol negotiations is quickening.  Yesterday and earlier today The BBC nationally was giving rare prominence to this incomprehensible topic (if you’re not NI/Irish).  After today’s meeting the straws in the wind were a bit more favourable but without Lord Frost  clearly  shifting position. Technical talks ahead of Friday’s meeting had focused on guaranteeing the supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Mr Šefčovič said there had been progress in this area, adding: “We now need …

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Johnson and Frost can afford another turn of the screw before retreat. The rachet is in their hands

Using the old mantra of Michel Barnier, the clock is ticking on the Protocol negotiations. Even so, picking up from Mick’s references to Irish Times commentator Ronan McCrea, it isn’t obvious to me why at this point  the EU should “play hardball.”  Granted that he fears the damage done in a lengthy arbitration period under the terms of the withdrawal agreement. ..during the lengthy period during which all of these procedures were being worked through, the EU would be faced …

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Bluff or confrontation is the looming choice, as pressures mount over the NI Protocol

Over the Protocol, somebody’s bluff will be called over the next few weeks. But whose? If he’s to be believed Jeffrey Donaldson has just announced that if the EU doesn’t concede the abolition of most inspections at the ports, the DUP will quit the Assembly. The immediate withdrawal of DUP ministers from north-south bodies except over Covid liaison is the warning shot across the bows. Donaldson’s threats deliberately coincide with the visit of EU vice president Maroš Šefčovič to address …

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Militancy can only expose Edwin Poots’ weakness. Instead he can claim credit if David Frost delivers acceptable mitigation of protocol terms

The tempo of Protocol politics  is quickening. Fresh from  calling into the Arcadia deli on the Lisburn road ( a favourite haunt of  SDLP, Alliance and Green voters no doubt as it once was of mine ),  Brexit minster Lord Frost  has  issued what sounds like an ultimatum to the  EU. “If the Protocol operates so as to damage the political, social, or economic fabric of life in Northern Ireland, then that situation cannot be sustained for long”. The new …

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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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This is the very moment to speak out against the old Wolfe Tone trope, that Britain is the source of all Irish ills

Demo in Place de la Républic, Paris   As is  only to be expected, Chris Donnelly in the Irish News plays the full anti imperialist card against the UK, without regard to variations of interpretation.  He uses a French quotation approvingly as if the  French were purely the  idealists of the Rights of Man and that the revolution  had no downside such as the ruinous attempt to conquer all Europe and the French Empire never existed. All major states were born …

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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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“No need for the talks to drag on to the autumn”.. but still the British are busking it

To return to the game of chicken with the EU..   Michael Gove.  The argument we’re making to the EU as well is, if you insist on significant new infrastructure and a significant new presence, what you will do is actually make the protocol less acceptable to the majority community in Northern Ireland and therefore you run the risk of the protocol being voted down in a future election,”  Michael  Gove  told the House of Commons Northern Ireland affairs committee. EU …

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Greater vision and laser-like focus on reality are needed if we are to emerge well out of the Covid and Brexit crises

David Frost, UK, and Michel Barnier, EU, chief negotiators Imposing a unenforceable quarantine on visitors to the UK from other countries with lower death rates. Forcing MPs to vote in person to set an example for a return to work.  Even in the midst of crisis – or especially? – irrationality plays a great part in politics as is does in human nature generally. Somewhere there was a germ of a point that got overtaken by time and circumstances.  The …

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We have a piece of paper… it looks like a Stormont deal, tbc

Have we got a deal that the DUP and Sinn Fein sign up to or not? By Thursday midnight, it wasn’t clear. Will all parties turn up to the reconvened Assembly? By the time you read this we should know. In the meantime we have – a document .. But Arlene Foster’s verdict looks favourable.. “On balance we believe there is a basis upon which the Assembly and Executive can re-established in a fair and balanced way… This is not …

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Whatever you do, don’t handle the debate on a border poll like the politics of Brexit

The decision of the two governments to publish “ the basis of an  agreement “ on a return to Stormont  next week as recommended here and by others  is very welcome. Publication will either expose to your judgement and mine the reasonableness or otherwise of whoever is holding out against agreement, or it will constitute the agreement itself.  While an atmosphere of optimism among the parties is being fostered (no pun intended) in the  sketchy reporting, there is nothing objective …

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In 2020, the fate of the Assembly will be one of the simpler issues

In agonising over terms for  recreating a functioning Stormont, the old chestnuts of an Irish Language Act and the petition of concern could be the easy bits – which is one reason why the DUP and Sinn Fein if they have any sense  at all, should grab at a deal. Truth to tell they are still in their comfort zone. Far more difficult issues are looming just a little way down the track. And it’s doubtful if the Assembly parties …

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Looking forward to an early end to the Stormont deadlock. Christmas cheer, or only a Christmas truce?

How will the parties  “reflect”  on their stance towards Assembly restoration during the Christmas lull? Will it be peace on earth, good will to all or only a Christmas truce? The finger of fate is pointed at the DUP.  Will their resentment spill over into resistance? How dare the secretary of state break precedent and single them out for blame just because all the other parties seem to have supported a deal? Even that is the wrong conclusion because as …

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If one last heave after Xmas fails, the people should vote to dismantle the mutual DUP/ Sinn veto

The Newsletter editorial is full of alarm and self pity. Its  vehemence is slightly surprising as the paper has been no critical supporter of the DUP. It has been highlighting  their weaknesses throughout. So it  cannot  be greeted just  by schadenfreude.  It needs a considered answer.    For three years, no Conservative and Unionist (as they sometimes style themselves) minister or prime minister has uttered a word of criticism of Sinn Fein. Think about that. The crisis in the NHS …

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Deal or No Deal- and it’s looking more and more like the latter – the UK could still leave the EU on 31 October

Despite rumours to the contrary, this week will find it hard to match the turbulence of last week.  It’s pretty clear that at this point, the combined opposition majority can’t agree on a strategy to turf Johnson out of office. This could prove fatal to their main aim.  In the absence of a policy to unite around, passing a vote of confidence against him would only set a clock ticking that would defeat their essential aim of preventing the UK …

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Boris’s bullying and bluster blinds him to the chance of agreement behind the sound and fury. He is his own worst enemy

This exchange will be remembered… Paula Sheriff Dewsbury, Lab I genuinely do not seek to stifle robust debate, but this evening the Prime Minister has continually used pejorative language to describe an Act of Parliament that was passed by this House. I am sure you would agree, Mr Speaker, that we should not resort to the use of offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language about legislation that we do not like. We stand here, Mr Speaker, under the shield of our …

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