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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Basic flaw in Labour’s referendum plan makes it unworkable

We have arrived at one of those moments when something that’s agonising lots of clever people for  years has a basic flaw which people caught up in controversy have been more or less  blind to.  Corbyn’s fence sitting has been well and truly exposed as absurd.  Why should the EU offer Labour a Brexit deal if most of its members want to campaign against it?  But if they somehow succeed, how could the leadership stay neutral on the deal they’ve …

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Arlene Foster and Leo Varadkar must do business together on Brexit after last night’s ice breaker

The most important thing that Arlene Foster has just done is to talk to Leo Varadkar for the first time in ages. This was a meeting that was apparently kept under wraps until it had happened.  Only a short time before, the Dublin government were saying they were hoping for a meeting “soon.” This brief encounter  opens up the possibility of genuine north-south cooperation to help hammer out an agreement on the border – and perhaps the Assembly – that …

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Is this really it? ” Northern Ireland would effectively become a special economic zone inside both the UK and the EU”

Too much for the DUP, too little for Dublin and the EU but enough to keep going? The direction of travel has seemed clear for some time. These reports bring it out into the open. Johnson has been talking up a deal based on an expansion of  the original  agri foods proposal. An actual outline has been show to the EU negotiators, but not to  take  home with them . (Why did they tamely agree to only a sneak preview?)  …

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Backstop fever has subsided, but the virus is still live and it could spread…

This must be the barmiest idea emerging from the current bout of backstop fever – an “exclusive” from Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News.    Boris Johnson has told government officials to explore the possibility of building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland.. The prime minister wants to know “where this money could come from” and “the risks around the project” – which appear to include “WW2 munitions in the Irish Sea…” The DUP, the party supporting the Conservatives …

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The imminence of direct rule underlines the fact that the SDLP are wrong not to back Margaret Ritchie as a member of the House of Lords

The SDLP still haven’t managed to shake off  strategic ineptitude. They’ve   achieved the worst of both worlds by wishing former SDLP leader and MP Margaret Ritchie well but “ fundamentally disagree” with her decision to go to the Lords. This is in fact an enlightened  move by Margaret which deserves SDLP backing. The SDLP attack Sinn Fein for persisting with abstention from the Commons when their voting presence might have made a difference in narrower Brexit votes.  The absence of …

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Will Arlene be confronted with an amended backstop today? How would she react? (No prizes!)

I was watching the Commons feed last night and missed Nick Watt’s report on Newsnight, raising the hare  that Boris Johnson was  going further than an all-Ireland agri-zone and was about to revive the NI specific backstop.  Sam McBride of The Newsletter was watching. Last night’s report suggests that Mr Johnson may be preparing to abandon the DUP for the second time in six months, despite the party having ensured he became Prime Minister..  Newsnight said Mr Johnson was understood …

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“Die in a ditch?” It could come to that. And Ireland hunkers down for a new border

As long as 24 hours ago, Boris Johnson seemed to have the edge in a deadly struggle with the new anti No Deal Commons majority. But with a Tory backlash mounting over sacking of  21 senior rebels and the influence of Dominic Cummings;  and with Tory traditionalist  MP resignations coming thick and fast led by brother Jo, I’m no longer so sure. Squeezed by the new majority, Johnson  looked to be buckling under the pressure at his dire appearance at …

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