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 …

Read more…The latest real world effects of the protocol standoff

Behind the Paddy’s Day rituals, how deep is the Stormont crisis?

With so much guff, bluff and ritual about it, St Patrick’s Day is a poor bellwether for judging the state of affairs in Ireland remotely – and perhaps no better on the spot either. One glance at privileged youff crowding Botanic Gardens in defiance of lockdown, you might have groaned with me: “ Not the Holylands again. “ However BBCNI’s news story was encouraging. St Patrick's Day: Police clear crowds at Belfast's Botanic Gardens https://t.co/Fp6LvjTOC8 — Darran Marshall (@DarranMarshall) March …

Read more…Behind the Paddy’s Day rituals, how deep is the Stormont crisis?

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 …

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

No mention of the fantasy Irish Sea link in Johnson’s plan to link up the UK. Is he quietly ditching it already?

The BBC is reporting that a feasibility study is being made into Boris Johnson’s crackpot scheme of a bridge or tunnel over the Irish Sea (with ample space for customs clearing stations no doubt).  But intriguingly   the prime minister makes no mention of it in an article he’s written for the Daily Telegraph announcing a new UK wide  transport strategy “ to strengthen the very sinews of the UK.” Very odd that he makes no mention of his current pet …

Read more…No mention of the fantasy Irish Sea link in Johnson’s plan to link up the UK. Is he quietly ditching it already?

How cold is your house?

I worked around the border for most of the past decade. I came to understand for the first time just how unnatural the border is to many people there as they go about their daily business. It gave me a very real and practical sense of their innate Irishness for the first time and I understand exactly why so many people in the border counties were so uncomfortable with Brexit. I shared their discomfort and voted to remain. But I …

Read more…How cold is your house?

Bloodlands, the latest Belfast noir they’re calling it. Please don’t all swarm to Strangford Lough

Are you hooked on Bloodlands? (Sundays 9 p.m. BBC 1, iPlayer top slot).  If you haven’t it seen it yet  I won’t spoil the Goliath reference.  Jimmy Nesbitt is a grizzled PSNI detective Tom Brannick  bridging  a Disappeared angle  with  an Ulster Line of Duty. It’s the latest in the product line of creator Jed Mecurio’s love affair with making gripping TV series in Northern Ireland. Not quite as gripping as Line of Duty yet or as menacing and sophisticated …

Read more…Bloodlands, the latest Belfast noir they’re calling it. Please don’t all swarm to Strangford Lough

Boris’s burrow? Boring in more ways than one.

I do not promise an absence of any further puns in this piece. So last Sunday the big news was: we can’t put a bridge over the top of the Beaufort’s Dyke, so sure we’ll just build a tunnel round it.  It’ll only be 25 miles long. Except… The Channel Tunnel is 37.92km (23.57 miles) from the English coast under Shakespeare cliff to the French coast at Sangatte.  It takes a further 9.14km (5.68 miles) to reach the tunnel mouth …

Read more…Boris’s burrow? Boring in more ways than one.

Do not let your loyalty become slavery

Seven weeks. That is the number of weeks since Christmas Eve 2020. Remember the day? The UK celebrated the “oven-ready” Brexit deal brokered with the European Union. A deal heralded by the British Government as the perfect Christmas present for all those within the UK. Seven weeks. That is the number of weeks it took for some members of the British Government to start murmuring discontent at their prestigious deal of leaving one union to solidify their own. “Teething issues” …

Read more…Do not let your loyalty become slavery

Arlene must tell us if she agrees with Peter Robinson’s option of Assembly withdrawal to fight the protocol

Peter Robinson under arrest at Clontibret 1986 Arlene Foster has all but declared the DUP’s lack of confidence in the UK government’s efforts to renegotiate the protocol. From the sidelines her predecessor Peter Robinson is  tempting her to contemplate doing something more dramatic about it than protest. With his acute ear he has picked up the drumbeats not only from the DUP core but from the loyalist undergrowth. Cannily  attempting to insure against taking the blame for another “flegs” debacle, …

Read more…Arlene must tell us if she agrees with Peter Robinson’s option of Assembly withdrawal to fight the protocol

Leading constitutional expert backs DUP objections to the Protocol

Prof Vernon Bogdanor   Let us is suspend for a moment blaming the DUP for helping to saddle us with customs forms and phytosanitary checks at Belfast and Larne. Let us praise the SDLP and Alliance for looking for the bright side, at the  competitive  advantage NI business can enjoy NI to EU and GB if only the checks  GB to NI are drastically reduced. Mitigation may yet be the name of the game. But now a thunderbolt has been hurled …

Read more…Leading constitutional expert backs DUP objections to the Protocol

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 …

Read more…Authentic British and Irish patriotisms are needed. They are entirely compatible

“To hell with the future and long live the past”. Allison Morris turns it around when contemplating a border poll. But has the EU Commission just changed the odds by uniting north and south against them ?

D The new Ulster University campus  under construction  In this year of different centenary  commemorations north and south (sorry,”markings”),  Allison Morris has written a terrifically interesting piece in  the Irish News . When it comes to  weighing the issues for a border poll, she raises the desire for a better life above the call of background, tradition and history, yes even the history of the Troubles. Without labouring the point, contrast this with the run of comment in the Newsletter …

Read more…“To hell with the future and long live the past”. Allison Morris turns it around when contemplating a border poll. But has the EU Commission just changed the odds by uniting north and south against them ?

It is intolerable that Stormont is handing back hundreds of millions of pounds to London when urgent cancer cases are being denied treatment

The news that 275 people in Northern Ireland with “red-flag” cancer have had their surgery cancelled in the past week has been followed by the tragic irony  that the  Health Service  has been forced  to hand back £90 million unspent this year to the Treasury in Whitehall . The dismal information reminds me of Irish farm produce being exported from Ireland during the Famine of the 1840s while more than a  million starved.  The theory behind it is even more …

Read more…It is intolerable that Stormont is handing back hundreds of millions of pounds to London when urgent cancer cases are being denied treatment

UK breakup. The vacuum where the Union case should be stands exposed

 Will the drum roll start for a border poll and  wreck the prospects for even slim collaboration for dealing with the massive and more immediate  challenges of Covid and Brexit –  and just governing ?   Or will it promote a virtuous competition  between the DUP and Sinn Fein over which of them will be the better collaborator in government, with the hope of  wooing the uncommitted to their existential cause? Will the minor parties get squeezed or flourish amid growing …

Read more…UK breakup. The vacuum where the Union case should be stands exposed

Perhaps London will wake up at last- and also let us in on how the Northern Ireland Secretary would exercise his discretion on calling a border poll

From the Times. Not a lot of extra comment is needed.   By these measurements the narrowing margins should concentrate minds. Most concentration is inevitably focused on Scotland where Westminster has the constitutional veto absent in relation to Northern Ireland , where the  Northern Ireland Secretary has the discretion to call a referendum which the Republic is  obliged to follow  concurrently. Here the interim report by academics in London, Belfast and Dublin on  preparing for twin Irish referendums is well worth …

Read more…Perhaps London will wake up at last- and also let us in on how the Northern Ireland Secretary would exercise his discretion on calling a border poll

Real world pressures are complicating neat arguments over unification

I begin with  more inexplicable partitionism from Dublin, as discussed by Newton who has a hawkeye for this subject “Genuine mystery surrounds the Irish Government’s lengthy refusal to share Covid passenger data with Northern Ireland. The Government will not explain it and nobody else can see what the issue might be. There is increasing urgency for a solution as Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland introduce negative Covid test requirements for travellers, with varying sets of self-isolation periods that cannot be …

Read more…Real world pressures are complicating neat arguments over unification

Brexit blues and the future of the UK

Brian O’Neill beat me to it.  George Osborne the thwarted crown prince of Tory politics called Theresa May  “ a   dead woman walking “ long before  she lost the third meaningful vote. He was right there and he may turn to be right now.  Amazing how defeated politicians  turn into prophets. If you think you can see the right route at the fork in the road you have a 50% chance of being right in advance and 100% if you …

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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 …

Read more…When are the DUP going to ditch the Tories?

Unionism behind closed doors

Brian O’Neill’s post on Sunday, suggesting that elder statespeople from our two political communities should be approached to lead a commission on reunification proposals, was a very interesting and challenging one. While it can be strongly argued that Brian’s proposal is at least premature, it can equally be argued that his logic was sound in light of the ambiguities exploited by leave campaigners in 2016. Clearly in the period leading up to a future border poll there would need to …

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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 …

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