Break-up of the parties or No Deal Brexit – the looming choice

As matters stand, we’re either heading for crash out No Deal or the main parties are heading for break-up. The Conservative and Labour leaders are dolally.  Theresa May is listening but not  to anybody who wants  a customs union or a second referendum.  Jeremy Corbyn will not only not meet her but has urged all Labour MPs not to meet her either.  But this request in a letter to his MPs came too late to stop former ministers Yvette Cooper and … Read more

Nothing new to offer as Theresa May misfires the last shot in her locker in support of her deal

With her back to the wall Theresa May exposes  her own and her speech writers’ monumental ignorance of  UK devolution by bizarrely invoking the  creation of the Welsh Assembly based on a squeakingly narrow referendum result. as a killer argument   against calling a second referendum on Brexit.   What a pity that that she is such a poor  advocate  of what would otherwise be a viable proposal.  Extracts from May’s speech released by Downing Street last night show she will invoke … Read more

“Sinn Fein’s Arder Carson said that it was his democratic right to choose not to be painted…”

Or, indeed, not to wear clothes…  ANYhoo…  On Thursday The Belfast Telegraph reported Sinn Féin’s ‘farcical’ attempt to prevent Belfast City Council granting permission for local artist and political cartoonist Brian John Spencer to “sketch the Council Chamber and the Council meeting in January”.  At a Council Strategic Policy and Resources Committee meeting in December 2018 a Sinn Féin motion rejecting the request – which “would involve Mr Spencer being allowed access to the Chamber for a couple of hours … Read more

Plan for a border poll certainly, but as part of new British- Irish and North-South relationships

Deep in the last ditch before Tuesday’s meaningful vote, the UK government are warning that the DUP’s refusal to back Mrs May’s deal brings a border poll nearer. The warning was put into the mouth of Karen Bradley who political anoraks may just remember is the minister with nominal responsibility for Northern Ireland affairs. No 10 put out one of their coy little  briefings to say that she  “told the Cabinet” that a border poll on the reunification of Ireland … Read more

The DUP are the crucial “dominoes” in May’s bid to win a second meaningful vote

Theresa May’s strategy to try to win MPs’ endorsement of the withdrawal agreement is a little clearer, arising out of hints she gave to Andrew Marr yesterday. The strategy  is classic if conventional  politics, before a fundamentally divided, incoherent opposition, however formidable it now seems. It involves  narrowing  the gaps, wearing down opposition by a mixture of  project Fear (miles of traffic jams and English police on Ulster streets ) and project Farce (the shipping company with no ships), and … Read more

Looking through the lens of history helps us ease the torments of Brexit

As a Christmas treat, let’s stand back from the tangles of Brexit and the backstop and take a broader look at how they’re complicating our fond old obsession with our choice of identities British, Irish and European. One of the leaders of the current debate is Fintan O’Toole  a torrentially eloquent writer who knows Britain as well as his own backyard. You’d be hard put to find an English equivalent writing about Ireland. What we see more of are endless voyages of … Read more

Theresa, No Deal Project Fear is a cruel insult to our intelligence

The latest Project Fear is a UK government analysis of the impact of No Deal   on the Republic’s trade. It says that 80% of their trade with Europe passes over the British land bridge to ports such as Dover. No deal barriers causing expected congestion there  would have a catastrophic effect on the Irish economy. The aim is to soften up Varadkar’s apparently implacable support for the backstop. Project Fear is accompanied by Project  Puff up and Soothe the DUP, … Read more

Brexit has reversed the stereotypes of Britain and Ireland

Brexit has turned British, Irish and continental stereotypes on their heads,   historian Arthur Aughey has observed in a brilliant essay in the Belfast Telegraph One long-standing explanation is that the British and continental Europeans (especially the French) approach political problems with very different mindsets… On the one hand, Michel Barnier’s style – and the European Council’s – considers British reluctance to define principles as either proof of poor preparation or as inability to clarify its objectives. That, more or less, … Read more

May’s desperate tactics are unworthy and will fail to give her victory

Tactically Theresa May is being astute. But then she has always run Brexit as a party strategy.  Strategically in the national interest, she’s risking a disaster. By continuing to face MPs with a binary choice as late as mid January – My Deal or No Deal – she’s squeezing the time available for any Plan Bs to emerge but she’s raised her immediate chances of staying in office.  This of course assumes the divided cabinet will play along and the … Read more

“I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.” Theresa May in Brussels? Answer. Worse: humiliation

What was Theresa May actually expecting  from the EU 27 leaders in Brussels? There was always the desperate hope for one of those last minute rush to settle against the declared odds. Instead… headlines… Daily Telegraph ( Brexiteer) Theresa May was humiliated once again by EU leaders last night as her attempts to improve her Brexit deal were thrown back in her face. The Sun (Brexiteer) and coiner of  dreadful puns BRUSSELS ROUT  Theresa May told to get stuffed by … Read more

No sign of Ireland blinking over the backstop, as Theresa May races around Europe raising the bogey of No Deal

Theresa May  at bay  threw down one effective challenge to  the massed ranks of her critics. “Come clean: do you want Brexit or not? “No”, chorused the SNP and she rolled her eyes. For as long as  Parliament cannot settle on an agreed  alternative she holds a narrow initiative. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed woman is queen. In her whistle -stop tour of continental capitals, her ploy now is to seek  “reassurances”, a time honoured feature of … Read more

Keep your eye on the glimmer of light in the Big Picture. But first we need to re-examine the backstop, sooner rather than later.

Although the sight of it is darkly occluded, the shape of things to come is emerging through the fog. Whatever immediate  political strategy  Theresa May chooses today, the dream of the hard line Brexiteers is in process of disintegration.  Whatever the political turmoil today, the UK will retain some sort of close relationship with the EU.   In Northern Ireland, unionists will have a closer relationship with the Republic and with nationalists generally – and I would argue with only slightly … Read more

A riposte to David McWilliams

Out of interest… It was surprising that the Financial Times should publish a long triumphalist critique of Northern Ireland by the economist David McWilliams without comment from other economists (“ The final frontier”, Life & Arts, December 1). Mr McWilliams claims that most people in Northern Ireland want to stay in the EU. It is true that 56 per cent voted for the UK to remain in the EU. He echoes Sinn Féin in claiming that this meant many unionists … Read more

DUP are threatening May with collapse unnecessarily, even in their own cause

It looks worse and worse for Theresa May as a crucial week begins. The Times reports:   Theresa May was under fresh pressure last night as the DUP threatened to abandon her in a confidence vote if she failed to get her Brexit deal through parliament. Party sources said that they were considering the move, which would leave the prime minister without a Commons majority, over fears that her plan would create a border between Northern Ireland and the rest … Read more

Why would the DUP NOT support a soft Brexit for the final deal that would get rid of border problems?

With the cabinet splitting every which way in all directions, Theresa May comes into her own as the ace stonewaller to every burning hypothetical question. As the fateful moment of signing the withdrawal agreement arrived in Brussels this morning, the prime minister was still insisting to the massed ranks of sceptics back home: “This isn’t about me. It’s not the case that there is another negotiation to be done. This is the deal that’s been agreed, it’s the only deal … Read more

Northern Ireland sleepwalking to an off-script unification…

Northern Ireland is sleepwalking into an off-script unification, which commands a majority in the north but not in the south, or one which Dublin has failed to prepare for. A late Aug poll says Brexit creates a 52-39% majority for unification in NI. If no Brexit, 52-35% favours stay. However, only 31% of voters to the south favour unification if this increases taxes. (This compares with 63% if taxes remain the same – 2015 BBC/RTÉ poll.) NI would lose or … Read more

A New Deal for Northern Ireland

Politics needs to change in Northern Ireland. How we govern needs to change. Our political culture must transform or our future will be at best no different to our present – political stalemate with a sluggish, dependency economy; limited investment and failing public services. Optimistically our current zombie government will continue to tick over, at worst we descend into a sectarian spiral and we all know where that can lead if unchecked.  We need politics to work. But it can’t … Read more

Theresa May is in there, in the general jostling for last minute gains

What a mad rush to the tape it’s turning out to be!  Theresa May will be in Brussels today ahead of Sunday’s summit  to squeeze the last scrap of advantage  out of the withdrawal agreement as they all look ahead to the future. The EU states on the other hand are equally determined that as the price of leaving, Britain will be denied advantages she enjoys now. Last minute objections are being raised by the Spanish over the status of … Read more

Is May suddenly beginning to take seriously an alternative to the backstop?

Who’s the bloke in the flat cap with IDS and Peter Lilley? Yes! It’s our very own David Trimble leaving Downing St last night after this gang of three veterans made a last minute pitch for a different border solution to that agreed between the EU and Theresa May. Lilley, a Thatcher disciple and former trade secretary refused to reveal what went on  the Today programme this morning. Now No 10 tells us that May listened and the cabinet discussed … Read more

For all its flaws, Theresa May’s direct appeal to Northern Ireland should prompt the DUP to stop playing a loser’s game

Theresa May has taken her campaign to win support for the Withdrawal Agreement direct to the people of Northern Ireland.  Adopting May’s authentic voice for an article in the Belfast Telegraph, her script writer weighs in   with “the best of both worlds” argument couched in the usual boilerplate, ticking all the boxes but failing to  frame the choice as between the withdrawal agreement and the DUP’s negativism. Keeping it general, there is only a feeble attempt to “de-dramatise” Northern Ireland’s … Read more