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

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

The prime minister may not have the numbers but options are running out for the DUP and the Tory Brexiteers

  With a week to go before the hoped for ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, Nigel Dodds has grabbed  Dominic Raab’s reading of the Withdrawal Agreement  as a lifeline.  It  may  confirm his worst fears coming from someone who only four days ago was in the inner circle, but now, much good may it do him.   In his Sunday Times article, Raab is withering about the European Commission’s approach to the talks and accuses Brussels of deliberately trying to wound … Read more

What was that again about a breakthrough?

Yesterday to the Sunday Times, the British side was talking up the prospect of neutralising the backstop and forecasting the emergence of a winning formula. Today EU sources were clear that they were keeping the backstop in reserve and fully charged, while back home, the reported formula was being attacked by Leave and Remain.  By Tuesday we should know if there is enough agreement to call an EU special summit on 21st November. Full marks to Patrick Smyth of the … Read more

The odds are narrowly on May surviving the week and staggering through to a withdrawal deal before Christmas

By a long way, more of the public demonstrated for a second  referendum yesterday than were threatening the prime minister in lurid language with nemesis on Wednesday. Just now though, it’s the MPs uttering the threats ( at least to journalists), who matter more. One prominent Brexiteer is making a distinctive gesture. In a further headache for May, the former Brexit minister Steve Baker yesterday tabled a series of amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill, which is due in the … Read more

Only now are both sides realising that the backstop can’t be blagged away

In single interviews it’s entirely appropriate for the presenter to play the devil’s advocate role. But in a long and pressing interview this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme  with Irish foreign minister  Simon Coveney, John Humphrys showed I believe a basic lack of understanding of the EU/Irish position of the backstop which partly explains why it’s  such a conundrum. I’m pretty sure it was more ignorance than tactic. All Humphrys  could do to fill the time was to keep … Read more

It’s neither breakthrough nor breakdown

I think we may safely say the point of crisis has arrived at last. It may last for some time. After the false optimism of Saturday, the backstop, the entire Brexit negotiation, the future of the government and the stability of the Union are all in play, as Theresa May “ branded the draft deal a non-starter”. The FT sums up the general gloomy view of the correspondents on Sunday night.. Brexit talks reached a dramatic stand-off in Brussels on … Read more

IS DUP threat to abandon pact trick or treat?

Newnight’s Nick Watt broke the story just after the regular  morning lobby briefing in Downing St Just minutes before this story broke, a Downing Street source was asked whether the PM felt she could rely on DUP votes. “The confidence and supply arrangement we have with the DUP is a matter of record,” he said. “Is that a yes?” “It’s an answer? Yes The story.. Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party is planning to vote against the Budget if Theresa May … Read more

When oh when will the UK government stop stalling on the backstop?

Why  is  Michel Barnier being messed about over the backstop and the border? On Tuesday he said this to the Commons Brexit  Select Committee. I am very concerned about Ireland. We need to find a solution that avoids the return of a hard border and that remains today the main obstacle on our road to an agreement between the British and ourselves. On the ground, ladies and gentlemen, it is impossible—this is nothing new—to distinguish between customs checks and other … Read more