“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

UUP calls for May Deal to be voted down with an extension of Article 50

The Ulster Unionists have issued a statement on the Withdrawal Agreement, calling for its rejection. “The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between Her Majesty’s Government and the EU will erode the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom and should be rejected. “The Ulster Unionist Party warned of the potential consequences of the inclusion of the disastrous backstop in December 2017, but the DUP who claimed to be in a position of influence at the heart of UK Government were asleep … Read more

The DUP would be fools to vote for no confidence in the government and boost the chances of a No Deal default

Politics is in a vortex of fast moving events over which the government has little control. According to the likely scenario, Theresa May will lose the meaningful vote badly next Tuesday night.  What happens next is in uncharted waters. But this is how  the meaningful vote fits into the prescribed  timetable, courtesy of the FT: The vote is a legal obligation under the UK’s 2018 EU Withdrawal Act, which says such a vote must take place “before the European Parliament decides whether … 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

“This is the “Canada-plus” option the EU at one point said it would never agree to…”

The Irish Times today carries the view of, the always worth reading, FT columnist Wolfgang Münchau on the withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU. First he makes a quick point on the opposition on both sides of the House of Commons… When British cabinet ministers resigned hours after the publication of the withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU, they could not conceivably have read it, let alone digested its finer points. Many of the MPs who denounced the … Read more

The DUP are waking up to the idea that Fortress Ulster has no future. They should be encouraged, not abused

They are still talking in euphemisms.  They are desperate to avoid finding themselves suddenly on the losing side without any notion of the outcome. Goodness knows what Theresa May can offer to sell the withdrawal agreement when she visits Northern Ireland  on her nationwide tour. Experience of local negotiations argues strongly against side deals and the arguments have been so well rehearsed already. Entirely wisely, the DUP are for once hinting at a solution to the backstop conundrum other than … 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

Too many are unconvinced by Theresa May’s claim of alternatives later to the backstop. And some are prepared to ditch Northern Ireland

What matters next has changed.  Summit signing on Sunday apart, the next real stage of Brexit is not about Brussels but how MPs will react to what’s in front of them. The political declaration published today was full of warm words for a deep and meaningful relationship but it is clear that British options for striking out independently are constrained by the legal terms of the withdrawal agreement featuring the backstop. Try and she might to hint at a different … 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

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

As her Ministers start to quit over Brexit, is this the end of Theresa May?

About 8am this morning Shailesh Vara a NI Junior Minister quit over the Brexit deal (I never heard of him either). At 9am this morning the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab quit. At 10am, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey also quit. It seems the Ministers unhappy with the Brexit deal are spacing out their resignations for maximin impact. Who will go at 11am? Get your popcorn ready and enjoy the show. You can follow the BBC live feed to keep up to date… Brian … Read more

At least backstop squared has been dropped. But May has accepted temporarily different regimes for Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Are you alarmed? Really?

The dam has burst. . Suddenly, against the background of a mass rally for a second referendum,  the “technical agreement” of the withdrawal deal has been sprung as a leak. In 600 pages it’s an all-UK customs backstop in the short term. But a form of Northern Ireland backstop survives, fragmented, scaled down from the joint report and appended in annexes we’re told  – but present. Hardly anybody has seen it but a cascade of critical comment has poured out regardless. … Read more

Theresa is still stuck at deadlock with the cabinet

If the Tory press is to be believed, Theresa May is now refusing to be bounced into the early deal the EU has almost ready and waiting for her to sign – apart from the finicky wee detail of the backstop. Sunday night and Monday’s morning’s late negotiating session in Brussels  failed to clinch it. It’s politics not policy now that’s holding it up, meaning the massed ranks of her critics from left and right including the DUP. Even so, … Read more

The moment of truth may really be very close – but what truth?

All we can do it count heads and count down, for the cabinet to take a decision – or non-decision – on Theresa May’s negotiating plan or face up to the serious option of No Deal. They have until Wednesday to agree proposals for triggering a late November EU summit and 21st January to seal the deal or bid to extend Article 50. Or for the Tory party to throw Mrs May out and plunge Britain into an unprecedented political … Read more

Arlene Foster should suspend judgement until the outcome of the negotiations

After Jo Johnson’s resignation from the government, the main focus today is the hardening view that Theresa May will fail to win a majority for any deal she negotiates with the EU.  This is in spite of claims that the UK and the EU are on the verge of agreement. It could be all- change next week. The DUP are an essential part of the calculations, but not the only part, as Mrs May is now assailed from both wings … Read more

Unionist objections to the backstop are more than DUP paranoia and need to be addressed

Cabinet approval for Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal proposals, is again delayed as demands mount from inside the cabinet and without to have sight of the Attorney General’s legal opinion in full. (I’m not sure why is meant by “legal.” What they’re really looking for is  a navigation chart around the treacherous rocks).   The idea of ministers trooping in like junior officers to a “ secret” room in the Cabinet Office like the general’s study  to view  a summary of the … Read more

Confusion over the state of the Brexit negotiations increases anxiety as May’s cabinet prepares to decide on a formula

Civil society in both islands  looking on anxiously at contrasting stories about the state of the Brexit negotiations are speaking out. Persistent fears of a hard border has prompted a group of nationalists to  approach Leo Varadkar  to protect northern nationalists’ rights. This the second appeal of its kind in a year. Latest 4pm  Leo Varadkar said this afternoon Ireland is willing to consider proposals for a review clause in relation to the backstop for the Irish border. The backstop … Read more