Fears for the future of the Union move centre stage in Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, claims The Times

The Times has followed up on its report  on how Theresa May challenged the complacency of the arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees Mogg  in her series of back bench briefings in No10 when he claimed that a border poll could be won anytime  despite Brexit,   Mrs May said, ‘I would not be as confident as you. That’s not a risk I’m prepared to take. We cannot be confident on the politics of that situation, on how it plays out.’ ” This … Read more

On the legacy deadlock, equality before the law for the security forces is not moral equivalence with the IRA

Ruth Dudley Edwards has just commended “Legacy: What To Do About The Past in Northern Ireland”, a short book by Unionist councillor and redoubtable human right campaigner Jeff  Dudgeon,  edited mainly from the contributions at the conference on legacy legislation he organised in Belfast on March 3rd. As you’d expect, Ruth shares the passionately held view that the UK’s so far unseen draft Legacy Bill is based on a flawed approach developed by the traditional justice academic lawyers who to … Read more

DUP threatening to bring the government down over a customs union – or are they?

An interview with Nigel Dodds for the PolticsHome website is headlined: DUP warns it could bring the government down if Northern Ireland kept in customs union – and let in Jeremy Corbyn? (my addition). Mr Dodds said continued membership of the customs union would “cross a very big red line for” for his crucial bloc of 10 MPs. He said: “For us there is the fact that if as a result of the Brexit negotiations for instance there was to … Read more

Taking their seats at Westminster would be a high risk U-turn for Sinn Fein

Noel Whelan  in the Irish Times  today repeats  the case for Sinn Fein to take their seats at Westminster  – but only after a general election for which the end of abstention would be in their manifesto. This differs from the plea by the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee who recently wrote that ..the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, ventured to call on the party on Wednesday to take up their six – soon to be seven – Westminster seats “to make things better … Read more

Amnesty for security forces foreshadowed in the DUP deal

Just a footnote to yesterday’s post on the government’s floating of an amnesty for security forces. The Irish News follows up predictably enough with angry responses to what they rightly report as the adoption of the recommendation of the Commons Defence Committee report  just before the general election. The committee, which includes DUP MP Gavin Robinson, said that the pursuit of members of the crown forces was “wholly oppressive and a denial of natural justice”. “It can be ended only … Read more

For Westminster, Northern Ireland still isn’t a priority.

Patrick Thompson is a postgraduate student at Queen’s University, specialising in Northern Irish and Labour politics Last week a strange piece appeared on the news agency Bloomberg’s website about the Irish dimension of Britain’s decision to leave the EU. It was titled ‘Irish Border Throws Unexpected Hurdle to Brexit’. The notion that there is an open question around what Brexit means for the UK’s only land border isn’t groundbreaking. But the idea that this is a surprise most definitely is. … Read more

“it is tempting to conclude that SF has no strategy…”

From yesterday’s Irish News, Patrick Murphy, once again, making direct contact with the head of the nail. While the DUP’s future role in Westminster is far from predictable, it is easy to understand. Sinn Féin’s strategy, however, is less clear. Indeed it is tempting to conclude that SF has no strategy, other than to prolong the talks and hope for a lucky break, similar to the one the DUP received in Westminster. Sinn Féin collapsed Stormont because of the RHI … Read more

Update! Shock victory for free abortions in England for NI women as the government suddenly caves in to cross party pressure

The chancellor has just announced that the government intends to fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland. I recommend scrolling down the Guardian Live for the sequence of events ending in reverse order with the splash in George Osborne’s Evening  Standard, “Abortion Vote Chaos Hits May.” The Guardian believes this was done so fast and unexpectedly  to avoid  a Commons defeat on the Queen’s Speech, with some Tories supporting a Labour amendment  to introduce it. It carries a … Read more

Conservative pressure is increasing to allow NI abortions in England as a result of the deal with the DUP

The DUP deal with the Conservatives has elevated the refusal to allow Northern Ireland women free abortions in England under the NHS into a real issue in the House of Commons. And if Ian Paisley junior can be said to speak for his party (which is not always the case) the DUP may not oppose a change. This would help the party improve its image among the mass of MPs who opposed a deal with “dinosaurs.” Support for a change … Read more

And there could be more dosh to come! But the government rejects demands from a chorus of women MPs to fund abortions for NI women

The payout could be higher as a result of studies of the impact of lower corporation tax and scrapping air passenger duty.  In its financial analysis the FT points out that Costs will be higher if the renewed commitment to allow Northern Ireland to set its own lower corporation tax rate and air passenger duty results in lost revenues to the UK exchequer. The DUP has confirmed to the Guardian that they will seek assurances that the block grant will … Read more

First questions about the DUP deal with the Conservatives

Handing over the money is not contingent on restoring the Executive – at least in print. but it is clearly intended  to put pressure on Sinn Fein. If there is no Executive what happens with the new £1 billion and even the already promised £500 million? A budget has to be passed next month by the Executive or by Westminster. The DUP has accepted that the British government will be impartial  according to GFA principles for the Stormont talks and … Read more

Do we want Westminster to impose uniform UK standards? On abortion and same sex marriage? How about an indemnity for soldiers?

 Social reform – on abortion and same sex marriage – is not only a bone of contention in the Stormont talks. It’s creating a clash with MPs across party at Westminster at a precarious time for the future of both legislatures. The Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal against the decision of the Health Secretary for England Jeremy Hunt not to allow Northern Ireland women to have free abortions on the NHS in England may now become entangled in Westminster’s … Read more

“The DUP deal is in danger”

As many suspected… Sam McBride in the Newsletter reflects unease at the delay as well as DUP surface optimism that a deal is still on course.  Ken Reid of UTV tweets that a deal this week is unlikely. The delay can hardly be only out of respect for the still unknown number of victims of the Grenfell tower fire, certainly as far as the government is concerned . Mrs May is visiting the tower  today as well as  meeting  five … Read more

How can May encourage the other parties to the Stormont talks without disclosing the DUP deal? ( new version)

So after a confusing day against a background of tragedy in which it was first reported that the DUP deal would be postponed until next week, Theresa May  is meeting the other  Assembly parties without them. Make  of that what you will. All of Westminster will be agog . The elephant will be in the room in non-corporeal form. May can hardly  afford  to answer question one, can she? Mrs O’Neill has already made it clear she will raise the issue … Read more

Fears of a side deal with the DUP on the peace agenda are exaggerated. It requires cross community consent

So the DUP confidence and supply deal with the minority government will be delayed out of respect for the victims of the horrific North Kensington fire.  Mark Devenport has a credible analysis of the state of play. This leaves out saying anything definite about legacy matters that so spooked the political class over here when someone showed them the DUP’s 2015 manifesto.   The Guardian’s Home editor Alan Travis first raised the hare. The 12-page route map sets out a list … Read more

Westminster’s voting system turns elections into a tactical guessing game

As voters go to the polls, we can be sure that tactical voting has the potential to play a decisive role in who gets elected. Recent research commissioned by the Electoral Reform Society in Britain suggests that one in five electors there will vote for a candidate or party best positioned to keep out someone they disliked. This is also a familiar feature of Northern Irish political life, with the truth being that in First Past the Post elections people … Read more

London View of #GE2017: Quick thoughts on the latest polls and manifestos…

The poll trends remain good for May and Labour. The Tory strategy to liquidise UKIP and neutralise the Lib Dems could hardly have gone better. They have an average 17 point lead over Labour in all the polls in May. The perception which has concreted is that they will not just win but do so by a landslide. That still seems the most likely outcome. However their colossal leads have precipitated two unexpected events; a bolder than expected Tory manifesto … Read more

“So let nobody speak of a progressive or anti-Brexit pact either…”

In Saturday’s Irish News, Newton Emerson with some impertinent points about electoral pacts in the forthcoming General Election on June 8.  From the Irish News Sinn Féin has ordered the SDLP to stand down, although sadly not to dump arms, in North Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Let nobody call this a nationalist pact, as that would involve reciprocation and Sinn Féin has not offered to stand down anywhere.  Sinn Féin’s stance is doubly impressive when it risks handing … Read more

Gordon Brown storms in with a “third option” for Scotland and the UK. The ideal compromise, or too much, too late?

  Churn over Theresa May’s flat refusal to allow Indy ref 2 continues unabated. The reality of identity politics is proving a lot more complicated than the dream. The big move today is Gordon Brown’s “third option” of a federalising UK  of which more in a moment. But first a verdict on yesterday. May was caught short by Sturgeon springing the referendum demand on her. Did  the prime minister  over-react in haste and did she have only herself to blame … Read more

Theresa May launches high stakes confrontation with Nicola Sturgeon

The pace of big politics is quickening in the run-up to  pulling the trigger of Art 50.  In advance of addressing the Scottish Conservatives today, Theresa May says “politics is not a game and the management of devolved public services in Scotland is too important to be neglected.” But it’s high risk, high stakes  poker that the  prime minister and the first minister are in fact now locking themselves into.   May is calling Nicola Sturgeon’s bluff over the first … Read more