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The crunch risks becoming a crisis...

by Frank Schnittger Sun Nov 26th, 2017 at 10:29:32 PM EST


Michael Collins in London during treaty negotiations in October 1921. Collins, the first and last Irish politician to sign up to a hard border. Photograph: Hulton Archive

I wrote last week that a Crunch time is coming soon... in the Brexit negotiations. Well that crunch time may just have become a whole lot crunchier. A domestic political scandal may cause the Irish Fine Gael minority government to lose a vote of confidence this week resulting in a snap general election as soon as Dec 19th., just after the crunch meeting of the European Council to decide whether the Brexit talks can move on to stage two.

Should a general election be called, Varadker will lose any flexibility he may have had in determining whether "sufficient progress" has been made in Phase one of the talks on the Irish/UK border to allow the Brexit talks move on to phase two. He might as well hand the reins of Government on to Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein if he doesn't hold the line on this issue.

Theresa May may be concerned about losing power if she losses the support of arch Brexiteers or Remainiers within her party, or indeed the support of the DUP, but Varadker's problems are much more acute: His Government is only sustained in office by Fianna Fail abstention and they can cut his lifeline at any time. Neither Fianna Fail nor Sinn Fein will tolerate any softening of the Government's line against a hard border, so an election cannot but result in a hardening of the Irish Government's opposition to UK government double speak on the issue.


The details of the domestic scandal need not concern us overly here. They concern an alleged attempt to smear a whistle blower within the Gardai (Irish police) in order to undermine his credibility before a judicial tribunal of enquiry into his allegations against the Gardai. It turns out that the then Minister for Justice was informed of "an aggressive legal strategy" to question the whistle blower's motivation and credibility before the enquiry one year before she said she was so informed.

However the same e-mail which informed her of this was couched in very ambiguous terms and said she had no function in the matter: It was a matter for the tribunal. So it is perhaps understandable that she forgot about an email which was for information only and not actionable by her. The same scandal has already brought about the resignation of the Head of the Police service, a previous minister for Justice, and led, indirectly, to the retirement of previous Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, from office, so the opposition scent blood.

But it is the political context that may be more important. With Gerry Adams' retirement from the leadership of Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein may have become a whole lot more electable in many people's eyes, threatening Fianna Fail's position as the main opposition party. This could be Fianna Fail leader, Micheál Martin's last chance of achieving office: He is the sole survivor of the disastrous Fianna Fail led government that led Ireland into the financial crisis and banking bail-out and is on his last political life as leader of the opposition.

However an election now could not come at a worse time for the country at a whole. Winter elections are rare in Ireland because darkness descends at 4.30 PM and leaves no time for daylight after work door to door canvassing by party activists which has been the mainstay of the electoral process in Ireland for generations. Householders may be reluctant to open their doors to canvassers they do not know after dark and in very adverse weather conditions.

In addition the Brexit negotiations are entering a crucial phase as far as Ireland is concerned, and Ministers should otherwise be engaged in a non-stop diplomatic offensive to ensure Ireland is not isolated or marginalised in the talks process. Whoever is deemed responsible for causing the election could face a considerable backlash from a disgruntled electorate worried about Brexit and unhappy at an election being called now.

Chris Johns, a Welshman who has worked most of his life in senior roles in financial services in England and Ireland and who is now living in Ireland has an interesting piece entitled Ignorance of Irish history means Brexit talks will not end well about British delusions about the EU in general, and Ireland in particular:

An awareness of Irish history - even a nodding acquaintance - would help British politicians appreciate what happened to Collins, the first and last Irish politician to sign up to a hard border. The idea that Leo Varadkar, or anybody else in this State, would under any circumstances sign up to another hard border displays so much ignorance, so much arrogance, so much stupidity that I am left wondering about all those stereotypes of my fellow Brits - stereotypes that I have wearily tried to reject and counter over the past 30 years.

Despite being perhaps the main war of Independence hero Michael Collins was shot and killed by anti-Treaty forces (the pre-cursors of Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail) in the ensuing civil war after signing a Treaty with the British that sanctioned the partition of Ireland...

But we should be clear: Relations between Dublin and London have not been so strained for years

The Spectator this week described mounting anger within the British government over Ireland's position, quoting one cabinet minister warning that Varadkar was "playing with fire".

And the BBC's political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, reported a conspiracy theory doing the rounds in Whitehall and Westminster. According to the theory, Ireland and the EU are over-egging their fears about the Border so they can use the issue later in the negotiations to Britain's disadvantage.

The analysis of Ireland's position may be misleading and the surprise unjustified, but the anger in London is real because the stakes are so high. If the EU does not agree to move to the second phase of negotiations next month, the consequences for May could be enormous.

"What the hell does your government think it's doing?" a former Conservative minister asked me this week. "Do they not know the pressure she'll come under to just walk away?"

And that is the delicate tight-rope walking act which the Irish government must perform: Ensure there is no return to a hard border between Ireland and N. Ireland, and at the same time avoid pushing the UK over the cliff of a no deal Brexit which will involve not only a hard border but economically disastrous swingeing tariffs on trade between Ireland and the UK.

But Irish political concerns are perhaps the opposite to those posited by Laura Kuenssberg above: The border is an existential issue for any Irish government and it is the UK who may be trying to use that issue as a means of weakening the EU's united negotiating position in phase two of the Brexit negotiations. There is no way the Canada style trade agreement the EU may be willing to offer the UK could prevent the emergence of a hard border between Ireland and N. Ireland and if the EU doesn't want to be blamed for causing that outcome, it had better put that issue to bed in phase 1 of the talks.

The deeper long term strategic concern is that should Brexit end up causing the return of a hard border there will be considerable pressure on future Irish governments to restore free movement across the border by joining the UK outside the EU. The not-so-secret hope and agenda of Brexiteers has always been to encourage the break-up of the EU by fomenting division within the EU and "pealing off" it's most peripheral members - in this case Ireland. Nigel Farage has been quite open in advocating "Irexit" as an almost inevitable precursor of the break-up of the EU as a whole.

So what may be an existential issue for any Irish government now could end up becoming an existential issue for the EU as a whole. Never before has it been more important for Ireland and the EU to stay united on resisting the re-imposition of a hard border in Ireland, come what may. And if this leads to an economically disastrous "no deal" Brexit, then so be it.

Display:
Chris Johns' article has a good summary of UK attitudes to the EU in general: Ignorance of Irish history means Brexit talks will not end well
It is to the discredit of the British government that they continue a baleful tradition of assuming things about foreigners that have few roots in fact. It's partly about history. The fiction that Britain joined an economic union in 1973 and was subsequently shocked by the discovery of a political heart beating at Europe's core is maintained in every discussion of Brexit. There is no awareness either of history or the deeply held continental view that politics comes first. It's not a belief in politics versus economics but more that unless the politics are right, prosperity is always under threat. The political primacy of ever-closer union has always been visible and readily apparent to anyone who has ever read the first chapter of any European history book.

Every British negotiator in the run-up to 1973 knew about Europe's politics. They were confronted with reality every time they met their counterparts at the negotiating table. And they were properly briefed by the British civil service. Many high-profile British politicians, including (Tory) prime minister Ted Heath and (Labour, ex-communist) chancellor Denis Healey had distinguished second World War records and experiences that meant they had views wholly aligned with Europe's federalists. But too many of them, aware of the visceral hostility to Europe running through many members of the two main political parties, played down the political truth and spoke only of the economics.



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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Nov 26th, 2017 at 10:46:41 PM EST
Is that really true?

http://www.richardcorbett.org.uk/we-were-never-hoodwinked/

One of the most frequently repeated lies about Europe is to say that, when we joined the EU, `we were told we were only joining a free-trade area' and `no-one told us that it was more than that'.

The eurosceptic strategy here is to try to undermine the national debate that took place in the 1960s and 1970s -- a debate which ended with a `Yes' vote for UK membership -- by pretending that the whole country was being hoodwinked at the time and people somehow didn't understand what they were voting for.
...
Most tellingly, the government of the day spelled out clearly that "if the political implications of joining Europe are at present clearest in the economic field, it is because the Community is primarily concerned with economic policy. But it is inevitable that the scope should broaden as member countries' interests become harmonised [...] What is proposed is a sharing and an enlargement of individual national sovereignties in the general interest".
...
The Daily Mail (leader, 4 June 1975) referred explicitly to the goal of "political union", saying that this was no "dark secret". It asked whether the anti-Europeans hadn't been listening "to the visionary words of European leaders for the past twenty-five years?":

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 03:36:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is certainly a trope I have frequently heard from non-politically engaged people who voted for Brexit... "we joined an economic community but it became a political union."

In vain I have tried to explain that the founding Treaty of Rome included the aspiration to "ever closer union" and that the EU can only do what it has specifically been given the powers to do by Treaties signed off by the UK Government.

This is one of the downsides of having a Parliament that is Sovereign. There isn't a lot of popular engagement with a lot of decisions made at Westminster.

And the ignorance at all levels of what the EU does and doesn't do is absolutely stunning. 40 years of poisonous Murdock media propaganda have absolutely stupefied an entire nation.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 05:26:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that really true?

I presume you mean "Is that really true we knew we were joining something much more than a 'common market'". I certainly did, and so did my friends of the time, for I asked them, last year.

I am 69. I voted in 1975 to remain in the EEC, which we finally joined in 1973, after being refused entry in the 1960's by de Gaulle and in 1971 by Pompidou (I believe) because the 'aim of the English was to wreck the political project'. [I paraphrase from Ted Heath's book - see below].

I was quite clear that I was voting to stay in something much more than a market, a political union, and I was happy to use the phrase "A United States of Europe" as Churchill had proposed in September 1946, (before my time!), though it is not stated in that speech if he thought the UK would be part of it and is perhaps clear that he thought the 'Empire' would be the UK focus longer than it was.

My other friends of the same era are also quite clear they were voting for (or against) a political union. Indeed a friend, who studied politics at University, in 1975 voted to come out, because it was more than a common market. She maintained her opposition when she read the Maastricht Treaty. Last year she voted "remain".

I have in front of me Edward Heath's autobiography. While it is sometime since I have read it, he makes it clear that in the mid 1970's the hope was that Political and Monetary Union would be achieved by the early 1980's.

I have a simple question to those who say "only a Common Market" -

"How did you interpret the phrase 'an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe'"? A recent response was "I have never heard of that" to which my follow up is "It is the first Statement in the 1958 Treaty of Rome and [I believe] has been in every treaty since in a similar form"

[The six Heads of State named above] "determined to lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe" Treaty of Rome - 25 March 1957

This does not mean that there was not fierce opposition in UK Parliament to the terms of entry and the "loss of sovereignty". I am no expert at searching Hansard, but   a Commons debate of 05 July 1972, at a quick read, contains many of the same arguments of the last forty-five years. Like all Commons debates, it is hard going for the casual reader but much of it could have been quoted anytime in the last two years with slightly modified accents.

Richard Corbett is right and his news paper quotes are very telling. Those who "were hoodwinked" did no basic reading at the time or are suffering from very convenient selective memory.

by oldremainmer48 on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 06:10:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can I suggest that you and your friends aren't typical of the average Brexit voter very few of whom will have ever heard of the Treaty of Rome, never mind read it?

As you say, those who opposed British entry into "the Common Market" did so because of it's political dimensions and the vast majority of those who voted to remain in 1975 didn't care enough either way.  The politics was the price to be paid for the economic advantages of entry.

But Brexiteers need to tell a story about why it is right for the UK to turn its back on 45 years of reasonable economic progress (compared to the late 1960's and early 1970's) and so the story is that those nasty underhand Europeans turned their Common Market - which is all the UK ever wanted - into a political union.

The enlargement into eastern Europe was championed by the UK - partly as a way of driving a wedge between Russia and it's former client states, and partly to  dilute the drive towards further political integration and make the EU almost ungovernable.

The UK also championed the Single Market which maintained the emphasis on economics. Between the rebate, opt-outs, and avoidance of the Euro the UK has been quite successful in thwarting further integration to date.

English even replaced French as the main working language, so it can be argued that the UK was quite successful in shaping the EU on its terms.

In retrospect in turns out that De Gaulle and Pompidou (and Yes Prime Minister) were right, the UK joined to prevent the EU becoming too effective. Brexit is ultimately an admission of failure in that endeavour.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 29th, 2017 at 08:09:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 29th, 2017 at 09:39:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for that poignant reminder Frank, Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn always were too close to the truth, so much so that Thatcher was reported to be a great fan.

I did think that the English push for expansion to 28 on mostly market grounds was an attempt to make the structure unstable. It is an achievement that it has been as cohesive as it has been.

But now that it takes the unanimity of 27 V 1 rather than 9:1 or 15:1 or 19:1 makes the next months (days?) even more 'interesting'.

by oldremainmer48 on Mon Dec 4th, 2017 at 09:32:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be ironic if the UK failed to get a good Brexit deal because of the difficulty of achieving a consensus (=unanimity) amongst 27 other nations when that was the main reason for the UK championing EU expansion...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 4th, 2017 at 03:49:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Looks more likely they'll fail to get a deal because of the difficulty of achieving consensus among the 340 nations of the UK.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 4th, 2017 at 05:09:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 4th, 2017 at 07:34:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 29th, 2017 at 09:41:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But isn't the hard border inevitable given that the UK wants out of the CU/SM? Can border arrangements even be discussed if future relations are unclear? Is this all about who gets blamed later on? Unless the UK economy goes into a serious nosedive next year or something else breaks up the government the simple EEA option is out. Do they hope to force the UK into some kind of 'imaginative' third option that is a CU all but in name, at least for the North?

"Do they not know the pressure she'll come under to just walk away?" - That could be what the UK needs, a serious reality check caused by 'walking away'. But in all probability it's just going to inflame a siege mentality - Churchill's scions against the evil empire and blablabla.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Sun Nov 26th, 2017 at 11:18:58 PM EST
The official Irish position is that the UK has promised no return to a hard border without specifying how this will be achieved. The Irish government wants clarity on how this will be achieved before moving on to phase 2 of the Brexit talks.

In practice this can only be achieved by N. Ireland remaining within the CU/SM, or having some extrenal relationship with it, something which is viscerally opposed by the DUP as it would mean customs controls "in the Irish Sea" between N. Ireland and the rest of the UK.

But it is up to the UK to come up with this solution, as the Irish government will be accused of using the Brexit talks to promote a pathway to a united Ireland if it advocates this directly.

The basic problem is that the DUP is advocating for Brexit despite the people of N. Ireland voting against Brexit by 56/44% and the Tory government is dependent on the DUP for its survival.

But Varadker is even more dependent on Fianna Fail support for his survival, so he has even less wriggle room. Something has got to give...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 12:08:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stalemate or Stagnation? Poll of Polls:

For [Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein] these three parties then there is little enough in either this poll, or in other recent polling, to suggest that an election would make much difference to the composition of the Dáil.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Nov 26th, 2017 at 11:33:08 PM EST
Gerry Adams' retirement could be a game changer as this makes Sinn Fein more acceptable to a wider range of voters many of which would otherwise have voted for Fianna Fail. Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are thus in direct competition for votes.

However if Fianna Fail are perceived to have precipitated an unnecessary general election at a most difficult time they could be the big loser in all of this.

Up until now opinion polls have indicated little change in voting patterns which in itself could pose a problem as it was extremely difficult to form a government last time out, and Fianna Fail are most unlikely to abstain on the formation of a minority Fine Gael government again.

There could be many months of political paralysis if an election results in a similar election again - resulting in a very weak Fine Gael government becoming an even weaker caretaker one.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 12:15:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The arrogant ignorant incompetence of the May government in one quote.

"What the hell does your government think it's doing?" a former Conservative minister asked me this week. "Do they not know the pressure she'll come under to just walk away?"

488 days until Brexit and the monkeys are still running the banana plantation.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Nov 26th, 2017 at 11:53:12 PM EST
UK politicians missed Irish message on Border, Brexit negotiator says
"If I were frank, I would say that maybe British politicians haven't necessarily been as careful in listening to these messages as they should have been," said Mr Montgomery, whose official title is second secretary general at the department with responsibility for official-level co-ordination on Brexit talks.


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 12:20:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the Government is innocent why is it acting so guilty?
The weirdness of this political crisis is that so far it is all cover-up and no crime

To grasp the sheer weirdness of the current political crisis, it is best to recall an experience that most parents have had at some stage. You walk into a room and your five-year-old looks up at you with a panicked expression: "It wasn't me! I didn't do it!"

But you can't see any obvious damage, any evidence of a childish crime. And however hard you press, all the kid will say is "It wasn't me! I didn't do it."

The Government is protesting its innocence but acting guilty - and it's not at all clear precisely what it is guilty of. It is a bizarre way to cause a general election that nobody really wants.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 01:09:45 AM EST
Thank you Frank for the insight. Fortunate of ET to have around at this particular moment.

The UK judges ill if it believes us naive enough to fall for their empty promises. They also should stop with the argument about a trade deal being a pre-requisite for an agreement on the border. It works precisely the other away around: only after a new judicial and regulatory framework is settled can a trade deal be negotiated.

My hope is to see the Council not only standing united with Ireland, but also preparing a programme to soften the impact on Ireland's economy and social fabric.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 08:41:06 AM EST
My hope is to see the Council not only standing united with Ireland, but also preparing a programme to soften the impact on Ireland's economy and social fabric.

If the Border issue isn't clarified now, the EU negotiating position for phase 2 - to offer a Canada style Free trade Agreement - will be undermined as it doesn't even address the border issue.

The UK's insistence that the issue will be addressed in phase 2 is essentially, therefore, a rejection of the EU's offer of a Canada style deal and an insistence that the UK will receive a deal offering CU/SM type benefits without the constraints on immigration and negotiating third part FTAs that direct membership of the CU/SM would entail.

The UK thus hopes to use the Irish border issue to torpedo the EU offer of a Canada style deal only and split EU27 negotiating unity.

As for "also preparing a programme to soften the impact on Ireland's economy and social fabric" - if only! We are a long way from working through the implications of a hard Brexit for Ireland, but the early analysis is not promising. 14% of our external trade is with the UK, and most of it is in agrifood which attracts the highest WTO tariffs. Thus not only do we have the highest dependency on UK trade, but it attracts the highest average tariff (c. 18%) of any EU member and is also the most rural based and labour intensive. We provide 5% of the UK's imports, but we would be charged close to 20% of the total EU tariff in a WTO scenario. (Germany, on the other hand, would be liable for just under 18% of the tariff owed to the UK, despite accounting for over 28% of the trade flows.)

When added to the impact of Sterling devaluation, it basically means our exporters to the UK will have to find other markets for their goods.

However we are also one of the few countries the UK has a trade surplus with, so the impact on the UK will also not be insubstantial.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 10:44:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree. That EU negotiators have not publicized planning for this scenario does not mean the EU has not planned for this scenario. I have assumed it has.

I read EU account assessment of IE-NI, IE-UK trade this summer. I suspect IE-NI economic dependencies asserted by third-parties are over-stated in order to deflect attention (of political junkies) from NI and IE economic dependencies on UK. The bigger value wedge remains finance and IPR income. Likewise ginning up belated colonial discord --FG v FF, IRA v UK, USA v Mexico [?!]-- the fortnight before EU deadline for UK to settle the bill. In any case, the EU is capable of ring-fencing whatever goods come out of UK with existing customs surveillance. Continental ports haven't moved. It needn't be pretty at first to be effective in segregating by point of origin and previously vetted imp/exp carriers doing business at ports only in the Republic.

Let's not forget. NI gov insists that it's UK. The hostages don't give a damn either way, purportedly. Then UK gov is what they'll have. Without "land" borders, which is what everyone has claimed actually, to impede the the free movement of people within the isle smuggling amongst themselves.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 09:25:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Independent | Brexit: Liam Fox says no deal on Irish border until the end of trade negotiations with the EU

No deal can be secured on the Irish border after Brexit until trade negotiations are settled with the EU, Liam Fox has said.

The International Trade Secretary raised further uncertainty over Northern Ireland as rows over a potential hard border threaten to derail Brexit talks.

Ireland's EU Commissioner Phil Hogan was the latest voice from Dublin to call for the UK to remain in the customs union and single market - or allow Northern Ireland to do so - as the Republic has threatened to veto moves to trade negotiations without further reassurances there will not be a hard border.



You might find me At The Edge Of Time.
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 10:26:40 AM EST
His whole article in the Guardian is worth reading in full, but here's a snippet:The hard-won kinship between Britain and Ireland is threatened by Brexit idiocy
When people are screwing up, they tend to take their rage and frustration out on their nearest and dearest. If, as seems increasingly likely, the European Union summit on 15 December does not give the go-ahead for talks on a post-Brexit trade deal, we already know who's going to get the blame.

It will be all Ireland's fault. The Sun this month gave the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, fair warning, advising him to "shut your gob and grow up" and stop "disrespecting 17.4 million voters of a country whose billions stopped Ireland going bust as recently as 2010". Boris Johnson, in Dublin, delivered a slightly more diplomatic version of the same message. The Irish should stop worrying about a hard border being reimposed on their island, trust all the lovely reassurances they have received from the British government and make the necessary declaration that "sufficient progress" has been made on the issue for substantive talks to go ahead.

This is probably not going to happen. Ireland may well be plunged into calling a snap general election this week, which in itself will make any major shift in its approach to the Brexit talks before 15 December even less likely. No possible outcome of that election will weaken Irish insistence on the imperative of avoiding a hard frontier and the need for the British to come up with actual proposals about how this is to be done.

---<snip>---

To grasp the full stupidity of this situation, remember that Ireland is actually Britain's best friend on the other side of the negotiating table. This is partly because, before the Brexit referendum, Anglo-Irish relations were warmer than at any time in the long and often bitter history of mutual entanglement. The two governments worked hand in glove on the Northern Ireland peace process and developed a genuine trust. They also co-operated very closely within the European Union. But even leaving friendship aside, Ireland has an overwhelming interest in making Brexit as painless as it possibly can be. A bad Brexit will destabilise Northern Ireland and damage the Republic's economy, in which most small and medium-size companies depend heavily on the British market.

It is thus quite a feat for the Brexiters to turn their most sympathetic ally into the scapegoat for their own most egregious failures. They've pulled it off by utilising their most remarkable skill: sheer incompetence. They have known since 29 April, when the European commission issued its negotiating guidelines, that credible proposals on the Irish border were a basic condition that had to be satisfied before trade talks could start. This could not have been more explicit.

And in case the UK get's any idea that Varadker is their problem, the current Fine Gael government is actually the least nationalistic and most pro-business and free trade party on the electoral menu. A Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein coalition, about the only other likely alternative, would be a whole lot more hard line on the issue.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 11:37:59 AM EST
In this context, it should also be noted that the DUP and Sinn Fein are mortal enemies in N. Ireland, barely 1,000 votes apart at the last Legislative Assembly elections, on opposites sides of the Brexit referendum which the DUP lost badly in N. Ireland, and now thoroughly unable to agree on the creation of a new devolved administration within N. Ireland. The Tory government dependence on DUP support in Westminster could shortly be complemented by Fianna Fail dependence on Sinn Fein support to form a government in Ireland...

If that happens, N. Ireland's constitutional position within the UK could come into play and act as the ultimate barrier to any Brexit deal. The DUP's perversity, intransigence, and sheer stupidity will have achieved it's ultimate reward - to bring about the very thing they most despise. And all because they couldn't accept a democratic vote by the people of N. Ireland in the Brexit referendum.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 11:47:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Channelling Trump that Mexico would have to pay for the border wall, Labour's Kate Hoey says Ireland would have to pay for any border infrastructure and that, in any case, Ireland will soon be looking to join the UK outside the EU.

MP says Ireland would have to pay for hard border without Brexit deal

She said: "A lot of the technology, at the Swiss border and in Norway, is done actually away from the border -- and of course the prime minister has said that she doesn't want cameras at the border.

"There are ways of doing this... why don't the Irish government actually become more positive about this and start looking at solutions with their closest neighbour and closest partner? After all, we are a friend of the Republic of Ireland, the relations have never been as good.

"And yet on this issue it seems like they are more concerned to keep the rest of the EU satisfied than actually looking at concrete positive proposals."

Ms Hoey also claimed Ireland would look to quit the EU once it saw Britain making a success of Brexit.

"We joined the EU together, you joined when we joined, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we leave and when we're very successful that you don't start looking as well," she said.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 12:10:38 PM EST
Oh sure, I can totally see that the UK is going to be so incredibly successful that people will be rushing to emulate them.
Right.

Anytime.

They'll need to improve quite a bit before they graduate to merely "delusional".

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 01:53:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brexiteers are by and large utterly convinced that Brexit will free the UK from the dead hand of Brussels bureaucracy and enable an explosion of innovation and creative energy leading to unprecedented economic growth... just like before the UK joined in 1973... er or maybe during the heyday of the British empire...?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 05:42:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The crunch could become deafeningly loud in January or February. If, as seems very likely, there is no progress in December, parts of the Tory Party will spontaneously combust. If the cry of "walk away" becomes more strident, waiting quietly in the wings are the Japanese companies operating in Britain, whose requirements for the Brexit process were summarised in a Japanese Government document of 05/09/2016. To paraphrase -

Page 2

We fully respect the will of the British People as demonstrated in the referendum, ....  

Pages 4-15

Our requirements for continuing to operate and invest in the UK are .... [nothing changes in respect of market access, tariffs and workers]

If manufacturing <cars> being to announce contingency plans for action before March 2019, we shall be "living in very interesting times". It is not only Financial Services that will be leaving.

It could get really ugly.

by oldremainmer48 on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 07:45:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On top of that, negotiations on the EU-Japan free trade agreement are moving forward. If we have a hard Brexit and the EU-Japan FTA introduces reduced or zero tariffs on cars made in Japan, there will be no reason for Nissan or Toyota or Honda to keep their UK factories open.
by Gag Halfrunt on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 11:52:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With friends like these...

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 07:48:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even by the lamentable standards of many Leave MPs, Hoey seems spectacularly dense and unable to grasp even the simplest of detail about the brexit process.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 09:50:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Amazing how the Sinn Fein is approaching this issue, a rare bout of lucidity in a toxic environment of dellusion. Understanding that the Good Friday Agreement is more important than the united Ireland agenda. If only the Scots had been half cunning.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 08:34:04 PM EST
I have advocated the "Greenland in reverse" strategy since day one and am heartened that at least one political party has explicitly endorsed it. I would not normally support Sinn Fein but they are absolute correct in their approach to this.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 09:38:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If there was any chance that common sense and reasonableness would have any impact on the politics of brexit generally and ulster specifically, I'd like to have seen just the smallest evidence of it up until now.

However, the biggest isssue of the Tory party is that they STILL don't know what sort of brexit they want or even what the final arrangement is going to look like. So they are locked in a tight little ring amongst themselves arguing out their own idiotic position and quite unable to devote any attention to any johnny foreigner coming along and trying to elbow a little fact into the conversation.

It's no wonder the EU are perplexed by the lack of preparation or detail in evidence from the submissions so far, we have no idea what we want and no way to ask for it. They talk about walking away from negotiations and having "no deal" as if they even know what that implies, which they so obviously don't else they wouldn't talk about it so glibly.

Then you add into that the DUP, a party of drooling maniacs who make the Roy Moore/Ted Cruz fringe of the GOP seem positively sane and accomodating. Yet these are the people who hold the balance of power in the House of Commons.

You want sense out of these kooks??? Do. Not. Hold. Your. Breath.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 10:06:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the Tories are quite clear what they want. They want out of the EU, CU and SM and the freedom to control immigration, do their own regulation and foreign policy ("take back control") and negotiate their own trade deals with third parties.  That way the UK will be able to undercut the EU with cheaper goods from the third world and attract more investment due to much lighter touch regulation.

At the same time they want to retain all the benefits of the CU and SM in a bespoke deal unique to the UK because they are so much more important than Canada, Norway or Switzerland.  That is why they want to discuss the Irish border in the context of the trade negotiations, because if they retain access to the SM and CU on more or less the same basis as before, there won't be a problem.

It is only the stubbornness of the EU which is preventing all of this. Free trade is good for everyone and only those socialist bureaucrats in Brussels are preventing it happening because they won't be able to control the process any more. But Britain will win out because Britain always does. So get out there, enjoy the royal wedding (the continentals don't have REAL royalty), wave the flag and be POSITIVE!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 11:39:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that more or less sums up the position of the brexit fantasists. It's is oviously the guiding assumption of Davis, Fox, Redwood and Johnston.

However, that's why I say the Tory party don't know what they want, cos there are substantial portions of the Tory party and business community who really get that this is impossible and are, evidently, making huge rperesentations behind the scenes to get that message through to ..someone....anyone.

They're who the Mail is lashing out at. Dacre (editor) doesn't give a rat's arse about what Corbyn or the general public think. But the realists in the Tory party really risk the fantasy brexit of his fetid foul-mouthed dreams.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 08:02:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep. We all see that DUP won't move to affirm. UK gov won't move to affirm. Even if NI "shared gov" falls to default (Where is THAT snap election?); even then UK gov won't assert responsibility, certainly not to dare deployment to NI. It's too cheap. So.

That leaves EU continental to assert responsibility for choking UK, while desuetude will rule NI-IE "customs".

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Nov 27th, 2017 at 11:48:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not normally prone to quoting sources such as the Canary or Skwawkbox but I think this probably nails another issue facing the UK Govt; May is paralysed by indecision, trying to second guess the reaction of the various factions to any position she might advocate.

Skwawkbox - "Theresa's terrified" to discuss trade deal `end state', paralysed over Green

So chaotic and divided is the government over its attempts to reach a deal that May daren't even say what she thinks the `end state' might be, in case it triggers a deeper split and one faction challenging her position.

That's assuming, of course, that she even has a view, which is debatable.
[....]
In other words, she's frozen by indecision.



keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 09:07:48 AM EST
A pro-brexit website sums up progress so far. If it weren't so real, it would be hysterical

Reaction - Walter Ellis - What a complete cock-up the Tories have made of Brexit

When the definitive Book of Brexit comes to be written, one feature above all will stand out - the gulf between what Britain thought was likely to happen and the reality of what actually occurred.

At every stage, from the triggering of Article 50, through to the build-up to next month's EU summit and (unless something remarkable happens) all the way to March 29, 2019, the British government has been shocked and surprised by the refusal of the 27 and their top team to compromise on their stated positions.

The conclusion has to be that the Government honestly believed that the two sides to the negotiation were partners, not opponents. They may even have calculated that in some bizarre fashion Britain had the upper hand. Theresa May and David Davis, backed by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, thought that a quick, no-fault divorce, followed by a frictionless trade deal, would be done and dusted within a year, leaving the UK - in the Prime Minister's words - to enjoy a "deep and special partnership" with Europe.

Well, good luck with that.

The naivety and sheer fecklessness of the Tories has been extraordinary.

What were we told would happen?.......



keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 11:00:22 AM EST
The conclusion has to be that the Government honestly believed that the two sides to the negotiation were partners, not opponents.

UK Gov honestly believed that EU were talking as much bullshit about their position as the UK were about theirs and were surprised to find that the EU were taking the whole thing seriously and applying a principles based approach to the whole thing - as they had to. I believe the EU was honestly open to undertaking win-win style negotiations - still are - but the UK insist on lose-lose conditions because their government is utterly dysfunctional.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 12:07:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I still think that the EU side will turn into a mess if the UK ever manages to formulate a coherent position. Once political decisions and possible compromises have to be made and a broader range of actors on the EU side get involved in the process things will get messy. That is not a good thing for the UK of course. it's a game of chicken between a rowboat and an oil tanker and we don't know for a fact that the oil tanker could turn.
by generic on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 02:56:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A broad range of actors on the EU side are involved. EP put the breaks on Phase II. The Clowncil has fielded many "peripheral" emissaries and arranged "neutral" venues for sideline positions over the past year. This last "leaked" assessment is like a capstone to the story of EU27 solidarity that Tusk, you will recall, announced from the start.

That story is one that EU "negotiating workgroup" has pushed since receiving the A50. The impression that EU27 has NOT broke ranks -- to squabble over post-BREXIT loot-- is the contrast that flushes moral panic into UK press: Gov and parliamentary in "chaos"!

Prospecting the loot is what binds them after all. And post-BREXIT differences of opinion between EU27 will merely subside into the deep blue current of "EU REFORMS". Any day now.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 03:53:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of actors are involved but once it comes to the first extension of talks every tin pot president can blow the whole process up. Spain for example might go for Gibraltar if blowing up Catalonia does not provide sufficient nationalist frenzy to stop all that talk about corruption scandals.
by generic on Wed Nov 29th, 2017 at 07:58:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It now appears there were several emails advising the former Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, of the "aggressive legal strategy" pursued against the Whistle blower, Sgt. Maurice McCabe, before the Tribunal of inquiry. This rather undermines her case that she simply forgot about the one email that had previously come to light and means that she misled the Dail when she said that she did not learn of this strategy until last year - long after the event.

It is difficult to see how she can now avoid having to resign or being asked to resign by the Taoiseach thus defusing the immediate political crisis. Her argument that it would have been improper to have interfered in the internal working of the tribunal may hold some water, but given that she had political responsibility for the Gardai, and thus for the legal strategy they pursued, that defence is wearing somewhat thin.

But her main offence will have been to have mislead the Dail in claiming to have learned of the "aggressive legal strategy" (aka smear tactics) one year later than she actually did. At a purely human level those tactics were despicable - using trumped up allegations of child abuse known to be false to try to discredit a whistle blower before the tribunal. The public's patience with a litany of scandals effecting the Gardai is wearing more than a little thin, and any association with those scandals is politically toxic, and rightly so.

So she has to go, and the government will survive for now. But whether it will have done permanent damage to Fine Gael's and Varadker's standing remains to be seen. The main popular response right now appears to be relief that a Christmas election will have been avoided. But this government is living on borrowed time. And the pressure on Varadker to take a hard line on the border at the December summit on Brexit will only grow.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 11:05:11 AM EST
And she's gone. No election until March, I think.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 12:11:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Help me to understand why this event (more police corruption) amassed enough momentum to force pm election.

Latent FG retaliation for Kenny's loss? The whole of FF financing Irish hind of the PIIG?  

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Tue Nov 28th, 2017 at 04:02:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FF are just waiting for the best time to take down the government in order to gain electoral advantage. It's not more complicated than that. TDs were delighted at the prospect of an election - that's the fun bit for them.

All this actually doing politics is a pain in the bum, it's the joy of the hunt they live for.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 29th, 2017 at 10:50:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Although I think they were told in no uncertain terms, when they went home over the weekend, that the public didn't want a Christmas election.

Other than that, they are happy for Varadker to take the heat over Brexit. One false step there, and he is history. With the other big issue, the exit payment more or less settled, it is the Irish border question which now moves centre stage and is the potential deal breaker.

And career breaker.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 29th, 2017 at 01:16:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So what are the odds everyone (Eire, UK, EU) end up looking at this as an existential issue, that there is no resolution that does not leave everyone's blood on the tracks?  Does the EU give the UK a chance to walk Brexit back and hold it open long enough for it to fracture the Tories from internal pressure?
by rifek on Thu Nov 30th, 2017 at 03:50:52 PM EST
I don't know where this talk of Brexit being walked back is coming from. Both the Tories and labour are committed to Brexit although Labour has indicated it might be prepared to stay in the single market and Custom's Union. But the chances of Brexit itself being walked back - regardless of how awful the negotiating process and outcome becomes is almost zero in my view. The UK will double down on Brexit even in a no deal scenario. Cussedness and pride are national characteristics!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 30th, 2017 at 09:00:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm just wondering if the EU might throw it on the table at some point in an effort to minimize damage to itself as a whole, members such as Ireland, and third parties such as Iceland.  And I think if it did, it would be like stuffing a live grenade in the Tories' undies.
by rifek on Fri Dec 1st, 2017 at 02:56:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU have been quite clear from day one that they regard Brexit as a most unfortunate event, that any negotiations are about damage limitation at best, and that the UK would be welcome to withdraw it's A50 notification at any time - provided that wasn't just some sort of tactical ruse and represented a sincere change of heart.

The only way I could see it happening is if the Tories lost a general election prior to March 2019 and if the incoming government were dependent on the Lib Dems who demanded a second referendum on the terms of Brexit as the price of their support. Even then, there would have to be a change of heart amongst that part of the UK electorate actually motivated enough to vote, as opinion polls don't show any major swing either way to date.

It is an unlikely but not impossible scenario. So far the Brexiteers still seem to hold the whip hand. Ironically, the Irish government may hold the key. If they hang tough enough on the Border issue to force the UK government to break with the DUP, they could precipitate a general election. The UK government may have to choose with progressing the Brexit talks and almost certainly losing the general election, or hanging tough and stalling the talks. My money is still (just) on the latter, and a lot of other things would have to happen if Brexit were to be actually reversed.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 1st, 2017 at 09:20:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm thinking the EU ought to get less passive about the fact the option is on the table, though.  For political purposes they can characterize it as inflicting some well-deserved pain on the Tories by stirring the party pot, but in reality it is the only way to avoid more damage to both the EU in general and Ireland in particular.  Have you seen this article at VoxEU?
by rifek on Sat Dec 2nd, 2017 at 12:24:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting. It puts some numbers on what I have been saying from day one: the impact of Brexit on transnational intra-company supply chains.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 2nd, 2017 at 08:48:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If there was substantial change in the public view of brexit, then I'm sure that they'd be re-considering.

But you'd need things to go from 48-52 (where they more or less are) to 60-40 before they'd even raise an eyebrow. But at 70-30 Westminster would probably start to revisit the decision. But that's a colossal swing that is unimaginable in the next two years.

I imagine there will be a lot of buyer's remorse once the economy collapses in the aftermath of brexit, but I can't see it happening till after.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 1st, 2017 at 06:08:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And even if the economy craters, the fault would not be the Brexiteers but those evil Europeans trying to punish the UK and discriminating against the UK because they can't compete on a level playing field. Those who point out that the UK had a privileged position when it was a member of the EU and is now only feeling the effects of the loss of those privileges will be drowned out by the beat of the nationalist drum.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 1st, 2017 at 07:36:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that the tabloids will push that line, but I suspect that the fault line on brexit runs right through the tory party and so the truth will be presented as well.

The True believers will still believe, but they are only probably as numerous as the Trumpistas, perhaps 25 - 30% of the electorate.

the rest, not so much

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 1st, 2017 at 08:09:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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