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Those dreary Steeples, again.

by Frank Schnittger Thu Dec 21st, 2017 at 10:44:17 PM EST

As Brexit rapidly recedes from the front pages of European newspapers I imagine that problems specific to N. Ireland will induce an even greater yawn in everyone outside Ireland and nerdy political and diplomatic circles.  Never mind that problems specific to the Irish border have already effectively meant that the UK has had to concede continued regulatory alignment with the rules of the Single Market and Customs Union post Brexit in phase 1 of the Brexit talks. This in turn rules out the Canada plus, plus, plus option and means the UK will effectively remain within the European Economic Area, whether it realises or not.


Phase 2 talks will now focus on how this can be dressed up as some sort of "bespoke" deal different in name, but not in kind, to continued membership of the Customs Union and Single Market. It never made sense for the UK to leave its largest and closest market behind. The Plus, plus, plus, part will relate to improved market access for financial services, aviation, and radiological products in return perhaps for continued cooperation on fishing quotas and environmental matters. This is the sort of 'horse trading' the EU has always been good at.

Many will, of course argue, that this sort of a "soft" Brexit isn't very much of a Brexit at all: but here the very vagueness of the referendum wording will come to May's aid. The UK will have, formally, left the EU and its aspirations to ever greater political union, and even Brexiteers spoke of the need for continued access to the single market. Net immigration is coming down in any case, and there is nothing to prevent the UK introducing some kind of immigrant registration system which can give the appearance of greater control. The UK might even be allowed to negotiate its own trade deals with countries not on the EU's own priority list for new FTAs provided that the same benefits will also be applied to the EU on a 'most favoured nation' trading basis.

Even the vexed question of ECJ jurisdiction can be finessed by setting up a joint arbitration court as contained in the Canada FTA, provided it does not apply to EU citizens or products and services within the EU. The UK government can present itself as operating as "an equal partner" to the EU even if everyone knows the reality will be that the UK will have to "align" with single market rules and regulations without having a more than consultative role in their amendment and promulgation. Diplomatic wording can smooth over many anomalies.

But the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland and Ireland refuses to leave the front page, in Ireland at least. DUP politicians have been quick to accuse Varadker and Coveney of being "insensitive", inexperienced, and even "aggressive" in their assertion that there can be no return to a hard border in Ireland and that it is up to the UK to come up with a solution to ensure that that is the case. Accusing Coveney of being "aggressive" is reminiscent of Denis Healey's comment that being criticised by (then UK Foreign Secretary) Geoffrey Howe was like "being savaged by a dead sheep".

It is hard to imagine a less aggressive person. All Coveney is doing is articulating a mainstream view that the Good Friday agreement must be protected from the impact of Brexit. To this end he has been putting pressure on both the DUP and Sinn Fein to reconstitute the N. Ireland Executive after a year of paralysis since the last Assembly elections. The negotiating atmosphere in the North has been soured by first, the "Cash for Ash scandal", then by a series of perceived slights against the nationalist community by the DUP, and then by the already poisonous impact of Brexit.

The latest unionist commentator to weigh into the controversy is Irish Times columnist Newton Emerson:

A likelier explanation for the Government's behaviour is that it is thinking only of Brexit - Coveney linked Brexit to Stormont in his RTÉ interview.

If there is no Northern Executive in place to manage regulatory alignment, Dublin has an obvious and urgent interest in stepping into that role. Most trade and Border issues are not devolved, and hence are within British Irish Inter-governmental Conference's [BIIGC - One of the three core institutions of the Good Friday Agreement] remit.

It is a pity this approach seems to have been decided without any recourse to London - Dublin's summit plan is a unilateral demand, in breach of protocol and precedent. Varadkar informed the Dáil he had issued it to UK prime minister Theresa May in person during a particularly fraught stage of the Brexit Border negotiations.

More dangerous is the casual disregard for how this plays within Northern Ireland.

By hammering a bizarre interpretation of the Belfast Agreement into its needs of the moment, the Government risks dealing Stormont a fatal blow.

Accusing the Irish government of a lack of consultation with the UK government is a bit rich given the Irish Government had been trying for many months to persuade the UK government to take Irish border issues seriously. Did May consult Varadker before deciding to leave the Single Market and Customs Union as well as the EU? But the biggest problem is Unionism's wilful denial that Brexit isn't a direct attack on the Good Friday Agreement itself. I was moved to respond (in the comments):

Good article and good comments. Whatever Newton might say, the BIIGC will do what the two governments want it to do, and that, in the current context, means dealing with the fall-out from Brexit and the failure of the two main parties in the North to form a devolved Executive. And while much has been made of a new "assertive" or "insensitive" (take your pick) attitude on the part of the Irish government, the fact is that it is Brexit which has changed the ground rules fundamentally.

In insisting that N. Ireland should also leave the EU, Customs Union and Single market, the DUP is not only ignoring the wishes of a large majority of the people of Northern Ireland, it is placing a large bomb under community relationships within the North and under North South relations. There is no way that such a hard Brexit will not pull N. Ireland further out of the EU's and Ireland's ambit, and unionist claims to the contrary are disingenuous.

All this guff about wanting "a deep and special relationship" is but PR speak to cover up the fact that this is precisely what Brexit is intent on sundering - and, in the N. Ireland context, this means undermining the GFA. Much has been made of the alleged insensitivity of Varadker/Coveney towards unionists, but the reality is that they are only trying to mitigate the worst effects of what has been a giant f*ck you by the DUP and Conservatives to Ireland and the EU.

They will find that neither Ireland nor the EU will take this lying down, and their bleatings now are as nothing to what they will feel when the harsh realities of what Brexit will mean are made clear: A further marginalisation of N. Ireland as the poorest and most neglected part of the UK, and a further divergence in the growth and relative wealth of the south relative to the North.

Much of of the anger of the DUP and unionist commentators is the result of a bewilderment that the Irish government is being so much more assertive, and not too concerned at "how this will play in the North". This is the practical effect of The changing balance of power I have noted previously. Unionists are used to lording it over all in N. Ireland without the slightest concern as to how their comments will play with the Nationalist community in the North, never mind in the Republic of Ireland.

Varadker and Coveney are sending Sinn Fein and N. Ireland unionists a very clear message: restore the devolved institutions of the GFA in N. Ireland or both of them will be taken out of the picture by direct action by the British and Irish Governments. The DUP may think it has the whip hand over the Conservative UK government, but that cuts very little ice in Dublin these days. For the British government, this is tiresome in the extreme, reminiscent of Winston Churchill's great rhetorical evocation of "the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone" emerging from the deluge of the Great War with "the integrity of their quarrel" unaffected by the cataclysms of Europe.

If the First World War wasn't sufficient to resolve the Border question once and for all, it is doubtful that Brexit will, and the DUP have only themselves to blame for placing the border at the centre of controversy once again. Using Brexit to undermine the Good Friday agreement was being too clever by half, and threatens their continued hegemony in N. Ireland, Tory alliance or no.

Display:
Dear Sir,

Your columnist, Newton Emerson is the latest in a long line of unionist politicians and commentators accusing the Irish government of insensitivity towards northern unionists and of threatening the DUP with a form of joint authority if the devolved Executive isn't restored in line with the Good Friday Agreement.

However calling for a meeting of the British Irish inter-governmental conference is not the same as threatening Joint Authority, and merely brings another strand of the Good Friday Agreement into play. The BIIGC has not, as Newton writes, rendered itself redundant by fixing previous problems holding up the formation of an Executive.

Whatever Newton might say, the BIIGC will do what the two governments want it to do, and that, in the current context, means dealing with the fall-out from Brexit and the failure of the two main parties in the North to form a devolved Executive.

And while much has been made of a new "assertive" or "insensitive" (take your pick) attitude on the part of the Irish government, the fact is that it is Brexit which has changed the ground rules fundamentally.

In insisting that N. Ireland should also leave the EU, Customs Union and Single market, the DUP is not only ignoring the wishes of a large majority of the people of Northern Ireland, it is placing a large bomb under community relationships within the North and under North South relations. There is no way that such a hard Brexit will not pull N. Ireland further out of the EU's and Ireland's ambit, and unionist claims to the contrary are disingenuous.

All this guff about wanting "a deep and special relationship" post Brexit is but PR speak to cover up the fact that this is precisely what Brexit is intent on sundering - and, in the N. Ireland context, this means undermining the GFA.

Leo Varadker and Simon Coveney are only trying to mitigate the worst effects of what has been a giant kick in the teeth by the DUP and the Conservative Party  to Ireland and the EU.

They will find that neither Ireland nor the EU will take this lying down, and their bleatings now are as nothing to what they will feel when the harsh realities of what Brexit will mean are made clear: A further marginalisation of N. Ireland as the poorest and most neglected part of the UK, and a further divergence in the growth and relative wealth of the south relative to the North.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 21st, 2017 at 11:41:19 PM EST
Dublin will seek 'meaningful role' in North if powersharing efforts fail
The Government will seek to have the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference convened in the new year if there is no breakthrough at Stormont to reconvene the northern institutions, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Speaking to journalists at a pre-Christmas press conference, Mr Varadkar said the intergovernmental conference would not amount to joint rule over the North, but would provide Dublin with a "real and meaningful involvement" in the North.

Mr Varadkar said he and British prime minister Theresa May would make another effort to promote agreement between the northern parties in the new year on re-establishing the powersharing institutions, which have been in abeyance for almost a year now.

If this failed, he said, "there are two options".

"The first option is another set of elections, although it's hard to see what outcome would arise from that that would put us in a better position. The second option is convening the British-Irish governmental conference, which would allow the two governments to implement the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement in the absence of an assembly and executive in Northern Ireland, " Mr Varadkar said.

He said that the agreement provides for matters that are not devolved to be dealt with by the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference "and that's what we will seek".

Dublin would not support direct rule from London, he said.

"So the alternative to the assembly and the executive being up and running is either a. an election or b. convening the British-Irish government conference and that's what we'll seek and I should point out that is what the Good Friday Agreement says."

Asked if this would be a form of joint rule, Mr Varadkar said: "I wouldn't use the term `joint rule', because that's not the term used in the Good Friday Agreement.

"The Good Friday Agreement speaks of a British-Irish governmental conference, which is not joint rule because obviously the legislative powers remain at Westminster, but it does involve real and meaningful involvement of the Irish Government. "

Mr Varadkar conceded that relations were "strained" with the British government as a result of the recent Brexit negotiations.

"But we need to be grown-up about it. And we need to get on with it and try to get the best outcome for the Irish people.

No. I am not moonlighting as a speech writer for the government...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 22nd, 2017 at 01:07:39 PM EST
DUP accuses Taoiseach of using `inflammatory language' on North
On how bad the relationship between the DUP and the Irish government is, Mr Donaldson said both Mr Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney should stop using what he described as "inflammatory language".

"If you are going to repair relationships, the first thing you stop doing is using this type of inflammatory language," he said.

"The Taoiseach knows it's unhelpful and if he and Simon Coveney are serious about a rapprochement with the DUP then I say stop using this inflammatory language, sit down and talks to us by all means. Let's sit down and see how we can move forward but I have to say this type of language is not helpful at all."

TUV leader Jim Allister said: "The aggressive assertion by Leo Varadkar that he will require "real and meaningful" input into the affairs of Northern Ireland, if Stormont is not returned, demonstrates the mindset of the constitutional claim of old Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic's Constitution lives on in Dublin.

"The British Irish Agreement of 1999 provides for no such Dublin role, but rather for the putting forward of `views and proposals' to the sovereign UK Government. So in demanding a `real and meaningful role' Varadkar is playing the part of a political chancer.

"No doubt he is encouraged by the fact that this fraudulent threat worked in 2007 when the DUP under Ian Paisley clutched at the fake figleaf of the supposed threat of `joint authority' to justify their somersault into government with IRA/Sinn Fein. Joint Authority was a lie then and it is a lie now.

The only thing which has ever succeeded in encouraging the DUP to implement the Good Friday Agreement by forming a devolved Executive is the threat that, in the absence of devolution, the Irish government would have a greater indirect influence on N. Ireland affairs.  Otherwise the DUP would be happy to accept direct rule form London as an alternative. What the Irish government is signalling is that it will not accept "Direct rule" as a backstop for the DUP without seeking an influential role on behalf of the Nationalist community.

Quite how this will play out with a Conservative government dependent on DUP support and pre-occupied by Brexit is anyone's guess. The UK government will need Ireland support if it wants to get a marginally better Brexit deal but it cannot survive without DUP support. Ultimately it may have to choose between a Brexit deal and continuing in office.  May's nightmare.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 22nd, 2017 at 01:50:25 PM EST
Ummm, point of order.

The Great War could have no impact on the Border between Ulster and the Republic because the Republic wasn't brought into existence until after it.

Ulster has been important to the UK because of the military and civilian shipbuilding industry that grew up there. And consequently Westminster has always indulged the fractiosness of Ulster Protestants (even to the point of a different democratic franchise to exclude catholics) because they built the big ships.

However, we are now 2 generations away from when Ulster was significant for shipbuilding and there is nobody left in Government with a sympathy for the Unionists beyond an attitude of "they want to remain British so we should help them".

But if they become difficult or threaten a preferred brexit (as if the Tories have any clue about what they really want) to any significant extent, then I suspect that Ulster might find themselves significantly out in the cold, an ignored province of a 3rd class nation

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 22nd, 2017 at 04:24:58 PM EST
If you follow my link in the story, Fintan O'Toole gives this explanation:
Churchill was speaking in a debate about the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the establishment of the Irish Free State. The context, therefore, was partition and the as-yet unsettled question of where the Border would be drawn. Churchill evoked the Great War in this context because he wished to recall a cabinet meeting in which he had participated just before that calamitous conflict broke out. The Home Rule crisis was still unfolding. The question being examined by the cabinet was whether parts of Ulster could be temporarily excluded from Home Rule and if so where the boundaries were to be drawn.

"I remember", said Churchill, "on the eve of the Great War we were gathered together at a Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, and for a long time, an hour or an hour and a half . . . we discussed the boundaries of Fermanagh and Tyrone. Both of the great political parties were at each other's throats. The air was full of talk of civil war. Every effort was made to settle the matter and bring them together. The differences had been narrowed down, not merely to the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone, but to parishes and groups of parishes inside the areas of Fermanagh and Tyrone, and yet, even when the differences had been so narrowed down, the problem appeared to be as insuperable as ever, and neither side would agree to reach any conclusion."



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 22nd, 2017 at 04:56:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wrote "Phase 2 talks will now focus on how this can be dressed up as some sort of "bespoke" deal different in name, but not in kind, to continued membership of the Customs Union and Single Market."

Nothing perhaps illustrates the superficial nature of political discourse in the UK than the current wild celebrations over the return of the blue passport post Brexit ditching EU burgundy at a cost of c. £500 Million.

Theresa May tweeted: "The UK passport is an expression of our independence and sovereignty - symbolising our citizenship of a proud, great nation. That's why we have announced that the iconic #bluepassport will return."
.

Nobody appears to have had the temerity to point out that the colour of a national passport is a national competency and that the Croatian (EU)passport is also dark blue. If you have spent 40 years blaming the EU for things that are your own decisions, then perhaps you can unwind all that by claiming Brexit credit for changing stuff that was never was anything to do with the EU in the first place.

Brexit doesn't therefore have to be any kind of substantial change at all, as long as it can be made to look different, and an utterly supine press fail to point out the lack of difference.

BACK AND BLUE UK to get its iconic dark blue passport back in stunning Brexit victory for The Sun

The Government has agreed to our demand to scrap the EU's burgundy model, enforced on the nation from 1988


The Sun's blue British passport campaign hit Westminster in August

Remoaners are said to be furious and Brexiteers overjoyed.  Well that's OK then.  Keep the rubes happy with nonsense like this and Brexit can be anything we want it to be - or nothing very substantial at all Another great vicotry for Theresa May and the Brexiteers. Rule Britannia!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 23rd, 2017 at 11:10:07 AM EST
It seems that the marginal cost of changing the colour is zero, because it will coincide with the regular redesign of the passport and the awarding of the next five year contract to produce passports. That "£500 million" figure is the value of the five year contract, not the redesign cost.

British passports will be navy blue after Brexit, says Home Office | The Guardian |
 22 December 2017

British passports issued after October 2019 will be dark blue and gold, replacing the current burgundy model.

The British passport is redesigned every five years, and the new version will come into production next autumn when the current contract expires, the Home Office has announced.

(snip)

After the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, burgundy passports will continue to be issued but with no reference to the trade bloc.

The blue and gold passports will be issued from October 2019, when the £490m passport contract begins, to British nationals renewing or applying for a new passport.


by Gag Halfrunt on Sat Dec 23rd, 2017 at 02:23:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dark blue and gold? Aren't those the colours of the EU flag?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Dec 23rd, 2017 at 02:40:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the coat of arms features motto in Latin and English, right?
by Bernard on Sun Dec 24th, 2017 at 02:27:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Guardian and Independent have both pointed out that the colour was a UK decision. The Guardian has gone further in the history and future of the British passport and the international requirements which determine its format.

After Brexit we will still have to follow ICAO standards and US demands if our passports are to be recognised abroad. And, of course, we will still have to follow any new requirements that the EU may adopt, if we are to travel to our nearest neighbours.

Disappointment is likely for some of those over 50. The exact colour, passport size and cover material and thickness will not be the same as the 1980's. Nor will the name be written by hand in fountain pen, nor the name and passport number be visible through a cut-out in the front cover.

by oldremainmer48 on Sat Dec 23rd, 2017 at 05:50:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But it will continue to fit in a normal shirt pocket....
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Dec 23rd, 2017 at 07:57:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll add in passing that the DUP made their own bed.

In all their desperation they've taken multiple actions to push government out of NI and back to Westminster. Without ever once thinking that there's no great care in WM for the DUP...

I don't know how it will play out, it seems to me that the move from Phase 1 is based on EU believing UK gov't will sell DUP down the river and at the same time UK gov't believing EU will sell Ireland down the river.

There are reasons to believe one of these is more likely than the other, but I hesitate to predict, given how many things can happen between here and then...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Dec 23rd, 2017 at 01:15:09 PM EST
To the extent anyone is tempted to discount future EU subsidy of IE public- and private-sector business (replacing current UK graft), bourgeois margins will definitely shrink. I'm in no position to speculate or distribute the ratio of income attributable to livestock and RE title exports to so-called frictionless UK-IE trade balance, but at least I'm willing to admit that cost of doing business exists --AND-- EU gov will leave the solution, as a matter of "North-South" economic policy to IE gov. This liberty-- semi-autonomy if you will-- was explicitly expressed in the MOU published 5 Dec.

One would encounter difficulty "framing" IE relationship to EU26 post-Brexit as slavish, as if tossed on a Louisiana auction block. If one must torture an simile, best to balance the trade now: Identify which of those or third-countries? are potential "buyers".

You may be alluding to IE-UK sidebar "sales" then. Eurotrib correspondents don't get much of that news.

Because IE remains committed to EU. IE conspired with EU to facilitate GFA enforcement. And quid pro quo among the interested parties apart from imminent, obvious EU prerogative to sanction UK in light of any GFA violation --regardless of Phase II "deal" or "no deal"-- are not public knowledge and never will be. EU cannot discard IE insofar as no alternative, virtuous leverage over UK emerges.

EU need not do anything further either to forestall or prevent UK capitulation. After all, the purposes of the Withdrawal Action were never to reward Tory gov independence. They are to expedite it.

Losing the plot is the job of yella press agents of crown "dependents".


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Sat Dec 23rd, 2017 at 03:31:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ireland is now a net contributor to the EU and holds a veto on matters requiring unanimity - such as an extension of the A50 notification period. It is thus in a strong position to ensure there is no "backsliding" on the Phase I agreement and it's guarantee of an open border.

Quite apart from it's importance to the peace process, the open border is also of great importance to IE/UK which makes up 14% of total Irish trade.  The UK is thus Ireland's largest trading partner (counting EU26 members as individual nations) but a little known fact is that Ireland is also one of the few countries with which the UK has a trading surplus.

Thus both Ireland and the UK have a strong interest in ensuring future trade is unhindered.

Apart from it's temporary control of the balance of power in Westminster, the DUP has considerably less leverage. N. Ireland costs the UK exchequer c. £10Billion per annum in net subsidies - roughly equivalent to what the UK pays the EU - and it is difficult to see what benefits the UK now gets in return.

If the DUP does press the nuclear button and fail to support May in a vote of confidence then both May and their influence is gone. Perhaps forever.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 23rd, 2017 at 05:36:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Northern France's parallel Brexit talks - Politico
In Brexit negotiations running in parallel with the official EU-U.K. talks in Brussels, senior French politicians and civil servants have met repeatedly with high-level British counterparts to discuss the impact of Brexit on coastal economies and France's northern ports, according to French officials involved directly.

The goal is to avoid a deal that would harm regional economies on either side of the Channel by working out some issues away from the main Brexit negotiations, but also to make sure national politicians and the Brexit negotiating teams don't neglect their interests.

The Channel crossing is one of Europe's most heavily used trade thoroughfares, which will have to be re-purposed entirely as a customs post by the time Britain formally leaves the EU.

It is a gargantuan task, one that French officials say dwarfs the cost and complexity of readying the Irish border for Brexit.


"dwarfs the Irish border"? Really?

I mean, we are not talking about 500 km of land border, are we? Nor about possibly imperiling peace agreements? We are not at risk of restarting a civil war in Western Europe on the Opal coast, are we?

I don't know who these - conveniently unnamed - "French officials" are, but this perspective looks a bit too dramatic to me. Sure, refitting the English channel ports post-Brexit will be "a gargantuan task", but nothing that cannot be achieved.

by Bernard on Tue Dec 26th, 2017 at 08:53:54 PM EST
Maybe the French should start moving the occupants of the Calis jungle up to the Republic and let them enter UK through Ulster and see how the UK govt views the Irish border question then

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 26th, 2017 at 10:06:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 27th, 2017 at 12:46:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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