Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

They think it's about Northern Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Thu Nov 11th, 2021 at 05:14:24 PM EST

Over the years I have made a point of reading Northern Ireland unionist political commentators in order to get a sense of what they are about. The Slugger O'Toole website is a good indicator of non-aligned or moderate unionist thinking - mostly sympathetic to the Alliance party - and Newton Emerson and Alex Kane are unionists linked to the Ulster Unionist party which ran Northern Ireland prior to the ascendency of the Paisleyite DUP. I have not yet found a politically literate commentator linked to the DUP.

Unionism in Northern Ireland is an evolving political force slowly coming to terms with the fact that they can no longer command a majority of the electorate even if that majority is still broadly in favour of the status quo union with Britain. There are many strands to unionism, from the fundamentalist protestant Free Presbyterians of the the DUP to the agnostic liberals of the Alliance Party who just want Northern Ireland to like any other part of the UK.

But they all seem to think that the world revolves around unionists and what they want and feel they need, and find it hard to comprehend that the world around N. Ireland has changed and might have other priorities. Thus the debate around the Protocol within unionism has been all about retaining as much as possible of the free trade they had with Britain while also retaining full access to the Single market. Some even think that the Boris Johnson regime shares their concerns.

Newton Emerson has a column up in the Irish Times in which he notes that a fragile majority of unionists are in favour of the Protocol and most don't see it as a major political priority for them. There is even an acknowledgment that nationalists have had to live in a state which doesn't entirely sit comfortably with their cultural identity and that it is prudent for unionists to make some compromises to ensure the continued stability and existence of Northern Ireland as a separate entity within the UK.

Thus while the advantages of continued access to the Single Market are taken for granted, any diminution of customs control free access to the British market is seen as a pragmatic price that has to be paid for Brexit- something a large majority in Northern Ireland never supported in the first place. There was thus a broad welcome for the EU proposals to minimise the amount of paperwork involved and a willingness to make it work as efficiently as possible.

Not so with Jeffrey Donaldson and the DUP and Jim Allister of the small Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) parties. For them ANY trade barriers between Britain and N. Ireland is a diminution of the Union, of the Sovereignty of the UK as a whole, and a betrayal of their "British" identity.  They are quite happy to take any advantages that being part of the Single Market may confer, but not at the price of what they perceive to be "a border down the Irish Sea" and which they fear might be the first step in a slippery path towards a united Ireland.

Of course it would be wonderful if Northern Ireland could have the best of both worlds without regard to the fact that the form of Brexit chosen by the Johnson regime meant that the rest of the UK left both the Single Market and Customs Union. Somehow it is now the EU's fault that this has resulted in some complications at the border, no matter where the border is chosen to be. Northern Ireland had full access to both markets as part of the EU, and it is Brexiteers who chose to abrogate that.

This blindness to the original sin of Brexit itself is a characteristic of almost all unionist (and much British) thinking. They feel entitled to what they had as part of the EU even if they left to pursue some sovereign adventures elsewhere. It was churlish of the EU not to let them have their cake and eat it, and now somehow the EU is seen as the aggressor.

Newton Emerson concludes his column by arguing that the majority unionist support for the Protocol in N. Ireland is fragile and could easily dissipate if a trade war were to break out between the UK and the EU. Unionists would then feel bound to rally to Britain's side. His column can therefore be seen as a plea to the EU to go yet another extra mile to placate British concerns. Apparently, if the EU truly cares about peace and stability in Northern Ireland, it will put its interests ahead of its own in protecting the Single Market.

The fallacy in this line of argument is to believe that the DUP or Boris Johnson regime will be happy with ANY border controls down the Irish sea, and that any easements offered there won't be demanded for trade across the English Channel as well in due course. This battle between the UK and the EU isn't really about Northern Ireland at all, save as a place to create precedents for the larger battles between the UK and EU to come. The Johnson regime still wants to have its cake and eat it, and if that means some collateral damage in N. Ireland, then so be it.

Indeed Frost and co. have done everything they can to stir up trouble in N. Ireland in support of their argument that the Protocol is undermining the fragile peace there. Frost must be very disappointed at the paltry response of the protestant paramilitaries to date. A few burnt out buses hardly make the headlines any more, even in Ireland. No doubt he will get MI5 on the job to create some proper mayhem, as when they set off bombs in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974 killing 33 civilians.

But if relations break down and a trade war breaks out between the UK and the EU, few will remember that the original problems arose in N. Ireland. It will be driven by the dynamics of the Brexiteers trying to cling onto power in Britain, and the EU trying to preserve its own raison d'être. What unionists and Brexiteers never seem to factor into their equations is that the EU also has its internal stability to consider, and plenty of other crises to manage. With Merkel gone, Macron up for election, and the rest of the EU exasperated that the UK is still taking up so much attention, a very robust response from the EU is on the cards.

This isn't so much about the stability of N. Ireland as the stability of Europe, and what unionists think or don't think will have little bearing on the outcome. Strangely, it turns out that N. Ireland isn't at the centre of the universe, even though it could be the flashpoint which signals very serious conflict in Europe, much as the assassination of a relatively obscure Archduke in Sarajevo led to a war with then unbelievable consequences.

Lord Frost cautioned European governments to "calm down" when they threatened retaliation for any failure of the UK to honour the Withdrawal Agreement, up to and including the repudiation of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and the implementation of trade tariffs. But it is he and his government who have been keen to keep the Brexit pot on the boil, for fear of losing support and credibility at home. They really have no idea of what they are playing with, and repudiating the jurisdiction of the ECJ in Northern Ireland will be the least of their concerns if all this goes south.

A New Approach Is Necessary: The Policy Ramifications of the April 2021 Loyalist Violence in Northern Ireland | CTC |

By Aaron Edwards

The 'leaderless' violence is a manifestation of deep-rooted socio-economic problems and a rejection by loyalists of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement of 1998. It also demonstrates and is reflective of the fragmentation of paramilitary loyalism. Lawmakers and intelligence and security practitioners need a more nuanced understanding of how the security environment has changed since the 1990s if they are to successfully combat the new threat in future.

It all began on Good Friday--April 2, 2021--with bricks, iron bars, and fireworks being thrown by local youths at police officers deployed on the edge of Belfast city center. It soon escalated into a concerted attack that left eight police officers injured. Over the next few nights, sporadic trouble returned to towns and cities across Northern Ireland as fear spread that the violence might threaten the hard-won peace.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Thu Nov 11th, 2021 at 06:41:34 PM EST
That's just a bit of light entertainment on a Friday night and had little to do with the Protocol which the protagonists probably hadn't read and may have been told was a "bad thing". It could happen after a soccer match.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 11th, 2021 at 06:59:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It takes just a small group of hotheads to stir up trouble ... Brexit by itself had shaken the establishment ... the Tories risk escalation by NI Protocol expectations ... where are the powers to prevent violence? Often a status quo offers best chance to maintain peace. I understand in NI a truce or ceasefire is a better description of the Good Friday Agreement. Old adage, united we stand, divided we fall.

Background of author ...

How very little changed during nearly three decades of violence at the cost of more than 3,500 lives is described in Agents of influence, subtitled Britain's Secret Intelligence War Against the IRA, by Aaron Edwards, a lecturer at Sandhurst military academy.

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Thu Nov 11th, 2021 at 08:09:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
TWBJ normally winds up about Ulster as a convenient distraction from some short term problem giving him inconvenient headlines. So he winds up Frost and any lurking DUPes and froths about Ulster for 5 minutes till he's in a new News cycle.

But now, as always with a mis-managed Govt, the blows are coming from all sides. 5 minute distractions won't work, but if he thinks Ulster is going to break him from the cycle, I fear he has mis-read the situation. There are too many issues with the Protocol that lead back to TWBJ personally, these are not the drains he should be digging up.

And meanwhile none of the other problems are going away. He's just making his problems worse.

As political observers are wont to note, in politics weeks go by and nothing happens and sometimes weeks happen in a matter of hours. Boris is  facing a lot of weeks before xmas.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Nov 11th, 2021 at 08:49:17 PM EST
Guardian - Simon Jenkins - Northern Ireland is the loser in Boris Johnston badly played brexit hand"

This year, Boris Johnson craved the titles of champion of Cop26 and star of G7. He saw something called "global Britain" and hoped it would crown his Brexit triumph, leading the world into a new age of peace and prosperity like a 21st-century Churchill. Instead, Johnson now finds himself in a morass of sleazy MPs, dodgy peers and Covid contracts. More seriously, he is about to plunge once more into the messy issue of the Irish border. His Northern Ireland Brexit protocol was supposed to liberate him from such torments, yet it has bound him hand and foot.

Two years ago, Johnson lied to unionists, telling worried exporters in Northern Ireland there would be no need to fill in extra paperwork when sending goods across the Irish Sea. He now wants to keep face by ditching the protocol altogether and presenting the EU with what amounts to a clear crisis: a permeable border drawn around the whole of Northern Ireland, which he knows is unacceptable to Brussels.

Johnson conducts his politics like a poker player who constantly raises the stakes while showing his opponents his cards. When politicians take control of trade negotiations, it usually means trouble. After the UK left the EU, the job of reordering its markets, customs and tariffs should have been left to officials and mediators. Devising a practical deal would have been in everyone's interest. It was madness that no agreement was reached.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Nov 11th, 2021 at 09:02:38 PM EST
A Chara,- Newton Emerson appears to be labouring under the delusion that the dispute over the Protocol is all about what unionist do and do not want. He argues that the EU should bend over backwards to satisfy unionist demands in order to consolidate fragile unionist majority support for the protocol. (Unionist acceptance of NI protocol very close, Opinion, 11 November)

In reality, there are no concessions that the EU could make which would satisfy Jeffrey Donaldson and Jim Allister et al. For them, any border down the Irish sea is a diminution of British sovereignty and their sense of British identity.  They are happy to accept the benefits of membership of the EU Single Market so long as there is no diminution of their access to the UK internal market, a classic "have cake and eat it" syndrome at a time when the form of Brexit Boris Johnson negotiated and they supported entailed Britain leaving the Single Market and Customs union.

But his almost exclusive focus on unionist sentiment also obscures another reality: This dispute between the British government and the EU is not primarily about "the border down the Irish sea" at all, but rather about "the border across the English Channel". The British Government still seeks to obtain all the benefits of EU membership without the costs and responsibilities associated with it. Hence the focus on the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice which was never an issue in Northern Ireland until Lord Frost sought to make it so.

For the EU to concede control over the Single Market in Northern Ireland is to create a precedent for a loss of control over the Single Market in Britain as well, and if that happens the Brexiteers will have achieved their objective: The benefits of the EU without the costs, and with it the hastening of the end of EU itself.

From an EU perspective, the issue is not simply the peace and stability of Northern Ireland, but the peace and stability of Europe itself.  That can never be compromised, and that is why the EU is considering abrogating the Trade and Cooperation agreement with the UK if the UK fails to honour the Withdrawal Agreement and its Protocol.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 12th, 2021 at 09:21:18 AM EST
UK-EU Non-negotiations and Non-papers

House of Lords: The Minister of State, Cabinet Office

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now make a Statement to update the House on various recent developments in our relationship with the European Union. The Statement will also be made in the other place in due course by my right honourable friend the Paymaster-General.

As noble Lords will know well, we have two principal agreements with the EU: the trade and co-operation agreement and the withdrawal agreement. ....

In my view, this process of negotiations has not reached its end. Although we have been talking for nearly four weeks, there remain possibilities that the talks have not yet seriously examined, including many approaches suggested by the UK. So there is more to do and I certainly will not give up on this process unless and until it is abundantly clear that nothing more can be done. We are certainly not at that point yet. If, however, we do in due course reach that point, the Article 16 safeguards will be our only option.

We have been abundantly clear about this since July, when we made it clear that the tests for using Article 16 were already passed. Nothing that has happened since has changed that. I can reassure noble Lords that, if Article 16 were to be used, we would set out our case with confidence and spell out why it was wholly consistent with our legal obligations. We would also be ready to explain that case to any interested party, not just the signatories to the treaty but those with a broader interest in relations with the EU and the UK.

However, the EU seems to be arguing something different at the moment. It seems to be claiming that it would be entirely unreasonable for the British Government, uniquely, to use these wholly legitimate safeguard provisions within the treaty, designed precisely to deal with situations like the current one. It also suggests that we can only take that action at the price of massive and disproportionate retaliation.

I gently suggest that our European friends should stay calm and keep things in proportion.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Fri Nov 12th, 2021 at 10:35:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I respectfully suggest there is nothing gentle or friendly in anything Lord Frost does...M'Luds

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 12th, 2021 at 10:58:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sleaze shambles holds warning for Boris Johnson's next Brexit battle
Johnson's rapid retreat (in the Owen Paterson affair)  reminds his troops that for all the Churchillian rhetoric, he is often the first one heading for the hills when he deems the fight no longer worth his while. This is not always a weakness. Johnson feels no obligation to defend a losing position.      

There is much in the current row (over the Protocol) that suits his style. For most of the year, he brandished the threat to trigger Article 16 of the protocol, which allows a side to suspend part of the agreement if it is causing serious "social or economic damage". What should be an escape valve for specific problems is seen by Johnson as a lever to try to rewrite the deal. This moment is moving closer and has provoked bellicose retaliatory threats from the EU, though Frost has said the UK "is not there yet". But if and when Johnson triggers the process, he can start small and ratchet up. The mechanisms allow for delays before each EU response, which means he can back away if the price, be it targeted retaliatory tariffs or more disruptive checks at Calais, seems too high. Even the nuclear option floated by Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney -- of terminating the UK/EU trade deal -- requires a year's notice, giving Johnson time, though at the price of economic uncertainty.    

the second lesson is that Johnson will retreat when outgunned. The history of his Brexit negotiations is of talking tough and then giving in. The fight over the protocol highlights just how thoroughly he caved in when he signed it in 2019. A year later he accepted a trade agreement that secured few advantages. For all his fighting talk of walking away with no deal, Johnson never did. Since his core demands go beyond what the EU is prepared to grant, it is a reasonable bet that the same will be true again.

His allies may cheer a premier battling Brussels but they and the media could quickly turn in the face of economic damage and empty shelves. This means his own cheerleaders need to give him the room to retreat when he is ready.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 12th, 2021 at 08:44:37 PM EST
by Oui (Oui) on Tue Nov 16th, 2021 at 12:18:10 AM EST
They've always been against the Good Friday Agreement, so its strange to see them complaining that the Protocol is undermining it.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 16th, 2021 at 11:40:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Bernard (bernard) on Fri Nov 19th, 2021 at 08:56:31 AM EST
Real gentlemen ... a bare knuckle fist fight? 🥊

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Fri Nov 19th, 2021 at 10:18:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have said similar  here, and no one has yet asked me to apologise. Who knew loyalist rioters were customs experts?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 19th, 2021 at 12:53:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops, Amazon lets the cat out of the bag.

Amazon customers in Northern Ireland appear to be receiving automated order confirmations emails that mistakenly state they are based in the Republic.

The email gaff, which has been seen by the Belfast Telegraph, states: "Hello, Ahead of the busy shopping period we wanted to provide you with some advice and guidance to make sure you get the most out of Amazon.co.uk as a customer in the Republic of Ireland."

by asdf on Fri Nov 19th, 2021 at 04:26:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Amazon has been firmly bedded down in Ireland for years

Not worthwhile to change letterhead for such a small market ... can't beat the leprechauns 🍀

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Fri Nov 19th, 2021 at 04:50:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Nov 20th, 2021 at 12:25:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are in the process of completing an Irish fulfilment centre 10 miles up the road from me. They realise I am at the centre of the universe, but the news for smaller local retailers is not good...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Nov 20th, 2021 at 12:30:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The underlying puzzle is the degree to which you should expect to have control over which Amazon warehouse your stuff comes from.

If you go onto amazon.co.uk from the US, their system gives you a reminder "we're showing you items that ship to US." That suggests that your items won't come from a US warehouse, but from a UK warehouse. So if you go onto amazon.co.uk from NI, should you automatically assume your items will come from the UK? Why can't them come from a warehouse in France?

by asdf on Sat Nov 20th, 2021 at 03:53:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brace yourself for an increased flow of lorries on the road in front of your house.
by Bernard (bernard) on Sat Nov 20th, 2021 at 07:18:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I live in the Wicklow hills. Most people that come here have gotten lost...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Nov 20th, 2021 at 10:54:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Google Maps takes into account traffic, so if highway congestion increases, drivers are directed to take minor roads instead--including in some cases residential streets.
by asdf on Sun Nov 21st, 2021 at 04:53:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I live in the middle of green fields 300M. from the nearest minor road. Any truck that goes down it is liable to get stuck!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2021 at 10:49:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by asdf on Mon Nov 22nd, 2021 at 11:38:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah - far too built up for my area....

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2021 at 07:05:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
North's economy outperforms rest of UK, official figures show
The economy of Northern Ireland has largely recovered from the hit of the Covid-19, marking the best performance across all UK nations and regions, according to experimental official statistics that point to it prospering under the Northern Ireland protocol.

Economic output in Northern Ireland in the third quarter was only 0.3 per cent below that of the final quarter of 2019, before the pandemic, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics on Monday.

The region performed better than any other in the UK and surpassed the country's overall economic recovery, which fell 2.1 per cent over the same period.

London was the second best performing area, with output 1.8 per cent down on pre-pandemic levels, closely followed by Wales.

In contrast, economic output in the West Midlands was still nearly 10 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.

mmmm- could the Protocol be the main reason for this?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 30th, 2021 at 12:53:31 AM EST
U.S. to delay UK trade deal over post-Brexit concern - FT
The United States will delay its deal to remove tariffs on UK steel and aluminum because of concerns about post-Brexit trade rules affecting Northern Ireland, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

The administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump imposed 25% and 10% tariffs on steel and aluminum imports on the European Union in 2018. The tariffs were withdrawn in October of this year, but they remain in place for Britain due to its exit from the EU.

In a communication seen by the newspaper, a U.S. Commerce Department official was quoted as saying that talks with the UK on easing metals tariffs could not move ahead.

The official cited U.S. concerns about British threats to trigger emergency clause Article 16, the report said , especially from the U.S. Congress.

by Bernard (bernard) on Thu Dec 2nd, 2021 at 06:47:50 PM EST
hey, now, I cannot help but admire the dramaturgy produced by US politicians which plants "America First" in UK-EU disputed fair trade and human rights ordinarily DIVERTED TO Canadian producers.

What's the total level of UK steel and aluminum exports to the US? um ...< squint >

What's the total level of EU common market steel and aluminum exports to US?
The US tariffs applied towards the EU from June 2018 affected €6.4 billion of European steel and aluminium exports, and further tariffs applied from February 2020 affected around €40 million of EU exports of certain derivative steel and aluminium products.

In response, the EU introduced rebalancing measures in June 2018 on US exports to the EU in a value of €2.8 billion.

The remaining rebalancing measures, affecting exports valued up to €3.6 billion, were scheduled to enter into force on 1 June 2021.

To which trading partner will Joe assign sanctions that inforce "international norms"?
by Cat on Thu Dec 9th, 2021 at 08:15:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EPI weighs THREATS to US "national security", totally discounts every protocol but the TRUMP ERA Kennedy mandate enacted by the odious.
Global steel surpluses are the result of chronic global excess steelmaking capacity in major exporting countries, including China, India, Brazil, Korea, Turkey, the EU, and other nations, much of it from state-owned and state-supported enterprises that are heavy polluters. In 2018, the United States determined that steel imports posed significant risks to national security and imposed a 25% tariff and other trade remedies on certain steel products under Section 232 of the [OBSCURE]Trade Expansion Act of 1962. This report examines the impacts of these measures on domestic steel production and consuming industries, and it recommends that these measures be retained until a multilateral solution to the problem of global excess steel capacity can be achieved.
archived Wed Nov 6th, 2019 et seq
by Cat on Thu Dec 9th, 2021 at 08:28:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The International Trade Secretary, Anne-Marie
Trevelyan, has warned the US the UK could step
up retaliatory measures if punitive tariffs on UK
steel exports are not lifted soon.
The US of A is shaking in its boots.
by asdf on Fri Dec 10th, 2021 at 04:14:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is why they had the most Junior member of the cabinet announce it...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 10th, 2021 at 06:13:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have not yet found a politically literate commentator linked to the DUP.


by rifek on Tue Dec 14th, 2021 at 06:44:16 AM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]