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The depolarization of Northern Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Fri Dec 3rd, 2021 at 02:09:05 PM EST

Despite the best efforts of Lord Frost and the Tory party, there are growing signs that Northern Ireland is rejecting their polemics about the Protocol and coming to live with it as a fact of post-Brexit life. Although no one is happy with increased customs checks between Britain and Northern Ireland, there is a growing realization that Northern Ireland's unfettered access to the Single Market offers it a unique opportunity within the UK to mitigate the worst effects of Brexit.

Northern Ireland hasn't suffered the goods shortages seen in Britain, trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland is booming, and British statistics have now belatedly confirmed that the Northern Ireland economy is recovering faster than Scotland or Wales. But the most remarkable change is the U-Turn currently being performed by DUP Leader, Jeffrey Donaldson.


DUP making absurd U-turn towards NI protocol landing zone

Watching Jeffrey Donaldson turn the DUP back towards accepting the protocol is an absurd and impressive spectacle.


Difficult though it may to believe, given all that has happened since, it is only 10 months since the party's position was that the UK's overall Brexit deal, protocol included, offered a "gateway of opportunity" for Northern Ireland.

Two DUP leaders later, Donaldson's only plan has been to return to that stance. Like the rest of unionism, he is a bystander in negotiations between London and Brussels and will simply have to sell whatever mitigations emerge. He is also rapidly running out of time. Negotiations seem set to stretch into the new year and Stormont effectively dissolves at the end of March for a May election. Let there be no cliches about turning a tanker around. Donaldson needs to find the handbrake on a jetski.

Yet performing an absurd U-turn is an impressive skill, rare enough in politics, let alone in unionism. The more shameless the manoeuvring the better if it prepares the public for the final reversal.

There is growing awareness of the DUP's semantic distinction between the protocol and "the sea border". The louder Donaldson calls for the sea border to go, the clearer it is he accepts the protocol is here to stay. The distinction has been stepped up in recent weeks into a disciplined party line, reported knowingly in the press, while still not openly confronted. It stakes out the only plausible landing zone for the whole of Northern Ireland, as almost everyone agrees there should be as few checks as possible across the Irish Sea, based on assessing real risk to the EU single market. That was the EU's stated position as recently as 12 months ago. Cynical U-turns are not just for unionists.

As a unionist commentator, Newton Emerson feels obliged to have a standard swipe at the EU to provide his piece with some "balance". To the outside observer it is difficult to perceive a similar U-turn, cynical or not, on the EU side. The EU may have started off from a fairly legalistic insistence that the Protocol must be implemented in full as negotiated and agreed, but there was always an acceptance that the precise implementation was open to further discussion and mitigation. Indeed the Protocol itself provides for this.

What the EU could not do, and is now increasingly recognised as not doing, is to renegotiate the Treaty or dump the Protocol as unionists are still, at least officially, demanding. There will be no change to the oversight of the ECJ, and the Treaty Text and Protocol itself with not be changed post ratification. Attempts by the UK to re-open the negotiations by threatening to invoke A. 16 have been firmly rebuffed, not least by the Biden regime, which has refused to revoke Trump era tariffs on UK steel and aluminium exports in line with their elimination for the EU citing fears that the UK might invoke A. 16. So much for the post Brexit "special relationship" and trade deal with the US.

This growing pragmatism, especially on the DUP side, is also reflected in recent political polling. The Lucidtalk poll, cited in the image above, basically shows the DUP clawing back some support from the more hardline TUV and less hardline UUP, while on the Nationalist side there is possibly (a statistically non-significant) slight slide to the moderate, pragmatic, pro-business, but also pro-union Alliance Party.

However those slight trends are only what is visible since the last Lucidtalk poll in August. With the Assembly elections coming up in May, the more relevant comparison is with the last Assembly elections in 2017 where the relative changes since are as follows:

Sinn Fein (-4%)
DUP (-10%)
UUP +1%
Alliance (+6%)
SDLP (no change)
TUV (+8%)
Greens (no change)
People before Profit (no change).

The real battle, next May, will be to see who achieves the First Minister role by being the largest party in the Assembly, and here Sinn Fein currently lead the DUP by 6% with Alliance only a further 3% behind. Although the difference between First Minister and Deputy First Minister is basically symbolic, it will be the first time that Unionists have lost the position and a huge psychological blow to their traditional domination of Northern Ireland politics. Expect the DUP to campaign on that basis for all its worth, as the TUV is effectively a one man show (Jim Allister) and is irrelevant to that battle.

It should also not be forgotten that the continuance of the protocol is subject to Assembly approval, in a majority vote, every four years. With Alliance openly supportive of (a mitigated) Protocol, and other Unionist parties increasingly pragmatic about it, it seems unlikely that the next Assembly will discontinue its operation. And with the N. Ireland economy likely to be increasingly dependent on access to the Single Market as time goes on, that prospect seems increasingly unlikely the longer the Protocol remains in place.

The DUP has marched its supporters up the hill demanding the Protocol's elimination only to have to march it down again, and in the process lost 10% of its projected vote. Sometimes "Ulster says NO" is not the final answer.

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Ulster says No (Maybe)

A Chara,- Despite the best efforts of Lord Frost and the Tory party, there are growing signs that Northern Ireland is rejecting their polemics about the Protocol and coming to live with it as a fact of post-Brexit life. Although no one is happy with increased customs checks between Britain and Northern Ireland, there is a growing realization that Northern Ireland's unfettered access to the Single Market offers it a unique opportunity within the UK to mitigate the worst effects of Brexit.

Northern Ireland hasn't suffered the goods shortages seen in Britain, trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland is booming, and British statistics have now belatedly confirmed that the Northern Ireland economy is recovering faster than Scotland or Wales. But the most remarkable change is the U-Turn currently being performed by DUP Leader, Jeffrey Donaldson as noted by your columnist, Newton Emerson. (DUP making absurd U-turn towards NI protocol landing zone, Opinion, December 2nd.)

The DUP has marched its supporters up the hill demanding the Protocol's elimination only to have to march it down again, and in the process lost 10% of its projected vote since the last Assembly elections according to the latest Lucidtalk poll. Sometimes "Ulster says NO" is not always the final answer.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2021 at 03:00:11 PM EST
Frank, is "rejection of the protocol" actually acknowledged, by its supporters, as meaning "return to a hard border" and return to civil war?

I imagine that it's what TUV voters, for example, really want, but do they recognise it? Or is it just magical thinking?

The contorsions of the DUP are illuminating in that respect : they have realised that they can't be a party of government and actively promote the Troubles.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Dec 3rd, 2021 at 03:33:27 PM EST
The hidden subtext behind the DUP's support for a hard Brexit, and rejection of Theresa May's proposals which would not have required a customs border anywhere, was the belief that it would "harden" the boarder within Ireland and slow the creeping integration of the Northern Ireland and Irish economies.

They never supported the Good Friday Agreement which basically ended the Troubles by offering joint government and an open boarder within Ireland, which, with "an ever closer union" within the EU, would have gradually eroded the distinction between Irishness and Britishness within a common European identity. They regard all accommodation of nationalists as compromising their "Britishness" and appeasing terrorists.

Perhaps their definition of Britishness encompasses the right to subjugate all others. They never imagined that Ireland, backed up by the EU and USA, would have the balls and the capability to stop this from happening, and now they have to accept the fact that their gambit backfired spectacularly and it was the British link that was weakened.

The DUP don't really see themselves as a party of government for Northern Ireland, hence their rejection of the 56% - 44% vote to Remain in the EU. Their idea of government is entirely to maintain the interests of their own loyalist community.

But now they have to contend with a new reality that (a), unionist parties no longer command a majority in the N. I. and the assembly, and (b) a majority of their own voters care less about the Protocol than they care about the political stability and economic progress of N.I.

Normal politics is in danger of breaking out. The same Polls which show declining support for political unionism still show a large majority in favour of the union with Britain. It's just that many ordinary unionists are embarrassed by their own parties due to their antediluvian social policies and counter productive economic policies.

Hence the rise of the Alliance Party.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2021 at 04:54:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What will happen to the Brexiters once they cannot threaten the EU with the Protocol any longer?
by Bernard on Fri Dec 3rd, 2021 at 09:01:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Still trying, though...

by Bernard on Fri Dec 3rd, 2021 at 09:54:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Henig is suffering from the delusion that the Tories care much about N. Ireland and that their engagement on the issue is to try to resolve it. In reality, its about throwing some red meat to Brexit supporters and keeping tensions with the EU high as a distraction from Johnson's internal political problems. If they didn't have the EU to whinge about, they would have no idea how to actually resolve their own internal problems.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2021 at 10:29:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even if Johnson were kicked out tomorrow, he will still go down in the history books forever as the PM who made Brexit happen. There's not much more he can hope to accomplish at this point, it's just inertia from now on in.
by asdf on Sat Dec 4th, 2021 at 01:33:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More likely it's a slow gradual slide into economic stagnation and political irrelevance, but Johnson and his support base are still in denial about that...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 4th, 2021 at 01:45:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hells, they're still in denial about no longer living in Victoria's empire.
by rifek on Sun Dec 5th, 2021 at 05:27:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
🎭 Shakespearean Theatre

by Oui on Sun Dec 5th, 2021 at 08:01:38 AM EST
Can't they get the oaks from Germany? That's where they got the royal family from.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Dec 5th, 2021 at 01:15:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
UK companies losing market share in N. Ireland is symbolic of UK companies losing market share in the Single Market generally. The more they can retain their near monopoly positions in the NI Market, the better chance they have of maintaining their market share in the Single Market as well.

Talking about N. Ireland as "our country" doesn't sit well with nationalists, but that is the point of doing so.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 5th, 2021 at 02:47:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From US viewpoint, this is a huge mystery. Tossing all the grand old English royal families in the dumpster and replacing them with Germans.
by asdf on Sun Dec 5th, 2021 at 09:13:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OpEd | How the US impacts Brexit's Northern Ireland protocol, EU, UK steel and aluminum exports
the U.S. Commerce Department informed the U.K. government that bilateral talks on lifting TRUMP-ERA tariffs on steel and aluminum could not move ahead. The reason was that the British government's continued threats to breach the Northern Ireland Protocol would hurt the citizens of Northern Ireland.
[...]
Meanwhile, the U.S. government lifted the 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum to European Union manufacturers. The disparate treatment signaled the consequential U.S. treatment of BREXIT. It was a slap in U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's face.
implying that US tariff applied to UK steel and aluminum exports, excluding EU and NI exports ("diversion of trade"), somehow deprives UK-NI human rights and "economic safeguards" thereby evincing a  "quandry" for ECJ intervention in the event BoJo invokes Article 16.
by Cat on Wed Dec 8th, 2021 at 11:59:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU is once again bullying an old lady with the gallant Lord Frost seeking to protect her!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 5th, 2021 at 02:00:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it just me or has Frost dialed back the Article 16 rhetoric?

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Dec 13th, 2021 at 09:02:54 PM EST
He's been talked to; also, from DC.
by Bernard on Mon Dec 13th, 2021 at 09:39:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, what Bernard said, but also he's accepted that the Commission has no mandate to negotiate around the role of the ECJ and now the talks are just about minimising paperwork on trade with Britain. Donaldson has again threatened to collapse the good Friday institutions, but with elections due by May in any case, no one is that bothered. It could damage the DUP at the polls, however, as the vast majority in Northern Ireland want the Executive and Assembly to work.

Boris is now preoccupied with problems elsewhere (mainly sleeze and shortages) and has lost his lead in the polls so his backbenchers are getting restless. The last thing he needs is to be seen to bugger up relations with the EU all over again.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 13th, 2021 at 11:33:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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