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Fool me once, shame on you...

by Frank Schnittger Sat Mar 6th, 2021 at 02:08:59 AM EST

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The UK government had already threatened to break international law with its Internal Markets Bill and was dissuaded from doing so only by the signing of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Now the UK government is trying the same trick with the Northern Ireland Protocol - announcing unilateral changes without going through the joint committee set up to oversee its operation. Apparently Lord Frost, ex UK Brexit negotiator and recently promoted to Boris Johnson's cabinet, has decided that the way to deal with the EU is to play hardball, and the EU will fold. That worked so well for him last time!

Paul Johnson, UK ambassador to Ireland, had a letter published in the Irish Times yesterday arguing that the UK approach was perfectly legal and indeed was required to deal with the "problems being experienced in the everyday life of communities" and to "ensure cross-community support."

The response of Irish Times letter writers has been to laugh him out of court, although I have tried to address the argument point by point in my letter published today:


NI Protocol and British diplomacy - Fifth letter down:

A chara, - At first glance, the UK ambassador Paul Johnson's justification for the UK breaking the Northern Ireland protocol seems reasonable. It is, allegedly, trying to provide practical solutions to problems being experienced "in the everyday life of communities" and ensure cross-community support.


But the bottom line is that it is a justification for the UK once again breaking the solemn legal undertakings it entered into when it signed the withdrawal and trade and cooperation agreements.

The fact that he invokes the EU's mistaken threat to invoke Article 16 merely adds insult to injury. The EU acknowledged its mistake and withdrew its threat within hours, whereas the UK is threatening to break the NI protocol deliberately and indefinitely, as it did with its Internal Market Bill last year prior to the signing of the trade and cooperation agreement.

The problems being experienced in the everyday life of communities are a direct result of the hard Brexit chosen by the Johnson administration with unionist support, to which no perfect solution is possible, and which are also being experienced by people south of the Border when trying to procure items from Britain.

Trying to push the blame for these inconveniences onto European Commission "inflexibility" is a classic distraction tactic. They are an integral part of the form of Brexit negotiated and agreed by the UK government on behalf of Northern Ireland.

And the protocol itself, in Article 18, requires that the continued operation of the protocol be subject to the approval on a regular basis by a simple majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Although desirable, there is no absolute requirement for "cross-community" support in the protocol, and to raise it as a justification now is simply the resuscitation of the unionist veto when none is provided for either in the protocol or the Belfast Agreement.

Indeed, unionist politicians are currently trying to incite loyalist opposition to the protocol to cover up their complicity in promoting a hard Brexit in defiance of the wishes of the 56 per cent majority in Northern Ireland who voted Remain.

Seeking to redirect loyalist anger from the unionist politicians who misled them and onto the EU is a classic demagogic tactic and one we should not be complicit in.

As noted by Stephen Collins, ("Johnson's unilateral breaking of NI protocol could go horribly wrong", Opinion & Analysis, March 5th), the European Parliament is due to ratify the trade and cooperation agreement and accompanying protocol at the end of this month. It should not do so while the UK government is, once again, threatening to unilaterally breach its solemn treaty obligations to the EU in defiance of international law.

And perhaps Paul Johnson should have a chat with his US ambassadorial counterpart. It is doubtful that the Biden administration will be too pleased to see the UK once again proposing to breach international law.- Is mise,



Denis Staunton, The Irish Times London correspondent has an interesting take on the UK government's approach:

Frost dispenses with the manual of diplomacy for NI protocol

In his first week in charge of Britain's relations with the European Union, David Frost has made clear that he will apply the same diplomatic method to his new role as he did to his old one of chief Brexit negotiator. Wednesday's unilateral extension of grace periods under the Northern Ireland protocol brought echoes of last year's threat to break international law with the Internal Market Bill.


Last year's gambit did nothing for Britain apart from creating a potential problem for its relationship with Washington as well as Brussels, obliging Boris Johnson to make as graceful a retreat as he could manage. This week's manoeuvre will make less impact, partly because the EU was already preparing to concede many of Britain's demands and nobody in Brussels has the appetite for a noisy, pointless conflict.

Like last time, the European Commission is taking a low-key approach, pursuing legal action but making clear privately that negotiations about implementing the protocol will continue regardless. The dispute over the protocol will not affect parallel negotiations on various aspects of the broader relationship and the European Parliament remains likely to ratify the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).

Even on something as important to Britain as the current talks on granting "equivalence" to British financial services operators, the EU will not change course. It has always intended to offer access to its financial services market in accordance with its own interests and sentiment will not enter into that calculation.

Downing Street said on Thursday that it gave Brussels and Dublin a heads up but Wednesday's move came as a surprise to almost everyone at Westminster. It was announced in a written ministerial statement on budget day, when the news was unlikely to receive much attention.

The timing and the nature of the announcement suggested that although Frost was acting with the authority of Downing Street, the prime minister's heart might not have been in it.

Johnson promoted Frost to the cabinet and gave him responsibility for relations with the EU during a week of high emotion in Downing Street after the arrival of two senior aides who are friends of Johnson's fiancée Carrie Symonds. The remnant of the Vote Leave faction threatened to walk out and in an apparent panic, Johnson gave Frost a job to which he is unusually unsuited.

The article is worth reading in full. Whereas Gove was prepared to work through the Joint committee to minimise any disruption, Frost has determined that what the EU really needs is British leadership as embodied in his own style. The EU's preference for an orderly and legal approach is construed as weakness.

The EU Parliament has now decided to postpone the ratification of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement in protest at the UK's actions, and the Commission is considering instituting infringement proceedings. If the Parliament does not ratify the deal by the end of April it lapses and we are back to a no deal scenario with tariffs and quotas kicking in. Boris Johnson and Lord Frost may find there is a very high price to paid for their failure to abide by its terms.

Simon Coveney, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs has said the EU is negotiating with a partner it simply cannot trust. Sooner or later the EU must be bound to place all other EU/UK discussions on hold unless it is clearly in the interest of the EU to continue them. That means no more concessions to UK concerns until this matter is resolved.

In the meantime attempts by unionist leaders to foment unrest amongst loyalist paramilitaries in opposition to the Protocol seem to be meeting an unenthusiastic response. As I have also made clear in a letter published in the Belfast Telegraph, the dogs in the street know unionist leaders miscalculated badly in their support for the hardest form of Brexit, and now have only themselves to blame:


(The Belfast Telegraph does not publish Letters to the Editor on-line).

But the Irish government is taking no chances and is alerting its US allies to the issue.

US president Joe Biden is "unequivocal" in his support for the Belfast Agreement, the White House has said, following London's surprise move to extend the grace period for post-Brexit checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain.


"It has been the bedrock of peace, stability and prosperity for all the people of Northern Ireland," presidential spokeswoman Jen Psaki said of the agreement when asked by The Irish Times in Washington about the dispute over the operation of the protocol.

Under the protocol, checks should commence in April on some goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland. However, in a unilateral move, the British government this week said it would extend the grace period until October, a decision that has escalated tensions between London, Brussels and Dublin.

London does not expect the arrangements for the inspections to be completed by October. Instead, senior sources said the checks would be partially rather than fully operating by then. The British government believes that the construction of the posts needed for the checks - suspended by the DUP minister Gordon Lyons last weekend - should continue.

---<snip>---

The Government is to seek an urgent meeting with the Friends of Ireland Group in the US Congress about London's move. It was agreed at a meeting of the Cabinet's Brexit subcommittee on Thursday that Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney would reach out to the influential bipartisan group on the issue.

Ministers at the committee meeting, which is chaired by the Taoiseach, are understood to have expressed concerns that unionists were exaggerating the impact of the protocol on Northern Ireland.


In Ireland we have a saying "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."  Basically it means that you can tolerate a partner cheating on you once provided they acknowledge their mistake and makes amends. But it is you who is the fool if you let them do it to you twice. The Commission needs to learn that this sort of ongoing guerilla warfare against the UK's legal obligations cannot be tolerated and that it cannot simply be business as usual.

If the Commission is to restore its credibility and standing within Europe it has to grow a backbone and declare that all other possible concessions to the UK as part of ongoing discussions are off the table until legal order is restored. As Lord Frost told his team, the EU can negotiate in one of only two styles, that of a moody teenager, or that of a tank:

Throughout the Brexit negotiations, Frost handled his principal as poorly as his interlocutors, seldom encouraging Johnson towards more creative solutions or towards candour about the trade-offs involved. Some of his errors were of the most basic kind, so that he never understood that deadlines and time pressure were to Britain's disadvantage rather than Europe's.

But when the deal was agreed, sources close to the British negotiating team hailed it as a triumph, offering much of the credit to Frost's diplomatic method.

"In pep talks, Lord Frost told his team that the EU's negotiating style was most often comparable to a moody teenager or an attempt to crush the opposition like a tank," the Times reported.

"Unflatteringly and to draw a line under the past, he compared Sir Olly Robbins, his predecessor under Theresa May, as a mouse. `He gave us a four box grid of different modes of negotiator: teenager, tank, mouse, and leader. He told us the EU tends towards the first two and the UK has too often been a mouse. We needed to be the leader in the room and rise above things,' a senior member of his team said."

It is time the EU started to negotiate more like a tank. It is the UK which is acting like a moody teenager and appeals to reason will not get us very far. The UK has tried this trick before: threatening to break international law in order to get its way. The last time the EU responded very calmly and pragmatically and concluded the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. But what use is any agreement if it is broken within weeks of being signed? A more robust response is required this time around if this is not to become an ongoing pattern.

Display:
It's almost impossible for me to comment because, try as hard as I can, I can't see any justification for the UK's position beyond the atavistically bone-headed colonialism of a century ago.
I think Frost still thinks he can send the Black and Tans to knock "sense" into people.
All of this could possibly have made sense if Trump was still in the White House but not any more. Despite all of his performative clowning, Johnson is not a fool but, sans Trump, this posturing is tactical, not strategic. At some point, we have to ask what the end point is and I really don't think the UK govt have any idea what their preferred LEGAL settlement would be. They have lots of cake-and-eat-it positions, but they have long realised they only exist over the other side of the rainbow.
The real world is a shitshow for the UK right now and Frost is a monkey dancing for the tabloids and the distraction of the public. The Tories have got a good, if undeserved, bounce from vaccine roll-out and they seek to leverage that with breast-beating over Europe.
This may work a little, but many in Britain don't really care about Ulster having decided a long time ago that the DUP are the authors of their own misfortune and deserve all the shit heaped upon them. The Tories will get no kudos from bailing them out.
If the UK carries on like this, I think the Republic would be justified in requesting US Army support at the border

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Mar 6th, 2021 at 09:17:09 AM EST
No, this doesn't need armies to resolve, just some diplomatic resolve. Ireland and the EU don't have much leverage over what happens in N. Ireland because it is under UK sovereignty. Nobody disputes this as the matter was settled under the Good Friday Agreement whereby it takes a 50%+1 to transfer Sovereignty from Britain to Ireland.

We're not there yet, and it is doubtful if a majority in Ireland would want sovereignty over the north while a very large minority are adamantly opposed. What we need is a less binary solution, and this is where the EU came in as an over-arching constitutional structure the large majority could accept.

Brexit has changed all that and we are back to binary solutions in the minds of many. But the EU does have huge control and leverage over what happens in Calais and over "equivalence" in services and in lots of other areas the UK wants cooperation and support from the EU.

This is where the Johnson/Frost strategy is so incredibly short-sighted. The crowing over vaccine procurement has created mortal enemies and I doubt Denis Staunton, the IT London correspondent is up to speed on the change of sentiment in Brussels.

The next step I expect is for Maroš Šefčovič to announce he has appointed some civil service flunky unpopular elsewhere to take his place as co-chairman of the joint UK-EU monitoring committee and direct counterpart to Lord Frost. It made sense for a Commission Vice-President to be involved when Gove was his counterpart, as Gove is effectively deputy Prime Minister.

No doubt the UK will complain that the EU is appointing yet another unelected official to a key role to which the EU will respond by pointing towards Lord Frost...

The Joint Committee will then become a shitshow with the Commission official saying "non" until such time as the UK withdraws all threats of unilateral action. Disputes will be escalated to to Gove/Šefčovič level and vd Leyen will only get involved with Boris whenever a new deal is agreed.

But the real action will be in Calais and on equivalence for services. The next Biden intervention will not be on N. Ireland, but on UK/EU relations which will have deteriorated so much that they have imperilled NATO and western alliance cohesion on a host of global issues.  Watch this space.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 6th, 2021 at 11:18:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
thats a good point about replacing the Minister with an obdurate official tasked with simply refusing everything. It'd be a mirror for Frost to shout at.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Mar 6th, 2021 at 03:07:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There was a German official who ran the show for Juncker and didn't approve of VD Leyen and didn't make it easy for her transition team. She shafted him to some non-job in Austria probably setting standards for Cuckoo clocks etc.. But he was very much feared in his day. Sounds the sort of guy who could smile sweetly at Arlene and ask "now what was your name again?"

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 6th, 2021 at 03:42:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Foreplay Brexit Referendum

Rebuffing Cameron, Merkel sticks to Juncker for top EU job | Reuters - June 10, 2014 |

Jean-Claude Juncker promoted German aide Martin Selmayr to top EU post

The Year 2014 was a hellish year across Europe with global repercussions.... Kiev Maiden Revolt - Sevastopol revanche - hostilities and downing MH-17 - USIL establishes caliphate in Raqqa - Cameron stands alone with Rutte ... a pivotal ending for the EU and unity. Tough to recover, may continu slide downwards due to wind in the sails for populist leaders.

Division East-West and New-Old Europe. The US, Russia, UK and Israel seek advantage in wrecking the economic might of the EU.

by Oui on Sat Mar 6th, 2021 at 05:22:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah yes, our old friend Martin Selmayr nicknamed "the monster" would be just the man for the job!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 6th, 2021 at 06:08:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Foster accuses Coveney of ignoring `deep' unionist concerns
The North's First Minister accused the Minister for Foreign Affairs of "ignoring" unionists and called on him to reflect on his language as the political fallout continued on Thursday over the UK's unilateral decision to extend the grace periods for post-Brexit checks on some goods entering the North from Britain.

Arlene Foster was responding to comments by Simon Coveney, who told RTÉ the EU was "negotiating with a partner that they simply cannot trust."

Ms Foster said he "talks about not having a partner you can do business with. I have to say, he should reflect on that, because he's not listening to the unionist people of Northern Ireland. He's ignoring them, and thinking that they'll just go away. We will not go away, and we need to be listened to in relation to our very deep concerns."

The First Minister and other members of the DUP - who oppose the Northern Ireland protocol because it places a border in the Irish Sea - on Thursday backed the UK government's move, characterising it as a timely intervention ahead of the expiry of the grace period on supermarket goods to mitigate some of the difficulties caused to trade from Britain under the protocol.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Féin accused the British government of once again "acting in bad faith". She said they had "demonstrated by their very deed that they are untrustworthy . . . not true to their word when it comes to negotiation."

She said that in this case she believed the UK was "on the wrong side of public opinion, and they're clearly on the wrong side of international law".

Yes we here you Arlene. It's been the same broken record for 100 years. Nobody cares, any more.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 6th, 2021 at 11:28:02 AM EST
The North's Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, on Thursday called for "calmness" and "wise heads" after an organisation representing loyalist paramilitaries wrote to the Taoiseach and the British prime minister informing them that the groups were withdrawing their support for the Belfast Agreement.

The letter from the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) - which represents the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Red Hand Commando (RHC) - outlined its "unanimous opposition" to the protocol but said this should be "peaceful and democratic".

---<snip>---

Earlier on Thursday the Stormont Agriculture Committee heard from the senior civil servant in the North's Department of Agriculture, Denis McMahon, and the North's Chief Vet, Dr Robert Huey, about the decision by the Minister for Agriculture, the DUP's Gordon Lyons, to halt construction work on permanent inspection posts at ports and to suspend plans to introduce charges.

Mr McMahon confirmed that the department has sought legal advice on both points, and officials would ultimately have to comply with the law. An external legal challenge has also been launched against the Minister's decision.

---<snip>---

"And I've spoken about this to the commission on purely technical, not political, terms about `here is what I'm being asked to do by the Northern Ireland Protocol with my currently 12 vets, that's not going to work.' That's where we find ourselves. So the extension of grace period, if that is what occurs, is welcomed but it's not the solution," Dr Huey said.

"The scale of documentary checks is huge by any standards," said Mr McMahon, adding that 13,629 such checks were completed in January and February.

"Our population is under half a per cent of that across the European Union, yet the documentary checks, according to the systems completed so far, would represent one-fifth of the equivalent documentation right across the EU."

Of the shipments requiring documentary checks, 88 per cent also undergo identity checks and about 5 per cent full physical inspections.

Yes. Wasn't the EU a marvellously efficient operation by comparison? A pity you left it...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 6th, 2021 at 11:37:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
MEP President's Conference Shelf Vote on Trade Deal

From my recent diary ...

Frost Bite: Equivalence Tussle UK Power Politics

'Slash and burn' of EU rules ruled out post-Brexit ... statement has earned a number of Pinocchio's.

Brexit remains far from over: the "slow burn" of EU-exit will stress the British economy long term | LSE |

by Oui on Sat Mar 6th, 2021 at 12:09:56 PM EST
As a Europhile German resident of the United States, with a History Ph.D. in Cold War/Foreign Policy, I really appreciate your regular insights into the depths of Irish politics, Frank; and while I cannot competently comment on the details for a lack of depth of knowledge on the issues presented here, a thought struck me the other day, entirely fed from years of analyzing domestic political maneuvers versus foreign policy diplomatic signalling. So please bear with me for a moment.

The pure Irish-British-Brussels/other EU relationship polygon aside, is it possible that what we are witnessing with Johnson's own actions in this is foremost an inner-Tory party domination game?

I mean specifically this:

  • Johnson is, historically, not a Brexiteer per se. He joined the anti-EU bandwagon in his career early as it promised a quick rise to the top in his party by being a Murdoch proxy, but kept his cards on Brexit close until the last moment, when switching against David Cameron opened a route to premiership in case of a win either way: if, in the referendum, Brexit had lost the poll closely (which was the forecast) Johnson would have still been the number one successor to Cameron as the spearhead of his ERG critics, whose political survival in the Tory party would have been doubtful given the strength the ERG and their sympathizers in the Commons still had. Following the history of the last fourty years, in which every Tory PM eventually fell over their EU/EEC stance, Johnson picked the Machiavellian way to the top  (unlike, e.g. John Major's, whose way to the top was similar to Merkel's). After Camerons' fall, BoJo still had not garnered enough support to gain the party's leadership position. Teresa May's ill-fated attempt to unite centrists, right wing crazies and pro-EU market moderates was merely a matter of inner party sabotage, which to Johnson, true to style, was a matter of a few months to accomplish. Party leadership subsequently fell into his lap.
  • While pompous in style, BJ is deeply afraid of the tables turning against him, where his only standard response is to just quit and wait for a better post to sidestep into (cf. his short tenure as Foreign Secretary). The problem now is only there is no way up once you're PM.
Given this basic history of his schemes, the fact that his main political engineer, Dominic Cummings, was dropped as soon as Johnson realized his ship was sailing too close to the wind, should not come as a surprise, and is thoroughly sensible (from a BoJo POV).

It is a common strategy employed by governing politicians in Western democracies to elevate inner party rivals to positions of authority which face considerable headwinds in their respective fields: if your rivals falter in that position, their dismissal will win party approval for you, and if they succeed their laurels will elevate you in turn as a leader.
Gove has already failed. Reese-Mogg has little chance in hell to be elevated into any higher post; and Frost has now been perfectly moved into a position to have to bear full responsibility if things go south, while looking like a perfect Johnson stooge if things somehow work out.

SO, to end this long rant: are we actually witnessing  Johnson's maneuvers to drain the inner party political personnel tableau of the Brexit wing of his party? Frost is, perhaps, simply meant to fail. Of course, it all is happening at the expense of British-Irish and British-EU relations in general. But it wouldn't be the first time that domestic party politics trump a nation's foreign policy and trade interests, especially not with the Tories.
And the EU will act rationally eventually and not embark on acts of small minded revenge, simply because they are too large and complex not to do so, and petty-mindedness is simply not in the EU's genes when large scale trade is at stake. So London-Brussels-Dublin ties can always be mended (at least in BoJo's mind) while he dances on the edge of the volcano pushing his inner party rivals into the abyss until he is the last loony standing.
This, while not a pretty picture, seems to me the only reasonable explanation this side of little Englander chauvinism. BoJo is riding an irrational tiger of anti-EU-sentiment; it took him into Downing St. And maybe, just maybe, he is now looking for ways for the tiger to get gravely wounded, so he can act as the good Doctor Dolittle, tending to the emasculated Tiger's wounds while looking like the "guy who gets things done/he at least tried". Moving Frost into his current position might have just been the right chess move for that chain of events.

This is of course just a dark thought, and I might be way off. Thoughts and comments are welcome.

by Averett on Sun Mar 7th, 2021 at 04:00:04 AM EST
A Murdoch proxy .... but all Tory PM candidates are, not Johnson as an individual. Best illustrated by PM David Cameron and the phone hacking scandal ... Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and mouthpiece Alistair Campbell. The Murdoch octopus stretches out across continents, see previous posts about destroying labour and supporting WASP policy in US Politics.

Conservative might is a long proces over decades ... follow the money and rhetoric from think tanks.

However politicians in power are corrupt, incompetent and go for short term electoral gains. Nothing rational accept self-preservation to keep their seat at the table. Best example is four years of Trump and the destruction of the GOP of idol Ronald Reagan. Also lost all seats of power to Democrats and "Sleepy" Joe.

Beyond the direct political power of media magnates like Hearst, Maxwell, Murdoch one can add the Adelsons, Paul Singer, Mercers, Mark Zuckerberg, Pierre Omidyar and Jack Dorsey.

The planet's most powerful mass communication magnates

by Oui on Sun Mar 7th, 2021 at 09:33:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not a dark thought at all, just bog standard Machiavelli.

One of my rules of thumb in political analysis is that the need to adopt extreme positions is in inverse proportion to the inherent leadership strength of an individual/party/polity.

Merkel can now afford to be generous and non-partisan in her political positions because she is in a position of almost unrivalled power, having dispatched all possible rivals into compromising/difficult jobs which diminished their appeal. Her problem now is finding any credible successor now that she actually wants to retire.

Boris was still seen as a bit of a political buffoon by the party establishment when Mayor of London - a useful populist idiot with a talent for self-promotion. His record of actual achievement in any job is close to zero, but that is not the point. Neither had he held any cabinet position prior to his appointment by May...
Wiki

After Theresa May became leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister, she appointed Johnson foreign secretary in July 2016.[319] Analysts saw the appointment as a tactic to weaken Johnson politically: the new positions of "Brexit secretary" and international trade secretary left the foreign secretary as a figurehead with few powers.[319][320] Johnson's appointment ensured that he would often be out of the country and unable to organise and mobilise backbenchers against her, while also forcing him to take responsibility for problems caused by withdrawing from the EU.

So for Johnson to become "somebody" he had to adopt a policy position which differentiated him from much of the party leadership, and it was obvious, with the success of the Brexit party, where a large leaderless potential body of support lay.

But his problem is that in order to secure his position with his new support base, he has to play to the gallery. Antics such as the internal market bill and the unilateral abrogation of the N. Ireland protocol play well with the ERG even if they do huge damage to the UK's standing, internationally. Even when he eventually back-tracks, he has shown that his heart is in the right place. Lack of actual achievement is more than compensated for by the emotional satisfaction of being scene to stuff it to Jonny Foreigner.

But they reflect his weakness, not his strength

The same can be seen in the DUP's frantic attempts to whip up hysteria amongst loyalist paramilitary groups even though the latter find it hard to whip up much enthusiasm/anger over increased customs documentation. They need to create an external bogeyman to shore up party support in the face of their own leadership failures. The greater the degree of their own culpability, the greater the need to distract.

There was a brief moment when the Brexit party could have overtaken the Tory party as the chief right wing party in Britain, and by splitting the vote ensuring a win for Labour. So the stakes at one stage were very high. Now it's just a case of keeping the ERG and Vote Leave onside, which explains the Frost appointment despite his spectacular unsuitability for the role, which is guaranteed to ensure increasingly hostile EU UK relations for years to come, despite EU attempts at rationality. VD Leyen too, has a position to protect, and must be seen to achieve a few wins after the Vaccine procurement fiasco.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Mar 7th, 2021 at 02:15:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany has enough domestic problems ... failure with East Germany, the rise of AfD in politics and society, the split between CDU and CSU. After Merkel who will take leadership in the EU? France? Spain? Italy? What's left Poland, Hungary, Greece ... The disunion of the E27 will have priority in Brussels, the Brexit deal is done on paper and the competition will be fierce.

The Biden administration will have a difficult time with the UK-EU break-up. Maidan Joe will lead an aggressive policy towards Moscow which continues to divide Europe. Biden appears to leave much of the Trump foreign policy in place and is bound by Middle East (new) allies and a State of Israel emboldened by four years Trump. This policy is strongly tied to Congress in a Cold War footing. B-52s will be filling the skies and fleet manoeuvres near China to keep sending a message.

There is a new resident in the White House, but he too will be bound by an AmericaFirst filter for domestic success heading into crucial 2022 midterms. The vaccine rollout in the EU will have no political consequences as it did with the US presidential election last fall. Voter attention will be the economy, jobs and getting freedom back. Solidarity is history ... tough time for Greens and climate policy. Hope Brussels can make a difference.

by Oui on Sun Mar 7th, 2021 at 05:17:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Biden's Hidden Weaponry

By championing policies like anti-monopolism and local empowerment, the new president can craft something sorely missing in America: a persuasive national narrative.

by Oui on Sun Mar 7th, 2021 at 05:46:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Re Merkel: She currently faces the simple reality that retirees lose most of their party influence. Her attempts to designate a successor and pushing her only inner party rival von der Leyen first into the surefire fail of German Defence Secretary only worked partially. Von der Leyen failed in Defence, and because of her party standing and conservative public support was finagled into the top EU post, from where there is little chance of ever returning to German Domestic politics (something that other neoliberal conservative free-market rogue, Merz, is just finding out -- Germans, historically speaking, don't seem to like politicians who spent long times abroad building ties and loyalties with non-domestic alliances, especially not if they're big hedge funds).
But Merkels positioning of AKK as a successor failed to convince her party; AKK's more socially conservative leaning also did not gain the additional public support the CDU was hoping for in the polls; Germany just ain't the UK/US in that regard. So, all that is left for Merkel is now to be a lame duck until the fall; she has given up on determining a successor; sure, she can pick a few "I don't care" fights on issues until the election and conceivably win them, but one cannot expect her to do anything drastic. She will stay the even handed puppet-master/string-puller she was throughout her reign, and then fade into the sunset.

The more interesting question then is what will happen with the EU/London balancing act when whoever takes office after the German election has to decide whether to try to mend bridges with London, embark on a more pro-EU course widening the channel gulf, or weaken the EU from within (a stance that has currently no majority with the German public, but is dangerously fraying the edges of the CDU's domestic support on the countryside).
So for this year, there will be no surprises coming from German politics. 2022 is a different matter entirely.
There is a potential outcome in which EU nations perceive collectively that the EU vaccine underperformance was more due to lack of EU authority rather than bad exercising of it. The chance for that is, imho, about 30%, 70% being all other outcomes.
And if the former happens, Brexit friction will only increase as the EU 27 will accelerate a federalization of the European system as a whole, pulling ever further away from the UK; the other options are far less obvious to me.

by Averett on Sun Mar 7th, 2021 at 03:17:17 PM EST
All the focus, in the Irish media at least, has been on Cameron/May/Johnson's difficulties in uniting the Tory party, never mind the country, behind a coherent policy stance.

The great benefit of Brexit, from an EU point of view, is that it managed to unite the EU around a common position (when there was much else to divide the EU27), make it feel virtuous about supporting a smaller member in difficulty (Ireland), and make the Commission appear competent.

The Vaccine procurement mess threatens to unravel much of this despite the fact that:

  1. Health care is not a primary EU competency
  2. The EU27 only gave the Commission a mandate on vaccine procurement last June to avoid a repeat of the national PPE procurement scandals
  3. The Commission has no great experience/competence in vaccine procurement and was under pressure to demonstrate value for money.

So now the EU's need to demonstrate competence, unity, and achievement is at least as great as the UK. Both leadership elites could benefit from having each other as external bogeymen to demonstrate the need for internal cohesion and solidarity.

So I expect EU UK hostility to increase, at least on a rhetorical plane, whatever about practical cooperation on the ground. N. Ireland risks becoming a pawn in that game with unionists/nationalists becoming proxies fro the UK and EU.

I think the case for a permanent EU Pharmaceutical/medtech procurement and research support agency to complement the European Medicines Agency is overwhelming, and will probably be accepted once the vaccination drives are more or less completed and the pandemic is, hopefully, behind us.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Mar 7th, 2021 at 06:12:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lord Frost tells EU to stop sulking over Brexit and make a success of it
Brussels must stop sulking over the UK's decision to leave the European Union and work to make Brexit a success, Boris Johnson's Europe adviser has said.

Lord Frost says the EU should "shake off any remaining ill will towards us for leaving, and instead build a friendly relationship, between sovereign equals".

Last week the Prime Minister infuriated Brussels when he unilaterally extended the grace period for supermarkets' goods and parcels from the end of this month to October, prompting threats of legal action from Brussels. The grace periods mean procedures and checks are not yet fully applied.

The move sparked a fresh row with the EU, which is jointly responsible with the UK for the Northern Ireland Protocol governing trade and new border checks in the province.

But writing for The Telegraph, the Cabinet Office minister blames the escalating tensions on the EU's threat to impose a hard border on the island of Ireland in January.

Lord Frost, who personally negotiated the Brexit trade deal and joined Mr Johnson's Cabinet last month, says the EU's behaviour "has significantly undermined cross-community confidence in the Protocol".

He writes: "As the Government of the whole of our country we have to deal with that situation - one that remains fragile. That is why we have had to take some temporary operational steps to minimise disruption in Northern Ireland. They are lawful and are consistent with a progressive and good faith implementation of the Protocol.

"They are about protecting the everyday lives of people in Northern Ireland, making sure they can receive parcels and buy the usual groceries from the supermarket."

Lord Frost, who made his maiden speech in the House of Lords last Thursday, also says the UK's decision to break away from an EU scheme on coronavirus vaccines to order its own supplies instead was a tangible example of the benefits of Brexit.

It is a classic bullying tactic - to blame the victim by accusing them of sulking.  But the EU is no victim and has no reason to want to make Brexit a success. Lord Frost will simply find himself increasing ignored as the EU moves on to other priorities. In the meantime the EU Parliament has decided to postpone ratifying the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Indefinitely, I would hope, and the Commission should also cease any other discussions with the UK until the Protocol is fully and faithfully implemented. What is the point of negotiating new agreements when existing ones are flouted?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 8th, 2021 at 02:59:11 PM EST
Lord Frost's comments were praised by the leaders of the European Research Group of Conservative MPs.

David Jones, the group's deputy chairman, said: "The EU has displayed significant bad faith, ranging from the intemperate anti-British sniping of Mr Macron's Europe minister, Clément Beaune, to the extraordinarily aggressive and unjustified action of banning the export of vaccines to the UK.

"This is in clear breach of the spirit of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The UK can't be expected to stand by while trade is disrupted and supermarket shelves are at risk of emptying.

"David Frost is absolutely right to take proportionate measures."

Tory Brexiteers have called on Boris Johnson to scrap the arrangements for Northern Ireland

The ERG members are less effective but mirroring USA under Trump ... in the end the GOP was the BIG LOSER!

by Oui on Mon Mar 8th, 2021 at 03:35:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry, but I couldn't read beyond the first paragraph of the piece without laughing. Seriously, WTF?

The EU is way too busy with the pandemic, the slow ramping up of the vaccination campaign, trade disputes with the USA and various political dramas throughout the continent, to give his lordship more than a passing thought. This has worked so well the last time: If anything, the Brexiters have been an excellent opportunity to get the EU27 totally united. Against the Brexiters. There is no reason for this to change, quite the opposite, actually.

by Bernard on Mon Mar 8th, 2021 at 09:28:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's playground stuff and the UK needs to grow up fast now that it is in the real world all on its own.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 8th, 2021 at 11:29:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anglo-American Conservatives can posture but they can't govern.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Mar 9th, 2021 at 04:19:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They have no desire to govern because government=bad.  Their purpose is to make sure government does not function, except of course for the Ueberklass, and they're very effective at that whether in government or opposition.
by rifek on Mon Mar 29th, 2021 at 03:57:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Shorter businesses: Grow up, kid (and stop being such an ass).

by Bernard on Tue Mar 9th, 2021 at 07:36:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]

All additional "advantages" are for ... free!

by Oui on Wed Mar 10th, 2021 at 02:52:57 PM EST
EU countries back legal action against UK over post-Brexit grace period extension - Politico.eu
EU member countries on Tuesday backed the European Commission's proposal to take legal action against the U.K. over its decision to unilaterally extend the grace periods for Irish Sea border checks, diplomats said.

The support from national capitals comes as some EU diplomats raise the prospect of more far-reaching retaliation in the field of financial services in reaction to the British actions, which the EU says are violating international law. The British financial services industry has been awaiting a host of so-called "equivalence" decisions, not included in the Brexit trade deal, that will determine the ease with which it can access EU markets now that Britain has left the bloc's single market.

by Bernard on Wed Mar 10th, 2021 at 07:00:39 PM EST
There's no reason for the EU to give the UK equivalency in any service industry.  The UK wanted to strike out on its own.  Here is its big chance.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Mar 11th, 2021 at 06:08:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Natives are Restless before St. Patrick's Day

by Oui on Wed Mar 10th, 2021 at 09:23:54 PM EST
And so it continues, the ever worsening of EU/UK relations I predicted in The 2021-2026 EU UK Trade war. Even the no-deal scenario cannot be ruled out, as the EU Parliament has postponed ratification of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

EU capitals weigh tougher response to UK's Brexit `provocations'

EU governments are exploring ways of pressing the UK to comply with its post-Brexit obligations as they resign themselves to an increasingly combative relationship with Britain.

Brussels is already preparing legal action against the UK over its shock announcement earlier this month that it would unilaterally extend grace periods that ease the impact of Brexit red tape on Northern Irish businesses -- a step attacked by the EU as a breach of good faith.

Some capitals have held informal talks on further options for retaliation if relations with Britain continue to deteriorate, according to diplomats.

"We had hoped to maintain a trustful partnership," said one senior EU diplomat. "Now it looks like it is going to be quite a tough and rough relationship for the foreseeable future."

The ideas being floated include potentially denying the UK sought-after membership of a European legal co-operation pact, diplomats said, as well as further stalling EU decisions on market access for the City of London, in response to what the bloc sees as a number of UK provocations.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 12th, 2021 at 10:32:33 AM EST
"We had hoped to maintain a trustful partnership," said one senior EU diplomat.

That was never going to happen.  As long as the Tories are running the place there's no reliance on UK promises or treaties. The sooner the EU realizes that  the better.  

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

by ATinNM on Fri Mar 12th, 2021 at 04:19:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, but it is important for the optics and to consolidate support at home, that the EU and member states are seen to have exhausted diplomatic options.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 12th, 2021 at 04:44:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
According to this:

Overall, the UK's image, reputation and influence is seen as having been badly damaged by the decision to leave the EU and by the way UK politics have unfolded since the June 2016 vote, including its relationship with the EU. Where the UK had previously been commonly seen as a pragmatic, serious and highly influential player in European affairs, it is now seen as unreliable, unpredictable and having lost substantial influence ...

<snip>

There is also substantial Brexit fatigue and frustration and different views on whether and how fast a stronger relationship could be built in the future - the ball is seen as lying in the UK's court. The EU faces many other challenges and the UK is not near the top of its priority list.

the EU has won the PR war.  

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

by ATinNM on Sat Mar 13th, 2021 at 03:17:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brussels launches legal action against UK over Brexit breach
The European Commission today launched twin-track legal action against the British government over its decision to unilaterally delay the introduction of post-Brexit checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

The EU executive body said in a statement that it had sent two letters to the U.K. government, which contain threats of two different paths for legal proceedings against London should the British government not be willing to settle the dispute via negotiations in the coming weeks.

Spoiler alert: Both legal tracks "may ultimately lead to Brussels imposing tariffs on U.K. goods." Frank's EU UK Trade war is slowly shaping up, as predicted. Tomorrow's tabloids eructations are also totally predictable.

by Bernard on Mon Mar 15th, 2021 at 06:34:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anglo-American Conservative parties seem to be more interested in looting the economy for themselves and their friends and, so far successfully, deflecting the blame for the resulting economic problems to The Other.

In the US The Other is Democrats.

In the UK The Other is the EU.

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

by ATinNM on Tue Mar 16th, 2021 at 03:55:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Never appeal to your opponent's better nature.  He may not have one.
by rifek on Mon Mar 29th, 2021 at 03:38:29 PM EST
??? Special Easter Hunt ???

by Oui on Sun Apr 4th, 2021 at 03:20:45 PM EST
Expect more of this.  

The next step is a resurgence of violence by the Protestant paramilitary groups.  Who never did turn in their weaponry IIRC.

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

by ATinNM on Sun Apr 4th, 2021 at 04:11:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon: London must reinvent itself as EU rivals fight to take its crown

by Oui on Thu Apr 8th, 2021 at 03:50:00 PM EST


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