Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Theresa May

So… #Brexit? What happens next…? No one knows…

This blogpost was written early on Wed Jan 16th

theresd_1547590814

Last night the UK government lost the vote in the House of Commons on the Brexit agreement it had negotiated with Brussels by 432 to 202.

This is the largest defeat suffered by a government in over 100 years. In normal times a defeat such as this on the government’s flagship policy would result in the fall of the government or, at the very least, the resignation of the Prime Minister.

But Brexit times are not normal times and today the government will, in all likelihood, win the vote of No Confidence tabled by the Labour Party. While over 100 Conservative MPs voted against the government’s Brexit plans, they will not vote to bring that government down, thereby possibly letting Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, regarded by many as a radical leftist, into 10 Downing Street.

So, the UK government is likely to survive, though whether Theresa May stays on as Prime Minister may be another matter.

So, what happens next? Absolutely no one knows.

Continue reading

Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Parody

When #Brexit Goes to the Movies

This blog was written on Sunday Jan 13, 2019

814v+v74jml._sy445_

I don’t know how many of you saw last Monday’s Channel 4 drama: Brexit, The Uncivil War. I will leave it for others to judge its merits as a drama, and for good reason too.

I am, sadly,one of those curious individual who genuinely enjoy the dublinese patois of Mrs Brown’s Boys. This tells you all you need to know about my artistic judgement – and so goes any “street cred” I have managed to build up over recent years.

Then again, I am originally from Dublin so maybe it’s just the dublinese calling out to me, like Colin Farrell’s opening lines in the great In Bruges. But a Dubliner, is a Dubliner is a Dubliner. Once and for always.

However, I do know about politics and, unfortunately, too much about Brexit – so, as I see it, when it came to attempting to explain Brexit and why the UK voted for it The Uncivil War fell well short of the mark.

The nearest it came to the actual raw and ugly politics of Brexit was the focus-group scene which, as the playwright Sarah Helm noted in the Guardian, better portrayed …how the poison of Brexit has set ordinary people against each other, or exposed how easily our feeble leaders were led by opportunistic apparatchiks… than any newspaper article

Continue reading

Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Irish border, Northern Ireland

There is No Good Way Forward on #Brexit

This blogpost was written on Saturday, Nov 17th, 2018

MichelBarnierDonladTuskBrexitDealDraftNov18_largeUK politicians are faced with an impossible decision. There is no point pretending otherwise or wishing it were otherwise. There is no good answer to the problems the UK has created for itself when it comes to Brexit and to its relationship with the European Union.

It all comes down to this. How can the UK government, any government and not just the current government, deliver on the Brexit promises to take back control of borders, law and money from the EU, while not damaging trade in goods and services between the UK and its biggest market? It simply can’t. There is no way to square this circle.

Imagine if, for example, Sweden decide to leave the EU. I pick Sweden because it, like the UK, is not a Eurozone member and so is not faced with the problem of untangling its currency with an EU exit. The main withdrawal issue facing Sweden would be fixing its financial obligations on departure, paying its fair share of what it agreed to as a member. Secondly, would be the rights of EU citizens living in Sweden and Swedish citizens living elsewhere in the EU. Probably not a major issue. ABBA would be welcome in Europe, anywhere, anytime.

The most important question to be resolved in the Withdrawal Agreement would be the “framework” for future economic relationship between Sweden and the EU. That “framework” would be identified and thrashed out after Sweden left the EU. No doubt, there would be a transition period because one thing we have learnt from Brexit is that it is impossible to go from being an EU member to a non-member overnight. Life is just too complex.

Continue reading

Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Irish border, Northern Ireland

#Brexit – The Fast Fading Fantasies

This blogpost was written on Sunday Nov 11, 2018

jo johnson

Just when you think there cannot be any more twists and turns in the Brexit saga, along comes the resignation of Jo Johnson (Photo): Transport Minister in May’s government and Boris Johnson’s younger brother. Jo Johnson is not, and never was, an attention seeker. Instead, he was a sober, industrious member of the government who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum.

His devastating resignation statement frames the choice May intends to present to parliament as one between “vassalage”, obeying EU rules with no say in their adoption, or “chaos”, leaving the EU with no agreed terms. Rather than have parliament vote on these two unpalatable options he wants them, along with the option to remain in the EU, put to the people in another referendum.

If a centrist such as Jo Johnson is taking this position, then there must be many other centrist MPs who see things similarly. Will they break cover in the coming days? If we add the dozen or so already declared centrists who want another referendum to 20 or 30 Hard-Brexiteers and the 10 DUP votes, it becomes increasingly difficult to see May getting the Commons to vote for any deal she manages to bring back from Brussels.

That is, if she manages to bring back a deal.

Continue reading

Brexit, British Government, Northern Ireland, Single Market, UK Labour Party

A Never Ending #Brexit

This blogpost was written on Sunday Nov 4th, 2018
The Prime Minister Meets DUP Leader At Downing Street
Prime Minister May with DUP leaders

It is Sunday and the weekend papers are awash with suggestions that the Brexit negotiators are close to a breakthrough. The Sunday Times reports, almost breathlessly, on “May’s Secret Brexit Deal”. RTE’s European editor, Tony Connelly reports it somewhat differently – and far more soberly.

As usual, the potential deal-breaker is the Irish backstop.

Apparently, what is now being discussed is that the while the whole of the UK would stay in a “bare bones”, temporary customs union with the EU, Northern Ireland (NI) would stay within the full EU customs code and the single market for goods. Regulatory checks would take place in factories and businesses away from the actual border. Instead of the border being down the middle of the Irish sea it might be somewhere in a factory in, say, Liverpool. But then Liverpool was always part of Ireland, really.

Were this deal to be finalised between the negotiators it is being suggested that it would allow UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, to argue that her redlines of no divisions within the UK have been respected and that the NI backstop would never have to be used in practice.

Continue reading

Brexit, British Government, Theresa May

First there was “Hard #Brexit” then there was “Red, White and Blue Brexit” – now, it’s a “Squatters’ Brexit”

This blogpost was written on Tues Oct 30th, 2018

image

Brexit negotiations have been on hold for the past week or so pending yesterday’s UK Budget. Both EU and UK negotiators waited nervously to see if the UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, could deliver a budget that could win acceptance in the House of Commons. As I write, on Tuesday morning, it looks like he did.

The cause for concern on the part of the negotiators were recent statements from both hard-line Brexiteers in the Conservative Party and from the Ulster Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that they would vote down the budget in a show of force over their Brexit concerns. However, after Hammond earmarked £350 million for Belfast and another £320 million for the Northern Ireland Executive, it is now unlikely that the DUP will vote down the budget.

But the government is not yet out of the woods as far as the DUP is concerned.  Sammy Wilson, a DUP MP, said the party was not yet planning to oppose the budget, explaining, “To date we haven’t seen the outcome of the withdrawal agreement, so it would be reckless of us to oppose the budget on the basis of something we haven’t seen.” Wilson added, “However, the government will need support when it comes to the finance bill… So, they shouldn’t take it for granted that just because they get the budget passed that they can do whatever they like with Northern Ireland.”

Hammond also loosened spending in what the Financial Times described as “an old-fashioned giveaway Budget”. As the FT further noted Hammond’s budget was “as much about politics as economics.”

Continue reading

Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Michel Barnier, Northern Ireland

Now Impossible to See How a UK/EU Deal on #Brexit is Doable

 This blogpost was written on Tuesday Oct 23rd, 2018

commons

After Theresa May’s statement yesterday to the House of Commons, it seems more likely than ever that we are heading for a no-deal Brexit. Fast.

May effectively repudiated Article 49, the so-called “Irish backstop”, in last December’s Joint Report from EU and UK negotiators to Europe’s political leaders. It was this report which allowed the Brexit talks to move on. The EU will not accept the UK reneging on a clear undertaking, especially as the UK is trying to leverage talks on the Irish backstop to force the pace on its future economic relationship with the EU. (For a full history of the backstop see Tony Connelly here).

Nothing destroys a negotiation more quickly than when one of the parties is seen by the other as acting in bad faith. Renege on a commitment and all trust is gone. May with her Commons statement might have seen off a simmering rebellion in the Tory party over her leadership, but at the cost of breaking faith with the EU.

Continue reading