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.

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Brexit, Conservative Party, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, UK Labour Party

Chucking Chequers and #Brexit… there are just too many ‘unknown unknowns’ in play

marr gove
Michael Gove with Andrew Marr (Photo via Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire)

I took the last week off to spend a few days outside Chatal, on the west coast of France. But even there, there was no escaping Brexit.

It is important to understand that Europeans are not obsessed with Brexit in the same way as people are in the UK. Talking to people in France, Belgium or Spain over the past few months leaves you with the impression that most people think the UK is “nuts” or “mad” to leave the EU. But they also believe that the UK never really wanted to be part of “Europe” in the first place, so, goodbye to them.

Nevertheless, quite often when people in France, Belgium or Spain hear you speak English they ask you “What do you think of Brexit?” My first response is to tell them that I am Irish, not English.

It’s amazing the difference that little sentence makes. Any suggestion of hostility immediately disappears as they begin to tell you about a fishing trip they once took on the Shannon or their cycling tour of Connemara.  When they were much younger, of course.

“So, how will Brexit end up?”, they ask. My answer is that I have no idea. I have been following Brexit developments in detail over the past two years and have written some 60 or so of these Briefings. Yet, I have absolutely no idea of what is going to happen between now and March 29th next year. Quite frankly, neither does anyone else.

There are just too many “unknown unknowns” in play, political molecules bouncing around, crashing into one another, producing unintended effects.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, UK Labour Party

#Brexit: A New UK Politics in the Making?

This blog was written on Fri March 30th, 2018

out out
Leave the EEC campaign – 1975 UK Referendum

In the Ireland of the 1950s and 60s, in which I grew up, you had no choice but to go to Sunday mass. You might get away with not going in the big cities, but not in rural Ireland, the valleys of the squinting windows, where everyone knew your business.

Those who were reluctant mass-goers would wait a few minutes until after the mass had started, then slip in and stand furtively at the back. Needless to say, they did not “participate” in the mass and you would rarely, if ever, see them join in the singing of hymns, much less walk up the church to take communion. As soon as the priest gave the final benediction they were out and gone. There in body, but not in spirit.

It often strikes me that this is a useful way of looking at the UK’s membership of the EU: arrived late, stood at the back, participated as little as possible, and a lot of the time, seemed to wish it were elsewhere.

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Article 50, Brexit, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Theresa May, UK Labour Party

From “Cakeism” to “Half-Bakeism” on #Brexit

This blog was written on Feb 25th, 2018:

Chequers meeting

“The fact that the UK cabinet can spend entire days debating its preferred Brexit choices while completely ignoring what is actually negotiable with the EU never ceases to amaze” wrote John Peet, lead for the Economist on Brexit, in a Twitter post.

The post came after the UK “war cabinet” spent a day at the prime minister’s country house in Chequers trying to work out the “end state” of the Brexit process. Trying to find an answer to the question: Just what commercial and trading relationship does the UK wants with the EU in the future?

In the words of Donald Tusk, president of the EU Council, the answer they arrived at was “pure illusion”.

While we won’t know for certain what the cabinet decided until the Prime Minister, Mrs. May, makes a major speech next Friday setting out their plan, leaks suggest that the cabinet has decided that not only does it want to have its cake and eat it, it now also wants to own a half-share in the bakery as well.

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Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, UK Labour Party

#Brexit: It’s not the Economy, Stupid, It’s Politics

This blogpost was written on January 27:

3140It has been one of those weeks when you have to stop and ask yourself just exactly what is Brexit, given that the UK government and the wider political community seem incapable of agreeing on an answer.

Certainly, Brexit means the UK wants to leave the EU, but on what terms? When does it really want to leave, and what happens afterwards? Reading about the way UK politicians are approaching Brexit I am often reminded of the hassled parents who, patience worn thin, tells the kids to “get in the car, we are going for a drive”. When the kids demand to know “where are we going” they are told to “just get in the car, we’ll decide on the way”. As soon as they are in the car the parents start arguing as to where to go, all the while the kids creating a noisy racket in the back.

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Brexit, British Government, Macron, Negotiating, Theresa May, UK Labour Party

#Macron says: “Be My Guest” while UK’s two main parties are gripped by #Brexit cakism

This piece was written on January 19th 2018.

_99662678_selfieWith just three words, “Be my Guest”, French President, Emmanuel Macron, on a visit to the UK this week, made it clear that the EU would not bend or break its rules to accommodate the UK in any post-Brexit deal.

“In” means in, and that means abiding by the EU’s rules. “Out” means out. And the choice was the UK’s to make. No doubt, a wry smile crossed the face of the spirit of General De Gaulle, wherever he may be.

As the Europeans see it, Brexit isn’t difficult or complicated. In fact, it is fairly straightforward. It is UK politics that are difficult and that are making Brexit hard for the UK.

We believe that the EU see Brexit as follows:

1.       Following a vote on June 23, 2016, some nine months later, in March 2017, the UK wrote to the European Union saying that it would be leaving the EU at midnight on March 29th, 2019. Continue reading

Brexit, Negotiating, Theresa May, UK Labour Party

“Plan for the Worst: Hope for the Best” – the Fading Hope of #Brexit Deal

Posted on Friday, Oct 6th 2017:

4221396001_5597581765001_5597568337001-vsThe major party conferences have come and gone and still we are no wiser as to how Brexit is going to unfold. As we noted in last week’s Briefing, the Labour Party’s policy appears to be that they will deliver Brexit, but a Labour Brexit, not a Tory Brexit, whatever that means. Brexit is Brexit and Brexit means being outside the European Union (EU), the single market and the customs union.

However, Labour is in opposition and, so, for the moment what it says is important but nowhere near as important as what the Conservative government says, as it is charged with negotiating the Brexit arrangements with the EU. Whether it can get whatever deal it negotiates, if any, through Parliament, especially the House of Lords, is another matter.

This week’s Conservative Party conference was dominated by three issues:

  1. Brexit;
  2. Who is going to succeed Theresa May as Conservative leader, and when;
  3. and Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

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