Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Irish border, Northern Ireland

For Ireland: the only good #Brexit is No-Brexit

This blogpost was written on Sunday June 2nd 2019
NI MEPs
Northern Ireland’s 3 MEPs: 2 Remainers & 1 Leaver

For Ireland, the only good Brexit is no Brexit. That goes for Ireland and for Northern Ireland (NI). Little noticed during the past week in the UK press, much less commented on, was the fact that in the European Parliament (EP) elections a majority of people in Northern Ireland voted for Remain candidates.

Of the three NI MEPs, two are now Remainers. Meanwhile in the rest of Ireland you would need a microscope to see the votes the Irexit candidates got. Calls for Ireland to follow the UK out of the EU simply have no traction.

But then, when it comes to NI, the UK behaves a bit like Boris Johnson when he was foreign secretary. Whenever his officials brought him Brexit news he didn’t want to hear he would stick his fingers in his ears and sing God Save the Queen. Or it could have been Rule Brexannia.

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Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Northern Ireland

The never-ending BYOB (Bring Your Own #Brexit) story

This blogpost was written on Monday, April 15th, 2019

BYOBrexit

Brexit has become a never-ending story for which there may actually be no end.

There is no majority in the House of Commons for the Withdrawal Agreement on offer. Nor is there a majority for leaving the EU with “no deal”. No one seems able to put together a winning coalition for any of the other exit strategies on offer: “Norway” (with or without +++); Canada, SuperCanada or Canada Dry; Malthouse. Alehouse or Curryhouse.

OK, I made the last two up but that’s about where we are. In restaurants BYOB normally means “bring your own bottle”. In the House of Commons read it as meaning “bring your own Brexit”.

Last week the European Union gave the UK a further Article 50 extension, to run until October 31st on condition that European Parliament elections are held on May 23rd next. As a continuing member of the EU the UK must hold the elections, otherwise the legitimacy of the Parliament, and any legislation it adopts, could be called into question.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Theresa May

It’s a Long, Long Way from Gove to Here. 3 years is a long time in #Brexit politics

This blog was written on March 6th, 2019

Michael-Gove-672233It’s a Long, Long Way from Gove to Here

“The day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.” – Michael Gove, April 2016

“I don’t believe it (no-deal Brexit) will be Armageddon” – Suella Braverman, March 2019

It’s a long way from “holding all the cards” to it won’t be “Armageddon”. Three years is indeed a very long time in politics.

Speaking to the Institute for Government last Monday, Sir Ivan Rodgers, the former UK ambassador to the EU who resigned from that position because his advice on Brexit strategy was being totally disregarded in London, said there was no chance that the UK would be able to disentangle itself from the EU even if Brexit goes ahead. He added:

“These fantasies of release and liberation – they are fantasies. We are going to be negotiating on everything from aviation to farming for evermore with our biggest neighbour. We cannot live in glorious isolation. Talk to the Swiss and to the Norwegians – they live in a permanent state of negotiation with the EU.”

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Article 50, Brexit, Customs Union, Northern Ireland, Single Market

Some #Brexit Thoughts For This Holiday Season

This blogpost was written on Dec 19, 2018

May Commons

We head into the holiday season with Brexit appearing to be in some form of holding pattern. Brussels has said that the Withdrawal Agreement on the table is all there is and will not be renegotiated. On the other hand, Theresa May is telling MPs that she will secure additional political and legal guarantees that the backstop will be temporary and that the UK will not be trapped in a customs union with the EU.

They both can’t be right.

If to prove that she knows she isn’t right May’s government has stepped up “no deal” planning, which most businesses think insane but then, where Brexit is concerned, rationality, like Elvis, left the building a long time ago. When it comes to Brexit, as Groucho Marx might have said, there is no “sanity clause”.

So, as we wait for the New Year and the final run-in to Brexit on March 29th next, I offer these random thoughts on where we are and why we are here.

The Withdrawal Agreement is all there is: As I wrote last week, the UK really only has two choices. Leave the EU or remain in the EU. Personally, I would much prefer the UK to remain, but as long as the government and the Labour leadership are committed to Brexit then is seems inevitable that the UK will leave on March 29th, 2019.

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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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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.

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Brexit, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Rees Mogg, Theresa May

Deadlock on #Brexit

This blog was written on saturday morning, Sept 29th 2018, 

5ae09c05dda4c864608b4586

I completely agree with Jacob Rees-Mogg. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Actually, to be more accurate, Rees-Mogg agrees with me. Some weeks ago I wrote a Briefing, The Politics of Hard Numbers, here, in which I argued that there was no majority in the House of Commons for any Brexit deal.

In an article in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph Rees-Mogg argues, as regards Theresa May’s Chequers plan, that the EU:

“…has been so clear that the plan fails to meet its requirements that it is hard to see that it could change tack without a new chief negotiator.”

More critically, he notes:

The domestic opposition is even more important because, although our system provides for a powerful executive, ultimately laws need the support of the House of Commons, which Chequers cannot get. Indeed, if put forward it could be heavily defeated with no direct consequence for the Government.

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