Category: Irish Republic

Irish Republic

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore”

Earlier today Robert Peston, the Political Editor of ITV News, tweeted:

This feels very big. PM spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at 8am this morning. According to Downing Street source, she told the PM that there will be no Brexit deal with the UK unless Northern Ireland is in the customs union “forever”.

The source insists that the word “forever” was repeated on multiple occasions.

A short while later Kate McCann of Sky News responded:

A Number 10 source on PM call with Germany’s Merkel: “If this represents a new established position, then it means a deal is essentially impossible not just now but ever. It also made clear that they are willing to torpedo the Good Friday Agreement.’

James Forsyth of the Spectator has relayed a statement from what I suspect is the same “contact in No. 10”:

‘The negotiations will probably end this week. Varadkar doesn’t want to negotiate. Varadkar was keen on talking before the Benn Act when he thought that the choice would be ‘new deal or no deal’. Since the Benn Act passed he has gone very cold and in the last week the official channels and the backchannels have also gone cold. Varadkar has also gone back on his commitments — he said if we moved on manufactured goods then he would also move but instead he just attacked us publicly. It’s clear he wants to gamble on a second referendum and that he’s encouraging Barnier to stick to the line that the UK cannot leave the EU without leaving Northern Ireland behind.

There are quite a few people in Paris and Berlin who would like to discuss our offer but Merkel and Macron won’t push Barnier unless Ireland says it wants to negotiate. Those who think Merkel will help us are deluded. As things stand, Dublin will do nothing, hoping we offer more, then at the end of this week they may say ‘OK, let’s do a Northern Ireland only backstop with a time limit’, which is what various players have been hinting at, then we’ll say No, and that will probably be the end.

Varadkar thinks that either there will be a referendum or we win a majority but we will just put this offer back on the table so he thinks he can’t lose by refusing to compromise now. Given his assumptions, Varadkar’s behaviour is arguably rational but his assumptions are, I think, false. Ireland and Brussels listen to all the people who lost the referendum, they don’t listen to those who won the referendum and they don’t understand the electoral dynamics here.

If this deal dies in the next few days, then it won’t be revived. To marginalise the Brexit Party, we will have to fight the election on the basis of ‘no more delays, get Brexit done immediately’. They thought that if May went then Brexit would get softer. It seems few have learned from this mistake. They think we’re bluffing and there’s nothing we can do about that, not least given the way May and Hammond constantly talked tough then folded.

So, if talks go nowhere this week, the next phase will require us to set out our view on the Surrender Act. The Act imposes narrow duties. Our legal advice is clear that we can do all sorts of things to scupper delay which for obvious reasons we aren’t going into details about. Different lawyers see the “frustration principle” very differently especially on a case like this where there is no precedent for primary legislation directing how the PM conducts international discussions.

We will make clear privately and publicly that countries which oppose delay will go the front of the queue for future cooperation — cooperation on things both within and outside EU competences. Those who support delay will go to the bottom of the queue. [This source also made clear that defence and security cooperation will inevitably be affected if the EU tries to keep Britain in against the will of its government] Supporting delay will be seen by this government as hostile interference in domestic politics, and over half of the public will agree with us.

We will also make clear that this government will not negotiate further so any delay would be totally pointless. They think now that if there is another delay we will keep coming back with new proposals. This won’t happen. We’ll either leave with no deal on 31 October or there will be an election and then we will leave with no deal.

‘When they say ‘so what is the point of delay?’, we will say “This is not our delay, the government is not asking for a delay — Parliament is sending you a letter and Parliament is asking for a delay but official government policy remains that delay is an atrocious idea that everyone should dismiss. Any delay will in effect be negotiated between you, Parliament, and the courts — we will wash our hands of it, we won’t engage in further talks, we obviously won’t given any undertakings about cooperative behaviour, everything to do with ‘duty of sincere cooperation’ will be in the toilet, we will focus on winning the election on a manifesto of immediately revoking the entire EU legal order without further talks, and then we will leave. Those who supported delay will face the inevitable consequences of being seen to interfere in domestic politics in a deeply unpopular way by colluding with a Parliament that is as popular as the clap.

Those who pushed the Benn Act intended to sabotage a deal and they’ve probably succeeded. So the main effect of it will probably be to help us win an election by uniting the leave vote and then a no deal Brexit. History is full of such ironies and tragedies.’

Bear in mind that all this comes from anonymous briefings to Lobby journalists. But if even half of it is true, that word “forever” will probably go down in history as sounding the death knell of a Brexit deal.

Who do you think you are kidding Mr. Varadkar…

The incendiary and outrageous comments by Leo Varadkar and his Foreign Minister are a clear ramping up of rhetoric designed to derail any realistic prospect of a deal. The flippant Dublin reaction to the Prime Minister’s proposals has also exposed the reality that the Irish government would never have consented to the United Kingdom leaving the backstop if it had been implemented.

Our message to Leo is simple. He should reflect on his comments and his intransigent approach. He is destined to go down in history as the Taoiseach who restored a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because his friends in Brussels will insist on it.

– DUP Deputy Party Leader Nigel Dodds

Open border with the EU

I like this part of Boris’s letter to Donald Tusk:

This government will not put in place infrastructure, checks or controls at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We would be happy to accept a legally binding commitment to this effect and hope that the EU would do likewise.

The jurisdiction with fewer regulations has nothing to lose from such an arrangement, of course. The EU bureaucrats, however, want to be in control, and a source of cheap goods from a free-er jurisdiction must make them uncomfortable (as well as being highly profitable for Northern Ireland). Leaving the EU to build their own border infrastructure is the default position for the UK anyway: the UK cannot lose. This is a test of the EU’s commitment to free trade, as opposed to “free trade” as controlled by them.

The letter is only about the backstop. Theresa May’s agreement minus the backstop still has many problems. It remains to be seen whether Boris and Parliament will settle for it.

Sinn Féin joins the Great Disruption

With a title like that, how could I resist posting this article by Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times to this site?

Mr O’Toole is very much opposed to what he calls “The Great Disruption”, but he can see that it is happening. Speaking as one who sees the Disruption, or the Realignment, or whatever you want to call it (though I am not a fan of Mr O’Toole’s other term, “The Rapture”) as a hopeful development with attendant risks, rather than as a new Pandora’s box from which will be unleashed all manner of disasters with hope as a weak afterthought, it is incumbent on me to look all the harder at those parts of the Great Realignment that I would prefer not to realign.

Mr O’Toole writes,

Welcome to the Rapture. Like religious cults waiting for the end of the world and the inauguration of the Kingdom of Heaven, political Utopians are waiting for the Great Disruption of a no-deal Brexit. But it is a sign of our weird times that there are three groups anticipating the Apocalypse, and each of them has a very different vision of the Utopia that lies beyond it. Those groups are the hard-right revolutionaries around Boris Johnson; the far-left revolutionaries around Jeremy Corbyn and, we can now say with some certainty, Sinn Féin. They do not want the same things, but if a no-deal Brexit happens it will be because their actions and inaction have coincided to bring it about.

The first – and at the moment by far the most decisive – group of Great Disruptors consists of the disaster capitalists fronted by Johnson. Their Utopia is Singapore. They believe, as Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Liz Truss and other Tory young Turks wrote in Britannia Unchained in 2012, that the British have grown lazy and useless, their buccaneering spirit sapped by a culture of dependency. They see no-deal as the Big Bang that will blow the welfare state, environmental standards and labour protections to smithereens. Out of this chaos will come a new Global Britain of very low taxes for the rich, unregulated hyper-capitalism and boundless “free” markets.

The second group is the high command of the Labour Party around Jeremy Corbyn. Their Utopia is Socialism in One Country. They believe that a no-deal Brexit will free Britain from the wishy-washy social market capitalism of the EU and thus ultimately from capitalism itself. They have their roots in the socialist distaste for the European project that was, it is easy to forget, once the mainstream of British Euroscepticism. In that mentality, the EU was seen as a last, desperate attempt to shore up a dying capitalist system. Thus, on the far side of a no-deal Brexit, lies the workers’ paradise that is the inevitable outcome of history.

The third group of Great Disruptors is Sinn Féin. Their Utopia is, of course, a United Ireland. They ostensibly oppose a no-deal Brexit, and indeed Brexit itself. But beneath this opposition lies the belief that the worse Brexit is, the quicker we will have a Border poll and the more likely it is that Protestants in Northern Ireland will swim for the green lifeboat to avoid going down with the British ship. Alongside the disaster capitalism of Johnson’s faction and the disaster socialism of Corbyn’s, there is this disaster nationalism. It does not deny that no-deal would be awful – it welcomes this awfulness as the Great Disruption that completes the Irish national revolution.

This is why Sinn Féin reacted with such extreme and immediate hostility to my suggestion that it could stop a no-deal Brexit by destroying Boris Johnson’s majority in the House of Commons. I wrote very respectfully of the party’s mandate for abstentionism and tried to find a way to honour it while activating the power of the seven seats it holds at Westminster.