Why is the UK rejecting the NI Backstop?

I seem to be obsessed with the border recently. I would love to get back to looking at new economics, Modern Monetary Theory, tax,  the optimal balance between the public and private sector spending and the myriad other difficulties afflicting modern Britain. We are also way behind on Book of the Month so suggestions please!

Things however seem rapidly deteriorating regarding the NI backstop. This is key to finalising the Withdrawal Agreement and unlocking the transition period.  Whereas the EU is putting in heroic efforts to de-dramatise the backstop, and make is as non-intrusive as possible, the UK seems to be doing the exact opposite. The ERG wing of the Tory party and DUP seem intent on  sabotaging any attempt at a deal on the backstop, possibly in the mistaken belief that Ireland and the EU will back down, but also knowing that such though “patriotic” talk goes down well with their right-wing followers. There are also the purists who genuinely want a no deal Brexit irrespective of the damage it might cause Britain.

This seems a clear and present danger. The rhetoric at the Tory party conference and, for example Hunt’s comparison between the EU and USSR  seems again designed to exacerbate the situation. May’s outright rejection of FoM from the end of the transition period will also go down like a lead balloon. The Tories seem to have little conception as to how they are perceived outside their bubble. Indeed to preserve my own sanity I try not to pay too much attention to the Tory party conference – the lunatics indeed seem to have taken over the asylum.

The primary focus of the Irish since the Brexit referendum was called was to preserve the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). It can not be stressed strongly enough, that despite Unionist paranoia, there is no desire, on the part of the Irish, to use Brexit to annex NI.

In 1922 NI was far the wealthiest part of the Ireland with c 80% of the entire industrial output of the island. I would be very surprised now if the industrial output was even 8% of that of IE. The GDP per capita difference is considerably greater than that between E and W Germany, with the NI GDP per capita only 40% of that of IE. This is despite the fact that HMG injects c £10Bn  into the NI economy every year – approx 25% of the entire NI GDP. There is also the DUP, the Loyalists, the Orange Order and numerous terrorist groups such as the UVF, which from an Irish point of view are very problematic.

The GFA of course produces a constitutional mechanism, a “Border Poll” which should be triggered if it looks likely there is a majority in NI for unification.  The Irish take a St Augustine like approach “God make me pure but not yet” and much preparation needs to be done in the form of multiple white papers in every sector before a border poll is called. My personal view is that whereas I would like a United Ireland, it will take at least a full decade to line up all the necessary ducks so to speak.

The simple economic reality is that NI is a liability rather than an asset. Ireland also went through a major depression after the GFC and even though it has bounced back strongly, there are major domestic problems particularly in housing and health which need to be addressed first. Brexit of course may also have a very detrimental effect on the Irish economy. The last thing Ireland needs economically just now now is the additional strain caused by uniting Ireland. Ireland will have to be in a position to inject masses of infrastructure and capital into NI in order to turn it around.

For a good summary of the constitutional position of Northern Ireland I would highly recommend last week’s article by Coakley and Garry, it is well worth reading in full, but they make three key points:

1. While Northern Ireland is a component part of the United Kingdom, it is not, and never has been, ‘an integral part’ of the UK.
2. The creation of a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is not a violation of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement’s ‘principle of consent’.
3. There is little evidence that a customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is ‘something no British Prime Minister would ever agree to’.

Indeed if  the ‘principle of consent’ means anything, polls in NI consistently show that a super-majority would prefer a sea border to a land border if one proves absolutely necessary. Historically of course there was an Irish Sea border under four PMs: Churchill, Attlee, Eden and Macmillan.

The belief in Ireland is that HMG have simply refused to take the Irish situation seriously – it is an inconvenient truth that they would prefer to ignore. The Irish have been, in Dr Tim McInerney’s words “shouting the importance of the border question from the rooftops” since the Brexit referendum was announced. Rather than it being overused politically on the part of the Irish and the EU, HMG simply have not seriously engaged with the problem. The quote from PM May in Tony Connolly’s book is telling:“One country cannot hold up progress. The UK is a much bigger and more important country than Ireland.”

May’s refusal to look in any detail at Barnier’s de-dramatised backstop and outright dismissal was not well received at Salzburg. Even less so is the fact that the UK legal version of the backstop was still not available and will not apparently be ready for the October deadline. It is rumoured when Varadkar reported this to the other EU27 members after a bilateral meeting with May,  Macron in particular was incensed. There is a suspicion that the UK legal text either does not exist, or if it does it contains so many flaws to be unworkable.

Why then is the UK so opposed to the backstop, which after all is supposed to be just an all weather insurance policy and should never need to be used? There are a number of possible explanations.

DUP Appeasement

The Belfast Agreement (GFA) ensures strict impartiality on the part of the sovereign government in NI, currently HMG:

…the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction there shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions and shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos, and aspirations of both communities.

After May lost her overall majority in the June 2017 GE she entered a confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP. This on its own might have raised concerns with rigorous impartiality, particularly as SF do not sit at Westminster. HMG sadly seems to have abandoned any attempt at rigorous impartiality and seems to have swallowed the DUP’s view hook line and sinker.

There are probably too many instances of favouritism towards the DUP to mention but three stand out.

The events of the 4-8th December last year where May was happy to sign the joint political deceleration on Monday but was blocked by the DUP until para 50 was included (no Irish Sea border without the agreement of the NI assembly).

May’s visit to the Beleek Pottery on the border where inexplicably she met with Arlene Foster rather than the sitting SF MP as standard protocol demands – one of the very few opportunities to get a Nationalist viewpoint.

Within the past few days the announcement of a festival of Britain and Northern Ireland in 2022 to coincide with the hundred anniversary of the partitioning of Ireland is incredibly divisive. Nationalists see partition as an abomination and the choice of year is like rubbing salt into the wound or the sound of marching jackboots. The DUP will of course love this as another opportunity to humiliate “themuns” and have an orgy of flag waving. There is a distinct suspicion that the DUP tail is wagging the Tory dog, particularly as May seems to be referring to her party as the “Conservative and Unionist” party at almost every opportunity – an archaic terminology apparently resurrected to appease the DUP.

An interesting question is that if the UK is indeed in breach of an international treaty lodged at the UN, what court should rule (certainly not a UK one) and what sanctions can be applied towards the UK? There are rumours that the legal mechanisms are being investigated by the Irish Gov. in case the eventual Brexit agreement that indeed clearly breaks the terms of the GFA.

Use of the backstop to lever a UK wide agreement

The joint report from the negotiators of the EU and the UKGov on progress during phase 1 of negotiations on the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union states in p 46.

The commitments and principles outlined in this joint report will not pre-determine the outcome of wider discussions on the future relationship between the EU and the UK and are, as necessary, specific to the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland. They are made and must be upheld in all circumstances, irrespective of the nature of any future agreement between the European Union and United Kingdom.

Despite this “backstop” being set down in black and white, UKGov have made repeated attempts to try to either make it UK wide or alternatively kick the can down the road and insist the border issue will be solved in the context of a wide and comprehensive trade agreement.

One can not blame UKGov for trying this. If there were good will and trust IE/EU might be prepared to let this run. Sadly trust is in short supply. As Chris Kendall says “From the outset, the UK has burned through goodwill as if it were an inexhaustible, ever-renewable resource. It is not.”

There is also as ever in Ireland a  long history of England not keeping its word. For example my own family is from Limerick (father Athea, mother Galbally) and I can trace my ancestors back to the siege of Limerick at the end of the Williamite War, where they surrendered  in 1691. It is said the ink was not dry on the Treaty before the English broke its terms.

Or as a former boss of mine, David Bell, says “Integrity is a bit like virginity, one cock up and you are fucked for life.”

Patriotic Misrepresenting the Sovereignty argument

As Coakley and Garry pointed out NI is not, and never has been, ‘an integral part’ of the UK. Will Jordan (who describes himself rather tongue in cheek as a 100% certified Protestant born on the Twelfth of July) of the  Fly by Those Nets blog is very critical of the DUP, and states:

Any rational person trying to solve Brexit would say ‘let’s give Northern Ireland special status and be done with it as it keeps the border open and the natural sea border can be turned into a customs border without too much hassle anyway.

The problem is that knowledge of Ireland is poor and the sovereignty argument is extremely useful. As regular readers of this blog will know, I arrived in the UK in 1981 having completed my PhD at UCD/Harvard. At the time Margaret Thatcher was extremely unpopular. The Falklands war changed all that. There was a wave of patriotic fervor, which I found quite disturbing, but was extraordinarily effective at boosting Thatcher’s approval ratings. Thatcher rather than surviving only one term went on to be the longest serving PM in the 20th cent (11 years, 209 days).

All this Sabre rattling regarding sovereignty could well be designed to put the UK in the same place – indeed the Falkland’s spirit is one that the ERG seem particularly nostalgic about. There is no question that the Sovereignty argument runs deep in the British psyche – even Dominic Grieve seems susceptible as he revealed when interviewed in a recent Brexit Republic (Tony Connolly’s podcast). Certainly May is very beleaguered as PM – playing the patriot seems to be very much in evidence at the Tory party conference.

Belief that Ireland is still part of the family

In addition to the belief in some Tory circles that Ireland is not a proper country unlike England, France or Germany; indeed there is even a belief that Ireland is still a part of the UK, or at least just semi-detached. This can be helpful as the Irish are not considered as foreigners in the UK. Indeed it puts the Irish in a privileged position – they retain all the rights as EU citizens in particular Freedom of Movement, while being regarded as non alien in the UK.

There is a hope in some Tory circles that Ireland will rejoin the UK and that the land border in NI could be solved in this way. This seems to be a genuine belief in some circles. From the Irish perspective this is absolute madness. Ireland in many respects is more successful than the UK; regularly coming ahead of the UK in international comparison tables. The most recent UN Human Development Index for example (14th Sept) places Ireland 10 places above the UK in an impressive 4th position. The Democracy Index places Ireland in joint 6th place with Canada again well ahead off the UK’s 14th place.There is almost no desire to rejoin the UK (I suspect less than 5% of the population would think it a good idea). In addition the Union from 1801-1922 was pretty much a disaster for Ireland and there is absolutely no desire to go back there.

I think it was Fintan O’Toole who likened it to an abusive husband hoping his abused wife would come back after tracking her down with some tatty petrol station flowers and some out of date chocolates. Not realising she had long moved on and made a tremendous success of her life.

Belief that Ireland is Economically Dependent on the UK

There is little understanding that Ireland’s dependence on the UK is now quite low. In ball park terms only 10% of Ireland’s exports go to the UK, 50% to the EU 26 and 25% to the US. May has not used threats but Jacob Rees-Mogg has not been so diplomatic. This has been discussed in detail in my previous post Will Sabre Rattling towards Ireland Work? which concludes with: And England – or at least those ‘little Englanders’ who are such ardent supporters of Brexit – need to wake up and realise that their country is no longer powerful enough to ride roughshod over its smaller neighbour. Indeed, economically that particular boot may very well soon be on the other foot.

The Serengeti Strategy

If direct attacks on Ireland will not work then one strategy is to try to peel members (states) off from the herd. The Serengeti Strategy is a term created by Prof Michael Mann – a prominent Climate Change Scientist. What is interesting is that there is a very high correlation between people who support Brexit and a refusal to accept Climate Change as a scientific fact. At a higher level there is a major interchange between the American climate change denial supporting think tanks and the UK Brexit supporting ones. Both ideas and tactics seem to be shared. If one or more member states can be peeled off the unity of the EU27 could be shattered.

It has long been suspected but confirmed by Jacob Rees-Mogg here “The member states have not so far cracked under pressure from the efforts of our diplomatic service and have continued to support Michel Barnier.”

Indeed the consensus seems to be the exact opposite, the UK has simply annoyed other states and has actually increased the cohesion of the EU.

Conclusion

Is a deal headed towards the rocks or can careful choreography save it? From the Irish perspective the UK is a major trading partner, particularly in agribusiness, where in some sectors it is indeed the largest trading partner. Compromise may still be reached if the UK can sign up to a negotiated backstop and be simultaneously be offered a political agreement as to the future relationship which should ensure the backstop is never needed.

There are signs today that the UK may indeed be moving towards an agreed backstop after all, but May will probably have to sell it to the DUP, which will be no easy task. Whatever the DUP say publicly there many within the party who would like nothing more than a hard border and the harder the better.

From the UK point of view there may well be parliamentary gridlock. Knowledge of the true constitutional position of NI is poor, and it is politically far easier to buy into an absolutist sovereignty argument. Any agreed deal may not command a majority in the House of Commons. A second referendum (peoples vote) with the option to remain may be the only way out of this zugzwang.

Comments

  1. Bruce Gray -

    FYI – If you looking for book suggestions, there is a good one on MMT written by Prof. L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics at Bard College Levy Institute (formerly a professor at UMKC). The book is titled “Modern Money Theory, A Primer on Macroeconomics for Sovereign Monetary Systems”. This book was compiled from a series of blogs he wrote on the UMKC blogsite New Economic Perspectives. It is now in 2nd edition.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Modern-Money-Theory-Macroeconomics-Sovereign/dp/1137539917/ref=dp_ob_title_bk

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Bruce
      sounds like a vert worth while book. Would you be prepared to put together a review. We could publish under SoapBox where you would be fully acknowledged?

      Regards
      Seán

  2. Samuel Johnson -

    If only this could be read by some Conservatives who have an outdated and often patronising attitude to their nearest neighbour. I can certainly confirm that there is no interest in Ireland in annexing the “bastard child of rape” as NI has been called, and infinitesimally less in rejoining the UK. If and when unity happens (well, WHEN it happens, it is inevitable, eventually) it will be after a suitable period of preparation not a leap in the dark, like Brexit.

    Richard North has some good commentary on the Tory party conference at eureferendum.com. I can no longer listen to any Tory minister or senior Tory, so the radio gets turned off the moment they appear. It’s simply a waste of time. Even giving up BBC news it is hard to escape the imperial ahistorical delusions. Channel4 yesterday featured an interview with Stanley Johnson, former MEP and father of Boris, in which he said that the Irish border had never been a hard border and that a referendum on Irish unity could be called in the event of conflict, both of which are categorically false.

    These are not mere technicalities and the blithe patronising implication that, as Rees-Mogg put it previously, that the Irish were “making difficulties” (out of nothing, as part of an effort to blackmail the UK, either independently or as some EU cat’s paw) is simply staggeringly stupid.

    Mr Johnson would remember rather better if the Germans had colonised a part of the UK and operated a hard border for decades; if they’d sent troops into Britain who murdered dozens of innocent people in cold blood and who stopped British people going about their business in their own country. If the death toll in the UK was proportionate to that in Ireland he might not have been so cavalier about 52,500 casualties and hundreds of thousands injured and traumatised in the UK (NI has some of the highest rates of PSTD anywhere). But again and again, the clear message is, it’s only the Irish, being difficult. Again. As usual. (And: Don’t they know who we are?). The feckless arrogance is just an astonishing, obdurate refusal to consider that others have a right to be considered and treated respectfully, or at least on the basis of facts, not from some jingoistic sense of superiority which trivialises, denies or dismisses the realities of others.

    Johnson’s son Boris has written that the problem with Africa is not that the British were in charge but they are are not in charge any more. There are men alive in Kenya today who were castrated by British soldiers during Kenya’s struggle for independence who were relatively recently paid a pittance in compensation who I think would disagree.

    The contempt for others who have been brutalised by the unapologetic British imperialists just doesn’t go away, as illustrated by his Road to Mandalay outburst when he was foreign secretary. If it isn’t overt, it’s simply concealed.

    Concievably, Johnson pere knew perfectly well that what he said was false and he said it anyway for some calculated political purposes, to help his son into 10 Downing Street. I don’t believe it, any more than I think Jeremy Hunt stopped for a moment to consider if his likening the EU to the USSR was in any way accurate or appropriate.

    The country is, for now, in the grip of predominantly English ethno-nationalists utterly persuaded of their innate superiority to others. It’s scarcely conceivable that the UK will hold together with these forces at play. (I have felt this since before the penultimate election when I saw billboards in rural England of Alex Salmond picking an Englishman’s pocket.) In the circumstances, it’s very fortunate for Ireland that we have the backing of the rest of the EU in dealing with this distemper. Not so long ago we’d have had to put up with “What’s our food doing in their country?” and some gunboats.

    Of course, the grief for Ireland, bad as it is, is will eventually go away. This govt will not last. London will remain a global city. The 6 nations rugby tournament will continue. Life will go on for us and, somehow, for everyone else in this archipelago. But it may not go on for our friends, above all Brits who chose to exercise their right to live in the EU27 and now face loss or diminution of their rights as EU citizens. The anger and solidarity I feel on their behalf makes me wish we could give them Irish passports tomorrow. I think this is how the founders of the EU would like Europeans to feel about each other, but it feels like an admission that would be seized on by nationalists to vindicate their feeling that they are escaping a superstate. It’s not at all how I look at it. But if they’d like to regard Ireland as a superstate, that’s fine.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Samuel
      I agree with nearly all of this. I too am annoyed by the loss of FoM for the people of the UK – particularly children. If I were of a Tory mindset I would probably say great as my son is a dual passport holder and he will have competitive advantage. The Irish passport idea is a good one.

      The lack of concern as to the Brits in Europe is disgraceful. All the main EU players have met with their representatives on numerous occasions. HMG has refused to do so.

      May also seems to be in La La land – a no deal is looking even more likely. Will be a very stressful few weeks.

    2. Sean Danaher -

      Samuel
      the only senior Conservative I know who looks at my posts (and a twitter follower) is Charles Tannock MEP who is of course in the old One Nation mode and already very knowledgeable about Ireland. He is a strong supporter of a peoples’ vote.

      Its all a bit Dunning Kruger I’m afraid and I think May etc gets all her warped views on NI from the DUP. She could of course be just stringing them along. Arlene’s talk of “blood red” lines may be too much even for the Tories who are beyond the pale for many in the party.

      There is a deep fear in the DUP that they will be “betrayed” by London.

  3. Samuel Johnson -

    BTW As you know (but for others) @danobrien2020 has tweeted some graphs showing what’s happened with UK Ireland trade since Brexit. UK has a large surplus with Ireland, it’s even gone up, but purchasing from the EU26 has increased far more. Substitution will kick in at some point, depending on friction and transport costs. It’s already in progress but with the effect masked by the continuing growth (recovery) of the Irish economy. The UK is simply being cut out of supply chains now in some sectors. There seems to be little public awareness of businesses actually implementing contingency plans and I will not be hugely surprised if there aren’t a number of “Wapping” surprises, to coin a phrase, the day after Brexit.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Yes I have seen the graphs.

      The UK’s belief that you need us more than we need you is running thin.

      I will try to put some speculative ideas down regarding No Deal and the likely consequences in April.

      The auto industry in particular will find no deal very difficult.

  4. Gaz -

    Interesting post Sean-Like you im from Ireland-Northern Ireland and have moved to The North East-Gateshead in my case.You are right in saying Ireland is a far of distant land of which we Know or care little about-One of the most common questions I get is do you need a passport to go to Northern Ireland?-You are also correct in assuming there is no good outcome for the DUP in all of this-somehow somewhere in all of this regulation will tighten up between GB and NI-to what extent remains to be seen.Where I take an issue with you is in presenting unionists as the only problem in Northern Ireland-The purpose of Sinn Fein is to wind up unionists on every issue-The fact that Irish political parties in the Republic do not call Sinn Fein out on this more is puzzling to me.If as they say they want a unity state then not being harder on Sinn Fein antics is actually counter to that aspiration.We have a movement that bombed and killed their fellow citizens for 25yrs-yes I know loyalists did as well-now parading itself as the upholders of citizens “rights”.Certainly they showed no human rights to me when I was confronted by several of the Republican movements armed volunteers in 1983-did this ever happen to you in Limerick?.Arlene Foster herself witnessed her school bus bombed and her father shot when she was 8 yrs old.Such events leave a mark on people and its relatively easy for those not living through it to pontificate on what effects it has on people from away.To have leading Labour politicians in Britain praise such people because they think its trendy to do so is nauseating.Having said that I think its nearly time up for Mrs Foster-her temperament is not suited to leadership and she will take being let down by The Tories badly as will her party.Such rejection will be treated with glee by UKLabour and no doubt within many sections of the Tories.The Assembly is over-only Karen Bradley thinks it could come back which only shows how out of her depth she is over there.What im trying to saying is to get into the DUP mindset you have to have lived the lives they have lived-no amount of criticism or snide comments from people who hail from outside Northern Ireland is going to change the way they are.This is where we are-what happens next is anyone’s guess

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Gaz
      thanks. Very useful to have a different perspective – many thanks for your comment. I’m heading out and will reply at length later.

  5. Sean Danaher -

    Hi again Gaz

    thanks – it is great to have someone with a greater feel for the Unionist viewpoint to comment. I of course keep a close eye on “Slugger” which helps a bit.

    I Think that the ‘RA (pIRA) and their SF political wing have done more to make a UI unlikely than the Unionists. Violence is never the way. What is deeply depressing, but understandable, is how toxic each side is to each other and how both communities seem to vote for the extremes.

    Apart from cycling past the Talbot St. Dublin car bomb in 1974 (Dublin and Monaghan Bombings) about 15 mins before it went off I have not been involved in terrorism.

    As the American say “mileage may vary” and I am absolutely aware of Arlene’s bus incident – this will absolutely traumatise for life. I am very sympathetic towards her and had hoped she would grow into the job, but sadly she seems very out of her depth.

    I’m not sure I agree with your “trendy” comment; motivations are very difficult to assign and knowledge of Ireland tends to be astoundingly low in Britain. Politicians often do what they think will get them votes from their electorate, rather than what is right. There are absolutely genuine grievances and atrocities committed on both sides. It is often said the Irish remember too much history, the English too little.

    Karen Bradley seems to also be totally out of her depth – I had hoped she would an improvement but her base knowledge is astoundingly low. I think you are right about the assembly. It is a dance where neither partner DUP/SF is remotely interested. Even if it did reform the “Petition of Concern” would make it effectively incapable of major decisions.

    I agree completely regarding snide comments and stupidity. There is a saying about walking a mile in ones shoes before coming to judgement.

    I have never lived in NI but would argue I have a greater knowledge and understanding than many in the UK mainland.

    I also genuinely want NI to thrive for both communities.

    I do try to understand the DUP mindset. My many Unionist friends all seem to have left NI at c18 to come to university in the mainland and never returned.

    I think the GFA worked well (SA was a retrograde step) but Brexit is a bit like throwing a metaphorical bomb – the last thing it needs. I had hoped and assumed any talk about changing constitutional status was 15-25 years down the road – where the trauma of the troubles would be diminished.

    The DUP are a product of a very deep history and as you say almost impossible to understand from outside. In the correct environment their ancestors such as the “Scots Irish” were incredibly successful in America and indeed the Belfast region was an industrial powerhouse – vastly successful when Dublin was impoverished with the worst slums in Europe.

    You are absolute right about the DUP. Your “no amount of criticism or snide comments from people who hail from outside Northern Ireland is going to change the way they are” is bang on. Indeed I would go further and say that criticism will be counter productive and drive them further into “circle the wagons” mode.

    Who knows what will happen. I passed through Gateshead on the Metro yesterday on the way to the Sunderland “people’s vote” march. There was also a rival EDL type march and it got a bit ugly.

    I do hope for a better future for NI and don’t know what will happen. My own preference is for a peoples vote and the cancelling of Brexit. It could of course go absolutely the other way with a “no deal” – which will be unstable for the entire UK and not just NI.

    This is the way I read it for four possible outcomes
    1) No deal. Economic disaster for NI and a United Ireland within 5 years
    2) Brexit cancelled via a “people’s vote” more time for NI to heal and a United Ireland within 25 years unless there is major constitutional restructuring of the UK.
    3) Zombie Brexit or BINO – the UK goes into slow decline and a UI within 10 years.
    4) Special status for NI, which if handled correctly could create a HK like environment with massive flow of investment. NI could thrive and survive indefinitely.

  6. Gaz -

    Hi Sean thanks for your reply
    I think the EU now view Britain like the unwanted guest at a party who need to be escorted out the door=I think they have given up on the idea of Keeping Britain in the EU-You will notice I say Britain and not the UK-a deal of sorts will come into play for goods entering NI from GB to keep NI in the customs union and therefore the EU-some clever wording-the EU are good at that-will be used to describe this move.It will not be officially called a Backstop-but that is what it will be.How the DUP react to this is anyone;s business.What is interesting so far has been a mute response from loyalists on the ground to date-I suspect this is because the EU Peace funding has found its way in to individual pockets and as long as they can travel to Ibrox or Anfield for a weekend without facing additional security checks I believe many can live with that.So NI will have a place both in the UK and EU-something which on paper can not exist- but will thanks to The Alice in Wonderland World of Northern Ireland-the unwanted love child in all of
    this. As regards the DUP in any other party she would be toast-but like Teresa May she is safe because no one else actually wants the job of leader at the moment-Im not convinced Boris wants the top job at the moment-no doubt Arlene will kick and scream a bit but she will be presented with a fait accompli..Without the men in masks flexing their muscles and a sigh of relief from NI farmers keeping their farm payments things will more or less keep going as before.If no Assembly is the future then next Westminster election will see her contesting the Upper Bann seat-that is if she does not throw in the towel before then.
    Interesting to see a 2nd vote campaign in Sunderland-a heavy leave area in the Referendum.though as I said at the start I think EU once they get Ireland sorted will escort Britain out the exit door with a Canada style deal-How that will work out is anyone’s guess though its difficult to see how a country of 60 million can get better trade deals than a block of 500 million people

  7. Andrew (Andy) Crow -

    t’s not nearly so raw in Scotland being so very ancient history, but I tend to be rather short with Scots who witter-on about Bannockburn and William Wallace et al. when the subject is the future of an independent Scotland.

    The sectarian violence in Ireland is still well within living memory of many in Ireland and the reference above to the incidence of PTSD brings this home. We English, of whom I am sometimes ashamed to say I am one, by birth, were distanced from the ‘troubles’ in Ireland and have always been so for hundreds of years; Ireland was another country and as Sean has observed more than once in these columns a country little understood by the bulk of the British, and certainly the English, population.

    I find these discussions quite illuminating of a situation which has festered for so long and has become by the very nature of prolonged disputes very convoluted. Increasingly it is difficult to see sides in this except to accept that at bottom this was all started a very long time ago by imperialists sticking their nibs into someone else’s ink and forcibly annexing their lands.

    It is of no consolation whatsoever to Arlene Forster that the bus bomb she witnessed was prompted by something her great grandfather might have started…that in no way (if it were the case) makes one iota of difference to the trauma that she will still experience. Many thousands of others will similarly view the current situation through eyes which have seen unbearable suffering and personal loss.

    These sort of memories are something we seem to have no means to eradicate. I have a friend haunted by his military ghosts and it has somewhat broadened my understanding of what PTSD does to a person.

    Sometimes we may be able to ‘forgive’ but forgetting is much more difficult and not always possible.

    Brexit has stirred a hornets nest and those who recklessly called for this nonsense have a lot to answer for. I’m sure they never even considered the implications before wading into a referendum, because they never expected to ‘get a result’. The almost universal expression of blank incomprehension when the question of the Irish border was first raised in mainstream discussion spoke eloquently of the failure to have even considered the implications.

    Brexit is playing well for Scottish Independence. But I fear, as Sean has implied more than once, it is much too soon for the same advantage to play for a peacefully united Ireland on a similar timescale.

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