This was first posted on Facebook on 3rd February 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
The most complicating factor in figuring out what might happen in Northern Ireland over the next few weeks or months, is that Boris Johnson is a chronic liar, and yet neither mainstream media nor his ministers nor his MPs seem able to say so.
We can note what Boris Johnson says. But we know, from past experience, that what he says doesn’t correspond to what he’ll actually do: and what Johnson wants to do, essentially, is anything that’ll make him popular.
This was first posted on Facebook on 20th January 2021, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
Brexit has no benefits.
Two days ago, a fleet of lorries, employed in the pre-Brexit days to transport live shellfish from Scotland to buyers in the EU, travelled to London to protest the effects of Brexit on the fishing industry. Brexiters had told the fishing industry that leaving the EU would mean an end to Brussels “red tape” about catching fish, people employed in the fishing industry had believed them and voted for Brexit, – of course what it meant was, that live shellfish, needing to be transported fast in refrigerated lorries to their overseas markets, were being held up too long by the terms of the trade deal, to be worth buying.
Yesterday, Boris Johnson only just won a government vote on a Lords amendment to the Trade Bill – the amendment passed, by a majority of only 11 votes. Given the Tories have a majority of 80 MPs, how did this happen?
The Internal Market Bill passed Second Reading last night by 77 votes.
I couldn’t listen to all of the debate – I was working yesterday, having decided to take off Wednesday and Thursday as usual – for PMQs (Keir Starmer will be absent: he is self-isolating as one of his household has shown symptoms of coronavirus) and because Wednesday is the second day of the committee of the whole House examining the bill.
But I listened to enough of the debate, including Boris Johnson’s opening statement presenting the bill (and Ed Miliband’s strong rebuttal – Starmer picked him to sub in, and I have to say, he was terrific) to see very definitely two things.
In November 2017, I wrote that the idea of having a second EU referendum was a “superficially-attractive option with very high stakes”.
So it still is, and I stand by everything I wrote a year ago about the risks and dangers of a second referendum: including the risk that Leave might still win.
We do know a lot more now about how the Leave campaign unlawfully gathered data uon UK voters, how they used that data to target adverts on Facebook, and how they illegally overspent the limits set by the Electoral Commission.
Can the UK have a general election before we leave the EU on 29th March 2019?
The UK must have a general election again on Thursday 2nd June 2022.
The only way in which the UK can have a general election before then, is if either two-thirds of the MPs in the House of Commons vote for it (433 MPs, give or take a few Sinn Féin) or if the government loses two votes of confidence, a fortnight apart.
Current state of the parties in the Commons:
May’s deal was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of the Deal’s burial was signed by the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, by France, Sweden, Spain and Belgium, by the Chairman of the European Research Group, and the chief mourner. Leo Varadkar signed it: and Leo Varadkar’s name was good upon Fine Gael, for anything he chose to put his hand to. May’s deal was as dead as a door-nail.
Theresa May’s deal is the EU’s deal.
Our three choices before 29th March 2019 are
- May’s deal, which is bad
- No-deal Brexit, which is catastrophic
- or Remain in the EU
Theresa May won her vote of confidence 200-117 and is off to meet with the EU Commission, still Prime Minister – though having lost the confidence of nearly one-third of her MPs.
So, where are we now?
The deal the EU negotiated for Theresa May is the only deal they’ll accept. The EU have, jointly and severally, made that clear. Any talk of changes to the deal is uninformed rubbish. At this point in time, the House of Commons has three choices:
- To ratify May’s deal and leave the EU on 29th March 2019
- To refuse May’s deal and leave the EU catastrophically on 29th March 2019
- To revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU
For many MPs, the fact that they have no ability to move the EU to a better deal is too unpalatable to be comprehended.
Last night Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, counted 48 letters in his cupboard and let Theresa May know she’d have a leadership challenge this week. This morning he let the world know.
The system for Tories who want rid of their leader is primarily in the hands of MPs. If one-sixth of the Conservative backbenchers have written a letter of no-confidence in their leader to the chair of the 1922 Committee, a vote of no-confidence is called: if the leader wins that vote, they can’t be challenged again for another year: if they lose that vote, there is a leadership election in which the current leader cannot stand, voted on by Tory MPs only until only two candidates are left standing: the Tory membership then gets to vote on the last two candidates.
Tonight, 315 Tory MPs will get to have a second vote to see if they’ve changed their minds since 2016. (Most of them have been arguing that we shouldn’t get to have a second vote to see if we have.)
On this day 73 years ago, the United States exploded a nuclear bomb over Hiroshima, the first and also the second-last use of nuclear weapons in war time.
The United Kingdom’s supply of nuclear missiles are stored at their purpose-built home in Faslane.
The majority of Scots support a no-nukes Scotland.
Scottish Labour, the SNP, and the Greens all support not renewing Trident.
All of this adds up to the surety that when Scotland becomes independent, and Faslane ceases to be a UK military base, the nuclear missiles must go.
But the removal of Trident is always going to be the biggest problem the Westminster government/the UK’s Ministry of Defence has with Scottish independence, because not only is there nowhere else for it to go and it would take a couple of decades to build an alternative site, there isn’t a realistic alternate site in the rest of the UK for deep-water nuclear submarines.
Devonport is physically possible but is a political impossibility, certainly for any Conservative government (and in a twenty-year construction plan there will likely be at least one Conservative government): while Scots feel uncomfortable about how near Faslane is to Glasgow, Devonport is literally in the middle of Plymouth. Pembrokeshire is a technically feasible location, but building an entirely new military depot for nuclear weapons on the coast of Wales creates a whole new political problem for rUK after iScotland has voted Yes and departed.