Tag Archives: DUP

Ireland and Brexit

EU's chief Brexit negotiator Barnier and Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Davis attend a meeting in BrusselsThe UK’s Brexit negotiation team has been so fecklessly incompetent that their EU-27 counterparts thought this was a pretence and must be a trap.

The July photograph of the British team (on the right) sitting at the negotiation table without any briefing papers in front of them, while the EU team (on the left) all have a stack of paperwork, looks emblematic of the UK government’s lack of preparation. (According to British diplomats, David Davis’s papers were still in his bag at the time the photo was taken.)

The recent confirmation that the UK government will be paying the EU fifty billion or so, pretty much what the EU initially said the UK would have to pay to finalise the UK’s liabilities before Brexit, had Brexiteers Iain Duncan Smith and Nigel Farage squealing loudly that this was too much, that Theresa May and David Davis should have taken a harder line and refused to pay anything.

But with regard to the fifty billion bill, the only difference between a competent team of Brexit negotiators and the current crowd, is that a competent team would have realised last year that the UK had no choice about discharging our liabilities to the EU if the Brexit date was set before the end of the 2014-2020 budget period: would have taken that into consideration when deciding just when to invoke Article 50: and would have come to the table in Brussels prepared to dicker over exact amounts, not wasting time arguing that nothing at all should be paid. As far as we can tell, Theresa May and David Davis did none of these things.

Of course, a competent Prime Minister with a solid if small majority, wouldn’t have called a General Election after invoking Article 50, thus wasting three months of negotiation time – and losing her majority to be dependent on the DUP.

As a reminder: after June 2017, the Tories have 315 seats and are the largest single party: because Sinn Féin (7 seats) don’t sit in the Commons, and the Speaker doesn’t vote, an effective majority for the government is 322 and a formal majority is 325: the DUP have 10 seats. If all MPs of all other parties vote together, they muster 311 votes. So the DUP, the unionist and Brexiteer party in Northern Ireland, literally hold the balance of power in Parliament.

The issue about paying the EU billions to discharge the UK’s budget liabilities wasn’t even worth arguing about: the UK’s only leverage was to refuse to pay it and suffer hard Brexit, which would be catastrophic for the UK but only moderately damaging for EU-27.

Hugh Orde, former Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, on the Irish Border and BrexitThough some news reports described the problem of the Irish border as “unexpected”, the Irish border and the end of the Good Friday Agreement, was always going to be hugely difficult, and with the DUP in a confidence-and-supply arrangement to prop up the Tories, has probably become unresolvable by the current government.

I had initially here written a few hundred words summarising the history of Ireland in relationship to Britain, but Waterford Whispers points out that the UK public would most likely only believe it if it was written on the side of a bus. That’s probably true.

So, while it’s tempting to outline how the government of Confederate Ireland (1642-1649) was bloodily smashed by Oliver Cromwell and estates owned by Irish Catholics were then confiscated and redistributed to Protestant incomers, how the Penal Laws, enacted by the Protestant-dominated Parliament of Ireland that resulted from the land confiscations, ensured that Irish Catholics should become poor, be uneducated, banned from public office, and denied the right to serve in the army (a potential career path for even the poorest/most uneducated of men), and how “Irish jokes” which portray Irish people as stupid and ignorant, arise from the need of the English and the Irish Protestants to believe that it was okay to keep Irish Catholics poor and uneducated because they were naturally stupid: how after the Parliaments of Ireland and Britain were merged in 1801, while people in Ireland were starving during the Great Famine (1845-1852) in Westminster MPs debated on whether it would be right to provide food to the starving. But that would make this a very long blog post.

Even dealing with the 20th century only, there is the rebellion put down in 1916, two wars immediately after WWI ended and Sinn Féin won the general election in Ireland by a landslide and proclaimed the Irish Declaration of Independence in January 1919: the treaty accepted by the majority of the Dáil for the Partition of Ireland: and the formation of the Irish Free State, later the Republic of Ireland, and the separation of the six counties of Northern Ireland, which in 1922 and thereafter is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Although the Troubles are dated in British history as beginning 5th October 1968, the cause was systematic gerrymandering for decades to ensure that Catholics in Northern Ireland were cooped ip in slums so that in local authority areas where Catholics were numerically in the majority, Protestants had a majority on the local government councils.

Thank you for your attention: let us move on to the present day.
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Filed under Brexit, Economics, EU referendum, European politics, Human Rights, Poverty, Religion

Brexit, the four directions: nadir

The EUref results map

EU Referendum Results Map

Last week, I wrote and posted a series about the four possible directions the UK can go from where we are.

From a worm’s-eye perspective, the fourth option is least-worst: but the people most likely to face negative consequences for carrying it out and saving the UK from catastrophe or disaster, are the same MPs who would have to vote for it.

And regardless of how bad it is for us in the lower income bands, MPs are all in the top ten percent by income just from their salary: they have a generous expenses system, heavily subsidised food and drink at work, complete job security until the next general election, and a nice golden parachute even if they lose their seats then: they will not directly suffer from the economic disaster of soft Brexit, and though the catastrophe of hard Brexit might hit them, they’re better insulated against it than most.
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Prime Minister’s Question Time

Theresa May wavingTheresa May was due to meet with the 1922 Committee on Tuesday.

The chair of the committee, Graham Brady, has brought Tuesday’s meeting forward to Monday – tomorrow – in effect, summoning Theresa May before her backbenchers to explain herself.

Graham Brady has been the Tory MP for Altrincham and Sale West since 1997. He is described as an “early and enthusiastic Brexiteer“.

One Conservative method of removing the leader is to have 15% of Tory backbenchers write to the chair of the committee asking for a vote of confidence in the current leader. (Iain Duncan Smith was the last leader to be removed in this way.)

The backbenchers will certainly want Theresa May to justify why she should stay on as Tory leader after she called a general election that dissolved the Tory party’s small but working majority. Given that Theresa May’s motivation for calling that general election may have been precisely so that she needn’t worry about Tory backbencher rebellions against her while going through the show of Brexit negotiations, she may find this question difficult to answer.

But that’s really not the only question they should be asking.

London Evening StandardThey may also want to know why she claimed on Friday morning to have a deal already made with the DUP to prop up the tiny Tory advantage in Parliament, only to have the DUP deny it by Saturday: and they should certainly ask what the DUP is demanding as payment for the deal.

Some of them at least will want to know how May plans to prevent the Tory party being tarred by association with the creationist, climate-change-denying, homophobic, sectarian, anti-abortion DUP.

A few may even think to ask how May plans to preserve the Northern Ireland peace process, already at risk from Brexit, by removing the UK government’s ability to be a neutral broker in the Stormont crisis, on-going since January: and what happens if Sinn Fein mounts a legal challenge, asserting in court that the UK government is now in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

If a UK government has been formed with the DUP’s support and this government is under legal challenge, even if the challenge fails, the EU negotiations – due to start on 19th June, already delayed by May’s general election – will have to be further put off because the EU cannot begin negotiations with a government in legal doubt and uncertainty. A European council meeting on 22nd June is said to be the next deadline for Theresa May – if still Prime Minister – to explain herself and to say when the negotiations can start.

The deadline for Brexit is 29th March 2019 and weeks have already been wasted.

I don’t have a Tory MP. If I did, and especially if they were a backbencher, I would write to them tonight or contact them by phone tomorrow and ask them to ask Theresa May these questions at her meeting with them tomorrow.

Please feel free to share this as widely as you can: Tory backbenchers should know that they need to hold Theresa May to account for more than just putting their jobs at risk.

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Turn Left

Theresa May: If I lose just six seats....In fairness, Theresa May never said what would happen if she lost 13 seats.

But here we are.

The Conservative Party has 317 seats in the House of Commons: even allowing for the 7 Sinn Féin MPs who never take their seats, the Tories are five seats short of a majority.

Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party, have between them got 314 seats.
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Filed under Brexit, EU referendum, GE 2017, GE2015, Scottish Politics

On the process of political smearing

Labour Leadership 2015I wasn’t planning to write another blogpost on the Labour leadership election. (I hope I’m not going to be starting a lot of blogposts over the next few weeks with that sentence.)

I don’t have a vote because although I’m a member of an affiliated organisation (which has sent me a mailshot about the election) I didn’t register for a vote because I am a member of the Scottish Green Party. So I’m just waiting for 12th September, like everyone else who doesn’t qualify for a vote, which is 99.0472% of the population of the UK.

610,753 people do have a vote, and according to most polls the majority currently plan to vote Jeremy Corbyn.
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Cameron announces coup in Telegraph

Only in England would the leader of a political party announce he plans a coup to overthrow the democratically-elected government, in the Daily Telegraph, two days in advance.

David CameronJust a month ago, Adam Ramsay warned on the OpenDemocracy site:

If they [the Tory press] can possibly get away with it, they will find any way they can to declare Cameron the winner, even if it’s going to be almost impossible for him to command a parliamentary majority. In doing so, they will seek to make it impossible for Miliband to govern. This circumstance would in effect be a coup by newspaper proprietors against the people of the country. Because our constitution is written not in statute, but headlines, this is perfectly possible.

It’s complicated by the fact that until a new government is formed, Cameron and the other Tory and LibDem Ministers remain in Downing Street as a caretaker government, even if they have lost their seats and aren’t MPs any longer. Just as Gordon Brown correctly remained in Downing Street as Prime Minister until Cameron and Clegg had finished their coalition deal, so must Cameron stay on as PM until the House of Commons decides how to form a democratically-elected government out of the results of the 7th May election.
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