Tag Archives: Good Friday Agreement

Make Constitutional Law Boring Again

Scottish Constitutional Settlement and Brexit DisruptionsFew English people think about the constitutional settlement of the nations of the United Kingdom. And ordinarily, this doesn’t matter at all.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has an uncodified constitution: not a single document thoughtfully and carefully produced to give a country a good start in life, but a collection of legislation and even judicial rulings made over the centuries as the British people clawed our way into being a functioning modern democracy from a starting point of feudal monarchy. The 1689 Bill of Rights (and for Scotland, the 1689 Claim of Right) is part of the UK’s constitution: so is the 1998 Human Rights Act.
Continue reading

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Brexit, Politics, Scottish Constitution

Ireland and Brexit, four ways forward

In December last year, I started writing a post on Ireland and Brexit, which I never published because it seemed to have been overtaken by events: on 8th December, just barely in time for the EU mid-December summit, Theresa May agreed to preserve the Good Friday Agreement and the transparent border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. She had no choice: Donald Tusk had made clear in early December that EU-27 would be standing together and would collectively support the Irish government’s defence of Irish interests in preserving peace and a transparent border.

On 28th February, the EU Commissioners produced a draft agreement based on the outline Theresa May had agreed to in December. The UK did not produce its own draft agreement. Theresa May simply rejected it, claiming that no UK Prime Minister could possibly agree to the deal she had in fact agreed to in December.

But: if there’s going to be a deal for the UK at all before Brexit, it has to be set down in a form 27 EU governments can vote on and agree to, by 30th September this year. And that’s cutting it very, very fine and assuming that the agreement is something all 27 EU countries can vote Yes to.

And yesterday, Donald Tusk reaffirmed the EU position: the UK must provide a solution which includes a transparent border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, or EU talks will not continue.

As I see it, the UK government has four choices ahead of it:
Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Brexit

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.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit, Economics, EU referendum, European politics, Human Rights, Poverty, Religion

Brexit: the four directions, part 1

There are four ways the UK can go from here with regard to Brexit, and all of them are bad.

First: hard Brexit, or no deal.

On 29th March 2019, the UK leaves the EU. If no deal has been agreed to, on 30th March 2019 the UK becomes a “third country”, in EU parlance – outside the EU, not part of the customs union, no access to EU agencies or EU funding, a hard land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – and between Spain and Gibraltar.

The inevitable and foreseeable consequences of this aren’t pretty. While Brexiteers have tried to argue with me that the countries of EU-27 won’t “let” this happen because hard Brexit will damage them too, they ignore two key points:
Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under About Food, Brexit, Corruption, Supermarkets, Tax Avoidance

Brexit on BBC extra Question Time

Stop BrexitI was tweeting away on Brexit using the #bbcqt hashtag as usual on Thursday nights, when Will Harris, a freelance journalist making radio at @BBC5live, tweeted me asking for a DM. So I did… and not long after midnight, I was on BBC Radio Five live, giving whoever’s up after midnight five minutes of my views on Brexit. (If you want to listen to me, for the next 28 days you can find me on BBC iPlayer, Question Time Extra Time on Radio 5 Live, the 19/10/2017 show, 2 hours 26 minutes in.)

What I’d been asked to respond to was a question on the Dimbleby programme itself: is no deal better than a bad deal?
Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Brexit, EU referendum, European politics

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.
Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Brexit, EU referendum, GE 2017, GE2015, Scottish Politics

Oh, Snap! General Election 2017

Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street“Guess what we’re doing on 8th June 2017?” I asked.

“I dunno,” said the love of my life, busy with her coursework.

“Having a general election.”

Theresa May today announced (following a cabinet meeting) that she would hold a “snap general election” on 8th June 2017.

If you want to read her claimed reasons for doing so, her full statement is available.
Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Brexit, Elections, GE 2017