Category Archives: Trade

Why is the DUP returning to power-sharing in NI assembly if nothing has changed?

Return to Stormont? Chris Heaton-Harris (left), the Northern Ireland Secretary, seems to have done a deal with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson.

The Democratic Unionist Party has apparently agreed to resume its power-sharing deal in the Northern Ireland Assembly, even though none of the objections to post-Brexit trade rules over which its members walked out seem to have been addressed.

The DUP quit the Stormont assembly nearly two years ago, in protest at the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol for post-Brexit trade that would put a border between the Province and the rest of the United Kingdom.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak proposed a new deal, called the Windsor Framework, last year. This adopted a suggestion from the European Union that ‘Green’ and ‘Red’ lanes be set up at borders.

There would be a ‘Green Lane’ for goods going into NI, and they won’t be checked, while goods going through the province and into the Republic (or the other way, and into the UK) will be subject to customs procedures.

And the DUP didn’t like it – so Stormont remained closed for business.

Now, after talks with NI Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has announced that a deal has been reached.

But nothing seems to have changed!

Heaton-Harris has said full details of the deal won’t be available until all-party talks are finalised, and it contains “significant” changes.

However, according to the BBC:

“Not one word of the Northern Ireland Protocol has been altered, and that means Northern Ireland remains under the EU’s customs code, and that means Great Britain continues to be regarded, in law, as a foreign country when it comes to trade.”

He tells gathered reporters: “Under the protocol there are hundreds of EU laws that we do not make and cannot change.”

He points out that those laws which shape NI’s goods economy are “identical” to those that govern the goods economy of the Republic of Ireland.

He says it’s all a “tawdry climbdown by the DUP on their own tests which have not been met” and accuses the party of “accepting foreign law”.

This Writer suspects that the change of heart may be partly to do with one aspect of the ‘Windsor Framework’ deal that Sunak mentioned when he announced it last year.

He said the Northern Ireland Assembly would decide whether the ‘Windsor Framework’ should be supported, in 2024.

This means, I think, that if the DUP wishes to oppose it, there needs to be a functioning Assembly, and if that party continues to refuse to take up its seats there, stopping it from working, then government of Northern Ireland goes back to Westminster, which will support the new deal.

Either way, it seems the DUP is checkmated because the Assembly will probably back it.

So the reasoning may be that it is better to go back to Stormont, debate the deal there and see what can be negotiated than to let the Tory government in Westminster make the decision and be forced to live with it.

But I’m prepared to be wrong.

We’ll find out, when the details are published.


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Why do you think David Cameron lied over legal concerns about arms sales to Israel?

David Cameron: he has talked himself into a corner over arms sales to Israel. Would it have been better for him to have a rule that, if such a transaction could in any way possibly break International Humanitarian Law, it should not be approved?

The UK’s Foreign Secretary, David (Lord!) Cameron, seems to be trying to confuse us about his decision to allow arms sales to Israel after the Foreign Office raised concerns about the legality of the transations.

According to a government document filed in the High Court, defending against a challenge by legal and human rights groups that are trying to stop the UK selling arms to Israel for use in Gaza, said the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office unit that assessed Israel’s commitment and capability to comply with international humanitarian law (IHL) raised concerns to Cameron in multiple reports between November 10 and December 8 about Israel’s compliance with the law.

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The unit appeared satisfied on some counts, such as Israeli officials’ insistence that the Israeli military had incorporated Internation Humanitarian Law “into all aspects of military operations”.

But other points, including a lack of Israeli response about “the reasons for restricting the quantity of supplies of food, water, and medical supplies”, raised concerns.

The unit said it was possible that this was due to disagreement about what the law requires, rather than an intentional disregard of the law.

Cameron, on the other hand, told the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee that he could not “recall every bit of paper” put in front of him and it was not his job to make a “legal adjudication” when asked if government lawyers had advised him that Israel had breached the law.

But the document shows that the final decision of whether Israel was committed to complying with the law was left to Cameron.

So the decision on whether to sell Israel these arms, for use in a conflict that potentially breached International Humanitarian Law, was left to Cameron – and he went ahead with the sale.

Here’s a thought:

Wouldn’t it be better to have a rule that, if there is any doubt about the legality of such a transaction, it should be automatically disallowed – on a “better safe than sorry” basis?

Source: War on Gaza: UK’s Cameron okayed arms sales to Israel despite Foreign Office legal concerns | Middle East Eye


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Suella Braverman’s ‘hurricane of migration’ is fuelled by Tory arms sales abroad

Suella Braverman: she’s quick to fearmonger about the number of people coming to the UK from abroad – but less eager to mention the fact that her government is responsible for it.

Suella Braverman grabbed a lot of headlines with her Tory conference speech threatening a “hurricane of migrants” coming to the UK.

Here’s the relevant segment:

She said, “the future could bring millions of migrants to our shores – uncontrolled and unmanageable unless the government they elect next year acts decisively to stop that happening.”

Why wait until next year? The Tory government could stop it right now – by stopping this:

The image above, I’m told, is of arms that UK manufacturers and dealers ship off to repressive foreign regimes in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Ukraine is another area of concern.

They get to send these weapons abroad because the government – which is currently run by Tories including Suella Braverman – issues what are known as Single Issue Export Licences (SIELs) allowing them to do so.

In 2022, the value of the arms exported doubled to £8.5 billion – the highest level since records began. And the highest number of exports went to these repressive regimes that have poor human rights records.

The figures are from the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which has claimed that “the UK is complicit in fuelling conflict around the world”.

It is this kind of conflict that displaces people. And then some of them come to the UK. You can read further details here.

It seems to This Writer that at least part of the illegal migration problem can be solved right here, in Whitehall – simply by scaling back the amount of weaponry UK businesses send abroad.

Ah, but that would be bad for corporate profits, wouldn’t it? So it seems that, yet again, money is worth more than life to the Tories…

And if they get a divisive, headline-grabbing controversy out of it, they seem to think it is a bonus.

Remember that, next time you hear Braverman blathering about a “hurricane” of migrants totalling “millions”: she and her government are responsible for it.


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Rishi Sunak is causing yet another conflict-of-interest – CORRUPTION – row

Akshata Murty and her husband, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak: it seems that, days after being forced to apologise for failing to declare that she (and therefore he) will benefit from one policy of the government he leads, he is trying to ensure that they will – corruptly? – benefit from another.

The UK prime minister who came into office promising “integrity, professionalism and accountability” is embroiled in yet another corruption/conflict-of-interest row involving his wife’s father’s multinational corporation, Infosys.

Rishi Sunak is trying to negotiate a free trade deal with India, where Infosys is based, and the allegation is that this will be hugely profitable for Infosys – and therefore, by proxy, for Sunak himself.

People are asking the obvious question:

Note that it is unlikely that the people of the UK will benefit from this free trade deal, according to Jemma Forte; Sunak is negotiating a deal to benefit his family – again.

Remember: Parliament’s Commissioner for Standards has only just stated that Sunak broke the Ministerial Code – “inadvertently” – by failing to declare that a childcare firm in which his wife has shares will benefit from a change in Tory government policy. In the current instance, there can be no such excuse as we have the evidence in advance of the deal.

Infosys is also a multiple offender in terms of preferential treatment from Sunak’s government. After war broke out between Russia and Ukraine, that firm was told to stop operating in Russia or face sanctions like all the other businesses then doing business with that state, but eight months later it was found still to be doing business there, with impunity against the UK’s sanctions regime.

Sunak is expected to attend a G20 summit in India in two weeks – and to discuss the trade deal at a separate, bilateral, meeting with that nation’s prime minister Narendra Modi.

But Keir Starmer’s opposition party (still currently known as Labour, for reasons unknown) has called for Sunak to make an open declaration about his wife’s financial interests in a company that could profit immensely from his involvement in these negotiations.

One expert – Professor Alan Manning of the London School of Economics, according to The Guardian, wants the prime minister to recuse himself from any negotiations.

In response, it seems the Foreign Office has warned the Labour-chaired business and trade select committee not to visit India to examine the issues around a potential deal. The government department is refusing to help committee members set up meetings with Indian officials and businesspeople.

It seems clear, then, that Sunak has something to hide once again – otherwise, why try to cover up what will happen at the negotiations?

The deal, it seems, will allow Infosys to send teams of its Indian employees to the UK to work on outsourced IT contracts for firms in this country.

Why not employ home-grown expertise and keep the contracts – and all the profits arising from them – in the UK? Or has previous Tory government policy ensured that nobody here has the required expertise any more?

Of course, the controversy will only intensify the debate over MPs having business interests outside the House of Commons, or receiving donations and/or gifts-in-kind from businesses or corporate bosses.

The question here is: who does Rishi Sunak work for – the people of the UK or his wife’s family firm?

The answer seems obvious – with the best interests of the nation he is supposed to lead coming a distant second.

Reform is urgently required – but with so many Parliamentarian snouts firmly in the trough, there seems to be no will to put a stop to the corporate influence that is staining all of us with the filth of corruption. How do we force an end to it?


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As the DUP digs in its heels, is Northern Ireland facing hard times?

Stormont: still locked as the DUP’s representatives dig in their heels over post-Brexit trade.

Rishi Sunak has managed to avoid humiliation in the vote on the ‘Stormont Brake’ aspect of his ‘Windsor Framework’ deal with the EU over trade in Northern Ireland. Instead the shame was hung on the Democratic Unionists and Tories in the European Research Group faction.

MPs voted by 515 to 29 to support the deal agreed by Rishi Sunak.

But the defeat means the DUP has vowed to continue its boycott of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont – with possibly serious consequences for the province.

Spokespeople for the other Northern Irish political parties have begged the DUP to come back, according to the BBC:

Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill said the DUP had to “stop their boycott” of Stormont so that executive ministers could take control of the budget.

Ministers had to be in post to make the case to the Treasury for extra funding for Northern Ireland, Ms O’Neill added.

“This budget is about to cause catastrophic damage to public services,” she said.

“So the DUP need to get around the table with the rest of us, make politics work.”

Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry said Northern Ireland was “bleeding at present”, with problems piling up and public services in real crisis.

He said his party had asked the UK government to consider providing a financial package and it appeared “the door is open to that”.

“This will require the parties in Northern Ireland to work together and to make a very persuasive case… to the Treasury,” he said.

“So it reinforces the impetus on the DUP to join the rest of us in ensuring we have proper governance here.”

Ulster Unionist assembly member Robbie Butler said the level of budget cuts “on that cliff edge at the moment actually is quite alarming”.

He urged the DUP to accept the “difficulties” with the Windsor Framework and “put the people of Northern Ireland first”.

Social Democratic and Labour Party leader Colum Eastwood said the DUP had to accept that it could not get everything it wanted from the new Brexit deal.

“We have a huge opportunity with this [deal] to trade into both [UK and EU] markets unencumbered,” said the Foyle MP.

“People in Britain would give their right arm to have that opportunity.”

But DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the ‘Windsor Framework’ would not deliver the long-term stability and prosperity that Northern Ireland needs.

Adding insult to injury, he adopted the rhetoric of Labour’s Keir Starmer, saying there was “an element of the sticking plaster” about Rishi Sunak’s new deal with the European Union, and it would not work.

He went on to say he is “not a quitter” and will continue trying to get the deal changed – a tall order, considering the joint UK-EU body that is overseeing Brexit will meet o ratify the legal changes brought about by the Windsor Framework – tomorrow (Friday, March 24, 2023).

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has met the five main Stormont parties at Hillsborough to discuss the new Brexit deal as well as Northern Ireland’s public finances, which he said were not in a good state.

He said he would have to set Northern Ireland’s budget for the coming year within the next few weeks if the executive was not up and running soon – and there would be some “tough decisions” if that happened.

It seems a very thinly-veiled threat, not just to the DUP but to all of the Northern Irish politicians: “get back to normal or suffer”.

But nobody in NI will be in any doubt about where responsibility will lie if the Tories in Westminster penalise them with Budget restrictions, and there may be knock-on consequences at the ballot box.

Is the DUP really willing to court electoral wipeout for the sake of what many see as not just a lost cause, but also a pointless one?


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Eurosceptic Tories withdraw support for NI deal. Will Rishi Sunak have to rely on Labour?

Mark Francois: he reckons the ‘Stormont Brake’ is “practically useless”.

This could be hugely embarrassing for Rishi Sunak.

After triumphantly trumpeting his ‘Windsor Framework’ for trade between Northern Ireland, the European Union and Great Britain, and claiming that it should win huge support from MPs, a hugely-influential group of his own party has turned against it.

The European Research Group (ERG) has said the so-called ‘Stormont Brake’, on which Commons MPs are due to vote tomorrow (March 22), is “practically useless”.

This mechanism is intended to give Northern Ireland greater influence on how EU laws are applied there.

ERG chairman Mark Francois has said the group has not decided whether to vote against it, but is leaving the decision to individual members.

But the criticism follows an announcement by Northern Irish MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party that they will not support it.

It puts Rishi Sunak in the excruciating position of potentially having to rely on support for his deal from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, despite having a Parliamentary majority of around 80 MPs.

If I recall correctly, Sunak has regularly scorned such offers of support for individual policies.

What will it say about his leadership if he can only win the vote with support he didn’t want to have?


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The DUP may have solved its ‘Windsor Framework’ dilemma – by passing the buck

The Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland found itself facing a thorny problem after Rishi Sunak announced his new ‘Windsor Framework’ deal for trade between Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the European Union.

That party had been using the lack of a hard-Brexit-supporting agreement on trade as an excuse not to take its seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, after elections that made Sinn Fein the largest party group there.

But Sunak’s deal has been welcomed almost universally, leaving the DUP with very little wiggle-room.

It left party leaders scrabbling for time in which to find a face-saving way forward.

Now it seems they have found it: pass the buck onto a specially-created committee, act according to its recommendations and – if anything goes wrong – use it as a scapegoat.

Here’s Maximilien Robespierre with the details:


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Boris Johnson comments on Rishi Sunak’s Northern Ireland deal

We were told Boris Johnsons would criticise parts of Rishi Sunak’s ‘Windsor Framework’ for Northern Ireland but would not oppose it outright.

We were told he had significant concerns and stood by his warning that the Government should keep the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill in place, and get rid of all legislation covering the movement of goods across EU borders.

And what did he say?

Here he is, speaking at a Global Soft Power summit:


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Has the DUP been outmanoeuvred by Rishi Sunak and his ‘Windsor Framework’?

Well, they didn’t get what they wanted.

The Democratic Unionist Party wanted the removal of all borders between Northern Ireland and both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, and that hasn’t happened (although border controls have been lifted to a very great extent).

They wanted the removal of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has happened – but they didn’t want it to be replaced by a new system called the ‘Windsor Framework’.

The green and red lanes were proposed by the European Commission in 2021 and rejected by the UK government of the day. Now they’ve been revived as a panacea by Sunak.

But the real kicker for the DUP is that Sunak has said the Northern Ireland Assembly will decide whether the ‘Windsor Framework’ should be supported, next year.

This means, I think, that if the DUP wishes to oppose it, there needs to be a functioning Assembly – if that party continues to refuse to take up its seats there, stopping it from working, then government of Northern Ireland goes back to Westminster, which will support the new deal.

Either way, it seems the DUP is checkmated because the Assembly will probably back it.

But with no advantage in going back, and an opportunity to snub Sinn Fein by refusing, what do you think the DUP will do?

Here’s Maximilien Robespierre to explain in greater detail:


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Is this the best comment on Rishi Sunak’s new Northern Ireland deal?

Further to my report on Rishi Sunak’s “Windsor Framework”, I reproduce this without comment:

Are the Northern Irish feeling lucky, right about now?


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