As mentioned on This Site before, Liz Truss’s plan to ease the burden on businesses caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit deal effectively creates a “smuggler’s charter”.
It creates the concept of “green lanes” and “red lanes” for trade, with goods coming from Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) into Northern Ireland and which are staying there using the green lane – meaning no checks and minimal paperwork, while goods moving from Great Britain through NI into Ireland or the wider European Union would use the red lane – continuing to be checked at ports in Northern Ireland.
How would anybody know the “green lane” goods were stopping in Northern Ireland – or even whether the goods in the lorries were really as described in the paperwork?
I previously suggested that, alongside plans to ease checks on goods coming into the UK from the EU, this could create a people-smuggling pipeline all the way through to Ireland, wrecking any strategy to prevent it put up by Priti ‘Send ‘Em To Rwanda’ Patel.
The UK also wants the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) to have no future role in deciding disputes involving the protocol, with an independent arbiter sitting in judgement instead.
Independent, as defined by whom? I can see legal disputes over who should judge rattling on until Doomsday.
In response, the EU has indicated it will restart legal action it began in March last year, when it accused the UK of delaying, without consultation, the enforcement of parts of the protocol relating to customs checks – and may go further by taking the UK to the ECJ over claims it did too little to set up border control posts and share data with the EU.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if the very law intended to remove the UK from ECJ judgments led to it facing just such a fate?
The problem facing the UK’s Tory government – particularly those dunces Liz Truss and Boris Johnson – is that unionists in Northern Ireland are likely to tear up the Good Friday Agreement if they can’t get free trade between the Province and Great Britain.
That could lead to a resurgence of the infamous “Troubles”.
Sadly, the Labour opposition has no better ideas. Keir Starmer has said negotiation with the EU is the best way forward – but advocated using “guile”, which implies that he wants to deceive the EU into giving UK vested interests what they want.
Level heads can see that no workable solution is being suggested by anybody. They all seem determined to upset each other rather than find a way forward.
How sad to see our supposed national and international leaders squabbling like children.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Oops: Theresa May probably looked as shell-shocked as this image after she took her call from Arlene Foster and realised her career is on the brink of disaster.
Is this the stupidest mistake ever made by a United Kingdom prime minister?
Theresa May seemed to be at the verge of signing an agreement with the EU27 on the vexed issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – meaning she would have met the deadline for Brexit talks to have made enough progress to move onto trading conditions. Here’s an excited Donald Tusk:
Tell me why I like Mondays! Encouraged after my phone call with Taoiseach @campaignforleo on progress on #Brexit issue of Ireland. Getting closer to sufficient progress at December #EUCO.
But what exactly was the deal? Here’s Robert Rea to explain:
Fine. But the DUP, whse support Theresa May's government depends upon, are insistent that N Ireland remains an integral part of the UK, with no "special" status and no "Irish Sea" customs border between it and the rest of the UK
Wait. What? The deal means a different regulatory framework for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK? But the DUP won’t agree, because it wants Northern Ireland to function on the same terms as the rest of the UK? Isn’t that a big problem?
In other words, in order to reach a border deal, and ensure the DUP are kept on board, the UK may end up with a status which is for all practical purposes pretty much equivalent to being in the customs union, and close to being in the single market
And we’d also need ECJ jurisdiction to make it work. In other words, we might as well remain in the EU, it seems – unless we’re really desperate for worse trading conditions with the EU27 than we currently enjoy.
Of course it didn’t come to that in the end. As Mrs May was settling down to her working lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker, DUP leader Arlene Foster convened a press conference in the UK.
She said: “We have been very clear. Northern Ireland must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom. We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom. The economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will not be compromised in any way.
“Her Majesty’s Government understands the DUP position. The Prime Minister has told the House of Commons that there will be no border in the Irish Sea. The Prime Minister has been clear that the UK is leaving the European Union as a whole and the territorial and economic integrity of the United Kingdom will be protected.
“We want to see a sensible Brexit where the Common Travel Area is continued, we meet our financial obligations, have a strictly time-limited implementation period and where the contribution of EU migrants to our economy is recognised in a practical manner.”
We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom. pic.twitter.com/uCBVdfVQTJ
The Guardiantells us: “May was forced to pause discussions to take a call from Arlene Foster. The unionist leader, whose party currently provides the Tories with a working majority in the Commons, told the British prime minister that she could not support Downing Street’s planned commitment to keep Northern Ireland aligned with EU laws.”
Hearing it was the DUP call that sunk today's chances of a deal – Foster held her press conf, 20 mins later May leaves talks with Juncker to call her, goes back into the room and the deal is off
The Guardian added: “In London, Tory Brexiters, including Iain Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg, told the Brexit minister Steve Baker, and the prime minister’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, that they were also rallying behind the DUP’s stance.”
Here’s the bombshell:
Things have become a lot clearer:
In her infinite wisdom, Theresa May and her Brexit negotiators didn't think it was necessary to keep the DUP in the loop on details of Irish border agreement
This is why DUP issued emergency statement which destroyed EU deal.
This appears to be correct. The Guardian again: “The DUP’s fury had prompted by a leak early on Monday of a draft 15-page joint statement from the European commission and the UK which suggested Britain had bowed to the Republic of Ireland’s demands by accepting that ‘in the absence of agreed solutions the UK will ensure that there continues to be continued regulatory alignment’ with the internal market and customs union.”
The irony is that Mrs May had to ally with the DUP after losing her Parliamentary majority in a general election she called in order to solidify support for her version of – you guessed it – Brexit. To retain her role as prime minister, she made it impossible to achieve the stated aim of the election.
So Jeremy Corbyn was right on the button when he tweeted the following:
The reason for today’s failure in the Brexit talks is the grubby deal the Tories did with the DUP after the election. Each passing day provides further evidence that @Theresa_May’s Government is completely ill-equipped to negotiate a successful deal for our country.
So the £1bn deal with the DUP didn't include supporting a carefully crafted fudge over NI to allow PM to do her Brexit deal by the deadline https://t.co/WBNEYvaakT the phrase 'no surrender' comes to mind!
Has any UK Prime Minister ever been so humiliated in international negotiations as May was this afternoon? A complex done deal between EU and UK scuppered by a phone call to the leader of a tiny party in Northern Ireland.
The Independent has speculated that her failure to reach an agreement over the Irish border could bring Mrs May’s premiership to a crashing end (and not a moment too soon, in This Writer’s opinion):
“In history, some British Prime Ministers have had their premierships wrecked by the “Irish Question”. Others, in more recent times, have been destroyed by Europe. Theresa May is unique in managing to combine both famously intractable and insoluble issues into one lethal cocktail. And so, it seems she is about to swallow the poison.
“The Government is perfectly happy to concede ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland/Ireland in the Brexit talks – anathema to the Ulster Unionists. This is because the Government desperately needs to get onto the second phase of the process – the trade talks for the whole UK – and MPs, without being too crude about it, are happy to sign whatever the EU sticks under their nose and worry about the consequences later.
“In the end, they will risk their support from the DUP to get moving on Brexit. Jobs (Tory MPs’ included) are at stake. After all, ministers such as David Davis always say that “nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed”, so having now ratted on the Democratic Unionists, they can, in due course, re-rat on the Irish and the EU, after a trade deal is sorted out.
“With a bit of luck, some creative ambiguity and some more bribes and false promises for the DUP, Theresa May might just pull it off. Perfidious Albion would have foxed the Unionists in the wider national (i.e. Tory) interest.
“For such an unlucky Prime Minister, it would be a bit of a turnaround – but, as in horse-racing and football, the form book does count for something; the litany of May’s calamities suggest she won’t, in fact, get away with it.
“The DUP could quite conceivably get so angry that they’d scrap their agreement with the Tory-minority Government and resolve to get rid of them. Then May would have to appeal to the Opposition parties, especially Labour, to rescue her in the Commons.
“Fat chance. If Corbyn wants, he could find any number of grounds for voting May out of office, but failure of Brexit is a pretty good one. He could then either cobble together a new Frankenstein coalition or, more realistically, follow the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act to secure a fresh general election. With an eight-point poll lead over the Conservatives, wouldn’t you?
“Of course that would mean the DUP would let in the “Sinn Fein-loving Corbyn” (as they might see it), so they’d have a tough choice, but they might have sufficient fear about what their constituents in Ulster would do to them if they kept the treacherous Tories in power that they’d feel they have nothing to lose.
“In which case we’d have an election in, say, February.
“The incoming government would ask, if it was sensible, to put Brexit on pause while it changes policy, and the EU would happily oblige if there was a chance of reversing Brexit – via, say, a second referendum. Or Corbyn and Keir Starmer could just agree to stay in the single market and some version of the customs union. Arlene Foster might in fact be able to live with that.
“In which case, by spring, it would all be over for May, Boris, Gove and the old gang, and they could get on with their civil war in earnest.”
While we await that development, we’ve had this one. The Guardian, yet again: “The news was then seized upon by Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who suggested that any promise for Northern Ireland could be replicated for Scotland. That call was followed by similar suggestions from the London mayor, Sadiq Khan.”
Apres nous, le deluge (“after us, the flood”, for those who don’t know their French, or the history of the French Revolution). Others leapt in to demand the same considerations, leading to the following (semi-)satirical comments:
David Davis (L) and Michel Barnier: The body language says it all – we need them; they don’t need us [Image: Reuters/Yves Herman].
It looks like pro-remain site In Facts has got it right – the only progress Mrs May was able to announce in her update to Parliament was conceding that the European court of justice would continue to have jurisdiction over the UK during the “implementation period” of around two years, during which the UK will go through a transition from full EU membership to a completely separate nation state.
So this is a further sign of Mrs May’s – and the Tory negotiating team’s – weakness. Right?
Don’t expect any progress from the next round of Brexit talks, which start on Monday. Theresa May isn’t in a position to make the concrete concessions that will be needed to move the negotiations forward, and the EU won’t trust a nod and a wink from a wounded leader.
The prime minister hoped she could unblock the stalled negotiations with her Florence speech two weeks ago. That now seems almost a lifetime away. Boris Johnson’s exocet missiles, May’s own disastrous speech at the Tory conference and the plot to kick her out as leader have shattered what little authority she had.
The Florence speech involved no fewer that eight u-turns. This was enough for Michel Barnier, the EU Commission’s negotiator, to pronounce there was a “new dynamic” in the talks. But it was always clear that we would have to make more concessions before EU leaders agreed to authorise discussions on our future deal.
After Florence it looked like May was preparing those concessions. A week ago The Times said she was going to accept divorce costs of £40 billion. She would also spell out a way to “ensure legal force is given to decisions by EU judges on the residency rights of Europeans living in Britain”. The EU summit in two weeks would then agree to let Barnier discuss the transitional deal which the prime minister has finally started to realise is needed to ensure the economy doesn’t fall off a cliff when we quit the EU in March 2019.
A week is an awfully long time in politics. Now The Telegraph is reporting that the UK will not be making any more concessions on money in next week’s talks.
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