Tag Archives: Northern

Tory Hoare branded a ‘coward’ for plan to abstain on Bill that threatens peace in Northern Ireland

Should it say or should it go? “Northern Ireland voted to stay in the European Union, and the Good Friday Agreement demands that its border with the Republic of Ireland be kept open. Brexit would make that impossible without the conditions in the EU Withdrawal Agreement that provide the province with a special status. But the Internal Market Bill illegally overwrites those conditions.” Isn’t Boris Johnson pushing NI towards re-integration with the Republic?

The Conservative chairman of the Commons Northern Ireland select committee is currently taking a drubbing on Twitter after he announced he will abstain on the Third Reading of the Internal Market Bill that threatens the peace there, rather than opposing it outright.

Simon Hoare tweeted that information from the US Congress that its members would not permit any free trade agreements with the United Kingdom. He seemed to believe that this was justification for him to abstain, rather than oppose the Bill that breaks international law by overruling the EU Withdrawal Agreement on trade borders around NI.

Northern Ireland voted to stay in the European Union, and the Good Friday Agreement demands that its border with the Republic of Ireland be kept open. Brexit would make that impossible without the conditions in the EU Withdrawal Agreement that provide the province with a special status. But the Internal Market Bill illegally overwrites those conditions.

In abstaining on the Bill, Hoare is effectively saying that he does not want to express an opinion on it – even though he knows it will be harmful to peace in Northern Ireland, and to the Union. It is the position of a coward who is afraid to take a stand when his bosses do the wrong thing.

Even if he really didn’t know that, he is being told it in no uncertain terms:

If he does abstain, Spineless Simon should be ashamed to call himself a human being.

I wonder how many Conservatives will follow his example – doing just enough to salve their miniscule consciences without actually stopping the Bill?

Abstention means allowing Boris Johnson to break international law.

And it means an end to peace in Northern Ireland.

When violence breaks out again, after Johnson does whatever he’s planning to do to the Northern Ireland border, Simon Hoare and all other Tory abstainers will be responsible.

But then we know from past experience that Tories are perfectly comfortable to sit in Parliament with blood dripping from their hands.

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Johnson’s first Attorney General condemns his plan to betray EU withdrawal agreement

Geoffrey Cox: the former Attorney General is pointing the finger of accusation at Boris Johnson.

That’s scuppered the claims that the row over Boris Johnson’s plan to break international law is a last gasp of the so-called ‘Remainers’, then.

Geoffrey Cox – a devout Brexiter – was Attorney General when Boris Johnson signed his EU withdrawal agreement in January.

His announcement that he will not support Johnson’s Internal Markets Bill is proof that the controversy extends much further than the established battle lines.

The story broke in The Times, which is behind a paywall. However, the East Fife Times has this:

Boris Johnson’s former attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, has said it would be “unconscionable” to override the Brexit divorce deal.

The Tory MP said there is “no doubt” the “unpalatable” implications of the Withdrawal Agreement were known when the Prime Minister signed it, a time when Mr Cox was the chief law officer.

So he should know!

He stated:

And he threatened worse:

The Brexiteer warned he would not back the UK Internal Market Bill unless ministers dispel the impression they plan to “permanently and unilaterally” rewrite an international agreement.

[He] said tariffs and customs procedures on certain goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain were part of the deal.

“There can be no doubt that these were the known, unpalatable but inescapable, implications of the agreement,” he wrote in The Times.

He said if the powers in the Bill were used to “nullify those perfectly plain and foreseeable consequences” then it would amount to the “unilateral abrogation of the treaty obligations”

Cox said ministers could use “clear and lawful” options under the withdrawal agreement to remedy their concerns that food imports may be blocked from Britain to Northern Ireland – or, “in extremis”, take “temporary and proportionate measures” via independent arbitration.

“What ministers should not do, however provoked or frustrated they may feel about an impasse in negotiations, is to take or use powers permanently and unilaterally to rewrite portions of an international agreement into which this country freely entered just a few months ago,” he said.

It seems he also said this:

But the article also points out:

The QC… was attorney general during the unlawful suspension of Parliament.

That’s right; Boris Johnson prorogued Parliament illegally – and lied to the Queen in order to do it.

It seems Cox has had enough of such illegalities – and his words carry weight on the Conservative benches in the House of Commons.

They are also carrying weight on the social media:

Johnson and his people are desperately trying to play down the implications of their plan, but nobody is being fooled.

There may be more than verbal fireworks in the political news this week.

Source: Ex-attorney general strikes out at ‘unconscionable’ plan to override Brexit deal | Central Fife Times

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Bone-head: Tory Brexiteer humiliates himself in Newsnight interview

Peter Bone: he appears to be auditioning for a role as the Ghost of Brexit Yet to Come.

Peter Bone made a name for himself as an annoyance to David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions, back between 2010 and 2016.

Now it seems he is embarking on a new career as an embarrassment to the whole Conservative Party.

That was certainly the effect of his Newsnight interview on September 11.

Watch it for yourself:

If your head is spinning after listening to all that self-justifying waffle, I’ve found some handy comments to clear up what he was saying and why it is tripe:

(I think maybe some of these commenters were a bit “tired and emotional” when they were typing these messages. @elisled2, above, probably meant a “waiting” game, rather than a “whiting” game, whatever that may be.)

Well, not all of the comments made sense of what he was saying…

Needless to say, his performance prompted criticism of its own:

Perhaps the best summary came from a parody account:

I’m sure some people supported what he had to say – sad, misled people.

But it seems clear that most of the UK is sick of him, of his party, and of their constant failures.

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Brexiteers’ justification for breaking international law on Brexit is illiterate. Why hasn’t Braverman resigned?

Suella Braverman: She used to chair a secret group of Brexit-supporting MPs and is now Attorney General. Yes, she is as daft as she looks.

In trying to humiliate a leading Remainer – and justify its own contempt for international law – Boris Johnson and his government have made the UK a laughing-stock once again.

And our Attorney General, Suella Braverman, should be offering up her resignation. Rather than uphold the rule of law, she has sided with a government that intends to break it, turning the UK into nothing better than a rogue state.

Almost as bad, she offered as justification for this lawbreaking a Supreme Court ruling that Parliament is sovereign in domestic matters – a ruling won by Remain campaigner Gina Miller in a challenge to previous Brexit legislation.

But the same Supreme Court ruling made it clear that this does not excuse the UK government from honouring its obligations under international law.

Here’s Braverman’s statement, as exulted by Brexiteers. I’ve found a more level-headed response to it:

What is the appropriate response? This:

Perhaps. This:

Mmm… How about two in-depth Twitter threads? First this:

(After that lesson in the law, I think the Secret Barrister may be allowed to advertise a book about it.)

And then there’s this:

It is not for members of the public to challenge this.

I have a feeling that the Tory government will face serious and well-funded legal challenges both from within the UK and outside.

I am concerned that this will lead to an equally serious financial penalty – a bill that, once again, the taxpayer will have to pay.

We always end up bailing out these incompetent Tories when we should be sending them to jail instead.

Last word goes to Mark Elliott (again):

It is par for the course in a government that is as bent as a nine-bob note.

But Suella Braverman’s resignation is definitely required.

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Boris Johnson is risking the peace in Northern Ireland by reneging on the Good Friday Agreement, EU claims

A lorry passing an anti-Brexit placard at the Ireland-Northern Ireland border crossing in Killeen.

Boris Johnson has made a fool of himself again, it seems – by threatening the future of peace in Northern Ireland, if EU officials are to be believed.

They say he is reneging on pledges to uphold the Good Friday Agreement by failing to support moves to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

And what clever timing that they’re saying this right before Mr Johnson is due to meet Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar!

EU bosses say the open border is not a desire or preference, but a legal obligation.

According to The Guardian,

North-south cooperation was a pillar of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement and covers a swathe of policies such as transport, agriculture, health, education, environment and tourism.

The vast web of cooperation means, for example, that patients and ambulances can cross the border, freshwater loughs are jointly protected and Ireland’s single electricity powers millions of homes.

Since coming to office, Johnson has vowed to get rid of the backstop, a fallback plan to avoid a hard border that would see Northern Ireland maintain many EU rules, and the whole UK stay in a customs union with the EU.

[But} a UK government spokesperson firmly rejected suggestions the government was not committed to the Good Friday agreement. “We are committed to the common travel area, to upholding the rights of citizens of Northern Ireland, to ongoing north-south cooperation, to retaining the benefits of the single electricity market. We remain firmly committed to peace in Northern Ireland and the Belfast agreement.

“The Belfast/Good Friday agreement neither depends upon, nor requires a particular customs or regulatory regime. The broader commitments in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement include parity of esteem, partnership, democracy and a peaceful means of resolving differences. This would be best met if we could explore solutions other than the backstop.”

Do you believe that statement from BoJob’s spokesperson?

After all the lies we’ve had from him, dating back long before he became prime minister, do you dare to?

Source: Johnson has reneged on Good Friday agreement vows, says EU | Politics | The Guardian

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Is Theresa May’s latest fudge a bid to pass the poisoned chalice of Brexit on to somebody else?

Misery face: Theresa May wants to wash her hands of Brexit by passing the problems created by her deal onto somebody else. But MPs have an opportunity to make her try again. And again. And again…

Let’s cut through the hot air and fantasy and admit something: the “legally binding” changes to the EU deal that Theresa May just agreed at Strasbourg do not change anything.

She desperately needs to break the impasse that means she cannot get a majority in Parliament for her duff Brexit deal – otherwise the UK crashes out without any deal at all, which may be disastrous for foreign trade.

In practise, this meant finding a way around the Northern Irish border “backstop” deal, set up to ensure that goods crossing the border between that part of the UK and the Republic of Ireland continue to do so in as frictionless a way as possible.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which is propping up Mrs May’s government, has said it will not support any deal that puts Northern Ireland in a different position from the rest of the UK.

So, to try to win back that party’s support, she has secured a “joint statement” in which both the UK and EU commit to replacing the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020.

This is supported by a “joint legally-binding instrument” that the UK could use to prevent the EU from keeping this country tied into the backstop indefinitely.

It isn’t what Parliament told her to get.

She was told to ensure that the backstop would be replaced with “alternative arrangements” immediately, and has failed to achieve this.

Instead, the backstop will remain a part of the deal, but operating until December 2020, rather than for an unspecified period of time.

After that, it seems the UK’s government will be expected to magic up some “alternative arrangements” that haven’t been considered by now.

Mrs May is trying to kick the Brexit can down the road – possibly far enough that she won’t have to pick it up again. It seems she wants to pass the poisoned chalice to someone else.

But she won’t get the chance if Parliament sees through her ploy.

She has deliberately failed.

She deserves absolutely no support when MPs vote on her meagre offer. They should vote to extend the Article 50 “notice of intention to leave” period and order her to stop fudging and get a proper deal.

Of course, the wits of Twitter think she already achieved this:

… Although some disagree [with apologies for the profanity]:

Source: Brexit: ‘Legally binding’ changes to EU deal agreed – BBC News

No-deal Brexit seems more likely as Plan B teeters – but will there be time, even for that?

The EU is warning that the UK may tumble out of the bloc with no deal, after Theresa May proposed dropping the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ plan and both the Irish government and her own MPs rejected it.

But there may not be time even to leave the EU with no deal, as this also requires a large amount of legislation which the Conservatives haven’t been interested in setting in motion. It seems they’ve had other things on their minds.

The UK is drifting rudderless towards a huge economic storm and it seems the only people who can do anything about it haven’t got a clue.

Theresa May presented her ‘Plan B’ to Conservative MPs on Monday afternoon (January 28). It is exactly the same as ‘Plan A’, which was defeated by a majority of 230 votes on January 15 – with one exception: the ‘backstop’ plan to keep the Northern Irish border with the Republic open will be stripped away and replaced with “alternative arrangements”.

By the time she announced it, ‘Plan B’ had already been rejected by Jacob Rees-Mogg and his European Research Group (ERG) of Tory Brextremists – altbough he seemed to be in two minds as he promptly told other Tories to back it at Mrs May’s meeting.

It turns out the ERG’s members will support the motion, which is simply that MPs have “considered” Theresa May’s next steps – because it has no meaning in law. They’re saying they won’t support any of the 14 amendments, including the one that would strip out the backstop.

Whatever they decide to do when the vote on her new plan happens at 7pm today (January 29), there are plenty of other Conservatives who are against it – Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and possibly even Boris Johnson, and no doubt many others.

The next meaningful vote on Mrs May’s deal won’t happen until February 13, according to government sources.

But if the ‘backstop’ is dropped, the EU won’t accept Mrs May’s plan – according to the Irish government.

Deputy PM Simon Coveney said the backstop had been designed to accommodate Mrs May’s “red lines” – issues over which she refused to make compromises. The EU had been forced to make compromises instead, to suit her – and would not make any more.

This view seemed to be echoed by the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, Sabine Weyand, who said other options had been extensively discussed in previous negotiations.

This meant that, even if the “alternative arrangements” idea won the approval of the UK’s Parliament, it would never win the support it needs in Brussels.

And that means we could end up with no deal at all between the UK and the EU.

Now get ready for the sting in this tale:

There are currently fewer than 30 sitting days available for Parliament to push through the legislation needed for Brexit to happen on March 29 – no less than nine Parliamentary Bills and 600 pieces of associated legislation.

Given the inertia that has gripped Parliament on this issue since negotiations began, we can draw only one conclusion:

It can’t be done.

The only alternatives are to cancel half-term and Fridays… and to delay Brexit beyond March 29.

Even then, given the fact that it seems nobody can come to any terms at all makes any such exercise seem pointless.

And this should surprise nobody. I read a piece on the social media earlier, which proposed a way of explaining the difficulties of Brexit to children. It’s like 28 youngsters pooling all their Lego and then using them to build all kinds of multi-coloured things – and then one child deciding to leave, taking their Lego with them: the blue pieces.

Mrs May has delayed so long that it will be impossible to carry out the detailed work that would secure our blue pieces for us in the time that remains.

She has wasted everybody’s time, jeopardised the economy and the livelihoods of millions of people, ruined the UK’s reputation internationally and done who-knows-how-much more damage, for no reason at all.

We’re just counting down the time until everybody realises that.

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If this is Mrs May’s plan to beat the Irish ‘backstop’ impasse, it’s already dead in the water

Leo Varadkar and Theresa May: They both know it would be easier to do a bilateral deal – but that simply isn’t how Brexit is being done.

It would be typical of a Tory – when they can’t get what they want by following the rules, they ignore the rules altogether.

Theresa May knows the UK cannot negotiate a bilateral deal with any of the EU27 nations, just to suit herself; the UK is dealing with the whole bloc, or with nobody.

But that hasn’t worked for her, so we’re being told she’s going cap in hand to the Republic of Ireland:

https://twitter.com/NinaDSchick/status/1086894551225303043

Bear in mind, this is from The Times, a newspaper that claimed membership of the Labour Party has plummeted by something like 150,000, when in fact Labour membership is continuing to rise.

And sure enough, it seems this is more wishful thinking, to judge by coverage in the Independent.

That paper stated: “A Downing Street source said talk of a bilateral agreement with Ireland was ‘not something we recognise’.

“Ms May will update the Commons on Monday on how she plans to proceed.”

And we’ll see whether Downing Street recognises anything different at that time.

But the message seems clear:

And here’s the word from Ireland:

So: Both Downing Street and the Irish government say a bilateral agreement isn’t on the cards, and it wold be illegal in any case.

But Mrs May won’t be able to get her Brexit deal past the DUP and many of her own Tory MPs without an undertaking to keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic open.

It seems Mrs May would have better spent the last week talking to herself. Some may say that’s what she’s been doing.

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Irish border: Could Tories and DUP be heading for a clash?

Typical Tories.

Their partners-in-government, the Northern Irish DUP, have made it abundantly clear that they will not tolerate any hardening of borders between NI and the rest of the UK – and rightly so, in the opinion of This Writer.

But this clashes with the Good Friday Agreement that demands an open border with the Irish Republic; the problem is that the republic is in the EU and the UK must have a hard border with that bloc after Brexit.

So the Tories are preparing to stab the DUP in the back. Typical Tories.

There is no good answer to the issue. Ireland is in the EU and the UK must have a hard border with the EU and an open border with Ireland. It is not possible to resolve this – other than by imposing a hard border between NI and the rest of the UK.

Will this dissolve the agreement between the DUP and the Conservatives? Their pact depends on the NI party supporting the Tories on Brexit and this will not be possible if the Tories go through with the plan being proposed now.

And with the Lords dishing out defeat after defeat for the Tories on the EU Withdrawal Bill, this puts Theresa May and her cronies in a highly tricky situation.

One way or another, it seems the barricades will be going up soon.

A backup plan to impose border checks on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK at ports and airports to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland after Brexit has been drafted by senior civil servants.

Despite the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) angrily rejecting any suggestion of a border “in the Irish Sea”, a leaked paper reveals that officials have been working on a blueprint “to be deployed as necessary in the negotiation process”.

Source: Brexit plan drawn up for border checks between NI and rest of UK | UK news | The Guardian


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Selling us a pup: Theresa May’s non-deal with the EU on Brexit

Theresa May meets Jean-Claude Juncker for their early-morning meeting. She’s smiling because she thinks she’s found a way to hoodwink us all into believing she has achieved something solid when all she has done is kick the Brexit can down the road.

Am I wrong? Let’s consider.

Here’s what Theresa May and the Tories want you to think has just happened:

And here’s what analysts are saying.

On the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the announcement today states: “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South co-operation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”

This means Theresa May and her EU counterparts have sidestepped the competing demands facing them – not to have a ‘hard’ border, and for Northern Ireland not to enjoy separate rules from the rest of the United Kingdom. And:

The BBC states: “It’s not entirely clear how full alignment could be maintained without Northern Ireland staying in the single market and the customs union, especially as there is no such thing as partial membership.”

The Daily Mirror is more scathing: “Everyone’s kicked the can down the road… The UK wants to secure Northern Ireland’s status without any special treatment through an overall EU-UK deal later in the process.”

There will be no hard border, but Northern Ireland will get unfettered access to the internal UK market – even though the UK is leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.

Even if an overall UK-EU deal does not secure NI’s status without special treatment, the plan now offers NI “full alignment” with some current EU rules it shares with the Republic – possibly including some aspects of the Customs Union as mentioned above.

The Mirror continues: “The words “regulatory alignment” – which enraged the DUP so much they called Mrs May midway through a lunch to scupper a previous deal – have been dropped from the agreement. Instead the Northern Ireland government will get a veto on any new “regulatory barriers” between Northern Ireland and the UK.”

Won’t this simply scupper talks further down the line?

“Meanwhile, the UK and Ireland can continue to sort out between them people’s rights to move across the border under the Common Travel Area. This will not affect Ireland’s obligations under EU law.”

And what about NI’s obligations under UK law?

“And Irish Premier Leo Varadkar said Northern Ireland citizens can continue to “exercise his or her right” to EU citizenship” – further complicating matters as not every NI citizen is going to do that.

On the financial settlement – often known as the ‘divorce bill’, Theresa May wants you to think she has beaten back the EU, and the UK will not pay any more than it must, meaning more cash for domestic concerns like “housing, schools and the NHS”.

But she won’t be devoting £350 million a week to those concerns, as Leave campaigners offered in the run-up to the referendum, so UK citizens should rightly feel short-changed.

And the wording of the financial settlement is opaque to the point of impenetrability. It states: “The second phase of the negotiations will address the practical modalities for implementing the agreed methodology and the schedule of payments.” In other words, everyone’s kicked the can down the road.

The BBC says: “A method for calculating the bill has been agreed, but the calculation of an exact UK share will depend on exchange rates, on interest rates, on the number of financial commitments that never turn into payments, and more. The question of how and when payments will be made still needs to resolved, but it will be a schedule lasting for many years to come, and it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever be able to give an exact figure for the size of the divorce bill. UK sources say it will be up to £40bn, but some EU sources expect it to be higher than that. No-one can say for sure, and both sides want to keep it that way.”

The Mirror adds a few details that Mrs May would probably prefer you didn’t know:

  • “The financial settlement itself will be drawn up and paid in Euros – meaning Britain will lose out because the pound plummeted on referendum night.
  • “Britain will have to pay its share of budget commitments “outstanding at 31 December 2020”.
  • “It will take 12 YEARS [for the UK] to be repaid the huge pot Britain has in the European Investment Bank. The sums will be repaid in instalments of 300 million Euros a year.
  • “Britain will honour commitments it made before 2019 for refugees in Turkey.
  • “It will also continue to pay into the European Development Fund in full until the current round ends in 2020.”

Is this really a good financial deal? It looks like a fudge to This Writer.

All right, then – what about citizens’ rights?

It seems that Mrs May has given in to the EU on most of the details – although the announcement that this is a reciprocal deal, meaning everything that applies to the UK will also apply to EU citizens, is a bit of a breakthrough for the minority prime minister.

Brextremists will hate the agreement that, although the European Court of Justice will not have direct jurisdiction over citizenship cases, UK courts must continue to give “due regard” to its decisions – indefinitely. Not only that, but UK courts will have to refer questions of interpretation (of the rules) to the ECJ for no less than eight years after Brexit.

The Conservative government wants us to believe the agreement is entirely voluntary and will only apply to two or three cases a year. We’ll see.

There are multiple blows for people who wanted Brexit to mean the UK will be able to control the number of people moving here from EU states:

EU citizens will be able to move here at any time up to the date of Brexit (March 29, 2019), and their rights will be protected under today’s agreement.

According to the Mirror: “If an EU citizen is living legally in Britain before March 2019, a huge range of relatives will all have the right to move to Britain – for the lifetime of the person already living here. That includes their spouses, registered partners, children and grandchildren (“direct descendants”) under 21 – even if they’re not born yet – and spouses’ dependent direct relatives.”

The Mirror goes on to provide a long list of other conditions that will have made Brextremists choke on their breakfast today:

  • “Mrs May’s plan to force EU citizens to apply for “settled status” appears to be intact – she wanted to let people apply after they’ve been in Britain for five years. But the arrangements must be “transparent, smooth and streamlined”, the deal says.
  • “People who’ve settled in Britain can now leave for up to five years without losing their settlement rights. Theresa May wanted it to be just two years.
  • “Residence documents must be issued either free of charge, or no more expensive than similar documents would be for UK nationals. A “proportionate approach” will be taken to those who “miss the deadline with good reason”.
  • “People who already have UK residence documents issued under EU law must have them converted to the new status free of charge – with only a security and background check.
  • “Benefits and healthcare arrangements will continue as they are now for people living in a country under the agreement before 29 March 2019.
  • “But in a blow for expats, there’s no deal on whether UK citizens settled in the EU will be able to move to other EU countries freely, or will be fixed in the country they’re in now.”

Is that really “securing” everybody’s “rights”? Or is it simply doing as we’re told by the EU negotiators?

Let’s all remember the following, from the agreement document: “Under the caveat that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, the joint commitments set out… in this joint report shall be reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement in full detail.”

This means nothing has been delivered at all.

Everything that has been agreed so far could be thrown away if future stages of Brexit negotiations run into difficulty or unravel altogether.

And commentators in the social media have already sniffed out the devils in the details:

And supporters of the deal are being hammered:

To This Writer, it seems we’re being sold a pup.

The details of the Irish border agreement have been delayed, as has the final agreement on the financial settlement, despite the fact that we were all told these must be finalised before negotiations move on to trading deals.

And the deal on citizens’ rights seems to be everything the EU could want it to be, while ‘Leave’ voters will feel that they have been left out in the cold.

But all the negotiating parties seem happy to let this non-deal stand.

I wonder what Parliament will do with it, let alone what the representatives of the EU’s 27 remaining states will think, when they discuss it on December 14.


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