Tag Archives: Unionist

The elephant in the room: why are the Tories trying to sideline Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland: most people here aren’t bothered about the protocol that puts a trade border between the Province and the rest of the UK. Are the Tories entertaining the DUP’s block to the restoration of the Stormont assembly because it aligns with their own differences with the European Union?

Isn’t it strange that the Queen’s Speech made no mention of the Northern Ireland Protocol that is currently the greatest threat to peace in the United Kingdom?

Prince Charles, standing in for Her Majesty, announced no fewer than 38 planned new laws – and not one of them explained how Boris Johnson’s government plans to tackle the constitutional crisis that has flared up in the Province.

I think it’s because Johnson doesn’t know what to do. He has painted himself into this corner with his silly rushed Brexit and now he can’t get out of it.

For those who don’t know: the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit agreement keeps open the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by creating a hard trade border between the Province and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Last week’s local elections returned a majority of members to the Stormont assembly who approve of that agreement – but Stormont is run on a power-sharing basis, and the second-largest party, the Democratic Unionist Party, is refusing to nominate any of its members to the new administration until a deal is struck that dismantles the border with the rest of the UK.

Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein, who is set to be the new First Minister, has said it is the responsibility of Boris Johnson and his government to resolve the problems over the protocol – by negotiation with the European Union. This has created something of a domino effect.

The EU itself has acknowledged that the Protocol has created difficulties – and offered proposals last October to ease the burden of checks and paperwork.

The EU said it would mean inspections of food products would be reduced far below what is usually required at single-market borders, but the plan came with caveats and the UK said the EU needed to do more.

Now, Universities Minister Michelle Donelan has said the UK may decide to scrap the protocol altogether – and a source close to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she was considering legislation to scrap parts of the Brexit treaty unilaterally – without seeking agreement from the EU.

In turn, the EU’s chief negotiator, Maroš Šefčovič, has said that the EU had already “shown a lot of flexibility by proposing impactful, durable solutions and we stand ready to continue discussions. We need the UK government to dial down the rhetoric, be honest about the deal they signed and agree to find solutions within its framework”.

This has been interpreted as a threat of a possible trade war if Truss goes ahead and trashes the protocol.

It’s a big mess – of Boris Johnson’s making. But some have suggested that the only people with whom the UK government should be negotiating are the DUP.

The majority of people in Northern Ireland support the protocol as it stands – or at least, they have voted a majority of representatives into Stormont who support it – and some say this means the DUP should accept it as it is, and not use it to disrupt the power-sharing agreement that helps to maintain the fragile peace the Province has enjoyed since 1998.

It seems only six per cent of the NI electorate see the protocol as a major issue, which suggests that the problem lies only with the DUP.

This Site has previously mentioned rumours that the DUP is only using the protocol as a means of ensuring that the unionist party will not take a position subordinate to nationalists – even though the titles of First Minister and Deputy First Minister are practically meaningless; power is shared between the two major parties.

The possible consequences for Northern Ireland could be catastrophic. But surely, nobody wants a return to the situation before the Good Friday Agreement, do they?

So perhaps NI Secretary Brandon Lewis simply needs to take a robust stance and present it to the DUP. Or are the Tories entertaining the DUP’s rebellion because it suits them to?

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Test for democracy in Northern Ireland as Sinn Fein set to win most assembly seats

Northern Ireland will have a nationalist leader for the first time in its more-than-100-year history after last week’s local elections. But will the unionists accept it?

Ever since the power sharing agreement was set up that made the NI Assembly in Stormont possible, the leadership has been held by a Democratic Unionist Party representative.

In practise, the post is interchangeable with that of the deputy leader, but the role is also symbolic – and the unionists may decide they don’t like the symbol they’ll be asked to support.

This Writer has previously heard rumbles that suggest the unionists would abandon the power-sharing agreements if they can’t be the leaders; that would have serious consequences for the representation of democracy. How can an elected assembly be democratic if only one party can be allowed to take the leadership?

It seems those rumours are not set to become reality quite yet. But the unionists are demanding changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol that prevents a hard border between NI and the Republic of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland inside the European Union’s (EU) single market for goods. It also creates a new trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The demand isn’t unreasonable; there should not be a hard trade border between one part of the United Kingdom and the others.

But it is a part of the agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland in 1998 that there should be no hard border between it and the Republic.

And the UK’s departure from the European Union means that a border where goods and people passing through are checked has to be placed somewhere, because the Republic is a member of that bloc.

It’s a problem that can’t be solved, it seems. Certainly the UK’s Tory government seems to have no intention of trying, with promoted-past-his-pay-grade Northern Ireland Secretary Damian Lewis hinting that there will be no plan to introduce new legislation on the protocol in the Queen’s Speech next week.

There may be leeway for discussion; new assembly members have until the end of 2024 to vote on whether to continue with the parts of the protocol that create an internal trade border within the UK.

One aspect of the change to a majority nationalist assembly that is unlikely to cause trouble – at least for now – is Sinn Fein’s aspiration to unite the Province with the Republic once again.

The law rules that the UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary may only agree to hold a referendum on reunification if it seems a majority of people in the Province are likely to support that change – and that hasn’t happened yet.

The most recent opinion poll, published in April, puts support at around 33 per cent.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said planning for a unity referendum – also known as a border poll – would come within a five-year framework.

So it seems that, even if a way can be found to resolve problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol, arguments are likely to break out over reunification.

It seems clear that Northern Ireland’s history will continue to be difficult for some time to come.

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Foster quits as DUP boss over Brexit. Can we get similar leverage against Boris Johnson?

Gurning, gurning, gone: Arlene Foster, whose support of Theresa May in 2017 deprived the UK of a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn, has been forced out of politics after a vote of “no confidence” by her party, the DUP. Why couldn’t it have happened sooner?

The leader of Ulster’s Democratic Unionist Party who propped up Theresa May’s minority Tory government to help push through a disastrous, unpopular exit from the EU is being forced to quit politics.

Arlene Foster, announced that she was resigning as DUP leader on Wednesday, after losing a vote of “no confidence” among party members.

About 80 per cent of the DUP’s Stormont and Westminster ranks signed a letter of no confidence in her leadership.

Brexit has been hugely divisive in Northern Ireland, with the imposition of an artificial trade border in the middle of the Irish Sea considered by many to be a breach of the Good Friday Agreement that ended the so-called ‘Troubles’, 23 years ago.

As a result, violence has flared up in many parts of the province.

Ms Foster supported the UK Conservative governments of Theresa May and Boris Johnson that have brought this division down upon Northern Ireland and it seems she is being made to take responsibility for the result.

She has now announced her intention to quit the DUP altogether, saying it is no longer the party she joined. Sour grapes?

Her future seems assured. Loyalty to the Tories tends to reap rewards for individuals, and it has been suggested that Foster will find her way into the House of Lords, with its £300-per-day salary, just for turning up.

Her fate raises an important question: when will Boris Johnson suffer a similar humiliation?

Johnson was the poster boy for Brexit. He campaigned hard for it in 2015-16, and was noted for his ridiculous red bus with a grotesque lie painted on the side, that money paid to the EU could be spent on the NHS if the UK left.

Trade deals he promised have failed to materialise. The UK’s banking power has been decimated. Exports have fallen dramatically. And the nation’s international influence is waning.

Johnson himself stands accused of serial dishonesty, and of wishing death on thousands of his fellow UK citizens in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis he has mishandled so atrociously.

And yet he remains perversely popular. For how much longer?

Arlene Foster believes the DUP is no longer the party she joined, say sources close to her.

Source: Arlene Foster to quit DUP after leaving leadership roles – BBC News

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Bang goes the Good Friday Agreement as paramilitary groups accuse Johnson of betraying peace

Northern Ireland: it seems Boris Johnson’s stupidity may end not only his post-Brexit free trade deal with the EU but also terminate 23 years of peace.

Paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland have withdrawn support for the Good Friday Agreement due to Brexit – and they aren’t nationalists but unionists.

The Loyalist Communities Council, a group representing the views of the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando, are protesting at Boris Johnson’s Irish Sea trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The group has written to Johnson and Ireland’s taoiseach, Micheál Martin, warning of “permanent destruction” of the 1998 peace agreement without changes to post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland.

The letter said unionist opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol – the part of the Brexit deal that keeps Northern Ireland a part of the EU’s single market for goods – should remain “peaceful and democratic”.

But this is a decision to withdraw support for a peace deal that underpins power-sharing in Northern Ireland. If a solution is not found quickly, peace in the province could be lost – again.

And it would be Boris Johnson’s fault.

In fact, the Brexit deal seems to be unravelling fast for Johnson. The European Union has refused to ratify it for a second time after Brussels accused the UK of violating it.

The decision came after Johnson’s ministers said they would unilaterally change parts of the agreement to give businesses in Northern Ireland time to adapt to new trade rules.

Johnson is unsafe wherever he goes now.

If he decides to change the Brexit deal again, to preserve the Good Friday Agreement, his dream of free trade with the EU (which turned out to be a nightmare in any case) will be over forever.

But if he doesn’t, he risks re-igniting the Troubles – as violence by nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1998 was known.

Loyalist paramilitary groups endorsed the Good Friday agreement and say they have no desire to reignite the Troubles.

But the LCC said the Northern Ireland protocol had breached safeguards in the Good Friday agreement to protect the status of the province and the rest of the UK.

So Johnson has put himself in the worst of all possible worlds. And he only has himself to blame.

Source: Brexit: loyalist paramilitary groups renounce Good Friday agreement | Northern Ireland | The Guardian

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Companies House finally removes Esther McVey’s name from political campaign group’s details

It turns out Esther McVey wasn’t involved with political campaigning organisation Loyal Scots Company after all.

Companies House has removed her name from that organisation’s listing, so we now have no reason to believe that she has been its secretary, as had been previously stated (by the Companies House listing).

I had reported on the matter here

And here.

Now Evolve Politics, which broke the story after it was uncovered by Alex Tiffin, has reported:

As Vox Political reported this too, it is also necessary for me to report the change.

But I still want to know why Ms McVey tried to attack Mr Tiffin before straightening this out.

And, come to think of it, why she stopped police from investigating the apparent fraud.

I see no information about either of these elements. Do you?

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DUP-licity? Northern Irish party flip-flops back to supporting Theresa May. So what?

They’re together again, it seems: The on-again, off-again romance between the Tories and the DUP seems to be back on – but does it make a difference?

It seemed – on Monday – that the game was up for Theresa May and her Tory government.

Not only did she lose vote after vote in the House of Commons, but it seemed her allies in the Democratic Unionist Party had switched loyalties to Jeremy Corbyn, in frustration with her policy failure on the Northern Irish border.

Then, suddenly, the DUP’s leaders seem to have changed their minds. It seems they have flip-flopped back into supporting Mrs May:

Why?

Twitter has been abuzz with theories:

https://twitter.com/ToryFibs/status/1070417178242023426

If you’ve understood all of the above, then it should be clear that the DUP’s change doesn’t actually make a lot of difference.

The Grieve amendment puts power to affect the UK’s policy on Brexit back in the hands of Parliament, rather than allowing Mrs May’s government carte blanche to do what it likes.

It means that, when she loses the vote over her fatally-flawed Brexit deal with the EU, Parliament may direct the government to take any of several possible choices – including going back to the people for another referendum.

There are only 10 DUP members of Parliament. Many more members of the Parliamentary Conservative Party support Brexit and don’t want to see a second referendum.

When the government is defeated in the Brexit vote, the very next decision the Commons will have to make is whether they have confidence in Mrs May’s government. This is where the DUP’s support had been considered vital.

But if the continuation of Mrs May’s government means a chance of a second referendum, it is possible that her own backbenchers may rebel, and bring her down – simply to ensure that Brexit isn’t stopped by the will of the people.

It would then be up to a future government – possibly a Labour government – to sort out the mess.

So it seems Conservative MPs could end up voting for a Labour government.

These are twisted times.

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Esther McVey says she has been falsely connected with a campaigning company. Why is she trying to shoot the messenger?

We always knew the Work and Pensions secretary, Esther McVey, was a bully – this proves it graphically.

Alex Tiffin is an independent journalist who runs the Universal Credit Sufferer blog.

On the morning of November 3, he tweeted an extraordinary announcement about Ms McVey, following research at Companies House.

So Ms McVey is named at Companies House as the secretary of Loyal Scots Company Ltd, a political campaign funding group worth £20 million. She has not notified the House of Commons of this financial interest. As secretary, she should be receiving correspondence to the company from HM Revenue and Customs, and may have broken the law by failing to file legally-required documents.

Note that Mr Tiffin did not write the story – it was written up by Tom D. Rogers and published on Evolve Politics rather than Universal Credit Sufferer.

Ms McVey, however, seems to have taken against him:

The problem is: Mr Tiffin very obviously did check the facts. And he didn’t write the story that caused her to complain, so she can’t use the deadline on his email against him.

While it seems she has got the message and – if the information at Companies House really is false – is taking steps to rectify the matter, why is she trying to shoot the messenger?

Mr Tiffin made many of these points in his response to Ms McVey:

He added, later:

The question about the correspondence sent to Tatton Conservative Club is pertinent. It is inconceivable that an organisation like the Conservative Party would not forward mail to one of its MPs, so one questions what happened to it.

What happened next is deeply sinister.

It seems social media users who support Ms McVey dogpiled Mr Tiffin – verbally responded to his tweets on this subject with abuse in an attempt to intimidate him:

Why would they do that? If he really has uncovered a case of identity theft, then he has done her a favour by exposing it.

If there was nothing in it, then Ms McVey’s behaviour is unaccountable. She is behaving like a woman with something to hide. Why else would anybody attack a person who has revealed the fraudulent use of their name?

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DUP spad wanted to ‘fill our boots’ with GB money. Nice to know who Theresa May’s friends are

Andrew Crawford: “Fill our boots”.

A long-standing special advisor of DUP leader Arlene Foster said he thought “we could fill our boots” with money from Westminster, via the scandalous Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI), it has been claimed.

Ms Foster set up the RHI when she was Northern Ireland’s Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment. She failed to introduce proper cost controls.

As the scheme worked by paying applicants to use renewable energy, and the rate paid was more than the cost of the fuel, applicants were making profits simply by heating their properties and costs went out of control.

On the final day of a public inquiry into what became known as the Cash For Ash scandal, senior civil servant Dr Andrew McCormick related a conversation he had with Andrew Crawford, Ms Foster’s special advisor.

Mr Crawford has always denied that he tried to delay efforts to rein in the schemes costs in mid-2015, when it became clear that they were out of control.

But Dr McCormick told the inquiry he said in late October 2016, around a month before RHI became a huge political scandal, “I thought this was AME [Treasury funding, rather than from Stormont’s budget] and we could fill our boots.”

The inquiry has already uncovered an email which shows that Dr Crawford felt it could be good to overspend on RHI because it was GB money.

The resulting scandal led to the dissolution of the Northern Irish government and the failure of efforts to form a new power-sharing deal means that part of the UK still has no government today.

The RHI scheme, overseen by the DUP, has potentially cost the public purse almost £500 million.

And these are the people Theresa May offered a further £1 billion to prop up her minority Conservative government in Westminster.

There’s an old saying – “If you want to know someone, just look at their friends.”

Perhaps we should remember this when Philip Hammond announces his latest budget.

It seems these Conservatives are allied with people who deliberately sprayed our money up the wall – for no other reason than that they could.

Source: DUP Spad told me “we could fill our boots” with RHI cash, says top civil servant – Belfast Newsletter

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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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Tory government faces legal action over £1 billion DUP bung

The confidence and supply agreement was signed in Downing Street between the DUP and the Conservatives [Image: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA].

Even those who want to see the money go to Northern Ireland, despite the way in which it has been provided, have to agree that Ms Miller and her supporters have a point.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Britain’s government has been threatened with legal action by an anti-Brexit campaigner and a union over the deal Prime Minister Theresa May struck with a Northern Irish party to keep her Conservatives in power after her botched election last year.

Ministers have been sent a legal letter warning that 50 million pounds of funding for the province, part of a £1 billion deal agreed between May and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – was unlawful because it was made without parliamentary agreement.

The challenge has been brought by Investment manager Gina Miller, who successfully won a court battle in 2017 to force the government to seek parliamentary approval before starting divorce talks with the European Union, and the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB).

“It beggars belief that this government is once again putting itself above the law and seeking to undermine the normal constitutional and legal processes,” Miller said in a statement.

“Spending public money requires proper parliamentary scrutiny and accountability – and the making of these payments is no different.”

Source: British government warned of legal action over DUP deal by campaigners


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