May Brexit warning of ‘unstoppable Ireland border poll pressure’ in no deal

Prime Minister Theresa May

Theresa May has again been warned a no-deal Brexit would break up the UK creating “unstoppable pressure for a border poll,” in Northern Ireland, it has been reported.

The warning has been reported in the Financial Times on Monday and comes as the Prime Minister prepares to table her Brexit deal to parliament for a fourth time next month. She has promised a “new, bold” offer in a bid to win over support.

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The Financial Times reports Downing Street will tell Tories if the deal is defeated it will risk either an no-deal exit, a second referendum or another general election.

The Prime Minister’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell is reported to have told Conservative MPs a no-deal Brexit would create tensions in Northern Ireland.

Officials told the paper it was thought Scotland would soon follow with its own demands for independence and a similar sentiment would develop in Wales.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement a border poll could only be called if the secretary of state believed a majority would vote in favour of reunification.

The DUP has vehemently opposed the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement due to concerns that the so-called backstop to avoid a hard border in Ireland would threaten the Union with Britain.

The party has said there is nothing new in Mrs May’s fourth attempt to win Commons support for her deal.

Writing in The Sunday Times Theresa May said her fourth attempt at getting her withdrawal agreement through parliament would “represent a new, bold offer with an improved package of measures”.

“It will deliver a Brexit that honours the decision the British people took in the referendum with a Brexit that is good for jobs, good for our security, and which sets the whole UK on course for a bright future outside the EU,” she said.

She said passing the withdrawal agreement was essential to an orderly negotiated Brexit.

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With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the original story

“The UK outside the EU places the North of Ireland in a less favourable location to attract EU or Americian investment”

Referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union – Titanic Count Centre, Belfast: Press Eye

BREXIT is not going to be finalised, or go away, for some considerable time.

The referendum, in June 2016, was presented as a moment to make an important decision: in or out? Now, in June 2019, through an unravelling series of decisions and delayed decisions, there is a growing appreciation that the referendum Brexit decision has become a complex journey with no quick end in sight and has an unfolding agenda.

The critical Brexit negotiations have barely begun. The decision by the UK Government on whether to leave the EU looked straightforward: events have shown that leaving the EU creates a wide range of options and decisions. Leave and cancel all existing links, as developed over 40+ years, or leave whilst retaining some of the links where there are mutually agreed benefits. The referendum debate was (and is) ambiguous.

The referendum was followed by UK-EU negotiations on the Withdrawal, now in a draft 500 page agreement, on protection of citizens’ rights, the financial contribution due from the UK, and an aspiration about the operation of the land border on this island.

Controversially, the UK and EU agreed to defer the complex and necessary negotiations on the future UK-EU relations, post-Brexit, until after the UK had left. That decision, attempting to decouple leaving and the form of the continuing relationship, means that the full consequences of leaving the EU still cannot be adequately assessed or predicted.

The UK has decided to leave the EU but, because there is no clarity on what the future UK-EU relationship will be, this leaves huge uncertainty about a critical range of questions; economic, social, environmental and political. No surprise, then, that different groups are arguing about the uncertainties in ways which have become epitomised in multiple versions of soft and hard Brexit.

Then, in an extra Irish dimension, the attempt to agree a special guarantee, to protect against damage to the economic integration of trade and business across the Irish land border, has become mired in confusion about how to prevent a ‘hard border’ on this island. Logically, frictionless trading from Northern Ireland into Ireland is desirable but cannot be a frictionless back-door to the larger EU market place.

Instead of arguing in terms of frictionless trade conditions, the negotiators have developed ‘back-stop’ concessions. The term has been poorly presented and misrepresented. The ‘back-stop’ arrangements have been presented in a seriously distorted form and the ambition by London and Brussels/Dublin to devise a favourable mechanism to prevent a hard Irish border has been widely misunderstood. An opportunity to have the best of a special arrangement has mutated into an apparent obstacle to the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The evolution of Brexit has been made more difficult by attempts to popularise the argument with the easy jingo of ‘taking back control’, bringing Government back to UK institutions, and keeping more of our own money (with millions extra for the NHS). This was supplemented by distorted reporting of the impact of Brexit on the economy. The argument that leaving the EU has not damaged the economy can be countered with the acknowledgement that the full cost of leaving cannot be seen until the process has developed much further. So far, the UK has not been faced with the real disadvantages of Brexit.

The Brexit sequence gave the electorate an apparently simple choice without any credible attempt to detail what a vote to leave might mean. The merits of being part of the larger EU Common Market were more persuasive in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland majority vote to remain was arguably a decision based on a mixture of economics and politics. The suggestion that Brexit necessarily meant a commercial border ‘down the Irish Sea’ developed even though this conclusion was not implicit in UK-EU analysis. Arguably, the risks of a border down the Irish Sea have been seriously overstated.

Looking back over the sequence of events and decisions, personal reflections would be:

The UK decision to hold a referendum was premature
The referendum was conducted on too superficial arguments
The small majority was too small to sustain a disputed constitutional outcome
The UK Government has not adequately prepared for the post-withdrawal phase
The UK-EU negotiations led to a poor draft Withdrawal Agreement
Northern Ireland faces serious, even if unintended, effects
There are some interest groups that expect to see a more dynamic UK economy outside the EU which will develop faster than when it was part of the EU. The evidence for that prospect is not strong. From a Northern Ireland perspective, the UK outside the EU places Northern Ireland in a less favourable location to attract EU or American investment. The Irish economy is currently one of the fastest growing in the EU: Northern Ireland is on a much slower trajectory.

Critically, Brexit is unfinished business. The content on the still to be negotiated agreement on the future relations between the UK and the EU has not been published. If the UK Parliament does, eventually, agree to the Withdrawal Agreement, then there may be a transition period (of at least two years) while agreement is sought on future relations.

More immediately, the argument for a confirmatory referendum is vocal and has merit. The argument for a continuing customs agreement is still under debate. The form of a special cross-border agreement to ensure a frictionless Irish border still leaves scope for local initiatives.

As a supporter of remain, there is little comfort in the continuing uncertainties. We will be watching evolving negotiations for many months to come. Our ability to participate in the negotiations will be very constrained.

With many thanks thanks to: The Detail and John Simpson for the original story

John Simpson


John Simpson has worked on development problems in the North of Ireland economy for over 40 years initially as a government employee and then moving to an appointment as senior lecturer in economics at Queen’s University. Earlier in his career he worked in Zimbabwe, Malta and Sierra Leone before accepting a post at the UK Treasury. Public appointments included periods as chair of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board, chair of the Probation Board and Commissioner for Judicial Appointments. He writes regularly on business topics.

“Imposed Citizenship”: how Brexit is already quietly affecting the North of Ireland’s Irish citizens

The government aren’t keen to shout about it, but Emma de Souza’s case has already been seen as a constitutional test of the Good Friday Agreement. And that’s only the start

Northern Irish people can have British citizenship, Irish citizenship or both. So why has one case become a fraught test for the North of Ireland’s legal status post-Brexit? Photo: Prospect composite


Like many of you, I have been following with interest—and some confusion—the growing controversy over the issue of what will happen regarding Irish citizenship in the North of Ireland in the wake of Brexit (whenever that may be).

The issue arose as a result of an application by Irish citizen and Derry native, Emma de Souza, which sought to bring her US-born husband Jake to the North of Ireland by way of her Irish citizenship.

Under EU law, having Irish citizenship affords much more generous provisions in the way of EU rights being extended to family members. For instance, by having EU citizenship rights are bestowed on a non-EU spouse—but under British law, these provisions do not apply.

EU citizens can bring family members to a country within the EU that they have moved to as they are exercising their treaty rights in a host country. However, the UK Government is insisting that Emma has not left her “home country” of the UK and therefore the immigration rules do not apply as they would if Emma and her husband had moved to, say, Spain or France.

Emma found herself being told by the UK Home Office that she was, by way of birth in the North of Ireland, a British citizen and not an Irish citizen as she had always believed. The UK Home Office informed Emma and her husband that under the articles of the British Nationality Act 1981 she would be considered a British citizen and Jake would need to apply for immigration status as a third-country resident.

There’s just one problem: Emma had never considered herself British, had never held a British passport and had always considered herself an Irish person living in the  North of Ireland. As a result, Jake challenged the Home Office decision on the basis that Emma had the right under the Good Friday Agreement to define herself as British, Irish or both.

Jake sought an appeal of the decision by way of a first-tier tribunal—and, in a rather surprising turn of events, in February of last year, the Judge overseeing the case ruled that Emma does have the right to be treated as an Irish citizen, and not British.

The Home Office had previously told Emma that she would need to formally renounce her British citizenship—which she had never claimed—in order to be treated as an exclusively Irish citizen for immigration and family law purposes.

This may all seem rather nonsensical, as Emma could, apparently, simply renounce her British citizenship and have done with it. In doing so, however, she would be giving credence to the notion that she is British despite the guarantees of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Our case is often seen as an immigration issue and certainly that is how it began,” de Souza says, adding: “however, it has morphed into what could be seen as a constitutional test of the Good Friday Agreement.”

This gives legitimacy to the claim of the UK Government that, under a piece of legislation that was enacted before the North of Ireland Act 1998, anyone born in the North of Ireland is automatically a British citizen, exclusive to any other citizenship or nationality. As my writer colleague Rebecca Toolan commented to me recently, if you can identify as exclusively British then surely you should be able to be exclusively Irish?

That’s not the end of it, either. On March 7th of this year, the UK Government very quietly changed the definition of an EEA (European Economic Area) citizen to exclude those who are also British—a change which is particularly relevant to people like myself, who hold both Irish and British citizenship.

Under the new rules, Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland and wishing to avail of the Settled Status Scheme—the program by which EU citizens living in the UK can retain certain EU rights post-Brexit—are led to believe that they are unable to do this as they are considered British by default.

This has led to some confusion and sensationalism with certain political groupings and campaigners claiming that the UK Government is stripping Irish citizens in North of Ireland of their birthright citizenship.

That isn’t the case—but the new proposals are nevertheless confusing. They could create a rather unusual system by which Irish citizens born in the Republic of Ireland and living in the UK could apply for the settlement scheme, whereas Irish citizens born in the North of Ireland and living in the UK would be excluded from doing so—creating a two-tiered Irish diaspora within the UK.

Daniel Holder of the Campaign on the Administration of Justice has spelt out in explicit detail the problem with the government’s proposals.

Holder, the Deputy Director of the CAJ, states that the UK Home Office treats those born in Northern Ireland as solely British in terms of citizenship—unlike the Government of Ireland, the North of Ireland Human Rights Commission and HM Courts & Tribunals Service.

The UK Home Office insists that NI born Irish citizens do not need to avail of the EU Settlement program as the Common Travel Area (the ongoing agreement between the Irish and British Governments by which citizens of either have free movement between each jurisdiction) upholds certain rights for Irish citizens.

Holder points out, however, that these provisions within the CTA are ill-defined, unenforceable and not underpinned anywhere as “rights.” The UK government’s attitude, he says, conflicts with their commitment to upholding the Good Friday Agreement.

Citizenship and nationality are intrinsically linked with socio-political attitudes and people’s beliefs and approach to the constitutional position and legitimacy of the North of Ireland. Those who consider themselves Nationalist would usually define themselves as Irish and those who position themselves as Unionist would normally consider themselves British. That has been the case for such a long time that there is an unconscious assumption that Protestants are British by birth and Catholics are Irish.

“Identity is complex and personal, in the North of Ireland even more so,” de Souza tells me. “Yet we have people such as myself being asked to prove their identity, prove it’s worth and decide how important their identity is in the face of imposed citizenship by the British government.”

With many thanks to: Prospect Magazine and Stephen Donna for the original story

About this author: Stephen Donnan is an equal marriage campaigner and member of the Love Equality NI consortium


“If Ireland’s a problem, give it back to the Irish” comment draws applause during BBC Brexit debate   | JOE is the voice of Irish people at home and abroad

European Commission (EU) rules out reworking of Brexit deal

The European Commission again ruled out on Tuesday any reopening of the withdrawal treaty negotiated with Britain last year.

The statement comes after a media report in London that Prime Minister Theresa May had asked aides to review alternative arrangements for the Irish border, Reuters said.

“It is excluded that we renegotiate or reopen the withdrawal agreement because this is the best solution possible,” deputy chief spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told a news conference, citing remarks by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The report said pro-Brexit members of May’s Conservative Party were pressing the prime minister again to seek changes to the treaty so as to remove the controversial “backstop” protocol.

It is intended to avoid disruptive customs checks on Northern Ireland’s land frontier with the EU.

With many thanks to: RT News for the original story


62% in the Irish Republic want Irish unity in Brexit aftermath, says poll

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill at the launch of an Irish Unity billboard in West Belfast




More than six out of 10 people in the Republic would vote in favour of a united Ireland in a referendum arising out of the current Brexit crisis, a new survey suggests.

The opinion poll indicated that 62% of people across the border favour reunification, with 28% against and 10% saying they would not vote in such a poll.

Survey: Only third of Britons want Northern Ireland to stay in UK – Brexit pressure on Union
Support for a united Ireland is spread fairly evenly, with 60% saying “yes” in Dublin, the rest of Leinster and Munster. But that figure rises to 70% in Connacht-Ulster, which includes border counties.

Support is also evenly spread between men and women. Younger people, in the 18-24 age group, are most in favour with 77%.

The backing slightly tails off in the older age groups. People over 65 are least enthusiastic, although support is over 50%.

Research was conducted online with a sample of over 1,000 people chosen from all age groups, social class and regions.

The survey was commissioned by the firm LottoLand and the question was framed in terms of unity in the aftermath of Brexit.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds

DUP MEP Diane Dodds claimed focusing on a united Ireland was divisive and out of touch.

“The people of Northern Ireland want a functioning Assembly and Executive rather than a divisive border poll,” she said.

“While most people want decisions made about their GPs, mental health services, schools and hospitals, Sinn Fein is focused on a united Ireland.

“They are out of touch with the priorities which matter to people,” she added.

“Northern Ireland’s future is best placed in the Union. Just look at our free NHS. Who would want to leave a health system which is free at the point of need? That’s even before you consider the economic, defence, diplomatic, social, historical and cultural reasons for being part of the United Kingdom.”

Alliance MLA Stephen Farry, a former Stormont minister, said the key political challenge was not Irish unity, but making Northern Ireland work.

“There is nothing surprising with this outcome,” Mr Farry said. “People are entitled to campaign and seek different constitutional outcomes, but in all scenarios the central challenge remains how to make Northern Ireland work.

“That must be the main priority for all political leaders.”

Meanwhile, two of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement have combined to pen a strong message to both the Conservative and Labour leaders.

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern warned that the 1998 Agreement is under threat. They also endorse a second Brexit referendum before the latest extension expires on October 31 next.

“Following the Good Friday Agreement, there were two referendums.

“The referendum in Northern Ireland, on the Agreement, based on facts not promises, clarity not ambiguity, received a 71% yes result,” they wrote in The Guardian newspaper.

“The related referendum in the Republic of Ireland achieved a 94% yes.

“There is now time for a confirmatory referendum given the EU has expanded the Brexit deadline to 31 October.

“It is this that must be pursued, and May should take the lead in that process,” Mr Ahern and Mr Blair added.

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and John Downing and David Young for the original story

United Ireland poll or nothing after Brexit fiasco |