DUP urges May to go back to Brussels to demand backstop changes

The DUP believes binding the North of Ireland to single market rules undermine the constitutional integrity of the Union


The DUP has urged the government to return to Brussels to demand changes that would make the backstop acceptable to the British parliament.

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the EU’s resistance to amending the Withdrawal Agreement must be challenged by UK Prime Minister, Theresa May.

Mr Dodds said his party had “consistently and repeatedly” made it clear it will not support the deal until the construction of the contentious backstop protocol is changed.

Reacting after the Withdrawal Agreement was defeated for the third time in the Commons, the North Belfast MP said: “We have reached this view from a principled position, as we do not believe the Withdrawal Agreement is the best way forward for the United Kingdom.

The DUP deputy leader reiterated the danger of the backstop becoming operational, which would lead Northern Ireland to sit in a separate legal position from the rest of the United Kingdom in economic and trade terms.

“In those circumstances, there is the strong possibility that we could have a long-term outcome whereby Northern Ireland would inevitably pull away from its biggest trading market in Great Britain as there would be new internal barriers within the United Kingdom.”

Activated if a wider EU/UK trade deal fails to materialise before the end of the Brexit implementation period, the backstop would see the UK enter into a temporary customs union with the EU – to avoid the need for customs checks on the Irish border.

It would also see the North of Ireland adhere to EU single market rules on goods – again to rule out the necessity for border regulatory checks.

The DUP believes binding the North of Ireland to single market rules would create a regulatory border between the region and the rest of the UK – a move, it contends, that would undermine the constitutional integrity of the Union.

The party has not been convinced by Theresa May’s efforts to provide reassurances on the backstop.

Mrs May secured a number of legal add-ons to the agreement from the EU – documents the government insisted provided assurances around the temporary nature of the measure and over potential routes to exit it.

She has also pledged to use domestic law to beef up Stormont’s role on backstop matters and has made commitments that the rest of the UK will not diverge from the EU regulations applied in the North of Ireland.

Mr Dodds said the moves had not gone far enough.

“In our recent discussions with the government, good progress has been made on how domestic legislation would assist in ensuring the economic integrity of the UK as a whole and recognising the North of Ireland’s particular situation sharing a land border with the European Union,” he said.

However, according to the DUP deputy leader, “sufficient progress has not been made”.

“For our part, we will continue to use our position and influence within parliament and with the government to strongly argue the case for the North of Ireland and to work through each of the legislative stages in parliament to eliminate the risk of the North of Ireland and its place within the internal market in the UK.

“The arguments we have advanced are well understood across parliament and there is strong recognition in the House of Commons that the North of Ireland cannot be subjected to new and onerous trade barriers within the United Kingdom as the price of leaving the European Union.

“The United Kingdom’s long-term relationship with the European Union will need to accord with our key objectives to ensure the economic integrity of the United Kingdom,” Mr Dodds said.

Meanwhile, reacting to the earlier vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons, the Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald has said she is “very very concerned” that the UK could crash-out of the EU without a deal.

Speaking in Dublin, Ms McDonald said :”I had a strong sense from the beginning that a disorderly Brexit could happen by accident as much by design – simply by running out of time. And I am very very concerned that such a scenario is unfolding.”

She added: “We need to understand that [MPs] simply voting against the idea of a crash, does not mean that a crash won’t happen.”

“We are perilously close… dangerously close to a very very bad outcome for Ireland.”

Deputy McDonald said she would be travelling to Brussels on Monday to discuss developments with the EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and the European Parliament interlocutor Guy Verhofstadt.

With many thanks to: RTÉ News for the original story


Tories have abandoned pretence of impartiality on North

Bradley’s stupid blunder demonstrates lengths May will go to keep DUP support

North of Ireland’s 🙈🙊🙉 secretary of state Karen Bradley: has already won herself a reputation as the stupidest and most inept secretary of State anyone can remember.

The British prime minister, Theresa May, puts on a special voice when she’s reassuring the DUP about “our precious, precious union”. We all know she only does it to hold on to their precious, precious votes. However, it is now clear she is dangerously willing to pay any price for the highly equivocal loyalty of that party.

She has already alienated the majority of Northern voters, those who voted to remain in the EU, over Brexit. Now she has shown that her government will trample on the independence of the legal system, jeopardise trials and inquests, and grievously insult the families of children, women and men bereaved at the hands of her security forces.

It was the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly who asked the question in parliament on Wednesday. With so much focus on the 10 per cent of people killed by the security forces during the Troubles, she demanded, what was the government going to do for the other 90 per cent, those she called the “innocent victims of terrorism”.

As it happens, Little-Pengelly’s father was convicted, in France, of involvement in a loyalist gun-running plot. Alongside the late Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Sammy Wilson, he donned the red beret of the Ulster Resistance Movement.

He denies he actually imported arms. The DUP distanced itself from the group after it came out that it had imported weapons. But when it gets exercised about terrorists, the DUP is referring, by and large, to the IRA. It is left to others to point out that mounting evidence of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries skews all the figures.

The context of Little-Pengelly’s question is the impending announcement by the Public Prosecution Service about whether or not paratroopers will face prosecution over the role of the regiment on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 when 13 unarmed civilians were murdered. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley thanked her for asking. Killings during the conflict by soldiers and police were “not crimes”, she said. These people were “acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way”.

Harrowing evidence While she was speaking, an inquest in Belfast was hearing from a man who said he had spent the last 48 years trying to forget what he had seen on the day he was shot as a nine-year-old child by a British soldier during what has become known as the Ballymurphy Massacre.
The Butler brothers were shot at as they tried to run away across a field. They saw soldiers flinging injured people and bodies into the back of a Saracen. One teenager was crying.

“One of the soldiers pulled out a gun and said F**k up, you c**t and shot him once or twice towards the chest. There was no sound from him after that,” Edward Butler said in evidence.

Relatives of Joan Connolly who had come out of her house to search for her daughters, sobbed as they heard harrowing evidence of her final moments after she was shot in the face. Those soldiers were from the Parachute Regiment. Had the regiment been disciplined in any way for its actions that day, its soldiers might not have felt free to go on a similar rampage in Derry six months later – on what will henceforth be known not as Bloody but as Dignified and Appropriate Sunday.

Bradley has already won herself a reputation as the stupidest and most inept secretary of state anyone can remember – she laughingly boasted that when she was given the role she had not known that nationalists did not vote for unionists, and vice versa.

Now she has blundered into undoing the tentative healing which began with former prime minister David Cameron stating in 2010 that the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”. She has also inadvertently lent her support to those who argue that it is various decorated gents including Gen Sir Mike Jackson who should be in the dock since they were the givers of orders and instructions.

Outrageous comments More shocking even than her outrageous comments was the fact that while the SOS (oh the aptness of that acronym!) was speaking, her Tory colleagues on the benches behind her continued to chat among themselves, as oblivious to what Bradley was saying as they were to the television cameras.
At one level, it is just another demonstration of how little the parties at Westminster care about the North. For years now, MPs have been racing each other to the exit doors whenever it comes up. Bradley rushed through Northern Ireland’s budget last week to benches that were almost empty.

Report after report shows that the North is likely to be disproportionately badly impacted by Brexit, particularly if there is no deal. That hasn’t stopped the Conservatives, particularly the extreme Brexiteers who are favourites among the DUP, from flirting with that outcome.

But it is worse than that. When the British government signed up to the Belfast Agreement in 1998, it committed itself to “rigorous impartiality”. In her desperate bid to hold on to power at any cost, the prime minister has abandoned all pretence of this. As for the profundity of Bradley’s belated apology – we already have irrefutable evidence that this secretary of state is deeply, deeply shallow. Is it reassuring when a senior politician says, “I want to be very clear – I do not believe what I said. That is not my view” ? It is not.

With many thanks to: The Irish Times for the original story 



The English are blindly driving the North of Ireland into conflict – the fear is that they are too stupid to care

A return to violence is not a worst-case scenario but an inevitability if a hard border returns, as it will if there is a full Brexit

I was sitting in a cafe on the Falls Road in heavily nationalist West Belfast when a local radio reporter came in looking for residents to interview about the effect of Brexit on Northern Ireland. She said that the impact was already massive, adding: “Stupid, stupid English for getting us into this pickle. We were doing nicely and then they surpassed themselves [in stupidity].”

It does not take long talking to people in Northern Ireland to understand that almost everything said by politicians and commentators in London about the “backstop” is based on a dangerous degree of ignorance and wishful thinking about the real political situation on the ground here. Given how central this issue is to the future of the UK, it is extraordinary how it is debated with only minimal knowledge of the real forces involved.

The most important of these risks can be swiftly spelled out. Focus is often placed on the sheer difficulty of policing the 310-mile border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because there are at least 300 major and minor crossing points. But the real problem is not geographic or military but political and demographic because almost all the border runs through country where Catholics greatly outnumber Protestants. The Catholics will not accept, and are in a position to prevent, a hard border unless it is defended permanently by several thousand British troops in fortified positions.

The threat to peace is often seen as coming from dissident Republicans, a small and fragmented band with little support, who might shoot a policeman or a customs’ official. But this is not the greatest danger, or at least not yet, because it is much more likely that spontaneous but sustained protests would prevent any attempt to recreate an international frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic that wasn’t backed by overwhelming armed force.

It is unrealistic to the point of absurdity to imagine that technical means on the border could substitute for customs personnel because cameras and other devices would be immediately destroyed by local people. A new border would have to be manned by customs officials, but these would not go there unless they were protected by police and the police could not operate without British Army protection. Protesters would be killed or injured and we would spiral back into violence.

We are not looking at a worst-case scenario but an inevitability if a hard border returns as it will, if there is a full Brexit. The EU could never agree to a deal – and would be signing its own death warrant if it did – in which the customs union and the single market have a large unguarded hole in their tariff and regulatory walls.

An essential point to grasp is that the British government does not physically control the territory, mostly populated by nationalists, through which the border runs. It could only reassert that control by force which would mean a return to the situation during the Troubles, between 1968 and 1998, when many of the 270 public roads crossing the border were blocked by obstacles or cratered with explosives by the British Army. Even then British soldiers could only move through places like South Armagh using helicopters.

The focus for the security forces in Northern Ireland is on dissident Republican groups that never accepted the Good Friday Agreement. These have failed to gain traction inside the Roman Catholic/nationalist community which has no desire to go back to war and give up the very real advantages that it has drawn from the long peace.

But that peace could slip away without anybody wanting it to go because Brexit, as conceived by the European Research Group and as delineated by Theresa May’s red lines, is a torpedo aimed directly at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. This meant that those who saw themselves as Irish (essentially the Catholics) and those who saw themselves as British (the Protestants) could live peacefully in the same place. Moreover, the agreement established and institutionalised a complicated balance of power between the two communities in which the Irish government and the EU played a central role.

Yet ever since the general election of 2017, when May became dependent on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), it is the DUP – the party of Ian Paisley – that has been treated by politicians and media in Britain as if they were the sole representatives of the 1.9 million people living in Northern Ireland. Its MPs are seldom asked by interviewers to justify their support for the UK leaving the EU when Northern Ireland voted for Remain in the referendum by 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

In ignoring the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, the British government is committing the same costly mistake it committed in the 50 years before 1968 which led to the fiercest guerrilla conflict in western Europe since the Second World War. The nationalist community today has a lot more to lose than it did half a century ago. It is no longer subject to sectarian discrimination in the way it used to be, as well as being highly educated and economically dynamic, but this does not mean that it can be taken for granted.

It may also be that the majority of the Northern Ireland population in two years’ time, when the Brexit transition period might be coming to an end, will no longer be Protestant and unionist but Catholic and nationalist. In the last census in 2011 Protestants were 48 per cent of the population and Catholics 45 per cent. The Protestants are not only a declining proportion of the population, but an increasingly ageing one, figures from 2016 showing that Catholics are 44 per cent of the working population and Protestants 44 per cent. Significantly, Catholics make up 51 per cent of school children in Northern Ireland and Protestants only 37 per cent.

The Protestants are a community on the retreat, but many have argued that this does not make much political difference because it is a mistake to imagine that all Catholics wanted a united Ireland. Many felt that they were better off where they were with a free NHS and an annual UK subsidy of £11bn.

But Brexit has changed this calculation. With Ireland and the UK members of the EU, religious and national loyalties were blurred. Many Protestants, particularly middle class ones, voted Remain in the referendum, but the vote was still essentially along sectarian lines. “You would not find many nationalists post-Brexit who would not vote for a united Ireland in a new border poll whatever they thought before,” said one commentator, though the likelihood is that if there were to be such a poll there would still be a slim majority favouring the union with Great Britain.

If May’s deal with the EU is finally agreed by the House of Commons then the issue of a hard border will be postponed. Any return to it would put Northern Ireland back on the road to crisis and violence. Stupid, stupid, stupid English.

With many thanks to: The Independent for the original story




No US deal for the UK unless all of Ireland North and South are protected from border fall-out

AS THE British parliament ties itself in knots trying to solve the self-inflicted wound of Brexit, it is the success of the 1998 agreement between the two Irelands that is the biggest stumbling block to Britain’s leaving the European Union.

Two decades ago, Irish Americans came together to pressure the White House to overpower objections in London and the US State Department and grant Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams a visa. That broke a political gridlock that led to the appointment of George Mitchell as Special Envoy and the Good Friday Agreement. Let there be no doubt. Irish America stands with the Irish North and South who are adamant that a hard border must not be restored. If it is, Irish Americans are prepared to saddle up again to oppose any post-Brexit UK-US trade deal. These are not idle words. Irish-Americans Congressman Richard Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts, is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee where proposed trade deals are first considered. Other members of Congress who have significant say in any trade negotiation are either Irish American or have significant Irish American constituencies. They have made no secret of their insistence that a soft border, one where goods and people can continue to flow freely across it, is an imperative. The facts of the matter are that, when it comes to the so-called backstop, there are no good options for the UK. Either there will be a hard border between the Republic and the North of Ireland, with all of the concomitant economic and human costs and which threatens to reignite the Troubles. Or there will be no border, which will mean that the North of Ireland will effectively remain in the European Union, and the rest of the UK will not.

Irish American leaders have already been in the halls of Congress making their position crystal clear. We cannot support the return of a hard border between the Republic and the North, just like we can never accept the return of the sectarian discrimination and bigotry that fueled the Troubles in the first place. And it is not lost on anyone on this side of the Atlantic that while England and Wales voted for Brexit, the North of Ireland voted to remain in the European Union, as did Scotland, where the vote has reinvigorated the movement for Scottish independence. The overwhelming majority of the Irish North and South have expressed a clear desire to remain in the European Union. London ignores that reality at its peril.

A leading Irish-US business figure

BRIAN O’Dwyer is a native New Yorker, whose family originates in Co Mayo. He has been involved in the promotion of Irish and Irish-Amercian interests for decades. He was a founding member of the Irish American Democrats and part of the delegation that accompanied President Clinton to Ireland on each of his three trips. He also served as an advisor to the White House on Irish issues, including the peace process. Mr O’Dwyer presently serves as chairman of the Irish Chamber of Commerce USA, where he works to facilitate American investment in both parts of Ireland. His intervention, in which he is speaking on behalf of the powerful Irish-American business lobby, comes at a crucial juncture in the Brexit process, when Westminster must decide whether it will ensure that a no deal is avoided and therefore there is no subsequent hardening of the border.

Belfast-based Irish-American businessesman Frank Costello, who will join Mr O’Dwyer in New York for the St Patrick’s Day parade, said the pledge to block a US-UK trade deal if there was a disruptive Brexit, was about recognising the importance of ensuring a frictionless border and safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement. “We are not looking to undermine relations between Britain and the US, but it is important that the substantial efforts to secure peace – including 83 trips to Ireland by Senator George Mitchell – are not undone with the imposition of a border and placing the Good Friday Agreement at risk,” he said.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and OPINION: Brian O’Dwyer ◾Brian O’Connor is an attorney and served as adviser to the Clinton White House during the peace process.

Hard border claims according to Arlene ‘spinning tales’ says Foster

This coming from someone who claimed there was never a ‘Hard Border’ in Ireland

ARLENE Foster has challenged the EU to ditch the backstop.

The DUP leader also ruled out speculation of a hard border if the backstop option is dropped as “spinning tales”. She made the comments on Friday in a speech to party members in Kesh, Co Fermanagh – a short distance from the border. Mrs Foster described the week’s events at Wes Minister, where MPs voted for an ” alternative arrangement ” to replace the backstop as “good progress”.

” It was a massive step forward for the party to see a majority in paraliment also calling for such changes,” she said. “A clear message was sent to Brussels that the backstop is the problem.” It remains unclear whether the EU will reopen negotiations on the withdrawal deal, with the Irish government’s European minister Helen McEntee earlier saying that Dublin would “absolutely not” accept that. Mrs Foster, conceded that the EU are “tough negotiators”. ” I don’t expect them to roll over within hours,” she said. “I don’t expect them to roll over within hours,” she said.

“But they must face up to reality. The blockage to getting a deal is the backstop, therefore there must be sensible engagement and a pragmatic approach. “Here in Kesh, we are within walking distance of the border. “Local people travel to and from across the border multiple times every day. ” It is quite disgraceful for some in Brussels to exploit genuine fears by spinning tales of border posts, troops and queues. “No one is building border checkpoints. No one is sending troops to the border either. “Such talk is foolish and careless.”

Mrs Foster also reiterated her party’s position that any form of division between the North of Ireland and the rest of the UK is “unacceptable”. “If the UK leaves without an agreement in place and the European Union and Ireland are on one side and the UK is on the other, we will have to work intensively together to ensure that we deliver on our shared goal of avoiding the return of a hard border,” she said. “We are absolutely committed to doing that, even in those difficult circumstances.” “A new border east-west is unacceptable to unionists. “Let’s focus on getting a sensible deal which works for Brussels, Dublin and London.”

With many thanks to: Rebecca Black and The Irish News for the original story.

Brexiters have changed their minds, why can’t the people?

Brexiters are changing their minds over Brexit all the time. Perhaps a new fact has come to light which they don’t like, or a shift in position may suit their personal aims.

If Brexiters can chop and change with every new revelation, why shouldn’t the people have the final say on whether they want this Brexit mess or not?

Last night’s confidence vote in Theresa May showed that 117 Tory MPs had changed their minds about their leader. They voted for her in 2016, full of hope that she could unite the party around a coherent Brexit policy. It’s all gone badly wrong, and the Conservatives are more fracticious than ever. Tory MPs got a democratic opportunity to overturn two years of Brexit mismanagement — why shouldn’t the people?

Boris Johnson changed his mind about the Irish border backstop. He was part of the Cabinet that agreed to the measure back in December 2017. Now he wants to “junk the backstop” and has called it a “monstrosity” that wipes out the UK’s sovereignty.

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Johnson claims he was misled by Number 10 over the backstop and “absolutely reassured that this was just a form of words that was necessary to float the negotiations off the rocks”. So, he made a decision without full possession of the facts and now wants to think again? Sounds like a good basis for a People’s Vote.

Liam Fox is the latest Brexiter to change his mind on May’s deal. He told the BBC yesterday he would struggle to support it if there were no changes to the backstop. Fox is still in the Cabinet, and has given his support to the government’s Brexit strategy at each crunch decision so far.

Unlike Dominic Raab, who helped negotiate the deal as Brexit secretary before changing his mind and condemning it in a politically timed Cabinet resignation. He now says the government’s deal is worse than staying in the EU.

May herself is not against a change of mind. That general election she was never going to call in 2017? The “meaningful vote” on the government’s deal that was definitely going to take place this Tuesday? May’s premiership has been littered with u-turns and flip flops.

It seems like it’s one rule for May and her Brexiter detractors, and another for the British people. But a lot has changed since 2016.

It is now much clearer what Brexit actually entails, and that the promises made by the Leave campaign cannot be fulfilled. It is only right to ask whether the public has changed its mind about leaving the EU after all.

With many thanks to: Infacts for the original posting.


DUP’s only ambition is hard Irish border

LORD Adonis says the DUP want the hardest Brexit because all they want is a hard border for cultural and political reasons, note not economic.

The DUP’s sole contribution to the Brexit negotiations has been to use every opportunity to block the only chance of avoiding a border by resisting any and every attempt to devise a backstop

The great advantage for them is that they can blame the British for the outcome. Lies, all lies, say the DUP while hurling personal abuse at Adonis. Of course he’s right. When did the DUP stop wanting a border as hard as possible? After all, at one stage Peter Robinson wanted a fence, extolling the Israeli model he visited at the illegally occupied Golan Heights. The evidence supports Adonis.

The DUP’s sole contribution to the Brexit negotiations has been to use every opportunity to block the only chance of avoiding a border by resisting any and every opportunity to block the only chance of avoiding a border by resisting any and every attempt to devise a backstop.

It was the DUP which raised the hare that the north staying in the customs union and single market had ‘constitutional implications’. Not a bit of it. Britain gave Hong Kong back to China in 1997. Beijing is sovereign and decides who runs Hong Kong but Hong Kong still has a separate customs and tax arrangements. There are several examples of countries which have more than one tariff and tax system. Besides, all agricultural produce coming into the north is already checked at the ports.

During the Second World War patriotic, jingoistic unionists had no objection to the north not having conscription like, all together now, ‘the rest of the UK’, No one remembers any unionist begging, – ‘Conscript us too.’ Furthermore you had to have an ID card to travel to Britain during the war and some years afterwards. Any constitutional implications there?

However, do you smell any hypocrisy? Despite the DUP and their friends amoung the more repellent Brexiteers successfully holding up progress on the backstop which without question would be economically and socially benicial to everyone in the north, the pathetic Theresa May still indulges them. Truly, as George Osborne said last year, she is a dead woman walking. Her moderate, sensible MP’s watch with astonishment as she staggers on absorbing the blows and ridicule of ideologues in her party and their DUP spear carriers. That’s what she was doing her last week.

She knew she would achieve nothing except please the DUP and reckoned the humiliation was worth it. Can you imagine a two-and-a-half-hour dinner with that lot? That’s one occasion when you wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall. You’d have dropped off with boredom. Famously when she was home secretary May was known to journalists covering parliament as ‘the worst lunch in Westminster’. Awkward silences, robotic answers, empty soliloquies, blank recorder. Now add to that the wit of the scintillating Foster and dour Dodds. What a sparkler that dinner must have been.

Only Arelene Foster, perhaps not for the first time, didn’t seem to understand what she was doing inviting May to Fermanagh. Who did she think she was representing? Not the 58.6 per cent of Fermanagh/South Tyrone voters who voted Remain in a 68 per cent turnout. In fact what the DUP were doing last week was a microcosm of what they have been doing since June 2016 and that is misrepresting the peoe of the north.

By doing their damnedest to prevent a backstop and thereby ensure a hard border the DUP are damaging the futures of everyone in the north. At no point have they presented any plans to replace the EU subsidies which pay 87 per cent of farm income here or the Peace IV funding which supplies millions of pounds to the north. What has the DUP proposed should be done after 2020? Nothing.

What have they asked the British government to do? When you look, you find the DUP has no independent positions on any Brexit issue but one. Thy pathetically parrot the latest line Theresa May squawks, including about the Chequers white paper which Depooty Dodds supported before his friends left in tatters on the floor of the Commons. No doubt Depooty Dodds is waiting for Theresa May’s next pronouncement on Chequers so that he knows what line to take. The only specific action the DUP has taken is to ensure a hard border.

With many thanks to: Brian Feeney and The Irish News for the original story.