Michel Barnier rebuffs UK calls for flexibility on the Irish Border

Chief negotiator says EU ready to improve proposal but will not accept British ideas for compromise

Michel Barnier has rebuffed British calls for the European Union to soften its stance on the contested issue of the Irish border and said a “moment of truth” was fast approaching on a Brexit deal.

May will appeal directly to EU leaders at a summit in Salzburg to soften their stance over UK access to the single market and customs union. She is expected to tell them on Wednesday night that Brussels needs to shift. A senior No 10 official said: “To come to a successful conclusion, just as the UK has evolved its position, the EU will need to do the same.”

Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said the bloc was ready to improve its proposal on avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland but stopped short of accepting British ideas for compromise, after the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, called on the EU to show flexibility.

“The European council in October will be the moment of truth, it is the moment when we shall see if we have an agreement,” Barnier said.

The Irish border has emerged as the biggest stumbling block to the Brexit deal that Theresa May hopes to strike with the EU this autumn. While the EU and UK have agreed there should be no hard border to prevent any return to violence, they are deadlocked over how to manage what will become a 310-mile frontier between the UK and EU.

Both sides have proposed fallback plans, known as backstops, that would kick into place if trade talks fail to settle the question. The EU’s involves Northern Ireland following EU law on customs and goods, a plan May has said no British prime minister could ever accept.

Barnier said the EU was working to improve its proposal, adding that the problem had been caused by “the UK’s decision to leave the EU, its single market and the customs union”. Seeking to counter British criticism that the EU plan eroded UK sovereignty, he said: “What we talking about here is not a land border, not a sea border, it is a set of technical checks and controls. We respect the territorial integrity of the UK and we respect the constitutional order of the UK.”

Barnier was speaking after a 90-minute meeting with the EU’s 27 European affairs ministers at a summit in Brussels. Many countries intervened in the debate to stress the importance of reaching a deal and its timing.

Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, got a full update from Barnier on the backstop developments and later described his meeting as “excellent”. The Irish cabinet had earlier agreed to hire 451 new staff for border duties out of a total of 1,077 needed for ports and airports.

Ireland is among several EU countries concerned that having an emergency summit in November will take the pressure off the British in the coming weeks.

May will appeal to EU leaders at a summit in Salzburg to soften their stance over UK access to the single market and customs union. She is expected to tell them on Wednesday night that Brussels needs to shift. A senior No 10 official said: “To come to a successful conclusion, just as the UK has evolved its position, the EU will need to do the same.”

Downing Street believes that the UK has developed its negotiating position to reach the Chequers plan and it is now time for other EU countries to show some flexibility in order to finally strike a deal. The prime minister will argue that with “goodwill and determination” the UK and the EU could avoid a “disorderly” Brexit that would be damaging for both sides and instead strike a deal that benefited both.

“Neither side can demand the ‘unacceptable’ of the other, such as an external customs border between different parts of the United Kingdom. No other country would accept it if they were in the same situation,” she will say.

May will tell her fellow leaders that the EU’s current proposal does not respect the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK as it effectively suggests a customs border down the Irish Sea with its backstop plan.

She is expected to deny suggestions by EU officials that the UK is attempting to cherry-pick by seeking the rights of membership without the obligations.

“That is not what we are doing,” she will say. “What we are proposing is a fair arrangement that will work for the EU’s economy as well as the UK’s, without undermining the single market.”

No 10 has been cautiously optimistic in recent days that the UK can expect a softening of tone at the Salzburg summit from some EU leaders who are keen to nail down a Brexit deal this autumn.

It remains to be seen whether that translates into a shift in negotiating position from Brussels, where officials have been more sceptical. The EU27 will wait to discuss next steps, including whether to relax Barnier’s negotiating mandate, until May has left the room.

Meanwhile, Brussels is preparing to step up its legal action against the UK in a case of alleged customs fraud. The European commission has accused HM Revenue and Customs of negligence in controls that enabled Chinese fraudsters to evade duties, causing a €2.7bn (£2.4bn) loss to the EU budget.

The commission will announce the next step in the process on Wednesday, the final stage before it can take the government to the European court of justice.

Brussels launched the action in March, and British officials see the timing of the latest move – on the eve of the Salzburg summit – as provocative. “I can only speculate on the reasons, but it seems pretty obvious what is going on,” a No 10 insider said.

A government spokesman said: “The UK does not accept liability for the alleged losses or recognise the estimate of alleged duty evaded. We take customs fraud very seriously and we continue to evolve our response as new threats emerge.”

The alleged fraud has raised tensions between the EU and UK, contributing to mistrust about British officials’ ability to collect duties on behalf of the bloc, as proposed by the government in its unprecedented customs partnership.

With many thanks to: The Guardian for the original story.

Brexit: UK ‘has two weeks’ to submit border plans

Irish border

Disagreements remain over how the Irish border should be treated after Brexit

The UK must submit written proposals on how it plans to keep a frictionless Irish border after Brexit in the next two weeks, Ireland’s foreign minister has said.
Simon Coveney said if that does not happen the UK will face an uncertain summer of talks.
Both the UK and EU say they are committed to keeping the Irish border open after Brexit.
However, a practical solution has not been agreed.
Brexit: All you need to know
Full text of the EU-UK statement
The EU and Ireland both insist Britain’s withdrawal treaty must lock in a backstop arrangement guaranteeing Northern Ireland will abide by EU regulations in case a future trade pact does not remove the need for border controls.
Britain has signed up to this, but has rejected the EU’s interpretation of what the backstop means.
“In the next two weeks, we need to see written proposals, it needs to happen two weeks from the summit,” Mr Coveney told the Irish Times newspaper, referring to a June summit of EU leaders that is supposed to mark significant progress on the issue.
“If there is no progress on the backstop, we are in for an uncertain summer.
“At this point we need written proposals on the Irish backstop consistent with what was agreed. We await written proposals from the British side.”
In February, the EU proposed a backstop which would involve the UK, in respect of Northern Ireland, maintaining full alignment with those rules of the EU’s single market and customs union which support north-south cooperation.
Prime Minister Theresa May said she could never agree to that as it would “threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea”.

With many thanks to: BBC News for the original story.


RUC/PSNI police station sales on hold over Brexit uncertainty


Castlederg RUC/PSNI station identified for disposal since 2016

The PSNI has confirmed it has halted the sale of three border police stations as a “precautionary step” over Brexit.

The stations are Castlederg and Aughnacloy in County Tyrone and Warrenpoint in County Down.
All three had been “previously identified for disposal”.
Brexit has returned the Irish border to the centre of Anglo-Irish politics and it is still unclear what it will look like when the UK leaves the EU.
Brexit: UK ‘has two weeks’ to submit border plans
Police ask for up to 400 more officers ahead of Brexit
BBC News NI previously reported that the sale of Warrenpoint station had been halted, and that it was believed Aughnacloy and Castlederg stations were also to be taken off the market.
This has now been confirmed by the PSNI.
“In light of the UK referendum vote to leave the EU, we are reviewing decisions we previously made about some of our stations identified for disposal,” Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said.
Image caption
Newry, Mourne and Down Council wanted to buy the former Warrenpoint station
“Accordingly, it is our intention to pause the disposal of three stations in border areas, namely Warrenpoint, Castlederg and Aughnacloy.
“As the PSNI has not yet received details regarding potential border arrangements, this is a precautionary step to ensure that, whatever Brexit looks like in the future, we will be able to continue to keep our communities safe.”
Newry, Mourne and Down Council wanted to buy the former station in Warrenpoint, which went on the market in 2016.
The plan was to convert it into a community centre.
Customs checks
The UK and EU have both said they do not wish to see a hard border after Brexit, but they have not been able to agree on how to avoid checks on goods once the UK has left the customs union and single market.
If there is no Brexit deal it is likely customs officials will have to carry out the checks and it will be the job of the police to protect them.
The Chief Constable of the PSNI is to ask the government to fund the recruitment of up to 400 additional officers for operations along the border after Brexit.

With many thanks to: BBC News for the original story

Secretary of State for the North of Ireland Speech to the British – Irish Association Annual Conference

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, gave the following speech to the Annual Conference of the British-Irish Association on Friday 7 September 2018.

Delivered on:
7 September 2018 (Speaker’s notes, may differ from delivered version)

Secretary of State Karen Broadly, photographed at Stormont House.

Since 1972 the BIA has played a key role in bringing together politicians, civil servants, academics, business people, faith leaders, journalist, commentators and many more to promote dialogue and understanding throughout these islands and to try and shape a better future together.

So thank you for everything you have done and I am sure will continue to do in the years to come.

This is of course my first BIA conference since the Prime Minister asked me to take on the role of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in January, something that I had absolutely no hesitation in accepting.

And as Secretary of State, I know what an amazing place Northern Ireland is and what it has to offer.

Indeed, it’s not surprising that nearly all of my predecessors look back on their time with huge affection, with a number regarding it as the most rewarding and important job they ever had in government.

So as I’ve gone out and about over the past nine months, meeting as many people as I can, it’s impossible not to be struck by the warmth of the place. Its beauty, its spirit and, yes, its history but also its massive potential.

I’ve made a point of visiting with my family some of the great attractions that Northern Ireland has to offer: the Fermanagh lakes, the Giant’s Causeway, the Titanic Visitor attraction, to name but a few. And each time they can’t wait to come back for more.

So Northern Ireland is a very special place, and I believe one with a great future.

And this year of course we have been marking the 20th anniversary of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, an historic landmark in the history not just of Northern Ireland but of these islands as a whole.

It was, as I said in April, a triumph of politics over the previous decades of violence, division and despair.

Twenty years on it is perhaps easy for some to lose sight of the magnitude of what was achieved in 1998.

So let me spell some them out.

The constitutional position of Northern Ireland settled on the principle of consent.

The Irish constitution amended to reflect that fact.

Political institutions to accommodate and give expression to both the main traditions in Northern Ireland.

Strong new bodies to foster greater North-South and East-West co-operation.

Powerful protections for people’s rights, culture and identities.

Reforms to make policing and the criminal justice system more accountable and acceptable across the community.

And of course the consequences of all of this: a more peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland that is in so many ways unrecognisable since the dark days of the troubles, notwithstanding the severe threat we continue to face from dissident republicans.

All of these gains were hard fought, the result of years of painstaking discussions and negotiations, and we should never forget just how precious they are or indeed shy away from making the case for the 1998 Agreement.

It is our duty to do whatever is necessary to protect and defend it, and that is what this Government will continue to do.

So let me reiterate for the avoidance of any doubt: the UK Government remains steadfast in its support for the Belfast Agreement, the bedrock on which the progress across the three interlocking relationships – within Northern Ireland, between Northern Ireland and Ireland and between the UK and Ireland – has been made over the past twenty years.

We will do nothing that undermines this, including as the UK leaves the EU next March.

And over recent years Northern Ireland has continued to take many great steps forward, not least on the economy.

Unemployment, which in 2010 stood at just over 7 per cent, is now 3.8 per cent, one of the lowest figures on record and significantly below the EU average.

Meanwhile employment, at just over 69 per cent, is at near record levels. In all, 63,000 more people are in work in Northern Ireland today than in 2010 … with nearly 19,000 new jobs in the past year. That’s more people with the security of a regular pay packet for them and their families.

Average weekly earnings have grown at a faster rate in Northern Ireland than in any other UK region.

There are over 12,000 more businesses than was the case 8 years ago.

Over 900 overseas companies have invested in Northern Ireland, making it the most popular location for FDI outside of London and the South East – the highest number of FDI jobs per head of any part of the UK.

Since 2011, exports are up by 11per cent, and external sales, including to the rest of the UK, are up 18 per cent.

Tourism is booming, as anyone who has seen the cruise ships docked in Belfast this year will testify.

We have more people staying for longer than ever before, with impressive new hotels to accommodate them and more in the pipeline.

And of course next year the eyes of the world will once again be on Northern Ireland as the oldest and most famous golfing championship in the word, the Open, is played at Royal Portrush.

None of this has happened by accident. It has been the result of the hard work of the people of Northern Ireland, with productivity increasing in Northern Ireland at a faster rate than in any other UK region.

And, I might add, a fiscally responsible UK Government prepared to take the necessary measures and pursue policies at a national level to allow business and enterprise to thrive across the whole of the UK, with the result that we now have the lowest levels of unemployment across the country than at any time in over 40 years.

A UK Government that despite severe pressures on public expenditure continues to recognise Northern Ireland’s special circumstances through generous support in the Block Grant.

We have maintained public spending in Northern Ireland at around 20 per cent per head higher than the UK average.

Over the current spending review period UK Government financial support to the Northern Ireland Executive has increased by 5 per cent in real terms.

The Prime Minister’s recent pledge of an additional £20.5 billion to the NHS by 2024, which means an extra £760 million a year by 2023-24 for Northern Ireland under the Barnett formula.

We’ve helped hard working people: some 745,000 people in Northern Ireland will have gained by an average of £182 as a result of our increases to the personal allowance and higher rate tax threshold.

We’ve increased the National Living Wage to £7.83, delivering a £600 annual pay rise to full-time workers in Northern Ireland.

And we’ve committed substantial additional security funding to help the PSNI tackle the continuing terrorist threat: £160 million over this spending review period and £230 million in the last one.

These are just a few examples of how Northern Ireland has shared in our national economic recovery in recent years, and how Northern Ireland benefits from the strength and security of being part of the world’s fifth largest economy.

Yet for all the successes there are significant challenges too.

Economic growth in the past year has been flat, lower than the UK as a whole and in Ireland.

Rates of economic inactivity remain higher than in other parts of the UK.

Hospital waiting lists are longer than in England and are getting worse.

There are other examples of where a current lack of ministerial decision making is holding Northern Ireland back.

Corporation tax has yet to be devolved, meaning that Northern Ireland remains at an economic disadvantage when it comes to competing for foreign direct investment with Ireland.

Construction projects worth up to £2bn are at risk due to the lack of key planning decisions, including plans for a new £30m quay for cruise ships, a new £175m transport hub for Belfast, a £280m power plant, the North-South electricity interconnector worth around £200m and a £50m office block at Belfast Harbour.

Strategies for building a stronger society and a shared future, as well as tackling paramilitary activity, have lost momentum.

And of course while I continue to ensure that Northern Ireland’s interests and needs are represented at the heart of Government, Northern Ireland would be better placed to meet the challenges and opportunities of Brexit with an Executive in place.

In the absence of a devolved Executive we have brought forward measures at Westminster to ensure good governance and stability.

In July the Government took a budget through Westminster to enable the continued delivery of public services

And before the summer recess I announced plans to bring forward legislation enabling me to make key public appointments, for example to a reconstituted Policing Board.

But none of this is any substitute for devolution – a locally elected Assembly and Executive taking decisions on behalf of all the people of Northern Ireland.

And while I am not saying that a devolved government would solve all the problems I’ve just mentioned overnight, I am convinced that it could make a real difference to people’s lives and helping to unlock even further the undoubted and enormous potential that Northern Ireland has to offer.

The absolute priority, therefore, for this Government – as I know it is the Irish Government – is to see a restoration of the devolved power sharing institutions at Stormont, and all the other related bodies, at the earliest opportunity.

And yesterday in the House of Commons I set out a plan to try help bring that about.

I announced that I intend to bring forward legislation that will provide for a limited and prescribed period in which there will be no legal obligation to set a date for an election.

Importantly, during this time an Executive may be formed at any point without the requirement for further legislation. This will provide the opportunity to re-establish political talks aimed at restoring the Executive as soon as possible.

The legislation I intend to introduce after the party conference recess will also include provisions to give greater clarity and certainty to enable NI departments to continue to take decisions in Northern Ireland in the public interest and to ensure the continued delivery of public services.

I intend to consult parties in Northern Ireland over how this might best be done.

I also intend, therefore, to use the next few weeks to engage in further discussions with the parties and the Irish Government, in accordance with the well-established three stranded approach with the intention of establishing a basis for moving into more formal political dialogue that leads to a restoration of the institutions.

Finally, I also announced that I would be bringing forward a reduction in MLA pay.

I believe that the people of Northern Ireland want to see a restoration of their political institutions and that is what this Government is committed to achieving.

Stable and effective devolved government is the right thing for Northern Ireland.

And I am in no doubt that it is best for the Union.

ends –

With many thanks to: GOV.UK for the original posting.

Media queries should be directed to Bob Honey, NIO Communications Team, on 07956 579 286

Follow this link to find out more: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/secretary-of-state-speech-to-the-british-irish-association-annual-conference

Operation Yellowhammer: Leaked ‘no – deal’ Brexit details are quite revealing

The document was carried out of the Cabinet Office by Treasury minister John GlenIt’s been another first for Brexit.

The recent two-day “no deal” meeting of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat appears to be the first time official Whitehall apparatus to deal with planning for emergencies and disasters has been used in anticipation of actual government policy.

It was one of the revelations about “Operation Yellowhammer”, the code name for no-deal contingency planning, included in a government document inadvertently leaked on Thursday.

Carried out of the Cabinet Office by Treasury minister John Glen, the paper was snapped by photographer Steve Back
‘Operation Yellowhammer’ was revealed in a leaked Treasury document

The Civil Contingencies Secretariat, which services the COBRA emergency committee and is designed for “emergencies and disasters”, was created in 2001 during the foot and mouth crisis and in the aftermath of disruptive fuel protests.

The government would argue its involvement in no-deal Brexit planning is a sensible precaution, while Brexiteers might suggest it is necessary for a credible strategy to leave the EU without an agreement.

On the other hand, as Remainers have suggested, the deployment of the government’s civil planning system for emergencies and disasters was not exactly the promise of the Leave campaign during the EU referendum.

The detail of the Treasury memo is quite revealing in and of itself.

The Treasury is playing hardball with the £3bn earmarked for Brexit contingencies, encouraging departments to find funding for no deal plans from existing budgets first.

The same day as the revelation of the document, Health Secretary Matt Hancock disclosed taxpayer funds might be required to reimburse pharmaceutical companies for some no-deal costs.

The Civil Contingencies Secretariat was created during the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak
The document also reveals what the Treasury thinks is obvious, but is a view not necessarily shared elsewhere in government; that there will be a no-deal Brexit impact on “aviation and rail access to the EU”.

Its briefing paper states all departments need to come up with “consistent planning assumptions” for the disruption to traffic.

And the Treasury also sought to “remind departments of the need to consider the financial [robustness] of commercial firms that play a role in their [no-deal Brexit] contingency plans”.

This suggests concerns about the share prices and financial liquidity of key transport and logistics operators, in the event of no-deal.

The work of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat also raises questions about whether there are plans to deploy the Civil Contingencies Act, which gives central government emergency powers over local government and agencies.

More from Brexit

Medical supplies ‘unhindered’ in ‘no-deal’ Brexit, says health secretary
Operation Yellowhammer: ‘No-deal’ Brexit plans leaked
Michel Barnier tells MPs: Key parts of PM’s Brexit plan ‘dead’
Manchester mayor Andy Burnham calls for Article 50 extension to avoid ‘no-deal’ Brexit
Theresa May under further pressure to ‘chuck Chequers’
More than half disapprove of PM’s Brexit plan – Sky poll
Last month, Sky News revealed local councils are planning for a range of Brexit impacts from social care problems to social unrest.

Already there are concerns emergency police powers will be required to force lorry traffic to take certain routes under the no-deal Brexit traffic plan, named Operation Brock, to turn a 13-mile stretch of the Dover-bound M20 motorway into a lorry park.

With many thanks to: Sky News for the original story.

Watch out in the North of Ireland: The border is coming

Luke Butterly writes that the government is quietly preparing for a return to a harder border in the North of Ireland.

Earlier this year, the wording in a Home Office recruitment campaign sparked a small controversy. As part of a drive to recruit an additional 1000 border force officers post-Brexit, the 21 jobs advertised in Belfast were only open to those with a British passport – “due to the sensitive nature of the work, require special allegiance to the Crown”.

In the north of Ireland, a painstakingly-crafted peace agreement allows citizens to identify as Irish, British or both – and are entitled to hold both or either passport. With less than half the population identifying primarily or solely as British, many would be excluded.

The ‘British only’ only aspect of the job adverts also echoed the decades of institutional discrimination that the Catholic minority had faced in terms of employment, where government ministers openly invited employers to discriminate.

The advert was quickly amended after being referred to the local equality commission, but it struck a larger point: preparations are underway for a border in Ireland.

Claire Hanna, the Brexit spokesperson for the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP): “Instead of putting out job advertisements, the British Government should take some serious time to spell out clearly what form of Border they anticipate these employees to be guarding.”

A troubled history

If Ireland was mentioned at all during the Brexit campaign, it was to reassure people that a campaign underlined by a ‘take back control of our borders’ narrative would somehow have no impact on the UK’s only land border with the EU.

Once the referendum dust had settled and Theresa May was Prime Minister, she was initially at pains to stress that Brexit would not herald a return to the ‘borders of the past’.

Following the anti-colonial struggle and subsequent civil war, Ireland was partitioned in the 1920s. This saw the creation of a new 500km international border drawn between the north-east and the rest of the island. The border was a point of contention for most of the following decades, and during the 30 year conflict known as the Troubles it was home to patrols, and checkpoints, and saw harassment, violence and death.

Twenty years after the 1998 Good Friday agreement, tens of thousands of people pass the border each day, most with little indication of when exactly they had crossed.

Quietly strengthening the border

To put it mildly, UK-EU negations since the referendum have not gone smoothly. As the March 2019 Brexit deadline rolls around, a ‘no deal’ scenario looks increasingly likely – and with it come worrying implications for the border. While the prevailing narrative is that the UK government is famously ill-prepared, actions and statements throughout this year show how a border is being prepared for.

The border jobs adverts mentioned above were not the first such controversy. In late 2017 the Home Office launched a 300 new ‘mobile patrol’ border force officers for a range of locations including Belfast, but would not disclose how many would be stationed in the north.

This summer the chief of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) announced he would be looking for 400 new officers for post-Brexit border security issues. On the other side of the border, the Gardaí called for extra funding and machine guns for border patrols (the Gardaí are traditionally unarmed).

The PSNI chief has said that any instillations would become targets for dissident republicans, yet in preparation for Brexit the police have halted the sale of three disused police stations along the border.

Most worrying is an anti-terror bill is currently passing through Westminster, due to be law by Christmas. The Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill contains provisions that will grant powers to police and other officials to stop, search and detain anyone found within one mile of the North-South border. Further, police don’t need to show any reasonable suspicion. The act also explicitly names two train stations (the first stop on the cross border rail service) which are several miles in from the border yet fall under these powers.

The fear that the powers will be used if granted are legitimate. At least as far as 2009 checks have been happening between those travel from the North to Britain – without any statutory basis. A similar existing piece of anti-terror legislation to the one proposed was used 12,479 times in a recent three year period (2014-2016). Despite this high number, there was not one case of someone being held on terror related grounds. Rather, some were then handed over to immigration officials. – thereby using emergency anti-terror laws to side-step the lack of legislated immigration checks. A leading human rights charity has warned of the current and future risk of racial profiling.

Even away from the borders, there is precedent. The North have the most disproportionate use of stop and search by the police – police there use their stop and search powers three times more than those in England and Wales, but are also three times less likely to lead to any further action.

On the ground

Support for Brexit is low in the North, and even lower for any kind of border. A recent survey from Queens University Belfast found that 60% of people would support protests against any north-south checks. When the figures are broken down, they are even starker: 36% of Sinn Féin voters would support blocking traffic, and one in 10 would support protests that attacked any new border installations or infrastructure.

In the referendum people voted to remain by 55.8%, with the issue of the border looming large (polling now puts support for ‘remain’ at 69%). When this 55.8% is broken down it is even more stark – of those constituencies that border the Irish republic, all voted remain – generally with margins of 60 – 70%. This map can almost be neatly overlapped with where Brexit-supporting DUP and anti-Brexit Sinn Féin hold their seats, and where areas have a higher Catholic than protestant population.

Yet regardless of these divisions, there is substantial support from both communities “for the type of UK exit that would largely eliminate the need for any border.” The Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ), a leading human rights organisation based in Belfast, has said that any potential border could be ‘threat to the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement’:

“Any move towards a border that is controlled in any way, by fixed checkpoints, electronic surveillance or in-country spot checks, will not only cause economic and social inconvenience but also accentuate the distinction between jurisdictions which was becoming usefully blurred.”

The situation in North is changing and unstable. In the 2016 assembly elections, unionists lost their majority for the first time in the state’s 90 year history. In January 2017 the assembly collapsed, and this week marks 589 days of political stalemate, beating Belgium’s record as the longest time with a government.

Post-peace agreement, support for a united Ireland has stayed a minority viewpoint – even in Catholic communities. Yet now many say Brexit and the threat of a border increases the desirability of reunification – and with it EU membership. The continued denial of access to abortion, marriage equality, and Irish language rights – all now available in the south – also plays a role.

What’s next?

A recent poll found that 60% of voters in the North think that Brexit makes the break up of the UK more likely. While issues of the border rank high for people in the North, people in the North rank low for voters in Britain. Polling of Leave voters said they “would rather lose Northern Ireland than give up the benefits of Brexit”. Voters as a whole put preventing a hard border at the bottom of their priorities for the Brexit negotiations.

As the government laid out their plans for a no-deal Brexit, new Brexit Secretary Dominic Rabb gave few commitments other than to say “We wouldn’t return to any sort of hard border”. Yet there is no clarity on how that will be avoided.

The ‘no deal’ alternatives to border checks are no less troubling. CAJ warns that the North could become ‘one big border’, with stepped up immigration raids and a hyper-intensified version of the ‘hostile environment’.

When a video emerged last week of arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg suggesting that we should have Troubles-era ‘inspections’ of people crossing the border, it provoked ire and condemnation from all quarters. Yet while it may be true that we will not exactly return to ‘the borders of the past’, the borders of the future are becoming increasingly likely.

With many thanks to: Redpeper.org.uk for the original posting.

Follow this link to see the original posting and find out more: https://www.redpepper.org.uk/northern-ireland-the-border-is-coming/

Brexit: Theresa May claims trade deal success in Africa – but critics say it’s a ‘rollover’ of existing EU agreement

‘They’re reduced to celebrating an agreement to roll over a fraction of the existing trade deals that we already benefit from as EU members’

Theresa May meets South African president Cyril Ramaphosa at De Tuynhuys presidential palace in Cape Town

Theresa May has come under fire for claiming to have secured the UK’s first post-Brexit trade deal as it is merely a “rollover” of an existing EU agreement.

Critics said the announcement – to replicate a deal with six southern African nations – fell far short of boasts, before the referendum, of a new free trade area much larger than the EU.

They also pointed out that it came amid doubts about whether the UK will be able to retain deals the EU has struck recently with Canada and Japan – which are far bigger economies.

Last year, Britain exported £2.4bn worth of goods to the six African countries included in Ms May’s deal – just 0.7 per cent of the value of its exports to the EU and the rest of the world combined, which were worth £339bn.

The government has acknowledged the risk of a “loss of trade” after Brexit with such countries, admitting they could demand more favourable terms to agree a rollover with the UK.

Speaking in Cape Town, the prime minister announced an additional £4bn of UK investment in African economies, with the hope of further match investment from the private sector to come.

And she said: “That’s why I’m delighted that we will today confirm plans to carry over the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement with the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) and Mozambique once the EU’s deal no longer applies to the UK.

“As a prime minister who believes both in free markets and in nations and businesses acting in line with well-established rules and principles of conduct, I want to demonstrate to young Africans that their brightest future lies in a free and thriving private sector.”

Countries in the Sacu agreement include Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland, with Mozambique also included in the pact with the EU that the UK will take on.

Of those countries, South Africa was Britain’s largest trade partner in 2017, buying £2.4bn worth of exports, followed by Namibia (£39m), Botswana (£24m) and Mozambique (£11m). Lesotho and Swaziland purchased less than a million pounds worth of exported goods from Britain each.

With many thanks to the: Guardian for the original story.