The ‘Troubles’ may be over but the North of Ireland’s sectarian divides are deepening.

A peace process with no peace

 

 

The recent tragic death of Lyra McKee in the Creggan area of Derry City has raised fears that the peace in Northern Ireland is now under threat. Dissident republicans, calling themselves the ‘New IRA’ have admitted to causing her death while attacking the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

McKee came to prominence in 2015 when her blog went viral. It was a letter to her 14-year-old self who was suffering with the fact of being gay in Northern Ireland. It was later made into a short film. Her much-anticipated book, The Lost Boys, is an exploration of eight young men and boys who disappeared during the ‘Troubles’.

The sprawling Creggan Estate on the outskirts of Derry is one of the poorest working-class estates in the UK. Crime, vandalism, carjacking, joyriding, drugs, punishment shootings and heavily armed police raids against dissidents are commonplace. Because of this, the estate has become something of an attraction for journalists and filmmakers. Former BBC presenter Reggie Yates was in the area on the day McKee was shot, making a documentary for MTV about extreme and unusual places. Sinead O’Shea’s 2018 documentary A Mother Brings Her Son to Be Shot is set in the Creggan. It follows the life of the O’Donnell family after the mother voluntarily brings her son for a punishment shooting because he was dealing drugs.

Depictions of the Creggan paint a depressing picture of a community left behind by the peace dividend that was supposed to follow the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA). Commenting on police raids around this time last year, local independent councillor Gary Donnelly told Derry Now that the PSNI are ‘unreformed from the Royal Ulster Constabulary’ – the police force that was officially disbanded in 2001 as part of the peace process. ‘Their role remains the same, as they enforce British rule in Ireland’, he said. The fact that operations are ‘carried out by heavily armed officers, backed up by armoured vehicles and air support, bears testimony to this’. ‘The PSNI clearly mark themselves out in working-class republican areas as an oppressive occupying force far removed from the smiles and PR spin of their hollow “community neighbourhood policing” facade’, he added.

What, then, will the future hold for working-class nationalist communities like the Creggan, which were once a bedrock of support in the struggle for a united Ireland? Do those who are condemning the New IRA as ‘robbers and murderers who draw strength from a revolution the Irish refuse to let lie’ understand the residual tensions in Northern Ireland? Did the communities there endure all the repression and privation of the war years only to be abandoned by their own political leaders?

It was the New IRA who pulled the trigger on the PSNI and McKee. But Sinn Féin, the once-republican party, is to blame for much of the current mess and chaos in the Creggan. It sold the people a lie that the peace process would achieve a united Ireland. In truth, the GFA was nothing more than a coded ratification of the republican movement’s defeat. While there is still significant support for Sinn Féin in those communities, bitterness and disillusionment are increasingly apparent.

The dissidents of the New IRA are a symptom of Sinn Féin’s failure on many fronts. The party has also failed to address the social and economic deprivation that blights places like the Creggan, preferring to highlight issues like the Irish language, gay rights and abortion rights. It doesn’t focus on these issues just to goad Unionists. Sinn Féin believes that by concentrating on identity politics, its politicians can leave their nationalist/republican pasts behind and become ‘respectable’ political players.

Sinn Féin’s references to a united Ireland are increasingly muted, mentioned mostly at election time to retain their support in working-class communities – but only ever as a dream for a far-off future. In fact, the party might be about to take a step that would be unprecedented for an Irish republican party. Speaking at the recent Easter Rising commemoration in Belfast, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that in the continued absence of a power-sharing administration, ‘a new British-Irish partnership, a joint authority’, was needed in Northern Ireland.

In other words, Sinn Féin are openly willing to participate directly with the British government in maintaining the status quo in Northern Ireland. This can only further contribute to the bitterness felt in working-class nationalist communities, inspiring further support for dissident republicans like the New IRA. But the dissidents’ campaign is futile. There is no appetite for a renewed fight for Irish independence in the wider nationalist community. Their activity can only invite more repression for their communities and certain imprisonment for the young men who join them.

Responding to Lyra Mckee’s killing in a joint statement, party leaders said: ‘It was a pointless and futile act to destroy the progress made over the last 20 years, which has the overwhelming support of people everywhere.’

But what does this 20 years of progress amount to? A digital mapping project by Dr Matthew Doherty published in 2017, using government census data between 1971 and 2011, reveals that the geographical split between Catholics and Protestants remains pretty much as it was in 1971. There is little or no cross-community integration that might indicate any softening of identities. In the supposedly vital arena of education, it is evident that the integrated-schools movement has lost momentum, enrolling under seven per cent of students in 2017. Outside Belfast City Hall, tour guides and buses wait to take the tourists to see the famous Peace Walls – or ‘interface barriers’, as they are euphemistically called – which crisscross many working-class areas of the city. In 2014, the government set a target of 10 years for the removal of all barriers – there are still 60 across Northern Ireland. There has actually been an increase in wall-building since the GFA in 1998. This suggests that relations between the two communities, notwithstanding the fact that the war is long over, are deteriorating. Any optimism about the future is in short supply.

The most recent edition of the Irish Pages, a Belfast literary publication, surveyed 42 of the leading intellectuals, poets and writers on the subject of the GFA. The heading for leading literary critic Edna Longley’s contribution summed up the survey: ‘The Belfast Agreement and Other Oxymorons.’ Novelist Glen Patterson voted Yes for the GFA, but now thinks he ‘can’t overlook the fact that almost from the get-go our politicians, and therefore the electorate who voted them in, did their best to fuck the whole thing up’.

More recently, Unionist poet Jean Bleakney complained of being assailed by ‘Brexit-bashers, republicans, civic nationalists, DUP-haters, academics, rights activists, journos’, arguing that ‘more than ever, somehow, everything was the fault of the Brits’. During the 1970s and 1980s, when the war in Ireland was raging, Unionists felt that the British government and state would always be on their side – and it was. Following Brexit, many feel that their position is no longer so secure.

Historian and leading architect of the GFA Paul Bew argues that ‘the people at the top of the UK government are paralysed by imperial guilt’. This is apparent among the British intellectual and political elites, where there is a desire to escape the embarrassment of Britain’s colonial and imperial past – a past to which Unionists are wedded. This is particularly evident in the attitude of many Remain voters in the Brexit referendum. They disparage any form of British nationalism or sovereignty as racist or fascistic and prefer to look to a new European identity for salvation.

The GFA’s core principle – that all the people of Northern Ireland can by birthright identify as ‘Irish or British or both as they may so choose’ ” is now cast in a different light as Britishness (and particularly the Unionist version of it) is now considered problematic. This identity crisis, combined with the collapse of the Stormont power-sharing assembly, Brexit, and the DUP’s role in shoring up Theresa May’s government, means that Ulster Unionists and their political culture has come under a new and fearful scrutiny. Their stance on issues such as gay rights, gay marriage and abortion have been condemned, and there is a growing sense that they are an embarrassment to much of the political elite in Britain.

It’s not just the political elite who are losing interest in Unionism. A few statistics from the ongoing Future of England survey reveal that 83 per cent of Leave voters believe that the collapse of the Irish peace process is a price worth paying for Brexit. Only 25 per cent of Leave voters believe that ‘revenue raised from taxpayers in England should also be distributed to Northern Ireland to help Northern Irish public services’. The Spectator has traditionally been one of the most pro-Unionist publications in Britain, but in one of its recent podcasts, the editor Fraser Nelson discussed how the DUP’s insistence that Britain and Northern Ireland remain fully aligned had tied the British into a Soft Brexit. They chose to play out the discussion with a tune by Paul McCartney called ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ – a song banned from UK airwaves in 1972. As the Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole worriedly pointed out, there is now a sentiment in the Tory circles which wishes that the ‘Irish (including the DUP) should bugger off and leave us to our own grand project of national liberation’.

So how is all this playing out in Unionist communities in NI? Journalist and Unionist commentator Newton Emerson summed it up when he wrote the following in the Irish Times:

‘Unionism’s largest party has consigned the UK to a zombie government, keeping Labour out of office but the Tories barely in power. The British public, having been forced to notice the DUP, has had every nationalist trope of Unionism’s awful “un-Britishness” seemingly confirmed. The same public has demonstrated its indifference, certainly at the ballot box, to the Labour leadership’s past sympathies with the IRA.’

Unionist fears are further compounded by the demographic clock. Dublin economist David McWilliams, who famously predicted the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, married into a Unionist family. His observation reveals something of the change in Northern Ireland:

‘I’ve been travelling around Ulster recently, taking in the views from rural Markethill in South Armagh to the prosperous King’s Road, Belmont and Stormont suburbs of east Belfast, and from coastal fishing villages of the Ards Peninsula to the council estates of Cookstown in Tyrone. I have seen Union Jacks and even UVF flags where I never saw them before. The anxiety of Unionism about the ticking demographic clock is captured by this “backs-to-the-wall” display of extravagant loyalist pageantry on the streets. On present trends, Catholics will be in the majority in Northern Ireland by the end of the next decade.’

Is there a future for a united Ireland? Would the Irish political class allow a referendum on it? And, more importantly, would they respect the democratic decision? Taking up his role as the spokesman for the southern Irish political elite, Fintan O’Toole thinks it will not stand: ‘The simplistic notion that a quick transition to Irish unity will solve the problem is utterly unconstitutional. The Constitution requires a profound reconciliation between diverse identities. That in turn requires people to be secure and confident in their sense of belonging.’

O’Toole is trying to put a legal cover on the reality of current political trends. The southern Irish elites did not respect the democratic decisions of their people in two referendums on EU treaties. Their British counterparts have shown the same attitude in refusing to respect the Brexit vote. Even if a border poll was demanded by the public, a united Ireland by democratic means seems an unlikely prospect.

The tide of history is turning in the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland. Both nationalism and Unionism are now equally despised. The attempt to articulate a new political dispensation through culture and identity, which is central to the peace process, is producing not reconciliation, but a deeper and more dangerous personal enmity. Ireland needs a vision for a future that can prevent this slide into a repressed misanthropy.

With many thanks to: Spiked and Denis Russell for the original story

Denis Russell is a former history teacher.

 

No-deal Brexit could cause free trade issues for UK – Varadkar

Leo Varadkar said the UK could struggle to negotiate free trade deals

The Taoiseach has said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit the UK would have to accept full regulatory and customs alignment in Northern Ireland if it were to honour its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking in Davos, Leo Varadkar also said that the UK could struggle to negotiate free trade deals elsewhere around the world if the Irish border question remained unresolved.

He said: “The United Kingdom would have a responsibility to abide by WTO rules and both the UK and Ireland would have responsibilities to honour the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process.

“So I think we would end up in a situation where EU and Ireland and the UK would have to come together, and in order to honour our commitment to the people of Ireland that there be no hard border, we would have to agree on full alignment on customs and regulations, so after a period of chaos we would perhaps end up where we are now, with a very similar deal.

“The United Kingdom in a no-deal scenario will face enormous difficulties.

“In a no-deal scenario Ireland will still be in the single market, and will still be part of all those trade deals which come with being part of Europe, the trade deal with Japan, the trade deal with Canada, the trade deal with Korea, the trade deal with Singapore.

“In a no-deal scenario, the UK won’t have any trade deals with anyone, and I think it will be very difficult for them to conclude any trade deals with the question of the Irish border unresolved. Given we have a solution on the table already, let’s ratify that.”

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

Brexit: John Bruton says Britain has decided to ‘tear up’ GFA with Brexit

Britain has decided to “tear up” the Good Friday Agreement by going ahead with Brexit, a former Irish prime minister has said.

John Burton argued the Brexit vote had “negated” the 1998 referendum held in the North of Ireland and the South, which showed a majority in favour of the peace agreement.

He argued a no deal will lead to a hard border on the island.

Mr Bruton also said Sinn Féin’s refusal to take their seats in Westminster was a “tragedy”.

Unilaterally
“Unfortunately in Ireland we had no say in this [Brexit] – the British people decided on this freely. In so doing, they effectively negated a referendum we had in Ireland,” Mr Bruton told BBC’s Today programme.

“Remember, we changed our constitution, took certain articles out of our constitution in return for an international commitment from Britain to the Belfast Agreement which guaranteed fair treatment of both communities in Northern Ireland, that neither community would be isolated.

“We changed our constitution to make that deal and Britain then comes along unilaterally and essentially decides to tear that up by proceeding with Brexit… and that’s why we have insisted on a backstop to protect the Good Friday Agreement, so that Britain can’t do that.”

Mr Bruton served as Taoiseach between 1994 and 1997. He was later appointed as the EU’s ambassador to the US between 2004 and 2009.

On Tuesday, members of parliament in the UK are expected to hold their vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for the UK’s withdrawal and future relationship with the European Union.

The key vote has been delayed from 11 December 2018.

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.

“One suspects that those who object to the backstop are people who don’t really ever expect there will be an acceptable agreement that would avoid a hard border in Ireland or between Ireland and Britain,” added Mr Bruton.

On Sinn Féin’s policy of abstention at Westminster, he said: “Ireland was partitioned in 1920 when Sinn Féin refused to take their seats after the 1918 election.

“Sinn Féin have refused to take their seats on this occasion and the most serious threats to the position of Northern nationalists are now about to be realised – with no Sinn Féin, no Northern nationalist voice there to argue a different case.

“I think it’s a great shame, it’s a tragedy.”

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story

UK AMBASSADOR: “USING LIBYA’S FROZEN FUNDS IS NOT BRITISH GOVERNMENT INTENTION

The ambassador of the United Kingdom (UK) to Libya, Frank Baker has confirmed that only few MPs at the British House of Commons, mainly representing Northern Ireland, are the ones who spoke of using Libya’s frozen assets to compensate victims of the Irish Republican Army (IRA.)

This statement came as Baker met with the Head of the High Council of State (HCS) Khalid Al-Mishri in Tripoli where both officials reviewed the issue of the frozen funds among other talks, HCS media office reported.

“Those MPs are few and it is difficult for such a decision to pass at the House of Commons. The Gaddafi-backed IRA attacks’ victims were compensated before his death through the United States.” Baker said.

He added that the UK did not decide upon this matter and the rumors surrounding the UK’s stance of it are false, pointing out that such an issue could be resolved with the Presidential Council Head and Foreign Minister, away from the “media’s provocation.”

“We do reject using Libya’s frozen assets in that way and we do confirm that the case has been solved at the time of Gaddafi’s regime. The funds are for all Libyans and are frozen by a UN Security Council resolution.” Al-Mishri said.

He also reviewed the free economic zone in Sirte and was backed by Baker that such a project is very vital for both countries.

UK House of Commons was set to vote for allowing the government to use Libya’s frozen assets in Britain to compensate IRA victims.

With many thanks to: The Libya Observer and Abdulkader Assad for the origional posting.

 

Syria intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concern

Massacres of civilians are being exploited for narrow geopolitical competition to control Mideast oil, gas pipelines.

U.N. chemical weapons experts visit people affected by an apparent gas attack, at a hospital in the southwestern Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya.

On 21 August, hundreds – perhaps over a thousand – people were killed in a chemical weapon attack in Ghouta, Damascus, prompting the US, UK, Israel and France to raise the spectre of military strikes against Bashir al Assad’s forces.

The latest episode is merely one more horrific event in a conflict that has increasingly taken on genocidal characteristics. The case for action at first glance is indisputable. The UN now confirms a death toll over 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom have been killed by Assad’s troops. An estimated 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. International observers have overwhelmingly confirmed Assad’s complicity in the preponderance of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people. The illegitimacy of his regime, and the legitimacy of the uprising, is clear.

Experts are unanimous that the shocking footage of civilians, including children, suffering the effects of some sort of chemical attack, is real – but remain divided on whether it involved military-grade chemical weapons associated with Assad’s arsenal, or were a more amateur concoction potentially linked to the rebels.

Whatever the case, few recall that US agitation against Syria began long before recent atrocities, in the context of wider operations targeting Iranian influence across the Middle East.

In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorised CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. A range of US government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had “cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations” intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria,” wrote Hersh, “a byproduct” of which is “the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups” hostile to the United States and “sympathetic to al-Qaeda.” He noted that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria,” with a view to pressure him to be “more conciliatory and open to negotiations” with Israel. One faction receiving covert US “political and financial support” through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business”, he told French television:

“I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria.”

The 2011 uprisings, it would seem – triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes – came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years”, starting with Iraq and moving on to “Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources.

Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War (pdf). The report noted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource.” As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has “motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states”:

“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”

In this context, the report identified several potential trajectories for regional policy focused on protecting access to Gulf oil supplies, among which the following are most salient:

“Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces… the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace… US leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world…. possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”

Exploring different scenarios for this trajectory, the report speculated that the US may concentrate “on shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.” Noting that this could actually empower al-Qaeda jihadists, the report concluded that doing so might work in western interests by bogging down jihadi activity with internal sectarian rivalry rather than targeting the US:

“One of the oddities of this long war trajectory is that it may actually reduce the al-Qaeda threat to US interests in the short term. The upsurge in Shia identity and confidence seen here would certainly cause serious concern in the Salafi-jihadist community in the Muslim world, including the senior leadership of al-Qaeda. As a result, it is very likely that al-Qaeda might focus its efforts on targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations.”

The RAND document contextualised this disturbing strategy with surprisingly prescient recognition of the increasing vulnerability of the US’s key allies and enemies – Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Syria, Iran – to a range of converging crises: rapidly rising populations, a ‘youth bulge’, internal economic inequalities, political frustrations, sectarian tensions, and environmentally-linked water shortages, all of which could destabilise these countries from within or exacerbate inter-state conflicts.

The report noted especially that Syria is among several “downstream countries that are becoming increasingly water scarce as their populations grow”, increasing a risk of conflict. Thus, although the RAND document fell far short of recognising the prospect of an ‘Arab Spring’, it illustrates that three years before the 2011 uprisings, US defence officials were alive to the region’s growing instabilities, and concerned by the potential consequences for stability of Gulf oil.

These strategic concerns, motivated by fear of expanding Iranian influence, impacted Syria primarily in relation to pipeline geopolitics. In 2009 – the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria – Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. An Agence France-Presse report claimed Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas”.

Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July 2012 – just as Syria’s civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo – and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines.
The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a “direct slap in the face” to Qatar’s plans. No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladmir Putin that “whatever regime comes after” Assad, it will be “completely” in Saudi Arabia’s hands and will “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports”, according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action.

It would seem that contradictory self-serving Saudi and Qatari oil interests are pulling the strings of an equally self-serving oil-focused US policy in Syria, if not the wider region. It is this – the problem of establishing a pliable opposition which the US and its oil allies feel confident will play ball, pipeline-style, in a post-Assad Syria – that will determine the nature of any prospective intervention: not concern for Syrian life.

What is beyond doubt is that Assad is a war criminal whose government deserves to be overthrown. The question is by whom, and for what interests?

• This article was amended on 7 October 2015 to provide clearer attribution to a quote about tAssad’s rationale for rejecting Qatar’s proposed oil pipeline.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

A more detailed in-depth special report based on this article is available at the author’s website here.

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

Follow these links to find out more: http://anonhq.com/cia-hell-bent-destroying-syria-oil-declassified-document-reveals/

https://skwawkbox.org/2018/04/15/video-bbcs-cbs-clip-gives-away-no-chemical-weapons-in-destroyed-syria-lab/

MoD aware of 350 breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen

An Amnesty International protest of Yemeni civilians killed by airstrikes.

The Ministry of Defence has tracked 350 breaches of international humanitarian law in Yemen, new figures show.

Campaigners called the number “staggering” and warned UK arms had played a central role in creating one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

Saudi Arabia has faced criticism over its role in Yemen’s civil war, with warnings the Saudis were “orchestrating what will potentially become the worst famine in the last 50 years”.

Defence minister Mark Lancaster said alleged breaches were best investigated by the Saudi-led joint incident assessment team, with the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) figures used to monitor the country’s approach.

The UK has sold £4.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since its bombing in Yemen began, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

The campaign’s Andrew Smith said: “These figures are staggering and shameful, but that is only part of the story. These aren’t just numbers on a tracker, they are also people’s lives.

“The three year bombardment has seen the destruction of schools, homes and hospitals. Thousands of people have been killed, and yet the arms sales have continued.

“We are always hearing how rigorous and robust UK arms export controls supposedly are, but these figures show how empty those boasts are.

“The people of Yemen are living through one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, and UK arms have played a central role in creating it.”

In January 2017 the Government said it was tracking 252 alleged violations in Yemen.

Ministers have repeatedly insisted they operate one of the strictest arms export control regimes in the world.

They also say Saudi Arabia has a right to defend itself from Houthi rebels operating in Yemen, who have launched missile attacks against the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The new figures were released in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

He said the figure “is a fraction of the number of war crimes that have been routinely occurring in Yemen”, most of which had been committed by the Saudi air force.

“The so called joint incidents assessment team, the self-investigating body set up as a fig leaf to make legal Saudi Arabia’s destruction of Yemen, has reported on only 41 allegations of international humanitarian law violations – a fraction of the MoD’s fraction. In reality, these statistics are meaningless,” Mr Russell-Moyle said.“They are designed to make the war look tidy and make Britain appear in control of its dubious ally, which is acting against all notions of proportion and restraint. The Tories are simply prioritising private profit over the lives of Yemenis.”

In his reply, Mr Lancaster said that as of March 21, the number of alleged instances of breaches or violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) in Yemen listed on the “tracker” database maintained by the MoD is 350.

He said 14 of these are duplicate entries, which means some incidents will have been recorded on more than one occasion due to the way the data is compiled.

Mr Lancaster added: “The MoD does not investigate allegations of Saudi-led coalition IHL violations.

“The Saudi-led coalition is best placed to do this, and does so through its joint incident assessment team.

“MoD analysis of alleged IHL violations is used to form an overall view on Saudi Arabia’s approach and attitude to IHL.”

Mr Smith, though, said the Government’s own analysis “suggests that breaches of international law have become a routine part of the bombing campaign”.

He added: “After three years of destruction, what more will it take for Theresa May and her colleagues to stop arming and supporting the Saudi dictatorship?”

With many thanks to the: The Daily Mail for the origional story.

Boris Johnson: If a hard border is reintroduced, 95% plus of goods could pass the border without checks

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson has said the Government should focus on stopping the Irish border becoming “significantly” harder after Brexit and suggested that crossings of the frontier could be monitored by technology like travel between London boroughs.

The Foreign Secretary said “there’s no border between Camden and Westminster” as he suggested that goods crossing between the Republic and Northern Ireland could be subject to electronic checks, in an apparent reference to the congestion charge.

Further details of his thinking on the issue are contained in a leaked letter to the Prime Minister in which he suggests “it is wrong to see the task as maintaining ‘no border”‘ but instead the aim was to stop the frontier becoming “significantly harder”.

The letter, obtained by Sky News, suggested that “even if a hard border is reintroduced, we would expect to see 95% + of goods pass the border (without) checks”.

The document from the Foreign Secretary, entitled “The Northern Ireland/Ireland border – the Facilitated Solution”, accompanies a “concept note” that “draws on Foreign Office expertise”.

The leak comes a day ahead of the publication of the European Commission’s draft text for the withdrawal deal.

This will include procedures for putting into operation the “alignment” of Northern Irish regulations with the EU rulebook, which will be needed if no technological solution is found to keep the border with the Republic open after Brexit.

Whitehall sources insisted that there was agreement the task was not about “no border” but “it’s about no hard border”.

Mr Johnson’s comparison of the the Irish border to north London was dismissed as “willful recklessness” and “unbelievable” by Labour MPs.

Mr Johnson also said that the CBI business lobby group and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were “wrong” to back a customs union with Brussels, as it would leave Britain a “colony” of the EU in a situation that would be the “worst of all worlds”.

Mr Corbyn’s initiative has set the scene for possible defeat for Theresa May at the hands of Tory rebels and Labour in an upcoming Commons vote on the Trade Bill.

But Mr Johnson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “You can’t suck and blow at once, as they say, we’re going to have to come out of the customs union in order to be able to do free trade deals.”

And with the EU set to publish a legal document containing commitments to avoid a hard Irish frontier on Wednesday, Mr Johnson dismissed the suggestion that leaving the tariff-free customs union would see the erection of border posts on the island.

“There’s no border between Camden and Westminster, but when I was mayor of London we anaesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people travelling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks whatever,” he told Today.

“It’s a very relevant comparison because there’s all sorts of scope for pre-booking, electronic checks, all sorts of things that you can do to obviate the need for a hard border to allow us to come out of the customs union, take back control of our trade policy and do trade deals.”

Responding, Labour anti-Brexit MP David Lammy tweeted “God help us all this isn’t just stupidity and ignorance but wilful recklessness”, while Paul Blomfield said it was “unbelievable”.

Mr Johnson’s border comments were mocked by Tottenham Labour MP Mr Lammy, who said on Twitter: “When I was a young boy we were told to stay away from the Troubles on the Caledonian Rd & marching bands in Regent’s Park. The Chalk Farm Peace Agreement has brought peace in our time. People can get the tube from Camden Town to Finsbury Park without being searched at the border.”

Sheffield Labour MP Mr Blomfield said: “Stumbling, bumbling borisjohnson compares north & south of Ireland with Islington & Camden on r4Today while trying to explain his frictionless border without a Customs Union. Unbelievable!”

Meanwhile International Trade Secretary Liam Fox became embroiled in a row with a former top official at his department over the Government’s Brexit plans.

Sir Martin Donnelly said leaving the customs union to strike free trade deals around the world was like “giving up a three-course meal for the promise of a packet of crisps”.

Sir Martin, who left his role as permanent secretary at the Department of International Trade last year, said any divergence from Brussels’ rules would deal a blow to British services which would not be compensated for through deals with nations such as the US.

But Dr Fox, answering questions after a speech in London, said: “It is unsurprising that those who spent a lifetime working within the European Union would see moving away from the European Union as being threatening.”

The International Trade Secretary said the UK could reach agreements with the EU as well as other nations.

“It is not a choice of one or the other. And, in any case, I think the UK Brexit process is, as we have all discovered, a little more complex than a packet of Walkers.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.