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Border skirmish February 28, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Another Brexiter, Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, told BBC Newsnight on Tuesday: “We are not having a hard border in Northern Ireland under any circumstances.”But he added: “If the EU wants a hard border, and they put stuff up at the border, that’s their problem. That’s not our problem.”

Jenkin does not appear to understand that that is not the way borders work in relation to both customs areas and trade. The UK would be in breach of WTO agreements were it not to institute border controls in the event of a ‘hard Brexit’.

Northern news February 28, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Hmmm… what to make of Newton Emerson’s latest thoughts on the issue of cooperation between Dublin and London. He’s very critical of the current state of affairs.

During the last Stormont collapse, between 2002 and 2007, Ahern ran a model of British-Irish co-operation, restoring devolution while fully upholding the integrity of the Belfast Agreement.
London and Dublin’s handling of the latest crisis, by contrast, has been a fiasco.

Okay. But this simply isn’t comparing like and like. Ahern and Blair were key architects of the GFA/BA. May and Varadkar (or Coveney) are not. Indeed it is not unfair to say that May in particular is leader of a party that has been disinterested at best in the functioning of the Agreement.
And Emerson, to his credit does acknowledge this:

Coveney cannot be held even half responsible for this, as there is only so much Ireland can do when Britain declines to turn up. Nevertheless, a pointed comparison must be made.

He continues:

The agreement’s mechanism for co-operation between London and Dublin is the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, a standing body based in Belfast.
It is meant to meet regularly at ministerial level, with heads of government summits as required. Its remit covers non-devolved matters and review of the overall settlement. The UK remains sovereign but Ireland’s consultative role extends to making proposals. Stormont ministers may be involved when relevant, although again only on non-devolved matters.
The conference kept to a full schedule throughout the five-year suspension, averaging three ministerial meetings and one summit per year. It also kept strictly to its remit, never once straying into any devolved issue despite the absence of devolution.

But again, not like with like. He notes that subsequent to this the conference was quietly shelved in 2007. Now huge criticism can be directed at London and Dublin over this, but as he also acknowledges, in a way the shelving was a function of success, matters appeared resolved for the most part.
He is right that Enda Kenny should have worked the GFA/BA due to Brexit. And he is correct when he says:

So when Stormont collapsed last January, there was no active British-Irish structure to address it.

And he is even more correct when he notes:

Irish alarm at Brexit and the DUP-Tory deal may make hostility understandable but that is a reason for more careful adherence to structure. The DUP-Tory deal contains a Chinese wall between Westminster and Northern Ireland affairs; the remit of the conference would be ideal for policing breaches.

The essential problem is this. A lack of interest, a wish, or a hope, or whatever that the issue of the North was essentially parked in a pre-Brexit world and now, in a Brexit world all is chaos.
In a sense all this is, difficult as it may be to admit it, a sideshow. Until the nature of the final state of Brexit is apparent all the efforts of the governments or whoever in relation to the North will be marginal. Not entirely so, but to a large degree.

A Guide To Election Poster Sleds February 28, 2018

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.

My children were looking in the shed at a bunch of election posters to use as possible sleds…….. A guide I did for them 😀

FG – Smooth ,slick and great for those who want to spin … but be warned it could go downhill at speed
FF – Solid but previously caused a big crash
Lab – Excellent at U turns, promises to go Left but turns right instead
SF – Durable but loses slickness over time
Ind – Promises much but hard to steer or control
Renua – Flimsy and constantly veers to the far right

Who did I miss? 🙂

Customs Unions and Single Markets? Why or why not? February 28, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I’m fascinated by Liam Fox, as a representative of this Tory led Brexit, opining on the customs union and arguing that to remain in the EU CU would somehow be a ‘sell-out’. One has to wonder does he understand the function of a customs union.

Flexibility will be key to any future trade policy, he will say, including deals with groups of nations and individual ones. “We will consider multi-country alliances of the like-minded right down to bilateral arrangements,” he will say.
“To do this, we need the ability to exercise a fully independent trade policy. We have to maximise overall trading opportunities for the UK and secure the prosperity of our people.”
Agreeing to remain in a customs union with the EU would make Britain an unattractive trading partner and prevent future trade deals with non-EU nations, he will say.
“As rule takers, without any say in how the rules were made, we would be in a worse position than we are today. It would be a complete sell out of Britain’s national interests,” Fox will say, in a speech at Bloomberg.

But there’s a problem with this. What is the cost benefit ratio analysis which allows him to argue that remaining with the CU would leave the UK in a ‘worse position’? He doesn’t offer one and one has to suspect it doesn’t actually exist. Moreover, ‘worse position’ in regard to what? One can be in a good position to do many things, but that doesn’t mean that those things are better than if one were in a different position entirely. So – for example, being a member of the largest trading and market bloc on the planet might well offer different and greater advantages to not being a member even if in that latter position one was able to forge a larger range of trade deals. One might in the latter instance have more ‘freedom’ but less actual return on that ‘freedom’. And that’s what is so irritating about the whole discourse that Fox and others lock into around Brexit. The rather prosaic realities of the relationships that have evolved in respect to the SM and CU are of their nature somewhat dull. Whereas their supposed meanings – as presented by the likes of Fox suggests aspects to them that simply don’t exist. This is not to say there are no negatives to membership of the CU or SM, but rather that the ideological freighting that is taking place in terms of presenting said membership as enslavement or suchlike is simply not comparing like and like.

In a way Fox et al are trying to sell a pup. They know, because the basic statistics are readily available to anyone interested that potential trade outside the EU simply cannot make up the shortfall of a hard Brexit. Yet they persist in arguing as if the opposite is the case.

Martin Donnelly who was head of Fox’s international trade department until last year makes some salient counter-points:

“We really have to focus on the realities of Brexit and the choices we’ve got ahead of us. If we leave the customs union and the single market, we are taking away the access that we’ve got to 60% of our trade, nearly half with the EU and the other 12% through EU preferential trade deals
… you have to look at the facts. It’s about how the British economy works,” he said.


Donnelly, who was permanent secretary at the international trade department until last year, said the EU was “the only functioning market for services in the world” and key to Britain’s prosperity as an advanced service economy.
“We risk losing that level playing field or being shut out entirely and we have got to look at how this really works in practice,” he said. “The challenge if we choose not to stay in the single market, is can we negotiate equal access in all those areas of services without agreeing to obey the same rules as everybody else?
“I’m afraid I think that’s not a negotiation, that is something for a fairy godmother, it’s not going to happen.”

Boris Johnson was able to meet this critique with…. nothing. He had absolutely nothing, so he resorted to trying to undermine Donnelly in a most pernicious fashion.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson said Donnelly’s words were a “counsel of despair” and did not take into account the future demand for British services outside the EU. “I dissent very strongly from what he says, if you look at the real growth opportunities for this country, they are not in the EU, the growth markets in the world are outside the EU and we should be going for both,” he told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme.
“I’ve known Martin for many years as a friend and he’s a very, very good man. But he was in the European Commission. I don’t agree for a moment for what he says. 
“The great potential is in services and that is one of the things we have got to emphasise, data, banking, financial services. To say the world has exhausted its appetite for British-led services is absolutely a counsel of despair, the market is insatiable. It’s our capacity to supply that is the issue.”

But Johnson is being both pernicious and disingenuous. The world may well like British-led services, may indeed have an appetite for them, but that doesn’t mean they will outperform to the extent needed the inevitable trade shortfall. And complaining its a counsel of despair is no complaint at all.

This blog here linked to in comments on the CLR, for which many thanks, made a point I think really needs to be considered. Discussing the Corbyn leadership’s belated support for ‘a’ customs union it argues that:

The wee problem is that the debate opening up does not look like a step towards progress and resolution. It looks instead like another flavor of incomprehension about how the EU and trade regimes work, and yet another set of incoherent and unworkable plans.

I won’t discuss the Corbyn approach because that is – for obvious reasons, tactical and makes sense in the context of a superheated political discourse in the UK on these matters, but I think the point is well made. The sheer ignorance of Fox or Johnson in relation to how EU and trade regimes just work is remarkable. Again, in part this is a function of lack of interest, but more I believe this is due to their using the EU as a receptacle for all woes (we see a variant of this on some parts of the left too, but the difference is that this is a Tory-led Brexit). Simply put there is no understanding of how a basic aspect of the socio-economic system they claim to champion functions in practice. Again this is all fairly dull stuff, when set against the Manichaean language of the Brexiteers (and indeed the utterly absurd rhetoric of some pro-EU exponents) for the mundane truth is that the common market that so many complain was somehow lost in the 1980s in fact exists near enough in full and tedious it is indeed to parse through it. But the work has to be done because even in the absence of the EU such an entity would continue to be necessary to allow for pan-continental and further trade, and a further small truth, the EU isn’t going away.

I don’t know, I can’t help but feel that there is going to be a reckoning on all this at some point, but then perhaps Fox and his ilk believe that by then the damage will be done and there will be no going back. That’s quite some assumption. And even if they are correct that reckoning will still occur. Sooner or later.

Snowy it is… February 28, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Schools are out and the IT is in informal mood today…

The snow has caused major travel disruption with many roads treacherous. In Dublin, Luas and Dublin Bus services are severely curtailed, while Bus Éireann said its services were also majorly disrupted.

What you want to say – 28th February, 2018 February 28, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

A dangerous ignorance: Does Johnson believe what he says himself? February 28, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

If so we’re in bigger trouble than we thought. His considered opinion in regard to the Border is that:

“We think that we can have very efficient facilitation systems to make sure that there’s no need for a hard Border, excessive checks at the frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“There’s no border between Islington or Camden and Westminster, 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.”

Now some might think this a remarkably stupid point to make. Not least because it’s not the vehicle crossing the border that is the issue but what it contains.

But he’s prepared for that. Oh no, hold on, he isn’t actually:

Mr Johnson said he was making “a very relevant comparison” because there was “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.”

Small wonder that those closer to the issue are disbelieving:

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he would like to educate Mr Johnson about Border issues.
“When Boris Johnson decides to come down from the other planet that he clearly inhabits, he should visit the Irish Border and see the scale of the challenge we’re facing with his own eyes before making further pronouncements,” he said.
The SDLP said it sent a memo to the Foreign Office detailing the difficulties with a hard Border and the realities faced by people, businesses and communities. “Trivialising the very serious concerns relating to Ireland displays a dangerous ignorance that must be challenged,” Mr Eastwood said.

And David Cullinane TD of SF is equally excoriating:

“It is not surprising that Boris Johnson would make those kind of silly comparisons because he and the hard Brexiteers simply do not want to face up to the reality that any type of Brexit or any type of exit from the customs union and the single market for Britain and the north will mean a hardening of the Border,” he said. “I do not think it will be a surprise for many people that Boris Johnson would make an ignorant observation when it comes to Ireland.” –

Of course as RTÉ notes there’s more to this:

Further details of his thinking on the issue are contained in a leaked letter to British Prime Minister Theresa May 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 Mr Johnson, entitled “The Northern Ireland/Ireland border – the Facilitated Solution”, accompanies a “concept note” that “draws on Foreign Office expertise”.

Only 95% + of goods. Perhaps he might reflect on what 1-4% of crossings might be in a day? And how that might impact on said crossings.

There’s also concern this evening that this represents a ‘hint of a return to a hard border’. Well I never.

Here’s a question, does anyone know has Johnson been to the Border? Does he have any practical sense of the shape and extent of this issue?

Decommissioning February 27, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Anyone see the spread, quite elaborate too, in the Irish News this week where Alison Morris wrote about the OIRA/ORM decommissioning process with quotes from some involved and a long piece with Rev Harold Good. Just on the latter his patience and input was clearly crucial in the decommissioning process more broadly. And as to the OIRA/ORM, perhaps interesting that it gives us a sense of the nature of the processes.

Mention is made of late 1980s Soviet made rifles and silencers – the piece notes that this was ‘long after the group had called a ceasefire’.

Perhaps most usefully the OIRA/ORM members pour cold water on the retention of weapons supposedly for a ‘doomsday’ situation in the North (as suggested here), and argue that ‘the weapons were retained in case hostilities were to resurface between old rivals’. It notes that one member suggests that had the murders of Gerarrd Davison and Kevin McGuigan occurred at the time of decommissioning they might have been more reluctant to part with the weapons – ‘I suppose they showed that they [PIRA] could still be active if they wanted to’. The members were open that some weapons remained beyond the decommissioning process, either discovered after or lost by former members.

Winter has come! – redux February 27, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Okay, a slightly different winter from Citizen of Nowhere’s post earlier today/yesterday evening, but the pre-warnings in regard to weather events is something relatively new. And welcome, even if some in business seem a bit testy about the temerity of the state in doing so. Some shops ran out of certain foodstuffs last night, and two thoughts on that, firstly that it’s not stupid of people to stock up on a little extra if workplaces do close, secondly that supply chains seem a little more fragile than I’d expect. Anyhow, could be an interesting week weatherwise.

Two years since Election 2016 February 27, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As Noel Whelan reminded us in an article in the IT last week. And Whelan makes a number of interesting points having considered the polls in the subsequent period up to now. He argues that FG is well ahead of FF but that it is not in a position to gamble all on returning a number significant enough to do away with the current arrangement. FF is nowhere near the numbers for an overall majority, or even a reverse confidence and supply agreement. SF under McDonald has yet to manifest a serious upward tick in support, and all others aren’t in the picture for government formation.

His conclusion:

In reality Varadkar is as likely to surge further in a campaign as he is to slip. Much will depend on the circumstances in which that election is called. It is difficult to see, however, how he or his party could do well enough to remove the need for dependence on another confidence and supply arrangements.
The polls suggest there is currently no rational political reason why either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael should want an election at this stage.

Interestingly, the Phoenix takes a different view in the latest edition (as always well worth a read), arguing that Fine Gael want to precipitate an election as soon as possible, though the timeline the Phoenix points to, around the next Budget in the Autumn or early in 2019, seems quite a long way away. For the Phoenix FG is eager to run to the country. For Whelan it isn’t.

I suspect that the reality is perhaps between those two points. And one has to factor in the increase in FF’s poll support in the RedC/SBP poll at the weekend. That’s only one poll, and yet, were that to be sustained…

The entertaining thing is that in the last two years I have heard incessantly how at a point generally fixed on three months from wherever one is there will be an election – that FG will call it or FF conspire to make it happen in order that they get a majority. That some of those who tell me this in earnest tones are themselves candidates is telling. But none of it is particularly convincing. My feeling from the off was that once a government deal was cobbled together the chances were it would survive at least one or possibly two budgets, and actually the longer it survived the more likely it was to keep on surviving.

Before Christmas it seemed to me almost unbelievable that there would be an actual collapse of the government and election that would run into the Christmas period. It just did not make political sense – and those who then claimed once that crisis was resolved that it would be in the early New Year were no more convincing.

Those of us who cast our minds back to 2010/11 will remember all too well how frantically the then government sought to retain power. That’s the thing. For all the stuff about increased majorities and so on the reality is that once in situ politicians are generally happy to coast until the next election. And that government that fell in 2011 was surely one of the most precarious arrangements on record. So no surprise that this one which has FF locked in too, albeit externally, is moving along quite happily. It certainly doesn’t feel like an administration on its last legs or only extant at the gift of FF. Anything but. I wonder now do Martin etc regret not pushing for a second election in 2016. Perhaps, but they too must recognise that that might only have led to an utterly enraged electorate who were all too happy for the political parties sort out matters.

As it stands – and again events excepted, unless the polls showed a strong consistent lead opening up, and even then, I’d put some money on its surviving another year at least. Which brings us neatly into local and EU election territory. And after that…

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