If all goes well from my point of view, the United Kingdom will perhaps at some point soon leave the European Union, 46 years after it joined the institution – which was of course then known as the European Economic Community back in 1973. Having been happily re-adopted by the Lincoln constituency Conservatives recently as their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, I was hoping for a run of good luck…

Whatever your view, it will be a momentous moment in our country’s political history, which will no doubt change the way the UK interacts with the rest of the world and the way others see us.  That can be a positive thing.

Some EU leaders have now made it excruciatingly clear (late in the day) that they do not want ‘no deal’, recognising to the outside world, what we all already knew, that it will negatively impact on their own countries. So it is now clear that they have never wanted it – which makes it so irreconcilable that some individual Remainers in senior political positions in the UK insisted on taking ‘no deal’ off the negotiating table and hugely reducing our bargaining position. One doubts they have the self-awareness to realise they have demonstrated to the public they aren’t good enough in the roles they currently hold.

The Prime Minister was maybe right in her address from Downing Street at the end of last month to finally bite back at the negative MPs who have been happily denigrating her personally, as well as her Government and the negotiations she and her colleagues have conducted. Maybe it could have been phrased and delivered in a better way, but considering the many MPs from all sides – aided and abetted by ‘players’ like the former Prime Minister Tony Blair continuing to undermine our Government and our country and the negotiation meetings, at every turn – one could see that eventually a day of reckoning was on the cards. These naysayer Remainers and their ilk, particularly Blair, were continuing to undermine the process by spinning that the UK would have another referendum at some point and would reverse its decision. Spoiler alert: that isn’t going to happen.

Our country, some say, is teetering on the edge of a political crater of an EU volcano that may blow at any point. Some would point out that the EU is in the same quandary, and continually moving the goalposts as the EU is trying to do only makes the situation worse. Another example of the EU duplicity is demonstrated by DUP leader Arlene Foster who has referenced that the Irish Government is behaving childishly and aggressively in raising the border issue in the way they have. That’s as may be. The recent claims that actually there is a way for an invisible border to be maintained is quite the revelation, so why was it such a stumbling block for many months?

It is to the Irish Taoiseach and EU’s shame that their politicking around a non-issue – in their pursuit of a big enough spanner to throw in the ‘works’ of a deal – has been seen to be just that. That is, gaming the process and working outside the negotiations and using this very real but ‘fake’ Ireland issue to try and negate Brexit, or at best to permanently delay it. In doing so, they would be keeping the UK leashed at the very least as a supplicant in relation to the other 27 EU states, with no voting rights on all the important issues.

That is not leaving, and for democracy and politics to be fixed in the UK the powers-that-be ought to be aware that the voting public have had enough. They say so on the doorsteps as I and many activists are out knocking on doors and talking to people every weekend. They voted, in a majority, to leave, but whichever way they voted, they expected their will to be implemented.

To not understand that and to wilfully frustrate the original and recent People’s Vote of 2016, backed up by a general election when 85% backed the two main parties whose central policy plank was to implement the Leave result, leads us into a dark place.

Leaving the EU, even with no Withdrawal Agreement, does not mean we leave Europe, or that we will no longer trade with, or holiday in, Europe. It means we can carry on treating our nearest European countries as trading partners, on (friendly) WTO terms until further agreements are reached (yes, the Great British Public are going to love it when they realise that these Brexit negotiations are scheduled to go on for years and years, whatever happens with the Withdrawal Agreement). But whilst all this is happening with Europe, we will as a nation have our sovereign powers back to pass what laws we wish to, control immigration to our economic and social advantage and to reach out and engage in trade deals with the Commonwealth countries and all other countries around the world in the great global economy in which we are a proud and key player.

The post Wilfully frustrating the result of the People’s Vote of 2016 would lead us to a dark place appeared first on BrexitCentral.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA) is constructed on the principle of consent, including;

  • Consent of the British Government that a part of its territory, Northern Ireland, will be subject to special arrangements, including those with the Irish Republic;
  • Consent that any change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland can only occur if desired by a majority;
  • Consent by the Nationalist community there to the present constitutional status, along with a mechanism to change that status, if a majority so desire; and
  • Consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly to any alteration in the cross-border arrangements

All these interlacing sets of arrangements are delicately balanced and were arrived at after many years of painstaking discussion and compromises. The Agreement represented no single party or side’s ideal but there was enough consensus there to achieve a durable settlement on the basis of consent.

The hardline demands of the EU today, essentially driven by the Government in Dublin, are light years away from the approach which characterised that of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in the late 1990s and made the Agreement possible. The Agreement was designed to usher in a new and constructive era of mature relations between the UK and Ireland. We were to become close partners over a whole series of areas.

The reaction of the authorities in Dublin to British efforts to negotiate a sensible and smooth Brexit has been the antithesis of the process that led to the GFA. Instead of the two Governments’ commitment to “develop still further the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours “, there has been a stubborn resistance to accepting the UK decision to leave the EU. This has been alongside a strong alliance with implacable Remainers in London. This has made the Brexit process much more difficult and fed into the agenda of those in Brussels, and also Paris, who are determined to make an example of Britain for daring to leave their club. It is completely contrary to Ireland’s real national interest and the spirit of the GFA.

This hardline policy from Dublin is now endangering the entire GFA, which can only function as long as the participants in that Agreement are willing for it to do so. Demanding that Northern Ireland is detached economically from the rest of the United Kingdom, without the consent of the population, carries the danger of strongly alienating one side of the community there. Frustrating the UK’s efforts to come to a balanced accommodation with Brussels will inevitably lead to some in London questioning the foundation on which the GFA is based, trust that Ireland and the UK can be close and mutually supportive allies. There is also the damage that is being done to community relations in Northern Ireland.

The GFA recognised that cross border co-operation was dependent on consensus north of the Border. Meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council always had at least one Minister from either side of the communal divide; and the GFA specifically states that any further development of North-South arrangements is “to be by agreement… with the specific endorsement of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Oireachtas (Irish Houses of Parliament)”. By seeking to bypass the consent of one side of the community, the Irish Government is deepening division and undermining the whole basis on which the GFA was built.  This position is developed further in our recent Policy Exchange paper The Irish Border and the Principle of Consent.

The upholding of the GFA is, of course, a laudable aim and is shared by authorities in Dublin, Brussels and London.  The maintenance of the present mutually beneficial arrangements on the Irish border is also very desirable. The present policy course by Dublin is unlikely to achieve either. By ignoring the essential element of consent, the Irish Government is placing the progress of decades of good work in jeopardy.

There needs to be a new British/Irish initiative to break the present logjam by making a declaration that the future of the border will not be used to stop the signing of a Withdrawal Agreement. Both the EU and the UK should undertake to use their best efforts to preserve all existing measures to secure an invisible border and to preserve all existing measures of cross border co-operation under the aegis of the GFA. This would allow Brexit to proceed in an ordered manner and the two-year transition period to kick in. The future trade talks would hopefully achieve the above aspiration.

The alternative – a continued impasse, economic damage and resultant ill feelings all round – is in nobody’s interest.

The post The Irish Government’s hardline attitude to Brexit is endangering the Good Friday Agreement appeared first on BrexitCentral.




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