First the bailout, now the backstop. The Irish Government’s solution to the financial crisis in 2008 was a blanket guarantee for the liabilities of the failing banks. It has some worrying similarities to the current position on the backstop.

Initially, the guarantee was regarded as an extremely clever move which would put one over on other jurisdictions, stabilise the banking system and would never be called in. It was tactically clever, but strategically disastrous. It was based on a bluff and our bluff was called. Large deductions are still being made today from every pay packet in Ireland to pay for this folly.

The backstop appears to have been retrieved from the same bluffer’s drawer in Dublin’s Government Buildings. The original backstop, which only covered Northern Ireland, was hailed as a smart manoeuvre which gave Ireland and Brussels the whip hand in the Brexit discussions.

Again, the early expectations that the backstop would be a trump card began to fade as the House of Commons refused to stomach it. The British Government had it extended to cover the whole of the UK in the Withdrawal Agreement, but again it hit the rocks. In reality, it was never a runner.

Not only has it has scuppered the premiership of Theresa May, it has also sent the moderate, pro-EU wing of the Conservative Party into total retreat. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is threatening to inflict huge damage on both Conservative and Labour traditional bases outside London.

Boris Johnson is odds-on favourite to move into 10 Downing Street and adopt a much more confrontational attitude to Brussels, and indeed Dublin. Even if Boris stumbles yet again, the next occupant of that famous address will have a fairly similar approach.

We may be faced with a demand from London to conclude a free trade deal on the lines of the Canada-EU agreement (CETA), coupled with a declaration that the UK will not initiate any hard border on the island of Ireland, using advanced technology instead.

It would be the Taoiseach’s nightmare that in a messy Brexit, Brussels demands that Dublin respect the integrity of the Single Market and start erecting barriers. Ireland’s junior European minister, Helen McEntee, took up this theme when she opined that in a no-deal outcome, it would be very difficult for the Irish Government to reconcile its obligations to the EU with protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

And it was all so unnecessary. A few simple concessions could have allowed both sides move on to the next stage of Brexit, the future trade arrangements. The insertion of a time limit on the backstop would, in all probability, have secured the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement through Westminster.

The Irish Government’s bluff is being called and its Brexit policy is in tatters. Instead of giving lectures to the British people, the authorities in Dublin need a deep and critical examination of how they managed to contribute to the present unsatisfactory situation.

But such a reflective process is not the forte of Irish administrations and the Irish media, with the occasional notable exceptions.

Even if Boris or another new Prime Minister is not able to get the House of Commons to back his or her approach to Brexit, it is only a matter of time before a Brexiteer administration is returned to power, even if we have a short interregnum of a Corbyn/Lib Dem administration. No wonder that Presidents Macron and Juncker are coming around to the view that keeping a fractious and divided UK inside the EU would be a major mistake.

Meanwhile, our recent guest, the US President, is leaving nobody in any doubt about his support for a true Brexiteer in power in London. A future trade deal between a fully independent UK and the USA, coupled with trade wars between Washington and Brussels, is the stuff of nightmares for Ireland.

The London consultancy firm Primary Access, in analysing Irish investment abroad and Foreign Direct Investment in Ireland, stated that “Ireland has €93bn committed to the US, and €88bn to the UK in direct investment abroad; the comparable numbers for France and Germany are €4.4bn and €3.1bn respectively. The same pattern repeats in terms of inward direct investment. The US has €179bn, and the UK €58bn invested in Ireland; France has €15bn and Germany €5bn”.

As I have stated on many previous occasions, Ireland’s economic connections with mainland Europe are overwhelmingly those of the multinational (mainly American) companies located within the Republic.

If the international climate changes and these companies no longer feel comfortable in Ireland, we will be left with precious little else. In the meantime, our two closest economic and cultural partners, our neighbours to the west and east, as well as home to the majority of our diaspora, will have moved on without us.

In the European elections, the governing coalition parties in Germany recorded a vote which was over 18 per cent below their totals in 2014. The Greens and the Eurosceptic AfD gained ground. In Britain, the Brexit Party emerged as the clear winners, while Marine Le Pen’s group outpolled Macron’s party in France. In Italy, the Lega under Matteo Salvini stormed to victory and the left-wing pro-EU Democrats suffered heavy losses.

The four largest countries in the EU all recorded deep disillusionment. Yet to listen to Irish media, or indeed the EU Commission-financed Euronews, one would have imagined a triumphant endorsement of the present set-up.

Ireland (North and South) was one of the few countries which experienced a drop in turnout, which was particularly noticeable in Dublin, where only a 42 per cent poll was recorded. So much for Euro-election enthusiasm.

The Taoiseach is right. We are entering a dangerous period. And we have the backstop, and that bluffer’s drawer, in significant measure to thank for it.

The post The Irish Government’s Brexit policy is in tatters and its bluff is now being called appeared first on BrexitCentral.

In recent months, BrexitCentral has featured a number of articles written by authors of a variety of pamphlets and papers published in the run-up to or since the publication of the Withdrawal Agreement.

We thought readers would appreciate having access to links to all those publications in one place, so hope you find the listings below of use. Clearly, it is not exhaustive, but where possible we have hyperlinked organisations’ names to their website so that you can delve further as in most cases there is more valuable information and additional articles or briefings to be found there. We will aim to keep this up to date as new publications come out, so please let us know of anything you think we should consider for inclusion.

Published by the European Research Group

Written by Shanker A Singham and Radomir Tylecote

Published by Martin Howe QC/Lawyers for Britain

Published by the Institute of Economic Affairs

Published by CLECAT, the European Voice of Freight Logistics and Customs Services

Published by Economists for Free Trade

Published by Briefings for Brexit

Published by Policy Exchange

Published by Politeia

The post A one-stop shop of recent must-read research on Brexit and the Withdrawal Agreement 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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