Sunday, December 03, 2017


Mrs May playing EU roulette
Click on any image for a larger version

This is intended to be an organic blog post, by which I mean I will add to it and amend it as time goes by. The later segments are at the top of the post starting immediately below here. So you might be best reading from the bottom up, if you have the patience or the motivation.

7 May 2019

18 April 2019

Following Theresa May's latest ritual humiliation in Brussels, the Mother of Parliaments has now gone on an Easter bazz-off.

This follows the UK getting a flexible extension of its current EU membership until the end of October. The flexible bit is the extension running out should Parliament ratify the current EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement before then.

This is getting messier. It looks as though the UK will now have to participate in the European Parliament elections on 23 May. This suits nobody.

The EU had already provisionally allocated what were expected to be additional seats among the 27. I assume the 27 will only be able to elect to these places on a provisional basis, the seats to then be taken up by them if and when the UK leaves.

Meanwhile the UK will be electing members who must expect to have a very short shelf life. And the extreme Brexiteers are threatening disruption along the way including in the new European Parliament insofar as they get elected to it.

Little wonder the EU is completely pissed off with the Brits. Eurocouncil President Tusk must be biting his tongue when he attributes good faith to them in public.

And how on God's earth do you get good candidates to stand under these circumstances.

British carry-on is actually threatening the stability and future existence of the EU itself, some would say true to form.

Lyra McKee

I have no wish to "weaponise" this young lady's death, but it is a reminder both of Northern Ireland's past and of how delicate the current "peace" there is.

And, of course, Brexit is attempting to ignore Northern Ireland, after the practice of the UK Parliament up to the imposition of direct rule in the early 1970s, or it is making promises in its regard which are inconsistent with its own other red lines. And this is why the Withdrawal Agreement is failing to be ratified.

31 March 2019

Receipt for subscription to Dáil Bonds

Ireland is currently in the middle of a decade of centenaries, commemorating the period 1912 to 1922, a period which saw the emergence of a firmly based independence movement.

One of the things that amazes me from this time is the successful establishment of a fully fledged counter state under the nose of the British administration. There was a fully working parliament (Dáil) with political oversight, a treasury (Department of Finance) to ensure adequate funding, a series of parallel government departments from Local Government to Labour, and a network of Republican courts which earned the confidence of the people.

And this was a state on the run, subject to raids, harassment, confiscation and arrest by the British authorities.

My purpose in raising the matter here is to compare the effectiveness of this state on the run with that of the current "democratic" British state with its "mother of parliaments" and a host of other accoutrements going back centuries.

Just a few of the current basket cases

The UK is currently totally paralysed in the face of the apparently simple task of leaving the EU. Nobody is stopping them. There is, however, the small matter of paying the bill as they walk out the door - and this is not a fine for leaving, more like the check for a meal consumed. This would be a normal feature of any civilised society. Then there is the small matter of ensuring the well being of foreign guests on the premises and that of UK citizens abroad. Again a normal feature of the diplomatic world we live in. And the small matter of living up to obligations entered into with a neighbouring state, albeit while both were members of the wider entity.

Within these parameters the UK can more or less walk out the door and do what it likes even if this is not to its own long term benefit.

But hang on a minute. It is being told that it cannot leave the EU customs union or the EU single market. Of course it can, but provided it keeps an open (frictionless?) land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland as it is effectively obliged to do since signing up to the Good Friday Agreement with Ireland. This is first and foremost a bilateral matter between the UK and Ireland. But Ireland is a member of the EU and so of its customs union and single market.

To keep an open land border, either Northern Ireland or the UK as a whole needs to remain a member of, or replicate the conditions of the CU or the SM. This is a fact of life. It is not an arbitrary constraint imposed in a fit of pique by the EU. It arises out of the structure of the EU combined with the ongoing obligations of the UK.

Apparently nobody in the UK thought about any of this before embarking on a referendum about leaving the EU, or shooting off a timebomb notification to leave. That's not the fault of the Irish or of the Europeans. It just goes to show that the UK, in general, knew very little about the organisation of which she had been a member for over forty years.

Gordon Brewster's 1930 prescient cartoon

So, when push came to shove she put the convenience of the Tory party above the welfare of her own citizens and those of the neighbouring state. Small wonder the party is coming apart at the seams.

The current paralysis is of her own making. I am reminded of Pavlov's dogs who their owner drove mad by feeding them conflicting signals until their brains blew a fuse. At least the dogs had an excuse. They didn't bring it on themselves.

18 March 2019

Just to remind ourselves why we are where we are.

The British Prime Minister of the day (Cameron) promised a referendum on EU membership in order to avoid a split in the Conservative Party. He was amazed when his partner in coalition (Nick Clegg) didn't stop him honouring this promise and the referendum went ahead. It was fought on totally misleading grounds in an atmosphere of hostility to the EU cultivated by previous goverments and amplified by a mendacious press.

The referendum was ADVISORY though the government was pledged to implement its verdict. When it became clear that, had the referendum result been obligatory on the government, the referendum itself would have been automatically annulled due to the abuses committed during the campaign, the government nevertheless stuck to its guns in order to avoid splitting the party.

The UK then decided to leave the EU but, suddenly remembering its obligations in relation to Northern Ireland under the Good Friday Agreement, drew up a series of conflicting and irreconcilable red lines as the basis for its withdrawal negotiations with the EU.

And that is why this thing has been going around in circles for the last two years while the clock has been quietly ticking in the background.

I've already named names below and I'll say no more at this stage for fear I'd get arrested.

17 March 2019

With only 12 days to go before the UK falls out of the EU things are just getting weirder and weirder.

Parliament seems to be trying to wrest control of the Brexit process from Theresa May. But parliament is not united on where to go next. All they have succeeded in doing so far is to vote against leaving without a deal. Apart from expressing the will of parliament this is just a useless gesture as UK will automatically fall out of the EU without a deal on 29 March unless: (i) the deal agreed between UK and EU is accepted, or (ii) a postponement of brexit is agreed, or (iii) the Article 50 notification is revoked.

There is nothing more the EU can concede, so May apparently plans a vote on her deal or no deal and is now threatening brexiteers that rejecting her deal could end up with Remain.

The Idiot Cox

Her Attorney General correctly advised her that the backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement could result in the UK being "trapped" in the Customs Union and Single Market for ever. So Theresa went back to the EU, cried HELP, agreed some supplementary assurances which might make this less likely and brought these back to parliament.

Meanwhile, the AG, who had been involved in the assurances, comes back with his original legal advice that the "trap" was still there. While this led to him being praised for his honesty and independence it blew May out of the water. It has been pointed out that the vast majority of his income comes from his private legal practice so he has a strong financial incentive to be seen as independent.

Nevertheless he was told to go and think up a way out of the trap and he duly came back with the advice that the day could be saved by a judicious application of the Vienna Convention which contains a provision for reneging on commitments in extreme circumstances. This silly advice was immediately rubbished by every lawyer of standing. So the man has really made a fool of himself.

So has Theresa May in agreeing to something without clearing her lines at home first. And this is not the first time she's done that.

Anyway, we are now on the, Belfast-built, Titanic heading for the iceberg.

I wonder should I take to the bed until after the 29th?

24 February 2019

If you want to catch up just read these two contributions:

Tony Connelly

Ivan Roberts

7 February 2019

Cartoon by Peter Brookes
"I've been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely."
Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk, President of the EU Council, is normally very restrained in his remarks in public. He has made no secret of the fact that he thinks Brexit is a lose-lose option but like most other leaders outside the UK he stresses that, however reluctantly, he must respect a sovereign decision by the UK.

His remark above is both a sign of his, and the EU27's, frustration at the UK, which, having decided to leave, spending over a year in intensive negotiations with the EU27, and agreeing an apparently unratifiable treaty, still wants to have its cake and eat it. It is also a sign that Tusk has come to accept that the UK is definitely leaving the Union and that a revocation of the Article 50 notification is no longer even a faint possibility.

So now, when it comes to the UK negotiating with anybody, including the EU, after 29 March next, they will be doing so as a third country with limited leverage.

May has already opened up a Pandora's box with the decision to leave and particularly with the Article 50 notice of activation. The EU27 and its individual constituent members will be in a position to open up old sores in the course of future negotiations. We have got a foretaste of this in the case of Gibraltar.

Leaving means the UK loses the benefits of membership such as being part of the decision-making apparatus of the EU and benefiting from the bloc's existing trade deals with the rest of the world, not to mention the customs union and the single market. UK even had a discount on its membership fee (the rebate). None of this is likely to be fully replicated no matter what arrangement the UK comes to with the EU.

Check out this article to see the some of the potential for UK self-harm

Anyway the nearer any arrangement got to replication the weaker would be the rationale for the UK leaving in the first place.

Theresa May is now so beleaguered on all sides that she is talking out of ten sides of her mouth, telling conflicting lobbies vague half-truth versions of what they want to hear. That only works if you keep it strictly oral and in silos. Once you have to commit a single solution to paper, you're in trouble.

And that is precisely the trouble with the backstop. It gives priority to keeping an open invisible border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. In the present state of knowledge and practice this means Northern Ireland effectively staying in the customs union and the single market. That's the inevitable logic of the thing. If that means crossing a different red line then that's because your red lines are not mutually consistent and something has to give.

The current mess arises from this not being recognised, or accepted, with the result that mutually inconsistent promises are being made all over the place.

13 January 2019

Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville

There I was, leaving big gaps between items and here I am back again the same day. What set me of was this:
BRITISH Prime Minister Theresa May has warned of a "catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust" in democracy if MPs reject her Brexit deal and the UK remains in the European Union.
The absolute brass neck of the woman.

The electorate have been fed decades of manure about the EU without any significant opposition from a political class running scared of the media and the snake oil salesmen.

They hold an ADVISORY referendum in which the electorate is not apprised of the issues, where abuse of social media is rampant and where the Leave Campaign drastically, and illegally, overspent.

Had the referendum been other than advisory the result would have been automatically annulled.

Now Tessie, who would deny the electorate a second chance, now that they just may better understand what is involved, this bloody woman has the nerve to even utter the word democracy and try and invoke it to deny the people the chance to save the Kingdom from ruination.

I'm off to take my blood pressure and, depending on the result, the tablets.

13 January 2019

This is getting very scary.

It is quite clear that the British are not fit to govern themselves and that their whole administration is in a shambles. There is no leadership just a bunch of people running scared or obliviously trying to game the system.

There are a few voices of sanity among serving politicians swimming against the tide (eg Ken Clarke & Anna Soubry) but these are either ignored as irrelevant or attacked as subversive.

A former politician for whom I have a lot of time is John Major and he has now made a call:

Click on image for a larger version

I would be happy to see that come about. It would at least remove the ticking clock, give enough time for the British to reflect on the mess they are in and, in their own terms, reflect on whether the Kingdom for which so many fought and died is worth the saving.

In response to Major's call, Roger O'Keeffe, a former EU Commission official and Irish civil servant, has suggested a variant which just might be more acceptable to the British administration & public though it would need also to be agreed by the EU, and it does still leave the clock ticking.

Click on image for a larger version

The CA referred to here is a citizen's assembly such as took place in Ireland prior to recent referenda on amendments to the Irish Constitution. The British don't have a constitution, at least not a readily discernable one, but the cap would fit, mutatis mutandis (ask Boris to explain that whiff of the classics if you are in any doubt of its meaning).

The Irish could always advise here. It would mark a change from the time, before we joined the EEC (EU), when we went to Whitehall in search of best practice (been there, done that).

And just by the way, the continuing fuss over the backstop again underlines the bad faith in which the British are participating in the "negotiations". The Treaty of Limerick has not gone away, you know.

1 January 2019

Many years ago when our children were young, one of those encyclopedia-selling fellows came to the door. He had the usual patter. When I said I really didn't want to buy a set of his books he began to get a bit confrontational - "So you're not interested in your children's education" etc.

Oh, but I was and I invited him in to inspect our collection of Ladybird books. These books were amazing, simple and to the point with full use made of explanatory illustrations. It was there I learnt how a differential in a motor car works and went on to understand it more fully by building one with my son's mechanical LEGO.

He immediately fled the scene.

What you may ask has all of this to do with Brexit?

Well, I was in The Winding Stair at a book launch recently when what did I spot but the Ladybird book of Brexit. And wow, was it a masterpiece. Everything you needed to know inside of a three minute read. I bought it straight away, and now I'm sharing it with you. If you get the chance, buy one and learn it off by heart, the way we Roman Catholics were prepared for emigration to the Pagan England of its day. Then keep it safe. One day it may become as valuable as a mint condition penny black (or are they more valuable with the postmark?).

Note the subtle cover with its delicate treatment of a low key border check. Not exactly frictionless but a lot more civilised than what has faced many an Irish person at Holyhead, particulary if their name was in Irish (Gaeilge).

Click on image for a larger version

Then there is the nub of the matter - taking back control from Johnny Foreigner to whom it was surrendered some forty years ago by the quisling Prime Minister Heath. No matter that many of the constraints imposed by Brussels may have been in the interest of improving health or the environment, or that the UK may have been itself involved in pushing a constraint or two on a reluctant Johnny Foreigner in the process.

And what if the Mammy's unconstrained jam poisons a few of them. They had it coming after what they tried to do to us over recent centuries.

So, if you had any doubts before, you now understand what Brexit is about and how, like cod liver oil, syrup of figs, famel syrup and milk of magnesia, it is really good for you.

The other major development since my November posting is that we are now really into countdown time and neither the government nor the prospective victims of Brexit can hide the truth any longer because it's time to start digging the trenches and manning the AA batteries, or at least buying a few good German ones before the tariffs set in, and start installing them.

And you can't do all of this without being seen. So the extent of the Apocalypse is slowly but surely becoming apparent. Even the currently proposed May/EU deal, were it to be adopted, would involve significant disruption particularly in its initial stages.

And the Brits are now hoisted on their own pétard, or that of their so called leaders. I was just listening to a vox pop from Edinburgh on the radio. The most frequent response to any suggestion of a new referendum was "Oh no, that would be completely against democracy".

That wouldn't run for more than five seconds in any half self-respecting civics class.

Just to recap on where I think we are now. As I understand it, the Withdrawal Agreement has been agreed between the UK and the EU but has not yet been ratified by either side. UK will need agreement of Parliament and that is for them to sort out.

On the EU side:
The EU parliament, including the MEPs from the UK, must consent by simple majority to the Withdrawal Agreement – but does not have the power to amend it. In this case, the Council of the EU needs to adopt it by super-qualified majority. This means it needs to get support of 72% of the 27 participating member states (or 20 member states), and the support must also represent 65% of the population of the 27 member states. Although the UK is still a full member of the EU with full rights in the Council of the EU, it is not participating or taking part in the council’s decisions concerning Brexit.
So Ireland is not in a position to veto this, nor would we likely want to as it contains both a transition period (potentially up to almost four years) and the backstop. The alternative at this stage to the present Withdrawal Agreement would be a no-deal brexit which we certainly do not want.

Assuming the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified, the next step would be for UK and EU to agree on their long term relationship. These negotiations are likely to be an open Pandora's box as each of the 27 Member States will have a veto on the final agreement. The backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement will constrain the longer term agreement to arrangements which preserve a frictionless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This could involve Northern Ireland or even the whole UK staying within the Customs Union and the Single Market (or some equivalent arrangement) depending on what is politically acceptable at the time.

If, on the other hand, the Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified by both sides the UK will drop out of the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019 unless the UK's Article 50 notification is withdrawn (which UK can do unilaterally) or extended (for which UK would need unanimous agreement of the 27 EU Member States).

A no-deal brexit would be chaotic with the UK immediately frozen out of economic & financial activity in the EU until some deals could be done. In the meantime presumably WTO rules would apply covering a limited number of sectors and the EU has already drawn up limited proposals to prevent utter chaos provided these are reciprocated by the UK.

The mutual rights of citizens and the financial settlement, originally covered in the rejected Withdrawal Agreement, would be up for grabs.

The whole thing reminds me of Windscale. Clearly I am too old and should shuffle off this mortal coil before it strangles me.

4 November 2018

It's a year to the day since I first posted here.

With the clock about to strike, we are not a lot further down the road, at least as far as a reasonable outcome is concerned.

The British Government seems totally paralysed and the blame game is intensifying. For instance, David Davis, former Brexit Secretary, has more or less admitted that the British have been talking rubbish all along but, in a calculating way, have been doing it politely so that they can then blame the EU for not making concessions.

Brendan Howlin, Irish Labour Party leader, is now voicing a note of caution regarding the solidarity of the 26 with Ireland on the border question. He is worried that EU has managed to organise matters so that the border becomes the crunch issue, and the only one holding up agreement, and that it will be very tempting for them to give way on it rather than risk a hard Brexit which is in nobody's interest. I have been worried about that from the outset.

My feeling was that the backstop could only be agreed in the context of overall future trading arrangements and that the one "agreed" last December effectively meant the UK staying permanently in the customs union and the single market. No wonder the UK has been furiously attempting to backtrack on it since.

So what next. Search me. I'm a remainer and for that reason would like to see the Article 50 notification period extended rather than aiming for a longer transition period. That way there might be time for the UK to come to its senses and avoid Brexit altogether. A forlorn hope I fear.

23 September 2018

This is just how nuts it gets. Theresa May has cobbled together a "plan" that is weak enough, she hopes, to get through her cabinet, but that everybody knows is not acceptable to the EU (unless they are prepared to completely undermine the 60+ year old European project) and that does nothing to preserve a frictionless border on the Island of Ireland.

The Europeans politely state their position which has been clear all along but about which they have been relatively restrained in order to allow May room to manoeuvre and in the hope the Brits can be brought to their senses.

May throws a hissy fit, claims to have been grievously insulted, even ambushed, and goes home effing and blinding Europe. The British tabloids amplify the blame game. These are the same tabloids who were calling British judges traitors for asserting the supremacy of Parliament - the only fig leaf in the British "Constitution".

Why did the Good Lord plonk us in the ocean right beside these people.

I have to stop. Neuron 42 is about to blow and might fuse the whole motherboard.

Meanwhile >>>>

2 September 2018

Waiting for Godot

Well, a bit like the last time, not a lot has been happening in terms of progress on Brexit, in the sense of knowing what it's going to be about, assuming it happens, and preparations for a hard brexit if it does without a withdrawal agreement and a firm purpose of something or other.

The main thing that has been happening is that the clock is ticking relentlessly, as they do other than at crisis EU Summits when it can apparently be stopped in its tracks like the Fatima sun.

I suppose we not only appear no nearer a solution/settlement but in reality things have got a bit worse.

Divide et Impera

So far, Theresa May has failed to charm EU leaders into breaking ranks on their resolve to maintain the integrity of the European project come what may (sic). We'll just have to see what happens when it goes to the wire.

Squabbling Paddies

The British have made it clear that they don't give a hoot about Northern Ireland as such in the wider context of the self-harm which is brexit. We are almost back in the days when the North could be left to sink or swim while Westminster's "bodhar Uí Laoghaire" precluded it from interfering in the régime's "internal affairs".

If you want to follow up on this here's a good piece to get you thinking.


Looked at another way, hostility to the Irish is hotting up across the water. Jacob Rees Mogg is to the fore here, denigrating us at every turn. And who or what is this guy you might ask? I have seen him described as a rural MP whose father was famous. But he clearly has Theresa May worried as he has assumed the mantle of spokesman for the brexiteers.

He threatens to open up the UK's (trade !) borders and leave it to Ireland to introduce border controls if it wants to. Of course the border with Northern Ireland becomes an external border of the EU when the UK leaves and someone has to man it in the event of a hard brexit which seems to be what he wants. The wonder is he hasn't yet compared us to Planet of the Apes. Those particular apes are probably too intelligent?

Rhythm & Blues Party

At last, Ireland looks like having its own Brexit-type political party, the Rhythm & Blues Party - rhythm denoting a timely Irish withdrawal from EU and blues denoting the grief to follow. Mind you there will be nearly as much grief for us staying in the EU in the face of a hard brexit. Anyway they are calling themselves the Irexit Freedom Party and are led by Ray Bassett, a former Irish ambassador; and Ray Kinsella, a UCD professor. Hermann Kelly, a former journalist and now head of communications at the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group of MEPs in Brussels, will be the party’s spokesman.

It remains to be seen how they do, particularly when the implications for Ireland of a hard brexit surface in the public domain. There has, unfortunately been a lack of intelligent and informed debate here on the pros and cons of Irish EU membership over the years. We joined with the Brits with very little choice in the matter and our membership was marketed to the public on the basis of Paddy Hillery's CAP and the long runs and support sustained through our (very) net beneficiary status. Now the UK may be (very) out and we are net contributors to the budget. We are neither emotionally nor intellectually prepared to deal with this. So wait for the sparks and the debate descending into nasty ad hominem if the new party looks like getting any traction.

Dublin time, Trump time

To finish today on a lighter note. I have alluded elsewhere to historical Dublin time, following a visit to Galway city way back. Well it may well be back in the news again after brexit. The EU is thinking of abolishing the annual clock change, in which direction I'm not sure. But, anyway, this would put us out of synch with the UK for half of each year, assuming they didn't follow suit.

It could, of course, get a lot worse, if, as part of one of genius Liam Fox's trade deals the UK went over to EST, and I don't mean European Standard Time.

In the course of my work I have dealt with the Bretton Woods Institutions in Washington - IMF & World Bank. And believe you me, it is very frustrating. You can't get them in the morning and just as you are about to go to lunch they come on stream and you get caught up in their preparations for their afternoon board meetings. And then if the issue is critical you are expected to, or sometimes need to be around for backup and the outcome. Imagine this scenario intruding across all of our dealing with the UK, including Northern Ireland.

And to top it all, the lazy bastards would be getting a five hour lie in, every morning.

2 July 2018

I'm really thinking hard, trying to find something new to say, but largely to no avail.

The only development beyond what I have set out below is that the UK Cabinet is now even more openly divided than before; the Lords took a positive stand, as far as it goes, but the Commons have buckled and passed a Withdrawal Bill. I don't know what's in it, but it's probably irrelevant.

The message is that disaster looms even closer as the moral depravity of the Cabinet and the incompetence of the UK Government is embarrassingly revealed for all to see.

How ever did they run an Empire? Well, we are learning more by the day about the violence and incompetence, not to mention the greedy resource extraction, of this particular project. Not one to hark back to I'm afraid.

6 February 2018

I'm really not sure why I'm adding this latest entry, as nothing much has changed, though time is quickly running out. I reread the stuff below and it still all seems valid. I suppose the only development is that the "negotiations" have moved on to Phase 2 which is to firm up the "agreement" at the end of Phase 1 into a legal document and also to agree on a transition period to follow UK withdrawal.

What sounds like some minimal progress is, however, illusory as the UK have been negotiating in bad faith and the "agreement" is not worth the paper it's written on. It is being clawed back by the day and as a result a hard border looms. The UK's divided government still seems to think it is in a bubble where it can pull all the strings and Johnny Foreigner will do as he is told.

The only thing that surprises me is that the UK, in boasting about how its new (to be found) freedom will permit it to enter into blissful trade agreements with all and sundry, is not factoring in its loss of (i) its trade agreement (customs union and single market) with the EU but also (ii) all those trade agreements between the EU and third parties from which it benefits at present through its EU membership.

The picture below sums up where I think we're at and it looks like these idiots are going to pull us down along with them.

3 December 2017

A month is a long time in this game. But it appears that the divorce bill is nearing a settlement though there is reputed to be still some way to go on citizens' mutual rights.

The Irish question, however, remains as intractable as ever. This is because there is effectively no solution which can satisfy the requirements of the three parties concerned, UK, Ireland and EU.

With the deadline approaching fast for a decision on progressing to Phase 2 of the negotiations there appears to be no conceivable progress in sight.

Boris has a plan

As far as the UK is concerned, their position on this issue appears to be hardening, if anything. The Brexiteers are fearing a fudge which will amount to less than completely leaving the EU (replicating the customs-union/single-market, accepting any significant role for the ECJ, etc.). The rhetoric is ramping up with the Brexiteers particularly blaming the EU (which is seen to be acting punitively) or the Irish (who are getting above themselves).

The EU claim they are standing foursquare behind the Irish but how far this suupport will extend if the Irish question remains a stumbling block is not clear.

Ireland appears to have two shots at a veto on the negotiations. The first of these is on progress to Phase 2, and this is where the EU is loudly proclaiming its support for the Irish position whatever that may turn out to be. Clearly Ireland is the Member State most exposed to Brexit. In terms of trade alone we are hugely dependent on the UK, not just for our trading with them but for our trading through them (transit).

It is hard to see how our trade will not be dealt a body blow unless the UK remains in the customs union or replicates it from the outside. The UK appears committed not to do either. Given this stance, the talk so far has concentrated on how border crossings can be smoothed, even to the extent of mutterings about "frictionless" borders. Granted there may be scope for arrangements expediting border crossings but they will still involve delays and more bureaucracy.

But sight appears to have been lost of the actual effect of the borders, disparity in customs duties and in standards, particularly in relation to their effects on production and on competitiveness and therefore on trade patterns. The upcoming disruption and devastation seems to me to be enormous and unavoidable unless some side caves in.

Ireland, in particular, is between a rock and a hard place. If we exercise the veto on progress to the next stage of the negotiations we only increase the chances of the UK crashing out of the EU without arrangements on trade and this would not be to our advantage. In fact, and the Brexiteers seem blind to this, Ireland's interest lies in the softest and most advantageous exit for the UK from the EU.

The EU, nevertheless, needs to maintain the integrity of the customs union and the single market if it, itself, is to survive Brexit. That's why I'm not sure how long their solidarity with us will last in the face of UK intransigence.

And finally there is the particular subset of Northern Ireland which, at the moment seems to have escalated to the status of the main, if not the only problem. Brexit will have a horrendous impact on both North and South unless the relationship between these two areas is given some sort of special status and it is difficult to see how this can happen without affecting the North's position within the UK and/or subverting the integrity of the customs-union/single-market.

So what is likely to happen in the next few days/weeks. My guess is a pious fudge which Ireland will swallow to avoid something worse (ie UK crashing out of EU or Ireland losing the support of the other 26). When push comes to shove Ireland is very exposed and we are not unmindful of the lack of EU solidarity in the financial crisis when the immediate interests of some of the big players was threatened.

And when all is said and done at the level of the European Council, there is still the European Parliament to consider and the eventual ratification process in the 27 Member States where each, including Ireland, will have a veto [?], and in the UK House of Commons (& House of Lords?).

Update 02/01/2019: I thought I should come back here & sort out the veto. Ireland had a veto on progress from stage 1 of the Article 50 negotiations to stage 2 which was not exercised. She does not have a veto over the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement which only requires a super qualified majority in Council. She will again have a veto over the agreement on the UK's long term relationship with the EU if and when that arises in a few years time.

It's more than Mayo that'll need God's help here.

4 November 2017 (original post)

The most important point for me is that it is the UK that decided to leave the EU. In my view it is an act of unprecedented folly but it is something they are doing to themselves and it is no use their blaming Johnny Foreigner or anyone else. It is an act of self-harm.

But it is not just self-harm, it is detrimental to the EU itself for a variety of reasons and it puts Ireland in an impossible position.

Boris Johnson - traitor and lunatic

It is very difficult to see a rational reason for the UK decision and it is becoming clearer by the day that they had no idea of the implications of leaving the EU.

A major part of their legal and social infrastructure and practice has developed over the last forty years inextricably bound up with the EU and the act of separation has much in common with separating siamese twins.

Why have I a picture of Boris Johnson here looking like a certifiable lunatic. Well, Boris encapsulates the decades long campaign in the UK denigrating the EU. He was not alone. Much of the British popular press contributed mightily to this and the net result was that much, if not a majority, of the British population came to see the EU as the cause of most of their woes.

It didn't help that Britain was in the throes of a nervous breakdown, refusing to come to terms with its reduced status in the world. The British seem to still see themselves as an Empire, of some sort or other, and a major actor on the world stage. At the same time we have senior US administration figures telling us that the "special relationship", in which the British put so much store to guarantee their pre-eminent position in world affairs, is nothing more than a joke.

The people have been sold a pup by an ambitious clique who are either delusional or just plain greedy for power at any cost, even if it just involves promotion to captain of a sinking ship.

Chancellor Hammond to confront &
not appease "the enemy" this time round

It appears that the time-critical negotiations with the EU are going nowhere fast. It seems to me that this is because UK demands/aims are contradictory. They don't compute.

They want to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union but they want a new cherry picked single market and customs union. They want to leave the 27 to pick up the tabs on what was agreed by the 28, including walking away from all contingent liabilities such as their share of pension contributions for EU employees.

They want to deny the European Court of Justice any say in policing whatever is agreed, if anything. And they want full control over their own borders.

On top of all this, they seem to think that once they have agreed on some demand or other among themselves then Johnny Foreigner is being completely unreasonable not to give it to them.

Chancellor Hammond is now calling the EU the enemy. Next he'll be conjuring up the ghost of Bomber Harris. This is insanity of a high order.

And I haven't even mentioned Euratom.

Mrs May read off the altar

It is very hard to see why at least two of the phase 1 negotiating issues cannot be sorted to everyone's satisfaction in jig time. These are the reciprocal rights of citizens and the contribution required of the UK to honour its obligations.

The Irish question is another matter. There are actually two questions here - the north/south and the east/west elements. The north/south element particularly concerns the border and trade but also citizenship arrangements. The east/west element includes Ireland's trade with Britain/UK but also Ireland's trade within the EU, much of which transits through the UK.

It seems to me that in this intractable situation, no exit is better than a bad exit, and it is in the interest of both the UK and the EU that she remain.

It is/was reported that David Davis was flying to Brussels to kick EU ass ... what? ... oh, sorry ... kick start EU negotiations. See how confusing it gets?

And here's a little doodle poem to confuse you even more.

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