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Will the Windsor Framework get Brexit done? The Northern Irish question is here to stay

Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen shake on it (Dan Kitwood/AFP/Getty)

Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen shake on it (Dan Kitwood/AFP/Getty)


February 28, 2023   4 mins

Could something positive have finally happened in Northern Ireland’s never-ending Brexit story? After years of diplomatic failure, yesterday a package of measures was unveiled by Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen which might actually resolve the border dilemma. The EU made at least one significant concession designed to address the concerns of Northern Ireland’s unionist leaders, and with it came the first real glimmer of hope that Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union might finally be heading towards some kind of settlement. And yet here’s the catch: the solution Britain and the EU have arrived at does not mean Brexit is done. It means both sides have agreed it never can be.

At the heart of the rather grandly-named Windsor Framework is a political compromise which reflects the unique reality of life in Northern Ireland. Under the terms of the deal, the UK government can block any new EU rules from applying in Northern Ireland should just a third of Stormont’s elected representatives sign a “petition of concern” against regulation they feel will create barriers between them and the rest of the UK. This is the Stormont Brake — effectively a “unionist veto”, a central demand of the DUP. All that is needed to reach the threshold is 30 MLAs from two parties — easily reachable for both unionist and nationalist blocs in the assembly. Should such a petition be triggered and that EU law be blocked, Brussels has also accepted that this will cause divergence with the Republic of Ireland which it will have to manage. This is the first time it has even entertained such a possibility.

Leaving aside other aspects of the deal — from red and green “lanes” to manage the sea border, to less onerous rules for businesses — the effect of the “Stormont Brake” alone is profound for two main reasons. First, it means the EU has accepted a core principle of the Good Friday Agreement: Northern Ireland is governed by what is known as “parallel consent” and not simply by majorities like elsewhere. In Northern Ireland, both traditions — unionist and nationalist — must give their consent for anything to change. Until yesterday, that was not the case when it came to the Protocol, which meant new EU laws could apply in Northern Ireland based solely on the continuing support of a simple majority of MLAs. After yesterday, however, new rules from the EU can — in theory — be blocked by minorities from either side, supported by the UK government, should certain conditions be met.

Second, even though the Stormont Brake is powerful in practice, it comes with significant costs, potentially creating the conditions for a land border on the island of Ireland. This means the EU and UK have accepted that Northern Ireland cannot be “fixed” in one fell swoop but must be permanently managed. From now on, every new law the EU passes which might apply in Northern Ireland risks sparking a political crisis. As such, the UK and EU have a shared interest to ensure this does not happen. To do so, they must constantly be on guard, working together to find solutions to upcoming issues, agreeing compromises or fixes, ways of managing the border or avoiding divergence where possible. Northern Ireland is both a source of permanent tension — and a kind of permanent forced friendship.

It is this, I think, which is the real consequence of yesterday’s diplomatic breakthrough. It is not so much some great victory for Sunak, the EU or the DUP — though all have been vindicated in their approaches — but an agreement which redresses some of the most egregious imbalances in the original protocol, forcing both the EU and UK to accept long term ownership of an ever-evolving problem. The old agreement tried to solve the issue, prioritising an open land border with the Republic of Ireland above all other considerations, including democratic consent. This changes that settlement. This deal, as one veteran Northern Irish analyst told me, comes closer than any so far to the kind of political “score draw” which is necessary for Northern Ireland to function. It gives the DUP a political victory of sorts, a tangible reward for its obstinate refusal to accept previous settlements. It does so, however, without unpicking the basic elements of the protocol which are supported by nationalists.

Still, as of last night the DUP was still a long way from giving their blessing to the deal. The simple fact remains that the initial crisis is not over, even if Sunak is able to sweep it through the House of Commons with relative ease. If the UK and EU haven’t learned the lesson already, it is worth repeating: British politics cannot simply impose its way out of a crisis in Northern Ireland; it can only do so with Northern Ireland’s consent.

The deal does not do what many of the DUP’s fiercest critics wanted by ripping up the fundamental tenets of the settlement reached between Boris Johnson and the EU in 2019. It does not get rid of the need for checks to be carried out at the sea border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, nor for EU law to continue applying in Northern Ireland, interpreted by the European Court of Justice. It does not do any of these things. And yet, for the first time it does give unionist parties a mechanism to withdraw their consent from new EU laws applying in Northern Ireland: unionism has been given a tool to manage Northern Ireland’s place in the UK. It is far from an all-powerful tool. It can only be applied in certain circumstances — not for “trivial” reasons and only when there is something “significantly” different about a new rule. But still, a principle has been established.

For those officials in London and Dublin who tried in vain to persuade the EU to be similarly flexible years ago, the sight of Sunak and Von der Leyen announcing yesterday’s agreement in Windsor was bittersweet. “A shame that it took so long,” was one weary reply. Another said almost everything in the deal had been proposed multiple times over and rejected as unworkable. But now it has been accepted. And the Northern Irish question is here to stay, the grit in the oyster that can never be removed.


Tom McTague is UnHerd’s Political Editor. He is the author of Betting The House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election.

TomMcTague

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

“First, it means the EU has accepted a core principle of the Good Friday Agreement: Northern Ireland is governed by what is known as “parallel consent” and not simply by majorities like elsewhere”.
This might be to state/ask the obvious but why has this taken 2023?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

*until 2023

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Probably because it requires some trust and long-term cooperation between the parties. If one side signs a deal one day and decides to ignore it the next, the other side has to assume that any concession will be ruthlessly exploited. Once the UK accepts that EU ‘interference’ is here to stay and that Britain has to actively make this work and not just exploit it for loopholes, a deal can happen.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I think you are absolutely wrong, Rasmus. A deep understanding of the GFA, that you can’t use NI as a political pawn and that you can’t just force things on them from above willy-nilly because “we’re the powerful ones and we’re cross and paranoid about Brexit” was a prerequisite for the EU concluding the protocol in the first place. If the EU hadn’t have put its own vanity first the entire time and had realised flexibility was necessary to take account of the special situation, there wouldn’t have been any need for the British to try and disown the protocol.
This is a massive climbdown from the EU: a tacit acknowledgement that its priority these last 7 years was never the peace, but its own political agenda. You can dress that up and whinge about British behaviour all you want, but, as the author points out – the EU has now agreed to things it dismissed out of hand just a couple of years ago. It was never interested in solutions, just powerplay and hurt feelings. Shameful.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Same to you. In spades. The UK was just as much using NI as a pawn – forcing a major change on the place without consulting the local majority, never mind the minority, demanding that the EU should pick up the pieces, and trying to use NI as a way to get EU market access through the back door. Never mind ‘hurt feelings’ – the EU was just not interested in sacrificing its interests to help solve problems that Britain had created and refused to deal with itself. But now, Britain having returned to the ranks of sane adults, it looks like they can get on with dealing with the situation. Together.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Wrong, illogical and inaccurate again on all counts.
The UK government did not use NI as a pawn: they a) failed to understand the effect that Brexit would have on the GFA (which is daft, but a whole different thing than using NI as a pawn, because that requires intent which they didn’t have), and b) understandably did not foresee how ridiculous the EU was going to be about it, overdoing the point about the “integrity of the single market”, as if it’s like some hermetically sealed, vacuum packed container (it’s not) to achieve its own aims.
Your assertion that NI was used to try and gain access to the EU single market through the back door is also ridiculous. The UK might have expected more access than was reasonable, but I don’t think that NI was a tool in trying to achieve that. I think the UK went in with their negotiation demands and simply got them roundly refused. NI was the collateral damage to that, not a tool which was used to achieve an aim defined at the outset.
Also what you say about “forcing a change upon the place without asking the majority/minority”. You do know that people in Northern Ireland voted in the referendum too, as it was UK wide, right? And that – while NI has certain special requirements (i.e. to do with consent) due to the GFA, it is also part of the wider UK, meaning that it has to go with the greater national majority in democratic decisions. Following your (non-) logic, a majority in NI could basically hold up every single general election and formation of a government in Westminster if they didn’t like the result. Which is obviously not the case.
No, the EU wasn’t interested in anything, and especially not national democracy. It never is. But if it didn’t want anyone leaving and didn’t want to deal with problems that would clearly arise from that, then Article 50 should never have been put in the Lisbon treaty. The existence of that Article and therefore the possibility of someone leaving (which cannot be anything other than a unilateral national decision) and it all being difficult expresses a willingness on the part of the EU to deal with it. A country leaving the EU cannot just “clear up after itself”, it is a bilateral negotiation which should mean just that: a NEGOTIATION and not just one party dictating to the other in a fit of pique without really understanding (or wanting to understand) the other side.
But this is the EU all over. Always has been, always will be.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Sounds like we agree that Britain expected to leave on its terms, have good access to the EU, and have the EU make any accommodations needed to keep the peace in NI while giving Britain what it wanted. We just disagree whether this was a reasonable expectation.

Just one thing: Sure, NI is only a small part of the UK and does not have a veto. But you cannot complain that the EU is “forc[ing] things on them from above willy-nilly“, and then in the same breath say that NI just have to follow along with whatever the UK as a whole decides. If someone has to set aside its interests and power to give room for peace and self-determination in NI, surely Britain – who were the ones who demanded the changes – should be first in line.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Access to the Single Market is a meaningless phrase. It was spun by Remainers as an irreplaceable benefit of EU membership but has no substance. Does China have access to the SM? If not, how come iPhones are readily available in every EU member state?
There is no reason why imports from the UK should face more obstacles than imports from China, other than the EU’s desire to punish the UK for its temerity.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dougie Undersub
rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago

Absolutely bang on.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Let’s also not forget Macron pushing a hard line against the UK consistently through the negotiations (no surrender, no compromise, no mercy, THEY MUST SUFFER!)…and therefore being at least partly responsible for us ending up where we are…only to stand up and show the world that he was ready and willing to negotiate with PUTIN, a murderous tyrant.
You cannot make this up.
Monsieur PrĂ©sident has been mysteriously quiet during these negotiations. I would like to imagine it’s because someone (Biden?) rang him up, pointed out that NI isn’t actually any of his business, bruised French egos about AUKUS aren’t actually anything to do with Brexit and so please kindly B*TT OUT.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I doubt it was Biden as I believe he digs his snout in more countries businesses than anyone in history & follows Obama’s way in wishing the UK to stay IN the EU!

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago

I think you misunderstand. Biden is allowed to interfere because he is Biden, whereas he is also permitted to tell others they’re not to interfere because they’re not Biden. This is the way that the US works.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago

I think you misunderstand. Biden is allowed to interfere because he is Biden, whereas he is also permitted to tell others they’re not to interfere because they’re not Biden. This is the way that the US works.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I doubt it was Biden as I believe he digs his snout in more countries businesses than anyone in history & follows Obama’s way in wishing the UK to stay IN the EU!

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
1 year ago

Access to the single market means complying with its rules. But then I wouldn’t expect a Brexiteer to understand that.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago

Absolutely bang on.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Let’s also not forget Macron pushing a hard line against the UK consistently through the negotiations (no surrender, no compromise, no mercy, THEY MUST SUFFER!)…and therefore being at least partly responsible for us ending up where we are…only to stand up and show the world that he was ready and willing to negotiate with PUTIN, a murderous tyrant.
You cannot make this up.
Monsieur PrĂ©sident has been mysteriously quiet during these negotiations. I would like to imagine it’s because someone (Biden?) rang him up, pointed out that NI isn’t actually any of his business, bruised French egos about AUKUS aren’t actually anything to do with Brexit and so please kindly B*TT OUT.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
1 year ago

Access to the single market means complying with its rules. But then I wouldn’t expect a Brexiteer to understand that.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Access to the Single Market is a meaningless phrase. It was spun by Remainers as an irreplaceable benefit of EU membership but has no substance. Does China have access to the SM? If not, how come iPhones are readily available in every EU member state?
There is no reason why imports from the UK should face more obstacles than imports from China, other than the EU’s desire to punish the UK for its temerity.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dougie Undersub
Dorrido Dorrido
Dorrido Dorrido
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

What is democratice about a ‘parallel consent’ system ? It entrenches still further sectarianism in Northern Ireland

Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
1 year ago

Because it is sectarian – and agreements need to respect both sides

Last edited 1 year ago by Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
1 year ago

Because it is sectarian – and agreements need to respect both sides

Last edited 1 year ago by Andy Iddon
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Sounds like we agree that Britain expected to leave on its terms, have good access to the EU, and have the EU make any accommodations needed to keep the peace in NI while giving Britain what it wanted. We just disagree whether this was a reasonable expectation.

Just one thing: Sure, NI is only a small part of the UK and does not have a veto. But you cannot complain that the EU is “forc[ing] things on them from above willy-nilly“, and then in the same breath say that NI just have to follow along with whatever the UK as a whole decides. If someone has to set aside its interests and power to give room for peace and self-determination in NI, surely Britain – who were the ones who demanded the changes – should be first in line.

Dorrido Dorrido
Dorrido Dorrido
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

What is democratice about a ‘parallel consent’ system ? It entrenches still further sectarianism in Northern Ireland

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Rasmus – things dont appear to be going to well for you on this topic. Maybe do some more research first. It looks to me like Katharine knows what she is talking about.

The bottom line is this (dress it up however you wish) – Thne EU after spending years telling The UK ”no more negotiations” – climbed down.
Actually that cant be dressed up. Its a simple fact.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Your ridiculous views are gaining in popularity as its gone from -70 to -39!

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Wrong, illogical and inaccurate again on all counts.
The UK government did not use NI as a pawn: they a) failed to understand the effect that Brexit would have on the GFA (which is daft, but a whole different thing than using NI as a pawn, because that requires intent which they didn’t have), and b) understandably did not foresee how ridiculous the EU was going to be about it, overdoing the point about the “integrity of the single market”, as if it’s like some hermetically sealed, vacuum packed container (it’s not) to achieve its own aims.
Your assertion that NI was used to try and gain access to the EU single market through the back door is also ridiculous. The UK might have expected more access than was reasonable, but I don’t think that NI was a tool in trying to achieve that. I think the UK went in with their negotiation demands and simply got them roundly refused. NI was the collateral damage to that, not a tool which was used to achieve an aim defined at the outset.
Also what you say about “forcing a change upon the place without asking the majority/minority”. You do know that people in Northern Ireland voted in the referendum too, as it was UK wide, right? And that – while NI has certain special requirements (i.e. to do with consent) due to the GFA, it is also part of the wider UK, meaning that it has to go with the greater national majority in democratic decisions. Following your (non-) logic, a majority in NI could basically hold up every single general election and formation of a government in Westminster if they didn’t like the result. Which is obviously not the case.
No, the EU wasn’t interested in anything, and especially not national democracy. It never is. But if it didn’t want anyone leaving and didn’t want to deal with problems that would clearly arise from that, then Article 50 should never have been put in the Lisbon treaty. The existence of that Article and therefore the possibility of someone leaving (which cannot be anything other than a unilateral national decision) and it all being difficult expresses a willingness on the part of the EU to deal with it. A country leaving the EU cannot just “clear up after itself”, it is a bilateral negotiation which should mean just that: a NEGOTIATION and not just one party dictating to the other in a fit of pique without really understanding (or wanting to understand) the other side.
But this is the EU all over. Always has been, always will be.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Rasmus – things dont appear to be going to well for you on this topic. Maybe do some more research first. It looks to me like Katharine knows what she is talking about.

The bottom line is this (dress it up however you wish) – Thne EU after spending years telling The UK ”no more negotiations” – climbed down.
Actually that cant be dressed up. Its a simple fact.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Your ridiculous views are gaining in popularity as its gone from -70 to -39!

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The beauty of the Windsor arrangement is it can be spun as a success by both sides, and both sides smart enough to know that has to happen and we allow the partner to do that to their relevant audiences. Very predictable and no surprise. Had to be part of how this was constructed.
As regards why it’s taken so long – well firstly Brexiteers gave it little to no thought during the 2016 campaign, and ignored as trivial matter when it was raised. Too much faith was put in securing continuing Single Market access with minimum consequences – at best naive, at worst deliberately misleading.
It’s also remarkable that Brexiteers complain that the EU has been a tough, detailed negotiator. We knew this would be the case as we’d been on the inside for 40yrs benefitting from that. There was plenty of warning about what it would feel like as a 3rd party for the first time. Furthermore one has to deal with realpolitik, and Brexit created a situation for the EU, exacerbated by statements leading Brexiteers made about the imminent collapse of the EU, that further ensured they were going to make sure this far from easy for us. We’re not children. This was entirely predictable, and if the people championing Brexit didn’t see it coming they really shouldn’t be in charge of anything.
Then Boris and his lies and mendacity. Can anyone blame the EU for not trusting this charlatan? His own party eventually came to that conclusion. But again was all predictable based on previous behaviour yet they still placed him in charge
Hence 7 years of pain, and even more opportunity cost to all the political time that could have been spent on other crucial matters.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

What I think now is that the EU is a tough and detailed negotiator – but tough in the sense that it just thinks it can steamroller everybody…which in this case (and others) is absolutely counterproductive; and detailed in the sense that it can’t see the wood for the trees because it spends so much time with its head in the fine print of some random directive about ISIN numbers. Neither is good.
I spent a great deal of time pondering whether the people in the corridors of Brussels are actually evil and scheming…or whether alot of them are just daft with a very tenuous grip on reality. For a long time, I was sold on the first alternative…but watching the fiasco with the vaccine procurement, I started to come over to the 2nd alternative. That was really quite special.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I’d question this perspective a bit KE. It’s got alot of the ‘faceless Brussels bureaucrat’ about it, but in fact the Irish (Republic of Ireland) were deeply involved at all levels as this was so crucial to them. Furthermore the Council of Ministers, and hence the EU 26 member states, set the negotiating limits here.
Slight aside – as things stand the vast majority of the Single Market rules remain ones we had a big role in setting/creating and certainly in agreeing (remember we had a veto for most things when we needed it). Over time that of course may change not overnight for sure.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I’d question this perspective a bit KE. It’s got alot of the ‘faceless Brussels bureaucrat’ about it, but in fact the Irish (Republic of Ireland) were deeply involved at all levels as this was so crucial to them. Furthermore the Council of Ministers, and hence the EU 26 member states, set the negotiating limits here.
Slight aside – as things stand the vast majority of the Single Market rules remain ones we had a big role in setting/creating and certainly in agreeing (remember we had a veto for most things when we needed it). Over time that of course may change not overnight for sure.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Mr Watson – on the contrary, there was NO EFFORT put into remainign in the single market. we were told by both Remain and Leave that The UK woudl leave the Single Market – if nothing else thats what everyone said would happen.
As another correspondent on he has already said ”why can China export massively into The EU?” unhindered (even Dumping Steel) – whilst UK continues to be put throguh the mill.
The reason? (as he also mentioend) was the UK had the temetrity to leave a flawed ”club”..

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

Not sure that’s entirely correct RD. For example Farage and Hannan on the record during campaign they expected us to retain Single Market access. Many Brexiteers, Davies et al, regularly indicated ‘just wait and see, the German Car industry will insist UK retains access etc etc’. Naive wasn’t it.
As regards China imports – they pay and and are subject to financial and non financial tariff requirements.
I’d concur any large Club will have some flaws and room for improvement. But one has to ask – why’ve others not left? Why even is it so important still to other non members they gain membership? One of the ironies of Brexit is possibly that it helped ‘bond’ the remaining 26 more firmly (despite many issues) because they saw what a shambles a country gets itself into when leaving. Be interesting to see how this plays out in the history that’ll be written.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

I am referring to the Official Leave and Remain Campaigns – not any number of people who made comments of all kinds during the campaign.
The Single market:
DD was also correct, The German Car industry has indeed got tariff free access to our market (Fourth largest market in The World for German cars) – just as UK has access to their market to which around 80% of UK Car production goes – all WITHOUT being in ”The Single Market”.
Others Leaving:
I cannot answer as to why others have not left (yet) – perhaps its the huge cash sums that are paid from the member state contributors. Germany in particular – who are now the EU paymasters. Most other ”contributors” pay little or nothing into the pot – but they are rising to plug UK gap.
As other countries turn into net contributors (there were only 2 when UK decided enough was enough – UK and Germany) – then attitudes may change.Indeed in Ireland (which is now a very tiny contributor) there is now an undercurrent – no longer universal support when they were feeding from The EU’s teat.
Shambles:
No one can disagree there has been an utter shambles over the past few years – but so have there been in other EU Countries, even (dare I say it) Germany – we must put thigns into perspective.
ECB Bank and BoE funding:
One thing The UK didnt have to do – is go Cap in hand to Germany (effectivly) to exceed 3% of GDP for pandemic spending (it is they who control ECB – and dont show the liabilities in their ”accounts”) – this via the dreaded ‘Growth & Stability pact’ (largely ignored by both Gernany and France – The UK just did what we needed to with our own currency. UK also – despite EU’s best efforts – rolled out our own Vaccine first and most effectivly.
Most of the rest of the problems (fuel shortages, power cuts, microchip issues and so on) were largely either imagined, exaggerated or repeated across the developed World.

George H
George H
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

On a point of fact, it is not true that the UK and Germany were the only net contributors to the EU Budget in 2016 (assuming that by “when UK decided enough was enough” you mean 2016). Over the 2000-2015 period, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden were all net contributors too. Of the net contributors over that period, the UK’s net contribution was actually the second lowest as a percentage of GNI (with the Netherlands’ contribution the highest, only Finland’s lower). Ireland has been a net contributor since 2013.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

It’s a great pity that so much taxpayers money was wasted on useless anti-pandemic stuff when there was no pandemic. About the only time when I wished we were required to go cap in hand.

George H
George H
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

On a point of fact, it is not true that the UK and Germany were the only net contributors to the EU Budget in 2016 (assuming that by “when UK decided enough was enough” you mean 2016). Over the 2000-2015 period, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden were all net contributors too. Of the net contributors over that period, the UK’s net contribution was actually the second lowest as a percentage of GNI (with the Netherlands’ contribution the highest, only Finland’s lower). Ireland has been a net contributor since 2013.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

It’s a great pity that so much taxpayers money was wasted on useless anti-pandemic stuff when there was no pandemic. About the only time when I wished we were required to go cap in hand.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Those countries that receive more FROM the EU than they pay TO the EU are always more likely to want to remain until they realise that their own identies are being submerged by the country who pays in what they are taking out.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

I am referring to the Official Leave and Remain Campaigns – not any number of people who made comments of all kinds during the campaign.
The Single market:
DD was also correct, The German Car industry has indeed got tariff free access to our market (Fourth largest market in The World for German cars) – just as UK has access to their market to which around 80% of UK Car production goes – all WITHOUT being in ”The Single Market”.
Others Leaving:
I cannot answer as to why others have not left (yet) – perhaps its the huge cash sums that are paid from the member state contributors. Germany in particular – who are now the EU paymasters. Most other ”contributors” pay little or nothing into the pot – but they are rising to plug UK gap.
As other countries turn into net contributors (there were only 2 when UK decided enough was enough – UK and Germany) – then attitudes may change.Indeed in Ireland (which is now a very tiny contributor) there is now an undercurrent – no longer universal support when they were feeding from The EU’s teat.
Shambles:
No one can disagree there has been an utter shambles over the past few years – but so have there been in other EU Countries, even (dare I say it) Germany – we must put thigns into perspective.
ECB Bank and BoE funding:
One thing The UK didnt have to do – is go Cap in hand to Germany (effectivly) to exceed 3% of GDP for pandemic spending (it is they who control ECB – and dont show the liabilities in their ”accounts”) – this via the dreaded ‘Growth & Stability pact’ (largely ignored by both Gernany and France – The UK just did what we needed to with our own currency. UK also – despite EU’s best efforts – rolled out our own Vaccine first and most effectivly.
Most of the rest of the problems (fuel shortages, power cuts, microchip issues and so on) were largely either imagined, exaggerated or repeated across the developed World.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Those countries that receive more FROM the EU than they pay TO the EU are always more likely to want to remain until they realise that their own identies are being submerged by the country who pays in what they are taking out.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

Not sure that’s entirely correct RD. For example Farage and Hannan on the record during campaign they expected us to retain Single Market access. Many Brexiteers, Davies et al, regularly indicated ‘just wait and see, the German Car industry will insist UK retains access etc etc’. Naive wasn’t it.
As regards China imports – they pay and and are subject to financial and non financial tariff requirements.
I’d concur any large Club will have some flaws and room for improvement. But one has to ask – why’ve others not left? Why even is it so important still to other non members they gain membership? One of the ironies of Brexit is possibly that it helped ‘bond’ the remaining 26 more firmly (despite many issues) because they saw what a shambles a country gets itself into when leaving. Be interesting to see how this plays out in the history that’ll be written.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

It’s an absolute disaster for the UK, and especially for NI, and anyone reading the small print knows it. Time to tell the EU to bog off.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

What I think now is that the EU is a tough and detailed negotiator – but tough in the sense that it just thinks it can steamroller everybody…which in this case (and others) is absolutely counterproductive; and detailed in the sense that it can’t see the wood for the trees because it spends so much time with its head in the fine print of some random directive about ISIN numbers. Neither is good.
I spent a great deal of time pondering whether the people in the corridors of Brussels are actually evil and scheming…or whether alot of them are just daft with a very tenuous grip on reality. For a long time, I was sold on the first alternative…but watching the fiasco with the vaccine procurement, I started to come over to the 2nd alternative. That was really quite special.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Mr Watson – on the contrary, there was NO EFFORT put into remainign in the single market. we were told by both Remain and Leave that The UK woudl leave the Single Market – if nothing else thats what everyone said would happen.
As another correspondent on he has already said ”why can China export massively into The EU?” unhindered (even Dumping Steel) – whilst UK continues to be put throguh the mill.
The reason? (as he also mentioend) was the UK had the temetrity to leave a flawed ”club”..

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

It’s an absolute disaster for the UK, and especially for NI, and anyone reading the small print knows it. Time to tell the EU to bog off.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The Irish, The UK and The EU were all united on one thing over BREXIT and that was ”No hard border on Ireland” – and yet so many imagined ‘fantasy problems’ over a non-existant border were created by The EU – and people (inexplicably) went along with it. Completely ignoring the fact that if not on anythign else 100% of the participants agreed ”No hardBorder”.
I still think the ‘hard border issue’ – wherever it ends up ”is much ado about nothing” The EU has borders all over the place – why was the tiny border between UK and Ireland seen as so problomatic? Especially as The Republic has no border with any part of The EU anyway.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

Correct. Smoke and mirrors, all intended to stop the UK from brexiting, or risk losing part of our nation completely. Why we go along with the EU I have no idea – we should just ignore their demands and get on with life.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

Correct. Smoke and mirrors, all intended to stop the UK from brexiting, or risk losing part of our nation completely. Why we go along with the EU I have no idea – we should just ignore their demands and get on with life.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Same to you. In spades. The UK was just as much using NI as a pawn – forcing a major change on the place without consulting the local majority, never mind the minority, demanding that the EU should pick up the pieces, and trying to use NI as a way to get EU market access through the back door. Never mind ‘hurt feelings’ – the EU was just not interested in sacrificing its interests to help solve problems that Britain had created and refused to deal with itself. But now, Britain having returned to the ranks of sane adults, it looks like they can get on with dealing with the situation. Together.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The beauty of the Windsor arrangement is it can be spun as a success by both sides, and both sides smart enough to know that has to happen and we allow the partner to do that to their relevant audiences. Very predictable and no surprise. Had to be part of how this was constructed.
As regards why it’s taken so long – well firstly Brexiteers gave it little to no thought during the 2016 campaign, and ignored as trivial matter when it was raised. Too much faith was put in securing continuing Single Market access with minimum consequences – at best naive, at worst deliberately misleading.
It’s also remarkable that Brexiteers complain that the EU has been a tough, detailed negotiator. We knew this would be the case as we’d been on the inside for 40yrs benefitting from that. There was plenty of warning about what it would feel like as a 3rd party for the first time. Furthermore one has to deal with realpolitik, and Brexit created a situation for the EU, exacerbated by statements leading Brexiteers made about the imminent collapse of the EU, that further ensured they were going to make sure this far from easy for us. We’re not children. This was entirely predictable, and if the people championing Brexit didn’t see it coming they really shouldn’t be in charge of anything.
Then Boris and his lies and mendacity. Can anyone blame the EU for not trusting this charlatan? His own party eventually came to that conclusion. But again was all predictable based on previous behaviour yet they still placed him in charge
Hence 7 years of pain, and even more opportunity cost to all the political time that could have been spent on other crucial matters.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The Irish, The UK and The EU were all united on one thing over BREXIT and that was ”No hard border on Ireland” – and yet so many imagined ‘fantasy problems’ over a non-existant border were created by The EU – and people (inexplicably) went along with it. Completely ignoring the fact that if not on anythign else 100% of the participants agreed ”No hardBorder”.
I still think the ‘hard border issue’ – wherever it ends up ”is much ado about nothing” The EU has borders all over the place – why was the tiny border between UK and Ireland seen as so problomatic? Especially as The Republic has no border with any part of The EU anyway.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Oh, and just to add for good measure: if we can all please recall to our minds the spectacle of the EU prancing about all over the world, merrily screaming “THE UK IS BREAKING INTERNATIONAL LAW OMG!!!!!” to the (admittedly silly) UK protocol bill…when the EU clearly had not understood the basic principle of the piece of international law at the bottom of this whole drama...the UK deserves an apology for that.
And we might reflect on this: one of the most powerful organisations in the world, capable of shaping the lives of millions…and yet not able to understand basic principles. Oh dear.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

My congratulations for elucidating clearly and decisively in a series of comments here, the modus operandi of the EU with regard to Brexit, and thereby confirming how right we were to leave that institution.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Katherine – you say: ”And we might reflect on this: one of the most powerful organisations in the world, capable of shaping the lives of millions”
I would add ”Largely through bullying and Blackmail” – if anyone dissagrees with that, then I would say ”You dont know enuf” – ask the people of Poland, Hungary and others.
Also ask France, Ireland, Portugal Denmark etc., who all voted in a way The EU didnt like ……so they HAD to re-run their elections.
Strange The EU didnt demand a re-run of The UK election

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

My congratulations for elucidating clearly and decisively in a series of comments here, the modus operandi of the EU with regard to Brexit, and thereby confirming how right we were to leave that institution.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Katherine – you say: ”And we might reflect on this: one of the most powerful organisations in the world, capable of shaping the lives of millions”
I would add ”Largely through bullying and Blackmail” – if anyone dissagrees with that, then I would say ”You dont know enuf” – ask the people of Poland, Hungary and others.
Also ask France, Ireland, Portugal Denmark etc., who all voted in a way The EU didnt like ……so they HAD to re-run their elections.
Strange The EU didnt demand a re-run of The UK election

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The UK displayed both trust and a commitment to cooperation right from the beginning of Theresa May’s attempt to negotiate a withdrawal plan in good faith. We saw how that turned out. It is a bit rich now to imply that these attitudes have finally been reached by both sides. All this was possible in 2016, had Brussels been any use at realistic statecraft.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Oh, Theresa May tried to make the hardest Brexit she could get while still negotiating sensibly – and keeping Northern Ireland integrated with the UK. All respect to her. She’d likely have got there too, if her party had backed her (or if Labour had tried to help find a solution rather than running three ways at once and using Brexit to promote St Jeremy). It was the Tory Brexiteers who decided that this was not enough, and so dropped the requirement for keeping NI integrated, and the negotiating sensibly, and replaced her with Boris Johnson.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You are right RF. May was arguably wrong headed in her Lancaster declaration that Brexit had to mean withdrawal from Single Market and Customs Union – clearly it didn’t and just ask Norway – but she negotiated in good faith and recommended the Irish Backstop that was agreed with the EU as a unique approach to the problem to the Commons. Where as we know her own side killed it and then killed her too.
In fact as we can see where we’ve ended up turns out to be quite close to the Backstop albeit 4yrs later. In the meantime we had the Johnson protocol and his lies about what it meant for a border in the Irish Sea to the DUP, then the retort to EU we’d tear it up having just signed it. An embarrassment that now looks even more stark.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well! there’s a surprise, someone who actually wanted Theresa Mays appalling Brexit deal. I thoguht she was the only one who thoguht it was a great idea to keep The UK tied in every way to the EU in law and in Governence.
No respect to her – at all. She was a hopeless PM.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

Oh, I did not want it. I wanted a soft Brexit or Remain. But at least she faced what the problem was and dealt honestly with trying to solve it.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

Oh, I did not want it. I wanted a soft Brexit or Remain. But at least she faced what the problem was and dealt honestly with trying to solve it.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You are clearly operating off an assumption that Brexit could simply be rewritten to mean anything that suits the EU’s priorities and those of its political supporters in the UK. This is not true, and falsifies your attempts to rewrite history where the Tory party is concerned. Like it or not, the people who voted for Brexit do represent a coherent collection of political priorities and you don’t get to reclassify them in this manner.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

the people who voted for Brexit do represent a coherent collection of political priorities

Do they now? I do remember just after the vote. The polls (and the House of Commons) divided pretty evenly in three: Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, and Remain. The voting intentions were a circular firing squad: Hard Brexit would beat Remain – since people wanted the Brexit they had voted for. Soft Brexit would beat hard Brexit, since it was a Brexit, and people did not want to do avoidable damage to the UK. And Remain would beat soft Brexit, since many could see no point in having all this trouble for the small difference of a soft Brexit. There was nothing in the vote or the pre-referendum campaign that said what kind of Brexit this was a vote for, since several Brexiteers had promised to remain within the single market, and others had promised to keep most of the advantages of membership. The only definition of what it all meant that anyone could come up with was May’s: ‘Brexit means Brexit’. I do not doubt that you know what you wanted when you voted, but it is rewriting history to say that there was any clarity about it at the time.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

the people who voted for Brexit do represent a coherent collection of political priorities

Do they now? I do remember just after the vote. The polls (and the House of Commons) divided pretty evenly in three: Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, and Remain. The voting intentions were a circular firing squad: Hard Brexit would beat Remain – since people wanted the Brexit they had voted for. Soft Brexit would beat hard Brexit, since it was a Brexit, and people did not want to do avoidable damage to the UK. And Remain would beat soft Brexit, since many could see no point in having all this trouble for the small difference of a soft Brexit. There was nothing in the vote or the pre-referendum campaign that said what kind of Brexit this was a vote for, since several Brexiteers had promised to remain within the single market, and others had promised to keep most of the advantages of membership. The only definition of what it all meant that anyone could come up with was May’s: ‘Brexit means Brexit’. I do not doubt that you know what you wanted when you voted, but it is rewriting history to say that there was any clarity about it at the time.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You are right RF. May was arguably wrong headed in her Lancaster declaration that Brexit had to mean withdrawal from Single Market and Customs Union – clearly it didn’t and just ask Norway – but she negotiated in good faith and recommended the Irish Backstop that was agreed with the EU as a unique approach to the problem to the Commons. Where as we know her own side killed it and then killed her too.
In fact as we can see where we’ve ended up turns out to be quite close to the Backstop albeit 4yrs later. In the meantime we had the Johnson protocol and his lies about what it meant for a border in the Irish Sea to the DUP, then the retort to EU we’d tear it up having just signed it. An embarrassment that now looks even more stark.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well! there’s a surprise, someone who actually wanted Theresa Mays appalling Brexit deal. I thoguht she was the only one who thoguht it was a great idea to keep The UK tied in every way to the EU in law and in Governence.
No respect to her – at all. She was a hopeless PM.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You are clearly operating off an assumption that Brexit could simply be rewritten to mean anything that suits the EU’s priorities and those of its political supporters in the UK. This is not true, and falsifies your attempts to rewrite history where the Tory party is concerned. Like it or not, the people who voted for Brexit do represent a coherent collection of political priorities and you don’t get to reclassify them in this manner.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Oh, Theresa May tried to make the hardest Brexit she could get while still negotiating sensibly – and keeping Northern Ireland integrated with the UK. All respect to her. She’d likely have got there too, if her party had backed her (or if Labour had tried to help find a solution rather than running three ways at once and using Brexit to promote St Jeremy). It was the Tory Brexiteers who decided that this was not enough, and so dropped the requirement for keeping NI integrated, and the negotiating sensibly, and replaced her with Boris Johnson.

Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Have you ever been to Northern Ireland? This is about people, not the silly games of the EU to date.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I think you are absolutely wrong, Rasmus. A deep understanding of the GFA, that you can’t use NI as a political pawn and that you can’t just force things on them from above willy-nilly because “we’re the powerful ones and we’re cross and paranoid about Brexit” was a prerequisite for the EU concluding the protocol in the first place. If the EU hadn’t have put its own vanity first the entire time and had realised flexibility was necessary to take account of the special situation, there wouldn’t have been any need for the British to try and disown the protocol.
This is a massive climbdown from the EU: a tacit acknowledgement that its priority these last 7 years was never the peace, but its own political agenda. You can dress that up and whinge about British behaviour all you want, but, as the author points out – the EU has now agreed to things it dismissed out of hand just a couple of years ago. It was never interested in solutions, just powerplay and hurt feelings. Shameful.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Oh, and just to add for good measure: if we can all please recall to our minds the spectacle of the EU prancing about all over the world, merrily screaming “THE UK IS BREAKING INTERNATIONAL LAW OMG!!!!!” to the (admittedly silly) UK protocol bill…when the EU clearly had not understood the basic principle of the piece of international law at the bottom of this whole drama...the UK deserves an apology for that.
And we might reflect on this: one of the most powerful organisations in the world, capable of shaping the lives of millions…and yet not able to understand basic principles. Oh dear.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The UK displayed both trust and a commitment to cooperation right from the beginning of Theresa May’s attempt to negotiate a withdrawal plan in good faith. We saw how that turned out. It is a bit rich now to imply that these attitudes have finally been reached by both sides. All this was possible in 2016, had Brussels been any use at realistic statecraft.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Have you ever been to Northern Ireland? This is about people, not the silly games of the EU to date.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The real irony is that Brexiteers were accused of ‘breaking the GFA’ – anyone who read it understood it never did. The EU however demanded it be broken, and Ursula’s short lived vaccine war when she introduced the 45 minute border without telling the Irish, which effectively kick started this Unionist objection and the subsequent backing down of the EU was well documented, even by the Guardian.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/30/eus-vaccine-blunder-reopens-brexit-battle-over-irish-border
The threats of violence at the time of negotiations, and as used by anti-Brexiteer nationalists broke the GFA on page 2, where ‘threats of violence’ to obtain objectives was agreed to be banned. (NB It wasn’t Unionists who shot a police man last week, or the reporter, by accident, last year.)
I always found that impressive, because if you read the GFA (who other than the EU hasn’t?), Page 1 and parts of page 2 are actually occupied by the table of contents, so to break the GFA on page 2 takes some beating!
Northern Ireland is, ironically, the only place where ‘Majority Rule’ is no longer allowed – which is precisely what the GFA means. That Brexit was a majority vote for most of the UK did not mean it was so simple in NI, as most Brexiteers pointed out, and Europhiles refused to accept all the while claiming it was Brexiteers who would break it with a border.
Well, that’s rubbish too because the GFA only refers to the border in terms of security apparatus, the ‘customs posts’ etc actually exist, but the FTA agreement dating from the 1920’s covers the border and free movement. The Europhiles (aren’t they always?) were disingenuous in their claims re the border.
The IRA makes a fortune smuggling diesel and other things across that customs border, so much so that they murder Garda to keep the lucrative traffic going.
Finally, one of the more amusing aspects at the time, was the BBC complaining about borders while showing a photograph of the border complete with sign pointing to the Customs post.
I expect the EU decided that last year’s record imports of gas and oil from the UK were still important for this coming year and opted to bite the bullet and tone down the trade war they’ve been conducting against the UK since we left. Not that they’ve abandoned it yet, but the economic crisis coming to the world thanks to QE, lockdowns and Net Zero is going to concentrate even more minds in the EU and elsewhere before its done.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Quite a contortion of excuses that.
However just on one level of analysis reflect – we knew the Republic would press EU to support it in ensuring no hard land border. Entirely predictable. It took us a while to work out that little old Ireland couldn’t be steam-rollered by the UK if it had the backing of 26 other EU member states. Naive error no.1. Then because we made clear we needed some sort of deal with EU and couldn’t walk off the cliff (despite silly threats) we had no choice but to engage with options for how no hard land border and Single Market integrity could be balanced. Naive error No.2. If anyone had the common sense (and lack of arrogance) to ‘war-game’ this negotiation you could see where this was ending up.
Learning what it feels like to be a 3rd party in a negotiation with EU been a painful lesson for us. But, and here’s the thing, that was all predicted. Arrogance overrode it, until more recently we’ve recovered some sensible British pragmatism.

Phineas Bury
Phineas Bury
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

What is a hard land border? Can you name one in nations that border on the EU? The UK? Borders are borders as the BELFAST AGREEMENT accepted and unionists and nationals in NI who want to stay in UK

Phineas Bury
Phineas Bury
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

What is a hard land border? Can you name one in nations that border on the EU? The UK? Borders are borders as the BELFAST AGREEMENT accepted and unionists and nationals in NI who want to stay in UK

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Quite a contortion of excuses that.
However just on one level of analysis reflect – we knew the Republic would press EU to support it in ensuring no hard land border. Entirely predictable. It took us a while to work out that little old Ireland couldn’t be steam-rollered by the UK if it had the backing of 26 other EU member states. Naive error no.1. Then because we made clear we needed some sort of deal with EU and couldn’t walk off the cliff (despite silly threats) we had no choice but to engage with options for how no hard land border and Single Market integrity could be balanced. Naive error No.2. If anyone had the common sense (and lack of arrogance) to ‘war-game’ this negotiation you could see where this was ending up.
Learning what it feels like to be a 3rd party in a negotiation with EU been a painful lesson for us. But, and here’s the thing, that was all predicted. Arrogance overrode it, until more recently we’ve recovered some sensible British pragmatism.

Iris C
Iris C
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I would suggest that it was because Rishi Sunak is a man of the people, a good communicator and with the sort of charisma that appeals to the female sex.

John Mcalester
John Mcalester
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The mistake that a lot of people make including the author of this piece, is that parallel consent as stated in the GFA only applies to areas that are devolved to the Stormont assembly. So it does not apply to Foreign policy or international agreements.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

*until 2023

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Probably because it requires some trust and long-term cooperation between the parties. If one side signs a deal one day and decides to ignore it the next, the other side has to assume that any concession will be ruthlessly exploited. Once the UK accepts that EU ‘interference’ is here to stay and that Britain has to actively make this work and not just exploit it for loopholes, a deal can happen.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The real irony is that Brexiteers were accused of ‘breaking the GFA’ – anyone who read it understood it never did. The EU however demanded it be broken, and Ursula’s short lived vaccine war when she introduced the 45 minute border without telling the Irish, which effectively kick started this Unionist objection and the subsequent backing down of the EU was well documented, even by the Guardian.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/30/eus-vaccine-blunder-reopens-brexit-battle-over-irish-border
The threats of violence at the time of negotiations, and as used by anti-Brexiteer nationalists broke the GFA on page 2, where ‘threats of violence’ to obtain objectives was agreed to be banned. (NB It wasn’t Unionists who shot a police man last week, or the reporter, by accident, last year.)
I always found that impressive, because if you read the GFA (who other than the EU hasn’t?), Page 1 and parts of page 2 are actually occupied by the table of contents, so to break the GFA on page 2 takes some beating!
Northern Ireland is, ironically, the only place where ‘Majority Rule’ is no longer allowed – which is precisely what the GFA means. That Brexit was a majority vote for most of the UK did not mean it was so simple in NI, as most Brexiteers pointed out, and Europhiles refused to accept all the while claiming it was Brexiteers who would break it with a border.
Well, that’s rubbish too because the GFA only refers to the border in terms of security apparatus, the ‘customs posts’ etc actually exist, but the FTA agreement dating from the 1920’s covers the border and free movement. The Europhiles (aren’t they always?) were disingenuous in their claims re the border.
The IRA makes a fortune smuggling diesel and other things across that customs border, so much so that they murder Garda to keep the lucrative traffic going.
Finally, one of the more amusing aspects at the time, was the BBC complaining about borders while showing a photograph of the border complete with sign pointing to the Customs post.
I expect the EU decided that last year’s record imports of gas and oil from the UK were still important for this coming year and opted to bite the bullet and tone down the trade war they’ve been conducting against the UK since we left. Not that they’ve abandoned it yet, but the economic crisis coming to the world thanks to QE, lockdowns and Net Zero is going to concentrate even more minds in the EU and elsewhere before its done.

Iris C
Iris C
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I would suggest that it was because Rishi Sunak is a man of the people, a good communicator and with the sort of charisma that appeals to the female sex.

John Mcalester
John Mcalester
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The mistake that a lot of people make including the author of this piece, is that parallel consent as stated in the GFA only applies to areas that are devolved to the Stormont assembly. So it does not apply to Foreign policy or international agreements.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

“First, it means the EU has accepted a core principle of the Good Friday Agreement: Northern Ireland is governed by what is known as “parallel consent” and not simply by majorities like elsewhere”.
This might be to state/ask the obvious but why has this taken 2023?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

“..and a kind of permanent forced friendship.”
Oxymorons don’t survive one real crisis. And one will come.
The almost hysterical praised being heaped on this new agreement, from so many quarters, suggests that evrybody knows that the can is being kicked down the road.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Precisely, well said.

John Dee
John Dee
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Will it get Brexit done?
Well, Ursula der Liar was smiling, so there’s your answer.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dee

she was smiling because next year’s record imports of gas and oil from the UK are now more secure. Next winter might not be so warm.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dee

She was smiling because the Wolf that recently ate her 30year old pony ‘Dolly’ has been shot!

Neil Ross
Neil Ross
1 year ago

Please tell me this is not true – what did the wolf ever do other than get some food?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Neil Ross

He ate the FĂŒhrerein’s pony! My ‘agents’ inform me he was shot in Switzerland.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Neil Ross

He ate the FĂŒhrerein’s pony! My ‘agents’ inform me he was shot in Switzerland.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross
1 year ago

Please tell me this is not true – what did the wolf ever do other than get some food?

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dee

Sorry John – I have now stolen this : Ursula der Liar”

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dee

she was smiling because next year’s record imports of gas and oil from the UK are now more secure. Next winter might not be so warm.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dee

She was smiling because the Wolf that recently ate her 30year old pony ‘Dolly’ has been shot!

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dee

Sorry John – I have now stolen this : Ursula der Liar”

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Precisely, well said.

John Dee
John Dee
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Will it get Brexit done?
Well, Ursula der Liar was smiling, so there’s your answer.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

“..and a kind of permanent forced friendship.”
Oxymorons don’t survive one real crisis. And one will come.
The almost hysterical praised being heaped on this new agreement, from so many quarters, suggests that evrybody knows that the can is being kicked down the road.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago

The DUP should be very slow to reject this. No likely future UK government will be motivated to get a better deal. Even if it’s not perfect, it is demoralising for the unionist community to always hear talk to betrayal and defeat. It just makes Unionism look ineffectual and on borrowed time. It made political sense for Ian Paisley Snr to ramp up that sort of rhetoric, so that he could heap the blame on more moderate Unionists. Once he was in pole position himself, he toned down the rhetoric and got on with working with Sinn Fein. His son is a bear of very little brain in comparison, and should be ignored now.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Won’t there the always be some outflanking with the ‘No, never’ baton simply moving to another small grouping who, as yet, are not faced with the responsibility of governing and what goes with that? DUP did it to Trimble. It may be inevitable TUV does it to them.
But in the end you have to lead and engage with realities.

John Mcalester
John Mcalester
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

The term in Northern Ireland is called being a Lundy, after Capt. Robert Lundy governor of Londonderry in 1688 who was reputed to have committed an act of treachery.

Basically as soon as a Unionist comprises in any way, a more extreme Unionist will call him a Lundy, and so on and so forth. It explains why getting Unionists to do anything is like herding cats.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Mcalester
John Mcalester
John Mcalester
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

The term in Northern Ireland is called being a Lundy, after Capt. Robert Lundy governor of Londonderry in 1688 who was reputed to have committed an act of treachery.

Basically as soon as a Unionist comprises in any way, a more extreme Unionist will call him a Lundy, and so on and so forth. It explains why getting Unionists to do anything is like herding cats.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Mcalester
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

I hope they get on board too. Up until now, they’ve been right to stamp their feet about the protocol and its implementation and not having been listened to enough. But they need to sit down and have a very good think about to what extent it is right and good to stand up for legitimate interests and principles and when they are just going to damage their own cause by being holier than thou about it.
I fully expect the DUP to come back and have one or other niggle about it (if only for political reasons, showing that they’re standing up for their people), but hopefully it will just be a minor fix and not a huge tantrum. Sunak would do well to make it clear that he’s willing to take a “carrot and stick” approach.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I am sure the words ‘Barnet Formula’ will be used by Rishi.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I am sure the words ‘Barnet Formula’ will be used by Rishi.

Stephen Magee
Stephen Magee
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Anyone who thinks the the DUP cares about this issue is deluded. It is simply an excuse to avoid entering government as a minority in a nationalist government. Even that’s a bit inaccurate: their real objection isn’t to nationalism – it’s to Catholicism.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Won’t there the always be some outflanking with the ‘No, never’ baton simply moving to another small grouping who, as yet, are not faced with the responsibility of governing and what goes with that? DUP did it to Trimble. It may be inevitable TUV does it to them.
But in the end you have to lead and engage with realities.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

I hope they get on board too. Up until now, they’ve been right to stamp their feet about the protocol and its implementation and not having been listened to enough. But they need to sit down and have a very good think about to what extent it is right and good to stand up for legitimate interests and principles and when they are just going to damage their own cause by being holier than thou about it.
I fully expect the DUP to come back and have one or other niggle about it (if only for political reasons, showing that they’re standing up for their people), but hopefully it will just be a minor fix and not a huge tantrum. Sunak would do well to make it clear that he’s willing to take a “carrot and stick” approach.

Stephen Magee
Stephen Magee
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Anyone who thinks the the DUP cares about this issue is deluded. It is simply an excuse to avoid entering government as a minority in a nationalist government. Even that’s a bit inaccurate: their real objection isn’t to nationalism – it’s to Catholicism.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago

The DUP should be very slow to reject this. No likely future UK government will be motivated to get a better deal. Even if it’s not perfect, it is demoralising for the unionist community to always hear talk to betrayal and defeat. It just makes Unionism look ineffectual and on borrowed time. It made political sense for Ian Paisley Snr to ramp up that sort of rhetoric, so that he could heap the blame on more moderate Unionists. Once he was in pole position himself, he toned down the rhetoric and got on with working with Sinn Fein. His son is a bear of very little brain in comparison, and should be ignored now.

Alan Smith
Alan Smith
1 year ago

This deal should be unacceptable to anyone who values the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. Who is this woman who thinks she can dictate to us? Sunak has gone for compromise when a simple no deal would have sufficed. The idea that the EU would put up a so called hard border is for the birds. They would never get away with it and we would refuse to do it as well.
The ‘magical thinking’ of Barnier turned out not to be magical at all! We should have no truck with any kind of interference from foreign governments or courts.
It is worth repeating that no deal is better than a bad deal. The only thing that Mrs May got right, if only she had meant it!

Alan Smith
Alan Smith
1 year ago

This deal should be unacceptable to anyone who values the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. Who is this woman who thinks she can dictate to us? Sunak has gone for compromise when a simple no deal would have sufficed. The idea that the EU would put up a so called hard border is for the birds. They would never get away with it and we would refuse to do it as well.
The ‘magical thinking’ of Barnier turned out not to be magical at all! We should have no truck with any kind of interference from foreign governments or courts.
It is worth repeating that no deal is better than a bad deal. The only thing that Mrs May got right, if only she had meant it!

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

There have always been two practical reasons to leave the EU:
1.To sign an FTA with the USA (while retaining tariff-free access to the EU)
2.To control the number and type of people allowed to settle in the UK so as not to overwhelm our housing stock, public sector and infrastructure
This deal makes 1) more likely as the Americans have always been concerned about damage to the GFA. Kemi Badenoch should get over there tomorrow. And what better time to deepen ties with the US economy as it reshores so many industries?
Sunak should now turn his attention to 2) starting with Stopping the Boats.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (aka IRA, how apt! Tho’ this IRA screws the EU badly too) is not going to help. Brexit is done, the next step for us Brexiteers is to clear out Westminster of the GreenSNPLibLabCons. Until they are out we’ll not only never get ALL the benefits of Brexit, we’ll never sort out the catastrophe unfolding thanks to QE, lockdown and Net Zero, of which Net Zero is going to literally be the killer. It already is in Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere, tho’ the said GreenSNPLibLabCons all blame Putin and the Ukraine war for that.

Paul Boizot
Paul Boizot
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

The Brexiteers only have so much influence at Westminster as it is, due to the fake mandate given by the First Past The Post electoral system, which has given the Tories a 70+ majority on 40-something percent of the vote.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

UK’s policitcal system is what it is and a referendum to change it was rejected in 2011.
You need to find out more about other Political systems, where there are more than 2 (two) parties in the running, of course there will never be more than 50% of the vote for a governing party.
eg: Angela Merkel (remember her? she was the one whose legacy collapsed as soon as she walked throguh the exit door) never had a majority in her 16 years in power.
Not once was she actually voted into office – not once.
Check it out.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

But the government’s she led did have a majority of votes when you combine the votes of all the parties involved, which is the big difference. Having lived in England and NZ I’ve experienced both systems and both have their faults.
FPTP often gives a government an outright majority on little more than a third of the vote which is clearly undemocratic, however every MP is (technically) directly answerable to their electorate.
MMP in NZ ensures the make up of parliament represents the vote of the country as closely as possible, however you can end up with the tail wagging the dog and minor parties having power they don’t necessarily deserve in order to form the coalitions. You also have list MPs who aren’t directly elected so aren’t as accountable. Whilst I prefer the MMP, neither system is perfect

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

But the government’s she led did have a majority of votes when you combine the votes of all the parties involved, which is the big difference. Having lived in England and NZ I’ve experienced both systems and both have their faults.
FPTP often gives a government an outright majority on little more than a third of the vote which is clearly undemocratic, however every MP is (technically) directly answerable to their electorate.
MMP in NZ ensures the make up of parliament represents the vote of the country as closely as possible, however you can end up with the tail wagging the dog and minor parties having power they don’t necessarily deserve in order to form the coalitions. You also have list MPs who aren’t directly elected so aren’t as accountable. Whilst I prefer the MMP, neither system is perfect

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Boizot

UK’s policitcal system is what it is and a referendum to change it was rejected in 2011.
You need to find out more about other Political systems, where there are more than 2 (two) parties in the running, of course there will never be more than 50% of the vote for a governing party.
eg: Angela Merkel (remember her? she was the one whose legacy collapsed as soon as she walked throguh the exit door) never had a majority in her 16 years in power.
Not once was she actually voted into office – not once.
Check it out.

Paul Boizot
Paul Boizot
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

The Brexiteers only have so much influence at Westminster as it is, due to the fake mandate given by the First Past The Post electoral system, which has given the Tories a 70+ majority on 40-something percent of the vote.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (aka IRA, how apt! Tho’ this IRA screws the EU badly too) is not going to help. Brexit is done, the next step for us Brexiteers is to clear out Westminster of the GreenSNPLibLabCons. Until they are out we’ll not only never get ALL the benefits of Brexit, we’ll never sort out the catastrophe unfolding thanks to QE, lockdown and Net Zero, of which Net Zero is going to literally be the killer. It already is in Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere, tho’ the said GreenSNPLibLabCons all blame Putin and the Ukraine war for that.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

There have always been two practical reasons to leave the EU:
1.To sign an FTA with the USA (while retaining tariff-free access to the EU)
2.To control the number and type of people allowed to settle in the UK so as not to overwhelm our housing stock, public sector and infrastructure
This deal makes 1) more likely as the Americans have always been concerned about damage to the GFA. Kemi Badenoch should get over there tomorrow. And what better time to deepen ties with the US economy as it reshores so many industries?
Sunak should now turn his attention to 2) starting with Stopping the Boats.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

Doubtless there will be some pretty serious costs to be paid elsewhere in the UK/EU relationship for this to have been achieved.

I am dreading Ben Habib’s analysis of it, especially given Steerpike’s report in the Spectator today in which Rishi Sunak is openly endorsing the value of being in the Single Market. If this becomes a serious political narrative, that’s Brexit shafted again.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

Doubtless there will be some pretty serious costs to be paid elsewhere in the UK/EU relationship for this to have been achieved.

I am dreading Ben Habib’s analysis of it, especially given Steerpike’s report in the Spectator today in which Rishi Sunak is openly endorsing the value of being in the Single Market. If this becomes a serious political narrative, that’s Brexit shafted again.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago

Word on the street is that the DUP is close to giving this the nod; the only outstanding issue being the proposed colour of the goods lanes: they would like to see an Orange lane for internal goods and, as a gesture of generosity, suggest that Green be allocated to goods going south.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago

Word on the street is that the DUP is close to giving this the nod; the only outstanding issue being the proposed colour of the goods lanes: they would like to see an Orange lane for internal goods and, as a gesture of generosity, suggest that Green be allocated to goods going south.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago

I lost count how many tiems I heard The EU state categorically that there was no further negotiation, nor any changes whatsoever allowed.
”End of”.
I am also glad The UK didnt get pushed around by the EU Loving Biden – when he basically said ”UK will have to suck it up”’ (my words) – Well Biden, we didnt suck it up! So there. Neither The EU nor US gets to push UK around.
No American President would EVER have an unelected/unsackable wholly appointed cartel creating and handing down laws to be obeyed by their cotizens – not least of which could be the US equivilent ”The USA must have free momement with the whole of South America” – it would never (rightly) happen.

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago

I lost count how many tiems I heard The EU state categorically that there was no further negotiation, nor any changes whatsoever allowed.
”End of”.
I am also glad The UK didnt get pushed around by the EU Loving Biden – when he basically said ”UK will have to suck it up”’ (my words) – Well Biden, we didnt suck it up! So there. Neither The EU nor US gets to push UK around.
No American President would EVER have an unelected/unsackable wholly appointed cartel creating and handing down laws to be obeyed by their cotizens – not least of which could be the US equivilent ”The USA must have free momement with the whole of South America” – it would never (rightly) happen.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago

“for the first time it does give unionist parties a mechanism to withdraw their consent from new EU laws applying in Northern Ireland: unionism has been given a tool to manage Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.”

This is categorically untrue. All it gives is that the unionists can apply to the UK parliament to veto, and ONLY in exceptional circumstances. No guarantee anything will then happen given the increasing eagerness of parliament to be friendly with EU, and that can only increase if Starmer becomes PM.
Moreover, if such a veto is made, the EU can make a claim for costs. Finally, all of this continues only for as long as UK maintains alignment with EU laws. As far as I can see that is the purpose of the whole deal from the EU perspective – to maintain alignment.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phil Rees
Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

And there’s a corollary. Sunak is praised for being a technocrat who is on top of the detail. So I cannot believe he does not realise these problems, particularly the fact that it binds UK to EU alignment. Nor can he be unaware of the difference between the EU very precise and legalistic version of the agreement (on which I base my claims) and the UK document which is more in the nature of a PR document aimed at selling the deal to the media and ERG/DUP.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

And there’s a corollary. Sunak is praised for being a technocrat who is on top of the detail. So I cannot believe he does not realise these problems, particularly the fact that it binds UK to EU alignment. Nor can he be unaware of the difference between the EU very precise and legalistic version of the agreement (on which I base my claims) and the UK document which is more in the nature of a PR document aimed at selling the deal to the media and ERG/DUP.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago

“for the first time it does give unionist parties a mechanism to withdraw their consent from new EU laws applying in Northern Ireland: unionism has been given a tool to manage Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.”

This is categorically untrue. All it gives is that the unionists can apply to the UK parliament to veto, and ONLY in exceptional circumstances. No guarantee anything will then happen given the increasing eagerness of parliament to be friendly with EU, and that can only increase if Starmer becomes PM.
Moreover, if such a veto is made, the EU can make a claim for costs. Finally, all of this continues only for as long as UK maintains alignment with EU laws. As far as I can see that is the purpose of the whole deal from the EU perspective – to maintain alignment.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phil Rees
Michelle Johnston
Michelle Johnston
1 year ago

When the protocol has been discussed here about two years ago. I decided to look at the trade flows, assuming that the leakage to Mainland Europe from N.I. was a significant number to justify the concern of flooding the EU with “substandard” non-compliant goods (all of a sudden of course after 50 years).
So whilst the issue of parallel consent being recognized is crucial so is the separation of inward North Ireland trade from GB which in 2019 came in at 11 billion and onward outward bound trade to mainland EU which was 2 billion in 2019.
To put that in perspective NI exports 2 Billion to the EU and Great Britain exports 40 billion alone to Eire.
When I looked at those numbers it made me wonder does Joe Biden know what we are talking about here?

Michelle Johnston
Michelle Johnston
1 year ago

When the protocol has been discussed here about two years ago. I decided to look at the trade flows, assuming that the leakage to Mainland Europe from N.I. was a significant number to justify the concern of flooding the EU with “substandard” non-compliant goods (all of a sudden of course after 50 years).
So whilst the issue of parallel consent being recognized is crucial so is the separation of inward North Ireland trade from GB which in 2019 came in at 11 billion and onward outward bound trade to mainland EU which was 2 billion in 2019.
To put that in perspective NI exports 2 Billion to the EU and Great Britain exports 40 billion alone to Eire.
When I looked at those numbers it made me wonder does Joe Biden know what we are talking about here?

David Hedley
David Hedley
1 year ago

This means the EU and UK have accepted that Northern Ireland cannot be “fixed” in one fell swoop but must be permanently managed. From now on, every new law the EU passes which might apply in Northern Ireland risks sparking a political crisis. As such, the UK and EU have a shared interest to ensure this does not happen.

This is an interesting observation, but it could be seen in itself as a step forward, in that the onus to demonstrate good, fair and balanced judgement lies not just with the UK government (an easy target), but now also with the EU. What could make more sense that to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland have good prospects in an investable economy, so that the evils of both republicanism and unionism can become history, and not persist as a paralysing framework for the present and future? And what could make more sense than for the EU and the UK to have a productive, friendly and co-operative relationship?

Having grown up in Northern Ireland during the height of the Troubles, and having an identity that is at once British, Irish and European in equal parts, I sincerely hope that good sense prevails, and that we see general and strong support for Sunak’s agreement. Most people in Northern Ireland will realise that they are now in a privileged economic position, with a presence in both the EU single market, and the UK domestic market. DUP objections highlight once again their general unfitness to represent the people of NI, and hopefully hasten their GötterdĂ€mmerung.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Hedley
David Hedley
David Hedley
1 year ago

This means the EU and UK have accepted that Northern Ireland cannot be “fixed” in one fell swoop but must be permanently managed. From now on, every new law the EU passes which might apply in Northern Ireland risks sparking a political crisis. As such, the UK and EU have a shared interest to ensure this does not happen.

This is an interesting observation, but it could be seen in itself as a step forward, in that the onus to demonstrate good, fair and balanced judgement lies not just with the UK government (an easy target), but now also with the EU. What could make more sense that to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland have good prospects in an investable economy, so that the evils of both republicanism and unionism can become history, and not persist as a paralysing framework for the present and future? And what could make more sense than for the EU and the UK to have a productive, friendly and co-operative relationship?

Having grown up in Northern Ireland during the height of the Troubles, and having an identity that is at once British, Irish and European in equal parts, I sincerely hope that good sense prevails, and that we see general and strong support for Sunak’s agreement. Most people in Northern Ireland will realise that they are now in a privileged economic position, with a presence in both the EU single market, and the UK domestic market. DUP objections highlight once again their general unfitness to represent the people of NI, and hopefully hasten their GötterdĂ€mmerung.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Hedley
Roger Mortimer
Roger Mortimer
1 year ago

There are customs borders all over the world, everywhere a customs union sits next to a country that doesn’t belong to it. Only in Ireland is it assumed that this will lead to violence. Pandering to thugs in balaclavas has brought us to this impasse – the only solution is to stop doing so.

Roger Mortimer
Roger Mortimer
1 year ago

There are customs borders all over the world, everywhere a customs union sits next to a country that doesn’t belong to it. Only in Ireland is it assumed that this will lead to violence. Pandering to thugs in balaclavas has brought us to this impasse – the only solution is to stop doing so.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Why are we bothering with Northern Ireland at all? In 2021 England subsidised the place to the tune of £15 billion, considerably more that we used to pay in ‘tribute’ to the EU.

The debt of Thiepval is long since paid, yet for more than a century we have indulged these people and their tin-pot sectarian wonderland, enough is enough.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Charles, always dangerous to be optimistic about Northern Ireland, but this is the most positive I can ever recall feeling about it (though I have to admit I have no first hand experience of the place, which I reall should visit).
The reason I say this is that this really is the best the Unionists can achieve. They’ve been able to repeatedly say “no” (or “no surrender”) for around 100 years and with a sufficiently strong minority support from the parts of the Conservative party (until the early 1970s, still the “Conservative and Unionist Party”) that’s just about been possible. It very much looks like that Conservative party support has now gone – or dipped well below critical mass.
The demographics are also against the Unionists.
They’ve basically got everything they could possible hope for here – in many ways the best of both worlds – in the single market and still in the UK.
The fact that this deal does not meet their seven tests in theory should not now matter if it does in practice.
Like you, I think the patience of the English with the Unionists is now almost at an end.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

I admire your optimism but sadly feel it maybe misplaced.
Only a few days ago ‘the other side’ resumed hostilities, and I gather one of those subsequently arrested is 71!

Unlike your good self I have spent some years in Ireland, both North and South, hence my belief that must we leave the place as soon as possible. Eight hundred and fifty four years is quite long enough.

To paraphrase Tacitus & Calgacus “we have indulged a parasite and we call it Peace”.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

In an odd sort of way, the fact that one of the arrested was 71 (rather than 21) is progress.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The ‘others’ were 22,38,43, 45 & 47 respectively.
Three generations
..not bad!

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago

All the same family?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Metaphorically speaking I think!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Metaphorically speaking I think!

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago

All the same family?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The ‘others’ were 22,38,43, 45 & 47 respectively.
Three generations
..not bad!

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago

The GFA means there has to be a cross border referendum on unification, and contrary to popular opinion, there is no guarantee that in the privacy of the polling booth, without an IRA gunman threatening your knees AND assuming the vote is completely anonymous, that NI Catholics vote in sufficient numbers to leave the UK. The ones I know won’t, at least that so far is their stance.

Breda Phelan
Breda Phelan
1 year ago

Why would the Republic of Ireland want to take on the burden of Northern
Ireland.The province is a British creation, they can keep it and sort out the mess themselves.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Breda Phelan

Let the EU take it or sell it to Canada.
Or, best option, give it complete Independence! It has about the same number of people as Slovenia so should be able to stand on its own feet, despite the loss of ÂŁ15 billion of English largesse.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Breda Phelan

Let the EU take it or sell it to Canada.
Or, best option, give it complete Independence! It has about the same number of people as Slovenia so should be able to stand on its own feet, despite the loss of ÂŁ15 billion of English largesse.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

In an odd sort of way, the fact that one of the arrested was 71 (rather than 21) is progress.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago

The GFA means there has to be a cross border referendum on unification, and contrary to popular opinion, there is no guarantee that in the privacy of the polling booth, without an IRA gunman threatening your knees AND assuming the vote is completely anonymous, that NI Catholics vote in sufficient numbers to leave the UK. The ones I know won’t, at least that so far is their stance.

Breda Phelan
Breda Phelan
1 year ago

Why would the Republic of Ireland want to take on the burden of Northern
Ireland.The province is a British creation, they can keep it and sort out the mess themselves.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The only thing worth mentioning is that my catholic friends in NI won’t vote to unite with Ireland – though you won’t hear them saying that in NI, they like to have working knees. The Catholic PSNI members I know of also still clear their front gardens to provide full vision and avoid ambushes – though one of the 57 varieties of IRA now turn up at youth football events to carry out their assassination of PSNI members.
The PSNI members still check their cars for bombs. Though not for Unionist bombs in the main.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Therefore you should be able to understand why I as an Englishman want to be rid of Northern Ireland and its never ending barbarism as soon as is humanly possible?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill Bailey

Therefore you should be able to understand why I as an Englishman want to be rid of Northern Ireland and its never ending barbarism as soon as is humanly possible?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

I admire your optimism but sadly feel it maybe misplaced.
Only a few days ago ‘the other side’ resumed hostilities, and I gather one of those subsequently arrested is 71!

Unlike your good self I have spent some years in Ireland, both North and South, hence my belief that must we leave the place as soon as possible. Eight hundred and fifty four years is quite long enough.

To paraphrase Tacitus & Calgacus “we have indulged a parasite and we call it Peace”.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The only thing worth mentioning is that my catholic friends in NI won’t vote to unite with Ireland – though you won’t hear them saying that in NI, they like to have working knees. The Catholic PSNI members I know of also still clear their front gardens to provide full vision and avoid ambushes – though one of the 57 varieties of IRA now turn up at youth football events to carry out their assassination of PSNI members.
The PSNI members still check their cars for bombs. Though not for Unionist bombs in the main.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Ahhh… Northern Ireland? Isn’t that the place in which people think that the Beatles are still at No. 1, Jimmy Greaves plays for England, and Ford Anglias are still available?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

They still distrust America whilst Jack and Bobby Kennedy are in charge.. both are Catholic, after all?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

They still distrust America whilst Jack and Bobby Kennedy are in charge.. both are Catholic, after all?

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago

Charles – I dont necessarily agree with your point about ‘why bother’ but Your ÂŁ15bn number is correct, add a simialr sum for Scotland (and less so to Wales, about ÂŁ8bn) and you can see who pays the bills around here.(not to mention ”overseas aid – which I used to say our EU Subs were in addition)
The Irish could not support that subsidy due to their tiny ”real” economy – real meaning without the 1/3rd of their GDP having nothign at all to do with Ireland’s GDP – but is counted there for Tax Purposes. (But thats another story).

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

Thank you for that vote of confidence.

Phineas Bury
Phineas Bury
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

Recent polls in ROI on. unity make it clear the Irish would not accept unity if it costs them more tax

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

Thank you for that vote of confidence.

Phineas Bury
Phineas Bury
1 year ago
Reply to  rob drummond

Recent polls in ROI on. unity make it clear the Irish would not accept unity if it costs them more tax

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Charles, always dangerous to be optimistic about Northern Ireland, but this is the most positive I can ever recall feeling about it (though I have to admit I have no first hand experience of the place, which I reall should visit).
The reason I say this is that this really is the best the Unionists can achieve. They’ve been able to repeatedly say “no” (or “no surrender”) for around 100 years and with a sufficiently strong minority support from the parts of the Conservative party (until the early 1970s, still the “Conservative and Unionist Party”) that’s just about been possible. It very much looks like that Conservative party support has now gone – or dipped well below critical mass.
The demographics are also against the Unionists.
They’ve basically got everything they could possible hope for here – in many ways the best of both worlds – in the single market and still in the UK.
The fact that this deal does not meet their seven tests in theory should not now matter if it does in practice.
Like you, I think the patience of the English with the Unionists is now almost at an end.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Ahhh… Northern Ireland? Isn’t that the place in which people think that the Beatles are still at No. 1, Jimmy Greaves plays for England, and Ford Anglias are still available?

rob drummond
rob drummond
1 year ago

Charles – I dont necessarily agree with your point about ‘why bother’ but Your ÂŁ15bn number is correct, add a simialr sum for Scotland (and less so to Wales, about ÂŁ8bn) and you can see who pays the bills around here.(not to mention ”overseas aid – which I used to say our EU Subs were in addition)
The Irish could not support that subsidy due to their tiny ”real” economy – real meaning without the 1/3rd of their GDP having nothign at all to do with Ireland’s GDP – but is counted there for Tax Purposes. (But thats another story).

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Why are we bothering with Northern Ireland at all? In 2021 England subsidised the place to the tune of £15 billion, considerably more that we used to pay in ‘tribute’ to the EU.

The debt of Thiepval is long since paid, yet for more than a century we have indulged these people and their tin-pot sectarian wonderland, enough is enough.

David McKee
David McKee
1 year ago

This is a balanced, thoughtful and insightful piece. Thank you, Mr. McTague.
If anyone’s interested, the increasingly unhinged Fintan O’Toole has provided a piece on the Windsor Framework which is… well, let’s be charitable, imaginative. (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/feb/28/deal-2021-brexiteers-get-brexit-done-eurosceptic-boris-johnson)

Neil Ross
Neil Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  David McKee

O’Toole got one sentence correct “Pretty much everything that has now been agreed was there to be negotiated two years ago”
Yep, because this deal was proposed by the EU in October 2021 and Sunak has now accepted it!

Neil Ross
Neil Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  David McKee

O’Toole got one sentence correct “Pretty much everything that has now been agreed was there to be negotiated two years ago”
Yep, because this deal was proposed by the EU in October 2021 and Sunak has now accepted it!

David McKee
David McKee
1 year ago

This is a balanced, thoughtful and insightful piece. Thank you, Mr. McTague.
If anyone’s interested, the increasingly unhinged Fintan O’Toole has provided a piece on the Windsor Framework which is… well, let’s be charitable, imaginative. (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/feb/28/deal-2021-brexiteers-get-brexit-done-eurosceptic-boris-johnson)

Ben P
Ben P
1 year ago

“And the Northern Irish question is here to stay, the grit in the oyster that can never be removed…” unless the EU itself implodes.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben P

It’ll be the Eurozone that does it in the end. I don’t know if the EU would survive that or not, but the reality is that the stresses resulting from the Euro’s defects don’t improve even in economically calm conditions, let alone when it gets difficult.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben P

It’ll be the Eurozone that does it in the end. I don’t know if the EU would survive that or not, but the reality is that the stresses resulting from the Euro’s defects don’t improve even in economically calm conditions, let alone when it gets difficult.

Ben P
Ben P
1 year ago

“And the Northern Irish question is here to stay, the grit in the oyster that can never be removed…” unless the EU itself implodes.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago

The whole thing sounds extremely fragile to me. I give it about 3 months before the DUP bring it down. It’s what they do. Still, good try Rishi.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago

The whole thing sounds extremely fragile to me. I give it about 3 months before the DUP bring it down. It’s what they do. Still, good try Rishi.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross
1 year ago

Crikey this is embarrassing – the broken cables in the Stormont brake have already been widely shared and the writers appears completely unaware that the NI Assembly has zero powers to stop EU regulations! All they can do is refer the regulation to the Joint Committee for consideration!

Neil Ross
Neil Ross
1 year ago

Crikey this is embarrassing – the broken cables in the Stormont brake have already been widely shared and the writers appears completely unaware that the NI Assembly has zero powers to stop EU regulations! All they can do is refer the regulation to the Joint Committee for consideration!

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago

A very poor article that shows no recognition of the yawning chasm between the EU version of this ‘agreement’ and Sunak’s version that he has propagandised so much. Take the Stormont Brake for example – heralded as the big breakthrough enabling Stormont to veto any new EU law. But read the EU version and it is near useless as it simply allows Stormont to request Westminster to exercise the veto but only in extreme circumstances, and if/when it does the EU will respond by almighty big fines on UK for doing so. VAT is a similar story, and so I the ability of Westminster to subsidise NI companies. And ECJ is all over the EU version. Meanwhile Sunak has disgracefully manoeuvred the DUP into looking like spoilsports if they raise the objections that they’re certainly entitled to. There’s only one certainty in the future now – NI will become part of the Republic within 10-15 years, a Republic increasingly influenced by Sinn Fein, so Biden will love it. And under a Conservative government. Shameful.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 year ago

A very poor article that shows no recognition of the yawning chasm between the EU version of this ‘agreement’ and Sunak’s version that he has propagandised so much. Take the Stormont Brake for example – heralded as the big breakthrough enabling Stormont to veto any new EU law. But read the EU version and it is near useless as it simply allows Stormont to request Westminster to exercise the veto but only in extreme circumstances, and if/when it does the EU will respond by almighty big fines on UK for doing so. VAT is a similar story, and so I the ability of Westminster to subsidise NI companies. And ECJ is all over the EU version. Meanwhile Sunak has disgracefully manoeuvred the DUP into looking like spoilsports if they raise the objections that they’re certainly entitled to. There’s only one certainty in the future now – NI will become part of the Republic within 10-15 years, a Republic increasingly influenced by Sinn Fein, so Biden will love it. And under a Conservative government. Shameful.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

‘Brexit’ – the poisoned chalice which will be repeatedly proffered to our lips for a sip. It’s a bit of a dogs dinner of course but that’s the consequence of Brexit – the gift that keeps giving.
And to think what problems our politicians could have focused on solving had not so much wasted time been spent on this. And my goodness don’t we have them.
Still credit due to Sunak, Baker, VDL et al for finding a way forward regaining trust that had been lost. And certainly some pleasure in seeing Bojo silenced, no doubt temporarily but even so. And DUP backed into a neat corner. They are running out of excuses for not power sharing under Michelle O’Neill – an added delight and one deserved as they played quite a role in getting us into and keeping us in this mess.

Last edited 1 year ago by j watson
Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Who knows, if there hadn’t been the 20 years of technocratic incompetence from the EU and successive UK governments Brexit could have been avoided.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Certainly concur some things better handled in the past could have resulted in a better reformed EU and UK dynamic. We might disagree on what those were to some extent.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

The only reform would never be accepted by the EU, they want a new US of E (or Holy Roman Empire 😉 ) so they’d never revert to a Common Market. It is going to be interesting to see how they get on with the Eurozone in the coming years. Addressing Inflation averages isn’t a good way of helping individual countries with such a disparity of inflation rates. QE and the inability of the ECB to address Target 2 balances in the present construct isn’t going to help either. Still the cry “Oh look a Russian invasion!” is a useful distraction so far.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

The only reform would never be accepted by the EU, they want a new US of E (or Holy Roman Empire 😉 ) so they’d never revert to a Common Market. It is going to be interesting to see how they get on with the Eurozone in the coming years. Addressing Inflation averages isn’t a good way of helping individual countries with such a disparity of inflation rates. QE and the inability of the ECB to address Target 2 balances in the present construct isn’t going to help either. Still the cry “Oh look a Russian invasion!” is a useful distraction so far.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

No. Sooner or later when the reality that the EU was heading for the New Holy Roman Empire became widespread, we’d have ducked out.
The fact that Brexit is done despite most of our ruling elite doing everything possible to prevent it is good news. The coming economic crises have nowt to do with Brexit, and when we start the clear out (next GE I’d hope) of the GreenSNPLibLabCon Europhiles, we may be able to enjoy even more of its benefits.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Certainly concur some things better handled in the past could have resulted in a better reformed EU and UK dynamic. We might disagree on what those were to some extent.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

No. Sooner or later when the reality that the EU was heading for the New Holy Roman Empire became widespread, we’d have ducked out.
The fact that Brexit is done despite most of our ruling elite doing everything possible to prevent it is good news. The coming economic crises have nowt to do with Brexit, and when we start the clear out (next GE I’d hope) of the GreenSNPLibLabCon Europhiles, we may be able to enjoy even more of its benefits.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Repetition.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

For once I’m going to agree with you – at least partially. And with some pleasure.
Whatever we all think about Brexit – and I know we disagree – I think everyone has bigger problems to deal with and wants to move on. It’s entirely predictable that it took a new generation of politicians (Sunak and VdL) to be able to look at this afresh and actually start trying to solve problems rather than weaponise them. And recognise that we need to get some trust back into all these relationships.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The main thing is to recognise that Brexit enables the UK to take responsibility for the problems that need to be addressed. Without it, we’d have no chance of doing so.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

My opinion is that it took a war and energy crisis for Ursula to swallow her pride and pretend to put some trust back into the relationship. After all, despite the myths, so far the only reason the EU has filled its gas tanks is because it outbid the likes of Pakistan and Bangladesh for the limited supplies of LNG available, AND it was via UK LNG terminals pumping record amounts into the EU last year that aided and abetted them. The world is far more complicated than EUrophiles think, and Brexit isn’t the reason for most of the problems (nor is the Ukraine war), but when Brexit is, it is usually because EUrophiles make a concerted effort to ensure it is the case.
Holland is an interesting place at present. A country massively dependent on agriculture, and particularly glass house agriculture, with glass houses sitting on a major gas field, yet they can’t afford to heat said glasshouses so cut production. Not only are fertiliser shortages going to be an added burden to the cost of food in the near future, but so is the Dutch Government’s Green war on their farmers – Nitrogen quotas next up.
Not that UK glass house producers are immune, its just that the UK govt ignores the farmers, the Dutch attack them!
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/feb/23/we-have-to-pay-more-for-food-britains-biggest-tomato-farmer-on-the-runaway-costs-of-growing
Ironically, it is West Africa whose supply of tomatoes/veg from N Africa who might complain most. The EU can afford to outbid them, just as they outbid Pakistan and Bangladesh for what LNG is available. Net Zero is tragically insane & will be far more important than Brexit or the EU or Ukraine (assuming of course BIden doesn’t go for the nuclear option) over the coming months and year.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The main thing is to recognise that Brexit enables the UK to take responsibility for the problems that need to be addressed. Without it, we’d have no chance of doing so.

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

My opinion is that it took a war and energy crisis for Ursula to swallow her pride and pretend to put some trust back into the relationship. After all, despite the myths, so far the only reason the EU has filled its gas tanks is because it outbid the likes of Pakistan and Bangladesh for the limited supplies of LNG available, AND it was via UK LNG terminals pumping record amounts into the EU last year that aided and abetted them. The world is far more complicated than EUrophiles think, and Brexit isn’t the reason for most of the problems (nor is the Ukraine war), but when Brexit is, it is usually because EUrophiles make a concerted effort to ensure it is the case.
Holland is an interesting place at present. A country massively dependent on agriculture, and particularly glass house agriculture, with glass houses sitting on a major gas field, yet they can’t afford to heat said glasshouses so cut production. Not only are fertiliser shortages going to be an added burden to the cost of food in the near future, but so is the Dutch Government’s Green war on their farmers – Nitrogen quotas next up.
Not that UK glass house producers are immune, its just that the UK govt ignores the farmers, the Dutch attack them!
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/feb/23/we-have-to-pay-more-for-food-britains-biggest-tomato-farmer-on-the-runaway-costs-of-growing
Ironically, it is West Africa whose supply of tomatoes/veg from N Africa who might complain most. The EU can afford to outbid them, just as they outbid Pakistan and Bangladesh for what LNG is available. Net Zero is tragically insane & will be far more important than Brexit or the EU or Ukraine (assuming of course BIden doesn’t go for the nuclear option) over the coming months and year.

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Who knows, if there hadn’t been the 20 years of technocratic incompetence from the EU and successive UK governments Brexit could have been avoided.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Repetition.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

For once I’m going to agree with you – at least partially. And with some pleasure.
Whatever we all think about Brexit – and I know we disagree – I think everyone has bigger problems to deal with and wants to move on. It’s entirely predictable that it took a new generation of politicians (Sunak and VdL) to be able to look at this afresh and actually start trying to solve problems rather than weaponise them. And recognise that we need to get some trust back into all these relationships.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

‘Brexit’ – the poisoned chalice which will be repeatedly proffered to our lips for a sip. It’s a bit of a dogs dinner of course but that’s the consequence of Brexit – the gift that keeps giving.
And to think what problems our politicians could have focused on solving had not so much wasted time been spent on this. And my goodness don’t we have them.
Still credit due to Sunak, Baker, VDL et al for finding a way forward regaining trust that had been lost. And certainly some pleasure in seeing Bojo silenced, no doubt temporarily but even so. And DUP backed into a neat corner. They are running out of excuses for not power sharing under Michelle O’Neill – an added delight and one deserved as they played quite a role in getting us into and keeping us in this mess.

Last edited 1 year ago by j watson