Hunt Announces First Cabinet Pick: Karen Bradley

Last night Jeremy Hunt told an audience in Northern Ireland that he would keep Karen Bradley as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Bradley, a May loyalist, is widely understood to not be liked by the DUP. Frosty relations on that front are not wise when the current Tory-DUP majority in the Commons is just three votes. It’s also highly unusual to openly promise jobs in the middle of a campaign. Will Hunt be publicly appointing the rest of his fantasy cabinet over the next few weeks..?

Two-Thirds of Britons Don’t Care About the Union

Given how the DUP and the UUP got less than 400,000 votes combined it is amazing that so few people have had so much political power over the destiny of the 66 million or so that did not vote for them. Even more so when – based on the latest polling from Ipsos-MORI – 40 million or so Britons don’t really care about the union with Northern Ireland. In fact 10 million or so Britons would rather Northern Ireland joined the Republic of Ireland…

Not only did the DUP put the kibosh on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, in Cabinet yesterday one of the strongest arguments advanced against ‘No Deal’ was that it would trigger the conditions in which under the Good Friday Agreement the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland would be obliged to call a border poll. Which is unacceptable to the DUP. The DUP’s leverage over the government has blocked Brexiting with May’s deal and with ‘No Deal’.

Rees-Mogg: I Won’t Back the Deal Unless the DUP are on Board

Theresa May’s promise to step down last night if the deal passes looks to have unlocked substantially more support for the deal – a clear majority of the ERG have now come over including big beasts Boris and IDS – although a hard core of around 20-30 diggers-in remains. They are “still looking for a ditch in which to die”, in the words of one MP there…

May’s biggest hurdle now is the DUP, who put out a fresh statement last night confirming they still could not support the deal, before Nigel Dodds brutally put down any suggestion that they could abstain instead of voting against it:

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has now been branded everything from “traitor” to “eurofederalist” after saying it’s May’s deal or no Brexit on Monday, reiterated his position on Peston last night that he will still vote against the deal unless the DUP are on board. However, he does suggest how domestic law could be used to address the DUP’s concerns. Will it be enough? We’ll find out soon enough…

UPDATE: It’s still a no from the DUP according to Laura Kuenssberg “For avoidance of doubt, DUP will vote against agreement tomorrow, party source says”

 

Hammond Refuses to Rule Out More Cash For DUP Support

Hammond repeatedly refuses to rule out the DUP “delivering again” for Northern Ireland. Of course the cash will be going to Northern Ireland itself, not the DUP. Not that it will stop metropolitan elite commentators from sneering at one of the UK’s most underinvested regions getting a boost…

DUP: We Want a Deal

Nigel Dodds and the DUP have been in intense meetings with senior mininsters including Michael Gove, David Lidington, Julian Smith, Mark Sedwill, and Philip Hammond. Dodds described them as “good discussions” and said that “we want to leave with a deal”…

DUP Attack The Times Story Claiming They Are ‘Edging Towards Customs Union’

DUP leader Arlene Foster has taken the unusual step of putting out a formal statement rebutting The Times story this morning which claimed that the DUP are “edg[ing] towards customs union”. Foster attacks it as “inaccurate” and “no doubt designed to undermine efforts to get the necessary changes to the Withdrawal Agreement”.

She dismisses the story “as an attempt to cause division”, adding that “such tactics are not new to us and as in the past will not succeed”. Robust…

DUP: EU’s “Meaningless” Letter Only “Bolsters Our Concerns”

Theresa May’s letter of reassurance from the EU has gone down like a lead balloon with the DUP, who have dismissed it as “meaningless” without legally binding changes and said that in fact it “bolsters our concerns” about the backstop. Nigel Dodds even hit out at May directly over comments she made about Northern Ireland’s position in the UK, calling on her to “cease from such foolish talk”. Not looking good for May’s hopes of using a DUP reversal as a catalyst to get other Brexiteers back on board…

Number 10’s DUP Charm Offensive Falls Flat

Number 10’s DUP charm offensive appears to have fallen flat, with DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds releasing a statement following lunch with the PM today, confirming that in his party’s view May’s deal still “flies in the face of the Government’s commitments on Northern Ireland”. Dodds also hit out at “nonsense propaganda” about a hard border, arguing that it was “becoming clearer by the day that no one is ever going to construct a border”. He’s not wrong.

Downing Street have been focusing their efforts on the DUP in the hope that moderate Tory Brexiteers will fall into line if the DUP’s concerns over the backstop are assuaged. That is not going to happen without legal changes to the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop in particular. Not how Downing Street wanted to start off the year…

DUP: We’d “Rather Be Shafted By Labour” Than Accept Backstop

Tory MPs turned out in force for last night’s weekly ERG meeting, with around 80 MPs in attendance as well as notable guests including Chief Whip Julian Smith and May’s Deputy Chief of Staff, JoJo Penn. Jacob Rees-Mogg informed the ERG of the outcome of his and Steve Baker’s earlier meeting with Nigel Dodds, where Dodds made clear that the DUP would support the Government in any confidence motion if the Withdrawal Agreement was rejected. If the Withdrawal Agreement went through their support was far from certain…

Also in attendance were DUP MPs Sammy Wilson – who was “cheered to the rafters” by Tory MPs – and Ian Paisley Jr, who made the point directly to Julian Smith’s face that while the DUP had been very happy working with the Tories, they would “rather be shafted by Labour” than accept the backstop. As Dodds pointed out later on Peston, you don’t need a General Election to bring down a government:

Smith himself addressed the meeting later on, while he didn’t get a hostile reception from the ERG, his points were all shot down in the detail. Smith suggested that some tinkering was possible but gave an impression of a government that was reluctant to ask EU member states for any further changes. The overall message remained clear: it’s the PM’s deal or nothing, the Government has no other plans. And they wonder why the EU has been able to play them like a fiddle from start to finish…

Boris Johnson’s Speech to the DUP

Arlene: DUP’s Brexit Red Lines are “Blood Red”

 

Theresa May’s attempts at a further climbdown over the Irish border have run into trouble both among Brexiteers in her own party and her DUP allies. Her new proposal reported yesterday would see the whole UK remaining in the customs union beyond 2020 – “until” an Irish border solution that satisfies the EU is found. Many Brexiteers are surmising that this may well be never…

The DUP have been even more exercised by the other part of the plan which would create regulatory divergence and checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. After hitting out in an interview yesterday, Arlene poured further woe on May’s plan this morning, telling Today that the DUP’s red lines on the issue remained “blood red”:

MH: “It’s a question of how red your red line is?”

AF: “The red line is blood red, it’s very red.”

MH: “Then you would be prepared to walk through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn?”

Foster – a passionate Unionist – even refused to rule out voting with the IRA-sympathising Jeremy Corbyn in order to defeat any plan which involved carving off Northern Ireland. If May underestimates the strength of DUP resolve on the issue it could be fatal for her attempts to get a deal through…

Ian Paisley Narrowly Survives

Ian Paisley Jr has survived his recall petition by a narrow margin of 444 votes. 7,099 constituents voted to recall Paisley following his Sri Lankan shenanigans, making up only 9.4% of his North Antrim constituency and falling just short of the 10% margin required in order to trigger a by-election. Even Sinn Fein’s illicit efforts to unseat him were unsuccessful.

Paisley still has to serve the remainder of his 30-day suspension from Parliament which will keep him out until November. Plenty of time for another holiday or two…

Sinn Fein MLA Breaks Electoral Law on Paisley Petition

Ian Paisley’s recall ballot over his undeclared trip to Sri Lanka closed at 5pm today, with the result expected in the early hours of tomorrow morning. Sinn Fein assembly member Philip McGuigan was caught out trying too hard to unseat Paisley, posting a video last night encouraging people to go out and vote because the vote “is on a knife edge”. Tweeting about the result like this while the ballot is ongoing is in violation of electoral law…

He has now deleted his tweet and replaced it with one saying that it was “safe to predict that the petition closes today at 5pm”. It’s safe to predict that Guido will bring you the result tomorrow morning…

UPDATE: McGuigan has started a row with the NI Electoral Office over being forced to take his video down. Either way, he lost

DUP Welcome ERG’s New Irish Border Plan

The DUP have put out a statement welcoming the ERG’s new paper on the Irish border. Westminster Leader Nigel Dodds said it was a “positive and timely development” while also hitting out at those who “have used the border issue, and the political process in Northern Ireland more generally, to try to mould Brexit to their way of thinking or to thwart it altogether”.

“The paper published by the European Research Group today is a positive and timely development.

“The paper makes clear that, in the event of a free trade deal being negotiated with the EU, there are sensible practical measures which can ensure there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

“It therefore accurately reflects the fact that the border issue is no impediment to the negotiation by the UK of a comprehensive trade deal with the EU. This a position we have consistently articulated.

“For too long some have used the border issue, and the political process in Northern Ireland more generally, to try to mould Brexit to their way of thinking or to thwart it altogether. That should stop

“We will continue to work closely with the Government and other colleagues in the House of Commons to ensure the best deal is secured for the country as a whole and for Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom.”

Guido understands that the DUP has decided to take a more vocal stance on Brexit after growing unhappy about the way their position has been bandied about as something of a political football in internal Tory arguments over Chequers. Many senior figures within the party are more sympathetic to Mogg than May on Brexit. The DUP’s 10 votes are crucial to May’s majority…

Ian Paisley Jr Suspended From Commons

From the House of Commons standards committee:

Mr Paisley and his family made two visits to Sri Lanka in March/April 2013 and July 2013. These visits were paid for by the Sri Lankan government. Although the precise value of the hospitality offered cannot be precisely calculated, they were of a value significantly in excess of the then registration threshold of £660. (The Daily Telegraph claimed that the cost of the visits was £100,000; Mr Paisley accepts an estimate of about £50,000.) Mr Paisley did not register either visit in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. 

Very strong sanction:

In view of the seriousness of this matter, we recommend that Mr Paisley be suspended from the service of the House for a period of 30 sitting days starting on 4 September 2018. We also require that Mr Paisley register the benefits he received from the Sri Lankan government which will be italicised in the Register to indicate that they are a late entry.

30 sitting days from the 4 September takes us into November. This is a Brexiteer vote in the Commons lost…

Farage to DUP?

Nigel Farage is in Belfast today attending a DUP fundraiser alongside Arron Banks. Banks didn’t rule out Farage doing an Enoch and defecting to the DUP:

“I would discount nothing, I would include nothing.”

Guido will believe it when they release the Brexit movie

UPDATE: As expected:

 

Tories Optimistic They Have Numbers For Boundaries Vote

Guido hears Number 10 are increasingly optimistic that they have the numbers to proceed with boundary reforms which would cut the number of MPs to 600 and reduce the electoral bias towards Labour. The DUP have softened their opposition to the proposals, with their MPs apparently convinced they won’t lose their seats and may even be able to remove independent Sylvia Hermon. Nigel Dodds is less keen and still fears the reforms could reduce unionist representation. The DUP’s dilemma has been whether to back boundary reform, reduce Corbyn’s chances of becoming PM but risk weakening their position in Northern Ireland, or oppose it and risk handing two Irish republicans the keys to Number 10 and 11. The Tories think a new map presented in January should be enough to convince the DUP to get onside. As one minister puts it: “The fate of the next Prime Minister relies on Nigel Dodds’ vanity…”

Ian Paisley Jnr Reads Out Guido’s Story on Labour’s Brexit Positions

Another happy reader

DUP: Northern Ireland Must Leave EU on Same Terms As Rest of UK

As of 2pm it looks like the UK has agreed to “regulatory alignment” on both sides of the Irish border, a compromise which is not the same as no divergence between Northern Ireland and the EU. The DUP are clear Northern Ireland must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the UK and they will not accept being separated economically from the rest of the UK. Lot of noise from Sturgeon and Remainers today. But all eyes are on the DUP and Cabinet Brexiteers when the formal statement comes later…

“Arlene Foster the Most Expensive Right-Winger Since Cristiano Ronaldo”

He plays more on the left these days…[…] Read the rest

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