Calamity Karen’s Grovelling Apology

Comprehensively calamitous Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has put out a grovelling apology statement after sparking an international incident with her astonishingly poorly judged comments about The Troubles yesterday. Bradley told the Commons that killings that “were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes” and “They were people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way.”

Bradley had to go to the Irish embassy for an emergency meeting with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney last night, Coveney has now reported her grovelling apology back to the Dáil and Bradley will travel to Belfast tonight to personally apologise to families affected. Good job there’s nothing politically sensitive going on at the moment regarding Northern Ireland…

The just jaw dropping ignorance of the Northern Ireland Minister is stunning.

German Economists: No Deal Will Hit Ireland Three Times Harder than UK

Germany’s prestigious IFO Institut has crunched the numbers on the economic impact of no deal on 44 countries and predicted that Ireland would be hit three times harder than the UK by a no-deal Brexit, taking a massive 8.16% hit to their economy. Guido hears that Ireland has been the main EU27 country holding out against any reference to the UK’s basic Vienna Convention treaty rights over the backstop. They may want to seriously reconsider their position after seeing these figures…

However, the Institut also modelled the effect of a “hard but smart” Brexit, where the UK left with no deal but also put in place large unilateral tariff cuts, more or less exactly along the lines of what what the Government is planning. In this scenario, the UK actually faces a smaller impact than the EU – they forecast a -0.5% impact on the UK compared to -0.4% for France and -0.48% for Germany, and -0.6% for the EU as a whole. Ireland is still by far the biggest loser, taking a -5.39% hit, ten times the size of the UK…

In their sector-by-sector breakdown, they find that the UK would actually receive a major boost to certain sectors in a “hard but smart” Brexit, with electrical equipment up by 3.7%, machine manufacturing by 8.4% and pharmaceuticals by a whole 8.7%. EU sectors lose out across the board…

Gabriel Felbermayr, the author of the report and also President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, said that the EU needed to “urgently ponder whether the danger of a hard Brexit isn’t bigger than initially assumed” and called on the EU to offer to remove the backstop “as a quick fix at least”. Brussels and Dublin can only keep sticking their fingers in their ears for so long…

H/t Pieter Cleppe

Irish PM Privately Telling Opposition Leaders Hard Border Will Be in Calais

Irish PM Leo Varadkar and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney are expected to offer to meet a DUP delegation this week. The penny is dropping in Dublin that despite Tony Blair’s assurances the British could be about to leave the EU on WTO terms. Despite all the public bluster the reality of the situation is shifting and the Irish government is getting more flexible and creative. To avoid the imposition of a hard border in Ireland the Irish press is reporting that Varadkar is privately telling opposition leaders that they may have to accept EU border checks being imposed on the continent in Calais and other EU entrepôt. There would have to be a fudge on the EU requirement for a hard external border – something that Juncker has already signalled would be acceptable. Whatever happens, deal or no deal, there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland.

Shocked opposition leaders were told by Varadkar that France could take the lead on border infrastructure that would essentially apply to Ireland and the UK “as one bloc” because to keep an open border on the island of Ireland checks would, in the event of no deal, have to be imposed on Irish, as well as British, exports to EU. The DUP will be happy with that. This will of course mean that Ireland will be very keen on a comprehensive UK-EU FTA being concluded quickly to avoid the ongoing need for those checks. Which is the rational outcome business wants…

Irish Foreign Minister: We Could Introduce Checks in the Sea

Irish Foreign Minister and Tánaiste Simon Coveney has been caught on tape saying to Irish Transport Minister Shane Ross that checks on goods will be introduced in the event of a no deal Brexit, and even suggested that those checks “could be in the sea.” He said that he couldn’t publicly acknowledge this for fear of a backlash…

The two members of the Irish Government were talking at the end of press briefing, apparently not realising that the microphone was still live.

The Independent.ie has transcribed the conversation:

Shane Ross: “Yeah. The border one, should I not have said that?”

[This is a reference to a question Mr Ross was asked about whether a truck travelling from Scotland by boat to Larne could then proceed to the Republic without any checks. During the press briefing, he replied: “I would anticipate that there would be checks.”]

Simon Coveney: “Yes, but we can’t get into where they’ll be at this stage. They could be in the sea, they could be… But once you start talking about checks anywhere near the border, people will start delving into that and all of a sudden we’ll be the government that reintroduced a physical border on the island of Ireland.”

Shane Ross: “Yeah, but I didn’t know what to say.”

This reveals a certain disingenuousness on the Irish government’s part because any prospect of checks at a land border would play into Sinn Fein’s hands and is politically unacceptable to the Irish government. Any prospect of a sea border would inflame the DUP/ERG and is politically unacceptable to the UK government. Unless the checks are going to be across the Celtic Sea between Ireland and the EU26…

EU Preparing to Clobber Ireland on Tax After Brexit

Any illusions Ireland might have had that the EU is going to reward them in some way for being its Brexit patsy have evaporated today with the news that the European Commission is pressing ahead with its plan to abolish national vetoes over a swathe of taxation issues. Removing one of the last major hurdles towards an EU-wide tax policy…

Ireland will be particularly hard hit by the changes as their competitive corporation tax rate is central to their impressive growth rates. The EU does not like tax competition or regulatory competition because they expose its own glaring inefficiencies. Hence why their long-term goal is for unaccountable commissars to set all the taxes for 500 million people – and collect them too. It’s only a matter of time before Ireland starts to feel the costs of the EU far more heavily than the benefits…

Juncker & Varadkar Guaranteed to the Irish Parliament No Hard Border in the Event of No Deal

The Brexit negotiations are teetering on the brink over the question of the backstop for the Irish border. Some fundamental truths are being forgotten in the froth of the negotiations:

  • If there is no deal, there is no backstop. If the EU collapses the negotiations by insisting on unreasonable backstop conditions, there will be no backstop whatsoever. Would the EU rather have a deal on everything else with no backstop, or no deal at all AND no backstop?
  • The President of the EU Commission and the Prime Minister of Ireland have both already guaranteed no hard border even with no deal. As can be seen in the above video clip, Juncker and Leo Varadkar have all given unambiguous guarantees that they won’t put a hard border under any circumstances – including no deal. So why risk wrecking the negotiations over it?

The fact that Ireland has guaranteed no hard border in the case of no deal means that they clearly have no intention of constructing a hard border in the absence of the EU’s backstop – this is abundantly clear from the Taoiseach’s stated position as forcefully made to the Dáil Éireann

“… we are not drawing up any plans for a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland full stop. Because there isn’t going to be one and I have made very clear to my counterpart in the UK and also to the other EU Prime Ministers that under no circumstances will there be a border full stop.”

If the backstop is genuinely about concern for Ireland, not about trying to force the UK into a certain position, why is Ireland’s own commitment not sufficient? That is the question journalists should be asking.

The current trajectory of the negotiations is unsustainable unless the EU changes its stance on the backstop. Tory MPs have been discussing whether the EEA as a staging post on the way to a Canada-style deal could be a viable alternative – this is unlikely to solve the problem as the EU will simply throw up the same obstacles when the UK tries to leave that. May’s proposed transition extension does nothing to help either. It is simply a very expensive and unpopular way of drawing out the same problems for longer.

Ministers have increasingly been considering the possibility of a mitigated no-deal instead: hand over some cash in exchange for basic legal agreements on aviation, passports, haulage etc. and then negotiate sensible future arrangements outside the cauldron of the Article 50 process. Given the current state of the negotiations, this is starting to look more and more appealing…

UPDATE: Guido’s news editor, Hugh Bennett, reiterates the Irish PM’s “no hard border, even in the event of no deal” guarantee:

McDonnell: “I Long For a United Ireland”

McDonnell just told a lobby lunch this afternoon that “I long for a united Ireland, but I recognise democracy.” But refused to rule out a pact between Labour and the DUP. Good luck on that one…

Not Much Confidence in Supply in Dublin Either

As the DUP menacingly make noises threatening to withdraw from their agreement to prop up Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, over in Dublin the Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin has written to the Fine Gael party Taoiseach Leo Varadkar making sure he understands their support through a similar arrangement is very definitely time-limited:

“I think it is best if we both state upfront, irrespective of what happens during the confidence and supply review process, that we both agree not to bring down the Government”.

This follows the resignation of Minister for Communications over allegations of an improper relationship after it emerged that he had held four private dinners with the bidder for a €500 million national broadband contract. The Irish PM is arguably more at risk of an early election than Theresa May…

Irish Allow Remote Customs Checks

As Guido was travelling through Dublin Airport last night, he noticed the remote customs checks the Americans have, 3,000 miles away from the US border. The Republic of Ireland are perfectly happy with the principle of remote customs clearance, except for when it’s politically convenient not to be…

DD: “There Will Be No Hard Border… It’s That Simple”

David Davis in his Brexit speech in Munich says:

“The border issue is eminently solvable if the political will is there. I do question, therefore, why it has become so intractable. It seems to me this issue has become the proxy for the negotiations as a whole. Why? Perhaps as a way to keep us tied to the single market and the customs union; perhaps to punish us for leaving; or perhaps it has more to do with internal Irish politics.

In any case, the heads of both the British and Irish customs authorities have told us that a hard border is not necessary. Jean-Claude Juncker, Leo Varadkar and Theresa May have all said that they would never enforce one.

There will be no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It’s that simple.”

He’s not wrong…

Full Text of ERG’s Proposal for Northern Ireland Border

Guido brings you the ERG’s comprehensive analysis of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. At the table presenting the analysis are an ex-First Minister, 2 former Northern Ireland Secretaries and the former Brexit Secretary. ERG trying to show they mean business with their border question fix. Read it in full here:

Brexiteers in the ERG have published their eagerly awaited alternative solution to the vexed issue of the Irish border, after the full house of Boris Johnson, David Davis and Steve Baker turned out to the World Trade Deal launch by Economists For Free Trade yesterday. This is starting to look like a coordinated push…

Brexiteers are emphasising that this proposal is based on existing EU procedures and precedents and claim that it directly addresses the EU’s concerns over the border, rather than simply reheating old ideas.

The proposals include a Common Biosecurity Zone on the island of Ireland with the UK and EU agreeing to maintain equivalence on agricultural regulations to obviate the need for food and animal health (SPS) checks on the border, which account for a major proportion of the physical inspections currently required on non-EU imports. Regulatory compliance on non-agricultural goods would be enforced by pro-active trading standards inspections at the point of sale, assisted by data-sharing and co-operation between authorities on both sides of the border.

Larger companies would use existing technologies including trusted trader schemes to declare goods crossing the border, while for small companies, goods declarations would be incorporated into existing systems for VAT returns, which all companies trading across the border already have to complete. Origin declarations would be simplified through the existing Registered Exporter (REX) scheme.

The Irish border issue has been cited as one of the main justifications for the Chequers plan. Does the Brexiteers’ alternative give them enough ammunition to chuck it?

Raab’s Moses Moment

Dom Raab: “We will do nothing that would draw a customs border down the Red Sea. Irish Sea. Irish Sea.”

Sammy Wilson: “You can draw as many borders down the Red Sea as you want…”

Give him a chance, he’s only been in the job a few days…

Ireland Expects RAF Help in Event of Terrorist Hijack

The sabre-rattling by Irish PM Leo Varadkar that in the event of a no deal Brexit Ireland might block off UK access to Irish airspace is pathetic. Treaties dating back to the beginning of the International Air Services Transit Agreement signed as part of the Chicago Convention in 1944 guarantee the freedom of the skies. This is signed by 133 countries, including the UK and all EU member states. Ireland has been a signatory since 1957.

There is another agreement permitting British aircraft to fly over Ireland which the Irish government chooses not to publicise. The Irish Department of Defence and Department of Foreign Affairs with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) have entered into a bilateral agreement with their British counterparts: the RAF, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry of Defence, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that in the event of a terrorist hijacking, RAF jets would be scrambled to defend Ireland. Neutral Ireland has no supersonic military aircraft capability.

Presumably this bilateral  agreement permitting the RAF to conduct armed operations in Irish-controlled airspace in the event of a real-time or envisaged threat of a terrorist-related attack over the skies of Ireland, will not be torn up after Brexit. The Irish are Britain’s kith and kin, it is inconceivable that Brexit Britain would not come to their aid in the event of an Aer Lingus transatlantic flight being hijacked mid-Atlantic. Varadkar is bluffing for domestic consumption.

JoCo Quizzes Mogg on His Catholic Beliefs

Extraordinary line of questioning to Jacob Rees-Mogg from JoCo on the Daily Politics, repeatedly questioning if an abiding Catholic can take high office in politics. We had the Catholic emancipation in 1829…

Irish Border Camera Problem Solved

A lot of Remainers are agitating around the issue of cameras on the Irish border. Karen Bradley, one of the Remainers on the Brexit sub-committee, has insisted this morning that there will be no new Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras. Remainers don’t seem to realise that there already are high definition cameras at the Irish border with a high speed data link to police computers, which can easily be retasked to connect with customs and excise computers. The video above was taken at the border on the A1 motorway, the main route between Dublin and Belfast along which the vast majority of intra-Ireland trade happens. Problem solved!

Irish Foreign Minister Claims “No Infrastructure” Means No Technological Solution

Simon Coveney, the Irish Tánaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs & Trade, knows there are no votes in an easy Brexit for an Irish politician. He reiterated to Nick Robinson that the British had signed up last year to “no border infrastructure on the island of Ireland and no related checks or controls. That means we are not talking about cameras and scanning systems and drones here.” He wants a purely political solution, e.g. regulatory alignment.

Polly Toynbee: Sinn Fein Can Save Britain

Hot take of the day: Polly wants Sinn Fein MPs to take the oath of allegiance and block Brexit…

Tweet that Sank the No Border Deal… For Now

Above is the tweet that scuppered an historic “no border” deal with Ireland on Monday. Tony Connelly is the widely respected RTE journalist covering Brexit – British journalists have recently discovered his output and it now often underlies a lot of their “reports from Dublin”. At 11:16 he tweeted that he had seen a draft text promising ‘no regulatory divergence’. This spooked the DUP, who had been promised a form of words that would satisfy them that as Downing Street had reiterated that morning: “The UK is leaving the EU as a whole. The territorial and economic integrity of the UK will be protected.”

This tweet ricocheted around the media, Remain-leaning journalists went hyperbolic, some claiming that this meant Northern Ireland was staying behind in the single market, others claiming this meant the whole of the UK was not really leaving the EU’s regulatory regime. With broadcasters starved of developments, because May and Juncker were lunching behind closed doors, they continued to pile up punditry of this kind. All this was despite RTE’s Tony Connelly having tweeted a corrective only four minutes after the first tweet that the phrase, as anathema to Brexiteers as it is to the DUP, had been replaced by “continued regulatory alignment”.

Meanwhile Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, waiting impatiently before the Dublin media at a pre-scheduled press conference, unwisely claimed that the wording was basically the same either way. It isn’t. The DUP – never the most trusting when Westminster is dealing with Dublin – unsurprisingly pulled the plug. Who failed to keep the DUP in the loop…

Tory MEP Swears Loyalty to Foreign Power

As has been widely reported Charles Tannock MEP has successfully applied to become an Irish citizen and obtain an Irish passport in disgust about Brexit, saying he is “ashamed to be British in many ways”. Guido would not be one to quibble with Charles Tannock’s desire to be Irish. However it is an unusual state of affairs for a British Tory MEP, representing London, to swear fidelity to a foreign state. Here is the oath he would have sworn if he were becoming a naturalised citizen:

“I, Charles Tannock, having applied to the Minister for Justice and Equality for a certificate of naturalisation, hereby solemnly declare my fidelity to the Irish nation and my loyalty to the State. I undertake to faithfully observe the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values.”

There is no legal bar to Tannock being a British MEP and an Irish citizen. If as a matter of principle Tannock resigned he would lose his six-figure combined salary and expense allowance, plus the €307 per day attendance allowance. That would be a shame… for him.

Juncker’s Nonsense About Ireland

Jean-Claude Juncker has been chatting even more nonsense than usual this morning. He’s claimed the EU has received “no definitive response” from the UK about the Irish border. This is baffling – the UK has published a position paper on Ireland and the EU hasn’t![…] Read the rest

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