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!

Juncker then said it’s “crystal clear” that we can’t talk about the future relationship before solving divorce issues. It is notable that the Irish Taoiseach, an EU head of state, agrees with the UK and wants to discuss both now in order to make progress on the Irish border. It is Brussels holding that up.

A Commission “official” has meanwhile briefed Politico that Britain is using the peace process as a bargaining chip: “We are a bit concerned by the combination in the U.K. paper between the preservation of the peace process and the future of the EU-U.K. trade relationship. It is very important that the peace process does not become a bargaining chip in these negotiations”. Who is really using Irish issues as a bargaining chip: the UK, which is seeking “swift progress”, published a position paper and has the support of Dublin, or the EU, which hasn’t even published a position paper…

Irish PM Proposes New Customs Union or “Deep Free Trade Agreement” With UK

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar proposes a new UK-EU customs union on the Turkish* model, and suggests as one alternative a “deep free trade agreement” instead of membership of the single market. He is sympathetic to a long transition period. It has been Guido’s view since the referendum that Ireland will be of necessity an advocate for a good deal between the UK and the EU. A punishing deal by the EU for the UK will hurt Ireland even more. Irish politicians are very transactional in their approach, they will want a deal that is in Ireland’s best interests. Ireland’s best interests are served by a prosperous neighbour with whom it trades freely.

The endless gloom from the remainstream media stems partly from the media’s frustration with the government’s understandable unwillingness to show its hand in negotiations. This will abate as negotiations proceed, as openly stated positions become more realistic and rational, as transitional arrangements are agreed and compromises are made. Pressure will increase from corporations in the EU which fear having their business models disrupted if there is a punishment deal. Ireland’s business and political elites are far from being the only ones in Europe with a vested interest in making a good deal. It will become blindingly obvious that the only people in favour of a punishment deal are swivel-eyed europhiles and those seeking to derail Brexit…

*Turkey has 18 other Free Trade Agreements and is negotiating at last count 13 more.

Abandoning Austerity Wouldn’t Increase Wages

Boris, Jeremy Hunt, Justine Greening and other MPs flirting with Torbynism should read today’s Centre for Policy Studies report ‘Abandoning Austerity is No Solution‘.

Ireland’s significantly larger fiscal consolidation has seen it experience a larger fall in its deficit, a larger proportionate fall in unemployment and better wage growth than the UK, counteracting the narrative that a higher level of austerity leads to economically harmful outcomes. If only Osborne had been as radical as his Irish opposite number Michael Noonan. Osborne excused his lack of radicalism on the deficit on the grounds he was in a coalition and “had to get re-elected”. Fine Gael were also in a coalition and got re-elected… 

This is reflected across other OECD countries that had a large budget deficit in 2010. There is a strong correlation between those countries that cut spending by a higher degree, and countries which achieved better economic growth and better wage growth.

As the CPS says:

“Even John Maynard Keynes argued that austerity should be used at the top of the business cycle, and it is vital that the UK’s budget deficit continues on a downward trajectory… In fact, the UK’s budget deficit reduction programme is already very modest and the UK’s tax burden is already set to climb to its highest level in four decades by 2025.”

The report finds that the only responsible ways to increase public sector wages would be to re-gear spending priorities, for example by making savings in the international aid budget or ring-fenced pensioner benefits. It also suggests further extending regional pay structures (apart from London weightings, there are no other areas of England where huge differentials in cost of living are matched by pay). Take note Torbynistas…

Ireland Needs to Consider Leaving EU

Irexit is becoming more of a mainstream idea in Ireland. UK think-tank Policy Exchange has this morning published a paper by Ray Bassett, an experienced Irish diplomat who retired as an ambassador last year. The Irish Diplomatic Service has for decades been in awe of and subservient to the EU. Now the reality of Brexit is making even some diplomats question this fundamental tenet of Irish foreign policy in the face of increased hostility from the European Commission. The financial crisis of 2008 confirmed that a small country on the Western periphery of Europe will never be a priority of the European Central Bank. Membership of the Eurozone has cost Ireland dearly for little benefit, most of Ireland’s external trade is in sterling and dollars…

Bassett warns that whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, “there will be a price to pay. For Ireland, there is really no upside to Brexit,” he says. “The question to be raised is what price is Ireland willing to pay to stand in solidarity with the remaining 26 EU countries?”

The paper argues sitting on the sidelines and allowing the EU to negotiate for Ireland is untenable. The first duty of the EU negotiators is to act on behalf of the EU as an institution. This is prioritised in their European Council approved guidelines. However the type of deal that Ireland’s interests requires, including free trade with the UK, is directly in contradiction with the EU negotiators’ mandate that anything relating to Ireland and her border which emerges from the Brexit negotiations must “maintain the integrity the Union’s Legal Order” – with no exceptions to the customs union. Bassett argues therefore that Ireland must give serious consideration to Irexit.

Irish politicians are by nature transactional, for decades Ireland was a net beneficiary of EU largesse, she is now a new contributor, a situation which will worsen after Brexit takes billions out of the EU budget. It’s like the Eurovision Song Contest – Ireland used to be a regular winner, now Eastern Europe has joined, they rarely win.

The Irish political establishment is extremely wary of Irexit and will want to see signs that Britain has first made a success of Brexit. Once the UK concludes a free-trade deal with the US the pressure on Ireland – which would be geographically in the middle of a North Atlantic Free Trade Area yet not a member – will become immense. The illogical situation of being in a currency and trading bloc when most of your trade is not in the bloc or the currency will make Irexit inevitable… 

Asked About IRA, Corbyn Praises “Bravery” of Irish Republicans

Today is the worst day of the Tory election campaign and Jeremy Corbyn should not be interrupting his opponents while they make a spectacular mistake. Instead, he is equivocating about the IRA. Asked this morning to condemn the IRA, Jez praised the “bravery” of Irish republicans. We know who he means.

Tory Record: More Debt, More Taxes

As is traditional in elections the Tories are warning that Labour will bring more debt and more taxes. That is a given, however what is the Tory record after 7 years?

In 2010 the Tories promised to close the deficit by 2015.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Former Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King…

“There are arguments for remaining in the EU and there are arguments for leaving the EU. But there is no case whatever for giving up the benefits of remaining without obtaining the benefits of leaving.”

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