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..?

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…

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:

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…

NI Assembly Members to have Pay Cut

Karen Bradley has “will take the steps necessary to reduce Assembly Members’ salaries” in light of their failure to form an executive. Northern Ireland now hasn’t had a government for two years. The pay reduction will take place in two stages, commencing in November.

Perhaps we could extend this new performance related pay to all politicians…

Voters Don’t Mind If NI Leaves UK, Leavers and Tories Say Brexit More Important Than Union

A poll from Lord Ashcroft reveals that Leave voters would rather lose Northern Ireland than give up the benefits of Brexit. 63% of Leavers would rather leave the EU than keep the UK together. 73% of Tory Leavers agree, as well as half of Labour Leavers. Guido suspects that number would rise further among English Conservatives…

Ashcroft also asked GB voters what they would think if Northern Ireland left the UK. More than six in ten said they wouldn’t mind either way, including a clear majority of Tory and Labour voters. Theresa May has prioritised the union and no hard border over making the most of Brexit, and has been totally hamstrung in the negotiations as a result. It would appear the public don’t agree with that strategy…

Jezza Manages to Upset Everyone in Northern Ireland

Jeremy Corbyn is making his first visit to Northern Ireland as Labour leader today. He has already managed to annoy, well, just about everyone. And he’s only just arrived…

Corbyn’s decision to speak at Queen’s University, Belfast, where the IRA shot 29-year-old-law lecturer Edgar Graham in 1983, is being seen as a deliberate provocation. Yesterday the DUP called on Corbyn – once and for all – to categorically renounce and condemn the IRA. DUP MP Sammy Wilson has demanded he specifically condemns that killing…

Meanwhile, victims groups are incensed as Corbyn has declined multiple invitations to meet with them. Corbyn’s team actively ignored emails asking for a meeting until he was confronted after PMQs yesterday. Jezza was apparently too busy to spend time with those bereaved and injured during the Troubles…

Local business leaders are infuriated by the Labour leader’s ambiguity on Brexit. John McGrane, director-general of the British-Irish chamber of commerce, said: “It’s getting late in the day for continued vagueness.” Jezza faces an awkward showdown with business leaders tomorrow…

Labour’s sister party the SDLP are angry that Corbyn wants to leave the single market. The party has written to all Labour MPs at Westminster asking them to defy Jezza…

Outstandingly, Jezza has even managed to rile up his own Labour members by snubbing them too – he will not meet with any representatives of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland, his own closest supporters. LPNI’s Dugald McCullough said: “Some members feel it’s a snub”…

Jezza’s own party are also irked that he has not allowed members to stand. Labour does not currently field candidates in Northern Ireland but let the SDLP have a free run instead. Corbynista activists want their own ticket. Corbyn is annoying them by resisting…

Perhaps worse of all, Jezza’s key announcement – that he wants to resurrect the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference – is a highly sensitive and somewhat hypocritical intervention. The BIIGC is part of the Good Friday Agreement, which Corbyn’s own Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner dismissed as a “shibboleth”. Perhaps Jezza should have just stayed at home…

May: No UK PM Could Accept EU Draft Text on Northern Ireland

Try again, Michel…

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…

Sadiq and Sturgeon Deliberately Misleading

Sadiq Khan is disingenuously claiming Theresa May has agreed to let Northern Ireland stay in the single market and customs union:

Nicola Sturgeon has chucked the word “effectively” in, so she isn’t lying as much as Sadiq, but still:

As Rupert Harrison points out, regulatory alignment on both sides of the Irish border is not the same as Northern Ireland staying in the single market and customs union:

Sadiq is lying, Sturgeon is deliberately misleading, and the pro-Remain media are lapping it up…

UPDATE: Brussels correspondents calling Khan out for his deliberate fib:

Martin McGuinness Resigns Over Renewable Heating Scandal

Martin McGuinness has resigned as Deputy First Minister in protest at the Renewable Heating Incentive scandal, the subsidies which allowed users to earn more cash the more fuel they burned, costing taxpayers nearly £500 million. The barmy policy meant you could turn the heating on, open the windows and receive taxpayer subsidies. McGuinness quitting means Arlene Foster’s position is effectively now untenable. Election now inevitable… 

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