Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

Weekly round-up of events

This week’s event announcement is below.

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ICON-S British-Irish Chapter Annual Conference

The United Kingdom’s Withdrawal from the European Union (?)

Domestic and European Constitutional Implications

University of Strathclyde, 24 – 25 April 2019

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS

The UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU involves a major change to – and major test of – the UK’s constitutional arrangements, the precise implications of which remain unclear.  It is also an event of profound significance for the UK’s closest neighbour, Ireland, and for the EU itself.  Barring a decision to delay or revoke the Article 50 process, the UK will cease to be a member of the EU on 29 March 2019.  This conference will mark the UK’s withdrawal from the EU by reflecting on the constitutional legacy (for the UK, Ireland, and the EU) of 45 years of UK membership of the EU, the constitutional implications of the conduct of the withdrawal process, the likely impact of Brexit on the UK’s domestic constitutional order, and the constitutional significance of post-Brexit relationships with Ireland, with the EU, with new trading partners, and with other external organisations, such as the Council of Europe.

Keynote and plenary speakers:

Professor Martin Loughlin, London School of Economics

Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Jo Murkens, London School of Economics

Professor Rosa Greaves, University of Glasgow, University of Oslo

Call for Abstracts:

The organisers invite suggestions for papers or panels on the following (or any related) themes:

  1. Brexit and the UK constitution
    • The constitutional legacy of EU membership;
    • The constitutional significance of retained EU law;
    • Brexit and the territorial constitution;
    • Fundamental rights protection after Brexit;
    • The role of Parliament in the Brexit process;
    • Constitutional referendums and the constitutional role of the people;
    • The UK constitution under stress – lessons of the Brexit process.
  1. Ireland and the Irish border
    • The implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland;
    • UK-Irish relations after Brexit;
    • Irish reunification.
  1. Brexit and the European Union
  • Brexit and the future of European integration;
  • The UK’s impact on the European Union.
  1. The UK’s external relations after Brexit – constitutional implications
    • The UK’s future relationship with the EU;
    • International trade and the UK constitution;
    • The other legal Europe – implications of Brexit for the ECHR.

Proposals for papers (up to 300 words) or panels (up to 300 words outlining the theme of the panel and up to 300 words for each paper) should be submitted by email to [email protected] by Friday 15 February 2019.

Registration:

Conference fee: £40 (£20 student rate)

Registration details will be published once the call for abstracts has closed.

Oran Doyle, Aileen McHarg and Alison Young (Co-Chairs of the ICON-S British-Irish Chapter)

Post-Brexit Britain may need a constitution – or face disintegration | Vernon Bogdanor

The EU is the glue that holds the UK together. Devolution and the Good Friday agreement are now under grave threat

Can the uncodified British constitution survive Brexit? The Brexiteers sought to “take back control”, by restoring the sovereignty of parliament just as it was in 1972, the year before we joined the European Community, as the EU then was. But the world of 2019 is very different from that of 1972, when there was no Human Rights Act, no devolution, no Good Friday agreement, a world in which the referendum was thought to be unconstitutional. The past is indeed another country.

Related: Brexit: Merkel's probable successor and other leading Germans urge UK to change mind - Politics live

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What are the Irish government’s Brexit priorities? A united Ireland is not one of them

What is the Irish government’s Brexit wish-list? The suggestion that Irish unity, as opposed to safeguarding political and economic stability, is the foremost concern of the Irish government is to misunderstand and misrepresent the motivations of this key Brexit stakeholder, writes Mary C. Murphy.

Following the UK vote in favour of Leave, the Irish government moved swiftly to identify its priorities for the Brexit negotiation period. These included: minimising the impact on trade and the Irish economy; protecting the Northern Ireland peace process; maintaining the Common Travel Area; and influencing the future of the European Union.

In mitigating the risks to the peace process, the Irish government has been explicit in its desire to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, to protect the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and to support continued north-south cooperation. Simultaneously, the Irish government wishes to maintain close trade between the UK and EU/Ireland and to minimise the regulatory burden for goods transiting the UK. To achieve these twin objectives – no hard border on the island of Ireland and no barriers to trade between the UK and Ireland – Taoiseach Leo Varadkar favours the UK staying in the customs union and single market. However, in the absence of such a prospect, the Irish government supports the inclusion of the backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement. It is envisaged as an insurance policy in the absence of alternative solutions.

In welcoming the draft Withdrawal Agreement, the Taoiseach stated: ‘The text makes clear that this backstop would apply “unless and until” a better solution is agreed. I firmly hope that we can achieve that better solution, and will be working strenuously to that end’. The Irish government’s support for the backstop is a pragmatic rather than a political position – a means to maintain existing practices and conditions on the island of Ireland as set out by the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement if other options do not materialise.

For Northern Ireland unionists however, it is not the Irish government’s stated position which is problematic, but the manner in which that position is framed. When Foreign Minister Simon Coveney talks about achieving a united Ireland ‘in my political lifetime’, this is met with alarm by a unionist community which has long felt vulnerable and besieged. Unionists were similarly dismayed when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised nationalists in Northern Ireland that ‘You will never again be left behind by an Irish government’. The unionist response to these pronouncements is to question the motivations of the Irish government, and to perceive a link between the aspiration for Irish unity and the Irish government’s policy on Brexit. In reality however, there is little evidence to suggest that the Irish government is angling to achieve Irish unity via Brexit.

There are no policy documents, no public consultations, no Dáil debates, no civil society movements and no media sources actively agitating for a united Ireland. Notably, there is also a reluctance among Irish political parties to enter a coalition government (or a confidence and supply arrangement) with Sinn Féin, the party most wedded to future Irish unity.

The priority issue for the Irish government is navigating Brexit in a manner which protects Irish economic interests, the peace process and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. There is unwavering commitment to the terms and spirit of the Agreement which includes provision for Irish unity by consent only. There is little appetite among the main Irish political parties for a discussion of Irish unity at this time, and perhaps more significantly, in the longer-term, there is no inevitability about the outcome of any such referendum in the Republic of Ireland. A recent RTÉ/BBC poll demonstrated that although 62 per cent of Northern Ireland voters perceive that Brexit increases the likelihood of a united Ireland, just 35 per cent of Irish voters feel likewise.

Moreover, unionists should not be fatalistic in their assessment. Talk of Irish unity, or even the holding of a border poll, does not presuppose the achievement of Irish unification. In fact, a border poll may conceivably copper-fasten Northern Ireland’s constitutional status when the many political, economic, social and cultural dimensions of a new Ireland are examined in depth. The assumption of majority support for Irish unity – among voters North and South – is by no means a given, particularly when it is being elicited in a political vacuum where discussion of detail and logistics is completely absent.

Let’s be clear, all Irish governments have aspired to Irish unity. However, for the current Irish government, achieving the least disruptive Brexit is its highest priority. Other debates, unexpected crises and new priorities will no doubt materialise in the longer-term, but for now stability and the status quo take precedence, and talk of Irish unity simply does not conform to that agenda.

_______________

Note: The above was originally published on LSE Brexit.

About the Author

Mary C. Murphy is Lecturer in the Department of Government & Politics at the University College Cork.

 

News review – Thursday 17 January 2019

News review – Thursday 17 January 2019

Art50

Telegraph
Philip Hammond told business leaders that the “threat” of a no-deal Brexit could be taken “off the table” within days and potentially lead to Article 50 “rescinded”, a leaked recording of a conference call reveals. The Chancellor set out how a backbench Bill could effectively be used to stop any prospect of no deal. He suggested that ministers may even back the plan when asked for an “assurance” by the head of Tesco that the Government would not oppose the motion. He claimed next week’s Bill, which could force the Government to extend Article 50, was likely to win support and act as the “ultimate backstop” against a no-deal Brexit, as a “large majority in the Commons is opposed to no deal.

Independent
Chancellor Philip Hammond told business leaders that a no-deal Brexit  could be “taken off the table” and Article 50 “rescinded”, according to a transcript of a leaked conference call. Hours after Theresa May suffered a historic defeat in the parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal, Mr Hammond began the call by explaining that it raised two questions; can Article 50 be revoked and “whether we can somehow take the option of no deal off the table”.

Westmonster
The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has been caught describing the prospect of a No Deal Brexit as a “threat” as he along with Business Secretary Greg Clark and Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay spoke to more than 300 business leaders on a conference call. It will confirm the suspicions of many that around the Cabinet table there are plenty of Remainers who are more interested in maintaining the status quo for the establishment than delivering on the will of the people.

May

Mail
Theresa May left the door open yesterday to delaying Britain’s exit from the EU. Downing Street insisted there were no plans to extend the Article 50 departure date beyond the planned March 29. But the Prime Minister failed to rule out the chance of this falling by the wayside in the wake of Tuesday’s crushing Commons defeat for her withdrawal agreement.

Independent
Theresa May has appealed for other political parties to work with her on Brexit, after avoiding a dramatic bid to topple her government in the wake of the historic Commons defeat of her Brexit deal. MPs rejected Jeremy Corbyn‘s motion of no confidence in the government by a margin of 325 to 306 after Tory Brexiteers and the DUP rowed in behind the prime minister. Ms May’s narrow reprieve came less than 24 hours after the crushing defeat of her Brexit deal in the Commons, and now paves the way for cross-party talks on a plan B.

Breitbart

Theresa May has claimed she will deliver Brexit in the House of Commons, as doing otherwise would result in the British people’s faith in the country’s institutions to fall to “an all-time low”. During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday afternoon, Conservative MP Helen Grant asked Mrs May, “Does the Prime Minister agree with me that if we fail to deliver on Brexit the public perception of politicians in this country be at an all-time low?”

Mail
Theresa May last night appealed for MPs to set aside tribal loyalties to find a way forward on Brexit after dramatically surviving an attempt to oust her. The Prime Minister said the British people wanted politicians to ‘get on with’ delivering on the verdict of the referendum – rebuking Jeremy Corbyn for turning down her offer of talks. The address to the nation from Downing Street came after she defeated Mr Corbyn’s no-confidence motion by 325 votes to 306, thwarting the Labour leader’s bid to force a general election

Brexit

Huffington Post
Theresa May appeared to be edging towards a softer Brexit after a cabinet minister and Labour both signalled that an EU customs union could break the parliamentary gridlock. As the prime minister prepared to embark on a round of cross-party talks to find a way out of the Brexit impasse, Justice Secretary David Gauke suggested the government could be “flexible” about keeping Brussels customs rules. In the first such public remarks by any minister backing the idea, Gauke said the government shouldn’t be “boxing ourselves in” by sticking to key parts of the deal that was massively defeated in the Commons on Tuesday.

Mail
Tory rebel Nick Boles today claimed 400 MPs back a soft Brexit – as he lashed Theresa May for failing to get cross party support for a deal. And he repeated his call for Article 50 to be extended by nine months to provide more time for Brexit talks. But he abandoned his plot for controls of the Brexit talks to be taken away from No 10 and handed to MPs sitting on the Liaison committee – admitting MPs on the committee did not back his plan.

Mail
Theresa May is facing the threat of Cabinet meltdown today as ministers clashed openly over a ‘Plan B’ for Brexit. In the wake of the catastrophic defeat on her deal, the Prime Minister faces a desperate battle to avoid a civil war between Remainers and Eurosceptics in her senior team. But in a rare piece of good news for No10, she defeated a no confidence vote called by Jeremy Corbyn by 325 votes to 306. Speaking in the Commons moments after the result was announced, she said she will hold meetings with party leaders on Brexit tonight.

Times
Cabinet divisions over whether Theresa May should soften her Brexit deal to attract Labour support burst into the open yesterday. David Gauke, the justice secretary, broke ranks to urge the prime minister not to be “boxed in” by her red lines. Brexiteer cabinet ministers, however, want Mrs May to offer Tory rebels a way back next week with a vote to limit the length of the backstop and promise to secure a Canada-style trade deal.

Corbyn

Mail
Jeremy Corbyn was slammed last night for snubbing an invitation to hold Brexit talks with Theresa May. The PM offered the olive branch to the Labour leader after she survived his bid to topple her in a no confidence vote in the Commons on Wednesday night. But Mr Corbyn refused to sit down for the talks despite the crisis rocking the country unless Mrs May ruled out a no deal Brexit.

Independent
Jeremy Corbyn has refused to meet Theresa May for talks to find a way out of the Brexit crisis, saying it would be impossible until she rules out a no-deal outcome. The Labour leader said he could not accept Ms May’s invitation because the idea of a no-deal Brexit is a “catastrophe” he cannot countenance. The prime minister made her offer of cross-party talks to break the Brexit impasse after she won a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons on Wednesday that had been brought by Mr Corbyn.

Express
THERESA May has invited opposition party leaders to meet with her tonight in a bid to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit. Mrs May’s made the offer of cross-party talks after MPs rejected Labour’s motion of no confidence in the Government by 325 to 306. Addressing the Commons after the vote, she said: “We have a responsibility to identify a way forward that can secure the backing of the House.

Guardian
Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not hold talks with Theresa May until the prime minister agrees to remove the threat of a no-deal Brexit, ruling out any meeting with the prime minister in the immediate aftermath of the no-confidence vote. Responding to May’s offer of swift talks to break the Brexit impasse, the Labour leader told MPs that before he would entertain “positive discussions about the way forward” she had to agree to his precondition.

Times
Theresa May was fighting last night to break the Brexit deadlock after Jeremy Corbyn rejected her offer of cross-party talks to reach a deal that would pass the Commons. The prime minister invited Mr Corbyn and the leaders of Westminster’s main opposition parties to talks at No 10 immediately after surviving the first no-confidence vote for more than a quarter of a century. She appealed to opposition MPs to work with her on a revised deal that was “negotiable” and would win the support of a majority of MPs.

Sky News
Theresa May has said she is “disappointed” Jeremy Corbyn has yet to take up her offer of talks on Brexit, after surviving a no-confidence vote called by the Labour leader. Speaking in Downing Street, the prime minister said her door “remains open” to Mr Corbyn, who has called on Mrs May to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit before he will hold talks with her. The PM’s address came after she survived an attempt by the opposition to oust her, prevailing by 325 votes to 306 – a majority of 19.

Second referendum

Times
Britain’s election watchdog is drawing up contingency plans to hold a second referendum and to participate in the forthcoming elections to the European parliament if Brexit is postponed. EU and UK officials are privately examining what might happen if an extension to Article 50 were agreed that lasted beyond the present European parliamentary session. A number of the UK’s 73 seats have been reallocated in anticipation of Brexit for the elections in May but the EU would be open to legal challenge if British voters were not represented in the parliament while the UK was still an EU member.

GE

Times
What are the chances of a General Election before Brexit? A general election is an unlikely but possible outcome: either Theresa May calls an early poll or one is forced on her by the loss of a vote of confidence. The first option is less plausible because polls show that an election today would not substantially alter the parliamentary arithmetic. It is also next to impossible to see how she could craft a Brexit manifesto that did not irrevocably split her party. The second option is more likely but it would require the Democratic Unionist Party or Conservative MPs to vote against the government in a confidence motion.

Order-Order
Tonight the Tories have opened up three tranches of candidate selections for the least-winnable seats across the country. The ones that you’d only normally select right before a general election… Although this decision was taken before the result of the confidence vote, this shows the Tories are firmly getting on an election footing. The seats are all set to have fast-track selections with CCHQ aiming to have a candidate in place in every seat by the end of the month. Whether people want to become candidates for unwinnable seats with no guarantee of an upcoming election is another matter…

Parliament

Express
Public respect for Parliament has plummeted following the Westminster paralysis over Brexit, a damning opinion poll has revealed. Three-quarters of voters say the crisis-hit EU departure process has shown that the current generation of MPs are “not up to the job”, according to the data from polling firm ComRes. A root-and-branch overhaul of the country’s entire political system is wanted by a massive 72% of people quizzed in the survey. But despite the chaos embroiling Brexit, a majority of voters (53%) still want the result of the 2016 EU Leave vote to be honoured by ensuring the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc and do not want a second referendum to be triggered.

Breitbart
Historian and broadcaster Andrew Roberts has urged the Prime Minister to call on the Queen to suspend the parliamentary session until Brexit takes effect of March 29th, to deny Remain plotters the opportunity to derail it. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 enshrined March 29th as exit day in law, and so a clean, No Deal break with the bloc is now on course by default, given the crushing defeat of Theresa May’s proposed deal in the so-called “meaningful vote”. The EU Withdrawal Act allows for a minister to alter that date, however, and it could of course be overturned by swift and concerted parliamentary action — and with the Remain-supporting Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow disregarding the advice of his Clerks and breaking with centuries of precedent in order to allow Remain MPs to amend Government motions in Parliament.

Westmonster
A devastating new ComRes poll has revealed just how angry the public are as Brexit drags on with politicians still attempting to delay, water down and stop independence completely. Not good. In numbers that should serve as a massive wake-up call: 74% of people believe that Brexit has shown that politicians are not in touch with the mood of the country. Only 10% agree that they are. 75% agree that the Brexit process has shown the current crop of MPs are not up to the job.

EU

Mirror
Theresa May has been warned the EU is “in no mood” to renegotiate the Brexit deal as chiefs told the UK: “Time is almost up”. With just 72 days left to Brexit, Theresa May has promised cross-party talks to find a way forward and amend her 585-page plan.  But Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said this morning: “I don’t think the EU is in any mood to change the Withdrawal Agreement significantly at all. “We don’t even know what the task is, we’ll have to wait and see what they’re asking for.” French president Emmanuel Macron insisted that Brussels was not prepared to move much further.

Express
BREXIT votes in Parliament against Theresa May’s landmark withdrawal agreement saw a resounding bipartisan rejection, with the future of EU withdrawal thrown into doubt. What was European reaction to the Brexit vote? A monumental Brexit vote has decided Theresa May’s long in the works plan will not be the path forward as the UK exits the EU. The House of Commons voted strongly against her proposal, resulting in one of the largest defeats in Parliament in a century

Times
European Union officials are examining plans to delay Brexit until 2020 after Germany and France indicated their willingness to extend withdrawal negotiations because of Britain’s political turmoil. Diplomats and officials are preparing a longer than envisaged extension of the EU’s Article 50 exit procedure because the extent of Theresa May’s defeat in the House of Commons last night. Previous planning had centred on a three-month delay to Brexit from March 29 until the end of June but now, according to multiple sources, EU officials are investigating legal routes to postpone Britain’s withdrawal until next year.

Mail
Angela Merkel urged Theresa May to come up with a new plan on Brexit today as she insisted there is still time to negotiate. The German Chancellor heaped pressure on the PM by insisting the UK must provide solutions to the impasse after the House of Commons delivered a huge rejection of her deal. The challenge came as EU splits emerged, with senior figures warning against delaying the Brexit date – while Michel Barnier said Brussels is ramping up no-deal preparations.

BBC News
European Council President Donald Tusk has hinted that the UK should stay in the EU, after the prime minister’s Brexit deal was rejected in parliament. “If a deal is impossible, and no-one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” he tweeted. MPs voted by 432 votes to 202 to reject the deal, which sets out the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU on 29 March. Other EU officials and politicians reacted with dismay to the result.

Ireland

Mail
The Irish PM Leo Varadkar today admitted that a no deal Brexit would hammer his country’s economy.  But he laid the blame for the Brexit chaos at Theresa May’s feet saying the problem lies with ‘Westminster’. And he said the Prime Minister must abandon her ‘red lines’ of leaving the EU’s customs union and single market if she wants to get a deal done.  Mr Varadkar said: ‘A no-deal scenario would have a deeply negative impact on jobs, on the economy, particularly the traded and agri-food sectors, our farmers and fishermen, our rural economy, our businessmen and women all over the country.

Independent
The Irish government would impose checks on goods crossing the Northern Ireland border in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to a leaked recording of the country’s deputy prime minister. The opposition has seized on the admission, warning that there was now a “private understanding” in government that a hard border with the UK was increasingly likely. Though the fact that a no-deal would create a hard border is well-established, the Irish government has up until this point said it would not impose one under any circumstances – but not spelled out how it could actually avoid one.

Guardian
Ireland’s prime minister has denied having secret plans to introduce checks at the border with Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Leo Varadkar was accused by the leader of Ireland’s opposition of keeping plans from voters after his deputy was overheard telling his transport minister he should avoid talking about checks on the border. “It seems there is a private understanding and knowledge of a border in the aftermath of a no-deal Brexit but at all costs that private understanding must not be shared with the public,” said the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, during leaders’ questions in the Dáil.

Meat-eating

Telegraph
Britons have been told to restrict their meat intake to the equivalent of one beefburger a fortnight by health experts in new dietary recommendations branded “fanatical” by critics.  The Eat-Lancet Commission, a group of 37 health experts, has spent two years compiling the “planetary health diet”, which they claim is the healthiest and most sustainable food plan for everyone in the world. They say it could cut premature deaths globally by 11 million and help feed the growing worldwide population which is due to reach 10 billion by 2050.

Times
Reducing red meat consumption to half a rasher of bacon a day and eating more nuts will help avert climate change, scientists say. An international team of experts has put lower meat consumption at the heart of a “planetary health diet” to stave off catastrophic damage to the Earth. They say people should think of meat as a treat and have “a burger once a week or a steak once a month”.

Fossil fuels

Mail
A world with no fossil-fulled cars, planes, and factories is the reality for the next 40 years if we want to keep global warming below safe levels, scientists have claimed.  Researchers from the University of Leeds used climate simulations to predict the fate of the planet under different fossil fuel scenarios.  They found there was a 64 per cent chance of keeping global warming below the critical threshold of 1.5C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels but only if a massive drive to clear fossil fuels started now.

FGM

Times
A woman accused of the female genital mutilation of her three-year-old daughter tried to use black magic on police officers and a social worker, a court was told. Spells and other forms of witchcraft were found at the home of the woman alleged to have held the girl down while mutilation (FGM) was carried out. They included cows’ tongues in a freezer as part of a curse to silence police and witnesses. A Ugandan woman in her thirties and a Ghanaian man in his forties from London, who cannot be identified, deny FGM and failing to protect a girl from risk of genital mutilation in 2017.

The post News review – Thursday 17 January 2019 appeared first on Independence Daily.

What are the Irish government’s Brexit priorities? A united Ireland is not one of them

What is the Irish government’s Brexit wish-list? The suggestion that Irish unity, as opposed to safeguarding political and economic stability, is the foremost concern of the Irish government is to misunderstand and misrepresent the motivations of this key Brexit stakeholder, writes Mary C. Murphy (University College Cork).

Following the UK vote in favour of Leave, the Irish government moved swiftly to identify its priorities for the Brexit negotiation period. These included: minimising the impact on trade and the Irish economy; protecting the Northern Ireland peace process; maintaining the Common Travel Area; and influencing the future of the European Union.

In mitigating the risks to the peace process, the Irish government has been explicit in its desire to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, to protect the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and to support continued north-south cooperation. Simultaneously, the Irish government wishes to maintain close trade between the UK and EU/Ireland and to minimise the regulatory burden for goods transiting the UK.

To achieve these twin objectives – no hard border on the island of Ireland and no barriers to trade between the UK and Ireland – Taoiseach Leo Varadkar favours the UK staying in the customs union and single market. However, in the absence of such a prospect, the Irish government supports the inclusion of the backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement. It is envisaged as an insurance policy in the absence of alternative solutions.

In welcoming the draft Withdrawal Agreement, the Taoiseach stated: ‘The text makes clear that this backstop would apply “unless and until” a better solution is agreed. I firmly hope that we can achieve that better solution, and will be working strenuously to that end’. The Irish government’s support for the backstop is a pragmatic rather than a political position – a means to maintain existing practices and conditions on the island of Ireland as set out by the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement if other options do not materialise.

For Northern Ireland unionists however, it is not the Irish government’s stated position which is problematic, rather it is more often than not, the manner in which that position is framed. When Foreign Minister Simon Coveney talks about achieving a united Ireland ‘in my political lifetime’, this is met with alarm by a unionist community which has long felt vulnerable and besieged. Unionists were similarly dismayed when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised nationalists in Northern Ireland that ‘You will never again be left behind by an Irish government’. The unionist response to these pronouncements is to question the motivations of the Irish government, and to perceive a link between the aspiration for Irish unity and the Irish government’s policy on Brexit. In reality however, there is little evidence to suggest that the Irish government is angling to achieve Irish unity via Brexit.

There are no policy documents, no public consultations, no Dáil debates, no civil society movements and no media sources actively agitating for a united Ireland. Notably, there is also a reluctance among Irish political parties to enter a coalition government (or a confidence and supply arrangement) with Sinn Féin, the party most wedded to future Irish unity.

Image by JoopercoopersCC BY-SA 3.0.

The priority issue for the Irish government is navigating Brexit in a manner which protects Irish economic interests, the peace process and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. There is unwavering commitment to the terms and spirit of the Agreement which includes provision for Irish unity by consent only. There is little appetite among the main Irish political parties for a discussion of Irish unity at this time, and perhaps more significantly, in the longer-term, there is no inevitability about the outcome of any such referendum in the Republic of Ireland. A recent RTÉ/BBC poll demonstrated that although 62 per cent of Northern Ireland voters perceive that Brexit increases the likelihood of a united Ireland, just 35 per cent of Irish voters feel likewise.

Moreover, unionists should not be fatalistic in their assessment. Talk of Irish unity, or even the holding of a border poll, does not presuppose the achievement of Irish unification. In fact, a border poll may conceivably copper-fasten Northern Ireland’s constitutional status when the many political, economic, social and cultural dimensions of a new Ireland are examined in depth. The assumption of majority support for Irish unity – among voters North and South – is by no means a given, particularly when it is being elicited in a political vacuum where discussion of detail and logistics is completely absent.

Let’s be clear, all Irish governments have aspired to Irish unity. However, for the current Irish government, achieving the least disruptive Brexit is its highest priority. Other debates, unexpected crises and new priorities will no doubt materialise in the longer-term, but for now stability and the status quo take precedence, and talk of Irish unity simply does not conform to that agenda.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE.

Dr Mary C. Murphy is a Lecturer at the Department of Government & Politics, University College Cork.

Checks on both sides of Irish border ‘mandatory under no-deal Brexit’

Customs expert says extra costs and delays will harm small businesses and WTO rules would ‘kill UK farming’

European Union and World Trade Organization checks would be mandatory on both sides of the Irish border in the event of no-deal Brexit, one of the world’s leading experts on customs has said.

Michael Lux, a former head of customs legislation and procedures at the European commission, said the UK would have to impose customs checks and tariffs on the northern side of the border, despite claims to the contrary by Brexiters.

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What is the EU position on alternative Brexit options?

The UK has several ways to try to break the deadlock but they will all require EU agreement

After MPs’ crushing rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the EU response was swift and coordinated. In several languages, but usually English, leaders and politicians made plain the EU had no intention of conjuring up a plan to break the deadlock. “The ball is now in the court of the British lower house,” said Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, echoing a widely held view in national capitals and the EU institutions.

So what are the options for the prime minister and parliament and how will the European Union react?

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