Posts Tagged ‘Conservatives’

Jacob Rees-Mogg urges ‘patience’ over no-confidence vote in May – Politics live

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen

The UK government has been refused permission for an appeal at the country’s highest court over a cross-party legal challenge on Brexit, the Press Association reports. The supreme court rejected an application to appeal against a ruling to ask the European court if the UK can unilaterally revoke its article 50 request to leave the European Union. The Press Association story goes on:

The court of session in Edinburgh ruled in September to refer the question to the court of justice of the EU (CJEU) after a case brought by a cross-party group of politicians.

The CJEU applied its expedited procedure, as requested by the court of session, to the case and an oral hearing is fixed for November 27.

Here is a link to the ERG paper published earlier.

This @GlobalBritain ERG paper dispels the myths that we cannot trade successfully with the EU from outside the Customs Union. This also solves the ‘backstop’ issue. But Govt must actually WANT to leave the customs union. @MustBeRead @BrexitCentral

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Northern Ireland for English Cabinet Ministers and other beginners

Brexit has exposed much confusion about the history and processes of Northern Ireland, both among the public and government ministers. In an effort to provide some clarity, Sean Swan offers an overview.

Given the importance of the Irish border in the Brexit negotiations, the lack of knowledge about Northern Ireland displayed by senior English politicians is depressing. Perhaps the ultimate example of this was when Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, admitted that she:

didn’t understand things like when elections are fought, for example, in Northern Ireland – people who are Nationalists don’t vote for Unionist parties and vice versa. So, the parties fight for election within their own community.

The 2018 Annual Future of England Survey was conducted in each nation of the UK. It contained a question on national independence. 41% of Scots agreed with the statement “Scotland should become an independent country”; 19% of the Welsh agreed that Wales should be independent, and a similar 19% of the English thought that England should be independent. The response in Northern Ireland to the question should it be independent showed that only 4% agreed that it should – but 44% thought it should form part of a united Ireland and 43% thought it should remain part of the UK. This is unsurprising. Northern Ireland, unlike England, Scotland or Wales, is not a nation. It is home to two competing national identities. This is Northern Ireland’s first dirty little secret; its second flows from this – the real border runs not so much between Northern Ireland and the Republic as along the 20 foot high walls – euphemistically named ‘peace lines’ – separating Nationalist and Unionist areas in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has its origins in Unionist resistance to Irish Home Rule in the 1880s. That resistance quickly crystallised around the northern province of Ulster, where there was a Unionist majority. ‘Unionists’ were mainly Protestant descendants of those English and lowland Scots with whom James IV & I had planted Ulster in the early 17th century. The Catholic/Protestant division in Northern Ireland is thus not religious per se, rather religion serves as a cultural marker distinguishing ‘natives’ from ‘settlers’ (who speak the same language and are the same colour).

The aim of Ulster opposition to Home Rule was to either prevent it, or at worse, to prevent it being applied to Ulster. Following a series of failed Home Rule bills in 1886 and 1893, the Home Rule crisis of 1912-4 and the 1916 Rising, the 1920 Government of Ireland Act (also known as the fourth Home Rule Bill), was designed to bring Home Rule to Ireland, but with two separate parliaments: one for the 26 southern counties and one for six of the nine counties of Ulster. It became a dead-letter as regards the south as it was overtaken by the Irish War of Independence, the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the creation of the Irish Free State – a self-governing dominion within the Empire.

Ironically, the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, designed to deal with Irish Home Rule thus came to apply only to the Unionist area. Northern Ireland was created to be the largest area of the province of Ulster in which Unionists would have a secure majority, which turned out to be six of Ulster’s nine counties. This yielded a Unionist majority of roughly two to one, though many border areas and NI’s second city actually contained Nationalist majorities – who did not want to be part of NI. Part of NI’s tragedy is that it originated from Unionist opposition to Home Rule but, as a ‘Unionist state’, was ‘territorially over bounded’. It controlled six counties but only had a majority in four and a half of them.

For fifty years Northern Ireland existed as a semi-detached region of the UK. Ulster Unionists had not asked for a separate parliament, but a parliament they got. The British political parties did not organise there and Northern Ireland was kept at arms’ length from the politics of the British state. The only form of politics possible within the devolved parliament was the constitutional question and Unionist policing of a large dissident Nationalist minority. Elections were regularly held but elections in Northern Ireland were never anything more than sectarian headcounts. Despite elections, the government of Northern Ireland never changed. It was always Unionist.

Gerrymandering, particularly in Derry city which had a Nationalist majority, was almost a structural imperative. It was the only way in which Unionists could politically control areas in which they were a minority. Because the local election franchise was restricted to householders, giving somebody a house also meant giving them the vote. This provided a powerful incentive for discrimination in the allocation of local authority housing.

This situation was challenged by the civil rights mobilisation in the late 1960s. The movement challenged structures on which Unionist hegemony in Northern Ireland relied, and led to a Unionist backlash which rapidly degenerated into the Troubles. Truly horrible things happened during the Troubles – Bloody Sunday, the Kingsmill massacre, the Shankill Butchers, the Birmingham and Guildford bombings, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and random sectarian assassinations.

The Troubles were ended by a peace process which culminated in and was sealed by, the Good Friday Agreement. A large part of the Agreement consists of mechanisms to prevent discrimination. The Assembly created by the Agreement operates on a power-sharing basis; it is not controlled by a majority party; and seats in the Executive are allocated on the basis of party strength. This creates a form of forced coalition government. Members elected to this Assembly must designate as either ‘Nationalist’, ‘Unionist’ or ‘other’. Certain key votes require a minimum of support from both those designated as ‘Unionists’ and those designated as ‘Nationalists’. All of this is designed to deal with the issue of potential discrimination at the individual or community level.

Another important part of the Agreement deals with the key constitutional issue. Northern Ireland remains a part of the UK for as long as a majority so desires. Should that seem to have changed, a referendum will be held to give the people the choice between remaining in the UK or joining a united Ireland. Northern Ireland is thus conditionally part of the UK. At the individual level, both Dublin and London guarantee the rights of individuals in Northern Ireland to be, and to be recognised as being, British citizens, Irish citizens, or both. And this would not change even if Northern Ireland became part of united Ireland. This is important because it recognises the fact that there are two separate national allegiances in Northern Ireland.

The Agreement also created North/South institutions connecting Northern Ireland and the Republic (the North/South Ministerial Council) and linking the Republic and the UK (the British-Irish Council). Such institutions obviously blur the distinction between the UK and the Republic as much as they do the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The core of the Agreement was thus a blurring of all sorts of borders. It represents a form of post-Westphalian sovereignty in which the distinction between being an Irish or British citizen, whether within Northern Ireland or within these islands, was more symbolic than of any practical significance. This was in harmony with the general thrust of developments within the EU. Obviously, the existence of a common EU citizenship further blurred distinctions. Brexit, with its emphasis on borders, was always going to pose problems for Northern Ireland.

In terms of democracy or economic prosperity, there is little to choose between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. The 2017 Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Ireland as the joint 6th most democratic country in the world and the UK as 14th. In terms of prosperity, the UN Human Development Index ranks Ireland as 4th most developed and the UK as 14th. Not only can it no longer be argued that ‘Home rule is Rome Rule’, but Northern Ireland is today much closer to a model of ‘Rome Rule’ than is the Republic. Abortion and equal marriage remain banned there – though the reason for this currently has more to do with Protestant fundamentalism than Catholicism. Nor can it be maintained that Nationalists today suffer significant discrimination in Northern Ireland.

Whether Northern Ireland is part of the UK or of a united Ireland thus makes little difference in terms of prosperity or rights. What is at issue is symbolism and identity. What makes all this extra problematic is the fact that there is now no majority in Northern Ireland. The 2011 census showed that those of  Catholic background comprise 45% of the population and those of a Protestant background 48%. Similarly, latest opinion polls showed 44% in favour of a united Ireland and 43% in favour or remaining in the UK. The real borders in Northern Ireland may run along the peace lines, but the symbolically significant border remains the one between North and South. The need to keep that border ‘soft’, ambiguous and invisible should be obvious and not have to be endlessly re-made.

The case for ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland rests on the reality that Northern Ireland is, and always was, different. Those who argue that giving Northern Ireland special status would strengthen the case of the Scots who want their own special status and a closer relationship with the EU, need to explain why Scotland should not have that right. Scotland, like Northern Ireland, voted to Remain. Brexit is an English obsession. Those who wish to maintain the existence of the UK state would be better advised allowing for and facilitating the real differences that exist between the UK’s component parts than in trying to force an Anglo-centric uniformity on everybody else. Of course, it would help if they knew just a little bit more about Scotland and Northern Ireland. Here’s a clue: Finchley is in England, not in Northern Ireland or Scotland.


About the Author

Sean Swan is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Gonzaga University.


All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of LSE British Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Featured image credit: Pixabay/CC0 licence.

Treasury to publish Brexit deal analysis after rebellion

Government bows to pressure following cross-party amendment to finance bill

After a backbench rebellion, the Treasury will publish analysis comparing the impact of Theresa May’s Brexit deal with staying in the European Union before MPs vote on it next month, ministers have confirmed.

The government was forced to promise the forecasts after a cross-party amendment to the finance bill, tabled by Labour’s Chuka Umunna and Conservative Anna Soubry, gained enough support to overturn May’s majority.

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Toppling May risks ‘most appalling chaos’, says Jeremy Hunt

Foreign secretary chastises MPs for encouraging letters of no confidence in Theresa May

Rebels seeking to remove Theresa May risk bringing about “the most appalling chaos”, which could destabilise the country and damage Britain’s international reputation, Jeremy Hunt has said.

Hunt, the foreign secretary and one of the most ambitious of May’s cabinet ministers, chastised his Conservative colleagues for encouraging letters of no confidence in the prime minister.

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CBI gets applause in early for isolated May | John Crace

A warm welcome, a dash for the exit, then the other half of the lack-of-power couple

Seconds out, round … frankly, who cares? Everyone’s either lost count or, if they’re lucky, lost the will to live. The latest episode in the ongoing Brexit psychodrama, Who’s Afraid of the ERG?, featuring Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn as the self-harming, lack-of-power couple united in their inability to utter a coherent sentence, took place at the Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference in London. No one was holding their breath for a meaningful resolution.

The prime minister did go into the day as the home-crowd favourite. Having initially declared that any form of Brexit would be damaging for business, the CBI has recently rather rolled over. Faced with the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, it has come to the conclusion that the prime minister’s bad deal is the only game in town. Rather than campaign for what it really wants, it has taken the easy option of the certainty of everything being worse than it currently is but not as crap as it might be.

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The Guardian view on Brexit chaos: a threat to break up Britain | Editorial

Leavers claim Britain’s future lies in going it alone. Not if the country ends up in bits

The United Kingdom has a sweet deal with the EU, enjoying more of the benefits and suffering less of the burdens of membership. This country is outside the euro, is not part of the Schengen border-free area and gets a hefty rebate from the EU budget. Britain’s influence and standing was the reason we have such a good bargain. That ended when this country voted to leave the EU in 2016. This was a self-inflicted blow of historic proportions, enabled by preening fantasists who peddled falsehoods. However, as the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU continue to be unveiled, deluded politicians face moments of pure clarity. Brexiters are shocked to discover what was obvious all along: there is no easy, cost-free way for the UK to leave the EU. Theresa May’s blueprint sees Britain being out of Europe but run by it for at least two years. This will be followed by a future partnership negotiated by trading immigration control for access to European markets. It was the prime minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, who nailed our predicament back in 2016: “Before, they were in and they had many opt-outs; now they want to be out with many opt-ins.”

The EU and UK must take a clear view of their near-term goals, but also of their long-run interests and interdependences. Brussels says Britain will not be allowed to pick and choose at will policies that it wants to participate in or abstain from. Yet it is clear that the EU cannot be too absolutist. Mrs May’s plans are unlikely to pass the Commons. Labour’s analysis of her proposal has the virtue of throwing into sharp relief its faults. But Jeremy Corbyn has no roadmap out of the impasse. Few things are certain in this process. However, it is likely that the next two years of Britain’s life outside the EU will see this country subject to the vast majority of EU laws, but with no say in Brussels. This is the “vassalage” that is a necessary stepping stone out of the EU. While in this state, it is worth asking: what if Donald Trump chose to restart trade wars with Brussels? The UK would have to follow the EU’s lead, applying sanctions and tariffs that might suit the continent’s economy, but leave ours exposed to retaliation. It might force Britain to choose between allies and friends. Given that the current occupant of the White House sees loyalty tests as a foreign policy tool, this is a plausible and disturbing scenario that renders laughable the proposition that with Brexit this country recovers a long-lost sovereignty.

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May’s Brexit deal delivers on the main reason the UK voted to leave the EU | Craig Berry

The prime minister has a better grasp of political reality than either the hard Brexiters or Tory remainers

Forgive me, I may have missed something. There has, of course, been a lot to take in over the last few days. But despite what the latest former Brexit secretary believes, it seems to me that the Brexit withdrawal agreement delivers almost exactly what the UK voted for in June 2016.

The reasons 17.4m people voted to leave the EU were multiple, complex and, in part, contradictory. But it is beyond doubt that a desire to control immigration was the most important reason. The evidence in this regard is overwhelming.

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