Posts Tagged ‘Northern Ireland’

The Guardian view on May’s Brexit: needs parliament’s support | Editorials

The prime minister has once again seen off the Tory rebels. She now has to do the same to ‘hard Brexit’ cabinet colleagues

A couple of hours is a very long time in politics. Before 2.15pm on Wednesday, the former Tory attorney general Dominic Grieve presented an amendment to give MPs the right to decide what happens if the Commons rejects the eventual Brexit deal. Mr Grieve had been leading a band of a dozen or so Tory rebels on the issue of a “meaningful vote”. With Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party bringing in sick MPs and convincing its Brexit-leaning parliamentarians to back the Tory rebel amendment, Theresa May’s government was heading for defeat. This would have been no bad thing. Mr Grieve’s laudable and correct aim was to stop the government leaving parliament with a dilemma later this year: take a deal, however unsatisfactory, or end up with no Brexit deal. Ninety minutes later, Mr Grieve, persuaded that parliamentary sovereignty could be observed in other ways, voted against his own amendment.

What the former Conservative cabinet minister had wanted was a legally binding insurance policy, protecting the country against a foreseeable catastrophe. Instead, he accepted a risky gamble: that Tory rebels would be prepared to vote against a Brexit deal they did not like when the stakes would be much higher. One of the reasons Mr Grieve did so was because he said he could not ignore Mrs May’s entreaty to him that his actions could “undermine the government’s negotiating position in trying to get the United Kingdom the best possible deal for leaving the EU”. This overlooks the awkward fact that the irrationality of Mrs May’s Brexit enterprise means that there is a vanishingly small basis on which to form any calculable probability of anything it involves. However, rather late in the day it dawned on Mr Grieve that the “ultimate sanction” for a Brexit deal that parliament could not back was a motion of no confidence in the government.

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EU is getting ready for no-deal Brexit, says Jean-Claude Juncker

European commission president says bloc must prepare for worst outcome

The EU needs to be realistic about the dangerous state of the Brexit negotiations and is preparing to deploy its trillion-pound budget to cushion the bloc from the prospect of a no-deal scenario, the European commission president has warned.

With the two sides still far apart on the “hardest issues”, just days from a crunch leaders’ summit in Brussels, Jean-Claude Juncker told the Irish parliament on Thursday he was stepping up preparations for a breakdown in talks, and even drafting plans aimed at keeping the peace in Northern Ireland.

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May has won a key Brexit vote but what happens next?

PM has won fight over a ‘meaningful vote’ but there are more battles to come – in parliament and in Brussels

The Lords passed the Brexit bill on Wednesday night and after many months of bitter debate, it will eventually pass into law, without further amendment.

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Barnier: ‘Serious divergences’ remain in Brexit talks over Northern Ireland

Brussels and London have made progress on several technical sections of Brexit negotiations but "serious divergences" remain over the issue of Northern Ireland after a final round of talks ahead of this month's European summit, the EU said Tuesday (19 June).

News review – Tuesday 19 June 2018

News review – Tuesday 19 June 2018

EU

Guardian
Brussels is seeking to bind the UK to the European court of human rights after Brexit in a move likely to infuriate those in the Conservative party championing a break with the Strasbourg court. A document outlining the European commission’s position on future judicial and police cooperation stipulates there will be a “guillotine clause” on any security deal should the UK leave the remit of the court.

Express
THE EU is attempting to frustrate Brexit negotiations and waste time ahead of a key summit in Brussels next week in a bid to keep the UK shackled to the EU, an MEP has warned. The lawmaker said the chance of achieving progress at the summit, being held on Jun 28-29, was increasingly slim due to pro-European MEPs attempting to delay the process in a bid to keep the UK aligned with EU customs regulations. Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, UKIP MEP Nathan Gill said: “The likelihood of any significant development at the June summit is slim.

Guardian
The European commission is refusing to agree to any back-channel discussions between UK and EU aviation agencies to avert a crisis in the event of a “no-deal” outcome to Brexit. Attempts by the aerospace industry to persuade Brussels to start contingency talks to ensure Europe’s planes keep flying and the aerospace industry can function effectively have apparently been rebuffed by the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, according to industry sources. At the strike of midnight in Brussels on 29 March 2019, when Britain leaves the EU, UK-made parts for planes will no longer be legally valid and its pilot licences will be defunct in the eyes of international regulators acting under agreements with the bloc.

Sun
BRUSSELS sparked fury yesterday by telling Britain it must stick to European human rights laws if it wants a Brexit deal on security. Eurocrats said any treaty on tackling terror and cross-border crime would have a “guillotine clause” attached to our membership of the European Convention of Human Rights. Britain would also be automatically cut off from cooperation with the continue if it failed to implement any relevant judgement of the European Court of Human Rights. The move would effectively tie the UK to the Strasbourg-based court, which is independent of the EU, forever. It enraged Tory MPs, who accused the Commission of underhand negotiating tactics.

Express
FRANCE and Germany will have “no agreement” on the eurozone budget unless every single detail is agreed on, an EU source involved in the negotiations revealed following a turbulent debate between French finance minister Bruno Le Maire and German finance minister Olaf Scholz this weekend. Speaking about the possibility of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron finalising an agreement, the source said: “There will be no agreement if there isn’t a general agreement on all parts of the proposal.” However, the source added the two ministers had agreed on a eurozone budget focused on “convergence and stabilisation”.

House of Lords

Telegraph
Theresa May is facing a showdown with pro-European Tory MPs after the Lords overwhelmingly backed plans to give Parliament a “meaningful vote” on the Government’s final Brexit deal. The Government was defeated by 354 votes to 235 after a Conservative peer tabled an amendment that ministers believe will undermine Brexit by tying the Government’s hands during negotiations. The defeat sets up a clash between the Government and pro-European MPs led by Dominic Grieve, a former Attorney General, when the EU withdrawal bill returns to the Commons on Wednesday. 

Sky News
The government has again been defeated in the Lords over giving MPs a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal. Peers backed an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill by 354 to 235, a majority of 119. There were 22 Conservative rebels who voted in favour of the amendment, including Tory former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine and Conservative former ministers Lord Patten of Barnes, Lord Willetts and Baroness Warsi. A total of 588 peers voted, making it the fourth largest turnout in a single Lords division on record.

Mirror
Theresa May faces a fresh Tory Brexit revolt this week as rebellious backbenchers bid to shape her EU withdrawal plan. Peers inflicted another embarrassing defeat on the Prime Minister’s flagship exit blueprint last night as party splits burst open in the House of Lords. Mrs May had hoped to win support for an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, aimed at quelling a Commons rebellion led by MP Dominic Grieve. But the House of Lords voted by 354 to 245, majority 119, to reject her plan to limit Parliament’s power if she cannot strike a deal with Brussels or MPs vote it down.

Sun
PRO-EU lords allied with Tory rebel MPs to force a fresh stand-off with the government over Brexit. Peers overwhelmingly backed a new bid by leading Commons rebel Dominic Grieve to give the Commons a ‘meaningful vote’ if there is no deal with the EU. The move allows Parliament to condemn any attempt by Theresa May to walk away from the stalled negotiations with Brussels. But the PM yesterday branded it a bid to “tie the Government’s hands” in the tense final few months of talks before a deal must be struck in October.

Mail
Peers have today inflicted a hugely damaging defeat on Theresa May‘s Brexit  Bill by demanding Parliament is given a meaningful vote if no deal is reached with the EU. The House of Lords defied the PM’s pleas to ‘keep faith’ with the British public and fall into line on the EU Withdrawal Bill. Instead they backed the Hailsham amendment in a move which sets the stage for a crunch showdown between Mrs May and her Tory rebels on Wednesday when it returns to the Commons.  In a fiery debate, Viscount Hailsham branded Brexit a ‘national calamity’ and said he was driven to act after ministers reneged on their promise to give Parliament a say if no deal is done by late January.

Express
CONSERVATIVE peer Lord Robathan prompted huge groans in the House of Lords after he quizzed Lord Hailsham over whether he was trying to “sabotage” Brexit. Viscount Hailsham declared his support for an amendment to the Brexit  bill which would allow MPs a ‘meaningful vote’ on the final divorce deal. The Tory peer introduced a new change to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which he dubbed “Grieve Two”. The original amendment by Dominic Grieve was never voted on, Lord Hailsham said. It comes after Dominic Grieve warned the Prime Minister over the weekend the Government could collapse if she refuses to listen to Remain supporting MPs in her own party.

Independent
Theresa May has suffered a major defeat in the Lords, paving the way for a fresh Commons showdown with pro-EU Tory backbenchers over her Brexit plans. Peers voted by 354 to 235 – a majority of 119 – to give parliament a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal reached between the government and Brussels. The division list revealed there were 22 Tory rebels in the Lords who backed a new amendment, including the former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine and former ministers Lord Patten, Lord Willetts and Baroness Warsi. The decisive vote means the amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill will now be passed back to MPs for a vote when the legislation returns to the Commons on Wednesday.

Guardian
The government has been defeated in a landslide Lords vote which will set up another Commons showdown over an amendment to give MPs a “meaningful vote” even if the government fails to reach a Brexit deal. The House of Lords voted in favour of a new amendment, devised by Tory MP and pro-EU rebel Dominic Grieve and tabled by Viscount Hailsham, by a significantly bigger margin than the last time the issue was debated. The amendment was passed by 354 votes to 235 – a majority of 119. Michael Heseltine, Chris Patten and Sayeeda Warsi were among the 22 Tory peers who rebelled and backed the amendment.

Guardian
The House of Lords fails to represent broad swathes of the UK, the Electoral Reform Society has said. The ERS found that 54% of the 564 peers whose residence is known live in Greater London, the south-east or the east of England. The north-west of England, which accounts for 11% of the UK’s population, has only 5% representation in the Lords, it said. The ERS figures also showed that 235 of the 816 peers in the Lords were former politicians, 68 were political staffers and 13 were civil servants.

Brexit

Times
MPs are set for a fractious vote on Theresa May’s abandoned compromise with pro-EU rebels over a final vote on the Brexit deal after peers inserted it into her legislation. After two days of negotiations last week the government defied demands for parliament to be able to influence the direction of Brexit in case of no deal and instead published an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that critics said would give MPs less control. Dominic Grieve, the former attorney-general, who has emerged as the effective leader of the rebels on the so-called meaningful vote issue, later accused ministers of bad faith and reneging on an earlier compromise amendment.

Express
BREXIT could be stopped by a group of Tory rebels who are going against the decision of 17.4 million people to leave the European Union as Theresa May prepares for a Commons showdown. The EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the Commons on Wednesday with Theresa May facing a growing threat of MPs overturning the Government’s proposals for what should happen in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Last Tuesday, Mrs May persuaded potential rebels to back down before a vote to an amendment scheduled by Tory rebel Dominic Grieve, which was about measures being put in place so the UK would not leave the EU without a deal.

Breitbart
The creation of seven “supercharged free ports” in the North of England once Britain leaves the EU and regains power over trade policy could create 150,000 new jobs and add an extra £9 billion to the economy, according to new research. Modelling by former senior Treasury economist Chris Walker for Mace — the consultancy and construction firm responsible London’s Shard skyscraper, Dubai Expo 2020, and the 2019 Pan-American Games — suggests the establishment of free ports and special enterprise zones at Immingham and Grimsby, Hull Port, the Hull and Humber rivers, Tees and Hartlepool, Liverpool, the Tyne, and Manchester airport could boost annual trade by £12 billion, adding £9 billion to Britain’s GDP within 20 years. Free ports – independent zones where goods may be manufactured, imported, and exported free from customs and import tariffs – could have a profound effect on the North of England.

BBC News
An emergency debate has been held at Westminster on how repatriated powers should be dealt with after Brexit. SNP MPs said the Sewel convention, which underpins the devolution settlement, is now unworkable. The party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused the Conservatives of stabbing Scotland in the back with Brexit legislation. But Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said people want the UK’s governments to work together. He told MPs the government was adhering to the principles of devolution by pushing ahead with the withdrawal bill, despite Holyrood refusing its backing. Mr Lidington said the package was a compromise and balanced.

Labour Party

Guardian
A group of young pro-European Labour members have stepped up their attack on Labour MPs who support the party’s ambivalent Brexit stance by unveiling posters and advertising vans accusing them of betraying the young. The ads are targeted at three shadow cabinet members, and at a shadow minister who had supported a further referendum but has since silenced herself after a warning by the Labour whips. The ads are the most personalised attacks so far from the campaign for a further referendum. The four ads were devised by young Labour members in a group called Our Future Our Choice and financed at a cost of £5,000 from crowdfunding.

Sky News
Senior Labour MPs have been targeted by a pro-EU ad campaign, accusing them of “being in the pockets” of hardline Brexiteers. Campaign group Our Future Our Choice (OFOC) unveiled the billboards on Monday, which depicted shadow chancellor John McDonnell poking out of the pocket of Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg. Nia Griffiths, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, was also portrayed in a similar style, protruding from the pocket of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. The banners are a throwback to the Conservatives 2015 election campaign, which showed then-Labour leader Ed Miliband in the pocket of former SNP first minister Alex Salmond. The Conservatives launched a famous banner attacking Ed Miliband in 2015

Cannabis

Independent
Theresa May has found herself at odds with cabinet members over the government’s approach to medicinal cannabis, amid the growing row over a 12-year-old epileptic boy’s use of the drug. The prime minister poured cold water on the idea of a full scale review of laws, despite the health secretary,  Jeremy Hunt, having mooted one hours earlier. She was also reported to have cut off discussion on the issue at the morning’s cabinet, after the home secretary, Sajid Javid, attempted to raise it several times despite it not being on the agenda. Later in the day, ministers announced a new panel to consider the use of medicinal cannabis in individual cases, but it fell short of the full legal review being demanded by campaigners.

Guardian
Theresa May appears at odds with senior cabinet ministers after playing down the prospect of a full-scale review into the medical use of cannabis oil, despite Jeremy Hunt admitting that the government had not got the law right. The health secretary said he backed the use of the substance and called for a swift legal review after an emergency licence was provided to Billy Caldwell, a boy with severe epilepsy whose medication had been confiscated. Cabinet sources revealed that the prime minister had overruled the home secretary, Sajid Javid, when he told her that it was “absolutely urgent” that the matter should be discussed at Monday’s cabinet meeting.

BBC News
Former Conservative leader Lord Hague has called for a “decisive change” in the law on cannabis – suggesting that the Tories should consider legalising recreational use of the drug. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said “any war” has been “irreversibly lost”. Lord Hague goes further than senior Tories who have suggested a law change after a boy with epilepsy was given a special licence to use cannabis oil. The government is creating an expert panel to look into individual cases. Last week officials at Heathrow Airport confiscated Billy Caldwell’s cannabis oil, which the 12-year-old’s mother Charlotte had been attempting to bring into the UK from Canada.

The economy

Times
Philip Hammond has warned the cabinet that he has no more money for other policies after being forced to find £25 billion for the NHS. The chancellor used a presentation to senior ministers before Theresa May’s speech on the health service yesterday to rule out extra spending on areas including schools, defence, prisons and police. He also made clear that, having fulfilled the Vote Leave pledge of paying for the NHS rise from a “Brexit dividend”, the government would need to find money to replace other funding provided at present by Brussels.

Northern Ireland

Telegraph
Two thirds of people who voted to leave the EU would be prepared to accept a hard border in Northern Ireland if it meant ditching the customs union after Brexit, a poll has suggested. Polling by Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative peer, found that six in 10 Leave voters would prefer to see Britain leave the European Union over keeping the Union together. Overall, only a third of voters in Britain said it would be completely unacceptable for Northern Ireland to have a different status in the EU from the rest of the UK.

Train travel

Mail
Train bosses admitted today they had no idea until the ‘last minute’ their new timetables would collapse into chaos despite months of planning. Executives from rail firms responsible for the disastrous timetable overhaul were hauled in front of MPs today to explain why the changes had gone so wrong. Arriva Rail North Managing Director David Brown told MPs it was only at the ‘last minute’ before the timetable launched the problems emerged. And Charles Horton, the chief executive of GTR, said in hindsight a nationwide timetable change should never again be attempted over such a short schedule.

Independent
Rail bosses have apologised to MPs for the botched introduction of new train timetables last month. Charles Horton, outgoing chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and David Brown, managing director of Arriva Rail North, had been summoned to face the Transport Select Committee over the thousands of delayed and cancelled trains since 20 May. The rail industry had adopted a “big bang” approach to bringing in new schedules in southeast and northwest England. But within hours of the timetable change taking place, the plans unravelled – largely due to a shortage of drivers trained for the new working patterns. The RMT union summed up the rail chaos on the first working day of the new timetable as “Meltdown Monday”, while the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, demanded renationalisation.

Air flights

Telegraph
France’s strike-prone and ill-equipped air traffic controllers are responsible for a third of all delays in the skies over Europe, a senate report concluded yesterday. The delays are costing airlines €300 million (£263m) per year it found. The damning report by the senate’s finance committee came after weeks of delays due to industrial action by Gallic controllers, forcing some planes to skirt the country to shorten flight times. According to the report, between 2004 and 2016, France’s air traffic controllers were on strike 254 days. That placed them far ahead of second-placed Greece, on only 46 days of stoppages.

Sun
THE holiday plans of thousands of Brits could be plunged into chaos after Spanish air traffic control workers reiterated their plans to strike. The group plans to strike in airports on the east coast of Spain and the Balearics, including at El Prat Airport in Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca Airport, Ibiza Airport and Menorca Airport. Speaking exclusively to The Sun, a representative from an assembly representing workers, said that unless their demands were met, some would even plan to leave their posts from the end of this week.

Express
BRUSSELS has banned aviation officials from holding back-stop talks with Britain to keep Europe’s planes flying in the event of a no-deal Brexit next March. The UK officially leaves the EU in 2019 – but in a move seen as an attempt to raise pressure on No.10, the European Commission has refused to discuss aviation contingency plans before March. Airlines, manufacturers and regulators across Europe claim that they would need around nine months to draw up adequate plans to minimise disruption if Brexit talks collapse. But the European Commission has banned the European Aviation Safety Industry (EASA) from holding talks with its UK counterpart, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

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Why the Good Friday Agreement is on life support – and why hope still remains

NagleThe central support beams of the Good Friday Agreement — power-sharing and Europeanisation — have become so weakened that its sustainability is now under threat, explains John Nagle. But there is still hope for recovery, and it rests with Northern Ireland’s liberal younger generation.

April 10 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). Few would begrudge the Agreement’s central role in ending thirty years of violence that led to 3,700 deaths and approximately 100,000 injuries. Yet any urge to celebrate the GFA is tempered by the realisation that the GFA is currently experiencing a deep crisis. The very moorings on which the GFA rest are loosening. The power-sharing government lies in a state of collapse while Brexit puts into question the future security of the region. The GFA is on life support. It is at this moment of existential crisis that some reflection is required to remind us of its central features and why they have gradually become dangerously untethered.

The central support beams of the Agreement

The first and central support beam of the GFA is power-sharing between nationalists and unionists. The GFA forms an important part of a recent wave of divided societies falling under the influence of power–sharing. Such is the prevailing orthodoxy among the international community regarding power-sharing’s propensity to build peaceful democracy, that it is used or prescribed for Bosnia, Lebanon, Burundi, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.

Northern Ireland’s power-sharing comprised innovative features to deal with the complexity of the conflict. The institutions are liberal – there are no seats or political positions reserved for specific groups, and executive places are distributed among parties based on their electoral performances. To accommodate the dual national character of the conflict, power-sharing initiated cross-border institutions. It further made provisions for the release of paramilitary prisoners, the reform of policing, human rights, victims, and paramilitary weapons decommissioning.

Second, the GFA is shaped by the European Union’s approach to resolving territorial disputes. Conflict management is achieved through two steps. First, security is secured by affirming the territorial status quo, which requires member states to revoke territorial claims over neighbouring states. Second, states are required to recognise and promote the rights of their substate national minorities. In combination, these two aspects made it possible to soften borders to facilitate peaceful crossborder links between minority groups and their homeland. Thus, in the GFA, the Republic of Ireland swapped its constitutional claim over Northern Ireland for the North–South Institutions and the UK agreed to subscribe to minority rights protections.

These two central support beams – power-sharing and Europeanisation – have become unhinged and undermine the peace process as a result. Power-sharing presented the best option for peace but it came with a high risk. Power-sharing governments are notoriously prone to rewarding ethnic hardliners, exacerbating communal divisions and provoking policy paralysis. Northern Ireland’s power-sharing suffered from a combination of these dynamics. Northern Ireland’s power-sharing arrangements were deliberately designed to be inclusive by capturing a broad spectrum of moderate and hardline parties. This it did, but the enterprise relied on maintaining the moderate wings of nationalism and unionism at the centre of power-sharing. These moderates would engage in elite level compromise that would eventually erode antagonistic communal divisions.

Why the agreement is under threat: the DUP/Sinn Fein axis

By 2003 a reverse situation came to fruition. The so-called hardline parties – the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein – stood as the leading factions of unionism and nationalism respectively. It is often said that the DUP and Sinn Fein’s electoral dominance represents a triumph of the extremes but not for extremism. This thesis stresses how both parties combine moderation with robust policies defending their community’s interests.

The DUP/Sinn Fein axis provided some welcome stability but such accommodation worked only as long as these parties reaped the benefits from a sectarian carve up of government. But neither parties could not resist being locked into zero-sum rather than collaborative politics. Instead of working together, the DUP and Sinn Fein defined their politics in binary terms as one of implacable opposition to each other. This divisive politics found particular expression in culture wars. Flags, symbols, parades, language rights and even same-sex marriage provided major battlelines for the DUP and Sinn Fein as human rights became war by other means.

The mechanisms of power-sharing did not encourage cooperation and healthy governance. Rather than ‘joined up’ government, the system of allocating government ministerial portfolios allowed ministers to use their offices as party fiefdoms. The mandatory rather than voluntary system of executive coalition meant that government lacked any cohesive opposition bloc. The veto, designed to ensure that the interests of the respective communities would be protected, became a blocking tool that infected the system with policy logjam. Nor did power-sharing facilitate inclusion. Survey data demonstrates a significant gender gap with women less supportive for the power-sharing institutions, a situation that indicates women’s disaffection with a lack of progress towards gender equality in areas such as reproductive choice. Legislation to introduce same-sex marriage was vetoed.

Why the agreement is under threat: Brexit

The Europeanisation of the GFA is jeopardised. In June 2016 the results of the EU referendum represented a victory for the Leave campaign. The voters of Northern Ireland overwhelmingly supported remain by a margin of 55.78% to 44.22%. Only the DUP of the major parties campaigned to leave. The GFA is inextricably entwined with the European project. It is secured via bilateral treaty relations between the UK and the Republic of Ireland and North–South institutions, all of which are facilitated by the UK and Ireland both being EU member states. The North–South institutions, in particular, are designed to facilitate relevant EU matters, including the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland, which has overseen the distribution of 1.3 billion Euros for peacebuilding projects.

Brexit could result in a £300 million shortfall to Northern Ireland’s budget. Of particular concern for future security, Brexit could see the possible return of a hard border – replete with customs and posts and security checkpoints – between the North and the South thus ending the common travel area between the two jurisdictions. The adverse effects of Brexit, therefore, are most likely to be felt in Northern Ireland. The threat Brexit poses to the GFA and even the peace process requires new and creative forms of political thinking to minimise the potential harm.

Is there hope?

The GFA may be flatlining but there remains optimism for recovery. In the past two decades the North has become an utterly transformed place. The ingrained residue of social and political conservatism running through Northern Ireland is being replaced by a more liberal and progressive younger generation. This cohort demonstrates strong support for LGBT and reproductive rights, for tackling sectarianism and racism, and ending segregation. Northern Ireland is historically seen as a place where leaders lead and followers follow. There now exists a fissure between the political elites and this generation. If the political instincts for survival remain strong among Northern Ireland’s political class, they will need to demonstrate an imaginaire which sees the GFA not as a holding operation but as an instrument for societal transformation.

__________

Note: the above draws on the author’s published work in Parliamentary Affairs.

About the Author

NagleJohn Nagle is Lecturer at the School of Social Science, University of Aberdeen. His latest book is entitled Social Movements in Violently Divided Societies: Constructing Conflict and Peacebuilding.

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 (Public Domain).

Brexit at the Border: What Brexit looks like for those living beside the Irish border

The Irish border has been centre stage of the Brexit negotiations for a while now. For some, it is viewed as an obstacle to realising the goals of ‘Global Britain’, for others it is a line of defence against a hard Brexit. As the debates transcend into increasing hyperbole, it is all too easy to forget why the 500km border across the island of Ireland is so pivotal in the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Katy Hayward (Queen’s University Belfast) writes about what Brexit looks like for those living beside the Irish border.

The Brexit at the Border study seeks to explain the significance of Brexit for the Irish border from the perspective of those living and working in the Central Border Region of Ireland/Northern Ireland. It is unique in terms of its focus (on the border region), its scope (covering both sides of the border) and its methods (gathering two types of qualitative data via an online survey and several focus groups in the area). Details of the project can be found in the full report.

The Brexit negotiators’ commitment to ‘avoiding a hard border’ has been interpreted as a quest to minimise the risk of paramilitary violence: don’t create targets for guns; don’t generate the need for security enforcement; don’t provoke a resurgence in irredentism. This Brexit at the Border study illuminates a different aspect of the same concern: the need to protect peace.

Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

It is very difficult to define what ‘peace’ means. Unlike violence, peace cannot be easily identified when it ‘happens’. Peace comes slowly; it involves ordinary choices and small decisions. It comes to feel normal and unremarkable. And the fact that it feels so ‘normal’ is both its strength and its susceptibility: we begin to take it for granted. The further away people are from the time and the place of the worst violence, the easier it is for them to forget the devastation, the costs and the consequences of it.

Peace seems normal now in the Central Border Region, but it does not seem invulnerable. As with our Bordering on Brexit report of November 2017, this study reveals that peace is at the forefront of people’s minds in the Central Border Region when it comes to Brexit. This is not to say that everybody agrees equally about what a ‘hard border’ would mean or about the potential for a return to violence. But the current openness of the border is widely regarded as a product of the peace process.

Appreciation of the benefits of a ‘seamless’ border is most certainly not confined to Remain voters, nor to people with Irish identities or Irish nationalist aspirations. Similarly, a desire – or demand, even – to maintain these benefits is shared across all communities. This research has revealed that it is not the case that there is a stark line of difference between British and Irish, Leave and Remain, north and south in the Central Border Region. Indeed, there is a striking level of commonality in the views and experiences across people living in this area, on both sides of the border.

Brexit is already affecting decisions being made here: being refused bank loans, moving business location to the other side of the border, holding off on employing more people, not taking a job across the border, not applying to university in the UK. Indeed, the most direct opportunities arising from Brexit run counter to cross-border cooperation, i.e. encouraging decisions to stay on one side of the border or go further abroad. This is of concern to a region in which economies of scale and cross-border connectivity have been so vital to enhancing the provision of services and widening the possibilities for development.

The complexity and realities of cross-border life in the Central Border Region exemplify the complexity and realities of the Brexit process. Disentangling the UK from the EU inevitably means drawing greater distinctions between the UK and its closest neighbour. This report explains how this process takes material, tangible form in the everyday experience of people in the Central Border Region. One young woman in a focus group, who has grown up in the post-1998 ‘Agreement generation’, expressed this point succinctly and poignantly: ‘Whenever they’re putting the border in place, just think of everyone going about their daily lives, trying to get across it’.

This article gives the views of the author, not the position of  LSE Brexit or the London School of Economics. The full Brexit at the Border report can be found from Friday, June 15.

Katy Hayward is a Reader in Sociology at Queen’s University Belfast.

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