Tag Archives: Graham Gudgin

The DUP prioritised The Union. Unionists do that.

 

 

 

 

 

The whole point of the DUP is to safeguard Northern Ireland’s position within the UK. As unionists, they believe in the nation state and see the UK as the rock on which our prosperity, security and identity is built.

It is unsurprising that these views have lead them into a strongly pro-Brexit stance, though even then there is a pragmatism to their politics that is sometimes missed. The government would have known what the DUP’s red lines were before the latest round of talks hit the buffers.

The Irish government denies the charge that it asked that Monday’s Brexit paper be kept from the DUP, but the reality is that the DUP had received only an emollient verbal briefing and had been asking for days to see a paper. It was passed to them only as Theresa May was going to lunch in Brussels; the frantic phone calls that followed stopped the deal in its tracks.

The issue of the Irish border is important, but not as challenging as the Irish government has made it.

Irish ministers say they were offended by the lack of attention to their concerns during the referendum, but later accepted that the UK government was taking steps to make the border as light as humanly possible. They also knew that the DUP wanted much the same as them, in terms of its practical functioning.

There isn’t anyone in Northern Ireland wants to be stopped at the border on their way to catch a plane in Dublin for Marbella.

Inside the EU, both Ireland and Northern Ireland are part of the single market and customs union so share the same regulations and standards, allowing a soft or invisible border between the two.

Britain’s exit from the EU – taking Northern Ireland with it – risks a return to a hard or policed border. The only way to avoid this post-Brexit is for regulations on both sides to remain more or less the same in key areas including food, animal welfare, medicines and product safety.

Early drafts of the agreement Britain hoped to get signed off on Monday said there would be “no divergence” from EU rules that “support north-south cooperation”, later changed to “continued alignment” in a formulation that appeared to allow for subtle divergences.

But it raised new questions about who would oversee it and how disputes might be resolved, and wording being publicized on Monday last was clearly a step too far for the DUP.

Until last June the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, had fully cooperated with the authorities in Northern Ireland. Quiet meetings on Brexit took place between civil servants in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Constructive work took place in preparation for an electronic border.

When the new Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar took over in June all of this stopped, and a harder line emerged from Dublin.

Brexit was viewed as the UK’s responsibility, and Ireland would play no part in agreeing any border, no matter how light.

The Irish government even appears to have entertained the notion that it could nudge the UK, or at least Northern Ireland, into remaining within the single market and customs union, and was prepared to veto a move to Brexit trade talks to achieve this aim.

The DUP is a party of seasoned negotiators and they react calmly and logically to such difficulties. If they sometimes seem over-sensitive about maintaining the UK union it is because they feel that the Irish government will undercut their position at every opportunity.

Only last week the Irish deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, stated that he wanted to achieve a united Ireland in his political lifetime.

The DUP’s weakness, however, is that it fails to give priority to explaining itself to a wider UK and EU public opinion. As a result, the weak Irish arguments that Brexit somehow endangers the peace process or undermines the Good Friday agreement have been allowed to take hold.

Neither argument bears much examination, but importantly they have received minimal examination – and have been repeated unthinkingly in the British media.

The UK government’s position paper in August laid out practical ways to make the border virtually invisible. No one is talking about stopping individuals at the border. Nor is it necessary to stop lorries since customs clearing by computer and electronic number plate-recognition technology are all available.

The Irish are not interested in any of this because the issue, much as it is to the DUP, is to them one of national identity. A Northern Ireland outside the EU makes it feel more detached from Ireland. To the Irish government this is unacceptable. End of story.

Strangely, the Irish government is not talking about border tariffs, and perhaps it expects a UK-EU free trade deal to be agreed later. They demand instead that EU regulations be preserved in Northern Ireland.

This demand was met on Monday by a British offer to “align” regulations, mainly in agriculture and energy. Since Northern Ireland’s important food producers need to meet EU regulations to export into Ireland and the rest of the EU, it is easy to imagine that such regulation is possible.

Standards are already world class and will not be dropped. Such proposals need, though, to be much more carefully thought through than was the case on Monday.

The bottom line is that the DUP could not countenance any change that would involve border checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

As the UK has become a looser union, it has permitted such things as differing tax rates in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but internal border controls are, to coin a phrase, the final frontier.

As it stands, the agreement needed to move to stage 2 of UK/EU discussions on trade has been finessed, without the DUP threatening to bring down the government, something they would prefer to avoid at all costs.

The lesson of the past week for the UK government is that much better communication is needed, internally and externally – communication planning is a crucial part of negotiation too.

 

Graham Gudgin is chief economic adviser at Policy Exchange

A version of this article appeared in the Guardian, before the announcement that there was an agreement to be able to move negotiations forward to stage 2.

Graham Gudgin and former Irish diplomat Ray Bassett offer “Perspectives on the Irish Border and Brexit negotiations”  

 

A sensible deal on the Northern Ireland border is very achievable

 

 

 

 

 

Brussels and Dublin should stop playing games.

Hell hath no fury like a Commission scorned.

Since the UK is breaking up the European Commission’s cherished Union, the Commission retaliates by supporting those wishing to break up the UK.

The first attempt was Jean-Claude Juncker’s wooing of Nicola Sturgeon when she visited Brussels to drum up support for Scottish independence. The hugs and kisses to camera signified EU support for her efforts, but it all came to nought as falling oil prices rendered an independent Scotland financially unviable.

The second attempt will be equally futile but could cause trouble along the way. This is the suggestion in a Commission document ‘Dialogue on Ireland/Northern Ireland’, leaked last week, that ‘it is essential that the UK commits to avoiding a hard border by remaining part of the EU customs union, and continues to abide by the rules of the EU single market and customs union’.

How Bad Will Brexit Really Be For The UK?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The great majority of the economic forecasts have concluded that Brexit will damage the UK economy. In the case of ‘no deal’ between the UK and the EU, the majority view is that the loss of GDP could be severe.

The UK Treasury, the OECD and the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Policy (CEP) all agreed, in reports published during the referendum campaign, that with no deal the loss of GDP by 2030 would be in the range of 7-10%.

A free-trade agreement (FTA) would be little better. Much of this was ignored by ‘Leave’ voters in the Referendum, who had long since lost all confidence in economic forecasts.

That the short-term forecasts of these forecasting bodies were largely wrong strengthened this pessimism, but the long-term projections remain influential and form an important context for the Brexit negotiations now underway between the UK and EU.

These long-term forecasts, that leaving the EU with no deal on trade would be economically disastrous, undermine the UK’s optimal negotiating strategy.