Brexiteers Disparage Good Friday Agreement, Berlusconi Hints at Tajani Premiership

Brexiteers dismiss concerns about Northern Ireland. European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani could be Italy’s next prime minister.

Daniel Hannan makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, February 5
Daniel Hannan makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, February 5 (European Parliament/Fred Marvaux)

Politico reports that Brexiteers have launched a broadside against the Good Friday Agreement that has kept the peace in Northern Ireland for twenty years.

Former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson and Labour “leaver” Kate Hoey believe the 1998 deal has “outlived its use.” Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament, argues it has “failed”. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent Conservative backbencher, disputes that Brexit puts the peace at risk.

The timing is awkward. Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for thirteen months. Although Brexit isn’t the main issue separating pro-British unionists and pro-Irish nationalists, it does factor into the parties’ calculations given that the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) props up Theresa May’s government in Westminster.

The problem is that the Conservatives have committed to both take the United Kingdom out of the EU customs union and single market and protect the Good Friday Agreement and all-island economy. Those goals are incompatible so long as Ireland remains in the EU.

A solution would be for Britain to remain in the single market, like Norway, or in the customs union, like Turkey, but that is unacceptable to Brexiteers.

Brexit overseas

The BBC looks at what Brexit will mean for the 250,000 people living in the kingdom’s overseas territories.

  • Gibraltar, currently in the single market, will probably suffer the most. Spain — which still claims The Rock as its own — has promised not to hold the negotiations hostage to discussions about Gibraltar’s sovereignty, but it is refusing to sign off on a transition deal that would ease Britain’s exit from the EU.
  • Anguilla relies on access to French Saint Martin for many of its daily necessities, from food supplies to MRI scans to the postal service. The nearest international airport is on the Dutch side, Sint Maarten. The Anguillan government has called for a regional customs union and common travel area with the larger island.

More on Corbyn’s spy career

A couple more takes on the news that current Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn thrice met with a Czech spy in the 1980s:

  • Henry Mance argues in the Financial Times that it’s a right-wing media hype. The “top-secret material” Corbyn supposedly handed over to the communists included a copy of an article from The Sunday People. Czech archivists have disputed the claim that Corbyn was paid for his information. The Stasi archives in Berlin don’t have a file on Corbyn at all.
  • Russia expert Mark Galeotti argues at this blog that there is a little more to it, emphasis on little. Corbyn was probably naive to believe the Czech spy’s cover story. The spy was probably just filling his quota “while enjoying a relatively plum, comfortable posting” in the West. “Corbyn was likely written up in much more glowing and encouraging terms that reality would dictate. This is spycraft to fulfil the Plan and every bit as tokenistic, half-hearted and inefficient as the rest of the Soviet planned model.”

Berlusconi hints at Tajani premiership

Even if his Forza Italia becomes the largest party on the right in the election next month, Silvio Berlusconi could not return to the premiership due to a 2013 conviction for tax fraud.

The most likely candidate: Antonio Tajani, the current president of the European Parliament.

Tajani is “very well regarded,” Berlusconi has said. “If it were Tajani, there would be the chance of having an immediate strong impact in Europe.”

It would probably be the best possible outcome for the rest of EU. The ruling Democrats are the more pro-European party, but polls predict they will lose. The Five Star Movement, Northern League and Brothers of Italy are all Euroskeptic.

Read my Italian election guide to learn more.

New charges against Paul Manafort

Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his deputy, Rick Gates, have been charged with additional bank- and tax-fraud crimes by the special counsel investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, Robert Mueller.

NBC News reports that both men are accused of not reporting money in foreign accounts to the Internal Revenue Service and misleading banks on paperwork for millions of dollars in real-estate loans.

They were previously charged with money laundering, conspiracy and other offenses stemming from their lobbying work for pro-Russian political leaders in Ukraine.