EU Can’t Trust Britain to Keep Its Word

Boris Johnson
British prime minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, England, January 22, 2020 (10 Downing Street/Andrew Parsons)

How is the EU supposed to manage post-Brexit relations with a United Kingdom that won’t keep its word?

For the second time in six months, Britain has reneged on its Irish border commitments without consulting the EU or Ireland.

Northern Ireland is still in the European single market for goods under the EU-UK treaty. The rest of the United Kingdom is not, creating new regulatory barriers for British companies. They have struggled to cope. Supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland have gone empty. Parcels are stranded in Great Britain. The government of Boris Johnson has temporarily lifted the new rules to give businesses more time to adjust.

It’s not unreasonable to ask for a few more months of delay. But such a request should have been discussed in the Joint Partnership Council, which was created by the treaty on future EU-UK relations to manage precisely these situations. Instead, Britain acted unilaterally.

Not for the first time. In September, it weaseled out of its promise to respect EU regulations in Northern Ireland claiming it was breaching an earlier agreement with the EU in only a “specific and limited” way. As if that made a difference. Read more “EU Can’t Trust Britain to Keep Its Word”

Price of Brexit May Be United Kingdom Itself

British parliament London
Westminster Palace in London, England (Unsplash/Matt Milton)

Britain’s Conservatives won the election this month, but it may come at the expense of the union of the United Kingdom their party — which has “Unionist” in its name — is sworn to protect.

Conservatives neglected their responsibility to the union by calling the EU referendum in the first place. David Cameron hoped to resolve an intraparty dispute over Europe. He ended up dividing the four nations of the UK. Majorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU. They were outvoted by majorities in England and Wales.

Rather than attempt a “soft” Brexit that might appease Scots and prevent either a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, Cameron’s successors Theresa May and Boris Johnson negotiated a hard break: leaving the European customs union and single market in order to regain full control over immigration and economic policy.

The price could be Scottish independence and Irish unification, making Britain smaller than it has been in three centuries — and making a mockery of Brexiteers’ aspiration to lead a “Global Britain” outside the EU. Read more “Price of Brexit May Be United Kingdom Itself”

Northern Irish, Scots Would Rather Stay in EU Than UK

United Kingdom flags
Flags of the United Kingdom, Scotland and the Shetland Islands in Sumburgh, July 3, 2014 (Julien Carnot)

Without an agreement to regulate Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, a majority of Northern Irish and Scots would rather remain in the bloc than in the United Kingdom.

Even with the deal Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated, which provides for a two-year transition out of the EU and avoids a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a majority of Scots would prefer to break away from the UK. Read more “Northern Irish, Scots Would Rather Stay in EU Than UK”

Northern Ireland’s Unionists Threaten to Rebel Over Brexit

Northern Ireland parliament Belfast
Parliament Buildings of the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont, Belfast (iStock/Niall Majury)

Northern Ireland’s conservatives have threatened to withhold their support from Theresa May’s 2019 budget proposal if the prime minister crosses their “red lines” on Brexit.

May needs the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland for her majority in Westminster. Read more “Northern Ireland’s Unionists Threaten to Rebel Over Brexit”

EU Rejects Northern Ireland Proposals, Italy No Closer to Government

The EU has rejected British proposals for avoiding a hard border in Ulster, with a source telling The Telegraph, “It was a detailed and forensic rebuttal… It was made clear that none of the UK’s customs options will work. None of them.”

Keep in mind that The Telegraph is a right-wing, pro-Brexit newspaper, so its sources may be attempting to put pressure on EU negotiators.

According to the report, the EU rejected:

  • A “customs partnership”, under which British would collect EU tariffs on goods destined for EU markets, as needlessly complex; and
  • A “highly streamlined customs arrangement” as effectively “turning a blind eye” to goods coming from non-EU countries.

The United Kingdom has committed to keeping Northern Ireland in full regulatory alignment with the EU in order to avoid a border with Ireland. The easiest way to accomplish that would be to keep Northern Ireland in the EU customs unions, however, that is unacceptable to hardline unionists in Theresa May’s government. Read more “EU Rejects Northern Ireland Proposals, Italy No Closer to Government”

EU Sets Red Lines for Brexit, Puigdemont to Lead Government-in-Waiting

The European Commission has set out its red lines for Brexit in a draft agreement:

  • Northern Ireland: Would remain in the EU customs union, creating the need for an economic border in the Irish Sea.
  • Free movement: Continued free movement of EU nationals during the post-Brexit transition period.
  • Trade deals: Also during the transition, Britain would not be allowed to initiate or sign trade deals that are prejudicial to EU interests.

None of these red lines are acceptable to hardline Brexiteers and the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, whose votes Theresa May needs for her majority in Westminster. Read more “EU Sets Red Lines for Brexit, Puigdemont to Lead Government-in-Waiting”

Brexiteers Disparage Good Friday Agreement, Berlusconi Hints at Tajani Premiership

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. Read more “Brexiteers Disparage Good Friday Agreement, Berlusconi Hints at Tajani Premiership”

Trump Rejects Immigration Compromise, Mueller Indicts Russians

American president Donald Trump has for the second time torpedoed a bipartisan immigration bill by threatening to veto it.

The reason, NBC News reports, is that he wants to keep immigration as a political issue to rally his base going into November’s congressional elections.

The cynicism is astounding. Chris Hayes points out on Twitter:

  • First the president unilaterally ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, creating uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as minors.
  • He gave Congress six months to fix the problem (he had created), promising to sign whatever bill lawmakers would put in front of him.
  • He was promptly brought a bipartisan deal, which combined increased border security with a pathway to legal status for the so-called Dreamers. He rejected it.
  • He was then brought a second bipartisan deal with even more support. He rejected that.

Clearly the president isn’t interested a solution. He lied — as usual.

Also read David A. Hopkins, who argues Trump has pushed Republicans to the right on immigration, and Greg Sargent in The Washington Post, who points out that the Republican position on Dreamers is far to the right of Middle America’s. Read more “Trump Rejects Immigration Compromise, Mueller Indicts Russians”

Corbyn’s Spy Career, Catalan Language War

The Sun reports that, as a freshman parliamentarian, Jeremy Corbyn was targeted for recruitment by the Czech secret police in 1986 and met at least three times with an intelligence officer posing as a diplomat.

Corbyn says he never knowingly consorted with an East Bloc agent, but John Schindler, an intelligence expert, points out that only one year before the Labour politician was approached, Britain had expelled 25 Soviet “diplomats” who were really KGB officers “and the high-profile case got nonstop coverage in the British media.”

For Corbyn not to have considered the possibility he might be meeting with a spy would have been incredibly naive.

Moreover, Czech human rights abuses under communism were well-known even at the time. What was Corbyn thinking?

Corbyn, I’m sure, will argue it’s important to hear both sides. That’s what he said when he was asked to defend inviting Hamas and Hezbollah representatives to London in 2009. Except he never invited or met with Israeli representatives, just as he didn’t seek meetings with American officials during the Cold War.

Corbyn has a long history of instinctively siding with enemies of his country and the West, from Irish republican terrorists to Fidel Castro to Hugo Chávez to Muammar Gaddafi. Michael J. Totten wrote a good overview in The Atlantic last year. That’s what makes the Czech spy story, despite coming from the notoriously sensationalist The Sun, so believable. Read more “Corbyn’s Spy Career, Catalan Language War”

Britain Gives into European Demands on Northern Irish Border

Theresa May Jean-Claude Juncker
British prime minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker pose for photos in Brussels, December 4 (European Commission)

As I predicted it would, Britain has given into European demand on the Northern Irish border in order to secure an exit deal on Friday that paves the way for talks about the kingdom’s post-Brexit trade relations with the EU.

In the absence of an innovative solution, Britain is now committed to maintain “full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union which, now or in the future, support north-south cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement” that brought peace to Northern Ireland.

The text also specifically bars the United Kingdom from imposing “new regulatory barriers” that could put the 1998 Good Friday Agreement at risk. Read more “Britain Gives into European Demands on Northern Irish Border”