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Showing posts from October, 2017

Westminster needs better arguments rather than new parties

It’s become common to assert that Brexit has changed the contours of British politics forever. That remains to be seen. After the UK leaves the EU, older loyalties and divisions may re-emerge, as allegiances and rivalries that developed since the referendum become irrelevant. That hasn’t prevented some fairly animated discussion about the potential for new parties to reflect a ‘realignment’ of politics after Brexit. Since Jeremy Corbyn’s hard-left faction took charge of the Labour, there have been suggestions that its pragmatic ‘Blairite’ wing would be happier outside the party. They may or may not have enough in common with disgruntled Conservative ‘remainers’ to share a common political home. This fabled ‘centrist’ group is joined by a ‘Radicals’ party, imagined by FT journalist,Jeremy Cliffe. He went to the trouble of drawing up a short manifesto, that combines pro-EU, pro-migrant social policies, with proposals for aggressive decentralisation and a free-market economy, driven by ‘disr…

Irish Language Act threatens a cultural carve-up

In the recent past, there was a common idea among academics who thought and wrote about unionists, that there were broadly two types of unionism in Northern Ireland. ‘Cultural unionism’ concentrated on defending a way of life regarded as specific to Protestants in Ulster and it was most closely associated with the DUP, while ‘liberal’ or ‘British unionism’ was focussed on the UK as a whole and influenced some quarters of the UUP.
People’s attitudes and motivations can rarely be put into categories so neatly, but there was some truth to the distinction. A common Ulster Unionist jibe asserted that the DUP was an “Ulster nationalist” party with little time for UK politics or modern British society, and scarcely deserved to be called ‘unionist’ at all.
From the perspective of late 2017, it’s a lot more difficult to sustain that claim.
Whatever the merits or otherwise of Brexit, the DUP threw itself into a nationwide campaign and argued the case for the whole UK to leave the EU. Then, after …

EU's Brexit position on Ireland is contradictory

Last month the government published its Brexit position paper on ‘Northern Ireland and Ireland’ (by which it meant the Irish Republic). It was hardly a scintillating document, but at least it tried to imagine how a ‘seamless and frictionless’ border might work in practice.

In response, the EU Commission issued a set of truculent and unhelpful ‘Guiding principles for the dialogue on Ireland / Northern Ireland’. Like the British paper, it filled a great deal of space referencing the Good Friday Agreement and emphasised the importance of the peace process, but it pointedly refused to ‘put forward solutions for the Irish border’. ‘The onus to propose solutions’, it said, lies squarely with the UK.

What the commission didn’t say directly, but its negotiator Michel Barnier acknowledged in a press conference, was that the UK did propose solutions, which the EU rejected out of hand. The British paper made it clear that the government sees no need for a so-called ‘hard border’ from its perspect…