Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Writing elsewhere (mainly about Brexit)

If you follow this blog but don't bother with Twitter and other social media, you may have missed some of my more recent articles.

As phase 1 of the Brexit negotiations struggled to a slightly chaotic conclusion, I looked at some of the features of an emerging deal, at Conservative Home.

I argued that 'convergence', which has subsequently become 'alignment', was not necessarily the same as membership of the Customs Union or Single Market.

"All the fundamentals of Britain’s final deal with Brussels should apply equally across all its regions.  But if there are parts of the economy that benefit from harmonising regulations with the EU, without compromising the United Kingdom’s integrity, we should be clever and pragmatic enough to show some flexibility."

At the website, Reaction,  I examined how a deal could affect the 'principle of consent', which underpins the Good Friday Agreement. The Irish government's attitude to consent remains a concern for unionists, as Simon Coveney continues to imply that 'joint sovereignty' in Northern Ireland could be the result of any failure to revive power-sharing.

"despite a tendency to mention the agreement as if it were a sacred text (while rarely citing specific clauses), nationalist Ireland has never quite accepted the consequences of its central tenet, the ‘principle of consent’. This principle determines that the people of Northern Ireland will decide whether their constitutional future lies in the United Kingdom, or a thirty-two county Irish republic.

It’s unlikely that Ireland’s government is actually implementing a dastardly master-plan to loosen the province’s ties with the rest of the UK and edge it toward a united Ireland. Dublin’s foreign minister and deputy PM, Simon Coveney, previously stated that he wants to see Irish unity within his ‘political lifetime’, but last week assured readers of the staunchly unionist News Letter that, “there is nothing (in Ireland’s Brexit negotiating position) which remotely threatens Northern Ireland’s constitutional status”.

Nonetheless, the Irish government behaves as if Britain’s authority over a part of its own territory were heavily qualified."

After Britain and the EU finally published their 'joint report' into the phase 1 negotiations, I looked at the outcome, at CapX.

For remainers, and even for some less ideological Brexiters, the idea that the UK may find itself compelled to have a closer relationship with the EU has a definite appeal. The best arguments to stay in the Union always focussed on the potential difficulties, complications and disruptions of leaving, rather than the merits of its institutions or its wider political mission. 

Perhaps the simplest means of making these problems go away is to be nudged and cajoled gradually into remaining closely aligned with Brussels’ market and its rules.

More bullish proponents of an unfettered, free-trading Global Britain won’t be persuaded that Brexit should be allowed to evolve like this into something more consensual. They’ll be deeply angry if a slice of Irish fudge restricts the UK’s ability to determine its future relationship with the EU, in phase 2 of the negotiations.


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