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United EU Negotiating mandate and a United Ireland within EU

by Frank Schnittger Sat Apr 29th, 2017 at 04:23:47 PM EST

Brexit summit: EU accepts united Ireland declaration

EU leaders have agreed Northern Ireland will automatically become part of the European Union if its people vote to join a united Ireland in a future Border poll.

At a summit in Brussels which concluded shortly before 3pm (Irish time) on Saturday, the leaders of the 27 remaining EU states also unanimously approved guidelines for how the bloc will conduct its Brexit negotiations with the UK

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Opinion polling and the French Elections

by Frank Schnittger Sat Apr 22nd, 2017 at 11:27:54 AM EST


Wikipedia provides an excellent summary graphic (above) of opinion polling in the 2017 French Presidential election (first round). It is illegal, in France, to publish any more opinion polls after midnight last night, so this is the final picture we have of the state of the race prior to the election. Of course, as with any polling analysis, one has to issue a number of caveats:

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A Historic Re-alignment?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 18th, 2017 at 10:37:45 PM EST

On the 3rd. January, in A Brexit doomsday scenario, I wrote that:

In an ideal world, she [Theresa May] might actually like to engineer a parliamentary defeat so that she could go to the country in a general election. This could potentially give her a personal mandate as Prime Minister, weed out any parliamentarians in her own party whose loyalty is suspect, add at least another 2 years to her Government's period in office, and provide her with a more precise mandate as to what to seek in the Brexit negotiations. She could put her Brexit wish list to the people and then fetch up in Brussels saying that these are the democratically declared wishes of the British people, and that it would be undemocratic for Brussels to reject them.

---<snip>---

A General election would have the added benefits of exploiting the divisions in the Labour Party under Corbyn and a UKIP party riven by internal shenanigans. Only the Lib Dems represent an option for disillusioned Remain voters, but they are more likely to eat into the Labour vote. Indeed the Lib Dems could replace Labour as the main opposition party if they manage to gain a majority of the 48% of voters who voted Remain. Oh the joys, from a Tory perspective!

In any case, given the peculiarities of the British first past the post voting system, May could win an overall majority with as little as 35% of the vote, provided the remaining 65% is scattered between Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP, the Scots Nationalists and the Welsh and N. Ireland parties which generally don't matter in the Westminster arithmetic. Easily enough done, especially if voting Tory can be painted as a patriotic imperative to strengthen the British hand in the Brexit negotiations. Cue Land of Hope and Glory!

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Brexit by the numbers

by Frank Schnittger Tue Apr 11th, 2017 at 09:21:40 PM EST

The Economist has produced an index which lists all EU member states by their stances on what the Economist claims are the four key issues surrounding the negotiations (h/t Bernard):

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty provides that any Brexit agreement has to be passed by qualified majority vote on the European Council as well as by simple majority in the European Parliament. This raises the interesting question as to which EU member state leaders Theresa May must win over if she is to get any agreement. I do the maths below.

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The Brexit negotiating environment

by Frank Schnittger Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 05:06:22 PM EST

Colman has initiated an interesting debate on the likely outcomes to the Brexit negotiations, but I am far more interested in the negotiating process which I have already discussed here. The possible outcomes, both short and long term, seem pretty variable to me, effected by all sorts of difficult to predict external and internal factors. Speculation as to outcomes is fun, but based on all sorts of assumptions which require elucidation if circumstances change. So what are the factors which are likely to impact on the outcome of the negotiations? I discuss some below, but would welcome the input of those closer to the evolving political dynamics in other member states of the EU.

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Theresa May's A50 letter

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 29th, 2017 at 04:55:12 PM EST


The full text of Theresa May's A50 notification letter is available here, and is well worth a read in full. It is a largely unobjectionable 2200 word document, and takes into account some of the previous criticisms that the UK should not be allowed to "cherry pick" those aspects of the EU it likes, to the exclusion of those it does not like.

Overall it paints a positive picture of the EU it wants to do business with as an economic and security partner. So much so, that one wonders why the UK wants to leave in the first place! Membership already provides the benefits the UK says it wants to achieve in its future partnership with the UK.

One is left with the feeling that what the UK really wants is not to be just one member amongst 28: It wants to be in some kind of equal Partnership with the EU27 as a whole.

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LTE: Pay and Policing in Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Tue Mar 28th, 2017 at 04:09:50 PM EST

Irish Independent: Garda bosses don't deserve respect (Scroll down to second letter)

A report by the Irish stockbroker Davy has found that average public sector wages amounted to €47,400 in Ireland, 40pc more than the average wage in the private sector.

In addition, Davy's calculations indicated that a private sector worker would need to save €590,000 to buy an annuity on retirement that matched public sector career-average salary pensions of €23,000 a year.

It also noted that public servants in Ireland were better paid on average than their counterparts in many other European countries. In the UK, average public sector wages are £26,200 (€30,800), which is on a par with what their counterparts in the private sector earn.

Members of An Garda Síochána had the highest average pay in 2016 at €64,700, or almost twice the average private sector wage. Surely one could expect extraordinary efficiency and competence for such generous remuneration?

Not a bit of it. Garda management is now known to have inflated its breath test statistics by almost 100pc and caused the wrongful conviction of thousands of motorists.

Even more worryingly, it is claimed that senior officers have no idea how this happened, and it seems they have no interest in investigating further. Those in private sector management would be sacked for allowing such conduct on their watch.

It seems clear that Garda management is incapable of running an efficient or truthful operation.

How is the public supposed to respect the law and the law-enforcers when the law enforcers themselves have shown such contempt for their responsibilities to the public?

I have no difficulty with gardaí and public sector workers in general being well paid, but they should have to earn it through the quality and integrity of the services they provide.

Frank Schnittger

Blessington, Co Wicklow

Read more... (2 comments, 971 words in story)

An Independent Northern Ireland within the EU?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 22nd, 2017 at 10:49:00 PM EST

Dr. Nat O'Connor (School of CPSP, Ulster University) has an interesting piece up on the Progressive Economy website on the options for Northern Ireland if it doesn't want to go the full Brexit with the leavers in Westminster. In particular he asks: Could Northern Ireland be an independent member of the EU, or have a "special status" within it? It is well worth a read in full and discusses the options for Northern Ireland under six headings:

    Being inside the European Customs Union
    Being inside the European Single Market
    Holding EU Citizenship Rights
    Participating in EU Programmes (e.g. CAP, Erasmus)
    Common EU Security and Defence
    The "European Project"

My response is included below the fold...

Read more... (14 comments, 942 words in story)

An Independent Northern Ireland within the EU?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 22nd, 2017 at 10:40:53 PM EST

Dr. Nat O'Connor (School of CPSP, Ulster University) has an interesting piece up on the Progressive Economy website on the options for Northern Ireland if it doesn't want to go the full Brexit with the leavers in Westminster. In particular he asks: Could Northern Ireland be an independent member of the EU, or have a “special status” within it? It is well worth a read in full and discusses the options for Northern Ireland under six headings:

    Being inside the European Customs Union
    Being inside the European Single Market
    Holding EU Citizenship Rights
    Participating in EU Programmes (e.g. CAP, Erasmus)
    Common EU Security and Defence
    The "European Project"

My response is included below the fold...

Read more... (928 words in story)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

by Frank Schnittger Fri Mar 17th, 2017 at 12:34:48 PM EST


St. Patrick's day has never been a particularly big deal for me: more an excuse for a lie-in or a long week-end away after a long winter. Although almost every Irish town or city has a St. Patrick's day parade which attracts almost every group you can throw a uniform or costume at as well as large crowds of onlookers, it has never seemed to me to be much more than an excuse for a monumental piss-up afterwards. Shure it's no harm to have a bit of craic, might be a typical response.  We seem to be in the process of patenting craic as a uniquely Irish contribution to world civilisation.

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The impact of Brexit on the Irish economy

by Frank Schnittger Thu Mar 9th, 2017 at 11:32:33 PM EST

There have been many dire predictions of the negative impact of Brexit on the Irish economy, with exports to the UK already down by half a €Billion or 4% in the last year and with some Irish mushroom exporters going broke because their margins couldn't survive the 10% devaluation of sterling that has already taken place. But the Irish economy is facing the twin challenges of Brexit and Trump from a fundamentally healthy position. Total exports to all markets rose by 4% to €117 Billion last year and UK exports, at 13% of the total, make up a continually declining part of total exports.

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Lords vote for a "meaningful" vote on the terms of Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Wed Mar 8th, 2017 at 06:22:33 PM EST

For the second time in a few days, Theresa May's government has suffered a defeat in a House of Lords vote.  Their Lordships are concerned not to give the Government a free hand to negotiate whatever deal it sees fit without having to submit it to Parliament for approval before Brexit finally happens.  However as The Telegraph has noted:

At first glance, the amendment to the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Lords giving Parliament a "meaningful vote" on a Brexit deal may look innocuous. After all, Britain has voted to restore the primacy of its own Parliament, so why should that Parliament not decide on the Brexit deal? That is the argument that advocates will make for the amendment, which may well be endorsed in the upper house and conceivably by the House of Commons next week, since a number of Conservative MPs are said to be minded to support it there.  Yet that argument is flawed and this amendment should not pass.

The flaws are both practical and principled. The practical flaw is found in the effect this amendment would have on Brexit negotiations. It is no secret that some EU leaders still believe that Britain can be persuaded to reverse its decision to leave; the EU, after all, has a history of trying to overturn democratic votes, even referendum decisions, a contempt for the electorate that partly explains why the integrationist project is failing. If those leaders believe that the British Parliament could reject any Brexit deal and instead continue our membership, they will have a strong incentive to offer the worst deal possible.

As usual, The Telegraph sees no irony in criticising the EU for a lack of democracy in the context of an article on a vote in the entirely unelected House of Lords. But there is a bigger problem with the House of Lords vote. A correspondent and European Tribune reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes (by email):

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Northern Ireland elections results

by Frank Schnittger Fri Mar 3rd, 2017 at 06:40:50 PM EST

[Updated with all counts completed]

Party: % Share of vote : Change since 2016: -> Seats
Sinn Fein 28% (+4% since May) -> 27
Democratic Unionist Party 28% (-1%) -> 28
Ulster Unionist Part 13% (0%) -> 10
Social Democrat and Labour Party 12% (0%) -> 12
Alliance 9% (+2%) -> 8
Smaller parties and Independents 10% (-6%) -> 5
Counting in the Northern Ireland elections has just been completed with all 90 seats filled. Turnout is up 10% from 55 to 65% compared to the last elections in May 2016. Early elections were called when Sinn Fein collapsed the Executive as a result of the "Cash for Ash" scandal and deteriorating relationships with the DUP, the major Unionist party.

The other major issue is Brexit where the DUP campaigned for Brexit and the other major parties campaigned against with the result that Northern Ireland, as a whole, voted against Brexit in the referendum last June. The implications of Brexit for the N. Ireland economy and the border with the Republic were hotly debated throughout the campaign.

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Long serving EU Prime Minister to resign

by Frank Schnittger Thu Feb 23rd, 2017 at 04:45:54 PM EST

Enda Kenny, one of the EU's longest serving Prime Ministers, is set to resign in the aftermath of his St. Patrick's day visit to the US and the UK's formal declaration of Brexit under Article 50 next month. Opposition to his leadership of Fine Gael, the largest party and incumbent Government, has been growing since their disastrous campaign and results in the General Election last year. He is perhaps best known for his forthright condemnation of the Vatican in the aftermath of the child sexual abuse scandals which have come to light in recent years: Wiki

On 20 July [2011], Kenny condemned the Vatican[ for its role in the scandal, stating that the Church's role in obstructing the investigation was a serious infringement upon the sovereignty of Ireland and that the scandal revealed "the dysfunction, disconnection and elitism that dominates the culture of the Vatican to this day". He added that "the historic relationship between church and state in Ireland could not be the same again".

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Will European Social Democrats regain some mojo?

by Frank Schnittger Mon Feb 6th, 2017 at 04:55:53 AM EST

One of the secular trends in European (and global) politics in recent decades has been the gradual erosion in the influence of social democratic parties and a rise in centre right parties promoting market led globalisation and austerity policies. The more recent backlash against globalisation and austerity has not resulted in a swing back to social democratic parties, but rather in a swing even further right as exemplified by Trump, Brexit, and the rise of far right nationalist parties in Europe.

There may be many reasons for this:

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Open Letter to Attorney General and Minister for Foreign Affairs

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jan 28th, 2017 at 01:06:10 PM EST

Ireland Should Appeal UK Supreme Court Decision to ECJ

I publish, below the fold, the content of an open letter I propose to write to the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charles Flanagan T.D., and to the Attorney General, Máire Whelan SC.

In it I lay out my case that the Irish Government should appeal the decision of the UK Supreme Court that the people and Assembly of Northern Ireland need not be consulted on any decision by the UK Government to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

I am not a lawyer, but believe I have made a solid case - and one which I have not seen being made by anyone else.  I would be grateful for your advice and feedback on the argument, particularly from those of you with a legal background.

Should the Irish Government take my advice and succeed in its action, the effect would be to prevent the UK Government from taking Northern Ireland with it out of the EU without the consent of the people and Assembly of Northern Ireland.  

This would be an application of the provisions in the Good Friday Agreement whereby the signatories agreed that the Constitutional status of Northern Ireland could not be changed without the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

The Good Friday Agreement was created to provide parity of esteem to both the Nationalist and Unionist traditions in Northern Ireland. It protects the Unionist tradition by guaranteeing that they cannot be dragooned into a United Ireland without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

Equally, it protects the legitimacy of the  Nationalist tradition by guaranteeing their identity and aspirations of  being part of Ireland. Being part of the EU is now an integral part of being an Irish Citizen and the rights of EU citizenship are indivisible from being an Irish Citizen.  Ergo, without the consent of a majority in N. Ireland to a change in its constitutional position, N. Ireland must remain both a part of the UK and the EU.

Under this scenario, the position of Britain will become analogous to that of Greenland - outside the EU and yet part an entity (in that case Denmark) which is within the EU.

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Can an Article 50 invocation be revoked?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jan 27th, 2017 at 01:50:23 AM EST

Much attention has been paid to the recent UK Supreme Court ruling that the UK Government must gain the approval of Parliament to invoke Article 50. That ruling also found that the devolved parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland need not be consulted on the issue. More on that anon. But perhaps an even more significant case is about to come before the High Court in Dublin:

Dublin High Court case to establish if Britain can halt Brexit

A number of Green Party leaders in Britain and Northern Ireland have been named as plaintiffs in a case before the High Court in Dublin to establish if Britain can halt Brexit after it triggers article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Lawyers will file a plenary summons to start proceedings on Friday, hoping for a hearing in March or April.

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales; Northern Irish Green Party leader Steven Agnew MLA; and the Green Party MEP for the South East of England, Keith Taylor, will join Jolyon Maugham QC, a leading British barrister, as litigants in the case.

They are seeking a referral from the High Court to the European Court of Justice of the European Union to determine whether article 50, once triggered, can be unilaterally revoked by the UK government without requiring consent from all other 27 EU member states.

Mr Bartley said the case was about giving people in the UK a legal safety net after Brexit negotiations begin and to offer clarity about whether Britain can change its mind if the negotiations go badly.

"The government claims that it can't revoke article 50. But if it is wrong, the British people would have a safety net that could allow them a real choice in a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal. They would be able to choose between accepting Theresa May's vision of extreme Brexit or rejecting it."

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The Charge of the Brexit Brigade

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jan 24th, 2017 at 08:09:30 PM EST

Some observers have been puzzled at how the UK's Brexit stance has grown gradually more hard line, even before the beginning of formal negotiations, and as their expectations of EU disarray and confusion have failed to materialize. Brexit campaigners were quite explicit that the UK wouldn't be leaving the Single Market or Customs Union during the referendum campaign. Now both are becoming unchallengeable Government orthodoxy even though the people were never asked to vote on that basis. Even the Labour opposition has meekly accepted this moving of the goal posts.

Fintan O'Toole has a perceptive and amusing take on this:

Brexit resurrects the English cult of heroic failure

Listening to Theresa May's big Brexit speech last week, I remembered that the English have a taste for heroic failure. Their favourite poem, Rudyard Kipling's If, says that triumph and disaster are the same thing. It also enjoins the English to "lose, and start again at your beginnings/And never breathe a word about your loss."

---snip---

Brexit is a perfect vehicle for this zombie cult. It fuses three of the archetypes of heroic English failure.

There is the last stand, exemplified by Gen George Gordon at Khartoum, another fiasco that quickly became a byword for heroism in the face of inevitable disaster: Brexit is imperial England's last last stand.

There is the suicidal cavalry charge [as in the Charge of the Light Brigade]: May hilariously threatened Europe that if it does not play nice, she and Boris will destroy its economic artillery with their flashing sabres.

And there is the doomed expedition into terra incognita to find a promised land. This kind of heroic failure is exemplified by Sir John Franklin's fatal search for the Northwest Passage in the 1840s.

Read more... (38 comments, 843 words in story)

Will Northern Ireland elections be non-sectarian?

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jan 22nd, 2017 at 01:57:20 PM EST

The Northern Ireland Assembly, one of the key institutions set up under the Good Friday Agreement, has been dissolved and new elections are scheduled for 2nd. March.  The last elections had been held as recently as May 2016. The proximate cause of the election is the resignation of Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in protest over the "Cash for Ash" Renewable Heat Incentive scandal and the refusal of First Minister Arlene Foster, Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), to stand aside whilst an inquiry is held.  

Arlene Foster had been responsible for overseeing the scheme as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.  The scheme, which could cost taxpayers as much as £500 Million, basically paid users more to use wood pellets to heat their properties than the pellets cost in the first place. There were reports of farmers heating empty barns just to make a profit on the scheme and that the families of some prominent DUP politicians benefited from it.

In one sense you could claim that the dispute marks a welcome change in Northern Ireland to a political dispute over a bread and butter issue rather than on purely tribalistic, sectarian lines. As usual, in Northern Ireland, the reality is more complex.

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LTE: Irish Confederacy

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jan 21st, 2017 at 09:41:40 AM EST

The Irish Independent, the largest circulation daily in Ireland has published an edited version of my Letter to the Editor.  At 269 words, it is an edited version of my letter which in turn was a severely summarised version of my 3,000+ word blog A Brexit doomsday scenario. It all reads a bit stark and unqualified, with no supporting argument, but the gist is there. Perhaps it will start a more balanced discussion than what appears in UK dominated media...

Letters to the Editor: Irish Independent (Scroll down page)

Irish confederacy is coming

So far we have only heard one side of the story: what the UK says it wants. The EU response won't become clear for months - perhaps not until after the French and German elections in May and September.

Talks will break down, and there will be no substantial Brexit agreement, with the UK drifting off into transatlantic space with no lifeline to the EU.

Donald Trump will get involved, and make a complete mess of it, alienating both sides further. A trade war will result. British firms requiring access to the single market will relocate here. We will survive.

Ireland will hardly feature on the geo-political radar except when it refuses to implement a hard Border - effectively retaining the North within the Customs Union.

If Fine Gael tries to implement a hard Border, it will be brought down by FF/Sinn Féin. So we will have a stand-off with the EU. Then a deal will be cobbled together whereby customs controls will be carried out at air and sea ports and the odd random customs check on commercial vehicles within Ireland.

Smuggling on minor roads will be rampant and everyone will turn a blind eye. An Irish solution to a European problem.

Much later, when the North has finally been dragged into the abyss by an economic collapse in the UK, a marginal majority will come to the view that they had better make their peace with the only state that actually cares about them, and a Confederal Ireland within the EU will result. Let's hope not too many lives and livelihoods will be lost in the meantime.

Frank Schnittger

Blessington, Co Wicklow

Discuss.  For those of you who want a more detailed argument and justification, please read A Brexit doomsday scenario.

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