Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
"Suppose the Irish and UK governments were to agree a critical amendment to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement (GFA)."

Seems to me that a deal based on amending the GFA is pretty optimistic. The GFA took decades to negotiate, and depended on cooperation between organizations that haven't even been able get a government together in NI now for two years.

There are 60 days left.

by asdf on Sun Jan 27th, 2019 at 06:44:52 PM EST
The GFA consists of two agreements, an inter-governmental Treaty and an inter-party agreement. It is the former which lays down the holding of a referendum if Irish Unity is contemplated.

Technically, and given the fondness of the UK for unwritten Constitutions, no amendment to the GFA is required. The UK government could simply agree a new Treaty stipulating that it will hold a referendum on N. Ireland remaining in, or re-joining the EU, should a majority there wish it and if no other way is found to avoid a hard customs border within Ireland.

That would solve the Irish border issue. Varadker could say it is up to the people of N. Ireland to decide whether they want a customs border with the south, and it is up to the UK to decide whether one is required down the Irish Sea - by deciding that Great Britain is leaving the CUSM. The Irish government will have had no hand, act, or part of deciding whether a customs border is required, and where it should be located - something it is politically impossible for it to do.

In the event of one being required down the Irish sea, the EU would require extra territorial control or supervision of that border as it would be within the UK, but also the EU's new external frontier. So a new three party UK/IE/EU agreement would be required.

The EU has already agreed N. Ireland can join the EU automatically in the event of Irish re-unification - a la East Germany. That agreement, too, would have to be extended to include a circumstance where N. Ireland remains within the UK, but also has democratically expressed its wish to remain within the EU (or rejoin it if after Brexit day).

Not being a sovereign territory, N. Ireland would have its own MEPs (as currently) but not its own Commissioner or representation on the EU Council etc. That part of its external affairs would effectively be handled by Dublin rather than London.

In my view an elegant solution to the GFA's requirement to guarantee parity of esteem for both traditions in N. Ireland. It would remain in both the EU and UK, and it's citizens could continue to opt for British or Irish (and EU) citizenship, as at present.

Of course the DUP would oppose it as a step towards a United Ireland. Hence it is something the UK government could only agree after the Withdrawal Agreement and other essential amending legislation to enable Brexit is passed by the House of Commons.

That is why I am suggesting May's deal should voted on by the house of Commons NOW with an amending clause limiting the backstop to two years after the transition period is concluded - i.e. Dec. 31st. 2022. That is beyond the life of this Parliament (and the DUP's likely control of the balance of power) similar to the amendment proposed by Andrew Murrison MP (Cons).

Of course the EU and IE will continue to insist on the Backstop until such time as the new tri-partite EU/IE/UK agreement is in place. That will be the EU/IE's price for ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement with the Backstop sunset clause and can only become public once all related legislation has been passed by Westminster and everyone is shit scared of an imminent no-deal Brexit.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jan 27th, 2019 at 08:33:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Politico has published a very different view of the use of the GFA as a way of resolving the impasse.

UK to warn of Brexit backstop's threat to Irish peace treaty

The detail is beyond my understanding, but the (UK) argument seems to be that the WA as it stands conflicts with the provisions of the GFA.

It follows accusations from DUP MPs and other leading unionists that the backstop itself contradicts the very historic peace agreement that it is designed to protect.

I'll leave others to comment if it is thought worthwhile to do so.

by oldremainmer48 on Mon Jan 28th, 2019 at 10:12:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Politico Chief UK correspondent in discussion with himself ...

Tom McTague:  EU officials NOT best pleased. "It's pretty desperate stuff," one diplomat said, rejecting the claim that the backstop itself undermined the Good Friday Agreement. "It's a bit rich. It's something of the devil quoting scripture for his own benefit." Remember: DUP opposed GFA 6/

by Oui on Mon Jan 28th, 2019 at 10:59:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, McTague uses that very same quote in the body of his article:

That is "politically impossible" for either the Irish government or Brussels, according to one senior EU27 diplomat.

"It's pretty desperate stuff," the diplomat said, rejecting the claim that the backstop itself undermined the Good Friday Agreement. "It's a bit rich. It's something of the devil quoting scripture for his own benefit."

I'll also freely admit that this game of three-dimensional chess is way too subtle for my understanding. I suppose it's like the rules of cricket: you have to be English to understand.

by Bernard on Mon Jan 28th, 2019 at 08:06:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There aren't really any rules in cricket. We established after the bodyline tour of Australia in the 30s that it was about winning in a ruthless way that would make even an American blush

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jan 28th, 2019 at 09:34:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I used to know the the 10 ways a batsman can be out in cricket, for my sins, although I only ever played the game with a pint by my side - in my view, the only way to play the game.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 28th, 2019 at 10:24:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually not that different from my proposal of a referendum. Instead the DUP want ANY border controls to be subject to the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agreement - where they have an effective veto. Thus any divergence between GB and N.I. simply will not be allowed to happen forcing the EU and IE to implement customs controls at the Irish border.

The problem with their proposal is that the Executive has not met for over two years because of an impasse between the two major parties - the DUP and Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein will never agree to its re-establishment if the purpose is simply to enable the DUP to block any divergence between N.I. and UK. - thus deepening community divisions still further.

Hence my proposal to extend the GFA's insistence that N. I. can only become part of a united Ireland by majority referendum vote to a circumstance where it can opt to become (or remain) part of the EU but remain part of the UK.

The DUP is playing a game here. They only got 28% of the vote in the 2017 Assembly elections and 36% in the Westminster elections. They lost the Brexit referendum 56-44% in N. Ireland and yet they are trying to impose their will on all in N. Ireland. They would therefore probably lose a N.I. referendum vote on EU membership, but successfully block it in the Executive (which requires explicit bi-community support).

But which is the greater constitutional change in N. Ireland, Brexit or some customs controls in the Irish Sea? I think my proposal of a referendum is fairer, less divisive, and won't block the re-establishment of power sharing in the interim. Brexit should not be driven entirely by one minority party but should require the support of a majority in all communities.

Basically my proposal just requires a simple agreement between UK/IE/EU that N.I. can rejoin the EU if a majority there vote in favour in a referendum to be held if no other means of keeping the Irish border has been agreed by end 2022. Alternatively, the agreement could stipulate that N.I. just rejoins the CUSM - thus also keeping the border open. The problem here is that N.I farmers would lose their CAP payments and farming would become uneconomic - their call...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 28th, 2019 at 01:18:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The bottom line in the politico article is
"The senior U.K. official said it is imperative for the U.K. to win a legally enforceable concession from Brussels to win back the support of the DUP -- and with them potentially scores of Tory MPs.

"The DUP want to be able to say to their voters: `We made Theresa May make Leo Varadkar do this.'"

revealing the tribal partisan nature of all of this. Varadker has the opposite imperative of not letting the DUP call the shots for all of Ireland.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 28th, 2019 at 01:36:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]