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Scamming the peace

by Frank Schnittger Wed Oct 2nd, 2019 at 11:51:32 AM EST


Boris Brexit plan a `scam', says Good Friday agreement negotiator

Ability to feel Irish or British or both `will be destroyed' , says Jonathan Powell.

Former Labour Party adviser Jonathan Powell, one of the chief negotiators of the Good Friday agreement, described Boris Johnson's Brexit deal proposal as a "scam" .


He told BBC's Newsnight: They are "trying to avoid a deal in order to get to no deal as they were always going to do. This is the final confirmation that's their aim."

Powell also said the ability to feel Irish or British or both - a key part of the Good Friday agreement - "will be destroyed" if a customs border is put in. "The point of this is not how long it takes a lorry to cross the border in Northern Ireland. The issue is identity."

The main ingredients of Johnson's plan, to be outlined on Wednesday in his Tory party conference speech, are a proposal for "two borders for four years" and a "Stormont Lock". After the transition period comes to an end, Northern Ireland would stay in the single market for four years but, crucially, not in the customs union.

That would mean that there would be a single market for the whole of Ireland for agri-food and manufactured goods until 2025. It would also mean other goods originating from the North would be subject to customs checks once they crossed the border into the EU.



Jonathan Powell was one of the chief negotiators of the Good Friday Agreement signed by the British and Irish governments in 1998 and so understands how difficult it was to achieve peace through an agreement between the parties in N. Ireland. Even then the DUP didn't agree to participate in the institutions set up by the Good Friday Agreement until the St. Andrew's Agreement was signed in 2006. They have since sabotaged the operation of those institutions with the result the N. Ireland Assembly and Executive haven't been functioning for almost 3 years.

Over two and a half years since Article 50 was invoked and a year since a Withdrawal Agreement was agreed by the UK government and the EU, Boris Johnson's government is finally going to unveil his proposals for replacing the Backstop just as soon as the Tory Party conference is over today. Apparently it will take the form of a take it or leave it offer issued to the EU just two weeks before the EU Council Summit and four weeks before the UK is due to leave.

It will create not one but two customs borders within Ireland thus reversing previous promises and protestations by both the May government and the DUP that they wanted an open and "friction free" border within Ireland. Given the DUP's track record of operating the Good Friday Agreement institutions, it is not even clear the UK government will adhere to any promises or proposals it is now making.

Reports on latest UK Brexit proposals `concerning'

The Government has described reported new proposals from the British government aimed at ending the Brexit impasse over the Irish border as "concerning".


Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to present his final offer to the EU to his Conservative colleagues at the conclusion of the party's conference on Wednesday. He is expected to deliver a message that there will be no delay beyond the October 31st deadline for the UK to leave the EU.

According to the Daily Telegraph Mr Johnson will propose scrapping the Irish border backstop - the most contentious part of the deal his predecessor Theresa May signed - and instead placing Northern Ireland in a temporary regime with a time limit. Customs checks would be required between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland -- something Ireland and the EU oppose.

His proposal involves the introduction of two borders, according to the report.

One, a regulatory border in the Irish Sea between Britain and Northern Ireland, would be active for four years, while a second border for customs checks would be set up between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The report suggests that Northern Ireland will remain in large parts of the European Union single market until at least 2025 but the North will leave the EU customs union along with the rest of the UK.

The Democratic Unionist party (DUP) is largely "content" with the proposals, the Guardian reported separately, adding that the plan is supported by leader Arlene Foster, whose party props up the Conservatives in Westminster.

British officials have made clear to EU counterparts that the legal texts which will be presented are a final offer and unless Brussels is prepared to engage there will be no more talks until after Brexit.

---<snip>---

"I haven't seen the proposals yet," he [Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney] said. "I read that Prime Minister Johnson is going to bring forward a proposal tomorrow. Some are even saying he has briefing certain EU capitals in relation to these ideas since Tuesday. We haven't seen anything.

"We'll have to wait and see. Obviously we'll study any proposal carefully, but if the reports are true it doesn't look like the basis of an agreement, that's for sure.

"Our position has been consistent, respectful and clear. If there is to be an alternative to the backstop it has got to do the same job as the backstop, which means no physical border infrastructure on the island of Ireland, and no related checks or controls."

Mr Coveney echoed earlier comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that proposals involving customs checks in Ireland would be "bad faith" on the part of the British government.

"If there is a proposal that involves customs checks on the island of Ireland, that in itself is bad faith given the commitments the British government has given both to Ireland and the EU over the last three years," he told the Tonight Show on TV3.

A senior Downing Street official said Mr Johnson's government "is either going to be negotiating a new deal or working on no-deal -- nobody will work on delay".

Given the complexity of the proposals, and the fact that no enabling legislation has even been presented to the House of Commons, it is unclear how the UK government thinks Brexit can proceed on 31st. October in an orderly way even if the EU were to capitulate to the UK ultimatum. But the reality is that the UK government isn't even pretending to try to reach a negotiated settlement and just wants an excuse to be able to blame the EU for the failure to reach one.

I doubt the EU even cares who the UK government wishes to blame at this stage. It has negotiated a Withdrawal Agreement with the previous UK government in good faith and has always been open to workable proposals to replace the backstop provided these didn't result in a hard customs border within Ireland. The dogs in the street now know who has welshed on previous commitments, even if the readers of the Telegraph effect to believe "EU intransigence" is to blame.

The EU Council will undoubtedly dismiss the UK proposals - probably even declining to go through the charade of negotiating with the UK negotiating team. If Boris Johnson carries through with his threat not to seek an A.50 extension in defiance of the "Benn Law" and not tender his resignation, the House of Commons will have no option but to vote No Confidence in his government and seek to appoint a replacement. No doubt Johnson is relying on their reluctance to nominate Corbyn to prevent the formation of an alternative government and give him the election he wants.

Johnson's strategy makes sense in the context of a UK first past the post electoral system where 30% of the vote will be sufficient to secure a majority provided the opposition is sufficiently divided. So long as he can ensure the Brexit party cannot divide the Leave vote, that should be an achievable objective if post Brexit chaos has not yet had the chance to move public opinion. The election cannot come soon enough from his perspective, for that very reason.

Meanwhile Tory dissidents, who would be pivotal in the formation of an alternative caretaker government to prevent a crash out Brexit are whingeing about Johnson's "Trumpian" tactics. It's time they became a bit more ruthless themselves in supporting an alternative administration... Complaining about divisive language just doesn't cut it.

Elsewhere yesterday, Boris Johnson is overseeing a political strategy similar to Donald Trump, the former Tory minister David Gauke has said, as he warned the Conservatives not to descend down a path of populism.


The former justice secretary, who lost the whip after voting to stop a no-deal Brexit, voiced his frustration with the prime minister's strategy, which he said was "Trumpian" in terms of the type of language being used and the overall tone of debate.

A divisive Downing Street, briefings using the phrase "collaborator" and riling up party activists all belong to a strategy that "corresponds more to Trump than to the long tradition of the Conservatives and Winston Churchill", he told the Guardian.

Gauke is no longer able to stand as a Conservative MP, alongside 20 other rebels who were kicked out of the parliamentary Tory party for voting for the Benn Act, which stops a no-deal Brexit and compels Johnson to extend article 50 if he cannot strike a deal, and to pass it through parliament by October 19th.

Several members of the group, including the former chancellor Philip Hammond, are being investigated by Downing Street, which alleges they worked with foreign powers to draft the legislation.

Gauke said the announcement of that investigation, which featured on the front page of the Mail on Sunday, was full of "Trumpian overtones" - primarily "because it's not true".

The reality is Gauke and his fellow independents hold the balance of power in the current parliament if they were not so timid about wielding it. Will they stand idly by while the N. Ireland peace process is is consigned to history just because it suits one man's thirst for power? Real leaders have to put up with a lot more than divisive or inflammatory language and if they fail to exercise real leadership the days of peace in N. Ireland and Britain may well be numbered.

A no deal Brexit is nothing less than a declaration of war against the EU and Ireland and will have to be met with a robust and united response. The real test for the EU Council is how they react to this threat.

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even if the UK were to capitulate to the UK ultimatum.

I think you meant the EU, but with Boris, you never know.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Oct 2nd, 2019 at 12:13:20 PM EST
Corrected thanks. Unfortunately I am limited to one or two hours blogging a day at the moment due to other commitments, so my last few blogs have been put together in rather a rush, Glad of any comments/corrections etc.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Oct 2nd, 2019 at 08:06:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...The dogs in the street now know who has welshed on previous commitments.

You greatly - vastly - over-estimate the information processing capacity of the average person.  

As Chomsky wrote, "propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state." It is used by the elites to control the masses because it works.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Oct 2nd, 2019 at 04:23:09 PM EST
Still, the propaganda does sometimes stop working and supporters get disillusioned. That seems to be happening to Boris and Trump.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Oct 2nd, 2019 at 05:11:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not as I see it ... Boris is still hot and will be beyond Oct. 31st ... Labour's Corbyn is nowhere to be seen!

Mind you, PM Johnson leads a minority in the House of Commons.

For Trump his popularity beyond his base of a third is wholly dependent on economic well-being. The year 2020 will be of slow growth ... hoping for a few months of recession in the Q3.

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Wed Oct 2nd, 2019 at 06:24:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU unimpressed.

Wary EU welcomes progress in Brexit proposal, says big gaps remain

"There is progress, but to be frank lots of work still needs to be done to fulfil the three objectives of the backstop: no border, all-Ireland economy and protecting the single market," the EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters.  
by Bernard on Thu Oct 3rd, 2019 at 06:45:48 AM EST
That was Barnier; now Juncker:

Statement by the European Commission following President Jean-Claude Juncker's phone call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson

He also stressed that we must have a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop: preventing a hard border, preserving North-South cooperation and the all-island economy, and protecting the EU's Single Market and Ireland's place in it.

Note how one side of the negotiations remains "on message", and repeats "the three objectives of the backstop: no border, all-Ireland economy and protecting the single market."

Whereas the other side, well, er... witty jokes!

by Bernard on Thu Oct 3rd, 2019 at 06:28:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed.

Several states have tendered notices to EU ascension under the TEU since landmark 1998 single currency and TFEU mandates, for example. Case, controversy, referendums, "association agreements" have ensued and are decided.

No other EU-state but UK has ever tendered a notice of secession (A.50 TEU). By exercising its prerogative UK gov provides the first Opportunity for EU institutions to test the political integrity of the TEU, the legal instrument; keyword: union.

What are its Strengths?
What are its Weaknesses?
What are Threats? (read: challenges to supremacy of EU gov authorities that are internal and external origins, tangible and intangible matters)

Together with the ECJ the EU Council is deciding precedent, or model formula, for disposition of A.50 ahh "intentions" of contracting parties to the TEU. To the extent any future petition may be said peculiar, decision rules adopted in this case will establish procedural limits.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Oct 3rd, 2019 at 02:39:18 PM EST
From the EU's perspective Brexit offers a number of opportunities:

  1. To show unity and strength of purpose when presented with a threat
  2. To show solidarity with a smaller member most adversely effected by Brexit
  3. To demonstrate the benefits of membership as opposed to impending non membership
  4. To create precedents and a clear process for any future A.50 invocations
  5. And in the case of an existential challenge to its own future by a major ex-member in league with a hostile foreign power, to show just how powerful the EU can be in defence of common interests.

No deal means economic war

Either the EU sees off the challenge of a powerful ex-member flouting its own rules and all Treaty obligations or it caves in and undermines its own raison d'etre. It is difficult to overstate just how serious this could get.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Oct 3rd, 2019 at 09:14:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, eonomic war. I really don't think that the brexiteers have quite realised that yet. Or, if they do, they cannot grasp the implications.

Underlying all their vainglorios blatherings has been the assumption of an equivalence of power between the EU and the UK. This is the real danger of their empire nostalgia, that they simply do not grasp the UK's (or more accurately, England's) reduced circumstances.

One of the great drivers of Britain wanting to join the Common Market during the 60s was the realisation at the top of government that a post-Empire Britain was failing. Despite the much vaunted 60s mythology of a country forged and re-tempering itself in the "white heat of the technological revolution", the UK was stagnant economically. Wiser heads back then knew we HAD to join with Europe or go under.

The UK is about to experience an economic nuclear winter through the stupidity and greed of political classes.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Oct 4th, 2019 at 11:24:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Tusk `fully behind Ireland' as MEPs reject UK Brexit proposals

Council president `unconvinced' as parliament group says proposed deal not `remotely' acceptable

European Council president Donald Tusk has said the EU stands "fully behind Ireland" after the UK published its new Brexit proposals, adding in a tweet that the union remains "open but still unconvinced" by the UK plans.

Separately, MEPs warned that there is not nearly enough in the UK proposals for a deal they could endorse. The cross-party European Parliament Brexit Steering Group (BSG) said in a detailed response to the proposals that they do not "even remotely" amount to an acceptable deal.

"Safeguarding peace and stability on the island of Ireland, protection of citizens and EU's legal order has to be the main focus of any deal," it said in a statement. "The UK proposals do not match even remotely what was agreed as a sufficient compromise in the backstop."

"The proposals do not address the real issues that need to be resolved if the backstop were to be removed, namely the all-island economy, the full respect of the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement and the integrity of the single market, " the statement say.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Oct 3rd, 2019 at 10:08:20 PM EST
Look at how the EU27 works as a team:

Barnier:

"lots of work still needs to be done to fulfil the three objectives of the backstop: no border, all-Ireland economy and protecting the single market,"

Juncker:

"we must have a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop: preventing a hard border, preserving North-South cooperation and the all-island economy, and protecting the EU's Single Market and Ireland's place in it."

Tusk:

"the real issues that need to be resolved if the backstop were to be removed, namely the all-island economy, the full respect of the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement and the integrity of the single market, "
by Bernard on Fri Oct 4th, 2019 at 06:15:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Boris has destroyed what is left of UK's credibility
British government has broken its own solemn legal and political commitments
When Boris Johnson described his long-awaited proposals for changes to the Brexit withdrawal treaty as a compromise, he was not wrong. Two questions arise, however. What is being compromised? And who is Johnson compromising with?

The answer to the second is obvious: the proposals are a compromise, not with the EU, but with the DUP. And what is being compromised is the credibility of the UK as a partner in any international negotiations.

Though the EU and the Irish government are too polite to say so directly, Johnson's plan destroys any remaining sense that the current regime in London is capable of sticking even to its own self-declared principles.

Ever since its victory in the referendum of June 2016, the Brexit project has been dogged by its inability to transcend its own origins. The referendum was always driven by the internal politics of the Conservative Party.

Its purpose, from the point of view of the man who called it, David Cameron, was to silence the increasingly turbulent anti-EU faction in his own party and see off the threat of Nigel Farage. And it has never been able to move on from being an internal negotiation to being an external one. The only thing that has really changed is that "internal" Tory politics came, after the 2017 election, to include the DUP.

And so here we are again. Political compromise is about two sides with different agendas meeting each other half way. It is easy to see why Johnson might be sincere in thinking he has achieved this - but only if the two sides are Johnson himself with his need to look like he is coming up with some vaguely credible alternative to the backstop and the DUP with its "blood red line" of Northern Ireland leaving the EU on exactly the same terms as the rest of the UK.

This week's proposals do indeed represent a significant shift in this internal dynamic: both Johnson and the DUP now agree that Northern Ireland may in fact leave on different terms. It may (or may not) stay effectively within the EU single market for an indefinite number of four-year periods.

To that extent, we do not have to assume that Johnson is lying and that his proposals exist only to provoke the EU to reject them. We just have to assume that he is, like Cameron and Theresa May before him, so consumed with the internal politics of Brexit that he finds it impossible to think realistically about the real negotiations.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Oct 3rd, 2019 at 10:20:58 PM EST

by Bernard on Mon Oct 7th, 2019 at 08:08:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If things continue as trending, by the end of next year the bulk of the anglophone world will consist of pariah states.
by rifek on Thu Oct 10th, 2019 at 02:38:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And that is probably a response to "the West" losing its predominant economic and political place in the world - so that only military supremacy remains...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Oct 10th, 2019 at 02:42:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not for much longer.  

China has grabbed the military drone market.  

The recent Houthi attacks have shown we're at the beginning of the end for the US Navy's ability to sit offshore for "force projection," i.e., bomb people with impunity.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Oct 10th, 2019 at 07:40:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Boris has destroyed what is left of UK's credibility
Section 10(2)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 explicitly commits the UK not to "create or facilitate border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after exit day which feature physical infrastructure, including border posts, or checks and controls, that did not exist before exit day and are not in accordance with an agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU".

This could not be clearer: what is ruled out is not just posts on the border but any infrastructure, any checks, and any controls that do not currently exist.

This, remember, is not just an Irish or EU demand. It has been the official British line all throughout this process. The whole backstop problem arises, not as some kind of dastardly Irish or European plot, but because Britain just can't live up to this commitment if Northern Ireland leaves either the single market or the customs union.

This is the tyranny of fact: there is nowhere in the world where two different customs and/or market regimes have a frontier across which trade flows without checks, controls and infrastructure. But all the energy among the Brexiteers has gone into trying to escape this inescapable reality.

Ever since May's right-hand woman Fiona Hill issued instructions to Whitehall to "spaff some money on some geeks" they have been in search of a magical technology that make the facts on the ground disappear. And ever since it became clear that this technology does not exist, the internal project has been what Whitehall officials privately call "keeping the corpse warm".

The corpse is now cold. Johnson's proposals acknowledge that even if all the magical technology works, there will still be checks, controls and (implicitly) infrastructure. The British government has broken its own solemn legal and political commitments. Faced with a choice between compromising with reality and fatally comprising trust, Johnson has chosen the second option.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Oct 3rd, 2019 at 10:28:08 PM EST
So, the situation is a bit clearer.
Some observers thought there was a genuine chance of a deal by the end of October.

So we're down to two options : Hard brexit, or A50 extension. And it's constitutional showdown.

According to convention, a lame-duck Prime Minister can't make bone-shaking changes (purdah rules). So if the Commons defeats BoJo in the right way...

...He will be obliged to throw convention out the window...
... But it's like wrestling with a pig. You get dirty, and the pig likes it.  

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Oct 4th, 2019 at 11:04:21 AM EST
The government concedes  that it is obliged to send an A50 letter, and agree to an extension if the EU offers it :

I've just thought of a wizard wheeze for Boris : he could send the letter by French post, it would take at least a week to be delivered. Probably two weeks, to Brussels.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Oct 4th, 2019 at 01:33:34 PM EST
Love it. Much more entertaining case than Boris-contravened-constitutional-requirement-void for "opposition" to litigate.

Incidentally, I'm not feeling the Boris moniker is too cuddly complaint. Being US American of a certain age (after the whole Cold War panic) I associate the name with the children's cartoon, "Rocky and Bullwinkle."   The villains Boris (blackgard homunculus) and Natasha are tope of mind.


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Fri Oct 4th, 2019 at 02:37:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Oct 4th, 2019 at 02:41:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Baker and others Johnson's circle immediately implied that following the law did not preclude a hard exit.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Oct 4th, 2019 at 07:44:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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