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Minister for potatoes

by Frank Schnittger Tue Aug 13th, 2019 at 09:37:31 AM EST

Botched departure from EU should not lead to botched exit from UK

Knowing how to make a grand entrance is all very well but, as the Brexit saga reminds us, the ability to make a dignified exit is even more important. There is a lovely French phrase, l'esprit de l'escalier, that signifies the moment at the bottom of the staircase when you think of what you should have said as you were leaving. The Brexiteers have not yet decided what it is they should have said before the decision to depart was made in June 2016. The words of Capt Lawrence Oates, as he left the tent to walk into the blizzard near the bitter end of Robert Falcon Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole, seem to be as much as they can manage: we are going out now and we may be some time.

But there is more than one exit taking place now, more than one union that is about to be left behind. One certainty in these days of confusion is that whatever Boris Johnson is camping up most ludicrously is the thing that is in deepest trouble. When Johnson, like some tinpot dictator awarding himself decorations and accolades, granted himself the hitherto unheard-of title of minister for the union, there could be no more convincing proof that the union is in deep doo-doo. If you have to have a minister for potatoes, it can only be because there is potato blight. If the state you're in needs a minister to affirm its very existence, you in a pretty bad state.


Of course Boris was only trying to curry favour with the DUP, who are in a permanent state of hyper-anxiety about anything anybody might do or say which might effect their precious Union. However Fintan O'Toole is in vintage form here and his column is worth reading in full. He doesn't say anything that readers of the European Tribune will not have read here many times before, but this is the first time it has been articulated so clearly to a national audience.

What we may be about to experience is not so much Northern Ireland leaving the UK as Northern Ireland (and Scotland) being abandoned by England. The grand narrative of Irish nationalism has always been that perfidious Albion was desperate to hold on to the great prize of the Six Counties and had to be forced or cajoled into giving it up. This was never true but it is now starkly and demonstrably false.


Every single survey of both Leave voters and Tory party members over the last three years has shown that they are not unionists. They want Brexit, and if the price of Brexit is the end of the union, so be it. The biggest study, done by Survation for Channel 4 last November, asked voters what their feelings would be: "If Brexit leads to Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom and joining the Republic of Ireland". Sixty-one per cent of Leave voters said they would be "not very concerned" or "not at all concerned". Fifty-four per cent of people who said they voted for the so-called Conservative and Unionist Party in 2017 said the same thing. The results when asked how they would feel if Brexit led to Scottish independence were on very similar lines: let them go.

It has long been my view that a United Ireland will happen not when a majority in N. Ireland actively want it, but when England decides it is a luxury they can no longer afford. The £10 Billion p.a. subsidy the British Exchequer provides to the North is of the same order of magnitude as the UK net contribution to the EU, for which it has received a far greater net benefit. If Scotland were also to secede from the Union post Brexit, all logic for the maintenance of the "Union of Great Britain and N. Ireland" goes out the window. Great Britain becomes England (and at most, Wales), and Northern Ireland's greater ancestral ties are with Scotland. Fintan concludes:

In one of those little jokes that history likes, we will be facing all of this while marking the centenary of a very bad Irexit from the UK, one that gave us partition, a civil war, a sectarian Protestant state in the North and an economically miserable and socially oppressive Catholic state in the South. If the next Irish exit from Ukania is to be better than the last one, we cannot wait to talk about it until we are the bottom of the stairs.

This is a plea I have also often made, and long before the disastrously vague Brexit referendum was ever called: A "border poll" on Irish Unity should never be held in a vacuum and before what constitutes a "United Ireland" has been precisely spelled out. If Brexit has reinforced anything it is that referenda on complex issues open to multiple interpretations can lead to very confused outcomes.

Ireland has a written constitution and all changes have to be precisely spelled out. Proposals for constitutional change have to be clearly explained by a non-partisan electoral commission and are often accompanied by legislative proposals spelling out how the government proposes to implement any new provision.

Precisely what should be contained in any proposal for a United Ireland is a subject for another diary. Suffice to say here that it needs to be detailed, comprehensive, and spell out the implications for all sectors of Irish society, north and south. Simply ejecting N. Ireland out of one union and into another is a recipe for disaster. It would be a blight on all our people. We do not need a minister for potatoes in Ireland.

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If Boris has a "Grand Plan" (and I'm really NOT convinced he has) it is to slide right up to the the last week of October and offer Parliament a one-time vote; -

  1. May's deal without the backstop, customs border down the Irish Sea,

  2. No Deal.

Working on the idea that, even tho he is unlikely to carry some of the ERG, he will almost certainly get the votes he needs from the opposition benches.

But whatever happens, the DUP are sold down the river. And I'm that, in itself, would command widespread support across the HoP.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Aug 13th, 2019 at 01:45:53 PM EST
Great Britain becomes England (and at most, Wales)

What about Cornwall? What about East Anglia? What about Yorkshire? Domino theory of collapse of English unification accomplished by William I, ca. 1066.

by asdf on Tue Aug 13th, 2019 at 03:12:17 PM EST
Gibraltar? Malvinas? Etc., etc.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Aug 13th, 2019 at 04:24:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oversees territories not part of the "United Kingdom" - btw - neither are Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey etc.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 13th, 2019 at 05:50:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Same deal": EU identified these properties with UK for purposes of  Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol. Has something changed?

ARTICLE 3, Territorial Scope, ¶ 1, final draft

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Tue Aug 13th, 2019 at 07:13:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't referring to their relationship to the EU, but rather their relationship to England after Scotland and Northern Ireland leave. Will they be English? Spanish and Argentinian? Will Greece and Turkey have to fight a war over Akrotiri? And who gets Pictairn and the Caymans?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Aug 14th, 2019 at 08:19:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking at history, I would say that the default condition would be that they still sort under the same under the same bureaucracy in London (they would also keep the UN security council seat and other rights and obligations). This could be challenged by other powers or local independence movements, as always. Some might be handed over (or rented out) to the US.
by fjallstrom on Wed Aug 14th, 2019 at 10:58:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They follow the money, as the custom now so shall it be in the end.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Aug 14th, 2019 at 12:04:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
archived What has changed?
Happy Vanuatu Day!, 2019
EU tax haven black[!]list triples to include 15 countries
EU removes Panama and seven others from tax-haven blacklist, 2018
hmm, yes, well
The awkward process of legislating recommendations in the "PANA" report
a raft of documents addressing tax avoidance and evasion, 2017

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Aug 14th, 2019 at 02:01:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Northern Ireland could return to violence, study shows - Irish Times
Romanticising the Troubles in Northern Ireland is contributing to the risk of a return to violence, experts have warned.

Some 40 per cent of people in Northern Ireland are under the age of 25 and have no memories of the Troubles which ended in most cases before they were born.

This is leading to "loss of memory of harm" with young people being prone to a one-sided view and a romanticising of the conflict.

The warning is contained in a paper by Prof Mark Brennan and Prof Pat Dolan who are co-founders of the global network of Unesco chairs on children, youth and community. They specialise in the study of violent extremism worldwide.

by Bernard on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 09:29:43 AM EST
Leaked Brexit Document Depicts Government Fears Of Gridlock, Food Shortages, Unrest
Britain would face gridlock at ports, shortages of medicine, fuel and food and a hard border with Ireland if it leaves the EU with no deal, according to a leaked government document.

The U.K. seems increasingly likely to crash out of the EU on Oct. 31, and the picture the government paints in confidential documents compiled under the code name "Operation Yellowhammer" and obtained by the Sunday Times is sobering. It details the ways government leaders are working to avert the "catastrophic collapse in the nation's infrastructure."

Not to worry though:

The Financial Times quoted government insiders who rebutted the document, saying it is not a realistic scenario for a no-deal, pointing out that it was written under Theresa May's leadership and did not reflect the preparations underway spearheaded by Prime Minister Johnson.
by Bernard on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 04:11:29 PM EST
Obviously. The claim that there would be "adequate" food also comes from the May government.
by generic on Sun Aug 18th, 2019 at 07:23:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
apparently it's a briefing paper given to the Cabinet just 3 weeks ago.

Not that they care. So long as their mates clean up betting against the British economy, they don't give a flying one what happens to the rest of us. Probably think a bit of starvation and hunger will make the working classes more likely to put up with their demands to work till we drop.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Aug 19th, 2019 at 08:47:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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