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Astra Zeneca UK contract signed day after EU

by Frank Schnittger Sat Feb 20th, 2021 at 04:52:24 PM EST

CNN is reporting that the contracts signed by Astra Zeneca with the UK and the EU are essentially the same, and both contain the "best efforts" clause Astra Zeneca has used in an attempt to weasel out of its contractual commitments to the EU. But the real bombshell is that it appears that the UK contract was signed the day after the EU contract, and not 3 months before, as AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot has claimed.

Read more... (30 comments, 1504 words in story)

National Myths [Updated]

by Frank Schnittger Fri Feb 19th, 2021 at 02:43:12 PM EST

Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland, is an old time socialist, university lecturer, sociologist, and poet from the left wing of the Labour Party. The role of President is largely a ceremonial one but he is following a relatively distinguished line of succession from Mary Robinson to Mary McAleese in taking an activist approach to the office and promoting gender and civil liberty issues. What these Presidents have in common is a rejection of simplistic nationalist myths and an abhorrence of violence for achieving political goals.

He has recently written an an op-ed in the Guardian in which he invited UK readers to share in his project of re-examining the myths of nationalism and imperialism and how they still shape our lives today. His piece provoked a vituperative anti-Irish response in the Daily Telegraph "The Irish president has a cheek lecturing Britons about history" and a chiding by Irish Times Columnist, Finn McRedmond, "Are we really entitled to lecture Britain about remembering?".

[Update]:The Irish Times has published an edited version of my letter in response under the headline Lecturing Britain about remembering?

Read more... (15 comments, 1061 words in story)

Submission on Irish Unification

by Frank Schnittger Sun Feb 14th, 2021 at 02:49:33 PM EST

The Constitution Unit at University College London has set up a working group comprised of 12 experts based at universities in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain, and the United States, to examine how any future referendums on whether Northern Ireland should stay in the United Kingdom or become part of a united Ireland would best be designed and conducted. They have issued an interim report and executive summary here.

Their starting point is the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement of 1998 which states that:

it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement is light on the detail of how such referendums should be organised, and the interim report seeks to explore the options in this regard. I have submitted a response to the interim report as follows:

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Europhilia does not equal Anglophobia

by Frank Schnittger Fri Feb 5th, 2021 at 02:09:04 AM EST

Brexiteers generally have been puzzled and annoyed at Ireland's failure to follow the UK out of the EU. They have been especially irritated at the problems the "Irish border" has created for them getting the clean break from the EU that they wanted. That problem would have disappeared had Ireland, too, decided to leave the EU. Nigel Farage even came to Ireland to campaign for "Irexit", and his ex-communications director, Hermann Kelly, got all of 2,441 votes or 0.67% of the total in the Dublin Constituency in the European Elections in 2019.

But it isn't just Brexiteers who find Ireland's apparent Europhilia irritating and annoying. Newton Emerson, a Northern Ireland unionist and Irish Times columnist who voted Remain has just written a column entitled Unionism to squander opportunity presented by EU blunder in which he conflates Irish Europhilia with Anglophobia. Apparently it is inconceivable for even a moderate unionist to think of Irish people who support EU membership as doing so for any reason other than hatred of Britain.

Naturally I felt compelled to set him straight in a letter published in the Irish Times:(fourth letter down)

Read more... (18 comments, 1082 words in story)

Learning from a Pandemic

by Frank Schnittger Thu Feb 4th, 2021 at 01:14:00 AM EST

The Irish Times: EU and vaccination

A chara,- A sub-committee of the European Commission makes a rushed decision in the middle of a crisis to try and ensure that vaccines are not being exported out of the EU in breach of the pharmaceutical companies' contractual commitments to its own vaccination programme.


When the serious implications of one aspect of the proposal are pointed out to it, it admits its mistake, and changes the decision. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the commission, takes full responsibility for the mistake and commits to ensuring it doesn't happen again. What more can we expect of our leaders? If only it were always so.

Healthcare provision is generally a national competency within the EU, and this is the first time the commission has taken the lead role in EU-wide vaccine procurement. In doing so it has helped us to avoid the kind of toxic vaccine nationalism which has broken out between the UK and the EU also breaking out between member states of the EU.

If that had happened, you can be sure that Ireland, as a smaller member state without our own vaccine manufacturing capability, would have been paying top-dollar prices at the back of the queue.

We have all learned a lot about managing a pandemic, and still have a lot to learn. Making mistakes is part of that process. It's how you recover from a mistake that matters. - Yours, etc,

Read more... (13 comments, 1194 words in story)

Vaccine politics turn poisonous

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jan 30th, 2021 at 02:05:42 PM EST

The already difficult relations between the UK and EU threatened to turn poisonous when the European Commission tried to invoke Article 16 of the Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement to prevent EU made vaccines being exported to the UK through the "backdoor" of Northern Ireland.

This went against years of EU and Irish diplomacy which has sought to prevent the emergence of a hard land border within Ireland. How the Commission could have made such a decision without consulting the Irish government on its political ramifications is beyond belief.

The now aborted move to invoke Article 16 exposes the degree of anger and vulnerability felt within the Commission at it being seen to be responsible for the EU's slower vaccination program than those in the UK, Israel and US, in particular. But as often the case in these crises, the real story is a lot more complex and nuanced.

Read more... (35 comments, 1373 words in story)

Global Britain is increasingly isolated

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jan 24th, 2021 at 08:31:50 PM EST

My letter (minus the last sentence) has also been published by the Irish Times here.

Read more... (32 comments, 469 words in story)

The path to a united Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jan 14th, 2021 at 06:03:10 PM EST

Ever since the Brexit referendum in the UK, and particularly since the signing of the Withdrawal Agreement, Northern Ireland Protocol, and the UK EU Trade and Security agreement, there has been a plethora of writing and comment on the prospects for an independent Scotland and a united Ireland. This is based partly on the fact that both Scotland and N. Ireland voted to remain in the EU, and partly due to an antipathy to the insurgence of English nationalism, which is largely what drove the Brexit project and threatens to drive the component entities of the "United Kingdom" ever further apart.

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A Long War?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jan 8th, 2021 at 06:10:45 PM EST

Trump Says He Could 'Shoot Somebody' and Still Maintain Support

Donald Trump said Saturday that his supporters are so loyal that he would not lose backers even if he were to shoot someone in the middle of downtown Manhattan.


"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, okay, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay?" Trump said at a rally in Sioux Center, Iowa as the audience laughed. "It's, like, incredible."

Trump's whole Presidency can be seen as a political experiment to see how far he could push the boat out on political extremism and still retain political support.  Indeed his approval ratings have rarely slipped below 40%, and currently stand at 42.4%. Not enough to secure re-election, obviously, but enough to make it a contest. It is worth noting that his 74 Million votes in the General Election is the highest ever attained by any presidential candidate bar Joe Biden, who obtained 81 Million votes.

So what does this say about the state of the US polity...

Read more... (77 comments, 962 words in story)

Covid-19 out of control in Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jan 7th, 2021 at 12:07:33 PM EST

Having generally done a relatively good job of containing the pandemic (Ireland currently ranks 62nd. for cases/million, and 47th. for deaths/million in the world), at least compared to our nearest neighbours, the government seems to have lost its way recently. In its determination to offer some respite to the hospitality industry and allow people some semblance of a normal Christmas, it has allowed the pandemic to get out of control to a far greater extent than ever before:

Partly, this may be due to the upsurge in the much more infectious English variant of the virus, but there is no doubt the level of social mixing got out of control over the holiday season resulting in a renewed lockdown and closure of schools.

But the even more serious issue is that the vaccination programme has gotten off to a very slow start and shows no sign of accelerating rapidly any time soon. The government and its public health advisers have been very good at lecturing the public on how to behave, less good at organising what should be their primary responsibility - an efficient vaccination roll-out programme. Hence my letter to the editor published today:

Read more... (10 comments, 205 words in story)

Coup Attempt in USA?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jan 6th, 2021 at 07:56:03 PM EST


Following an incendiary speech by President Trump crowds of protestors marched from his protest meeting and breeched the security lines and stormed the Capital Buildings in Washington DC. The Senate and Congress were in joint session to certify the Presidential election results and had just heard an objection from Senator Cruz to certifying the result. Senators and Congressmen were evacuated through various tunnels carrying gas masks and Vice President Pence and others were evacuated to a safe place.

More to follow as events unfold...

Read more... (68 comments, 421 words in story)

Georgia on my mind (Part 2)

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jan 6th, 2021 at 02:13:31 PM EST


As a long haired student radical in the early 1970's I did a spot of hitch-hiking around the eastern USA following a summer working making motel beds and selling hot-dogs on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey and working construction in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

I ventured as far as N. Carolina but was warned not to go further south as the southern states of South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and especially Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia where injun country as far as long haired students were concerned. You could get beaten up or worse.

I remember being amazed at a military High School in Charlotte where young teenagers were being drilled to within an inch of their lives in the merciless heat wearing 19th. century buttoned up military uniforms that made no concessions to comfort, utility, or the heat. This was no place for anarchist idealists.

Read more... (11 comments, 1239 words in story)

Born to rule

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jan 2nd, 2021 at 06:17:13 PM EST


The Cummings/Wakefield family pile: Chillingham Castle and Gardens, Northumberland. Just what establishment is Dominic Cummings trying to overthrow, or to re-establish?

One of the more puzzling aspects of the Trade and cooperation agreement just signed by the UK and EU is that its focus is almost exclusively on trade in goods, an area where the EU (excluding Ireland) enjoys a massive trade surplus with the UK. Services make up 80% of the UK economy and the City of London has been the financial powerhouse of the EU. Yet curiously the trade deal does not provide for free access for UK service companies to EU markets, does not provide for mutual recognition of professional qualifications (again, excluding Ireland), and even the Erasmus student exchange programme no longer applies to the UK.

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Blaming others for England's isolation [Update]

by Frank Schnittger Thu Dec 31st, 2020 at 01:59:44 PM EST

Denis McShane (born Josef Denis Matyjaszek, 21 May 1948) is a British former politician, author and commentator who served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Rotherham from 1994 to his resignation in 2012. A former member of the Labour Party, he was Minister of State for Europe from 2002 until 2005. He was convicted in 2012 of submitting false invoices for expenses and was sentenced to 6 Months in Prison. He was a supporter of the Iraq war and has been accused of dishonest behaviour on a number of other occasions.

Without noting this background, the Irish Times has given him space to expound his views on how British Irish relations should develop post Brexit, He is the latest in a long line of columnists in Irish papers warning Ireland to stay close to mother England in case those perfidious continentals should take advantage of us. Apparently he has detected a rise in Schadenfreude and Anglo-phobia amongst his Irish friends. I have responded in a draft letter to the Editor below and [Update] an edited version has been published here:

Read more... (51 comments, 810 words in story)

Referendum in Ireland on EU UK Trade deal?

by Frank Schnittger Sun Dec 27th, 2020 at 02:16:07 PM EST

Draft Letter to the Editor

I'm sure most people breathed a sigh of relief that an EU UK Trade agreement was finally concluded just before Christmas, and everyone appears to assume it will be approved by the EU Parliament and ratified by governments on all sides within a matter of a few days or weeks.


But will there need to be a referendum in Ireland to approve the deal?

The Irish people gave up their territorial claim to Northern Ireland when Articles 2 and 3 were removed from our constitution by a 94% vote of the people in 1998 as part of the deal to ratify the Good Friday Agreement.

The peace process has survived for so long because the Good Friday agreement guaranteed "equality of esteem" for those who aspired to Irish unity and those who aspired to union with Britain. It was conceived in the context of both Ireland and Britain being members of the EU and of national borders and differences becoming ever less significant in the context of "an ever closer union" amongst the member states of the EU. There was no Article 50 procedure for any member state to leave the EU when the GFA was signed.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, there was to be no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without approval by a majority by referendum there. In was in that context that 56% of the people of N. Ireland voted to remain in the EU in 2016.

Instead, with Brexit, Northern Ireland is out of the EU and all its people now have is a free trade deal on goods, some regulatory alignment, and a customs union with the EU. There is no agreement on trade in services, no Fundamental Charter on Human rights, no recourse to the European Court Justice. The Erasmus programme is gone too unless N. Ireland citizens opt for Irish citizenship and apply through the Irish scheme.

As the UK and EU diverge in the future, so too will Northern Ireland and Ireland - no doubt to the satisfaction of some unionists. But this is a far cry from the "equality of esteem" promised in the Good Friday agreement. Instead, a unionist minority got the Brexit they demanded, and the overwhelming majority who voted to remain in a Union with Ireland and the EU got little more than free trade in goods.

Surely this changes the relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland in quite fundamental ways and requires that the people of Ireland have the opportunity to have their say as to whether the EU UK trade deal should be ratified and become the law of the land in this state?

If it took a referendum in this state to enact the changes required by the Good Friday Agreement, surely it will take another referendum to validate a situation where Northern Ireland is no longer part of a Union with this state and other member states of the EU?

The whole basis on which the people of this state gave up their territorial claim to Northern Ireland in 1998 has been fundamentally altered. The Government should not ratify the EU UK trade deal unless it is formally approved by a referendum of the Irish people.

Read more... (18 comments, 1237 words in story)

And now for some good news...

by Frank Schnittger Mon Dec 21st, 2020 at 03:01:38 PM EST

Covid-19 is still creating chaos on the island of Ireland with a third wave gathering momentum and the death rate in Northern Ireland particularly severe. Hospitals there are full to capacity and patients have had to be treated in ambulances as they queue outside hospitals.

Meanwhile the Republic, in common with some other European countries, has instituted a travel ban with the UK, as concern rises about an even more infectious strain of Covid-19 spreading in south east England. The land-bridge through Britain is closed with France no longer accepting goods traffic from Britain, so plans for increased direct sea routes from Ireland to mainland Europe have been fast-tracked.

In some ways the situation now is so severe that if a no-deal Brexit were to happen on January 1st. people would hardly notice. So where is the good news, I hear you ask?

Read more... (15 comments, 813 words in story)

Our very own Brexit Christmas Pantomime

by Frank Schnittger Thu Dec 17th, 2020 at 03:56:51 PM EST

Pantomimes are best enjoyed after some celebratory cheer and in the presence of children who will uncover whole levels of meaning that can pass mere adults by. In the participatory tradition of Pantomime, and in the spirit of Christmas I thought we could compose our own socially distanced Pantomime with a cast of characters drawn from that other Pantomime known as Brexit. Villains abound, and heroes may be hard to find but large dollops of pixy dust and magical thinking can make even the most surreal scenarios believable. Please include your favourite Brexit quotes and characters is the comments below.

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CETA

by Frank Schnittger Wed Dec 16th, 2020 at 10:32:54 PM EST

The Canada-Europe Trade Agreement (CETA) ratification process in the Irish Senate has been delayed following a split in the Green Party on the issue. Michael McDowell is a prominent barrister, senator, former deputy prime minister, ex-leader of the now defunct Progressive Democrats party and long term advocate for neo-liberal policies in Ireland.

He has excoriated the Irish government for trying to railroad the ratification process through parliament with only 55 minutes of debating time particularly as it contains controversial clauses allowing global corporations to sue sovereign states if their policies have adverse effects on their profitability.

The Irish Times has published a letter to the editor I have written in response:

Read more... (8 comments, 588 words in story)

No Deal?

by Frank Schnittger Sat Dec 12th, 2020 at 05:27:34 PM EST

This week-end is supposed to mark the final deadline for coming up with a post Brexit FTA between the EU and the UK. Brexiteers have always maintained they are relaxed about the prospect of no deal - if only to try and  bolster their negotiating position vis a via the EU. Boris Johnson has taken to calling it the "Australia Option" - in succession to the Norway, Swiss and Canadian options - despite the fact that ex-Australian Premier, Malcolm Turnbull has warned that Australians see their trading relationship with the EU as anything but satisfactory and are busily trying to negotiate a better one.

Read more... (64 comments, 2252 words in story)

The changing dynamic of the N. Ireland economy

by Frank Schnittger Fri Dec 11th, 2020 at 03:10:47 PM EST

Despite the likelihood of a "No Deal" in the main EU/UK trade talks, the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement will come into force on January 1st. The working party on its implementation, chaired by European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and the UK Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Rt Hon Michael Gove have agreed the details of its implementation, which includes a grace period to allow supermarkets to adapt to the new customs and quality controls that will apply.

While it was hoped the agreement would build some momentum towards a broader Free Trade Agreement, its more immediate effect is to provide the UK government with some cover to withdraw clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the UK Internal Market Bill, and not introduce any similar provisions in the Taxation Bill which were in breach of international law and threatened to de-rail relations with the incoming Biden administration in the USA.

Newton Emerson has a piece up on the Irish Times (subscriber only) discussing the DUP's confusion as to how to respond to the Protocol's creation of "a border down the Irish sea" which they had so bitterly opposed. I have drafted a letter to the Editor in response:

Read more... (11 comments, 1335 words in story)
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News and Views

 July 2021

by Bernard - Jul 3, 163 comments

Your take on this month's news

 Summer 2021 Open Thread

by Bernard - Jul 3, 9 comments

Lytton, BC, June 29: 49.6C / 121.3 F

Lytton, BC, June 30: 15 minutes to evacuate

Lytton, BC, July 1st: ... ashes ...


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