, 16 tweets, 12 min read
For the day that’s in it, here’s a thread on #consent.
Or, rather, Consent as it's being referred in the N.Ireland hiccupy-part of the #Brexit process.

@DPhinnemore & I have been working on all of this stuff. Here’s 1 article on it. More to come.

@DPhinnemore We can all agree that consent = a good thing.
& when it comes to post-conflict NI, particularly so.
A history of mistrust & misuse of power means that making laws that work for people of all backgrounds = vital.
It's also important that democratic processes are seen to work.
@DPhinnemore There is no ‘principle’ of consent in #1998Agreement per se, but it's there in 2 main forms.

The 1st = majority consent.
No change to the constitutional status of NI without it being approved by the majority of people in NI. Hence the provision for a #borderpoll in future.

@DPhinnemore Given a majority (56%) in NI voted Remain, a case was made that for NI to be taken out of the EU was a breach of this principle.
But it was ruled that majority consent = specifically about change of NI constitutional status from UK to united Ireland.
@DPhinnemore The 2nd type= parallel consent, wh. is where there's a need for 40% approval from among both nationalist & unionist MLAs for certain decisions of the Assembly. It's 1 means of finding cross-community consent.

NB downplays significance of those MLAs who are ‘neither’.

@DPhinnemore Petition of Concern is not consent. It's where a group of 30 MLAs can veto legislation approved by NI Assembly. It's meant to prevent breach of minority rights by a dominant majority, not to enable minority rule or to place disproportionate power in the hands of one party.

@DPhinnemore The consent principle emerged in the debate around the #backstop, coming in particular from unionist critics of the backstop. They argued if it was imposed over the heads & against will of unionists then it breached principle of consent & sovereignty.
@DPhinnemore So where does this leave us with #consent and the post-Brexit set up for N.Ireland?

First, we need to acknowledge that there cannot be a fudge. Something of a fudge over a ‘temporary solution’ to the Irish border has proven rather problematic in the past…

@DPhinnemore 2nd, it is necessary to say that no arrangement is going to get very far if it comes against a background of vociferous antagonism from one community or another.

There's been a big rise in unionist opposition to backstop over the course of the year.
@DPhinnemore [late for an interview will finish this shortly!]
@DPhinnemore 3rd, the NI Sec of State @JulianSmithUK is right – consent, by definition, cannot be in the hands of one party.

As Paul Nolan pointed out back in '13, NI is now a society of minorities – there is no one dominant identity. It is that diversity that needs to be protected.
@DPhinnemore @JulianSmithUK So how do we get #Consent?

A #referendum to find majority approval among the people? Experience tells us (*cough*) there's a risk of people voting for parties to support the harder lines to ensure a strong representation of their view, thus diminishing the middle ground.
@DPhinnemore @JulianSmithUK Or else #consent could come through party voting in NI Assembly, e.g. parallel consent.

Several Qs arise: what if there's no Assembly? If vote fails, what's the alternative? Which part of the WA & when voted on? Wd the Assembly have the competence to vote on such things?

@DPhinnemore @JulianSmithUK Or else #consent could be reimagined as consensus-building.

& focus cd be on a properly functioning Assembly doing some proper governance, utilising its connections to UK & IRL, and demanding more of the bodies in the WA.

Here’s something on that:
@DPhinnemore @JulianSmithUK Finally, also worth bearing in mind amid all this:

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the UK is not just about consent in NI but consensus-building in the UK as a whole for what comes after Brexit.

Deep divisions are no longer a N.Ireland-specific condition…

@DPhinnemore @JulianSmithUK I seem to have ballsed up predicting how many tweets would be in this thread...

So here's a gratuitous photo that for some reason I have stored on my laptop (from pre-Brexit days).

We'll see.

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