I wonder if anyone in the UK government has realised that Brexit and its impact is an existential issue for the Republic of Ireland? Not a pretend one, to be tossed around for a short term political win, but a crisis largely uniting the country in the need for action.
For four years the successive UK governments have suggested the EU and US should prioritise the UK over Ireland. For four years the Irish government has worked at full tilt to stop that happening, and has succeeded. And still the UK try, and still they fail.
The UK government has also managed during this time to alienate in different ways Northern Ireland communities to the extent that any claim to be motivated by the Good Friday Agreement rather than selfish London interests rings entirely hollow.
This tops it all for the UK attitude to Ireland. A Foreign Secretary looking forward to explaining why the EU and by extension Ireland is wrong over Brexit. They're not always big fans of the EU in DC, but that doesn't apply to Ireland. Unbelievable.
We get the domestic optics, the need to stand up to the EU. But there are ways to do that without damaging your international reputation. Because unless we come to sustainable terms with Ireland those EU and US trade deals don't happen. The CPTPP doesn't make up for that.
Playing the border games again, those insinuations that Ireland should be forced to put up infrastructure, does the government have any idea how destabilising this is across the whole of Ireland, and if they do, how come they don't care?
I preferred the all-UK backstop to the Northern Ireland protocol because it seemed to me the latter carried more risk to the Good Friday Agreement. But I'm quite sure it can be made to work if handled sensitively. Which is precisely what we haven't been doing.
I know there are folk inside the UK and Ireland governments, parliaments, EU and the Northern Ireland assembly and government, who get all of the sensitivities. It is time they were the voices heard, not those who use the language of conflict. We can but hope. /end

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More from @DavidHenigUK

18 Sep
In one sense nothing has happened in UK-EU talks for months - it is still about whether the PM wants the deal that is on offer and has been since the start of talks - FTA with Level Playing Field (but not dymamic alignment).
What I particularly don't know is if Number 10 has yet understood that the deal they want is not on offer, however hard they bang the table. I think not, and they are happy to keep holding out for this believing in any case no deal isn't a major problem.
At the end of the day, the PM has to make the decision. Generally he'd prefer to be the hero. But repeating the trick of last year, of signing up to the EU's deal and pretending it is his, might not be so easy this time. It is on matters like this that the EU FTA rides.
Read 5 tweets
18 Sep
Grateful for the reminder of these EU slides on the Northern Ireland protocol which I first saw in January. If this is an extreme interpretation why did the UK government not say so at the time? If not, what has changed since?
This the 2nd particularly relevant picture, note the reference to other international obligations like WTO etc
My copy of these slides is dated 22 January 2020. The same day curiously that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill completed its parliamentary passage. So who has changed their mind since January, the EU or the UK?
Read 4 tweets
17 Sep
I've spend far too much time studying the Northern Ireland protocol but what continues to stand out is the cleverness of the construction - which I suspect heavily involved UK and well as EU lawyers. For example we often talk about the 1st sentence of this para, rarely the 2nd.
The intended implication of Article 6 seems plain - yes the UK and EU will have to put some checks on goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, but these can be challenged as to their absolute necessity. Deep technical work, alive to political sensitivities.
Trade treaties aren't an instruction manual, but a broad framework within which governments are expected to find ways to cooperate and deliver for those affected. They can't work unless both sides share that framework.
Read 7 tweets
16 Sep
Interesting... fishing always likely to be an area where compromise possible. And another hint that the number one UK negotiating objective with the EU is our ability to spend state aid. reuters.com/article/us-bri…
The explanation for the UK government threat to international law that makes more sense than any other is that Northern Ireland is the cover, that the real issue remains that nothing must be allowed to stop state aid, and the Northern Ireland protocol does
Plausibly... the UK government wants to make it clear to the EU that no compromise on state aid is possible, wants to break the Northern Ireland protocol on this, but fearing this looks ridiculous exaggerates a threat to the UK, which then all gets out of hand.
Read 4 tweets
15 Sep
I read that breaking international law is a great negotiating move by the UK government, or we're stopping Ireland starving (study some history) and I get the nasty politics, but question:

For goods coming into the UK from the Republic of Ireland, where are our border checks?
Sorry if we're getting back to 2019's alternate arrangements farrago, but what is the big UK government vision here? How are they stopping the checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain? Because we went through this before, and there was no other answer.
In the context of very real differences of opinion in Northern Ireland the suggestion that the EU want to stop GB food exports is petulant childishness. Not a real issue, just something that sounds good to London media and those who hate the EU. And there are real issues.
Read 9 tweets
15 Sep
I know we're not really talking Brexit economic impact but consider this - 70-80% of all trade takes place within supply chains global or regional. If the UK drops out of even some of these (automotive, engineering most likely) it is very hard to see how we get back in.
The government belief, insofar as there appears to be one, is that the global supply chain driven economy is going to be replaced by a handful of global technology players. But it isn't clear why this is a replacement, and successful modern economies tend to be diverse.
Threatening international law makes the UK less attractive for global multinational investors, as do increasing barriers to trade including for example difficulties with data transfer to and from the EU.
Read 5 tweets

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