Lots of questions: what would I do about Northern Ireland and the “Protocol crisis”? Happy to offer a few thoughts as follows:
1) Let's set aside longer term solutions (UK rejoins EU, Irish reunification) & unacceptable outcome (hard border). Only option left= make Protocol work. Above all, that requires trust. Which requires honesty. Which has been sorely lacking from Tories/DUP. But honesty about what?
2) Honesty about fact that NI’s problems are directly determined by choices about overall EU-UK relationship. UK closer to EU = problems diminish. UK further from EU = problems amplify. Johnson chose a very Hard Brexit. So problems facing NI were inevitably going to be serious.
3) On that basis, best Protocol could ever be was compromise designed to reconcile 3 goals: preventing hard border across island of Ireland; while protecting integrity of EU customs union/single market; & respecting Johnson’s insistence that NI remain part of UK customs territory
4) Like all compromises, each party had to make sacrifices. EU: agreeing that its external frontiers be policed by third country. UK: own “internal market” = inherently distorted as regards NI trade. NI itself: legal & economic segregation from GB / need to reorientate more to EU
5) Problem is: Tories + DUP have simply refused to be honest about those compromises / accept those sacrifices. From DUP: only to be expected; they’re not the compromising sort, after all… But as for UK Gov: its duplicity and trickery is responsible for much of current problems
6) Instead of telling GB/NI to prepare for full effects of Protocol & giving everyone adequate time to do so, Tories just rushed to “get Brexit done” regardless & refused to admit true implications of their deal. So: widespread confusion, false expectations, lack of preparations
7) In December 2020, EU & UK did agree measures to help mitigate impending adverse effects of Johnson’s deal / duplicity. There could be more things Joint Committee does to help iron out specific problems, even if only on temporary basis. But fundamentals of Protocol won’t change
8) So ultimately: UK Gov needs to be honest & restore trust. NI is now very different from rest of UK for large parts of law & economy. There will be problems & disruption with GB. NI needs to look more to EU. And yes: Parliament voted for all that when it approved Johnson’s deal
9) In meantime, there are limits to how far "flexibility" can go. E.g. some suggest "solution" is just to let GB-NI border get leaky: who cares if few EU standards aren't enforced & some dodgy stuff gets through? It'll only make it into Republic, not into the "real" EU... Well:
10) The Republic *is* the EU. A full & proud Member State, every bit as much as its 26 partners & friends. There is more than a touch of colonial arrogance at work here: that Ireland is part of UK's backyard & British problems can be solved at Irish expense. It isn't & they can't
11) So: Ireland is not responsible for Brexit mess & its integrity as a sovereign EU member isn't up for negotiation. Onus lies on the UK Government to acknowledge the compromises it willingly made and the sacrifices it unilaterally demanded from NI. Do I really think they will?
12) Of course not: Johnson regime is rotten to its core. So EU should be preparing for other outcomes, including (as Johnson threatened for much of 2020) UK deliberately ripping hole in Protocol & hoping EU won't enforce “hard border”. A robust joint EU-US response is recommended

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More from @mdouganlpool

4 Feb
Gove's letter to Commission about NI Protocol is deeply insulting - worthy successor to Trump's truth-twisting method of treating international diplomacy with same contempt & dishonesty as domestic politics. But cut through the propaganda & what do we learn? Voila, short thread:
1) Brexit was always going to cause serious problems for NI - as UK parliamentary committees and myriad experts predicted. But Tories and DUP simply lied their way through the entire withdrawal process / negotiations - claiming those problems didn't exist / had easy solutions.
2) When reality finally hit home, ie Tory Hard Brexit threatened hard border & therefore GFA, May sought to minimise the damage. But ERG, DUP et al did everything they could to destroy her solution. Then PM Johnson stabbed DUP in back by imposing alternative: the current Protocol
Read 15 tweets
8 Jan
Lots of questions about impact of Brexit on NI & prospects for reunification with Ireland... A political question beyond my specific scientific qualifications, though on which I am as entitled to hold an informed opinion as anyone else. So here are a few thoughts:
1) Whole point of GFA was to create environment in which cross-community relations could be improved under conditions of relative peace & stability. Even regardless of immediate economic damage of Johnson's new trade border, Brexit has already undermined that longterm goal. How?
2) Even if GFA never technically required UK to remain in the EU, the conditions for effective peace process substantially depended on common UK and IRL membership. Anything but softest of soft Brexits was bound to be a problem. So Tories' extremist Brexit is especially damaging.
Read 8 tweets
30 Dec 20
After my first reading of the draft EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement, here is a short thread with some initial thoughts:
1) this is a massive and complex document, covering very diverse & highly specialist fields. No single person could ever plausibly claim properly to master/understand it. So I’ve focused on my own (“big picture”) interests. Not, eg the (in fact marginal) details of fishing quotas
2) Let’s start with how draft treaty is being framed by UK Gov & client press. They compare it to “no deal” & thus treat it as some sort of triumph. Well: even on own terms, that is far from accurate: for many sectors, draft treaty is barely better than no deal at all
Read 15 tweets
7 Dec 20
Lots of requests for a "step-by-step" guide to where we are with the EU-UK negotiations.

So here you go - short thread summarising the essential context & key points / issues:
1) UK formally left EU in January 2020 but entered a "transition period" during which nothing very much changed: meant to give time for negotiations over future EU-UK relationship in fields like trade and security; based on "Political Declaration" as agreed by Johnson Government
2) Political Declaration envisaged only distant EU-UK relationship: partly logical consequence of Theresa May's longstanding "red lines" on free movement etc; but also result of renewed political preference, by Johnson Government, for even more extreme "clean break Brexit"
Read 16 tweets
8 Nov 20
Taking part in the pan-Liverpool mass testing scheme was dead easy: in and out in 15 mins; result by text within an hour.
It's not for me to say whether this scheme offers great promise or suffers whatever flaws. When a bona fide call comes - aux armes, citoyens - it's a civic duty to answer.
A negative result means: carry on obeying the rules that help keep people safe. Which is exactly what I'll do. My fellow scientists will learn whatever lessons need to be learned from the scheme. To the benefit of us all.
Read 4 tweets
30 Sep 20
As UKIM Bill makes its way to Lords, what could be done to improve it, so far as devolution is concerned?

Even accepting it’s probably going to pass, there is still considerable room for improvement. So: what changes might at least help lessen problems?

A few brief thoughts:
1) replace current proposals based on directly enforceable legal rights, with system of pre-legislative dialogue between UK authorities, ie to identify & discuss / address potential trade barriers. So: notify relevant proposals then find (preferably consensus) political solution
2) mutual recognition / non-discrimination are important principles & should provide reference point for that pre-legislative discussion – but only a reference point. They are not overriding objectives and they are should not be treated as (near) absolutes (as current Bill does)
Read 11 tweets

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