What should we make of the latest developments over NI and the Protocol, i.e. UK’s (second, clear) breach of international legal obligations + escalation of DUP-led agitation through direct loyalist threats to GFA? A few thoughts...
1) Most generous explanation for HMG’s actions? Tories are now more worried about potential for DUP & paramilitary allies to plunge NI into serious disorder, than about immediate legal and diplomatic consequences of UK’s international lawbreaking
2) But more likely explanation (since it fits into clear & established pattern)? Johnson only ever signed Protocol to “get Brexit done” with no real grasp of its implications / sincere intention of implementing it in good faith, so HMG simply places little value on own compliance
3) Combined with (in general) the ideologue’s belief in untrammelled state sovereignty, where rules are optional and obligations exist only for others; and (in particular) the Europhobe’s contempt for the EU, its very existence being a source for spite and antagonism
4) But UK conduct is unsustainable. We know: Protocol is result of choices made by Johnson & approved by Parliament; there is no credible alternative; it requires trust & cooperation to work; such trust requires honesty, not least about price NI must pay for Johnson’s Hard Brexit
5) Yet Johnson continues to cover tracks & mislead public: “The position of Northern Ireland within the UK internal market is rock solid and guaranteed”. It isn’t. The UK state decided (& it was a choice) that one cost of Hard Brexit = NI’s legal and economic segregation from GB
6) So long as Johnson refuses to be open and honest, certain NI unionists might believe there’s still a “better solution” - if only they can pile on enough pressure. There isn’t. NI unionists need to understand and accept a brute fact, however unpleasant it may be:
7) That English nationalists pursued Brexit regardless of cost to UK itself. With DUP's active assistance. No point complaining about threats to British identity, because the very meaning of “British identity” has been radically redefined by Tory Government and Parliament.
8) Would be right, eg for EU+US to pile serious pressure on Johnson Regime / make clear & tangible price to be paid by international delinquents. But ultimately NI’s stability depends on NI unionists accepting: Brexit changed everything. Which needs Tories to stop lying about it.

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More from @mdouganlpool

4 Mar
Good question: should European Parliament veto Trade & Cooperation Agreement with UK, in protest at Johnson Regime's latest contempt for obligations freely undertaken under NI Protocol?

Tricky calculation. No clear answer. But on balance, I'd advise "no", for following reasons:
Job of EU in general, and EP in particular, is to uphold European values & defend European interests. Often a complex, difficult task. Especially when principled values & pragmatic interests might pull in different directions. As arguably they do here. Though only arguably.
One hand: EU knows current UK regime is untrustworthy, if not actively antagonistic, even a direct threat to foundations of European cooperation. Punishing disregard of law sends important signal in defence of rules-based international order - even if it comes with a price.
Read 7 tweets
9 Feb
Want to understand better why Johnson’s “amazing deal” hasn’t stopped systematic problems in EU-UK trade - and why these aren't just teething issues, but permanent structural problems?

Here are some key points - crucial context to help explain why EU-UK deal is so limited:
1) Trade in goods is much easier to facilitate than trade in services. EU-UK deal concentrates largely on goods, has much less to say on services – even though latter make up vast bulk of UK economy - and is especially poor where goods and services need to combine together.
2) As regards goods, to trade lawfully in the EU, any third country supplier needs to cross 2 main hurdles: their goods must enter into "free circulation"; and their goods must undergo "lawful marketing". If both hurdles are crossed, goods are treated (almost) like EU own-goods.
Read 16 tweets
5 Feb
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.
Read 13 tweets
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

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