Here's an interview I did with @BenQuinn75 for @guardian on the UK Govt's approach to Northern Ireland, where I was born and grew up.

And here is a (long, sorry) thread on the UK & NI specific constitutional trends & tensions behind my thinking 1/20…
As one of the best writers on complex UK matters, @alexmassie wrote (below), it is the misfortune of the United Kingdom to be governed by people who do not understand the United Kingdom.

It is as true with regard to NI as it is of Scotland 2/20

The UK not only has multiple and complex national identities within it; it also has more than one constitutional tradition. Tensions between them have often been managed well. No longer. See this superb blog from Micheal Keating for @ConUnit_UCL 3/20…
At its most basic, we are in the process of trading a complex, messy but respectful approach to the governance of the UK - based on various competing traditions -for a very specific, very English notion of sovereignty. This is the 'sovereignty conundrum' Keating writes of 4/20
I can't put it better than this beautiful tweet from @redhistorian a few days ago. Being in a partnership union involves choosing to live differently for the sake of the partnership. There is precious little evidence of that around at the moment 5/20

Instead, the version of sovereignty that is now dominant essentially means that the Government chooses to govern as it likes if it gets 50%+1 in the Commons, which you can do via England alone.

If different parts of the UK don't like it, tough.

Know your place, rest of UK 6/20
It means the UK is to be governed exclusively by the AV Dicey view of the constitution, rather than one of "multiple historical accounts, precedent, convention & interpretations of the democratic principle" (Keating).

Here's a flavour of Dicey on *England's* constitution 7/20
As Keating points out, the UK Govt's choices over Brexit have stopped the "competing interpretations" of the UK constitution coexisting & have forced them into conflict. The winner, because it's the Government and it has a Commons majority, is "the classic Westminster view" 8/20
For my view on what this has meant for the union with Scotland, there's this (long, sorry) but free-to-read paper…

or this (paywall) interview with @NeilMackay for @heraldscotland 9/20…
At the heart of all this with regard to Scotland is the abandonment of what Professor Sir Tom Devine has called the "management" aspect of the Union, that sense of doing things a bit differently for the sake of the partnership and doing so in a respectful and restrained way 10/20
But what does the triumph of the Westminster/English doctrine of sovereignty mean for Northern Ireland? Interestingly, in this piece, a unionist commentator who strongly disagrees with me notes that one of 3 things needed for union to continue is...11/20…
..."at least the acceptance of the nationalist community".

How is UK Govt's emphasis on a Cromwellian/Williamite 17th century version of sovereignty, its majoritarianism & disdain for/ignorance of the complex identities & traditions within the UK going to achieve that? 12/20
The past 25 years have shown that plenty in NI's traditionally non-unionist community will at least accept, if not more, an NI within a UK that is plurinational and pluralist, where power is shared, and complex and fluid identities are respected and valued 13/20
It's highly doubtful that this community will be similarly contented with the "Greater England" post-Brexit UK, where a particular view of 'Britishness' & a particularly English view of national 'sovereignty' is everything, however much money (or vaccines) are thrown at NI 14/20
It goes back to @redhistorian's point: a partnership union involves choosing to live differently. The UK is not making any such choices in its post-Brexit constitutional redesign. With Scotland, the approach was to ignore and overrule, rather than compromise...15/20
...for NI, the Gov't chose divisive special arrangements so that NI's complex & difficult circumstances wouldn't get in the way of England's sovereignty-first Brexit.

So both NI traditions are destabilised: nationalists by the fact of Brexit; unionists by the manner of it 16/20
In some well-judged remarks in Belfast in March, the PM spoke, in the context of the protocol, of "the need to have consent from both communities"

This is the correct approach. But it needs two things. One is serious focus and effort from London...17/20…
The other is harder. It means toning down the 17th century sovereignty stuff & culture wars, working openly with Dublin, showing some genuine respect for the UK's different traditions, & making some actual compromises, rather than governing only for the English majority 18/20
Finally, to be clear: this is not about money (or infrastructure projects).

It's about consent, respect, identity & aspiration.

Let's not get into analogies where the best argument for a partnership union is the dominant partner saying "but you can't afford to leave" 19/20
Conscious I've not touched on Wales in this tour of the Celtic-Very-Much-Fringe. Its complexities - pro-Brexit, competitive Cons, but rising indy support - deserve more eg from @RWynJones.

But I doubt Know Your Place, splash-the-cash unionism will work well there either 20/END

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More from @ciaranmartinoxf

13 Apr
“The position of the UK Gov’t is that there is no lawful, democratic path to Scottish independence for an unspecified number of decades”.

This will change Union from one based on consent to one that survives only by force of law.

Me in @thetimesscot 1/6…
Accompanying news story 👇.

Of course a referendum risks the Union itself. But denying one that people have voted for would change the Union fundamentally, ending the long era of voluntary partnership.

The Union would just be a legal construct 2/6…
Unionists need to decide whether they want to save the Union by convincing enough people to support & cherish it or by hardline legal tactics. It’s one or the other. This new ‘muscular’ unionism feels more like ‘know-your-place’ unionism 3/6…
Read 6 tweets
31 Jan
Among the many problems with this plan is that the proposed reforms are so far-reaching, they’d surely require a referendum 1/ 7…
So would this be a single UK wide referendum or a separate vote in the 4 different parts? If each part of the UK has its own vote, why would Scotland, having been denied an independence referendum it might well by then have voted for in May, vote for this package instead? 2/7
If it’s a single, whole of UK vote, what happens if England votes yes and Scotland votes no? Does it get through? Imposing a new constitution on Scotland with English votes would be a pretty odd way to counter Scottish independence 3/7
Read 7 tweets
10 Jan
Now that the Government’s “war on Whitehall” seems to be over 👇, a thread on this curious episode.

TL;DR Absolutely nothing has changed in the civil service, apart from the identities of a few very senior office holders (1/20)
Firstly, the ‘war’ does genuinely seem to be over. Congrats to Tom Scholar on his reappointment, kudos to the PM & Chancellor for a wise decision, and to Simon Case for whatever he’s done to bring these pointless hostilities to an end at such an important time (2/20)
But it’s worth asking: what has this latest attempt, accompanied as it has been by ferocious (if mostly anonymously briefed) rhetoric, actually involved?

The answer is, by historical standards, virtually nothing at all. There have been two discernible strands of activity (3/20)
Read 20 tweets
31 Dec 20
As ever, @LordRickettsP is onto something important (last point👇).

The lack of grace and genuine conciliation from the victors is astounding and most unwise.

The only thing they’ve shown they care about uniting - successfully - is the Conservative Party.

In contrast...1/4
- the message to millions who valued closer ties with continental Europe is: suck it up

- the message to Scotland is: we’re in charge. We’re bigger than you. We can impose our will on you. Know your place

- the message to Northern Ireland is: we know we’ve hugely destabilised you. But we’re going to pretend we haven’t and we’d be grateful if you could pretend not to notice too. But most of all, we don’t really care because it was worth it to get what we wanted for England

Read 4 tweets
15 Nov 20
It’s very strange that this speech about ethics in Government from the head of the committee on standards of public life hasn’t received a lot more attention.

Lord Evans, a superb former head of MI5, is someone who chooses his words carefully.

So reflect on this quote...1/
“Quite simply, the perception is taking root that too many in public life, including some in our political leadership, are choosing to disregard the norms of ethics and propriety that have explicitly governed public life for the last 25 years...” 2/
“and that, when contraventions of ethical standards occur, nothing happens.”

Or how about this next quote...3/
Read 5 tweets

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