The impact of brexit on Northern Ireland

assembly-election-2017

Well the results from the NI election are in and the result isn’t going to make great reading for either the Unionists nor the brexiters. The one thing that was never supposed to happen in Northern Ireland has happened – the Unionists have lost their majority.

While the DUP are still the largest party, in theory they and the UUP can now be outvoted on any issue…such as whether or not to hold a border poll. Now granted, Sinn Fein don’t hold a majority either. They’d need support from the smaller non-unionst parties. And all “non-unionst” means is that they don’t go on orange parades, nor is their pin code 1690. While they aren’t against the idea of a border poll, they aren’t in favour of one either, it doesn’t make them flag waving Irish nationalists.

However in the event of a hard brexit, one that starts impacting on the Northern Irish economy, they could be persuaded to back a border poll, to settle the issue. In short there is now a path to a border poll, that did not previously exist. And its very difficult to tell, particularly against the back drop of a hard brexit which way such a poll would go.

The unionists can block a border poll even without a majority. Rules written into the Northern Irish constitution allow a minority of delegates to veto legislation. Ironically, these rules were inserted to protect the nationalists, something the DUP originally objected too! But the DUP cannot do this alone anymore, they’d need UUP support too. Also blocking a vote and standing against the rest of the assembly raises the risk of the pro-poll parties pulling the plug again, declaring a new election and an electoral alliance in which they don’t stand in each other’s constituencies, effectively turning the election into a defacto border poll.

Now like I said, the other smaller parties aren’t automatically going to go along with Sinn Fein on this. And there’s no guarantee even if a border poll was held that it would be a Yes vote. But the point is that its now a plausible option. The unthinkable (from a unionist point of view) is actually possible now. And the unionist have to look to the moderates in the centre ground and on the left, to save them from a mess of their own creation.

While many unionists are generally euroskeptic (and often to the right of UKIP on many issues) the UUP backed Remain in the referendum, precisely because they feared what is now playing out in NI might happen in the event of a leave vote. But the DUP very stupidly backed leave. Arlene Foster may go down in history as having done more for Irish reunification (through a combination of arrogance, stupidity and incompetence) than Gerry Adams or Martin McGuiness!

But either way, the cost of brexit for unionists is not that they are going to “take control”, its that they’ve lost control and their fate is now in the hands of others….something the rest of the UK will soon discover when brexit negotiations start and they realise its the EU, US and other powers who will decide the UK’s future.

Northern ireland, a radical post-Brexit fix

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Brexit now threatens much uncertainty as regards Northern Ireland. As one of the most deprived parts of the UK, sharing a direct land border with the eurozone, it will likely bare the brunt of any post-Brexit downturn. Already a legal challenge against Brexit has been launched by a cross party group. There’s even stories of unionists applying for Irish passports south of the border.

Inevitably this means the possibility of Irish reunification has come back on the agenda. There is an absence of reliable polling data, but one poll from the Belfast Telegraph suggested a significant lead for a united Ireland (this must be put in context, not as reliable as a regular poll and similar polls showing a very strong lead to Scottish independence that has now slipped somewhat). But certainly, it seems there has been a significant move in public opinion since Brexit (which has previously show a 60/40 split against a united Ireland). A united Ireland is now no longer just some sort of Sinn Fein fantasy.

And Scottish independence would complicate matters further. Consider that if Scotland breaks away it will be only be possible to travel from the North to the rUK via a foreign country (e.g. via Scotland or via the Republic). Northern Ireland will essentially become an overseas territory of the (former) United Kingdom, surrounded by the EU. It short I would argue that in much the same way that Brexit makes Scottish independence more likely, Brexit and Scottish independence makes a united Ireland more likely (if not an inevitability). Of course this will likely go down like a lead balloon in many loyalist strongholds in the North.

It is in situations like this that a radical solution is required. So what I would propose is that, in the case of Scottish independence, there should be a referendum in Northern Ireland, not on re-unification but instead on changing the terms of the act of Union by which Northern Ireland would enter into a union with Scotland. In essence NI would recognise Scotland as the successor state to the UK, rather than England.

This would offer several benefits from a unionist prospective. They would still have the queen as head of state, they would still be part of the commonwealth and NATO. They would also get to keep the pound (although it would now likely be the Scottish pound). On the other hand, Irish republicans would likely find the government in Edinburgh a good deal less antagonistic a partner than Westminster.

Indeed I suspect the strongest objections to such a proposal would come from the republicans. There’s an old republican saying that goes “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”. Or to put that in slightly less diplomatic terms, the Brits have a habit of screwing up and its usually Toff’s in London playing games of empire who are to blame. If the Scot’s don’t antagonise either the catholic or unionist communities, they avoid dragging the North into the various wars of empire like London did (which of course led directly to Irish independence, as well as American independence and most of the rest of their empire breaking up too), then this new union becomes likely to be the default end state. In short, Irish unification becomes a lot less likely if Northern Ireland was in a union with Scotland rather than England.

Will such a deal happen? Probably not. In much of the same way that one of the SNP’s best allies is the Tory party, one of the Irish nationalists best allies is the ulster unionists. Their closed minds doesn’t leave room for much in the way of radical ideas or compromise. I mean a lot of them voted for Brexit, despite the fact that this was pretty much a case of Turkey’s voting for Christmas. And some are (as noted) ignoring the glaring hypocrisy and quietly applying for an Irish passport.

So my guess is the unionist will refuse to compromise. They’ll find themselves facing a declining economy, overrun by refugees (with both NI’s borders controlled by foreign states it will be all but impossible to limit or deport migrants and refugees, something that will be quickly exploited by the next wave of migrants). Support for reunification will steadily grow, until eventually it gets enough support and passes. But let it be said, that there is an alternative. The question is will they take it?

The Fabulous Adventures of Baron Von Kneecap

We have an election on now in Ireland. Our PM (Taoiseach, often called T-shirt) is retiring…hardly a surprise for a guy with the nick name BIFFO. It looks likely that the new T-shirt will be Enda “cute hoor” sure-I-knew-your-father-well Kenny of Fine Gael, in coalition with Labour (that’s an actual labour party, i.e centre-left, not Tories wt Red ties as in the UK). All the parties in this election are about change of course…as in can anyone out there in the world spare us some change please :DD! Will anything change…ah! don’t be silly! Has it ever!

A lot of joke candidates and other general weirdoes running. There’s a lot of independent’s running, various one issue “down with this sort of thing” candidates, there’s the “anti-immigrant party” (for closet racists), various “Christian” parties of course. There’s even this upper class twit, born in the UK no less, by the name of the Baron of Northstead running up in Louth…no, joke! Seriously! Some Baron, a three time UK MP is running in Louth! The guy’s so lazy that apparently, he’s hardly even bothered to show up for work in London, and now he wants a job down here! Of course, just to make him sound like the everyman, he likes to go by his “commoner” name, Jerry Adams or something like that.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-12311219
I hope somebody checks his Birth certificate! (though knowing those Sinn Fein types he’ll find it stapled to his forehead the next morning!)

Seriously though, there is a risk of Sinn Fein doing well in the elections as many young people seem inclined to vote for them, despite the fact that some journo ambushed “Lord” Adams (strictly speaking I have refer to him with his title of Lord or Sir) and it sounded like you’d get better financial advice from the Beano. The Journo best watched out…we know what happened to the last group of people who ambushed Sir Jerry…..
http://www.independent.ie/national-news/elections/adams-puts-foot-in-mouth-as-he-fails-to-answer-euro18bn-question-2511067.html

My view is that the young’uns are voting Sinn Fein for the same reason they take up smoking, because the old foggies keep telling them not to it. Once they get a bit older, they’ll learn some sense!
Then there’s the types who traditionally vote Fianna Fail (those from foreign shores may question the wisdom of putting a party with the English word “Fail” in their name in charge of the country!), but don’t want to do so this time due to the mess they’ve made. The logical solution would be to vote for the country’s other Centrist party Fine Gael, but for rather illogical reasons of political partisanship many such individuals are planning instead to vote for Sinn Fein. Suggest to them that maybe they vote labour and you hear “oh, but labour are too left wing for me”…and so instead you’re voting for a party (Sinn Fein) to the LEFT of labour, indeed if you read through Sinn Fein’s manifesto (not before bed time thought!) you’ll see they are actually to the LEFT of many socialist parties!

Of course the other major excuse for voting SF is that people are sick of corruption in politics…we are talking about a party here that until not too long ago was almost exclusively funded by criminal activity (indeed the critics would say, they still are!) so I don’t think SF is a good vote as anti-corruption candidates. Like those who vote for far right politicians in the rest of Europe (or the Tea Party in America) it’s a decision made by angry and confused people with little thought for the consequences of what they are doing. Democracy as I see it, is not so much a right as a responsibility. And if you’re not prepared to take up the responsibility of using your vote sensibly, then either don’t bother voting, vote for some independent, or just go into the booth and go inney meany miney moe!

Still its strange, in other parts of the world calling a politician a Socialist, or a Terrorist, (as the Tea party do to Obama), or call them a religious fanatic and its considered insulting, but do the same to politicians on this Island (particularly those in the North) and they’d just say “and what of it?” or “thank you!”