Republic of ireland

The hollowing out of the Belfast Agreement

There is a lot to unpack in Sir Keir Starmer’s suggestion that he would campaign for the Union in the event of a future border poll in Northern Ireland. It’s a welcome repudiation of decades of Labour policy, which has been to support Irish nationalism. Would-be members in the Province were directed to join the separatist ‘sister party’ the SDLP instead. But just as interesting is the reaction of the many commentators who sallied out to suggest that the Labour leader had somehow breached the Belfast Agreement, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Downing Street Declaration or any other of the peace’s sacred texts. According to the Irish nationalist interpretation, somewhere in

The protocol may be Boris’s greatest masterstroke

The jibes thrown at Boris Johnson over his unhappiness with the Northern Ireland protocol — based on the obvious observation that he was the one who signed it — have been based on the assumption that he is either a liar or a fool. A liar because he knew full well what he was signing up to, or a fool for not knowing what he was agreeing to. Does anyone think that officials told him that the protocol would prevent Northern Ireland having access to some cancer drugs? Or guide dogs being unable to move between GB and NI? Keir Starmer has repeated the jibe about Johnson. A further version is

How to fix the protocol

The blame game between London and Brussels over the Northern Ireland protocol obscures the fact that there are solutions waiting to be found. There are, as I say in the Times today, ways to reform the protocol and better protect the Good Friday Agreement while not threatening the integrity of the single market. Three changes would render the protocol far more acceptable Three changes would render the protocol far more acceptable and would better position it to withstand the undoubted pressures it will come under when the EU and UK start to diverge their regulations.  The first of these is a trusted trader scheme for food. This would allow registered

Joe Biden doesn’t understand Northern Ireland

Even a pessimist could be forgiven for being surprised by Joe ‘I’m Irish’ Biden’s ham-fisted intervention in the ongoing row over the Northern Ireland protocol. If Boris Johnson’s remark that the phrase ‘special relationship’ didn’t ring true before, they certainly must after the President opened his visit by quoting Y.B. Yeats on the Easter Rising… while visiting a Royal Air Force base. It will also be a wearisomely familiar routine for Ulster unionists, who have been scorning American pressure to abandon Britain since at least the days of Woodrow Wilson. How will the government respond? There remain many on the right bewitched by yesterday’s Atlanticism. It ought to be absurd

The Northern Ireland Protocol is untenable

The process that delivered us the Northern Ireland Protocol already seems to have been rewritten in official memory. It suits most parties involved to pretend the outcome was inevitable. For Brussels, it helps them defend an arrangement designed to ‘protect the peace’ which is instead corroding loyalist support for the Belfast Agreement. For those in London, it is infinitely preferable to pretend that they were honouring the UK’s ‘obligations under the Good Friday Agreement’ rather than own one of the most abject episodes of British diplomacy in recent memory. It also helps to shift the blame onto preferred targets. So Boris Johnson gets execrated for lying to unionists about his