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Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party appears to have had a change of heart on the subject of Brexit lately. Having spent the last 4 months being the ultimate gloomsters and extolling the damage to The Union it will bring their leader in the House of Commons, Jeffrey Donaldson, said in an interview with BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme that “in the end customs checks doesn’t mean that you change the constitutional status of a part of the United Kingdom” before going on to acknowledge the potential opportunities.

Whilst this is a welcome development from the province’s largest unionist party it however rings rather hollow as they haven’t exactly been bystanders in the whole Brexit process. Having been in a confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservative Party in the last parliament the DUP were much closer to the action than other parties and held a degree of influence, though much less than they made out. In the last chance negotiations of the Withdrawal Agreement with Prime Minister Boris Johnson they were consulted very closely on the development of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Or at least they were until they walked away, outraged that it put a “Border in the Irish Sea”. …


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This week the UK-EU trade talks start in earnest and with the end of the transition period less than nine months away it’s not a moment too soon. The pre-match spectacle played out the previous week with first the EU then the UK laying out in detail their negotiating goals but now the real fun starts.

With the phoney war well and truly over the UK and EU negotiating teams will kick things off in Brussels and chew over the detail of their respective proposals trying find the outlines of a deal. A lot is riding on each of these negotiating rounds as the UK has reiterated that they will not extend the transition period past December 31st and should a deal not appear viable by June Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the UK will walk away and prepare for an orderly exit without a free trade agreement (FTA). …


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Last week the UK’s Chief Negotiator for the EU trade talks, David Frost, gave a lecture in Brussels outlining the government’s approach going forward. He sought to give not just an economic rationale but also try to explain the philosophical foundations of the UK’s outlook. The importance of this cannot be underestimated as there are many across The Channel that still seem to view the Brexit saga as some sort of adolescent phase that, after time and their good guidance, we will snap out of eventually.

Mr Frost was very kind to the EU as an institution, having been a former admirer of it, however he was very clear as to why it had fallen out of favour in the UK. “[The EU institutions] were more abstract, they were more technocratic, they were more disconnected from or indeed actively hostile to national feeling” he said, and in a country like ours where the systems that govern us have grown over centuries the relatively new creation of the EU “was always going to feel a bit unnatural”. As he went on the key driving principle for the UK became clear, that sovereignty is king and that it “isn’t a simple negotiating position which might move under pressure — it is the point of the whole project”. …


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Yesterday the government announced the details of its most prominent policy outside of Brexit, immigration reform. Now that the totality of immigration will come under our purview they have decided to treat EU and non-EU nationals equally with an emphasis on attracting only the highest skilled migrants via a points system similar to Australia.

Now before I continue I must declare an interest. I lived and worked in Australia for 5 years and am now an Australian citizen so I am intimately familiar with how their system works and have very much been a fan of it. …


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The results of the Irish General Election are now finally in and it’s become clear that Sinn Fein have had their best result in just over one hundred years. Within 48 hours they’ve gone from a fringe outfit to power brokers, potentially leading a coalition government in Dublin for the first time in The Republic’s history. The outcome was certainly a surprise, especially for Sinn Fein themselves as back in May last year they did abysmally in the council elections and thus only ran half as many candidates as their main rivals Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in this election.

This practical realignment of Irish politics has led some to consider what this means and what the wider ramifications could be for the island as a whole. Most of these analyses however are rather wrong headed and are generally coloured by unrelated concerns closer to home, plenty of people of both nationalist and unionist persuasions are simply reading what they want to into the result for their own ends. …


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After three years of suspension the Northern Ireland Assembly finally reconvened & much needed governance was restored. With the initial housekeeping of getting the Assembly ancillary structures set up the first big debate was scheduled for Monday 20th January. What was this debate about? The dire situation of our public services? No. The priorities for the The Executive’s new Programme for Government? Not that either. Instead The Executive decided to debate a motion withholding The Assembly’s consent for the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement.

Never mind the fact that such a matter is outside the competency of the devolved administrations, the debate was rendered doubly pointless by the unfortunate detail that the legislation putting this agreement into UK law had cleared the House of Commons mere hours before they decided to return from their needless 3 year sabbatical. It was gesture politics at its finest, the only problem being is that gestures are the last thing that Northern Ireland needs. …

About

Aaron Rankin

Conservative activist, writer and occasional photographer

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