The political week in 5 points

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair warned that the Good Friday Agreement is at risk because of Brexit; he told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that the UK and Ireland’s EU membership made it “easy” to appease nationalist feelings when the agreement was signed in 1998. In the same interview, Mr Blair confirmed that he is trying to reverse Brexit. Meanwhile, newly appointed Tánaiste Simon Coveney warned against a hard border becoming the “collateral damage” of Brexit. He told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the Irish Republic has “no desire” to delay the UK’s Brexit talks. At an EU summit this week crucial decisions will be made as to whether the negotiations will move to the next stage.

DUP MPs told senior UK government officials that any Brexit deal giving Northern Ireland ‘special status’ after Brexit — such as a separate customs or trade regime from the rest of the UK — would jeopardise the deal that keeps Prime Minister Theresa May in power. East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said: “If there is any hint that, in order to placate Dublin and the EU they’re prepared to have Northern Ireland treated differently than the rest of the UK, then they can’t rely on our vote (in the House of Commons).” He continued, “They have to recognise that if this is about treating Northern Ireland different, or leaving us half in the EU, dragging along regulations which change in Dublin, it’s not on.”

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland issued a joint statement warning UK ministers that changes to the benefits system are imposing “real hardship” on many disabled people here. NIHCR’s Les Allamby said reforms were contributing to higher levels of poverty among the disabled. Both organisations called for more mitigation measures to prevent “further harm”; the government, they added, must take account of the “real world impact” on disabled people, including ability to afford groceries, heat their homes and to participate in society.

Theresa May’s government’s social mobility adviser, Ian Milburn, revealed he and his team were quitting, warning that the PM was failing in her pledge to build a “fairer Britain”. As reported by the Observer, the move will be seen as a direct challenge to Mrs May’s vow to place fairness and social justice at the heart of her premiership. In his resignation letter, Mr Milburn warned that dealing with Brexit means the government “does not seem to have the necessary bandwidth to ensure the rhetoric of healing social division is matched with the reality.”

US President Donald Trump hailed the passage of a sweeping tax reform bill through the Senate. Critics warned, however, that the bill would reward corporations and the wealthy, would hurt ordinary Americans and raise America’s national debt. The first major overhaul of America’s tax code in more than 30 years will pave the way for a $1.5tn reduction in tax bills; it will permanently slash the corporate tax rate by nearly half, to 20% from 35%, and offer temporary cuts to individual tax rates.


Originally published at Northern Slant.