Carmichael: Conservative ministers wrong to attend DUP Conference

Alistair Carmichael has criticised the appearance of two senior Conservative Ministers at the DUP’s annual Conference. The Conservatives are beholden to the DUP for a majority and in June agreed a deal with them which cost us £1 billion. The greater cost, though, is the damage to the sensitive political relationships in Northern Ireland.

Was is really necessary or wise for Damien Green to go for a dinner and Tory Chief Whip to be welcomed to the stage with such obvious pride by the DUP?

Alistair Carmichael says that it wasn’t?

The peace process is still fragile and has survived because British politicians have been prepared to rise above the usual partisan politics.

It is difficult to see how anyone in Northern Ireland and Ireland will see Conservative ministers as being anything other than part of the problem now. It was a mistake for them to go.

Ireland has been much in the headlines this weekend. Tom Brake had this to say on the comments by Ireland’s EU Commissioner that it is a “very simple fact” that “if the UK or Northern Ireland remained in the EU Customs Union, or better still the Single Market, there would be no border issue”.

No-one – absolutely no-one – wants Brexit to destroy the peace we’ve enjoyed in Ireland for two decades. But government divisions over what Brexit means are stoking tensions.

The government and its Brextremists must swallow their pride and do the right thing for Ireland and the UK. Leaving the EU does not have to mean leaving the Single Market and Customs Union. Let’s heed the warning of Ireland’s European Commissioner.

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  • The Democratic Unionist Party’s leader has warned she will not back any plan for Northern Ireland to adopt European regulations after Brexit….Arlene Foster told her party’s conference she wanted a “sensible Brexit” with a seamless Irish border, but said Northern Ireland could not operate under different rules to the rest of the UK…

    Shakespear’s “As you like it” or “Cake and eat it”…

  • Brian Evans 26th Nov '17 - 3:46pm

    I agree that it would have been better if the Conservative elite had stayed away. But as to “Leaving the EU does not have to mean leaving the Single Market and Customs Union,” I fear that this is not the case. If these are dependent on the four freedoms being observed – which would completely undermine the reasons for leaving – then remaining in Single Market and/or Customs Union will not be compatible with Brexit, which is the main reason, in my opinion, why Brexit should be abandoned as soon as possible.

  • paul barker 26th Nov '17 - 6:58pm

    Its not just a “Good Idea” for British mainland Parties to stay broadly neutral in NI questions, its absolutely essential for the whole “Peace” deal. As things stand, the current arrangements look suspiciouly like a return to Unionist Rule by the back door.

  • Katharine Pindar 26th Nov '17 - 7:08pm

    I agree with Brian Evans. Nobody has explained how Britain can remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union without being in the EU, and it does not appear possible. Then, since the DUP will not accept a closed border with the Republic, and the EU will not accept an open one if Britain has left the EU, it seems the negotiation on this cannot succeed and the only solution will indeed be for Britain to remain in the EU.

  • What puzzles me about the brave Brexiteers is there naivety (or do they secretly crave a hard Brexit). Time after time they have been told you can’t have your cake (never mind have some to keep), but after rejection, after rejection still they try. I know the likes of the Sun still push “cake and eat it” but you’d have to be naive in the extreme to believe it; and surely our leaders can’t be Sun readers (not sure about that one).

  • “The peace process is still fragile and has survived because British politicians have been prepared to rise above the usual partisan politics.”

    Unless of course we think of the longstanding support for Sinn Fein by the Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Chancellor and Shadow Home Secretary. Whichever of the major parties holds power for the next few years there can be no pretence of equidistance from the two main parties in Northern Ireland. Both now have a horse in the race and, as someone who lost friends in the troubles, it is very dangerous indeed.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Nov '17 - 9:03am

    Thanks to Martin for outlining possibilities of staying in the single market and the customs union. This of course is where the Government appears immovable – we must be out of both. If the Labour Party would commit to both, there could perhaps be some hope there..

  • Peter Martin 27th Nov '17 - 9:48am

    @ Martin @ Katharine,

    It may be a silly question – but what would be the point of being out of the EU if we were in both the single market and the customs union?

  • Peter Martin 27th Nov '17 - 9:59am

    @ Katharine,

    “Then, since the DUP will not accept a closed border with the Republic, and the EU will not accept an open one if Britain has left the EU…….”

    I’ve come to the same conclusion. But the location of any border posts, ie whether on the EU or UK side, is politically important.

    If the Republic wants to put them up on its side, or rather is told to by the EU, then there’s not much that the UK can do about it. There would be no basis for the Nationalist population in the North to complain that the UK wasn’t keeping to its side of the Good Friday agreement.

    The land border isn’t the only issue. Most Irish/EU trade travels via England and Wales using the shorter Irish Sea and Channel crossings using RoRo trucks. That’s perhaps going to be at least as large a problem.

  • Tony Dawson 27th Nov '17 - 5:13pm

    Sounds like one or two Lib Dems think you should be nasty and stand-offish to a party who are propping up your government. Goodness knows how they think t DUP should have been treated if they actually went into coalition! 😉

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