Northern Ireland deal – it shouldn’t have taken the Tories years to get to this point

As the Prime Minister “sells” the Northern Ireland protocol deal, promising to tough out DUP criticism, the Liberal Democrats have responded:

There is this interesting comment from columnist Will Hutton:

Broadcaster Gavin Esler tweets:

* News Meerkat - keeping a look-out for Liberal Democrat news. Meerkat photo by Paul Walter

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  • George Thomas 28th Feb '23 - 10:12am

    We shouldn’t have had a referendum to settled debate almost totally conjured up by certain newspaper’s and Tory backbenchers; we shouldn’t have triggered Article 50 when Westminster still didn’t have a negotiating position; we should have just gone for Ken Clarke’s Custom Union plan in March of 2019 and avoided having Boris and Frost try to negotiate an “oven ready deal”.

    At least we have stopped trying to rage against EU and recognise it’s better to work with them. It was an easy conclusion to draw, especially now after years of previous tone failing, but some credit to Sunak for grasping this when Cameron, May, Boris all failed to.

  • The problem for the Liberal Democrats as a political force is that Brexit, the one issue most people knew about us where we had a key policy position that was different from both of the two major parties has now largely gone. Up to yesterday, the UK’s ever deteriorating economic performance, coupled with the obviously totally impractical nature of the Northern Ireland border put the Tories’ total incompetence in stark highlight.

    Now Rishi Sunak has managed to make a ‘deal’ that makes him and his totally disreputable party look like a party of government. However underneath it the Tories are still the same bunch of chancers and crooks they have always been. But now they have a chance of winning the next General Election.

    However, it will be an election fought on the favoured battleground of the two old parties, where the public will have a simple choice – Red or Blue. The pro Europe – Anti Europe axis we could win on has all but vanished, because for now Brexit will be framed as problem solved and the “Make Brexit work” narrative of Labour and the Conservatives will be dominant.

    In just six years, we have gone from the party who were right on Europe and 48% of the UK knew it, on the up and growing, to a party with leaders unwilling to mention Europe except in the weakest of terms on 8% in the polls and no USP.

    Ed, we are in very serious trouble.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Feb '23 - 11:01am

    David Evans. I agree with you, David, but think that we can still publicise the point that we were right all along, and it has taken years of difficulty before the Conservatives have at last begun to clear up the huge mess originally resulting from Brexit. But I also see one glimmer of hope, if we take advantage of the fact that Labour will be wrong-footed by this Tory advance: for electoral advantage, they should be more inclined to pursue a progressive alliance with us. We also have better policies to pursue development of good relations with the EU, having strong and lasting relationships there, unlike either of the main parties.

  • Sunak admits that the deal puts Northern Ireland in a wonderful situation. Now is the time for Ed Davey to ask why the rest of the UK can’t have the same. Our silence on EU issues is embarrassing.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Feb '23 - 1:15pm

    I suspect it won’t fly for the DUP, who are just looking for another excuse not to join an executive where SF are top dog. It’s time to call them out for the bullies they are. They can no longer be allowed to prevent government from functioning in NI. They should be told go back into the executive or we’ll legislate to allow it to function without you.

  • Peter Martin 28th Feb '23 - 1:25pm

    The assumption, in the OP is that this deal has been on offer all along but previously has been refused. Is this really true? I suspect it isn’t. Credit should be given, where it is due, for both sides to get to this point. It’s a clever deal which left the right wing DUP with a difficult problem. If they don’t co-operate and get Stormont up and running they will effectively be sidelined.

    Also the claim in a couple of the tweets that NI is in the “Single Market” isn’t quite right. It is in the Single Market for goods. Many of the other provisions of the Single Market do not apply.

    This is a much simpler concept to sell in the rest of the UK than full SM membership. If it is successful in NI then there will be pressure for the rest of the UK to follow suit.

  • Barry Lofty 28th Feb '23 - 1:40pm

    Although credit should be due to both sides that a deal had finally been achieved, hopefully, it only highlights the unnecessary self serving and blinkered approach that previous incumbents of our negotiating teams have shown and should not be forgotten.

  • I’m glad this deal got done for the sake of the people of Northern Ireland. It might prove to be the watershed moment when Sunak finally decided to stare down the ERG and DUP, and in the process neutered Boris Johnson. Sunak is likely to get some credit for this in his personal poll ratings, which may even drag his party’s ratings up a bit to.

    For us though, the great British public has spent the last couple of years looking at the incompetence, rule breaking and cronyism of the Tories and decided en-masse that the answer is Starmer’s Labour. While Labour is flying high in the polls, we are on average below where we were a year ago. Outside of the by-elections, or target seats with a strong presence on the ground, the HQ “air war” and national campaign messages seem to be totally failing to cut through. While readers of this web site know that our policy is to (eventually) rejoin the EU, ordinary people hearing our Leader speak on TV would be forgiven in thinking that Sunak, Starmer and Ed are offering three variations of “make Brexit work”. Interviewers are more likely to mention our policy on TV than Ed is….

  • If Labour and the Conservatives are converging with nonsense about making Brexit work, technically this may not offer us a unique selling point – the Greens are already making the running. However in the past when Labour and the Tories have come together on a big issue we have seen this as an opportunity. Meanwhile we should remember that the Labour leadership are out of kilter with their party membership – on both EU policy and PR. It may not be too difficult to avoid irrelevance!

  • Tristan Ward 28th Feb '23 - 11:15pm

    I wonder if the ERG has done a quid pro quo with Sunak: we wave through this deal provided you push on qith and pass the EU Deregulation bill – something that will do extraordinary damage to the UK and our prospects of remaining aligned to the EU.

  • Mick Taylor 1st Mar '23 - 8:23am

    Oops. I note that Traditional Unionist Voice has admitted it doesn’t want to be involved with an executive in which Sinn Fein holds the first minister position. I always thought the NI protocol was an excuse for not being involved, so don’t hold your breath for the DUP to accept the new deal.

  • Patrick C Smith 1st Mar '23 - 9:17am

    The great burnished hope for the beleagured Northern Ireland people is that political stablity remains pivotal in the resetting of power sharing in Stormont so that the peace dividend of the Good Friday Agreement is the harbinger of new harmony and stronger economy.

    The Windsor Framework will bring forward a new prosperous era and benefits for the families- who stand to win the most prize by having the chance to live again in a peaceful power sharing democracy – when Stormont reconvenes.

    This is the the ultimate win for all sides and the vast majority of morally decent law abiding minded Northern Ireland people.

  • Peter Hirst 1st Mar '23 - 3:40pm

    Goods from GB for N. Ireland require less regulation than those destined for S. Ireland and beyond. That part is straightforward. It’s the details around who determines what is the destination, can it change, will it be trusted? Goods can be tracked and presumably there will be fines for any infringement of the declared destination. Seems too good to be true.

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