Reflections on the Internal Market Bill and Boris Johnson’s cooking skills

The genesis of the “law breaking” part of the Internal Market Bill can be traced back to Theresa May’s actions as PM. The following words were said to Theresa May at the time by Sir Ivan Rogers, former British Ambassador to the EU. He reported his statement to her to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons:

You have made three commitments in good faith to different audiences, but they are not really compatible with each other.

You have said to the Irish… under no circumstances will a hard border be erected across the island of Ireland.

You have said to the Democratic Unionist community that under no circumstances will there be divergence from the rest of Great Britain.

And you have said to the right of your own party that you are heading out of the customs union.

It was a wonder to behold the sleight of hand of Boris Johnson on this, when he became Prime Minister.

He found a magic solution. Make it up as you go along. He said before the December election:

We will make sure that businesses face no extra costs and no checks for stuff being exported from NI to GB.

But given the agreement with the EU, this was and is impossible.

Unless, you do what Johnson has now decided upon: Break the law.

Ingenious. But it basically goes back to Theresa May’s three incompatible promises.

So much for an “oven ready” deal promised by Johnson in November 2019.

The latest edition of Private Eye, gives an excellent update on the Prime Minister’s cooking skills:


* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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51 Comments

  • Peter Martin 15th Sep '20 - 1:34pm

    Why did the Remain side only explain all this after the referendum?

    Surely if they’d said in advance, we couldn’t leave the EU, even if we wanted too, and we were trapped inside it, then that would have convinced a few waverers. Maybe enough to make all the difference?

  • John Marriott 15th Sep '20 - 1:40pm

    Where were the Lib Dems in last night’s debate? Perhaps I didn’t watch enough of the session. This week’s vote on the Bill went more or less as expected. Next week, by supporting Sir Bob Neill’s amendment, the opposition parties have collectively a real chance of defeating the government. But will they ALL swallow their pride and back it or try to score a few Brownie points? They chickened out at the end of last year and look what happened.

    The younger Miliband played a blinder yesterday. Will he now be auditioning for the rôle of ‘Come back kid’, or is another Miliband across the sea standing by? I see that my ex County Councillor colleague, arch Brexiteer, Andrea Jenkyns MP, managed to get involved. She’s the (not so) young lady, who caused a by election in her County Division not long after she took it because she hadn’t realised that, as a County Council employee, she wasn’t entitled to stand for election. So she resigned from her job, stood again, won the subsequent by election and then lost her seat to UKIP in 2013. How she managed to get selected as a PPC and then actually to beat Ed Balls just about sums up for me what’s wrong with our politics.

  • Jenny Barnes 15th Sep '20 - 2:39pm

    There is (or was) a perfectly good solution to the trilemma. Rather than the UK leaving the EU, England should have left the UK. Leaving Wales, NI & Scotland in the EU, and going with the majority vote in England. Wales could have joined England if they wanted : maybe another referendum?

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Sep '20 - 3:05pm

    Peter Martin 15th Sep ’20 – 1:34pm
    “Why did the Remain side only explain all this after the referendum?”

    Well, of course it must be the Remainers’ fault for not “explaining” it. Did you actually bother to read the article before making your comment, Peter? This is nothing to do with it being “impossible to leave” the EU. It’s perfectly possible. But the government made incompatible promises, Johnson decided to renege on one of them (the promise to the Unionists) and has now decided to renege instead on another one (the promise to the EU and ROI); it won’t be “the Remain side’s” fault if he ends up reneging instead on the third and we do stay in the customs union and single market. Of course, he won’t admit that’s what he’s done – he’s never admitted to reneging on any promise (including, no doubt, to his wife and the many mothers of his children); he just changes the subject.

    Anyway, the important point is that it would be entirely possible for the UK to leave the customs union – if it’s willing to accept either a “hard” border between NI and the Republic or a customs border in the Irish Sea; or if it just gives up Northern Ireland altogether, of course (better that than Scotland, I’d say). The problem is nothing to do with the unreasonableness of the EU, the problem is caused by the lies and incompatible promises of the Brexit governments.

  • Matt (Bristol) 15th Sep '20 - 3:06pm

    Jenny, there is probably scope for a wonderful what if near-future sci-fi novel on that basis but it involves insurrection, and probably nefarious shenanigans including gun-running and spies in the Wirral and Forest of Dean as Liverpool and Bristol try to secede and join Wales.

  • Yes, John, Ed Miliband played a blinder………… one of the best opposition front bench speeches I’ve heard in a very long time. One of the reasons was that it was so accurate in pointing out the Johnson weaknesses…. a combination of laziness, entitlement, egocentricity and an elastic view of the truth if it affects his self interest.

    The impressive thing is he took over from Keir Starmer at very short notice. Also great speeches from Rachel Reeves at the and and Chris Bryant. There’s some talent on the Labour benches.

    Yes, Ed Davey did get a word in towards the end, after dodging in and out a few times….but I can’t really remember what he said……… whereas the SNP lot hit the button every time.

  • David Raw – “laziness, entitlement, egocentricity and an elastic view of truth” offers more focus on the Prime Distractor’s character than we are used to from our parliamentarians. The US Democrats seem to be going full tilt on this, seeing it as one of the few ways in which they can detach sections of Trump’s core vote from him. It could shift some of the religious vote although hard line Christian Evangelicals in Republican states seem to be able to swallow anything their evil President says. Whatever else we say about Jo Swinson she believed it right to depict Mr Johnson as a serial liar and this should always be our starting point as we respond to his nonsense.

  • Please SirEd. We need more passion and memorable statements. Never thought I would say this but watch Ian Blackford.

  • john oundle 15th Sep '20 - 6:45pm

    It seems that when the EU disregards the UN charter, the highest text of international law, as in the Kadi-Barakaat case it’s quite acceptable to break international law as long as it’s the EU doing it.

  • Peter Martin
    “Why did the Remain side only explain all this after the referendum?

    Surely if they’d said in advance, we couldn’t leave the EU, even if we wanted too, and we were trapped inside it, then that would have convinced a few waverers. Maybe enough to make all the difference?”

    Is this a spoof?

  • Peter Martin 15th Sep '20 - 8:31pm

    @ Paul Walter,

    Not a spoof. A genuine question. Malcolm Todd has had a go at answering it. He’s argued that it wasn’t impossible to leave. He’s suggested giving up Northern Ireland. That might be theoretically possible if the Northern Irish Unionists suddenly took a fancy to being part of the Republic. Not very likely IMO. It would be much more likely that a British pull out would lead to the Irish government and the EU having a civil uprising to quell. It would be politically impossible for any Tory Govt to abandon NI in this way.

    I’ve taken a look for any mention of Northern Ireland on LDV in the months before the 2016 referendum and the only article I can find is one about changes in their abortion laws. So, I was just wondering why you decided to say nothing?

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Sep '20 - 9:49pm

    There you go again, Peter. I suppose as you couldn’t be bothered to read Paul’s article with any care, I shouldn’t be surprised that you treated my comment the same way.

  • John Marriott 16th Sep '20 - 9:57am

    @Peter Martin
    From reading your many contributions to LDV you are obviously an intelligent chap, who, I believe, did profess in the dim and distant past to be a former Labour supporter with a fatal attraction to telling Liberals where they have gone wrong. I wonder whether there is a similar Labour website on which you offer similar advice and opinions. If there isn’t then that surely says much about Labour today.

    Like me, you appear to enjoy the rôle of ‘agent provocateur’. Mine is because, although they often exasperate me, as a former party member of nearly forty years, I genuinely want the Lib Dems to do better than they are at present. What is yours?

  • Peter Martin et al.
    The day after the referendum the BBC carried a sub-item about Northern Ireland and the border, etc.
    Was I not the only one to think OMG, that wasn’t raised at all during the campaign, certainly never would have been by Leave so as not to frighten their horses, Remain also ignored it – but then the Remain campaign was generally so pants I was embarrassed by it.
    So it wasn’t just us to ignore Northern Ireland, every did.
    No doubt links to various articles will now be sent in to disprove my statement, but if they exist they were hardly prominent.

  • I always thought the best thing for NI was to become an independent country and they could then decide if they wanted an open border with Ireland or the UK or both by some magical means… but it is obviously the EU’s fault for not giving us a tariff free trade deal, thus more or less solving the problem.

    There is always the possibility that Cummings and Boris have had their brains addled by Covid and should be hastily put out to pasture, the long term effects not yet known.

  • George Thomas 16th Sep '20 - 12:05pm

    This bill breaks international law and tramples all over devolution. It sounds as if potential tory rebels will be given assurances on the former issue but not the latter, and the bill will pass, but that should not be the end of the opposition to it.

  • Denis Loretto 16th Sep '20 - 12:08pm

    I do not often agree with Peter Martin but he is justified in crticising the Remain side for failing to use the Irish situation as a major factor in their campaign. Given my background as a founder member of the Alliance Party i raised this issue at the 2015 AGM of the European Movement. They asked me to write an article explaining why a hard border would be inevitable if the UK were to completely leave the EU and its institutions. I concentrated at that stage on the movement of people rather than goods (is everyone now simply ignoring the freedom of any citizen of any EU country to cross the virtually non-existent Irish border unchallenged after brexit?) and the article was carried on the European Movement website for at least the 7 months until the referendum in June 2016. Later – in late 2017 I wrote another paper putting forward the point that unilateral exit by the UK from the EU or at least the single market and customs union was arguably incompatible with the Good Friday settlement and might be challengeable in international law (remember international law?). I sent this to several of the leading protagonists on the Remain side but got nowhere.
    I know Peter Martin is on the other side of the European debate but he is right to call out the Remain leaders for recognising far too late what an insoluble problem the crucially important Irish dimension would create.

  • John Marriott 16th Sep '20 - 12:12pm

    I’ll say it one more time. There is a mathematical chance that Sir Bob Neill’s amendment could win next week if ALL those opposed to this renegade Bill support him, even if some need to hold their noses. It isn’t perfect by any means; but it surely stands the best chance of success. If not, it’s Autumn 2019 all over again!

  • Peter Martin 16th Sep '20 - 12:14pm

    @ John Marriott,

    “What is yours?”

    Surprising as it may seem to some, I do want Labour to win the next election. For that to happen Lib Dems do need to up their game and start to win votes from the Tories that aren’t realistically winnable by Labour. To do that Lib Dems need to become more like they used to be and move out of their upper middle class and far too wokish social ghetto.

    @ Andy Hyde,

    There was one pre referendum mention of the NI/ROI problem by John Major and Tony Blair on a visit there. But it wasn’t picked up by the wider Remain campaign. Maybe because it didn’t fit into the general narrative they were pushing at the time that the EU membership was a beneficial add-on to our democracy? Of course we could leave without problem if we wanted to but why would we etc etc?

    I didn’t take that much notice myself, and I can’t remember if I was first aware of what they said at the time or later.

  • John Marriott 16th Sep '20 - 12:28pm

    @Peter Martin
    So, besides telling the Lib Dems where they are going wrong, are give giving the same advice to a Labour?

    By the way, you have some funny ideas about who Lib Dems actually are. Middle class? Yes. Upper middle class? Hardly from my experience, although some are clearly quite posh. Mind you, I reckon the same could be said of many Labour supporters. For every Angel Rayner there are plenty of Polly Toynbee’s!

    Face it, old chap, most of us who get involved in politics today, either actively, or now passively in my case and seemingly yours, are middle class by most definitions, even though some of us refuse to accept it. The days of the Labour Party being ‘for the workers’ are long gone. So, as Sir Ed told us recently “wake up and smell the coffee!”. I might even venture to go further and to say that, following the demise of the Soviet Union and the commercial rise of China, we are all capitalists now!

  • Peter Martin 16th Sep '20 - 12:54pm

    @ John Marriott,

    My wife is a lot more middle class and posher than me. She’s pro EU, buys French cheeses that smell the fridge out, is much more wokish and all the rest of it. She might secretly vote Lib Dem too but she isn’t saying. I think I may be a disappointment to her. She been on a refugee diet for the past week and has left me to my own culinary devices. I had egg, chips and beans last night just like my mother used to make 🙂 Great stuff!

  • Peter Hirst 16th Sep '20 - 1:32pm

    In most democracies, our PM would be preparing his case for a hearing of whatever body defends its constitution. We can only hope that some sense dawns before the hole he is digging becomes deeper and bigger. It could just swallow us all up though hopefully the government will disappear first.

  • It now seems that the argument has moved to the pantomime of., “I’m more LibDem than you?”; “Oh, no you’re not!”..
    I too missed any references to the Irish border issue in the run up to the referendum..My concern was a ‘smugglers’ charter’ but, as soon as the GFA was mentioned, a bulb lit up in my head. Sadly, we (or at least I) had come to take a peaceful Ireland for granted; we had/have forgotten the difficulties in getting opposite sides to compromise…The trashing of the WA will be uised by extremists to prove ‘Perfidious Albion’ hasn’t changed and there will be no shortage of new recruits to the cause (“I read of our heros and I wanted the same…etc.”)…
    The US, as ‘guarantors’ of the peace have already voiced disquiet and a trade deal may well prove ‘awkward’; we should not forget that the love-in between Reagan and Thatcher didn’t override Irish American concerns over the sale of police handguns..

    IMO the Cummings/Johnson plan to break the WA is designed to get the EU to ‘walk away’ (the UK name calling game has been ramped up) and put the blame for ‘no-deal’, and it’s consequences, on the EU…They are playing with fire; it may play well with English leavers but the rest of the world are unlikely to be as impressed.

  • @Peter Martin

    “I’ve taken a look for any mention of Northern Ireland on LDV in the months before the 2016 referendum and the only article I can find is one about changes in their abortion laws.”

    You missed these articles:

    10th January 2016

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/bearder-calls-on-theresa-villiers-to-quit-if-she-backs-brexit-48944.html

    This quotes Catherine Bearder saying:
    “Given the disastrous impact Brexit could have on the Northern Ireland peace process, it would be highly inappropriate for Theresa Villiers to remain in her post while campaigning to leave the EU.

    Leaving Europe would risk stoking sectarian tensions and undoing years of peacebuilding, much of it funded through EU peace programmes. It would also fundamentally transform the UK’s relationship with the Republic of Ireland and put at risk the open land border we currently share.

    David Cameron must stop putting the interests of his party ahead of those of the country. Government ministers should not be able to campaign for an EU exit if this completely goes against their role and responsibilities.”

    20th January 2016

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/euref-roundup-the-referendum-is-damaging-the-pound-and-small-businesses-already-49073.html

    Quotes several articles on the subject:
    “Northern Ireland

    The deep concern in Northern Ireland at what Brexit would mean continues. The Belfast Telegraph reports it is the “biggest threat to NI’s food and drink companies”.

    The Northern Ireland Select Committee is going to examine whether Brexit would damage the peace process.

    Republic of Ireland

    In the Irish Independent, farming minister Simon Coveney is concerned about what Brexit would mean for British and Irish farm exports.”

    6th June 2016

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/some-consequences-of-brexit-that-we-havent-considered-enough-50827.html

    Which says:

    “And The Economist this weekend points out that new “troubles” are brewing in Northern Ireland. The Nationalists (Sinn Fein, SDLP) and farmers generally won’t take kindly to a closing of the border with Ireland (and 26 EU countries will demand something of the sort) and the Unionists won’t accept that, if the Irish border remains somewhat open, passport controls will be necessary for anybody traveling directly from Ulster to the rest of the UK (via Dublin it will be unavoidable).

    Are the Tories prepared to give Dublin a more formal role in the self-government of Northern Ireland, to keep the Nationalists happy? And it won’t be the compliant, pragmatic Cameronites deciding that; it will be the “Turkish invasion of our NHS-A&E” hardliners and fact-ignorers like Mr. Gove.

    Letting Dublin have a say is NOT “taking back control”, however Mr. Gove of Mr. Boris Johnson would like to frame it.”

  • Daniel Walker 16th Sep '20 - 2:27pm

    I was active¹ in the Remain referendum campaign. That Brexit was a threat to peace in NI was certainly known to us.

    and the Guardian.

    And David Cameron made a statement in Parliament on it.

    Any time it was brought up, just like any time Remainers mentioned economic damage, loss of world influence, difficulties for NHS recruitment, etc., it was dismissed as “Project Fear”. Because the Remain campaign was very poorly executed, but at least it wasn’t out-and-out lies.

    1. At a “delivering leaflets” level. Mind, if I was involved in the planning I perhaps wouldn’t be keen on admitting it…

  • George Thomas 16th Sep '20 - 7:14pm

    “This bill breaks international law and tramples all over devolution. It sounds as if potential tory rebels will be given assurances on the former issue but not the latter, and the bill will pass, but that should not be the end of the opposition to it.”

    It’s happening. Now let’s see where opposition comes from or whether the real problem with the European Union was just that government in Westminster couldn’t always the loudest in the room.

  • Peter Martin 16th Sep '20 - 8:10pm

    @ Paul Walter,

    None of the articles you’ve linked to gives a particularly accurate description of the problems that the border has given to both the UK and EU negotiators.

    The one of the 6th June mentions passports, which isn’t a problem at all. Ireland is not in the Schengen area. It’s cows and sheep that graze on the border that might need passports, not people! The title is right, though, in saying “Some consequences of Brexit that we haven’t considered enough”.

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Sep '20 - 9:32pm

    Peter Martin
    You’re just impervious to evidence, aren’t you? All you can do, when challenged, is hunt through until you find some nugget that you can twist to “prove” that you were right in the first place.
    You suggested that there were no relevant articles on NI and the EU on LDV during the Referendum campaign. You were wrong.

  • Peter Martin 17th Sep '20 - 5:25am

    The other point being made is that the IMB is incompatible with devolution. But the question to be answered is if the devolved countries want to be a part of the UK. The arguments about the Internal Market Bill constraining Wales and Scotland to follow UK law are weak.

    They have to decide whether or not we are all part of the same country and that determines the issue of sovereignty. If they want to be free of such a legislative fiat then they can restore/create their own sovereignty in the same way the UK left the EU.

    The word sovereignty does have a precise meaning. It doesn’t make any sense to suggest that the UK is sovereign over the fishing rights in coastal waters but the Govt can’t decide who can fish there. Or that the UK is sovereign over both Northern Ireland and England but it can’t set the rules for trade between the two.

  • John Marriott 17th Sep '20 - 9:20am

    @Peter Martin
    I suggest you have a read of Tim Marshall’s book, ‘Prisoners of Geography’, if you haven’t already. It deals with geopolitics very well, which goes some way to explaining why many on these islands adopt the attitude they do regarding Europe. It might be that being surrounded by sea has more to do with it than many think.

    I would go further and say that the idea of a ‘united Ireland’ might not be as unattainable as many people think, provided that an accommodation can be made for the Protestant north, possibly in the kind of Federation that I, and others, would like to see happen on the mainland as well.

    Talking of ‘Sovereignty’, having a ‘Sovereign’ might be one of the biggest hurdleS to some kind of permanent settlement on the British Isles. If you think I am advocating republicanism you would be right; but the chances of that happening in the near to medium term future are practically nil. God Save the Queen – in more ways than one!

  • Peter Martin 17th Sep '20 - 12:10pm

    “You have said to the Irish… under no circumstances will a hard border be erected across the island of Ireland.

    You have said to the Democratic Unionist community that under no circumstances will there be divergence from the rest of Great Britain.

    And you have said to the right of your own party that you are heading out of the customs union.”

    So just how incompatible are these statements?

    The British Govt can only say what it plans to do on the UK side of the border. What happens on Irish side is up to the EU.

    Even with the best will in the world, which we don’t seem to have on either side, the meandering border between Ireland and the North will be porous to a large extent. Even if we are both members of the EU there is a higher level of VAT in the republic. Petrol duty is higher. Corporation tax is lower. It has, for a long time, been possible for individuals and companies to locate themselves on either side of the border to secure the best possible tax advantages. So there has always been some problem to resolve even with a completely open border and with both countries as EU members.

    On the question of heading out of the customs union, the sensible approach would be to keep to the same level of tariffs but not formally be part of a customs union for a period of time. This could be part of any negotiated FTA.

    There’s no reason why British trade with the North need be much, if any, different to what it is now.

  • Peter Martin 17th Sep '20 - 12:28pm

    @ John Marriott,

    Having a ‘sovereign’ doesn’t have anything to do with ‘sovereignty’. For example Ireland doesn’t have a hereditary head of state but they still have some sovereignty left. They haven’t quite given it all away to the EU. At least not yet.

    Incidentally the Irish are surrounded by sea too. But they are more pro EU than we are. Maybe because they think the EU will protect them from us evil English!

  • Daniel Walker 17th Sep '20 - 1:01pm

    @Peter Martin “They haven’t quite given it all away to the EU. At least not yet.

    They’re still completely sovereign, Peter. They have the right, as all EU member states do, to withdraw unilaterally at any time, just as the UK did. That’s what sovereignty means, and it (on a fundamental level) is what makes the EU is a confederation and not an empire.

    In their case, it would be complicated by their membership of the Euro, but it’s certainly possible.

  • Peter Martin 17th Sep '20 - 1:27pm

    @ Daniel Walker,

    There is more to nationality and sovereignty than running your own football team. It means being able to set your own fiscal and monetary policies. As you say the Irish use the euro so they can’t do either of those. It means being able to set your own agricultural and fisheries policy. The Irish can’t do those either. They can’t set their own immigration policies. If you’d like a longer list I could carry on.

    The counter argument is that the Irish are ‘pooling’ their sovereignty. That’s nearer the mark but the snag is that there isn’t yet the democratic structure in the EU to do that in the way that the majority would consider acceptable. There is an understandable resistance in the more prosperous EU countries to the idea of their money being spent on a democratic basis. The Germans and Dutch don’t want to be outvoted by a the Italians, Spanish, Greeks plus lots of Eastern European poorer people.

    If there were the democratic and Federal structure Ireland would have a similar status as Idaho has in the USA.

    The EU and ‘ever closer union’ sounds like a nice idea but it can’t possibly work. It could fall apart very quickly if the ‘frugal four’ start sending out huge bills to cover their spending on the COVID pandemic. The economic austerity it would induce would be politically intolerable.

  • John Marriott 17th Sep '20 - 2:25pm

    @Peter Martin
    Sovereign/sovereignty is just my play on words as way of moving on the discussion. You can be quite exasperating in the way you pick and choose what bit to answer, witness your assertion on the Weimar Republic a while back, which took several prompts for you to expand upon. It would appear that geopolitics has received similar treatment by your neglect of a reply.

    I certainly cannot disagree with your statement that “the Irish are surrounded by sea”; but how do you define “the Irish”? Do you include the northern provinces here that, since the 1940s following the transition of the Irish Free State into the Republic of Ireland, have been part of a separate country? If so, then you are surely recognising that geopolitics do have a rôle to play. Water, whether sea, river or lake, like mountain ranges, influences where people feel that they belong. It’s interesting that I believe that the majority of those that voted in the EU referendum voted decisively to remain (notice that I said “who voted”). On the mainland the result was more nuanced, with Scotland on its own in favour of staying in the EU compared with England and Wales. I just wonder whether Hadrian’s Wall play a larger rôle than some of us realised.

    As for the Irish as a whole and the Scots being “more pro EU than we are”, it depends how you define “we”. As far as “giving away“ sovereignty, the verb used back in 1975 and one which I prefer is “pooling”, nit that I have ever been in favour of a so called ‘United States of Europe’. However, don’t worry, come the January 1st we might have a better ideal what winning back sovereignty actually means.

    By the way, not all French soft cheese stinks. Brie, whether French or English, keeps very well and as for hard cheese, if you want a stink, try certain types of Italian Gorgonzola! Mind you, I could name a few English cheeses that could rival any of those foreign cheeses in the stink stakes! If in doubt, why not ask your dear wife, who, from what you wrote earlier, would appear to have a less traditional palate than your own? If any produce causes problems in the fridge, I have always found putting it in a sealed carton or in plastic wrapping usually works.

  • I don’t see why it is the responsibility of remain supporters that the Leavers hadn’t thought leaving through.

    The main reason we sweated blood to campaign for a second referendum was because the first one established the simple stay/leave option but did nothing to settle the myriad options on how to leave.

    For example, if we had gone down the EFTA/EEA route we would not be in the current dilemma.

  • Daniel Walker 17th Sep '20 - 3:51pm

    @Peter Martin “It means being able to set your own fiscal and monetary policies. As you say the Irish use the euro so they can’t do either of those. It means being able to set your own agricultural and fisheries policy. The Irish can’t do those either. They can’t set their own immigration policies. If you’d like a longer list I could carry on.

    You’ve missed my point, Peter. Ireland does set all of those; it chooses to set them¹ by voluntarily being a member of the EU, and controls them in the same way. I know you have a poor opinion of the EU’s decision-making process, but I assure you Ireland takes a full part in it, and retains the option to leave.

    1. except immigration policies – immigration from outside the EU is entirely at the discretion of the member states. You mean policies relating to internal EU migration, which as you know states do have some controls over.

  • Peter Martin 18th Sep '20 - 12:07am

    @ Daniel,

    So the good thing about the EU is the ability to leave? Yanis Varoufakis says about the eurozone that it’s like the Hotel California. You can check out but you can never leave. To leave the EU you’d need to leave the EZ first. To leave the EZ you’d need to set up an alternative currency. Just preparing some contingency plans for that led to the serious possibility that YV could have faced some trumped up charge of criminal activity.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/29/yanis-varoufakis-may-face-criminal-charges-over-greek-currency-plan

  • Daniel Walker 18th Sep '20 - 7:25am

    @Peter Martin “So the good thing about the EU is the ability to leave? Yanis Varoufakis says about the eurozone that it’s like the Hotel California.

    Give over, Peter, you’re being deliberately obtuse now¹. What distinguishes employment from slavery, or a federation from an empire, is the ability to leave it; that’s no comment on the quality of the job in question, it’s just the ultimate distinguishing feature.

    The cost to leave might well be high, as it would be if Ireland left the Euro, but it is possible.

    And Prof. Varoufakis, who supported Remain during the referendum campaign, I note, AFAICT wasn’t actually charged and if he had been it would have been by the Greek government. Are you suggesting the EU should have interfered with a member state’s justice process?

  • Not content with the Covid and Brexit fiasco senior Tories have decided to pick a fight with the (probable) next US president,,,
    It was certain that the Democratic nominee, in the run up to an election, would be addressing the Irish American vote (notwithstanding the fact that the US are ‘guarantors’ of the GFA); so why the angry surprise at his intervention in the UK’s breaking the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’?

    On Wednesday, Biden warned the UK there would be no US-UK free trade agreement if the Brexit talks ended with the Good Friday agreement being undermined. He tweeted: “We can’t allow the Good Friday agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.”“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

    Senior Tories called Biden “Ignorant of the Good Fridy Agreement” and that political heavyweight, Iain Duncan Smith, told the Times: “We don’t need lectures on the Northern Ireland peace deal from Mr Biden. If I were him I would worry more about the need for a peace deal in the US to stop the killing and rioting before lecturing other sovereign nations.”. That’ll play well in any future dealings with the US…

    The UK should realise that the US regards the UK fondly, in the manner of an elderly relative living in genteel poverty, but the ongoing support of the Irish American vote far outweighs any such interest… Even the love-in between Reagan and Thatcher couldn’t get the US to supply police handguns that the Irish Americans thought would be issued to the RUC..

  • Peter Martin 18th Sep '20 - 9:58am

    @ Daniel,

    “Are you suggesting the EU should have interfered with a member state’s justice process?”

    We don’t know what went on behind the scenes. The EU was doing a lot of interfering in Greece at the time. YV was a thorn in the EU’s side. They wanted him out. The obvious reading of the situation is that he chose an offer of walking away as he did. It wouldn’t have been smart to put him on trial when the defence would have been he was simply doing his job.

    It really depends on what sort of EU is being constructed. If we have a looser confederation of states then there is no real need to have what might be termed a Supreme Court. But if the aim is to have ever closer union then the EU will need one in just the same way as the USA needs one. So that will mean the court will have the power to overturn decisions of National courts on both civil and criminal issues.

    There is already the ECJ so it’s really just a matter of expanding its powers. Probably there will have to be a Federal Police force too which will have the authority to make arrests on Federal charges. If borders are fully open then crime networks will operate across them, just as they do in America. So this is how it will have to be.

  • Peter Martin 18th Sep '20 - 10:23am

    @ Daniel,

    PS I meant to say that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty wasn’t included without opposition. There was considerable controversy about allowing States to leave.

    The American civil war started as a result of the decision of the Confederacy to leave the Union. It wasn’t an Empire as such. Your definition of Empire doesn’t fit with the historical facts in this respect.

    Hopefully we won’t see a repetition if the same thing happens in the EU. But if States try to break away and at the same time as they owe hundreds of billions of euros to the EU, primarily Germany, who knows what will happen.

    https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2016/577971/EPRS_BRI(2016)577971_EN.pdf

  • Denis Mollison 18th Sep '20 - 12:42pm

    What a depressing discussion, going round in circles. Fixed ideas such as “sovereignty” get in the way of a useful discussion on how power is shared and controlled.
    In my view, the EU is more of a democracy than the UK, with our lack of a constitution, wildly disproporionate lower chamber and unelected upper chamber.
    There is a lot wrong with the EU, but it is a unique experiment in international democratic cooperation, and I wish I was still a citizen of it.

  • Daniel Walker 18th Sep '20 - 2:02pm

    @Peter Martin “PS I meant to say that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty wasn’t included without opposition. There was considerable controversy about allowing States to leave.

    But it was included, because at least one member state insisted on it. I don’t think that’s the argument for member states not having sovereignty that you think it is.

    @Denis Mollison

    Quite.

  • Peter Martin 18th Sep '20 - 2:07pm

    @ Denis @ Daniel

    “There is a lot wrong with the EU……”

    Quite

  • Peter Martin 18th Sep '20 - 2:28pm

    @ Denis,

    “In my view, the EU is more of a democracy than the UK, with our lack of a constitution, wildly disproporionate lower chamber and unelected upper chamber.”

    But last you’ll know someone in the UK who voted for either Boris Johnson or someone who forms part of the Parliamentary Party. Do you know anyone who voted for Ursula von der Leyen? Had you even heard of her before she became President of the European Commission? Do you know anyone who votes CDU?

    The HoL and Monarchy exist in their present form because the Commons allows them to. If you think they shouldn’t then speak up and work to get enough MPs elected to change things. Stop whingeing about the unfairness of the system. The deficiencies of FPTP can work in your favour. You’ll only need 40% of the vote to get 50% + of Commons seats.

    You can then change the voting method if you feel so inclined.

  • Daniel Walker 18th Sep '20 - 3:15pm

    @Peter Martin “The HoL and Monarchy exist in their present form because the Commons allows them to.

    Because the Commons is sovereign. Member States of the EU remain members of the EU because they choose to; they are sovereign.

  • Peter Martin 18th Sep '20 - 6:17pm

    @ Daniel,

    The sovereignty of the United States of America is with the Federal Government of that name. Not the individual States such as California, Maryland etc. Are they free to leave? Maybe. But that still doesn’t make them sovereign.

  • Daniel Walker 19th Sep '20 - 7:29am

    @Peter Martin “The sovereignty of the United States of America is with the Federal Government of that name.

    Yes. The US states do not have an explicit right to secede. (which contributed to the American Civil War, as you say) The member states of the EU do have an explicit right to leave the Union at any time; one of them has exercised it! The sovereignty rests with them. The EU and the US are not the same institution, Peter, and the rules are not the same.

  • Peter Martin 19th Sep '20 - 11:24am

    @ Daniel,

    What’s written down doesn’t really change anything. If we look at some examples of history what matters is which side won any military conflict.

    The Confederacy lost. Therefore no sovereignty gained
    Ireland won its conflict. Therefore sovereignty gained.
    India and many formerly British colonies won (not always without some armed struggle) therefore….
    Bangla Desh (formerly East Pakistan) won therefore….
    Biafra lost therefore….
    South Sudan won….
    Eritrea won….

    So we can see that just wanting to break away is enough to start a war and it really doesn’t matter what guarantees may or not have been given previously.

    Neither Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, nor England have sovereignty at present. That is held by the UK. Possibly Scotland will leave without conflict but I’d be surprised about that. There will likely be an armed uprising in the Unionist community which will force the govt to become involved.

    The EU is moving from a looser collection of independent States towards a single State. So the process of sovereignty loss will be gradual rather than abrupt. But once the EU has reached its final destination, if it ever does get there, all the countries of the EU will have a similar status as the individual states of the USA.

    Many in the EU will deny that this is their plan. But the creation of the euro was clearly designed to bring this about. The only model that works for any length of time is to have one currency with one government.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_of_Europe

  • Peter Martin 19th Sep '20 - 1:28pm

    @ Daniel,

    Just to continue. It wasn’t realistic for the EU to try to hold the UK against its will. The UK is a significant military power and was only a semi detached member of the EU in any case. But other countries like Italy and Ireland wouldn’t be allowed to leave.

    The EU will use their debts to the ECB as an excuse to prevent their exercising Art 50. As Mario Draghi said in 2017 they will have to settle up in full first. Which they can’t because they can’t create euros. So it would be ‘pay up or else’ and we know from history what that will mean.

    https://www.euractiv.com/section/euro-finance/news/ecb-any-country-leaving-eurozone-must-settle-bill-first/

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