Tag: Brexit

Ambiguity breeds uncertainty, and muddle.

Episode 16 looks at the destructive effect of ambiguity on effective messaging around two major aspects of policy – Brexit and Covid19. Also available on principle podcast services for subscription/download – quick links at end of post.

The UK Government has got itself into a muddle over its response to the outworking of the Northern Ireland Protocol in respect of the internal market of the UK. Maybe it is obvious the deep contradiction between the EU Single Market demanding some aspect of ‘customs’ to function and the  UK believing the Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement means that Northern Ireland remains within the UK Customs territory and there should be no barriers to trade within the UK or UK Free Trade partners as deals (such as Japan) come on line.

That ambiguity was well explained in a recent The Critic article which wondered whether the wording of the Protocol was by accident or design; the podcast explores some more. Owen certainly has had plenty to say recently on the muddle that the Government has managed to create for itself, talking about how the proposed Internal Market Bill is a necessary step to minimising impact on Northern Ireland business by ‘clarifying’ and noting the hysteria around the Bill has little to with practicalities:

There is one thing for sure — the people who are defending the Withdrawal Agreement most adamantly, as opposed to those worried purely by the possibility that the UK may knowingly break international law, are not interested in protecting the Belfast Agreement. They are concerned only with maximising the protocol’s potential to damage Northern Ireland’s place in the UK. And, for them, that’s always what an Irish Sea border has been about.

We pick up on another aspect of the reaction to the Internal Market Bill that Owen also challenges; that of “Irish America”. Noting that the loudest voices are of a generation that still thinks ‘Irish America” is a meaningful voting constituency outside Congress, the bigger question is why the British Government has been so poor at explaining itself – Pelosi’s Office gives impression that the only voices it ever hears are those of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Sinn Fein.

Efforts, however, would be of little value in the USA if the UK Government remains so hapless at home as discussed in the previous post on this site. Brandon Lewis’s answers on matters relating to the IMB in the House of Commons seems only to have generated more questions, and a hostage to fortune in respect of future policy in any field.

That same ambiguity, uncertainty and discontinuity seems to be prevalent across all aspects of Government communications at present – though admittedly there is little but Brexit and Covid19 breaking into the news cycles. Northern Ireland has its own particular challenges on messaging.

The podcast was recorded at the end of last week, and before the scenes of pitch invasions

 

and street parties arising from a Gaelic Athletic match over the weekend

Though we did record following a week of reports from the Holylands area of Belfast

where the lack of leadership and ‘never apologise’ attitude of Sinn Fein makes the attitudes of nationalist youth unsurprising – rules are something others are expected to follow…

Clear messaging is needed in actions and not just words. But ambiguity avoiding honest practical steps based on a realistic and clear assessment of the situation seems to be absent from just about all Governments’ communication. A reset is needed, sooner rather than later. Muddled messaging is only the outworking of muddle thinking.

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Was Government messaging wrong, or just rubbish?

It is reasonable to presume that Brandon Lewis’s response to the ‘Urgent Question’ from Sir Bob Neill in the House of Commons was pre-prepared. It used a very specific phraseology, and an example of something done before was even on hand. It may not be a good example, but it was there and hardly an off-the-cuff recollection.

A planted question is a common means for governments to gain an opportunity to make a pre-prepared response. It is hard to believe this particular government would cue-up Sir Bob, viewed as an arch pro-EU lawyer, to ask a question on the EU. That the minister’s response was on hand does, however, raise a number of questions, not least “why”?

Read more… »

Health status, Executive stasis, and Boris’s strategic manoeuvres on Brexit.

Despite many ‘Reports’ on Health reform (2011, 2014, 2016) Northern Ireland has seen little critical or  cultural change in frontline delivery of services. While the easy option for politicians is to demand and even offer more money, the current situation has arisen because of budgetary decisions taken in 2014. If it was pay or XX in 2014 it will still be pay or XX in 2019. Though our politicians are reluctant to talk about XX.

While it might seen that a new Executive is a possibility in the New Year, there doesn’t appear to be any public confidence that an Executive would have the will (or ability) to undertake difficult decisions that will be required on Health, or any of the other issues piled up on Ministerial in-trays. Last time there were major and difficult decisions to be made, Sinn Fein insisted they be sent back to Westminster.

It is Welfare Reform and the consequential impact on welfare recipients that might mean Sinn Fein needs an Assembly far more than any other Party. Yet despite the pressures on Sinn Fein there is a worrying trend in Stormont “negotiations” that enough is agreed to keep the show on the road while setting the path for the next crisis. Everyone does everything to keep Sinn Fein on board, while it does everything it can to wreck the train.

Finally, Boris’s plans for trade arrangements between GB and NI are an enigma – somewhere between what people read in the Withdrawal Agreement pages and believe to be likely, and then Boris’s view that that is all tosh. No idea, and all to some extent subject to what is decided between now and probably July in respect of a trade agreement between the UK and EU. With NI inside the UK customs union (the major difference between backstop and frontstop) there has been a shift in the dynamic of negotiation that isn’t much discussed.

All this in a handy 20 minutes or so, on this latest PoliticalOD podcast.

Back in the New Year. Have a great break. Merry Christmas.

Think Local 

Enough of Brexit. Avoid thinking about the UK participating in European Elections towards the end of May – might or might not happen.

What do we know with certainty? Only thing we know for certain in UK politics at this moment is that there will be Local Elections, to be held on 2 May, for 270 local councils and six directly elected Mayors in England, and the 11 local councils in Northern Ireland.

It is highly likely national politics will dominate commentary on the local elections in England, particularly on the results and what they will be believed to mean (in the Brexit context, no doubt). Read more… »

Border control

“Let’s get some perspective on that 0.001% risk to the EU single market collapsing in chaos.”

A while back, in January, on the Clare Byrne show a guest who was ex Irish Military made a not often heard point on the Irish Border that so obsesses the EU and virtually every commentator on Brexit.

His point, that there are three types of border. Read more… »

Coddle-wallop

The electorate seems ungrateful. Political leaders embracing the mainstream political presumptions of the later part of the 20th Century seem less sure of themselves beyond the set-piece photo-ops. 

Trump has been a shock to the American system, but a shock that was some time in coming and not altogether impossible even if a little unexpected. Everyone could see it, few believed it. Brexit too, in the UK. 

Read more… »

The Best of Both Worlds?

It was with a complete lack of irony that Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson MEP supported remaining because the EU brought peace to Europe. This was said at a panel event in Coleraine during the 2016 Referendum on EU membership. Seriously.

What did the murderous gang of thugs, the IRA, do for peace in Europe?

Sadly, one example among many.

And it could have been more.

Read more… »

The Magical Mystery Brexit.

There’s been a Brexit post planned for ages, but things seem to change and each piece in time seems no longer relevant. So . . . time for a recap and quick look at where we are, which might seem not that much further on . . . 

There are a sequence of events that create a mystery in the whole Brexit process to date, and is important to solve going forward. In January 2017 the Lancaster House speech set out what sort of trade and wider relationships the UK might have with the EU and the world.

Read more… »

Playing with fire

Over on This Union Graham Gudgin makes the case that there is room for a sensible outcome from UK/EU negotiations, including agreement arrangements with respect to the Irish border.

That is not the place where Leo Varadkar and his Government seem to be right now.

In this week’s Spectator, James Forsyth calls out the dangerous gamble that is the Irish Government’s most recent position, within a wider and clear-headed report of where the UK / EU negotiations stand at present.

Read more… »