DUP accuse Irish Taoiseach of ‘going backwards’ on Brexit
The Democratic Unionists have issued a stinging criticism of Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, over his government’s shifting position on the border post-Brexit.
According to The Journal Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, has denounced as “total nonsense” Dublin’s calls for border controls to be shifted to the Irish Sea.
This is part of a wider criticism of both Varadkar and Simon Coveney, his foreign minister, which is not confined to Northern Irish unionist opinion. Commentators in the Republic are also wary that Coveney’s excessively ‘green’ position is leading him to make “a dog’s dinner of Northern Ireland”.
As we explained earlier this week, Dublin’s position makes little sense beyond appeasing nationalist sentiment. Ulster’s ‘exports’ to the mainland are worth more than four times those the Republic and more than seven times those to the EU, so this British commerce is the very last thing which should have additional barriers and costs imposed on it.
Moreover, its difficult to see how imposing customs and passport checks on internal movement – an extremely unusual arrangement for a sovereign country – is really compatible with the Irish Government’s commitment to respect the legitimacy of Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.
A senator from Fine Gael, Varadkar’s party, has since claimed that the DUP are “politically impotent” over Brexit. With the Government’s majority on Brexit bills in the Commons secured by their votes, that seems unlikely.
Welsh Labour mulls party split over Brexit
One of Welsh Labour’s most inveterate nationalists has broken cover again this week to tout a formal split between Welsh Labour and the wider UK party.
Leighton Andrews, formerly a senior minister in the Cardiff Bay administration, has denounced Labour’s national position on Brexit and suggested it should be the spur for a separate party.
He has form on this front: in 2015 he rather ignorantly suggested that his party’s national leadership contest – in which Welsh MPs, members, and trades unionists played their full part – was a matter for “English Labour” which was of no interest to him.
Of course, Labour’s national position on Brexit is much closer to the views of Leave-voting Wales than the unrelenting Europhilia of its local franchise, whose leader implausibly suggested during the referendum that Brexit might lead the Welsh to choose independence to stay in the EU.
Officers leaving the British Transport Police ahead of Scottish merger
The SNP’s determination to impose a centralised, nationalist agenda on all aspects of Scottish life has not been great for Scottish policing.
Since 2007 the Scottish Government have already, and very controversially, merged the country’s regional police forces into a single leviathan, Police Scotland, at great expense and without any appreciable improvement in delivery.
But this has not stopped them from legislating to further expand it by absorbing the Scottish operations of the British Transport Police, the pan-mainland force responsible for policing the railways, after short-sighted Westminster devolved the power to do so.
This has already attracted criticism as the BTP performs its role in Scotland perfectly well, and many non-nationalists suspect the SNP are simply determined to be rid of any organisation with ‘British’ in its title.
But now the Police Federation has revealed that officers are leaving the service ahead of the merger, either to join specialist forces elsewhere in Scotland (such as the Ministry of Defence Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary) or to seek a transfer to England.
Whenever a pro-UK administration takes over at Holyrood and tackles the mess the SNP have made of policing, re-establishing the BTP north of the border will be a very decision: it will be a good policy that sends a strong pro-British message too.
Leaked letter shows most Ulster parties opposed donor transparency
The DUP have come under a lot of criticism over receiving so-called ‘dark money’ during the EU referendum, when they took hundreds of thousands from the ‘Constitutional Research Council’ to spend campaigning on the mainland.
James Brokenshire has since been attacked for his decision not to back-date new rules on donor transparency, with some commentators alleging that it must have been an unwritten part of the Government’s deal with the DUP.
But this week the Belfast Telegraph revealed that both the Ulster Unionists and the two major nationalist parties, Sinn Fein and the SDLP, were united with Arlene Foster’s party in their desire to keep previous donors under wraps – despite public protestations to the contrary.