Johnson urges DUP to bring down the withdrawal deal
Boris Johnson has urged the Democratic Unionist Party to stand firm and vote down the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal during a high-profile speech at their party conference, the Times reports.
The former Mayor of London was reportedly given an “enthusiastic reception” as he warned that the backstop would threaten the Union and leave Northern Ireland governed by Brussels. He also urged the DUP to maintain its parliamentary alliance with the Conservatives, citing the necessity of keeping Jeremy Corbyn out of Downing Street.
Also praying in aid of the threat of a Labour government, with markedly less success, was Philip Hammond. The Chancellor warned the Unionists that defeating the deal would risk a general election and Tory defeat. But despite what the Sun called a “surprise cash boost” for Northern Irish schools worth £66 million, the DUP remain thus far unmoved.
In fact Arlene Foster, the DUP leader and former First Minister, went so far as to say that the proposed withdrawal agreement is actually worse than the prospect of a Corbyn premiership. In an interview with the Times, she explained that a legal settlement which carved Ulster away from the mainland was a bigger strategic challenge than Corbyn – and pointed out that even he has attacked the backstop on those grounds.
Foster also revealed that her party is engaged in what the Daily Telegraph calls “secret talks” with ministers about a ‘Plan B’ for if the Government loses the ‘meaningful vote’ scheduled for December 11th.
In other news, the security dimension of the Northern Irish question came into tighter focus this week.
First, the Police Service of Northern Ireland has urged the Government to guarantee funding for extra officers to patrol the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit, in order to prevent the urgent redeployment of hundreds of officers away from cities and towns elsewhere.
Second, representatives of Ulster’s loyalist paramilitary groups – the Ulster Defence Association, Ulster Volunteer Force, and Red Hand Commando – expressed deep opposition to the Prime Minister’s proposals. However they did insists that this opposition was purely political, and not a threat by any of the groups to resume activities.
Jones accused of ‘pre-judging’ allegations against Sargeant
Carwyn Jones, the outgoing First Minister of Wales, has been accused of pre-judging allegations against a former minister who went on to take his own life, Wales Online reports.
An inquiry convened after the suicide of Carl Sargeant heard that he got in touch with prior complainants after receiving new allegations against the then-cabinet secretary for communities and children in 2017. He is believed to have committed suicide in part because he was sacked without the opportunity to hear the allegations against him.
Leighton Andrews, a former minister in the Welsh Government, has criticised Jones’ “irresponsible” conduct during the reshuffle, and claimed that TV interviews given by the First Minister helped contribute to Sargeant’s later actions. On the other side, Jones’ barrister claimed that a senior Labour councillor (and friend of Sargeant’s) may not have told the truth in his own evidence to the inquiry.
Meanwhile, Welsh households have been receiving literature explaining the new Welsh taxes they will soon be paying as a rsult of the latest round of devolution. Sources suggest that this has been a source of some consternation, at least amongst Tory-leaning voters.
Sturgeon tells May to stop ‘hiding behind independence’
The Prime Minister and First Minister of Scotland have clashed this week, with each accusing the other of exploiting the issue of Scottish independence to distract from their own political problems.
Speaking in Scotland as part of her national tour to sell the Brexit deal, Theresa May urged Nicola Sturgeon to stop trying to use Brexit to whip up support for independence, insisting instead that Scottish businesses stood behind both her deal and the Union. She also attacked Scottish Government analysis claiming to show that the deal would cost Scots £1,600 each.
In response, the First Minister demanded that May stop trying to shift the focus to independence to “sidestep” her own problems, and urged her to “take responsibility” for Brexit. This comes in the same week that Sturgeon started trying to crowbar her way into the mooted TV debate on the withdrawal deal between May and Jeremy Corbyn.