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Frost urges ‘calm’ over the Protocol

David Frost has warned that triggering Article 16 will be the UK’s ‘only option’ if talks this week fail to unlock the impasse between London and Brussels, according to the FT.

As this column reported last week, there is a growing feeling in Whitehall that the Government will have to take decisive action within the month if it is to maintain credibility with Unionists and avoid constitutional politicians in Northern Ireland getting potentially outflanked by radical loyalists.

Ministers are apparently already drafting secondary legislation to ‘slash customs checks’ in the event that Article 16 is triggered.

Interestingly, we seem to hear less from the “but you signed it” brigade these days. Perhaps that’s because the UK is in fact only availing itself of a mechanism explicitly negotiated into the deal it signed up to, whilst the EU is having to look beyond the agreement to try and find ways to force Britain to back down.

And the Times reports that there are going to be – wait for it – border checks on solid fuel (which counts as ‘goods’) in order to enforce the Republic’s new anti-pollution measures. Guess it isn’t a threat to the Belfast Agreement when Dublin does it?

Meanwhile Brandon Lewis has welcomed the announcement of £12 million in central government funding for 30 projects across the Province.

Gove accused of ‘moving referendum goal posts’

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up has been accused by Scottish separatists of moving the goalposts on a referendum, the Times reports, after he suggested that there shouldn’t be a re-run of the 2014 independence vote unless every party in Holyrood backed it.

He justified this on the grounds that ahead of the last plebiscite there was a “broad consensus” in the Scottish Parliament that it should be held.

This is the latest effort to try and move on from Alister Jack’s misguided decision to stick a number (60 per cent) on the sort of polling the SNP would need to be seeing to justify another vote. The last thing the Government should be doing is setting hard-and-fast benchmarks that can’t be properly adjusted to changing circumstances.

Meanwhile Anas Sarwar, the leader of Scottish Labour, has compared Scottish independence to Brexit has he sets out his intention to compete with the Nationalists on the “politics of emotion”. According to the Daily Record, He said: “Every single argument that made Brexit chaotic and the wrong decision for the United Kingdom, multiply it by at least three times – that’s the consequences of leaving the United Kingdom.”

Scrap the border! Kilkenny farmer’s ‘no joke’ bid to get Ireland back into the Union

This is fun: a 19-year-old farmer from County Kilkenny has launched the Irish Unionist Party. Whilst conceding that he probably won’t win anything, Tristan Morrow says the idea is to lay the foundations for an all-Ireland pro-Union party in the event of Northern Ireland getting annexed by the Republic at some future date.

Whilst obviously a humorous story, it does raise serious and interesting questions about what sort of posture unionists would adopt in a post-unification scenario. ConHome sends Morrow and his comrades our fraternal good wishes.

Sturgeon’s book publisher probed by fraud cops over award of £295k taxpayers’ cash

Yet another report from the front line of the SNP’ ongoing efforts to suborn Scottish civil society. Sandstone Press, which published an edited collection of Nicola Sturgeon’s speeches and is run by an ardent Nationalist, is being investigated by the Financial Crimes Unit.

The Daily Record reports that Highlands and Islands Enterprise broke its own rules when making financial awards to the company, including grants worth £120,000 and a further £175,000 of loans. When grants from Creative Scotland are also taken into account, Sandstone Press has apparently received £500,000 of public money in the last 15 years.

It also stands accused of wrongdoing itself, specifically “making false statements about the number of people employed”.