1. Exquisite Tweets from @JolyonMaugham, @henryfarrell

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    This is embargoed til 10pm but it wasn't given to me under embargo and don't see why we should play to the Government's news cycle.

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    JolyonMaugham

    Jo Maugham QC

  2. 1. This is a very big deal - Theresa May is reportedly going to denounce the Irish border 'backstop' at a speech in Belfast tomorrow. twitter.com/JolyonMaugham/…

    Jo Maugham QC @JolyonMaugham
    This is embargoed til 10pm but it wasn't given to me under embargo and don't see why we should play to the Government's news cycle.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    2. The backstop was the key commitment that the UK made in order to move from Brexit pre-negotiations into actual talks. Brexit has destabilizing implications for the Irish peace process, because it threatens to recreate a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    3. That's why under the backstop, the UK agreed that Northern Ireland would remain in "full alignment" with the European Union's customs and market arrangements, even if no other solution could be reached. That seemed to allow the EU and UK to bracket the Northern Ireland problem

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    4. However, even from the beginning it was clear that the UK and EU interpreted the backstop in quite different ways. The EU saw it as a commitment that Northern Ireland would remain in the Single Market and Customs Union.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    5. The UK suggested an alternative interpretation under which Britain and Northern Ireland would both stay in the customs union etc as long as it suited them, but without the other obligations of EU membership. EU negotiators made it clear that this was completely unacceptable.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    6. Now things are coming unravelled. May has effectively folded on Brexit in the face of opposition from pro-Brexiters in her party - the bill passed earlier this week made it illegal for Northern Ireland to be "part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain."

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    7. This reflects May's inability to get a deal through the House of Commons that would be acceptable to EU negotiators. Brexiters like Boris Johnson have seen the Irish border issue as a Trojan horse that the EU is using to shape the deal in its favor.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    8. Now, they are trying to take it off the table, by effectively declaring a fait-accompli which would require the EU either to undermine its own market and customs rules or accept customs posts and controls along the Irish border.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    9. Or, alternatively, to embrace the "technological solution" that the UK has been talking up, which would be fueled by a patented mix of unobtanium, pixie dust and politicians' promises.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    10. The more plausible assumption is that none of these proposals will prove acceptable to the EU, leading to a Brexit-plus-no-agreement outcome in which the UK shafts itself, but also shafts the Republic of Ireland, and very possibly the peace process as a by-product.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    11. May will reportedly claim that she is doing this because otherwise the Belfast Agreement would be breached, and the people of Northern Ireland would not have their own voice in trade negotiations.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    12. Both of these claims are obvious horseshit. The people of Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. The Belfast Agreement rests on a complex political bargain that was already in danger, and is likely to be greatly destabilized by May's new position

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    13. Which will be seen as a direct exercise of Unionist power to remake the constitutional position of Northern Ireland in ways that disadvantage Northern nationalists, in a situation where the DUP has control because it supports May's minority government.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    14. May isn't doing this because of constitutional concerns or any concern for Northern Ireland. She is stepping into the abyss because she is a weak leader, incapable of controlling her own party, or of restraining or influencing her party's allies.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell

    16. This is a disaster in the making, a further demonstration of how the internal political struggles and factionalism of British and Northern Irish politics are leaving everyone in a position where they are going to be much, much worse off than before. Finis.

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    henryfarrell

    Henry Farrell