Simon Usherwood Profile picture
May 22, 2018 111 tweets 22 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Right. Decent seat, and all set for some live-tweeting from #NIBrexit
A reminder that the programme is here:… and live-streaming is here:…
You'll also want the @UKandEU report that goes with all this:…
(indeed, with so much, it's tempting to wonder what my live-tweets will bring.

Joy. and wonder. Mainly)
(and the detail of the keynotes: @OwenPaterson this morning and @hilarybennmp after lunch, both of whom have things to say that aren't in all this wealth of documentation)
So that's the preludes done. Now a bit of lull until we get going at 0930.

(I was lost to #RoyalWedding2018 , I now see.Shame I was out of the country. Maybe next time)
Here we go: @anandMenon1 briefly explaining work of @UKandEU and introduces @OwenPaterson
Paterson: as NI Sec, regular visits and meetings with all parts, highlighted impact of re-opening border.

Border has many different components: customs, sec, phyto-sanitary, etc
Paterson: resolution of Troubles needed coop of many parties
Paterson: there is a border today, with much that is automated, or checks happening away from the border itself

All that 'can be easily handled' in future
Paterson: However, need to resolve this now. Tech can address this 'non-problem'

Relatively small part of economic activity
Paterson: problem is political, not technical

Growing antipathy between Dublin & London
Paterson: always said wants to keep frictionless trade and CTA since first days of setting up #VoteLeave
Now to Q&A: Border is not a checkpoint, just a tax border. No incentive to drop phytosanitary standards as global exporter, so that'll not be a problem
In case of no-deal. nonsense to have border in Irish sea, and can't divide up UK, so N-S border preferable to E-W
Paterson: enforcement will be intelligence-led, as now. Borders are not checkpoints ('18thC thinking to imagine stripped-barriers and men in peaked caps')
Paterson: hopes 'incredible' coop of Garda/PSNI continues post-Brexit
Paterson: Irish establishment loathes Brexit, and IE dimension is best stumbling block to UK leaving CU/SM.

IE 'should be working to build post-EU relationship'
Paterson: Jt Rpt isn't put into law, and backstop won't get through Parliament, so doesn't see it backstop happening
Paterson: #EURef was very clear Q and clear majoirty, going against establishment. But establishment has to deliver, otherwise a major problem of democracy
Paterson: during €-crisis, UK helping IE out of econ hole by defending right to set own corp tax rate
And we're done for this
Now our first panel: @AlderdiceLord @paddyashdown Colin Harvey @EtainTannam, chaired by @DawnHFoster, on 20 yrr of GFA
: experience of Troubles/GFA was that just arguing w ppl doesn't get you very far
: GFA based not in rules & regulations, but in difficult histories. GFA won't have happening today as no-one's creative/flexible enough
: need to accept there's border now: taxes, policing, etc.

Biggest problem is IE-UK trade across Irish Sea. Scarcely discussed now
: Troubles weren't outcome of a border, but deeper probs, so a new border won't reignite Troubles
: Brexit's challenges NI identity as part of UK, as IE less threatening than before
Harvey: name-checks (the excellent) @BrexitLawNI project

EU is closely iintertwined in GFA
Harvey: GFA is a careful compromise, based on relationship across these islands. That focus is need again now
Harvey: continued lack of focus on human rights aspects in Art.50. GFA architecture will be increasingly important in this
Harvey: Brexit has destabilised NI, but not the only part of general situation. Some GFA principles being neglected, and risk of GFA becoming marginalised
Harvey: had been mt to more pluralistic UK constitution, so return to more centralised model is of concern. NI needs multi-stranded and flexible solutions
.@EtainTannam: HMG shift on approach to NI was vital in getting to GFA: interest-driven. That's now challenged by Brexit process
.@EtainTannam: political will matters in this: has addressed worse probs, eg in e1980s

Peace has brought some complacency, so N-S Council hasn't met for some time
.@EtainTannam: now a sensitivity about what forums to use here, but a need to have regular meetings with all parties to keep GFA working
Now to Q&A

General view that GFA needs to be used, but also that GFA is not sufficient to resolve Brexit issues
Harvey reminds us that GFA isn't internal to NI, or even UK, but crosses these islands. WA protocol contains several GFA ideas
And we're done for a bit
Back with our next panel on IE post-Brexit: @GeraldAngley @BrigidLaffan Fedrico Fabbrini @AlanHoumann Catherine Moroney, chaired by @pmdfoster
.@BrigidLaffan: Brexit is unwanted by IE, but cannot be avoided. Big worry in IE is lack of understanding by UK that IE has legit interests in this
.@BrigidLaffan: Brexit forces IE to work on making EU work for it. EU will remain shelter and anchor for IE: future is not in Anglosphere
.@BrigidLaffan: IE state has been v.cohesive, used to deliberative processes (dialogues & engagement). Planning out to 2040
.@BrigidLaffan: EU27 already a reality. IE part of 'Hansa league' of small, Northern MS, led by NL: keep EU liberal, low regulation, pragmatic over federalism
.@BrigidLaffan: EU problem issues for IE of security/defence; growth model needs to police tax regime; regulation, eg of social media firms
.@BrigidLaffan: little evidence that HMG knows how to deal w IE dimension
Moroney (head of business banking, AIB): tracking of Brexit sentiment (…), slightly less-ve of late, but strong sectoral issues
Moroney: IE SMEs more concerned about future impact than NI
Moroney: very little planning in place, even if most plan to have a plan
Moroney: already much disruption and deferred activity, so any upsides will be relative
Federico Fabbrini (@DCU_Brexit_Inst): name-checks his new rpt (…)
Fabbrini: IE issue is critical problem in reaching Art.t50 deal, so need contingencies
Fabbrini: no silver bullets here, but keeping UK in CU/SM would be least disruptive. Even EEA is big change
Fabbrini: Art.XXIV(3) GATT allows for possible solution to customs, be having NI as 'frontier zone'. But doesn't deal w other controls (or w UK customs)
Fabbrini: also opens up big loophole for evasion, so would need much good will
.@AlanHoumann: businesses like stability and certainty, which aren't here
.@AlanHoumann: assumption has to be that there's no deal, unless and until WA is ratified
.@AlanHoumann: biggest concern is around fragmentation of financial services, esp on liquidity. So far, only easy stuff has been tackled
.@GeraldAngley: IE contingency planning statted in warly 2016, so ready for #EUref result. Still talking about same issues
.@GeraldAngley: GFA provides useful institutions, esp if loosing EU interactions, to build/maintain links and relationships
.@GeraldAngley: IE will miss UK in EU, but working on new alliances.

Also trade diversification in train
.@GeraldAngley: open border is still top priority. 'Will look at any workable proposal', but need to remember border isn't just customs
Now to Q&A

@GeraldAngley backstop is a reserve position, but there if needed
Fabbrini: IE is toughest MS in Phase 1 of Art.50, but softest in Phase 2, so IE gvt has done excellent work to balance this
.@AlanHoumann : all EU MS will lose from reduced access to London's deep liquidity

Moroney notes finance always flows to most efficient market, so any divergence will hurt London
Some general concern that business hasn't been very loud in Art.50 process, although Moroney notes that they can be effective w/in sectors
.@DavidHenigUK raises Q of transition, although Fabbrini thinks it can't be extended further than it already has been
.@BrigidLaffan stresses the novelty of Brexit necessarily causes uncertainty for everyone.
Moroney: changes in transportation likely to add time delay and complexity, esp on IE-UK-EU26 traffic
And we are done here. Now for lunch, after which I'll restart this thread
Welcome back to #NIBrexit
First panel of PM is on politics of Brexit in NI, w John Garry, Paul Bew, @SJAMcBride Brendan O'Leary @ClaireHanna @newbelfast, chaired by @markdevenport
Garry opens w summary of new @UKandEU rpt on public opinion:… I'll save you rehashing their excellent summary, so go read it now
O'Leary (UPenn) notes that Garry rpt is likely to under-report extremist views
.@newbelfast notes strength of cross-community support for staying in EU, and if that's not possible, then softest possible Brexit
.@newbelfast: NI and Ireland have long been European, so not going to give that up lightly
Lord Paul Bew: DUP are indifferent about form of Brexit. Brexit has increased Unionist vote in NI
Bew: More to Irish dimension than border, so HMG and IE gvt shouldn't focus just on that
.@ClaireHanna: lack of NI Exec makes it harder for discussions to take place
.@SJAMcBride: paucity of hard data on public opinion in NI right now, so anecdote plays a big role
Now on to Q&A
.@ClaireHanna EU and IE can reduce sting of Brexit, but only HMG can stop it altogether
O'Leary: UK might only come to understand EU when it leaves. Final say on WA will rest with CJEU, interpreting treaty, not w a Parliament that cannot be bound
.@SJAMcBride notes that while trade arrangements won't be visible to most ppl, CTA will be, but hasn't been discussed as nearly as much
And we have finished this panel
Now we have the second keynote: @hilarybennmp
Benn: no deal is the worst possible outcome for Brexit, and wouldn't get past Commons. However, needs agt on Irish dimension
Benn: improvement and normalisation of UK-IE relations over past decades is crucial, allowing for ppl to not have to chose their identities
Benn: always of view that @CommonsEUexit should talk w those outside UK, so 1st trip was to Dublin, plus visit to border
Benn: Jt Rpt agreed an open border, but since then no progress
Benn: internal divisions in Cab have stopped progress on this "extraordinary" to be nearly 2 years on from #EUref and still debating customs
Benn: HMG says it's leaving CU/SM, but seems to be building equivalents. No instance of where divergence is needed, plus talk of keeping in until new arrangements in placr
Benn: Art.49 of Jt Rpt needs to be faced up to. Of opinion that whole UK would need to keep alignment, unlike COM view. In addition, even if either CP/MaxFac agreed, neither will be ready for 2021, so have to stay in CU/SM for some time yet
Benn: arbitrary time limits won't work, under terms of backstop, so it takes as long as it takes
Benn: border also about common standards and reg, not just customs. Necessarily makes UK a rule-taker: no ruler-maker option exists
Benn: simplest solution is to stay in CU/SM and hopes to see this debated when trade bill finally arrive in Parliament
Benn: trade deals are complex by nature, so view that UK has been held back by EU is 'nonsense, as is idea that UK should cut self off from EU market
Benn: EU willing to cut a deal on single market, but concern about undercutting. EEA should remain an option
Benn: 3/4 through process and still not discussed future relationship. HMG has only now started to face up to costs of Brexit
Benn: every trade deal w third states involves border checks, so incompatible with GFA commitments.

Much uncertainty about how to handle all the long list of issues
Benn: also not clear what happens at end of transition, so arrangements thereafter only get negotiated after withdrawal
Benn: #ep19 will cause a hiatus in those negotiations, not forgetting need to have heavier ratification process.

Points to have a longer transition, or at least a mechanism to extend it, which is missing right now
Benn: time for clarity, not vague promises. If HMG doesn't deliver, then Parliament will
And now some Q&A
Benn: HMG has moved on in it's approach (no more 'Brexit means Brexit')
Benn: COM needs to be careful not to be too inflexible, pushing UK into harder outcome
Benn: an EU that is flexible and mutli-layered will be better for all involved, including those not ready to take final step of joining
Benn: favourably quotes @DanielJHannan about need to remember that #EURef was close and views of 48% matter too
Benn: EU has to ask itself how it lost one of its member states.

Need to find balance between being able to do things for oneself and working together
And we're done for that
And sadly I have to stop there for the day. You can follow the rest of this #nibrexit event via the hashtag and the @UKandEU account.

Thanks for reading
Will post some reflections shortly

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More from @Usherwood

Oct 9, 2018
While I kick my heels for a meeting, let's think about Brexit and inevitability:

Let's start off by noting that I'm not a big one for inevitability, in any political situation

It's a throwing up of the hands and submitting to forces beyond our control: 'there's nothing to be done'

Personally, I think there's always something to be done

Read 18 tweets
Oct 8, 2018
So, what to make of today?

Over the weekend, lots of +ve optics and warm words, to get mvt from the conference-season slump

But lots of reining in during the day

Partly, it's sensible expectation mgt: one might have had the impression that suddenly everything was hunky-dory and the work of a moment

Read 13 tweets
Oct 5, 2018
Possibly more for me than for you, let's try to pull this week together a bit:

Let's start with the EU side

Having largely kept heads down during conference season, yesterday's Tusk/Varadkar presser demonstrated that EU is keeping the pressure on

The tension seems to be between COM/EUCO and IE, as @pmdfoster explained well yesterday: IE making conciliatory noises, central EU bodies pushing EU integrity line

Read 17 tweets
Oct 4, 2018
Let's just work through this one, given the attention it's getting
By taking the CON rebels' terminology, Tusk is making a point

But what point?
As we know from the infamous Barnier Steps, the EU offer is conditioned on UK red lines as much as anything

Read 8 tweets
Oct 4, 2018
Interesting to see how it's just as UK debate sits down for a bit on Brexit, to recover from conference season, negotiations w EU step up
If past fortnight has been about domestic management, then coming fortnight will be about UK working w EU to find ways to get mvt on WA/PD
Because of that hiatus after Salzburg, there's now v.little time left to achieve mvt in time for Oct #EUCO, hence the rush now
Read 11 tweets
Oct 3, 2018
So, the CON party conference and Brexit:

Back in Sept, there was much talk about this being a crunch point in the UK debate, as May would come under fire for Chequers and there would be scope for changes/realignments/whatever

Certainly that first bit has happened, with numerous op-eds over the weekend and assorted fringe events (inc. yesterday's Johnson speech)

Read 15 tweets

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