Last night's exit polls came as a shock, the scale of both the Conservative and SNP seat predictions almost beyond belief. The cold hard reality of the morning after has brought little comfort. Remainers must be commended for fighting to the end, but the good fight is now lost. The roller-coaster has crested the summit, and Boris Johnson's Brexit is now inevitable. If this truly was the Brexit Election, then the electorate have given their verdict. Continue reading...


The Overton Conveyor

Events appear to be moving simultaneously at glacial speed, but also faster than it is possible to keep up with. It might then be useful to separate the two classes of event. In the glacial category: negotiations. In the whirlwind category: everything else. It is precisely because negotiations are going nowhere that all the pent-up energy of politics is being diverted elsewhere, like a blocked pipe springing leaks at every joint. The unstoppable force of Brexit meets the immovable object of political reality, and all else is laid waste. Continue reading...

A handbag

Handbagging results in diminishing returns - Thatcher achieved a rollback in the form of the rebate, while Major and his successors achieved merely a standstill in the form of opt-outs. David Cameron's attempt to negotiate an even more favourable deal from the EU, one that had eluded both Thatcher and Major, was an exercise in milking the dry cow. Who now remembers the meagre drops that he extracted? Continue reading...

Biscuits and gravy

We have all heard the aphorism that Britain and America are two great nations divided by a common language. Gas, fall, biscuits, fanny packs. When we hear the accent we automatically run the words through the universal translator, and then hold them up to ridicule as appropriate. But we often forget that even though the Irish and the British are linguistically closer to each other than to their transatlantic cousins, there are still entries in the dictionary, particularly in the ethnopolitical section, that remain false friends. Continue reading...

Squaring the backstop circle

Complaints that the UK has resiled on its commitments are somewhat overblown. In most democracies, a deal is not a deal until it has been ratified, and the UK Parliament reserves the right to overrule the executive. The real problem is that, nearly three years after the referendum, Parliament still has no idea what price it is willing to pay for the thing that it never really wanted. The furore over the backstop is merely a symptom of this contradiction. Continue reading...

Surf and turf

As blogger David Allen Green has pointed out, whoever produces the first draft of a legal document has the advantage. While the EU has been criticised for its backstop-Brexit draft, the UK has conspicuously failed to produce any draft at all, and shows no signs of doing so. The final transition agreement is thus unlikely… Continue reading Surf and turf

Can unionism and republicanism be reconciled?

The short answer is a qualified "yes" but to explain why, we must first define our terms. It is a sad truth that words often mean something different in Northern Ireland than they do elsewhere, but then clarity of thought is often the first casualty of any ideological conflict. Compare the use of the terms… Continue reading Can unionism and republicanism be reconciled?

Time for change … change the time that is

Seán Barrett TD, chair of the Oireachtas committee on climate change, proposed in a press release on Wednesday that Irish Summer Time be retained year-round: Brighter evenings in the winter would significantly reduce peak electricity demands, saving hundreds of thousands of CO2 emissions, equivalent to removing many thousands of motor vehicles from the roads. He… Continue reading Time for change … change the time that is

Gordon Brown’s legacy

The case for an independent Treasury. So Gordon has gone. I'll save my opinion on the new Liberal Conservative government until the full details emerge. I'd just like to jot down a few thoughts about the mess they've inherited. Gordon Brown became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1997 promising Prudence. His "golden rule" was to… Continue reading Gordon Brown’s legacy

General Election NI aftermath

Well, that was a surprise. I had written off any chance of excitement in NI last night, and then Naomi Long goes and unseats Peter Robinson. A well-deserved victory for her, and a rare blow against the Developer's Unionist Party. In other news, UCUNF crashes and burns, as  most unbiased commentators expected it would. News… Continue reading General Election NI aftermath