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Brexit adds to Northern Ireland’s broken politics

The main achievement of the Good Friday Agreement — the creation of power-sharing institutions — is not just unwell, but perhaps terminally ill. Like few places on earth, Northern Ireland lives its history. Stay at the multimillion pound Radisson Blu hotel in downtown Belfast and an Irish tricolor can be seen, stuck in a window of a flat in the “Markets” area — an Irish Catholic ghetto surrounded by Britishness and a derelict patch of grass. Politically, it is more Balkan than British or Irish. It created a land where you could be Irish or British — or both. “Politics here are based on allegiance and identity," wrote the columnist Brian Feeney in the Irish News last week, days before the shooting of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry/Londonderry on Thursday night. Look, it’s not going to happen.” The New IRA admitted responsibility for the killing on Monday — albeit with "full and sincere apologies" — a sign of the deadly tensions that are still simmering in Northern Ireland. The backstop, which aims to ensure no border controls are needed, treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the U.K., raising unionist fears that it is the start of the slow drift to Irish reunification — and the dominance of Irish nationalists over Ulster unionists. The old leaders who guided the peace process to its conclusion — and may have had the power and authority to save it now — are gone. Northern Ireland is not well. Sign up here.

No-deal Brexit would mean hard Irish border, EU confirms

The EU has put further pressure on the Brexit talks by confirming it will enforce a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event of a no-deal outcome, despite the risk this would pose to peace. But the Juncker’s spokesman said on Tuesday the likely enforcement of border checks could not be avoided. Of course we stand behind the Good Friday agreement, but that is what no-deal would entail.” How four different customs union options led to the Irish border backstop compromise customs union Red line for DUP No need for Irish border checks, but checks needed on goods moving between NI and the UK Border in the Irish sea UK-NI customs union (soft border) Red line for Brussels Lack of checks on Irish border leaves a back door to the EU single market UK-NI customs union (hard border) Red line for Dublin Hard border to preserve integrity of EU single market contravenes Good Friday agreement customs union Red line for DUP No need for Irish border checks, but checks needed on goods moving between NI and the UK UK-NI customs union (soft border) Red line for Brussels Lack of checks on Irish border leaves a back door to the EU single market UK-NI customs union (hard border) Red line for Dublin Hard border to preserve integrity of EU single market contravenes Good Friday agreement Border in the Irish sea Guardian graphic In the Irish parliament, the prime minister, Leo Varadkar, responded by insisting an arrangement similar to the Irish backstop would still have to be negotiated if the Brexit deal failed to get through the UK parliament. “We already have that agreement. It is the backstop … We have a proposal that does work. We are under no illusions about how challenging that would be.” The Democratic Unionist party’s Brexit spokesman, Sammy Wilson, dismissed the remarks by Juncker’s spokesman. “We have to be firm and flexible at the same time,” Verhofstadt told MEPs. But he ruled out any changes to the withdrawal agreement, including the backstop.

‘Aren’t you going insane?’: readers’ questions from beyond Brexitland

I’m seriously confused (Danni, US) Brexit is the process of the UK leaving the EU, which it narrowly voted in favour of in a referendum in June 2016. The process is governed by article 50 of the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon and is happening in two stages: first, the two sides negotiate their divorce deal (the “withdrawal agreement”), and after this they will sort out their future trading relationship. In theory, the post-Brexit trading arrangements between the EU and the UK will avoid a “hard” border, but they could take years to negotiate so the EU has insisted on a “backstop” guaranteeing the absence of a hard border until those arrangements are in place. The backstop leaves the whole of the UK in a customs union with the EU “unless and until” the EU agrees it can leave. Brexiters do not like this at all. This now looks quite likely, but it may only last for a few months because a new European parliament is sworn in in July and EU rules require all member states to be represented – a problem if the UK is still a member. Why does Jeremy Corbyn think he can negotiate a different or better deal with the EU than Theresa May? Other than that, hardly any of the 68 trade deals from which the UK benefits as an EU member, and which it said it would have replicated by the time of departure, are near, and none will be ready by 29 March, according to the FT. Brexiters talk about “trading on WTO terms” as if it is what the world does, but it does not: it may trade under WTO rules, but all 164 members of the WTO have also agreed bilateral or regional trade deals that allow them to trade on much better terms than the WTO baselines. No sensible nation would leave the world’s largest single market, the EU, to trade with it on WTO terms, as would happen in the event of no deal. (Remo Casale, New Zealand; Georg Beck, Germany) In order: By the British government softening its red lines to allow it to arrive at a form of Brexit that is acceptable to both the EU27 and the UK parliament – something it should have done a long time ago – or, possibly, by holding a second referendum.

May loses grip on Brexit deal after fresh Commons humiliation

Theresa May’s room for manoeuvre should her Brexit deal be rejected next week was further constrained on Wednesday night, after the government lost a second dramatic parliamentary showdown in as many days. An increasingly boxed-in prime minister must now set out her plan B within three working days of a defeat next Tuesday, after the rebel amendment passed. There were furious scenes in the House of Commons as the Speaker, John Bercow, took the controversial decision to allow a vote on the amendment, tabled by the former attorney general Dominic Grieve. The motion setting out the government’s plan can be amended by MPs hoping to push their own alternative proposals, from a second referendum to a harder Brexit. He told MPs: “There is a question of the extension of article 50, which may well be inevitable now, given the position that we are in, but of course we can only seek it, because the other 27 [EU members] have to agree.” Quick guide Why extend the Brexit transition period? But it also, after an intervention by the Democratic Unionist party, committed the UK (not the EU) not to have any trading differences between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The new EU idea is to extend the transition period to allow time to get to option A or B. The Irish and the EU will also still need the backstop in the withdrawal agreement, which must be signed before the business of the trade deal can get under way. Otherwise it is a no-deal Brexit. Mann was among a group of Labour MPs who met the prime minister on Wednesday to discuss what changes she could make to win their support for her deal, with other attendees including Stoke Central MP Gareth Snell.

The DUP is exposed, clinging to pathetic ‘No surrender’ politics

It seems like no time ago that the DUP’s Sammy Wilson was loudly advising the British that “the blackmailing burghers from Brussels” and the “cheap political opportunists” from Dublin must be met with a “tough” response during the Brexit negotiations. Ian Paisley jnr likewise told the then Brexit minister that what was needed was to shout “No surrender” at the EU. The prime minister had bought its 10 parliamentary votes and, in defiance of her responsibilities to the Belfast Agreement, was acting as if the DUP was the one-party government of Northern Ireland. The timid have left you; your Lundys have betrayed you; but you have closed your gates.” He was referring, of course, to the siege of Derry in 1689, when the Protestant apprentice boys shut the gates of the walled city against the Catholic forces of King James. DUP leader Arlene Foster insisted that whatever else about Brexit, there must be “no border down the Irish Sea”. That, she said, was her party’s red line. Its British allies are the worst of the Brexit fanatics. He also claimed that this was “all about a punishment beating for the UK because they dared to leave the EU” and that the prime minister had permitted this. The party knew and had been told over and over that the Belfast Agreement made it inevitable that the backstop preventing a hard border would be included in any deal. All that matters is the old game of betrayal and defiance, the pathetic sectarian politics of “No surrender!”

UK politics – as it happened: Conservatives turn on Boris Johnson over Brexit ‘suicide...

Senior Conservatives denounced the former foreign secretary for comparing the prime minister's Chequers plan to having "wrapped a suicide vest" around Britain and handed the detonator to Brussels. Elsewhere, Jeremy Corbyn faced an angry meeting of his parliamentary party, where the Labour leader was expected to endure recriminations over the party's antisemitism row. He said at least 80 Tory MPs could vote against the plan. I think that it is absolutely right that the cabinet and the parliamentary party backs the prime minister. We have Leave MPs in the Labour Party like we have Remain MPs in the Conservative Party. She rejected suggestions she would quit if Boris Johnson became leader, adding: "I have been in the Conservative Party for the best part of 30 years. He also praised Donald Trump, saying: "The United States currently boasts economic growth rates far in excess of this country, at about 4.5 per cent, and with record low unemployment - and that growth is being driven not just by the US government's decision to cut taxes and regulation, but perhaps even more by psychology: by the sense that the government wants to cut taxes, wants to liberate and energise people. “I understand the argument for a so-called ‘people’s vote’ on the deal, on the deal – not on leaving the EU. She said: "In my party, we regard ourselves as the party for women, yet in 100 years we have never had a woman leader, it appears only men are able to rule the Labour Party. "I now think that was a mistake, because its not about proving we're tough, attacks on women MPs are not just misogyny, they're anti-democratic, if a woman is elected, she is entitled to get on with her job.

Northern Ireland secretary ‘doesn’t understand’ regional politics

Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, resigned in protest and subsequent elections saw his Irish nationalists Sinn Fein party almost win power. As the UK government's ranking official on issues related to Northern Ireland, Bradley has been tasked with leading the efforts to restore power-sharing to the region. On Friday, politicians in Northern Ireland reacted with dismay to Bradley's published remarks, accusing her of adding to the troubled atmosphere of the region's politics. "We are not surprised that a British government minister did not understand the intricacies of politics here in the North," Colum Eastwood, leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, told Al Jazeera. "The British and Irish governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, need to meet urgently to agree a package of legislation to get Stormont back up and running. Border concerns The implementation of 1998's Good Friday Agreement requires cooperation from the British and Irish governments. This week, the Irish government announced they would seek a separate agreement with the European Union on the status of the border to avoid further delay in agreeing its form. In the case of a "hard Brexit", no agreement would be reached and a presumptive "hard border" would return - along with checkpoints, as was effectively the case throughout the Troubles from the 1960s until the Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago, and vastly increased waiting times for cross-border trade. In Northern Ireland the issue of amnesty for the Troubles is a controversial one: bloodshed was not one-sided and the legacy of violence is inherently complex. Her office did not respond to a request for comment.