UK Brecon & Radnorshire by-election: Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative

Polls show gains for the Conservatives at the expense of the Brexit party, and why Parliament is running out of options to prevent no-deal. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

The by-election for the Conservative-held seat of Brecon & Radnorshire occurred on August 1. The Liberal Democrats won with 43.5% (up 14.3% since the 2017 election), the Conservatives had 39.0% (down 9.6%), the Brexit party had 10.5% and Labour just 5.3% (down 12.5%). In a poll taken before Boris Johnson became PM, vote shares were 43% Lib Dem, 28% Conservative, 20% Brexit and 8% Labour. The results suggest the Conservatives gained about 10% from the Brexit Party after the change in PM.

There have been six polls taken since Boris Johnson became PM on July 24 and appointed a hard Leave Cabinet. The Conservatives have gained at the expense of the Brexit party, and now have 1-5 point leads over Labour in three polls, but ten point leads in two YouGov polls and an Ipsos poll. With the Conservatives consolidating the hard Brexit vote, Labour needs to consolidate voters opposed to no-deal. There are no preferences in first past the post, so if the Conservatives monopolise the hard Brexit vote, they can win if the no-hard Brexit vote is split between Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens.

Labour’s wishy-washiness on Brexit has driven many Remain supporters to the Lib Dems and Greens. But most seats in England and Wales will be Labour vs Conservative contests. If there is a general election soon, Remain supporters could elect a Conservative government by voting for the Lib Dems or Greens. At the 2017 election, Labour had a pro-Brexit position, and they have been reluctant to change lest they lose their Leave voters.

Commons running out of options to avert no-deal

The Commons is not scheduled to return from Summer recess until September 3. If Johnson lost a confidence vote then, the Commons sits for two weeks in an attempt to form a government. If no government can be formed, a new election is required. Under this scenario, the earliest possible election date is October 24 (a Thursday, which UK elections are held on), but Johnson could advise it be held on October 31 or later. If held on October 31 (Brexit day), there would be no time to form a government before the UK crashed out.

Parliament could pass legislation requiring a Brexit extension be requested for an election, but I think Johnson is unlikely to obey any such legislation. It is the government, not parliament, that needs to make this request. I do not think there is anything parliament could do to immediately force a disobedient government to comply, especially given the Commons would be dissolved for the election. If Labour won the election, Johnson could be held in contempt of parliament, but that would be after a no-deal Brexit had occurred.

There are two ways for the Commons to ensure a no-deal Brexit does not happen. One way is to revoke the Brexit legislation altogether, without a referendum. The second way is not just to vote no-confidence in Johnson, but vote for confidence in a new government during the next two weeks. In the second scenario, Labour would be very unlikely to support any non-Labour PM. Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn could be persuaded to step aside, and allow a Labour MP with more cross-party support to become PM, but this scenario is still unlikely.

In summary, unless the Commons enacts one of the above two scenarios, Johnson may be able to force a no-deal Brexit.

Spain’s Socialists fail to form government

The Spanish Socialists won the April 28 election, but as I wrote on my personal website, a lack of cooperation between the Socialists and Podemos could mean another election. Also covered: a landslide for former comedian Zelensky’s party in the Ukraine, and the conservatives easily retain their hold over Japan’s upper house.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

42 comments on “UK Brecon & Radnorshire by-election: Liberal Democrat gain from Conservative”

  1. What about the British habit of tactical voting, where No Hard Brexit people, might vote one constituency for the Liberal Democrats and another electorate for the Labour Party.

    Could it play a significant role, if say Boris Johnson were to declare a snap general election?

  2. A few points:

    -the combined vote of the leave parties: Tories, Brexit and UKIP was over 50%
    – Plaid Cymru stood aside to allow the LibDem party to hoover up the remain voters
    – if the Brexit Party had done the same thing the Tories would probably have retained it
    – postal ballots went out before Boris became PM. if they had have gone out after the Tories would probably have won.

  3. swamprat @ #2 Friday, August 2nd, 2019 – 6:03 pm

    A few points:

    -the combined vote of the leave parties: Tories, Brexit and UKIP was over 50%
    – Plaid Cymru stood aside to allow the LibDem party to hoover up the remain voters
    – if the Brexit Party had done the same thing the Tories would probably have retained it
    – postal ballots went out before Boris became PM. if they had have gone out after the Tories would probably have won.

    From the wrong end of the telescope it seems like the mood is for Leave. Do whatever it takes. Just make it stop. Get it done.

    My guess…
    * Johnson has figured out the Brexit Party.
    * Johnson won’t risk his position with a General Election. He is gets more out of it by lining up the scapegoats now and slowly martyring himself for the next few years.

    So…
    * Brexit will be “no-deal”. (I actually prefer “chaotic”. “Hard” contains too much testosterone.)
    * The “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” is in its last messy decade.
    * By 2030 England and Wales (pop. 57M) will be an isolated insular angry middle power, and dangerous for it.

  4. The majority in both houses of Parliament is against a No Deal Brexit and with this result cementing that, No Deal Brexit being blocked is more likely. I suspect that a No Deal Brexit being blocked will end up with a second referendum, probably won by Remain as since the referendum most of the voters who have died have been in Leave demographics and most of the new voters (young voters turning 18, previous abstainers and new citizens (the proportion of which are EU citizens has shot up)) are in Remain demographics.

    With the current Parliamentary numbers, Johnson may face an election at a timing not of his choosing.

  5. “Great” Britain and “United” Kingdom becoming increasingly archaic words. Sad……..I always thought those in the British Isles had the ability to “muddle through” rather than crash from a second rank power to an increasingly irrelevant home of a class-ridden society, more intent in keeping privilege alive and looking to the future rather than into the past. I hope to goodness some sense prevails. It is all kith and kin stuff with me…………….

  6. I think if there is British general election held soon, it is going to to end up like our last Federal Election. The expectation among the commentators will be that a hung parliament would be the most likely outcome. However I believe if such an election was held, the Tories would win a narrow but workable majority.

  7. If there was any likelihood of the Tories calling a general election, this result would convince them otherwise. The Brexit party split the Tory vote, even with Boris Johnson saying pro-Brexit niceties. At a general election, this would cost the Tories seats and therefore government. Besides, the next election is not due until May 2022, by which time the UK would have been independent of the EU for nearly 3 years, and the Brexit party would have long become obsolete. Why not wait?

  8. The House of Commons might vote no-confidence and force an October 24 election, as T-Fab suggested. Such a move would require the support of either the cross bench DUP, which is staunchly pro-Brexit, or the willingness of pro-Remain Tories to cross the floor, placing their seats at risk in an election where the Brexit party would split their vote, if not capture it completely. Unlike Tristo, I don’t think the Tories would come out of an unscheduled election with a minority government – I think they would be decimated, losing Remain voters to the LDP and Leave voters to the Brexit party, as they did in the recent EU elections. I am not convinced that the Conservative Party’s pro-Remain MPs would take the risk.

  9. Re Late Riser’s comment about the UK being in its last decade:
    It’s very likely that a hard Brexit will see a resurgence in Scottish nationalism. In fact, Nicola Sturgeon has already called for a new independence referendum when Brexit goes through. However, it’s unlikely that Northern Ireland will leave the UK. It couldn’t survive independently: a quarter of its budget comes from Westminster, nor could it join Ireland, whose economy is too small to maintain such funding.

    Sturgeon’s comments: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-48026430
    The Northern Ireland economic situation: https://benjaminstudebaker.com/2018/09/09/the-left-wing-argument-for-keeping-northern-ireland-in-the-uk/

  10. New poll, and this one’s different from other recent polls in giving Labour a one-point lead.

    ComRes (Jul 26-28, changes with July 24-25), Lab 30% (+3), Con 29% (+1), LD 16% (-3), BREX 15% (-1), Greens 5% (+1)

  11. Citation Needed

    Thanks, that’s an interesting analysis by Studebaker. I accept the main point, and it may play out that way. Irish reunification would be expensive. But some questions arise. (Calling reunification an “Irish nationalist project”, hinting at the possibility of “violent reunification”, and neglecting that Ireland as an EU member does not stand, alone I wonder too if Studebaker has a bit of bias in his thinking.)

    Assuming England will continue to do all the financial lifting post Brexit:
    * How do the financial costs of a no-deal Brexit to N.I., the financial benefits to N.I. being in the EU as part of Ireland, and the cash flow from England to N.I. measure up?
    * How long will England be able to financially support N.I. at those levels after a no-deal Brexit?

    Assuming a hard border between N.I. and Ireland:
    * How did the two Germanys pay for their reunification? W.Germany was strong economically but E.Germany was also quite weak.

    I guess what I’m saying is that Studebaker has a point, but I’m not convinced it is the most important one.

  12. Adrian’s summary is a good one, but I’d add a couple of points of detail.

    1. Boris can’t just call an election when he feels like it. He has to lose a no confidence vote in the Commons and then have no one else appointed with a Commons majority.

    2. The Tories are just on the edge of losing their majority, and although the great majority of ultra Remain Tory MPs won’t vote to bring the Johnson government down, there are enough who are close to retirement, or willing to jump to the Lib Dems, who will. So the Johnson government is doomed anyway (and they know it) so the question is just – when ?

    3. All the parties know perfectly well that if an election is forced after Brexit has happened, the Tories will win, as the right will be united (the Brexit Party will disappear) but the left will be divided. But if the election happens before Brexit, the Tories will lose, because the Brexit Party will make the right more split than the left.

    4. Therefore it is in Corbyn’s interest to trigger an election before 31 October.

    5. But as Adrian explains it may be impossible to force an election before 31 October anyway

    6. The alternative route of the Commons and Lords passing legislation to repeal Brexit is a non starter. The government can just tell the Queen not to sign it. So the only way an anti-Brexit law can be passed is with the consent of the government (which is why Parliament was able to force an extension in March – Ms May was happy to play along.)

    7. So the bottom line is – if Boris is still PM on 31 October, the UK will be leaving on 31 October. The only way to stop it, is to defeat Boris in a no confidence vote, support a Remain PM and then pass an anti-Brexit law. I suspect Corbyn thinks this would be electoral suicide for Labour to go along with.

  13. Lee Moore,

    I too foresee a no-deal Brexit. Johnson won’t just go. He just arrived. Since Brexit has now consumed the UK for years, I expect the urge to rip off the bandage or jump into the darkness is strong, even if it is just to change the narrative. Johnson will use that. And I can’t see the EU abandoning Ireland. So in the end the “nuance” of deal or no-deal will be lost. The political damage will take a few months to develop. Then it will be an exciting time to be alive. And the EU won’t be feeling charitable. Britain? Enough already. Enough time wasted. Just. Go. Away.

    (I could just about imagine a Brexit-in-name-only, should Johnson suffer a twinge of empathy. But his political foes won’t let that happen.)

  14. Lee Moore, there are two ways to get an early election. The other way is if 2/3 of the Commons votes for one; that happened before the 2017 election, just two years into a five-year term.

    If a hard Brexit happens on Oct 31, with an election after, the economic shock is likely to cause the Tories to lose even with a united right.

  15. Boris could advise the Queen to block a non-Government bill to block a No Deal Brexit but it would likely put the Queen at the pointy end of a constitutional crisis because it would be defying Parliament on a time critical matter they were likely not willing to let go and as such the Queen may decide to grant royal assent anyway. If the Queen refused royal assent to blocking a hard Brexit, many of the anti-No Deal Brexit republicans may seek to capitalise to remove royal power.

  16. The constitutional convention is 100% clear – the Queen is supposed to act on the Prime Minister’s advice. It would cause a much greater constitutional crisis for the Queen not to accept her Prime Minister’s advice to refuse assent to a Bill, than for her to accept it.

  17. Adrian :” If a hard Brexit happens on Oct 31, with an election after, the economic shock is likely to cause the Tories to lose even with a united right.”

    Well, maybe we’ll get to see !

    I doubt it myself – first it obviously depends on the size of the shock, and the time of the election. But also once the UK has left the EU it no longer continues to be a Remainer v Leaver thing, and it quickly goes back to “do you want a Communist Prime Minister ?” Most remainer Tories don’t. Lots of moderate centrist Remainers voted Labour in 2017 in the hope of preventing Brexit. If they fail, they have no reason to vote for Corbyn again. If you’ve just been plunged into a recession – “Vote for the guy who thinks Venezuela is the model to follow” is not a rallying cry that springs instantly to mind.

    Obviously if Corbyn was booted out and replaced by someone mildly sane, then Labour would win easily, but at present that seems unlikely.

    The underlying arithmetic is pretty straightforward – left and right are equally strong, and the side that is more divided loses. If Brexit happens, and Corbyn remains Labour leader, the left will be more divided than the right.

  18. Adrian :there are two ways to get an early election. The other way is if 2/3 of the Commons votes for one; that happened before the 2017 election, just two years into a five-year term.

    Sure, but Johnson is not going to have the Tories vote for an early election. It’s much easier to get a simple majority for no confidence than 2/3.

    Mrs May only went for it in 2017 because she thought she was going to win big. It is an irony of fate that it is only the fact that she failed miserably that has prevented her Brexit-in-name-only deal getting through. Brexiteers have whined for two years about her political incompetence in failing to win the 2017 election in a landslide, but if they were only paying attention, they would realise that she never had the smallest intention of doing an actual Brexit. So it was her astonishing ability to miss that open goal that has kept an actual Brexit on the table.

    If I had to guess, I’ll guess that Corbyn agrees with you and thinks that a November election amidst a bit of Brexit chaos is his best shot. So my guess is he’ll try to delay the no confidence vote till it’s too late to stop Brexit. Obviously a 31 October election would be ideal for Johnson; Brexit guaranteed and so no serious split with the Brexit Party and too early for any serious economic waves from Brexit disruption.

  19. https://www.pollbludger.net/2019/08/02/uk-brecon-radnorshire-election-liberal-democrat-gain-conservative/comment-page-1/#comment-3229763

    On the occasions where bills have been refused assent on the PM`s advice, it has been on issues unlikely to cause the end of the confidence of the House of Commons in the government and that is unlikely to be the case with No Deal Brexit blocking bill(s). The authority of the Prime Minister to advise the Queen comes from having the support of a majority in the House of Commons, something currently already strained, that would almost certainly evaporate under the refusal of royal assent to a bill blocking No Deal Brexit. The House of Commons could even vote to ask the Queen to grant royal assent before Boris gets a chance to have it refused. A constitutional crisis is likely.

  20. I think it’s time to start thinking about what happens in the UK under Johnson after a No-Deal-Brexit.

    Q: What would Johnson have to do now to shore up his rule then?
    A: Look strong and spotlight scapegoats. Simple enough. Anything else though?

    Q: What would Johnson’s political enemies have to do now to tear him down then?
    A: Make him look weak. Make him the villain. How to do that though. Maybe some lessons in the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election?

    So who will Johnson scapegoat? The EU obviously. But more interestingly, how will he blame his political enemies? Is this the game Corbyn is playing? I don’t know. But it’s where my thoughts are going.

    (And just an idle extra thought to add some more clouds, but why after all this fuss would the EU want Britain to stay? Why make it easy for Johnson and his fellow travellers? Like any belligerent guest at a party, you ask them to leave, make sure they can’t take a swing at someone on the way out, tell them not to come back, and shut the door.)

  21. The last sovereign to refuse royal assent was Queen Anne, three centuries ago. There is absolutely no way Elizabeth could refuse it now without causing a constitutional crisis and/or revolution.

  22. there are plausible arguments. On what may happen…this sounds like a high stakes poker game….. who blinks first and when… what happens with Ireland? finally reunited? when will the election be held? Is a no confidence motion likely sooner or Later?

  23. The last sovereign to refuse royal assent was Queen Anne, three centuries ago.

    True, but in those days royal assent was a matter for the sovereign’s own opinion. These days, and for a long time past, it is a matter of the Prime Minister’s advice. The reason why royal assent has never been refused since Queen Anne is that Parliament has passed no Bills since then contrary to the wishes of the government. It is only in the last few months, with the assistance of a Speaker willing to, er, evolve long standing procedure, that it has become possible for the Commons to wrest control of the Parliamentary timetable from the government, without first defeating it in a vote of no confidence and then supporting a new government.

    There is absolutely no way Elizabeth could refuse it now without causing a constitutional crisis and/or revolution.

    This is hyperbole. Although formally it is the Queen’s consent, it is in constitutional substance, the Prime Minister’s assent. The Queen may not act contrary to the Prime Minister’s advice, except when the Prime Minister has lost the confidence of the Commons, as demonstrated in an actual vote.

    If the Commons disapproves of the Prime Minister advising the Queen to refuse assent, it has a simple constitutional and non-revolutionary solution. It can vote the government down in a vote of no confidence, after which the Queen will appoint a new Prime Minister who may advise her more in keeping with the Commons wishes.

    The Commons exercises control of the Prime Minister by its power to kick him out. Otherwise, subject to law, he can do what he wants.

  24. Like any belligerent guest at a party, you ask them to leave, make sure they can’t take a swing at someone on the way out, tell them not to come back, and shut the door.

    Indeed. What you probably wouldn’t do is block the door and insist that they

    (a) hand over their wallet before leaving and
    (b) sign an undertaking to come round and do the washing up at all future parties

    Just having them leave peaceably would seem to be the sane person’s objective.

  25. Lee Moore, if the election were on Oct 31 with a no-deal Brexit guaranteed, the pound and the stock market would TANK hard during the election campaign. So there would still be economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit even though it hadn’t happened yet.

    Lots of people who support a no-deal either think there won’t be an economic impact, or say they’re willing to pay the price. I think if there’s a heavy economic cost of no-deal, the Tories and Boris will be unable to escape blame, and Labour will win a landslide.

    A no-deal Brexit is probably the global left’s best chance to start beating the right. At the moment, the right is winning.

  26. I would have thought that the fact that the Conservative Candidate was the guy who had been forced to resign and cause the bi-election was a fairly crucial part of the analysis. That easily cost them the 4.5% losing margin.

  27. Adrian : if the election were on Oct 31 with a no-deal Brexit guaranteed, the pound and the stock market would TANK hard during the election campaign

    I certainly agree that the markets anticipate events. So they would take into account the possible negative economic and financial impact of a no deal Brexit – ditto the possible impact of a Corbyn government, a collapse of the Chinese economy and so on. But obviously since they anticipate events, the markets are already factoring in a reasonably high probability of a no deal Brexit, and some probability of those other things.

    Moreover the pound has already fallen from USD 1.50 to USD 1.20 since the referendum vote, with zero negative economic effects – indeed a fall in the pound cushions the potential effect of EU export friction. As for stock market falls, I don’t believe there’s much evidence that voters pay attention in advance of actual economic downturns. Besides which in a campaign, if there’s a UK stock market fall that is not synchronised with a more general worldwide fall, the Tories will be blaming it on fear of Corbyn rather than Brexit. And it’s a difficult sell for Labour to their pro-Brexit voters in the North and Midlands to lead with the rallying cry “Vote Labour – we can save the bosses stock options !”

    But of course we don’t know, either how large a no deal Brexit disruption would be, or what precisely the voter reaction would be. It might be “Thank God that pantomime is finally over, now let’s just get on with things.”

    My view is that Corbyn would be a fool to try to stop Brexit pre 31 October. (Though of course he is an enormous fool.) His best bet is to wait until actual economic ructions happen – either from Brexit, but just as well from a global downturn. If he leaves it, he can pick his time anytime before 2022. Even if a no deal Brexit causes barely a ripple, there’s still an excellent chance of a recession before 2022. It’s much easier to sell the reality of actual economic pain than the 14th scare story that it’s coming, when the previous 13 have been damp squibs.

    And if your concerns are for “the global left” there’s also a reasonable chance of a US downturn before Nov 2020. Doesn’t matter what causes downturns – voters don’t like ’em.

  28. In spite of Sinn Fein and others attempting to exploit the Brexit insanity for their goal of achieving a united Ireland, it still seems to me very unlikely. Any border poll, and let’s remember it’s ultimately up to the UK government to grant one, would be decided by the votes of soft unionists. By that I mean people who would usually vote for the status quo, but who republicans are hoping could be swung by Brexit. I am aware of a poll late last year which suggested they may be on to something, but I’m also aware of a poll in March stating a 13 point lead for staying in the UK. In the end, unionists should find it relatively easy to persuade such people by running a campaign on the consequences of a united Ireland, particularly based around leaving the NHS and entering a two tiered health system. Whatever happens though, Northern Ireland is in for a very rough time I fear; republicans/nationalists will not accept a hard border, and many loyalists certainly wouldn’t accept being pushed out of the UK. Just one reason why Brexit is just a crazy, ill thought through mess!

  29. For what it’s worth, I’ve just seen a YouTube clip of Corbin stating yesterday that Labour would be doing whatever it takes to prevent a no deal Brexit, including an early no confidence motion.

  30. republicans/nationalists will not accept a hard border

    Relax, not going to happen. And all sides have made that clear.

    1. If the UK doesn’t leave, no problem.
    2. If the UK leaves under a deal, it’ll be a no hard border deal.
    3. If the UK leaves with no deal, the hard border problem will be revealed to be what has always been – a problem that involves Ireland and the EU, and not the UK. The issue is how the EU repairs a land breach in its tariff wall. So Ireland and the EU will work out their own problem with a fudge of some kind. And since Ireland will not accept a hard border, the fudge will not involve a hard border. It will be either a “technological’ fudge, a sea border or a mixture thereof.

    As Thomas More said “These are terrors to frighten children.”

  31. Lee Moore @ #32 Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 – 2:59 pm

    republicans/nationalists will not accept a hard border

    Relax, not going to happen. And all sides have made that clear.

    1. If the UK doesn’t leave, no problem.
    2. If the UK leaves under a deal, it’ll be a no hard border deal.
    3. If the UK leaves with no deal, the hard border problem will be revealed to be what has always been – a problem that involves Ireland and the EU, and not the UK. The issue is how the EU repairs a land breach in its tariff wall. So Ireland and the EU will work out their own problem with a fudge of some kind. And since Ireland will not accept a hard border, the fudge will not involve a hard border. It will be either a “technological’ fudge, a sea border or a mixture thereof.

    As Thomas More said “These are terrors to frighten children.”

    Hmm. I like your optimism, and it’s been a while since I read this, so maybe the fog of time has got to me, but I thought the Good Friday Agreement relies legally on the fact that N.I. and the Republic of I. are both in the EU? The GFA relies on EU laws. Once N.I. leaves the EU the GFA loses its legal underpinning. A no-deal Brexit does this explicitly. It then becomes a problem for the UK since N.I. is part of the UK. What have I missed?

    (Never mind that the politics of any border will involve both sides of that border. It’s ironic how borders do that.)

  32. An insufficiently hard EU border leaves the EU open to WTO complaints, unless the operate the same with the rest of the world (something they won`t do and Ireland couldn`t make them).

    The same applies to the UK, if its border is insufficiently hard.

  33. Late Riser :

    1. The GFA has nothing to do with the EU
    2. It’s true that a border has two sides, but absent an actual agreement between the two sides concerning the policing of the border, it’s a matter for each country to put up what border posts it feels like on its side of the border. The UK has made it very clear it won’t be putting up any border posts on its side, and the Irish government has made it clear it won’t be putting up any border posts on its side. If the EU doesn’t like Ireland taking that position, it can tell Ireland to leave the EU. But I don’t think it will, do you ? Though if it did that would certainly solve the Irish border “problem” 🙂

    Tom :

    Sure there might be a complaint under the WTO, but there are lots of border post free customs borders in the world and it would be very hard to win such a case. One of the things that makes it particularly hard for such a case to be brought successfully is that neither the UK nor Ireland has any land border with any other state. Imports from everywhere else have to come by sea or air, as a matter of geography. There are always different Customs procedures for land, sea and air borders. Hence it’s quite normal to craft procedures for land borders that are different from air and sea borders. No third country can – practically – come and complain that its goods coming over a UK or Irish land border have been treated to a less favourable procedure than Irish or UK goods. Cos there are no such borders with third countries.

    And it would be very hard to win such a case, even it was actually winnable, within ten years. And then if either the EU or the UK were to lose , it just says sorry, we’ll tweak our barrier free techno border and things’ll be fine. Ten more years, rinse and repeat.

    There are real things that could go pear shaped with a no deal Brexit – like the UK being locked out of EU wide supply chains – but the Irish border belongs to the let’s terrify the children bit of it, not the real bit.

  34. Lee Moore

    For my own peace of mind I needed to check on GFA reliance on the EU. I found these documents after a few minutes searching. They are a broad discussion of Brexit and the GFA and they appear to agree that EU derived human rights “underpin” the GFA.

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2017/596826/IPOL_STU(2017)596826_EN.pdf
    …several of the rights and entitlements that are provided for directly or indirectly in the GFA are themselves either directly or indirectly underpinned by EU law and its systems of effective remedies’

    https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/TheGoodFridayAgreementBrexitandRights_0.pdf
    The GFA was much more than a rights-driven document, but rights are central to each dimension. … It also provides that the governance arrangements in Northern Ireland will include human rights protections based on the European Convention on Human Rights (‘the ECHR’).

    Their language is dense and I only skimmed them but it seems that the UK will have some legislative work to do to replace EU law with UK law. How important this is is not clear to me.

  35. If the border is really a non issue, why are the EU and the ROI digging in so hard on the backstop, when softening their stance could lead to a deal with the UK? I suspect the reason they’re digging in is because in reality there just isn’t a technological solution to the border issue at present and some sort of hard border will have to exist post a no deal Brexit. The idea that somehow the ROI would be prepared to throw itself over a cliff and leave the EU over it is just ridiculous, post Brexit the ROI will need the EU more than ever. I also note that the Ulster Unionist Party is now calling for direct rule from London.

    As for the GFA, quite frankly it has been in tatters for some time now, and not just because of Brexit. When you have a party, Sinn Fein, prepared to walk from power sharing and bring the whole show down because they didn’t get their way over their demands for the resignation of the First Minister, then saying they’ll only go back if they get concessions they know full well are unacceptable to unionists, then frankly it is as good as dead. They’re not interested in power sharing, because they think they can use Brexit to bring about a border poll, a border poll which even the Irish Taoisich has stated is not the way forward.

  36. Matt31 says:
    Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 11:05 am
    “If the border is really a non issue, why are the EU and the ROI digging in so hard on the backstop, when softening their stance could lead to a deal with the UK?”

    Because the EU is determined to make an example of the UK and is prepared to cut of its’ nose to spite its’ face in order to punish the UK as severely as possible as a message to any other country considering leaving the EU in the future.

    The ROI isn’t dug in on the backstop, only the EU is – the ROI have publicly stated that they have no intention of creating a hard border.

  37. Late Riser : Their language is dense

    1. You’re not wrong there ! The GFA was indeed agreed in the “context” of both UK and Ireland being members of the EU, and if that context changes there may be implications for how the GFA operates in practice. Likewise the GFA was agreed in the “context” of there being a stretch of sea between mainland Britain and the island of Ireland. Should an upheaval create a substantial land bridge, that would change the context and no doubt have some implications for how the GFA operates. But these contexts have nothing to do with the legal rights and obligations.

    The long and short of it is that to the extent that the GFA is legally binding on the UK and Ireland (as opposed to those parts that are merely aspitational puff) the domestic laws of the UK and Ireland are already in place to enforce it. While the UK and Ireland are EU members, the European Court and European law are supreme over UK and Irish law, and so can overtrump whatever those domestic laws say. It is only in that sense that EU law has anything to do with the GFA. But if the UK leaves the EU, EU law will no longer be supreme in the UK. That will not prevent the GFA being legally binding under UK domestic law, to the extent that UK law already says so.

    2. The UK has already passed an enabling law to allow Ministers to replicate in UK domestic law, by statutory instrument, those parts of EU law that they feel need replicating.

    3. The ECHR and the EU (and its court – the European Court) are different animals.

    4. It should be noted that Ireland has already committed a few “technical” breaches of the GFA itself, but nobody has made any fuss about it, as the GFA is supposed to be a practical arrangement. The fuss about Brexit and the GFA is just politicking, as David Trimble (the terrifyingly moderate Unionist leader who signed the GFA in the first place) has made clear.

  38. The idea that somehow the ROI would be prepared to throw itself over a cliff and leave the EU over it is just ridiculous

    Indeed. Hence the smiley face.

    The real (or one of the real) problems for Ireland (and the EU) with a no deal Brexit is that a large part of Irish trade with continental Europe does not go by sea direct to the continent, but by sea to the UK and then overland through the UK. It’ll take a while to cut the UK out of that loop.

    Which slightly increases the chances of a last minute modified no deal, or an immediate post exit short term deal – with some temporary arrangement to allow Ireland to continue using the land route via the UK, at least for a while.

  39. Hmm. So a different perspective on a no-deal-Brexit Irish border. Simply, if the Irish border problem is more noise than import (a pun, sorry) then might everyone accept a little ongoing leakage across the UK/EU membrane? For the sake of peace and politics? Is that the goal? A blind eye might allow PM Johnson a symbolic victory, allow the Irish a fragile status quo, and allow the EU an appearance of solidarity and strength. It may give agitators an opening but it’s an implicit compromise, and anyway they can be dealt with.

    Compared with the UK or the EU relatively few people live in Ireland. Ireland is symbolic. Imperfections can be ignored, mostly. The problem with symbols of course is that they are slippery beasts that can punch above their weight.

    ??

  40. Well, Late Riser, who knows ? That’s the fun, isn’t it ?

    If this was simply a matter of economics, then it would be easy enough to reach a sensible accommodation. But it isn’t just about economics. Plenty of Brit Brexiteers are willing to suffer a bit of short term pain to recapture self government. But plenty of other Brits are not. Adrian summarises the “this is crazy” viewpoint quite well.

    The EU is made up of 27 different countries (excluding the UK) who have different perspectives. Most of them don’t want economic pain, nor do they want to take any blame for a large dose of Irish economic pain. But most of them (though not all) are quite content with plenty of British economic pain. After all, the whole thing is set up to make it difficult to leave, because they don’t want people to leave. This attitude – punish the Brits (a) to discourage others and (b) because we don’t like the Brits anyway, is obviously paramount amongst the EU bureaucracy (who have been conducting the negotation.) Who have the advantage of not having to face the voters. Ever.

    And the Irish don’t want economic pain, but no border in Ireland is an article of faith. An Irish PM who accepted a hard border to save economic pain would be slaughtered in the next election. (And would have a fair chance of being actually slaughtered by the residual terrorists.) The current Taoiseach has dined well politically on his hardline no compromise position, bolstered by EU support and by the knowledge that Mrs May would cave – indeed desperately wanted to cave. So it’s very difficult for him to back down. The Fianna Fail leader has played it well, supporting the hard line but knowing he’s not going to pick up any blame.

    The current Irish government’s position is analagous to the Chinese position with Trump. They’re in a desperate position as regards reality (if Brexit happens) but backing down would be politically disastrous. So the one thing to do is to hope that Boris disappears before the music stops. (And likewise the Chinese are whistling and hoping Trump gets booted out in 2020 and his successor hasn’t learned too much from Trump about how vulnerable China really is.)

    So the fun will be – can the Brit Remainers stop Brexit before 31 October ? The betting markets say it’s 50-50. If Brexit doesn’t happen, all’s well for the Irish government. If it does happen, then as you suggest some kind of border fudge will be required. Because it is much more likely that New Zealand will apply to join the Commonwealth of Australia, than that there will be a hard border in Ireland. Never gonna happen.

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