“One Country, Two Systems”? Britain and Northern Ireland on Brexit

By Tom Clifford
Global Research, December 17, 2019

One country, two systems. Britain is leaving the European Union. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is not leaving on the same terms.

In the UK election, more Irish nationalists than Unionists were elected in Northern Ireland for the first time since Ireland was partitioned in 1921. Not surprisingly, it led to Sinn Fein renewing its calls for a vote to leave the UK and unite with the Irish Republic. This is not going to happen for reasons steeped in history. But also crucially there is not a groundswell of opinion, on either side of the border, for it. But Northern Ireland feels a lesser part of the UK today than at any time since Lloyd George was prime minister.

Hold the front page, as they used to say in pre-internet and website days. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is talking nonsense. There was, he said adamantly, no question of checks being needed on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom under his European Union withdrawal agreement.
“There will not be checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain,” Johnson said in November.

Not so fast. His own Brexit secretary, Steve Barclay, had to contradict him. Goods going from Northern Ireland will have to be accompanied by exit declarations and “targeted interventions” from customs officers, he said.

Brexit, The Tories and the “Irish Question”

Johnson, according to his own allies, is a non-starter regarding trust. Let us not forget, he is actually the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party. The Democratic Unionist Party feel they have been abandoned by him. On this, they are right. The DUP were convenient bedfellows when it suited him and when their usefulness was up, they were ruthlessly pushed out. This is no reason for non-Unionists to gloat. If the prime minister can dispatch his allies, then for those of a different political persuasion the occupant of No 10 Downing Street poses, at the very least, a troubling dilemma. Can he be taken at his word or trusted? The evidence suggests not.

Johnson is reneging on his absolute commitment to his allies in the DUP that a “border in the Irish Sea” is something “no British government could or should” ever accept.

DUP leader Arlene Foster was in no doubt. She said the British prime minister betrayed Unionist voters in Northern Ireland when he sealed a deal with the European Union that would introduce a trade barrier down the Irish Sea, jettisoning Northern Ireland from British customs procedures. He reneged on a promise he made when he spoke at their annual conference.

Foster said the party could no longer take Johnson at his word and would have to check if what he said “was actually factually correct”.

“Once bitten, twice shy, we will certainly be looking for the detail of what this [Brexit] is going to look like,” Foster said.

In his victory speech on Friday morning, Johnson said the UK is “leaving the EU as one United Kingdom”. Even if we ignore the Scottish question, this is utterly fraudulent. It is a matter of fact that Northern Ireland is not about to leave the EU on the same terms as Britain.

Crown subjects in Northern Ireland have a right to be told by their prime minister the truth about their status. Johnson displays a reluctance to tell the obvious truth that on the border, borders, literally, on the schizophrenic.
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Tom Clifford is an Irish journalist based in China. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Tom Clifford, Global Research, 2019

 

British Election Heralds Collapse of United Kingdom

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Finian Cunningham
December 16, 2019

Boris Johnson is entitled to crack open a few bottles of champagne after being re-elected prime minister, with his Conservative party winning a landslide majority. But when the celebrations are over, Britain is facing a thumping hangover – from the inescapable fact that half of the United Kingdom is now on an irrevocable path of separatism and independence.

Johnson has won a decisive mandate to “get Brexit done”, at least from London’s perspective. His party now has a substantial parliamentary majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons which will ensure delivery on his promise to execute Britain’s departure from the European Union on January 31. The actual final severance will take another year or two to complete because of negotiations between London and Brussels to definitively hammer out divorce terms. But at least Johnson can claim that he has consummated the final journey to leave the EU on January 31, a journey which began over three years ago when Britons had originally voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum.

However, crucially, the Conservative government’s mandate for Brexit only applies to England and Wales. It was in these two countries that saw the significant swing of voters from the opposition Labour party to Johnson’s Tories. Thus, in effect, his parliamentary majority stems from voters in England and Wales.

By total contrast, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the other two regions which make up the United Kingdom, the voters resoundingly rejected Johnson’s Brexit plans and voted for parties wanting to remain in the European Union. The outcome is consistent with the 2016 referendum results when Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted against Brexit.

Moreover, the latest election results have reinforced the call for independence in both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Scottish Nationalists swept the election to enhance their already existing majority. They now control nearly 90 per cent of all seats in Scotland. Party leader Nicola Sturgeon says there is an unquestionable mandate to hold a second referendum for Scottish independence. The previous independence referendum held in 2014 was defeated. But Scottish nationalists claim that popular support for their cause has surged since the Brexit referendum in 2016. The Scots, by and large, do not want to leave the EU. To remain in the EU therefore necessarily means separating from the United Kingdom and its central government in London.

Boris Johnson has so far rejected calls for holding a second Scottish independence referendum. But his position is untenable. Given the parliamentary numbers for separation stacking up in Scotland, he will have to relent. Nationalists there are demanding the holding of another plebiscite as early as next year.

In Northern Ireland, the election outcome is perhaps even more momentous. For the first time ever, nationalist parties have a majority over pro-British unionist parties. Mary Lou MacDonald, the leader of Sinn Fein, the main nationalist party, says that there is now a clear mandate for holding a referendum on the question of Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom. Given the breakthrough nationalist majority in the latest election, that would inevitably lead to a United Ireland, from the northern state joining with the existing southern state, the Republic of Ireland.

Nationalists in Northern Ireland have long-aspired for independence from Britain. Northern Ireland was created in 1921 from an audacious act of gerrymandering by the British government when it partitioned the island of Ireland into an independent southern state (which became the Republic of Ireland) and a small northern state (which became Northern Ireland). The latter remained under Britain’s jurisdiction. The arbitrary, imperialist act of partitioning Ireland was done in order to give the British authorities in London a mandate to rule over a portion of Irish territory because in newly created Northern Ireland the pro-British unionists were in a majority over nationalists. It was British establishment cynicism par excellence.

The present political structure of the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is only a century old. (Before that, the UK included all of Irish territory, but London was forced to grant partial Irish independence due to an armed insurrection.)

In any case, nearly a century after the setting up of Northern Ireland the natural demographic changes in its population have now created a majority for nationalists. The outcome of the election on December 12 is an undeniably huge historic event. For the first time ever, the nationalist mandate has overcome the unionist vote. The historic violation by British gerrymandering against Irish nationalist rights to independence and self-determination has finally been reversed in terms of electoral ballot.

When the Northern Ireland peace deal known as the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998 to bring an end to nearly 30 years of armed conflict, enshrined in that treaty is the “principle of consent”. The British government is treaty-bound to abide by the electoral mandate of a majority in Northern Ireland wanting a United Ireland.

The threshold for triggering a referendum on Northern Ireland leaving British jurisdiction has now been reached. And nationalist parties are openly demanding that the legislative process to achieve that separation is now implemented.

Jonathan Powell, a seasoned British diplomat who oversaw the negotiations of the Good Friday Agreement, is not one for hyperbole. But in an interview with Matt Frei for Britain’s LBC Radio on December 14, Powell said he expected to see the “collapse of the United Kingdom” within the next decade, if not sooner. He was referring specifically to the electoral results in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson’s seeming victory in the British election is a double-edged sword. He may claim to have a mandate to cut off ties with the European Union. But the results also mean Scotland and Northern Ireland are empowered to now cut off their ties with the rest of Britain. The separation of those two states, leaving behind England and Wales, spells the end of the so-called United Kingdom.

Johnson’s election success is not “unleashing great potential” as he claims. Rather, it is unleashing an existential constitutional crisis for the British establishment.

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Why the Protestors of Hong Kong Are Destroying the Prosperity of Their Country

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Martin SIEFF

September 14, 2019

The people of Hong Kong enjoy one of the highest standards of livings of any city across continental Asia. Since peacefully being reabsorbed into mainland China in 1997, they have confounded endless Western Prophets of Doom: These falsely claimed that Beijing would not maintain its solemn undertakings for peace and security in the city and territory. They maintained that Hong Kong’s historic position as one of the great business hubs of Asia and the world would rapidly be destroyed. Nothing of the sort happened.

But the prosperity of Hong Kong for generations to come is danger now – and the threat manifestly does not come from Beijing.

The mass protests for greater democracy and freedom continue. And following a grim dynamic that goes back well over two centuries to the French Revolution they can never be satisfied.

The more that the administration of Hong Kong led by Carrie Lam and the national Chinese government in Beijing seek to avoid the undue use of force and the infliction of casualties, the more violent, the demonstrations slowly and remorselessly become, the broader and more sweeping are their demands for political liberties – though these are invariably vague and ill-defined.

I predict here – simply and clearly – that no matter how many concessions allegedly for liberty are given they will never satisfy the protestors and the Western governments who at the very least are using them as political puppets and pawns. All that can possibly be achieved is to create an atmosphere of fear, insecurity and violence: That is toxic to attract both Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and also regular investment from the rest of China.

Therefore Hong Kong’s economy will founder, while unemployment and economic suffering will grow. Then, those suffering from it will be encouraged to blame the very government that has sought so long and so hard to prevent disasters from happening.

I speak with a particular authority on these matters: Half a century ago as a teenage Irish boy, I watched the same kind of protests destroy forever the peace and prosperity of one of the most advanced industrial centers on the face of the planet in the city of Belfast.

The lessons I learned then would serve the people of Hong Kong well today before they bring an unimaginable disaster upon themselves.

For popular violent protests against authorities never bring peace: They only bring war – Almost always on a scale that none of the protestors dreamed of when they took to the streets.

Prosperity never follows. At best there is mass unemployment and despair as local businesses and national investment flee the territory for decades and generations. You do not build factories and hire workers for them when the factory will be burned down in one of the endless clashes that will soon follow.

The “freedom” that the protestors demand is illusory. It is fools’ gold: It is the fantasy of wealth at the end of the rainbow that is never found.

Hong Kong’s enormous economic advantage for nearly 180 years under first British and over the past two decades of enlightened Chinese autonomous rule has been that it has been a secure, predictable and safe place to do business with the Mainland and with the wider region.

But that is no longer true: The longer the protests rage and the wider and more serious they become, the more that incalculable advantage is eroded before our eyes.

When I was a young boy, my father on Sunday mornings proudly took me down to the Harland & Woolf Shipyard on Queen’s Island to see some of the biggest moving vehicles in the world – giant cargo vessels, tankers, aircraft carriers and cruise ships – being built.

My father was proud of his son, but he was proud of his city too: Belfast was still the largest ship building center on earth. The great shipyard at its peak employed 35,000 workers. Enormous rivers of humanity would flow back and forth on the bridge over the River Lagan every day as its workers streamed to and from their labors. But for most of the past 50 years, almost all of it has become an industrial wasteland peopled only by ghosts.

Peace finally returned to Northern Ireland after 30 years of civil strife, but it was too late. The great shipyard never recovered and it never revived. What had been done could not be undone.

If these riots continue, that will be the fate of Hong Kong too. Nearly two centuries of growth and prosperity will wither and die.

This is no wild prediction. It is tantamount to a mathematical inevitability: There is a remorseless tidal wave of fate to the pattern of rising political protests that escalate into a violent revolution that can only be contained by the use of military force.

The Civil War in Northern Ireland raged – sometimes horrifically, sometimes more subdued – from 1968 to the landmark Good Friday Agreement of 1998. My old, dear friend, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Marjorie “Mo” Mowlam was the key figure driving the negotiations. She undermined her health doing so. Then a host of political parasites from US President Bill Clinton to British Prime Minister Tony Blair were eager to hog all the praise and credit for themselves years later as Mo lay dying from a brain tumor.

The decades that followed the collapse of law and order in Ireland in 1968-1972 were the darkest in the island’s troubled history since the Great Famine of the 1840s. The British government’s record of secret manipulation and involvement in dark excesses and crimes during those years gives London no moral standing today to lecture China on how it handles the unrest in Hong Kong, or anywhere else.

I never expected to see the end of apparently endless war in Ireland in my own lifetime. Thanks to Mo Mowlam’s selfless labors and those of countless other British and Irish figures great and small, peace finally came. The protestors of Hong Kong too now need to take a step back, suck in a deep breath and pause to think long and hard before they charge down that same doomed and awful path.

Belfast councillors vote against sending rep on Israel trade trip — — Rebel Voice

Belfast councillors have voted against sending a representative on a business and investment mission to Israel, reported the Belfast Telegraph.According to the report, councillors rejected a plan to send the council’s Director of Economic Development on the trip with local businesses during a meeting on Wednesday.The purported aim of the visit was to “facilitate access… via […]

via Belfast councillors vote against sending rep on Israel trade trip — — Rebel Voice

Ireland passes BDS bill banning israel (apartheid state) settlement goods

Ireland passes BDS bill banning Israel settlement goods

Israel summons Irish Ambassador over the BDS bill

Ireland has advanced a bill which will prevent the sale of goods from Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The lower house of the Irish parliament – the Dail – yesterday voted in favour of a bill which will ban the purchase of all goods and services from Israel’s West Bank settlements, which are considered illegal under international law. The bill was previously passed through the parliament’s upper house – the Seanad – before proceeding to the lower house and receiving a 78-45 majority in favour, Al Jazeera explained.

The bill – officially known as the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill – still needs to pass several more stages before being signed into Irish law, but it is expected to progress given its broad base of support from Irish opposition parties.

Once approved, the law would see fines of up to €250,000 ($284,000) or five years in jail be handed down for those found guilty of importing or selling any goods or services originating in the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem or West Bank settlements, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Though estimates put the value of settlement-made exports to Ireland at between only $580,000 and $1.1 million annually, the symbolic value of the bill and its potential to influence other European countries to follow suit has been hailed as a victory by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative party, said the bill is a “great victory for the BDS movement” and vowed that “we will seek to pass similar laws in a number of European countries in the near future”.

READ: Israel accuses EU of funding NGOs that support BDS

Irish politicians also welcomed the move, with Irish Senator Frances Black tweeting: “Ireland will always stand for international law + human rights, & we’re one step closer to making history. Onwards!” She added: “We have now united every opposition party behind this bill, because it is *not* a radical ask: we want to give effect to basic provisions of int [international] law & human rights.”

However Israel has reacted with anger at the bill, summoning the Irish Ambassador to Israel, Alison Kelly, to be reprimanded.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s office said that “Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Dail which is indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism”. It added: “Instead of Ireland condemning Syria for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians, Turkey for the occupation of northern Cyprus and the terrorist organizations for murdering thousands of Israelis, it attacks Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. What a disgrace.”

Meanwhile Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the vote “an expression of pure hostility on the part of its initiators,” adding: “This is a clear expression of obsessive discrimination that should be rejected with disgust.”

Ireland has been a long-time supporter of the BDS movement. In October, Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ announced that it will not sanction any staff members who refuse to travel to Israel for the Eurovision Song Contest, due to be held in Tel Aviv in May. RTÉ’s decision came after the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) called for a boycott of the competition “due to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people”.

Other Irish organisations have also expressed support for BDS, with the Dublin City Council voting in April to back the movement. In March, students at one of the country’s most prestigious universities – Trinity College Dublin – voted to support BDS, meaning the Students Union will support the movement and “comply with the principles of BDS in all union shops, trade, business and other union operations”.

READ: UK band boycotts Eurovision to be held in Israel

American interference: US tries to stop Ireland banning imports from israel’s (apartheid state) settlements

US tries to stop Ireland banning imports from Israel’s settlements

Veteran US lawmaker Peter King has lobbied against an Irish attempt to ban goods from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Bill Clark CQ Roll Call Photos/Newscom

A prominent US politician has lobbied Irish lawmakers to reject a proposed ban on imports from Israel’s illegal settlements.

Peter King, a member of Congress for New York, is among those who have opposed a bill being debated in Dublin.

Although the bill – aimed at forbidding goods from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank – seeks to uphold international law, King has depicted it as subversive.

King has tried to convince Fianna Fáil, one of Ireland’s largest parties, to withdraw its support for the proposed ban.

“It is critical that countries and leaders interested in facilitating a lasting peace amongst Israelis and Palestinians not serve to empower the most radical, who have no interest in seeking peace,” King stated in an email message addressed to Fianna Fáil’s team in the Oireachtas, Ireland’s national parliament.

He argued that the proposed ban on settlement goods “does just that by undercutting Palestinians truly interested in peace and empowering Hamas terrorists and recalcitrant Palestinians who refuse even to approach negotiations.”

King’s appeal was made in July and has not been previously reported.

Despite his strong connections with Ireland’s politicians, King could not persuade Fianna Fáil to change its stance. The party’s lawmakers have twice voted in favor of the Occupied Territories Bill, as the proposed ban on settlement goods is known.

Niall Collins, Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on foreign affairs, confirmed that King had been in contact with the party. Collins added that staff from the US embassy in Dublin had visited him “a couple of times,” urging him to oppose the bill.

“Huge issue”

During a trip to the West Bank in the summer, Collins was taken aback by the scale of Israel’s settlement activities.

“I struggle to see how a two-state solution can ever be achieved because of the whole proliferation of the settlements,” Collins told The Electronic Intifada. “The whole West Bank now is so fragmented that I struggle to see how that pipe dream can occur.”

The position taken by Fianna Fáil has proven vital towards having the bill approved by the Seanad, the upper house in the Oireachtas. Nominally in opposition, Fianna Fáil is enabling the work of a minority government led by its rival Fine Gael through a “confidence and supply” arrangement.

Whereas Fine Gael has tried to torpedo the Occupied Territories Bill, Fianna Fáil has backed it.

Fianna Fáil has previously proven accommodating to the US elite. While in government, it allowed the US to refuel military planes in Shannon Airport at the time of the 2003 war against Iraq.

But on the issue of Israel’s settlement goods, Fianna Fáil has listened to public opinion.

Collins acknowledged that he was unaware of the depth of Irish empathy for the Palestinians until he became his party’s foreign affairs spokesperson earlier this year.

“I was very surprised at the time,” he said. “But I understand now that Palestine is a huge issue for people in Ireland.”

Reactionary

The arguments made by Peter King smack of double standards. His use of the term “terrorists” to describe Palestinian resistance fighters is at odds with how he has previously defended Irish republicans involved in an armed struggle.

Although he suggests that Hamas should be isolated, King encouraged dialogue with Irish republicans at a time when the British government was refusing to deal with them. He has taken credit for persuading Bill Clinton, then US president, to issue a visa for Gerry Adams, then leader of the political party Sinn Féin, in 1994.

Adams’ visit to New York is widely recognized as having helped to advance the Irish peace process.

Equally, King is wrong to assert that a ban on settlement goods would undercut Palestinians “truly interested in peace.” His argument overlooks how Israel’s apartheid system – including its relentless colonization of the West Bank – is the primary obstacle to peace and justice.

The ban being considered in Ireland aims to make Israel pay a price for its settlement activities. Under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, building settlements in a territory acquired by force is a war crime.

In the recent past, King has proven to be an especially reactionary member of Congress. He has, for example, supported President Donald Trump’s attempts to prevent residents of seven largely Muslim countries from entering the US.

King did not respond to a request for comment.

Inspired by a strike

Advocates of the ban on settlement goods have drawn inspiration from a strike by staff of the Irish retailer Dunnes Stores in the 1980s. By refusing to handle South African goods, the Dublin strikers made a significant contribution to an international campaign that would ultimately result in sanctions being imposed on Pretoria’s apartheid government.

“We are being watched from all over the world,” said Frances Black, the Irish senator who formally proposed the Occupied Territories Bill. “If this legislation gets through here in Ireland, I have no doubt that other countries will follow suit – just like what happened with the Dunnes Stores workers in Dublin.”

Black, also a well-known singer, has been touring Ireland over the past few months to promote a ban on Israeli settlement goods.

She has been critical of the uncooperative response from Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister and a leading figure in the Fine Gael party.

Coveney’s claims that – as a European Union member – Ireland may not unilaterally ban Israel’s settlement goods have been disputed by a number of lawyers. The lawyers insist that individual countries are entitled to restrict trade for reasons of public policy.

“I think the Irish government is probably fearful of Ireland leading on this,” said Black. “They are fearful of what the European Union and the United States might say. They said the same thing with the Dunnes Stores workers – that we couldn’t lead on this – but I’m saying that we can lead on this and that the people of Ireland want this.”

Ciaran Tierney is a journalist based in Galway, Ireland. Website: ciarantierney.com.

 

Protesters confront Israel envoy at Queen’s University in Belfast

Rebel Voice

Students have long been to the fore of movements for social change across our world, and Ireland is no different. As an ambassador for the rogue state of Israel recently visited Queen’s University in Belfast, in the Irish Occupied Six Counties, he was met with strong protest by both students and their supporters. The Israeli politico and his Unionist acolytes were left in no doubt that the students in this part of Ireland will not stand quietly by when representatives from a state guilty of multiple crimes against humanity waltz brazenly into Belfast. Maith sibh to all those who demonstrated.

There were reports of “angry scenes” at Queen’s University in Belfast yesterday, as protesters “confronted” the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev. According to the Belfast Telegraph, some 70 pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the university, as the Israeli envoy gave a guest lecture to postgraduate students. Earlier in…

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