June 4, 2021
While we know there is a Judicial Review of the Protocol in our courts, the key points on which the Protocol is being challenged haven't had much airtime. Efforts by Jim Allister to explain on the BBC Northern Ireland Nolan Show were interrupted (frequently) by the host shouting "but Brexit". With his legal hat on, we give Jim time to set out the legal case, clearly: on the fundamental risk to the Act of Union, on conflict with principles of the NI Act 1998 that underpins the Belfast Agreement, and on the Human Rights issues around democratic legitimacy.
The deflection from the cost of the Protocol, particularly to small businesses and the consumer, in suggesting that the Protocol was 'inevitable' simply reflects the intellectual shallowness of those who have already lost the argument on Brexit and continue to deny the a democratic national vote.
Slightly longer than our usual podcast, but well worth the listen to understand the deep constitutional and economic dangers that lie within the Protocol, with repercussions across the UK. Leaders of Unionism would do well to listen, and learn, because focus on the 'process' of the Protocol risks missing the clear and present constitutional dangers.
If you are inspired to support the JR challenge to the NI Protocol you can do so here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/defending-the-union-of-the-uk/
May 7, 2021
Has the DUP leadership contest been precipitated by policy, politics, or a simpler clash of personalities? Hard to say, and more difficult to see how the DUP comes out the other side with a stable leadership. Not that Unionist voters are going to have a massive choice in 2022 - devil you know, or the devil or the deep blue sea.
The accusation of policy designed by focus group has been made. A greater issue is media's apparent obsession with 'polls' for easy headlines and lazy copy, with commentators left to consider why and with little in the actual news columns to enlighten or inform the voter on why and what is happening. We talk % and whether polls can be trusted rather than substantive issues around whether, whatever the numbers, are we getting good government.
April 1, 2021
A year after the first Covid lockdown, and just over a year of New Decade "new" Approach, the ability of our institutions to address anything much with a degree of competence seems, at best, little improved. The Storey funeral suggests everyone is confused on both law and responsibilities, including those who wrote the law and those who might be expected to uphold the law. The public does not share that ambiguity in respect of what happened at the Storey funeral. More widely devolution is not delivering. It is institutional, or simply that those at the head lack the competence/experience/imagination. A £140 million infrastructure project further delayed because of 'place making'. Seriously. The public is being played for a fool.
March 5, 2021
The UK Budget this past week gave small comfort to small businesses in excluding many from the proposed corporation tax increases. In Northern Ireland that was indeed small comfort to many small businesses. They are doubly troubled. Burdened by the NI Protocol and supply issues that impact directly on competitiveness within the UK internal market, and battered by the indecision of the Northern Ireland Executive's Covid Roadmap that is long on words, short on anything that much informs anyone. "Can't have people in complete darkness as to what comes next," declared the Health Minister (Nolan Live, 3 March). The NI Exec seems not have found the light switch.
February 11, 2021
Risk is relative. When the COVID-19 virus has been prevalent in the community, the large numbers who require hospitalisation threaten to overwhelm the health service. That has been true without a working vaccine. Now that there is vaccines being delivered it is clear the threat to the health service will decline - the risk to the NHS declines. That changes the context for the restrictions on personal freedoms.
The NI Protocol may have seemed a good idea at the time (not on this Podcast) but it is clear something is dangerously wrong, and the claims of protecting the GFA seem seriously adrift if not fundamentally disingenuous. Risk is not an absolute and can only be understood relative to the prevailing circumstances.
January 22, 2021
Ending the podcast with insightful commentary from the FT that a United Ireland is imminent because there are posh East Belfast coffee shops. Who knew? The remarkable ability to put apples and oranges together and calling it bowl of bananas is a communications trait that seems to be all too prevalent in public discourse, and perhaps the underlying theme of this Episode. The theatre of a disorganised riot becomes an 'insurrection, while democracy is lauded within a cordon of tens of thousands of armed troops. Lockdown is the only policy to 'protect the NHS', as if there was no alternative, and 'freedom' must be sacrificed for an institution of state? Slightly longer than usual, for big topics.
December 28, 2020
The pattern of bold policy announcements followed by a failure to deliver seems to be the dominant feature of 2020. Perhaps the recent UK/EU trade agreement will be an exception as it seems to be, for now) - once the NI Protocol as 'best of both worlds' is explained. That can't be said for the New Decade heralded by the resurrection of Stormont that shows little evidence of the promised 'new approach'. There is plenty to be pessimistic about in the performance of Stormont and the Northern Ireland Executive, as individual Parties and as a collective. Internationally, Trump was not as bad as he performed for the crowd, while China continues to perform economically on the back of slave labour and significant abuse of human rights.
November 28, 2020
The question is not whether or not there is a trade Agreement between the UK and EU in the first week of December. Rather it is a question of preparedness for either scenario. This episode looks at the monumental scale of unpreparedness, by just about everyone - it isn't just the UK Govt struggling with the reality of it all. There has been some general media reporting on this in recent weeks. We take the opportunity to explain the detail to make the point. In the wake of Covid, NI business needs this debacle like a hole in the head. It will be the consumer who ultimately pays.
October 16, 2020
Groundhog Days. Once again renewable energy has hit the headlines, though it seems because the funding is covered outside the Stormont budget the schemes haven't managed to elicit the level of public interest that RHI attracted. Also in the news are voices expressing concern about the NI Protocol on Northern Ireland business (particularly retail) and on the consumer. Oddly these same voices supported Theresa May's backstop, which entailed many of the same pitfalls and could have been far more damaging arguably. Finally, in the outworking of the NI Executive response to Covid, policy implementation neither seems fully 'thought-through', nor is there much substance beyond the immediate headline number and sounds of panic from the Health Department. How can messaging be clear? Consequences?
September 22, 2020
There seems to be a common thread around Governments' pronouncements around Brexit and COVID19 that creates uncertainty and confusion; and that is the ambiguous nature of much of the messaging. We are asked to believe what Government tells us, but find it hard to do so where what we are being told could be interpreted this way or that, and words are not followed through with effective action that would demonstrate certain commitment to a shared goal. Result? Rather than taking back control, there is a sense of drift and lack of direction. In the worst examples this has lead to wilful disregard of any authority, and message.