PM’s ‘political vanadalism’ and posturing puts NI peace in peril

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Boris Johnson and ex-Brexit minister Lord David Frost don’t understand or seem to care about their “vandalism” to Northern Ireland peace says one of the key architects of the Good Friday Agreement.

Tony Blair’s ex-chief of staff, Jonathan Powell said the government’s posturing over the European court of justice risks collapsing the devolved parliament at Stormont unless the PM and his ministers focus on the practical problems to Irish sea trade resulting from Brexit.

Powell accused Johnson and Frost of putting hard ideology ahead of people, and said: “What worries me is the casual political vandalism. They really don’t seem to care. I mean the damage they are doing to the very fragile political settlements in Northern Ireland, by posturing on things like the European court of justice, which do not matter to voters in Northern Ireland.”

Powell said “they may matter” to Johnson, his ministers “and the ideological base” but asked, “is it really worth sacrificing all the work that previous generations of politicians put into the Northern Ireland peace process on the ideological altar of the ECJ?”

‘The UK position has not changed,’ says Truss

Foreign secretary Liz Truss replaced Frost – who sensationally quit as Brexit minister before Christmas – and she assured then: “The UK position has not changed. We need goods to flow freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, end the role of the ECJ as the final arbiter of disputes between us, and resolve other issues.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has called on Truss to set a deadline with the EU over the NI protocol – relating to trade restrictions between NI and GB – and he told the Sunday Telegraph: “January is going to be an absolutely crucial month.”

Donaldson said the government should trigger article 16 if the deadline passes without agreement and warned that delaying “rapid and decisive progress” by “kicking the can down the road” will have “major implications for the stability of the political institutions in Northern Ireland.”

57% of voters believe Johnson lied about Brexit

Unionists feel bitterly betrayed by the prime minister who repeatedly promised them “no border in the Irish sea” or any restrictions to trade between NI and GB from Brexit before delivering exactly that in his deal with the EU.

British voters are increasingly feeling the same with a poll showing 57% believe the prime minister lied to them about Brexit. The Savanta survey for the Independent newspaper, published on New Year’s Day, also shows that a majority of voters believe Brexit has damaged Britain’s standing, economy and ability to control its borders, rather than  improving it.

Johnson and his ministers have talked up the 70 trade deals signed since Brexit as one of its benefits. However, the Independent states these are “no more than ‘rollover’ agreements maintaining arrangements which the UK already enjoyed as an EU member”, while adding that the government’s own figures suggest the new deals with Australia, New Zealand and others “will boost GDP by only a tiny fraction of 1%, compared to the 4% loss expected from leaving the EU.”

Businesses ask if Brexit bureaucracy is worth the hassle?

New restrictions to trade between Britain and the EU came into force on January 1 – having been previously postponed – amid warnings of “teething problems” for importers caused by the new rules.

Extra paperwork and barriers to trade may make some businesses decide “it isn’t worth the hassle,” said Philip Rycroft, permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) from 2017 to 2019.

The former senior civil servant told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme importers from the EU will now face the “Brexit bureaucracy” faced by British exporters to the EU.

“This is what taking back control of our borders means,” said Rycroft. “It will hit some sectors harder than others. The rules are more complicated for animal products, in particular food products that contain bits of animals, because of all the requirements around that.”

World’s first ‘flurona’ case recorded

Meanwhile, British scientists, health chiefs and politicians are digesting reports from Israel about the world’s first recorded case of influenza mixing with coronavirus.

A young pregnant woman has tested positive for both diseases that attack the upper respiratory tract and Israel’s health ministry said it is investigating if the combination of the two diseases – dubbed “flurona” – may cause a more serious illness.

The woman has mild symptoms and is expected to be discharged from hospital on Thursday.

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