Brexit paper: No Irish border tariffs for small firms

An Irish soldier guards a customs post on the southern side of the border at Swanlinbar, County Cavan, in the mid 1970s Image copyright PA Images
Image caption An Irish soldier guards a customs post on the southern side of the border at Swanlinbar, County Cavan, in the mid-1970s

If the vote for Brexit represented UK voters symbolically pulling up the drawbridge to Europe, then the 310-mile land border which divides Ireland always represented a headache.

It has hundreds of crossing points and the removal of the fortified border checkpoints which used to monitor north south traffic is seen as one of the lasting achievements of the peace process.

Re-creating "unapproved crossings" or putting those physical posts back to police a new customs regime would be a security nightmare, providing a focal point for dissident republicans intent on reviving the "Troubles".

So it was no surprise that the latest UK paper made good on previous pledges of "no return to the borders of the past" by promising there should be no physical infrastructure installed on the border.

What was surprising is that rather than installing unobtrusive CCTV cameras set back from the border, the UK wants to a large extent to have no customs border at all.

Read full article Brexit paper: No Irish border tariffs for small firms

Stormont's Catch 22 and eBikes with no batteries

Stephen Nolan
Image caption Stephen Nolan - thankfully not "half broadcaster, half bicycle"

The saga of BBC presenter Stephen Nolan and the eBikes has undeniable comic potential.

As my esteemed colleague considered whether he should get a battery-assisted cycle, the thoughts of Sgt Pluck from Flann O'Brien's Third Policeman came into my head.

Read full article Stormont's Catch 22 and eBikes with no batteries

Border friction as UK/Irish joint approach unravels?

The Irish border Image copyright PA
Image caption The operation of the Irish border is one of the most sensitive Brexit issues

For months, it's been the joint mantra from both Dublin and London - that after Brexit, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland should be as "seamless and frictionless as possible".

That phrase hinted both at an ideal flexible arrangement in the future and an ideal shared approach from both the UK and Irish governments, together stressing to the EU the paramount importance of doing nothing that might constitute any kind of risk to the political progress made over recent decades.

Read full article Border friction as UK/Irish joint approach unravels?

What caused the Stormont stalemate?

Sinn Fein delegation are pictured giving a press conference inside Stormont and a DUP delegation outside the building. Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption It was announced on Monday that talks had failed to restore a power-sharing executive

So a pause in the talks and no progress likely before September.

Was that a consequence of the DUP Conservative deal, as Sinn Féin argued?

Read full article What caused the Stormont stalemate?

Sticking points as Stormont deadline looms

Signing DUP-Tory deal Image copyright Reuters

So the cheque is in the post after the DUP agreed to back Theresa May's minority government in Commons votes.

As a result, Northern Ireland will receive an extra £1bn during the next two years as part of the deal, but what could prevent the Stormont parties setting up a power-sharing executive to spend the money?

RHI inquiry

Image copyright tchara
Image caption The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme is approximately £490m over budget

Read full article Sticking points as Stormont deadline looms

Where does Tory-DUP deal leave power-sharing talks?

Theresa May shakes Arlene Foster's hand in Downing Street as she arrives for talks
Image caption The talks have taken more than two weeks to conclude

Northern Ireland will receive an extra £1bn over the next two years as part of the deal that will see the Democratic Unionist Party's 10 MPs back Theresa May's minority government in Commons votes.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the "wide-ranging" pact was "good for Northern Ireland and the UK" - but where does it leave talks to restore power-sharing in Belfast?

Read full article Where does Tory-DUP deal leave power-sharing talks?

Is DUP-Tory courtship cooling off?

DUP leader Arlene Foster and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds arriving at 10 Downing Street in London for talks Image copyright PA
Image caption The DUP have been negotiating a deal to support the Tory elected government

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has poured cold water on reports that his party was seeking an extra £2bn in health and infrastructure spending.

That was - according to the Lagan Valley MP - "wild speculation" and "wide of the mark".

Read full article Is DUP-Tory courtship cooling off?

DUP deals and dialogue: where are we now?

DUP members Emma Little-Pengelly, Sammy Wilson, Gregory Campbell, Gavin Robinson, Nigel Dodds and party leader Arlene Foster outside the Stormont hotel in Belfast. Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The DUP met with the Conservative Party's chief whip Gavin Williamson on Saturday

Don't be surprised if things go quiet today so far as the DUP-Conservative discussions are concerned.

Not all DUP politicians are Sabbatarians, but enough are to make it party policy to avoid being seen to negotiate on a Sunday.

Read full article DUP deals and dialogue: where are we now?

Blondes and Brexit - NI's second election in three months

Voter on bike Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption Northern Ireland voters last went to the polls in March

It has been a strange election campaign in Northern Ireland, coming so quickly after the March assembly contest and interrupting the talks that were meant to restore devolution.

The debate has ranged across the implications of Brexit for cross-border trade, the consequences of the political vacuum at Stormont and, rather less predictably, whether it is OK for one party leader to call another a "blonde".

Read full article Blondes and Brexit - NI's second election in three months

Irish Language issue still has (crocodile) teeth

Crocodile Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption Arlene Foster originally made her "crocodile" quip while vowing there would be no Irish Language Act

If labelling Sinn Féin as "crocodiles" was the Arlene Foster phrase that stuck at the start of the spring assembly election campaign, then the DUP leader was determined not to make the same mistake again at the outset of the Westminster battle.

The ad lib "crocodile" comment emerged during answers to the press, so the DUP's Gavin Robinson was only half joking when he advised party activists that the longer they cheered the better, as it would cut down the time for those pesky enquiries from reporters.

Read full article Irish Language issue still has (crocodile) teeth