Big Ben silenced - but Brexit clocks are ticking

Big Ben chimed for the last time in August and will not sound until 2021
Image caption Big Ben chimed for the last time in August and will not sound until 2021

Last night, MPs engaged in a bizarre ritual leaping to their feet at the moment the debate on the meaningful vote on the Brexit deal should have recommenced.

An opposition MP beat the government whip to the punch by shouting "now".

But the Speaker made it clear he had to give priority to the whip's competing acclamation "tomorrow". A concerned Labour MP grabbed the ceremonial mace as a symbolic protest.

The parliamentary etiquette may be archaic but it served to remind observers there are some things governments can do that oppositions cannot.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Dominic Grieve's amendment may have promised more than it delivered

Not so long ago the talk was that an amendment brought by the Conservative Dominic Grieve shifted the power over what kind of Brexit track the UK might eventually take from the PM to ordinary backbenchers.

Read full article Big Ben silenced - but Brexit clocks are ticking

May likely to face mixed reception on NI visit

Arlene Foster and Theresa May Image copyright AFP
Image caption Arlene Foster's meeting with Theresa May will be civil in spite of the DUP leader's criticism of the PM

Politics can be a topsy-turvy business.

Not so long ago, the four Stormont parties opposed to Brexit complained that Theresa May was refusing to see them as a joint delegation.

Read full article May likely to face mixed reception on NI visit

UK(NI): Four letters that mean so much

Belfast port Image copyright PA
Image caption What would the deal mean for goods passing through Belfast port?

You can read the full 585 pages of the draft EU withdrawal agreement and its dense legalese.

Or you can focus on just four letters:

Read full article UK(NI): Four letters that mean so much

Brexit highlights historical unionist fears

Belfast Port Image copyright PA
Image caption Could bar codes be scanned at Belfast Port?

The technology might be modern, with the EU's Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier talking about officials scanning bar codes on lorry containers as they roll on or off Irish Sea ferries.

But the political fears which underpin unionist anxiety over the prospect of new regulatory checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain have been around for decades.

Read full article Brexit highlights historical unionist fears

'Limited' time for civil servant rule in Northern Ireland

Stormont
Image caption Northern Ireland has had no government since January 2017

After announcing to MPs her proposals for coping with the Stormont deadlock, Karen Bradley now has to try to secure a measure of agreement, or at least acquiescence, from the local parties.

Mrs Bradley's frank admission of ignorance about the basic facts of Northern Irish politics, made in an interview with the House magazine, led to some ridicule over the weekend.

Read full article 'Limited' time for civil servant rule in Northern Ireland

Stormont: No Guinness record for political ineptitude

Stormont

We are well used to anti-climaxes in Northern Ireland - deals that turn out not to be deals, deadlines that are dead long before they become officially defunct.

So it was maybe predictable that we haven't even been able to claim a record for political ineptitude.

Read full article Stormont: No Guinness record for political ineptitude

Is Sinn Féin changing its policy on a border poll?

Mary Lou McDonald Image copyright Liam McBurney/PA
Image caption The Sinn Féin leader still wants to see a referendum within five years

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald appeared to indicate a softening in party policy on Monday when she said a border poll should not be held while uncertainty around Brexit remains.

The party leader's comments contrast with previous Sinn Féin assertions that a referendum on a United Ireland cannot come soon enough.

Read full article Is Sinn Féin changing its policy on a border poll?

Is the UK government performing a 'balancing act?'

Image caption The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference has not met since February 2007

When I asked Karen Bradley back in April whether she would convene a meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference, she told me she didn't want to do anything which moved the situation at Stormont backwards.

Back then the Northern Ireland Office seemed more taken with the DUP's preferred option - a transitional or shadow assembly.

Read full article Is the UK government performing a 'balancing act?'

Could referendums resolve those 'red line' Stormont issues?

When Jeremy Corbyn visited Queen's University in Belfast I asked him whether Downing Street would be neutral on a future border poll if he was Prime Minister.

Mr Corbyn replied in the affirmative, declaring that a Labour government would implement the Good Friday agreement "to the letter".

Read full article Could referendums resolve those 'red line' Stormont issues?

Former DPP says Troubles prosecutions should cease

Former NI Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Barra McGrory QC said the quality of evidence in some cases would be too poor to secure convictions

NI's former Director of Public Prosecutions has called for a halt to criminal prosecutions for murders carried out during the Troubles.

Barra McGrory denounced proposals for a new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) as "convenient politically, but not really properly thought through".

Read full article Former DPP says Troubles prosecutions should cease