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:

UK(NI).

That's the suggestion contained within the draft agreement for how Northern Irish products could be labelled should the backstop be implemented.

The European Commission factsheet says goods from Northern Ireland destined for Great Britain could still be marketed as UK products.

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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.

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'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.

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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.

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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.

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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".

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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

Consultation delay after cabinet 'spat'

Karen Bradley Image copyright ADP/Getty Images
Image caption Cabinet ministers took Karen Bradley to task on Tuesday

When Stormont politicians were given drafts of the long awaited legacy consultation document on a confidential basis last week, their understanding was that a full public launch of the process would follow within days.

However that was before Tuesday's cabinet 'spat', during which other ministers took Karen Bradley to task for proceeding without a specific question on the controversial statute of limitations proposal.

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Commemorations and commiserations

Pram in conference room
Image caption Belfast's "best-behaved baby"

Twice this week I squeezed myself into a seat at the back of a packed room.

On Tuesday afternoon it was the Whitla Hall at Queen's University, I sat alongside students, school pupils, and politicians as Bill Clinton, George Mitchell and other leaders associated with the Good Friday Agreement urged the current generation to rediscover the optimism of 1998.

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