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Monday 27 November 2017

Liam Fox - Out Of His Depth

There was a good reason that Liam Fox departed in disgrace from the Ministry of Defence six years ago: he had shown himself to be utterly untrustworthy and devoid of principle, as well as allowing his pal Adam Werrity access that no-one in that position should have enjoyed. There was considerable scepticism when Theresa May recalled Fox to the cabinet last year, and recent events have merely underscored that.
Of all the issues that must be dealt with as part of the process of the UK leaving the EU, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been one of the most obvious and pressing. At present, there are no checks, no customs points, no barriers of any kind between the two: indeed, the only sign that one has passed from one into the other is the change in speed limits from miles to kilometres per hour.

Belfast to Dublin rail services no longer make lengthy stops at Dundalk and Newry; there are no Police or passport checks. Trade is frictionless, and most on the island of Ireland like it that way. But the Westminster Government has been dragging its heels in addressing the issue of what will happen with the UK outside the Single Market and Customs Union, and the Republic still inside.

So as soon as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reminded everyone that this issue needed addressing, he was roundly abused by the UK’s anti-EU press, and up popped Fox to try and not merely trivialise the issue, but attempt to turn it into a bargaining chip. This was duly reported yesterday by Sky News: “No decision on the Irish border after Brexit will be made before talks move on to trade, Liam Fox has announced”. There was more.

The International Trade Secretary put himself directly at odds with the Irish Government and raised fresh fears about negotiations moving on to phase two by December … we can't get a final answer to the Irish question until we get an idea of the end state - and until we get into discussions with the EU on the end state that will be very difficult … We're still in the position where the EU doesn't want to do that”. So it’s all someone else’s fault.

But Fox ought to know that it’s not happening in that order, not least because the Republic, as an EU member state, not only has a veto, but is more than likely to use it if the border issue is not addressed. And as Sky News’ Mark Stone observed, “If he sticks by this, and the EU doesn't move either then it is certain that 'sufficient progress' on divorce won't be given in December. So trade talks won't begin - disaster for business and citizens”.

This cavalier behaviour also seems to miss the border issue being tied up with the Northern Ireland peace process. The whole thing is very delicately balanced - and the UK Government has known the issue has to be addressed since the referendum result was announced. Yet here we are with a clueless amateur allowed into the cabinet, and given licence to speak on behalf of that Government. This is very dangerous indeed.

The border issue should be sorted by next week. Fox is suggesting that the Government not only won’t meet that deadline, but that it doesn’t care. That’s not good enough.


Malcolm Redfellow said...

Roll up, roll on, roll off!

Time to buy shares in Rosslare-Cherbourg ferry services?

Weekend DUP conference chipper about return of 'B' Specials? That'd go ... err ... a bomb in loyalist circles west of the Bann.

Arnold said...

Rejecting the proposal, Dr Fox said: “We don’t want there to be a hard border – but the UK is going to be leaving the customs union and the single market.”
Leave the SM/CU and a hard border is part of the package you cockwomble!

I see that Legatum has suggested unmanned drones and airships to patrol the border. Presumably heavily armed to stop them being shot down.

Peter McCormack said...

Yes, it's hard to see Irish exporters and hauliers wanting to bugger about with customs seals just to have their trucks transit the UK.
Holyhead and Cairnryan are going to feel the pinch.

Anonymous said...

If this man and his friend, plus one other, had lived in the time of Elizabeth 1 Their heads would have been impaled on spikes at one end of London Bridge for their previous activities.
Unbelievable that he's now a leading actor in this coup.

Anonymous said...

When Sky "News" wibbled "...Liam Fox has announced..." I bet hysterical laughter could be heard everywhere.

An announcement from that cretin might be worth the back page of The Beano circa 1952. But little else.

Can't he find some useful work......such as scrubbing clean the House of Commons tory benches?

DarrenG said...

oh well then, if no progress has been made, then i can see all those money generating businesses will start announcing in 2018 that they are putting their contingency plans and place and are preparing to leave the UK. Then watch the tories and the leave camps start the blame game.

Want to bet they wont blame the,selves but will blame
The EU
Remainers for not being patriotic enough for believing in the clusterf**k this is brexit

Stephen Butcher said...

The EU has made it abundantly clear that if the UK insists on not being in the single market or the customs union the best deal on offer will be a Canada-style one so Fox is just stalling, the UK could make proposals on that basis. Plus all the talk is about customs. The government promises a restrictive immigration policy. It needs to explain how it squares new, tough passport controls at Dover and Heathrow with a wide-open land border between Newry and Derry. No wonder they're stalling!