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Political reality of Brexit is the UK wants to ghost the EU forever

Inside Politics: Two separate UK Bills show Boris Johnson’s government has no interest in compromising


The political intent behind the Bills published by Boris Johnson’s government this month is obvious: it essentially wants to ghost the EU forever.

There is a simple reality underlying everything. The United Kingdom is no longer in the EU. It is no longer subject to its rules. If it diverges from the EU way of doing things, then there is nothing that can be done to draw it back in. If it wants to behave like Wreck-it Ralph (which is what it’s doing) it can.

We have seen very real examples of that this month with the two pieces of legislation that have raised real anxieties. Its sweeping legislation, which will essentially makes the Northern Protocol largely redundant. And, in recent days, its proposed Bill of Rights that seeks to diminish the application of the European Convention on Human Rights in its jurisdiction. In the more complex and subtle political situation that applies in the North, both moves will harm the working of the Belfast Agreement.

Martin Wall reports this morning that US president Joe Biden and his administration has raised its concerns about the protocol with Downing Street at “multiple levels”. You sense, like everything else that has been done until now, it’s as impactful as smacking an elephant with a feather. Boris Johnson and his government will ignore it like they have ignored all appeals.

Similarly, as Seanín Graham reports, a Coalition of 170 groups representing civil society in Northern Ireland has warned the replacement of the British Human Rights Act with a new Bill of Rights represents a violation of the Belfast Agreement.

The British government has been accused of “reneging” on its commitment to the North’s peace process. Like everything else, that charge will fall on deaf ears.

Civil servants pay

It’s not going down well and the Government know it. While official figures from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) confirm that households face the biggest fall in living standards for well over a decade, wages for top judges and doctors will rise by more than €20,000 annually next months as a result of getting their pay restored on July 1st to pre-austerity levels.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy reports that while the economy will grow at a rate of 6.8 per cent in 2022, inflation is expected to work out at 7 per cent this year with earnings growing by only 3.5 per cent.

In other words, real incomes will contract by up to 4 per cent. This is a contrast to the big increases in pay for those public servants at the top of the tree.

Politically, it’s a loser, no matter which way one looks at it.

The salary of the Chief Justice will rise by more than €24,000 to almost €296,000, while the best paid hospital consultant will see increases of almost €23,000 — bringing their pay levels to €252,150.

The Government has argued a failure to pay would have been vulnerable to legal challenge.

But if public sector unions get increases that match the rate of inflation, there will be a real sense among employees in the private sector of a mismatch between their treatment and that of people who get paid by the State.

Last night, Leo Varadkar told his Fine Gael colleagues that there was a “good possibility” of a new pay deal being struck with public sector workers. Cormac McQuinn’s reports on the respective meetings of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meetings is here.

Best Reads

Miriam Lord writes the Taoiseach does ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ as talk of stagflation turns to fatcatflation.

Jennifer Bray writes about a historic moment in the Oireachtas on Wednesday. A new law has been passed that will allow adopted children more information about their births to ease their quest to trace their birth parents.

Vivienne Clarke reports on separate radio interviews with Leo Varadkar and Pearse Doherty on Wednesday where both continued to argue the toss after a very personal row in the Dáil last Thursday. Can we expect the same at Leader’s Questions today?

Vivienne Clarke also reports on a heated exchange between Independent Offaly TD Carol Nolan and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on asylum seekers and the difficulties locating adequate accommodation for them.

Listen to our weekly podcast on politics, Inside Politics, hosted this week by Pat Leahy: Will the Government take any pre-budget action?

Playbook

The EU Summit in Brussels begins today. The main issue EU leaders will discuss is the applications for fast-track entry to the union for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Two of the three applications (Georgia is considered to be some distance off) will get strong support, but will also be resisted by a small number of key states including Portugal and the Netherlands.

The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired by Charlie Flanagan, is going off campus and will visit the Passport Office today. While there, its members will speak with senior officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding long delays in the provision of passport services.

In advance of the meeting Flanagan said: “Delays in issuing passports are a cause of great concern for people and families wishing to travel — particularly for first time applicants.

“While the online passport application system has resulted in shorter turnaround times and lower rejection rates compared to paper-based applications, it is clear that further customer improvements may be required.

“Committee members are keen to see first hand the proposals and plans for the passport service as we approach a busy holiday period.”

People Before Profit is launching a Cost of Living policy document at 11am.

Dáil Éireann

9.00am: Parliamentary Questions to Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien.

10.30am: Parliamentary Questions to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

12.00pm: Leaders’ Questions. After the bad-tempered exchanges between Leo Varadkar and Pearse Doherty last week, will we get a repeat or a return to quasi-civility?

1.44pm: Statements on LGBTQI+ Equality

5.14pm: Topical Issues

6.02pm: Private Members’ Bill: Thirty-ninth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to Vote at 16) Bill 2021 (Second Stage). This is Donegal TD Thomas Pringle’s Bill.

7.17pm: Dáil adjourns

Seanad Éireann

9.30am: Regulation of Providers of Building Works and Building Control (Amendment) Bill 2022

1.15pm: Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2022 — Committee Stage 16.45: Institutional Burials Bill 2022. 19.45: Seanad adjourns

Committees

9.30am: Joint Committee on Gender Equality. Recommendations of the report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality on Care and Social Protection (resumed).

9.30am: Committee of Public Accounts. Central Government funding of local authorities.

9.45am: Joint Committee on Disability Matters CR4, LH 2000. The policy focus of today’s meeting is ‘Accessing Justice’ and a number of people representing disability groups will attend.

1pm: Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Meeting on Remediation of Dwellings damaged by the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks Bill 2022.

This will be the most-watched committee of the day and will meet for most of the afternoon and evening. It’s a very long guest list and we expect the exchanges to be passionate and heated.

Mica action representatives from counties Donegal, Clare and Mayo. Representatives from Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland (SCSI).

Representatives from Engineers Ireland.

Paul Forde, Chair, Expert Working Group.

Officials from Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Representatives from The Housing Agency.