inequality‘He’d stay awake at night 
Lying in his bed 
No one ever listened 
To a single word, he said’ 

It should be clear to all but the most myopic of people that Brexit is an ongoing disaster. The only exception being the government who use it, allied to the natural aggression, as a way of distracting the masses from the inability to govern. This time it’s a rerun of the situation in Northern Ireland (‘NI’). 

Brexit was built on lies, it’s about nationalism and exceptionalism, appealing to stupid little people such as Johnson and his horde. 

The problem in NI is based on incompatibility between Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement (‘the GFA’). The later was based on an open border which, post-Brexit required special arrangements as NI is the only part of the UK with a land border with an EU country. 

Post-Brexit, we no longer shared common trade rules, and a new system was needed to ensure compliance with EU food rules meaning border checks were necessary. 

All parties agreed that protecting the GFA was a priority, which led to the NI Protocol becoming part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which is now international law. 

Two main points of the Protocol are: 

  • Instead of checking goods at the Irish border, the protocol agreed that any inspections and document checks would take place at NI’s ports. 
  • NI continues to follow EU rules on product standards. 

Unionist parties, led by the Democratic Unionists (DUP) argue that placing an effective border across the Irish Sea undermines NI’s place within the UK. As a result, the DUP is refusing to take part in NI’s new power-sharing government until these concerns are resolved. Although the DUP came second to Sinn Fein, a new Northern Ireland government cannot be formed without the DUP. 

Sinn Fein has accused the government of ‘indulging’ political unionists who believe they can ‘hold society to ransom’. 

The EU are refusing to renegotiate the protocol per se, but have offered some amendments: 

  • an 80% reduction in checks on food products arriving in NI and halving the amount of paperwork 
  • passing legislation to allow the trade in medicines between GB and NI to continue 

In return, the EU wanted extra safeguards to prevent products from Great Britain crossing into the Republic of Ireland. 

The government rejected this offer, saying it would ‘worsen the current trading arrangements’, and is preparing legislation to override parts of the protocol. Previously, the government had threatened to trigger Article 16 of the protocol, which allows either side to suspend any part of the agreement causing ‘serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties’. 

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a right-wing thinktank, who last week reported that estimated the annual cost of the agreement at £850m. 

However, there is increasing evidence which suggests NI has adapted and started to profit from its new situation, with the benefits of full access to the EU single market and the rest of the UK outweighing the costs of administering checks on some goods entering the region from Great Britain. 

Every piece of evidence presented so far shows a positive impact,’ said Stephen Kelly, head of Manufacturing Northern Ireland (MNI). The protocol initially disrupted supply lines but is now cushioning the region from the costs of Brexit, he said. ‘Our members have largely gotten to grips with it. Three-quarters of them say there are opportunities and [they] are grasping those opportunities.’ 

One caveat is that the protocol has not been fully implemented: more extensive checks would increase disruption 

Kelly called the IEA report ‘bunkum‘ – an extrapolation from a handful of businesses that overlooks wider evidence. MNI estimates the annual cost of administering protocol-related checks at £200m. This is dwarfed by Northern Ireland’s extra £1bn in trade with the Republic, plus its extra trade, yet to be calculated, with other EU countries, said Kelly. 

Data supports this; manufacturing jobs are growing four times faster in NI than the UK average. Since the middle of 2021 the region has recorded inflation below the UK average, with groceries 8% cheaper, according to analyst Kantar. 

If the UK overrides some or all the of protocol, the EU could impose tariffs on British goods or even suspend the entire trade agreement. Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, has warned Boris Johnson against any unilateral move to change the Northern Ireland protocol, saying: 

What we can’t do is accept that the British government would act unilaterally, they would pass legislation to effectively breach international law, to set aside elements of a treaty that of course this prime minister was central to designing and putting in place. Because that will cause an awful lot more problems than it will solve. 

Unilateral action by the British government ‘calls into question‘ the functioning of the UK’s trade and co-operation agreement with the EU, he said. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement agreed in 2020 by the two sides allows British goods tariff-free access to EU markets. 

The two agreements were linked, Coveney said. Unilateral action against the protocol would only mean ‘tension, rancour, stand-offs, legal challenge and of course calls into question the functioning of the TCA itself‘. 

I can’t see how any lawyer could possibly advise the government that they’ve got a slam-dunk case’

The government has also been warned by former prime minister Theresa May that abandoning the protocol would damage the UK’s reputation, saying we  should consider ‘what such a move would say about the United Kingdom and its willingness to abide by treaties which it has signed‘. 

The attorney general, Suella Braverman, is reported to have approved overriding the protocol on the grounds that it is being unfairly enforced by the EU, claiming that the EU’s ‘disproportionate and unreasonable‘ implementation is undermining the GFA. 

George Peretz QC, a barrister specialising in EU law, told the Guardian: ‘I can’t see how any lawyer could possibly advise the government that they’ve got a slam-dunk case. What I’ve seen so far doesn’t give them sustainable legal cover.’ 

Peretz also believed the government would struggle to justify invoking article 16 based on economic problems, because these were known about in advance. ‘It was pretty obvious to both parties that putting a border down the Irish Sea was going to divert trade, so that would be a bizarre argument.’ 

Sir Jonathan Jones, who resigned as head of the government’s legal department in 2020 when ministers last threatened to ditch parts of the protocol, told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: ‘The government knew about the Good Friday agreement when it entered into this protocol, and the protocol is said to be a way of protecting the interests of the Good Friday agreement. So the idea that now becomes a basis for walking away from the protocol I think is very problematic.’ 

At the heart of this is British Euroscepticism, nothing is ever quite enough. Allied to this is the populist nature of our government, who, to distract from their shortcomings, needs victims to feed the masses nationalism. Brexit is a gift that continues to give  

EU leaders are getting wise to this, why renegotiate when they know the government will keep coming back for more? 

Nationalism and British exceptionalism are at the heart of Brexit, the situation in NI, is to Brexiters, ‘a stain on UK sovereignty.’ They see the Protocol as a regulatory land-grab and as a ‘punishment by Brussels of an ex-colony that had the temerity to break free.’ 

‘Leavers’ regard potential trade sanctions as scaremongering by ‘remainers.’ Playing the victims suits Brexiters, it removes excuses for Brexit not delivering its promised bounty. 

‘Playing the victims suits Brexiters, it removes excuses for Brexit not delivering its promised bounty’

There is truth in the fact that customs checks in the Irish Sea are deeply wounding to Unionists, but they have Johnson to blame for that.  

Theresa May told the British Parliament that ‘no UK prime minister could ever agree‘ to a border in the Irish Sea. Boris Johnson endorsed this at a DUP conference, saying ‘no British Conservative government could or should sign up to any such arrangement‘. 

Then, in true Johnson fashion he sold Unionists down the river. 

He either didn’t understand or didn’t care about the treaty he negotiated and signed. His comments about the Irish Sea border as creating ‘extra barriers to trade and burdens on business‘, are because of the Brexit model he chose. 

Underpinning much of this is the fact that as a non-member of the EU we are required to prove that our exports comply. Whereas British exceptionalism means that Brexiters belief that our standards should be sufficient.  

The Tory’s have little room to manoeuvre, they cannot be seen to accept that exiting the single market was bad for UK businesses and hasn’t been replaced by their much vaunted free-trade deals with other countries. Secondly, they cannot accept that as a non-member we have little influence over EU policy. 

At some point there must be an admission of failure, but only when this government is defeated, or the composition of it changes. Until then we will continue to bounce along the bottom, picking fights, and stirring up the masses 

‘we will continue to bounce along the bottom, picking fights, and stirring up the masses’

Back in the real-world inflation is rampant and people are struggling to feed themselves. Last evening, Chancellor Sunak, admitted the government was unable to curtail inflation. Despite this, they should be introducing measures to blunt its effects.  

To date their ideas have bordered on the absurd.  

Safeguarding minister, Rachel Maclean suggested that ‘people are able to protect themselves better, whether that is by taking on more hours or moving to a better paid job.’ 

George Useless Eustice suggested ‘what people find is by going for some of the value brands rather than own-branded products, they can actually contain and manage their household budget.’ 

Another Conservative MP, Lee Anderson, said food poverty in the country was down to ‘people not being able to cook and budget properly.’ 

Sunak, in a speech last evening vowed to cut taxes for business in his autumn budget. 

We need you to invest more, train more and innovate more. In the autumn budget we will cut your taxes to encourage you to do all those things. That is the path to higher productivity, higher living standards and a more prosperous and secure future.’ 

As Kier Starmer said, they just don’t get it.  

Starmer said about Johnson; ‘whilst he dithers British households are slapped with an extra £53 million on their energy bills every single day. Meanwhile every single day North Sea oil and gas giants rake in £32 million in unexpected profits. Doesn’t he see that every single day he delays his inevitable U-turn, he’s going to do it, he’s choosing to let people struggle when they don’t need to. He’s on the side of excess profits for oil and gas companies. We’re on the side of working people. And there you have it.’ 

In the short-term inflation is here to stay. To deal with it, the free-market Tory’s, argue that taxes should be reduced, even if it means a higher budget deficit. In turn, Labour should be advocating higher spending. It’s the other side of the same coin.  

More spending would enable higher benefit payments stopping people choosing between heating and eating. Perhaps a cap on housing and loan costs so that ordinary people don’t end up borrowing more to survive. We could consider policies for a less energy intensive future, such as improved public transport, and subsidies for green home renovations. 

The trouble is Johnson and his mob prefer a fight to everyday issues. 

‘Abandoned too soon 
Set down with due care 
Don’t walk away in silence’ 

As the cost of living crisis worsens, Boris is evidently cock-a-hoop at discovering that he will not receive another fine for attending illegal parties in lockdown; doesn’t it come to something when the PM effectively gets off scot-free for only having broken the law once?

Maybe the Tory MP arrested for rape could attempt the same defence.

Elsewhere, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries has been making a powerful case to be recognised as the most over-promoted member of the Cabinet; a hotly contested position.

Having proven that her ignorance ranges widely from the workings of the Internet to Channel 4’s operating model, she also laid claim to Nars D. B’stard award for spite and petulence by letting slip that  ‘Channel 4 News doesn’t do itself any favours’ – and therefore presumably deserved to be punished.

What with lying, cheating, bullying, theft, sexual misconduct and tax avoidance, there has been much to occupy Dibble at the Palace of Westminster; drug use there is apparently so rife that Speaker Lindsay Hoyle brought in a sniffer dog called Poppy to root it out. After her first week in post, when asked if she had tracked down any illegal substances, Poppy said ‘like, woof, baby’.

Anxious to reassure the public that there were no misdeeds, Michael Gove was sent out on the morning TV circuit:

Meantime, despite overwhelming support in the country, Tory grandees clearly don’t want to jeopardise their NED gigs and legendary hospitality by slapping a windfall tax on the obscene profits being made by the drillers and the diggers; Shell boss Ben van Beurden has manfully agreed to do his bit to get some cash off the balance sheet by trousering a £13.5m annual pay packet, raising a longbow salute to people being financially crippled by his company’s greed.

Rumours that BvB has sought tax advice from Akshata Murty remain unconfirmed.  

So, what was Philip thinking?:

‘This week we start with Northern Ireland and the government’s threat to revoke parts of the treaty it signed and lauded triumphantly. Amongst the many lies that Brexit was built upon was preserving the Good Friday Agreement, the two are incompatible.

Theresa May realised this and negotiated a deal that was never going to be ‘hard enough’ for Brexit Ultra’s. In doing so, she promised not to let NI down, a sentiment endorsed by Johnson. Who, when he became leader, promptly forgot and threw them under the bus.

Now we have a charade, a game of smoke and mirrors as the government seeks to distract voters from not being able to afford to eat by starting another fight with the EU. Really, this government is beyond pathetic.

The real issue, the cost-of-living crisis has bamboozled them. Advice ranges from buying value brands, to getting a better job. Of course, the old Tory standpoint of being poor is your punishment for not working hard enough, bubbles below the surface.

Oil companies are making £32m a day in extra profits for doing nothing other than being the beneficiary of high commodity prices. Whilst most call for a windfall tax, the chancellor proposes tax cuts if they invest!

Investment takes time, people will starve in the interim. At this rate Bob Geldorf and Band Aid will be #1 at Christmas as we raise money for ourselves.   

Musically, this week I felt we should start with something from an Irish band. There was the Boomtown Rats, but that’s plastic punk, Van Morrison, on please, no; Thin Lizzy, OK, I guess; U2, now don’t get me started….and, then I remembered the Undertones, Derry’s finest. I avoided the wonderful but overplayed ‘Teenage Kicks’, instead we have ‘Jimmy, Jimmy’.

To finish, I was going to use Eminem’s, ‘Rock Bottom’, the opening lyrics would have been perfect:


This song is dedicated to all the happy people

All the happy people who have real nice lives

And who have no idea whats it like to be broke as fuck

However, I couldn’t let the moment pass, Ian Curtis of Joy Division died 42-years ago yesterday. In his memory we finish with ‘Atmosphere’. Enjoy!




Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

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