UK's Brexit position paper on Ireland: Political reaction

A lorry crosses the Irish borderImage copyright PA Image caption There should be no customs posts at the Irish border, the government says

The government has outlined its proposals for how the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic should work after Brexit.

In a position paper unveiled on Wednesday, it said an "unprecedented solution" will be needed[1] to address the issue of the Irish border.

The management of the border is one of the most sensitive Brexit issues.

Political figures have been having their say in response to the government's post-Brexit plan.

Image copyright PA

Theresa May, prime minister

"What we want to see is an arrangement in relation to customs and borders with the European Union that can enable us to see no return to the hard borders of the past in Northern Ireland.

"That's not just in the interests of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.

"It's in the interests, I think, of the Republic of Ireland and the European Union, too."

Image copyright Getty Images

David Davis, Brexit secretary

"The UK and Ireland have been clear all along that we need to prioritise protecting the Belfast Agreement in these negotiations, and ensure the land border is as seamless as possible for people and businesses.

"The proposals we outline in this paper do exactly that, and we're looking forward to seeing the EU's position paper on the Northern Ireland border.

"In committing to keep the Common Travel Area, which has existed for nearly a century, we're making sure UK and Irish citizens will continue to be able to travel, live, work and study across both countries."

Image copyright Reuters

James Brokenshire, Northern Ireland secretary

"The paper demonstrates our desire to find a practical solution that recognises the unique economic, social and cultural context of the land border with Ireland, without creating any new obstacles to trade within the UK.

"It is clear that there are many areas where the UK, Ireland and the rest of the EU have shared objectives.

"We have a lot to build on but need to work together intensively over the coming months."

Image copyright EPA

European Commission

"We see the UK's publication of a series of position papers as a positive step towards really starting phase one of the negotiations - the clock is ticking and this will allow us to make progress.

"On Ireland, we would reiterate what (chief negotiator) Michel Barnier (above) has said before:'We must discuss how to maintain the Common Travel Area and protect, in all its dimensions, the Good Friday Agreement, of which the United Kingdom is a co-guarantor.

"'It is essential that we have a political discussion on this, before looking at technical solutions.'"

Image copyright PA

Simon Coveney, Irish foreign affairs minister

"Those principles, we agree with the vast majority of them.

"They are aspirational and they reflect a lot of the language that the Irish government has been using, in terms of maintaining the status quo, frictionless borders.

"What we want essentially is an invisible border, which is what we have at the moment."

Image copyright Reuters

Arlene Foster, Democratic Unionist Party leader

"It is clear the government has listened to voices in Belfast, Dublin, Brussels and London about how the United Kingdom's only EU land border could be managed after we exit the EU.

"It is welcome news that the government will not countenance any new border in the Irish Sea.

"The DUP will not be deflected by those who want to refight old battles - we will focus on getting the best deal for Northern Ireland."

Image copyright Press Eye

Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Féin's Stormont leader

"The document is big on rhetoric but thin on actual commitments - the Tory proposals fail to manage or minimise the impact of Brexit on the north.

"What they are really saying is:'Agree to our terms on the customs union if you want to protect the Irish peace process.'

"If that is the case, it is a disgraceful attempt to play politics and exploit the EU's commitment to our peace process in order to further their own ends."

Image copyright Pacemaker

Colum Eastwood, Social Democratic and Labour Party leader

"The British government position is confused and conflicting.We know that the Irish government, through the European Union, opposes a hard border, customs posts and CCTV monitoring.

"The British government now claims to be opposed to such measures as well.How can that be reconciled with plans to abandon the customs union?

"There is an easier answer to the Irish border question - the British government could give up its hard Brexit position and negotiate to remain a member of the European customs union."

Image copyright Press Eye

Steve Aiken, Ulster Unionist Party MLA

"The position on achieving an as seamless as possible transition from the current European Union relationship between the UK and the Republic of Ireland is to be welcomed.

"The calls from Irish Republic and nationalist politicians for Irish unity as a response to Brexit are clearly totally unnecessary and provocative."

Image copyright Press Eye

Jimmy Kelly, Unite trade union regional secretary

"The proposals published today offer at best a temporary band-aid for the consequences of the UK's decision to leave the EU customs union.

"[They] will only prolong the uncertainty that is inhibiting investment and casting a shadow over the economies on both sides of the border.

"In attempting to have their cake and eat it, the Tory government is in danger of creating an Alice in Brexitland scenario."...


  1. ^ an "unprecedented solution" will be needed (

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Andy Burnham: Becoming Greater Manchester mayor was 'the right move'

Andy BurnhamImage copyright PA Image caption Andy Burnham's inaugural address promised the "dawn of a new era" in Greater Manchester

One hundred days into the job, there is one thing Andy Burnham is sure of - a metro mayor can have more impact on the North than an MP.

"I am totally convinced it is the right move.I was frustrated with Westminster and its London-centric, dysfunctional thinking," he says.

"If they can ignore us, they do."

But is it not better to change a system from within, rather than give up on Parliament?

"I tried.I really did, but I decided it wasn't where I can make a difference," he replies.

"Here I can.One hundred days in, I feel that even stronger."

There is no doubt he believes in the potential of devolution and the metropolitan mayoral system.

His inaugural address promised the "dawn of a new era, giving power and purpose to the voice of the North".

'Do things our way'

Since then, Brexit Secretary David Davis has failed to keep a promise to meet the metro mayors, while Transport Secretary Chris Grayling called him a "mischief maker" after he pitched into the row about the approval of London's Crossrail 2[1] after electrification in the North was cancelled.

He says that is frustrating but "I will continue to be a voice for the North".

He has also had to deal with claims of a rift with Labour - not least because he appeared to refuse to meet leader Jeremy Corbyn on the day he became mayor.

He says that has been wrongly portrayed and there is no pulling away from Labour.

"I told Jeremy it wasn't possible to meet him that day," he says.

"It's frustrating, because we worked together on the general election.

"It was me who told him to engage young people and it worked - for him and for me."

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mr Burnham has pledged to end homelessness in Manchester by 2020

Since becoming mayor though, he says he and his team have tried to "do things our way".

Later in August, he will meet business leaders in Leeds to strategise about how to make HS3 a reality.

He has also kickstarted a homelessness fund[2] by donating 15% of his salary, with the aim of eradicating homelessness in Manchester by 2020.

However, he recognises that is a massive challenge.

"Over the past 100 days, homelessness has got worse, not better - but I refuse to revise the date.

"By 2020, every person in Manchester should have a roof over their heads."

He says to succeed, there is a need to use "bottom-up politics, where we raise money voluntarily [and] involve the volunteers".

He admits that does not sit comfortably with his Labour principles, but adds:"Is it right to leave people out on the cold streets?There is more we can and should do."

Professor Jon Tonge, an expert in the region's politics, says "in terms of agenda setting, it's nine or even 10 out of 10" for Mr Burnham.

"He had given up a lot coming from Westminster, [but] even his biggest critics will acknowledge he has made a big commitment in becoming mayor," he says.

For Bolton West's Conservative MP Chris Green though, the mayor's preoccupation with the North-South divide is an issue.

"If the only comments someone has that cut through are negative, then that does the area down," he says.

"It damages people's desire to invest in the North West and Greater Manchester.

"We need the mayor to be promoting first and foremost."

'Set the tone'

The mayor's first 100 days have not all been about proaction, as he also had to react to the Manchester Arena attack.

He had been mayor for just two weeks and was playing five-a-side on 22 May when Salman Abedi detonated a bomb outside an Ariana Grande gig[3] at the venue.

Shortly after, Greater Manchester's chief constable called and confirmed it was a suicide attack.

"I will never ever forget that conversation - I stayed up all night, shocked to the core, and thought, 'where do we go from here?'" he says.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The mayor spoke at the One Love Manchester benefit show in the aftermath of the arena attack

In the aftermath, he was the first public figure to address Greater Manchester's population.

It was a presidential moment which he pitched well, as he paid tribute to the city's spirit of unity and flatly refused to point the finger at Muslims.

He says he has been "taken aback by the incredible warmth and strength of our people".

"We have a unique spirit."

For Prof Tonge, the mayor's response "set the tone" of what came next.

"Many people copied his words and there wasn't the backlash that some people feared.

"Frankly, the city displayed great tolerance and Andy can take some of the credit for that."

Those are pleasing words, but in many ways, the first 100 days are the easiest.

The mayor has done well, but as Prof Tonge puts it, "we will have to wait a few years before he can be measured on his success"....

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Paper Review: May's message to nationalists, Dark Hedges and Elvis

News Letter front pageImage copyright News Letter

There are few similarities in the front pages this morning.The Irish News leads with a post-Brexit assurance for nationalists from the Prime Minister.

In a "direct message" to nationalists, Theresa May says that "Irish citizenship is their birthright".

Writing in the paper for the first time,[1] Mrs May says the "first priority in negotiations is protecting the unique and special relationship between UK and Ireland".

The Belfast Telegraph has a touching tribute to race victim Jamie Hodson from his younger brother Rob.

Jamie, 35, from Wigan died in a crash at the Dundrod 150 on Thursday[2].

His brother, who sustained injuries in the crash, says his "idol" Jamie "lived more in 35 years than some who reach 100".

He also tells the paper that he and his father, who are also motorcycle road racers, have not yet decided whether they will carry on racing competitively.

Image caption Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed in the Real IRA attack in 1998

The News Letter reports that there is "regret" over a lack of police presence at an Omagh bomb[3] memorial service.

Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed in the Real IRA attack in 1998.

The paper reports that Sunday's memorial service was the "first time in 19 years" police have not had representation at the service.[4]

One former officer raised the question as to why to police "could send officers to the Pride festival in Belfast" but not this.

The PSNI said that while officers have previously attended the annual service, this was "at the invitation of the families concerned".

"At this stage we do not believe that local police received an invitation to this year's service, however, we will seek to clarify the matter," it added.

Michael Gallagher from Omagh Support and Self Help Group said the event was not one where formal invites were sent out and was open to all in the community.

Image copyright Northern Ireland Tourist Board Image caption The iconic tunnel of trees on the Bregagh Road near Armoy

Meanwhile, there is outrage over the state of iconic trees in Armoy, County Antrim, reports the Belfast Telegraph.

The Dark Hedges have increased in popularity since they were featured in TV series Game of Thrones and have attracted busloads of visitors from all over the world.

But one Canadian tourist has expressed disgust at conditions in the area on Twitter.

Steven Walker said he was "appalled at the destruction and mess of the iconic attraction," and posted a picture of rubbish at the site.

He was soon joined by various social media users expressing their concerns about the future of the historic hedges.

Is the pressure of getting good results getting too much for students?

The Daily Mirror[5] reports on worrying statistics that more students in Northern Ireland are seeking counselling ahead of upcoming exam results.

The NSPCC said "pressure to achieve good grades" can be too much for some students to deal with.

The Irish News reports on the release of a controversial trailer[6] documenting the mass escape of IRA prisoners from the Maze in 1983.

The News Letter reports that a victims' group has urged the film industry not to "romanticise" those who caused "death and destruction".[7]

Victims' campaigner Kenny Donaldson has seen the trailer and say he fears the movie will aid the republican movement in its "incessant drive to decriminalise its campaign of terrorism".

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Elvis Presley died 40 years ago on 16 August 1977

The king is alive!Well, one of his impersonators is.

The Belfast Telegraph has an interview with Elvis tribute singer and former postman Jim Brown, on the anniversary of the icon's death, 40 years ago.

Mr Brown will step on the stage at the Waterfront Hall to perform his "Two Sides of Elvis" show.

The Irish News also covers the "king", heading to County Derry to visit a replica Graceland.

It is the home of 61-year old Barney Coleman from Ballyronan, who is also a former Elvis impersonator.[8]

Mr Coleman tells the paper his house is actually fractionally bigger than that of Elvis and he gets lots of attention from people just driving out on a Sunday for a good look.

One women even had her wedding photos taken there - let's hope she wasn't crying in the chapel.(Sorry)....

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Big Ben should not be silenced for four years, says Theresa May

Big BenImage copyright EPA

Theresa May says "it can't be right" for Big Ben's bells to be silenced until 2021 for renovation work.

The PM said Speaker John Bercow should "urgently" review the proposals.

The famous bell is to be dismantled - except for special occasions - for four years on Monday to allow repairs to the surrounding Elizabeth Tower to take place.

Parliamentary authorities say the move is needed to protect workers carrying out the renovations.

Asked about the decision - which has been strongly criticised in some sections of the press - Mrs May said:"Of course we want to ensure people's safety at work but it can't be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years.

"And I hope that the Speaker, as the chairman of the House of Commons Commission, will look into this urgently so that we can ensure that we can continue to hear Big Ben through those four years."

The Commons Commission is responsible for maintenance of the Palace of Westminster.

Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, a member of the commission, has written to the Commons director general asking for a rethink.

"I have asked whether someone can do some work working out what the costings and the practicality of ringing them more frequently would be," he said.

"It would not be possible for them to continue to be rung every 15 minutes as is currently the case, that would not be practical, but it may be perhaps practical and it may be financially viable to ring them more frequently than is currently being proposed."

The £29m restoration was signed off in 2015 by the Commons Administration Committee, which advises the commission, as well as the Lords Administration and Works Committee and the Commons Finance Committee.

'Serious risk'

But Mr Brake said MPs did not know the full extent of the shutdown when they agreed the repair plans.

Last year the House of Commons said the bells would have to be switched off for "several months" to allow the repair work to take place.

On Monday, it was revealed this would involve a much longer period of silence, with the bells only being switched back on for important events like New Year and Remembrance Sunday.

This led to press criticism, and Brexit Secretary David Davis described the move as "mad".

Defending itself, Parliament said that "prolonged exposure to the chimes would pose a serious risk to the hearing" of those working on the project....

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