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September 12, 2019

DUP opens up to compromise

Is the DUP softening its stance on the backstop? As no-deal Brexit gets closer, even hardcore backstop defenders in Northern Ireland are softening their posturing. A last-minute deal is possible. Angela Merkel said yesterday that a deal can be done even on the last day before the deadline expires. No one wants a hard Brexit.

The Tories and the DUP are currently working on a compromise. The Northern Ireland-only backstop is still a no-go for the DUP. But its leader, Arlene Foster, is now talking about a sensible deal, which the Irish Times interpreted as a move into "I can’t believe it’s not the backstop" territory.  

The pressure is on. A UK government paper assessing hard Brexit was released on Wednesday after a parliament vote demanding its publication. The report warned that the idea of no border checks would be unsustainable in the long run, and that the automatic application of tariffs and regulatory requirements would drive Northern Irish companies out of business or force them to relocate. Economic disruption and job losses are likely to cause civil disobedience and road blockages near the border. 

Nigel Dodds told BBC News that there could be arrangements for the benefit of Northern Ireland, the Republic and the EU. He added that any such arrangements would require the assent of the Northern Ireland assembly. But the assembly has been suspended for years. We agree that a Northern-Irish backstop is the way to go, but there are formidable obstacles, which is why Theresa May chose not to pursue this option, and why the EU accepted the ill-fated all-UK backstop solution instead.

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September 12, 2019

Spain to repeat elections after all

It it all but certain that Spain will go to new general elections on November 10, after talks between PSOE and a group of Podemos and allies broke down at first contact. That the talks broke down should surprise no-one given that the positions hadn't really shifted over the parliament's summer recess. Podemos wanted a coalition government but the PSOE wanted a single-party minority government and was only interested in talking about the price of Podemos' support. What has been surprising is the speed with which the talks broke down. They lasted less than two days. The two parties insist that their meetings are always cordial and in a "good tone", but they blame each other for the refusal to compromise.

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