The political week in 5 points

The earth’s climate continues to meltdown

The recent Committee on Climate Change report for the UK found that the UK infrastructure, businesses and citizens are not prepared for even a 2°C temperature rise. A new poll shows that 71% of British citizens believe the climate crisis is more important than Brexit and six in ten think the government isn’t doing enough to prioritise climate change.

16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who has been leading worldwide climate emergency demonstrations by young people, made headlines for her decision to take a sailboat to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. (For a look at how flying impacts the environment, check out this Vox article here.)


Boris Johnson goes on “awesome foursome” tour — it does not go awesomely

Johnson’s visit to Wales did not go too much better — sheep farmers warned of civil unrest if a no-deal Brexit caused tariffs to be imposed on meat exports, which could drive businesses to collapse and prompt mass slaughter of herds. Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakefield said Johnson demonstrated a “deeply concerning lack of detail” and Johnson largely kept a distance from the Welsh media during his visit.

Johnson saved the best for last, arriving in Belfast on Wednesday. Many Northern Irish leaders were similarly unimpressed with the Prime Minister. Mary Lou McDonald tweeted, “We spelt out the realities to Boris Johnson. Bluster & bravado can’t mask the utterly destructive Brexit route he is taking. He is on course to upend our peace & prosperity with his eyes wide open. Time for all of us to stand together, to face this Tory belligerence down #Brexit.” Although Johnson has promised to do everything in his power to restore Stormont (930 days, BTW), SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon said Johnson had “a limited understanding of the complexities and fragilities of this place.”

One party, however, did not have harsh words for the new PM. Johnson had a private dinner with Arlene Foster on Tuesday, whose party is still propping up his slim majority in Parliament. The DUP must be especially excited now that Johnson has publicly disavowed the backstop, saying he refuses to speak with European leaders until they drop it.

Rob Ford, professor of politics at the University of Manchester, said, “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if no deal (Brexit) ends being looked at by historians as the event that breaks up the UK.”

By the way, 27 bodies in Northern Ireland — including Women In Business, the Ulster Farmers’ Union and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions — issued a joint statement on Friday opposing a no-deal Brexit, saying no-deal would be “hugely detrimental for Northern Ireland’s economic, social and political well-being.”

Boris bounce falls flat, Lib Dems win by-election

Plaid Cymru and the Green party had agreed to not contest the by-election as to avoid splitting the Remain vote. It was a particularly bad night for Labour (when is it not?), as they came in fourth behind the Brexit Party. The Liberal Democrats now have 13 MPs.

(By the way, Fintan O’Toole published an interesting proposal for using Sinn Féin’s seats in Parliament to avert a hard Brexit.)

Harland and Wolff protests call on British government to re-nationalise shipyard

Since Monday, workers have locked themselves inside the gates and called on the new Prime Minister to re-nationalize the shipyard. They point out that new British Ministry of Defence contracts for Royal Navy ships are due soon, which would not only save the existing 130 jobs but allow for additional recruitment. The British government on Tuesday offered sympathy to the workers, but said that ultimately it is a commercial issue.

Paul Beattie, a worker at the shipyard, told the rally that, “there is nowhere in Northern Ireland that he [Boris Johnson] can hide from us. . . . If he wants to go about waving the Union flag and saying ‘UK jobs for UK workers’, we will be saying, ‘Well, Boris, you are about to close one of the biggest facilities shipbuilding-wise in the UK, and we are not going to stand for it.”

Jackie Pollock, a senior Unite union official, said, “If this place closes, and there is every possibility [of that happening], or goes into insolvency, it will be on [DUP] watch and it won’t be forgotten at the ballot box in the next election.” He also had some choice words for the new Prime Minister: “Get your ass down here and save this place.”

Belfast celebrates Pride weekend

For the first time, the rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall. Maybe it’s the San Francisco in me, but I don’t think City Hall has ever looked so good.

Happy Pride!

Originally published at Northern Slant.

PhD’ing in Politics and International Studies at Cambridge via Queen's University Belfast via Stanford.

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