This article first appeared on Daily Telegraph.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney is never at a loss for words. And these are words that generally make a situation worse. Given the problems Ireland, the UK and the EU face over the Northern Ireland Protocol, you may have thought that Ireland’s top diplomat would be careful not to ignite an issue that is already on the razor’s edge. Not a little.
At around midnight on Saturday he tweeted: “Does the UK really want an agreed way to move forward or a further breakdown of relations?” This, after UK Brexit Minister Lord Frost reiterated Britain’s view that the European Court of Justice should have no jurisdiction over the protocol.
Frost, perhaps recklessly, responded early Sunday morning, saying the problem shouldn’t come as a surprise to Coveney as it was clearly stated in the command document the government had released on July 21.
Trouble is, Coveney’s political capital has declined in recent months in the Republic, and he no doubt sees the protocol issue as an opportunity to rebuild his reputation both nationally and internationally. He apparently doesn’t care if this is to the detriment of the proper functioning of the protocol, or if his words end up sinking into the Northern Ireland unionist community. Perhaps this is his goal.
Fortunately, the taoiseach is made of stiffer stuff. Michael Martin has been a constructive interlocutor with the UK government and Northern Ireland’s unionist parties. He, more than anyone, understands the consequences of not reorganizing or reforming the protocol. We will find out tomorrow whether his role as “Kofi Annan” has paid off when EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic presents his proposals to reform the agreements.
Nobody knows why Lord Frost is giving a speech on the subject the day before in Lisbon. It will undoubtedly add fuel to the Coveney fire. What can he say that will help the situation before he knows what Sefcovic is going to say? But it is the EU that must actually engage rather than continue unilaterally presenting fait accompli, on which it is not really willing to negotiate.
The fact is that Britain has barely deviated from the EU on food standards or anything else since we left, and it seems we have few plans to do so. If the single market is really at risk from smuggling a sausage into Dublin, then the EU has bigger problems than the Northern Ireland Protocol.
It is harder to declare yourself bisexual than gay
In 2003, I became the first Conservative candidate to be selected by an electoral association after telling them in advance of my sexuality. I will always remember being at the 2003 Tory conference when a 22 year old boy came up to me and thanked me. “For what?” I asked questioningly. “Because you made things easier for the rest of us.” There was a time when it was a career threat for a politician to declare himself gay. Not anymore. The UK Parliament has a higher percentage of openly gay MPs than any other in the world.
Yesterday Conservative MP Dehenna Davison told the world he was bisexual. He did it in a very practical way, almost saying “Move, nothing to see here”. He said his bisexuality was part of who he was, and he was happy to say it. He is right, although I strongly believe that there is more stigma about bisexuality in our society than about homosexuality. And it’s harder to declare yourself bisexual. It really shouldn’t be.
I’ve always thought we’re all on a sexuality spectrum where 0 is 100% straight and 100 is 100% gay. Some people are on either end of the spectrum, but most are somewhere in between.
My partner is 100% gay and sees no attraction in a woman. I, on the other hand, can still find some sexually attractive women, but let’s not go there. I think I’m 85-15 on the scale.
For some reason society faces homosexuality but finds bisexuality more difficult, although I suspect it is more prevalent than many people think. Why is it no longer a topic of conversation? I made a phone call to my radio show recently. Eventually, a 60-year-old married woman wrote: “I listened to this discussion for an hour. It never occurred to me before, but now I realize I’m bisexual. ”I wonder if she went and told her husband later.
Give the Prime Minister a break
Some people seem to believe that politicians, and prime ministers in particular, should never have a vacation, or if they do, they should spend it at a YMCA in Bognor Regis. Once again Boris Johnson is accused of having the temerity to take a few days off in Spain. His critics say he always goes on vacation and that he last did it just 35 days ago. They conveniently forget that his Somerset vacation lasted all day before he returned to London to deal with the Afghan crisis.
A tired prime minister is never a good prime minister. Remember Gordon Brown? And even if Boris spends a whole week in Spain, it won’t be enough to fully recharge the prime minister’s batteries. Most of us start to really relax only in the middle of the second week away. The Prime Minister will not have this luxury.