Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Negotiating, Northern Ireland, Single Market, Theresa May

U.K. Has Deadlocked Itself on #Brexit

theresa_campaigning_vi3odk

This blog was written on Sunday Oct 14th, 2018

When we began writing these BEERG Brexit Briefings in June 2017 we continually advised businesses to “hope for the best but prepare for the worst”.

As we head into a crucial Brexit week, with EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Wednesday evening and Thursday with Brexit very much on the agenda, we are dropping the “hope for the best” part and are now advising businesses to “prepare for the worst” because that is where we are heading.

The way we see it, there is no deal that Prime Minister May can negotiate with Brussels that would command a majority in the House of Commons.

As Andrew Rawnsley, one of the most perceptive UK political commentators puts it in the Observer on Sunday:

On the face of it, this makes it very hard to see how Mrs May can strike any agreement with the EU for which there will be parliamentary approval. The opposition has no incentive to help her out of a swamp of the Tory party’s own making. The Democratic Unionists say they will cut off their life-support. The DUP are co-ordinating with the Tory Brextremists. The parliamentary maths is a horror.

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Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Single Market, Theresa May

Theresa May is no Thatcher

This blog was written on Oct 7th 2018

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Some old political speeches are worth re-reading. Time puts them into perspective. Did they call it right on the day? Did they offer leadership when leadership was needed? Or, were they self-serving, crafted to play to the baser instincts of a partisan audience, written simply to advance a political career?

A speech that has stood the test of time is the one delivered by the then prime minister, Margret Thatcher, at Lancaster House thirty years ago on April 18, 1988.

Thatcher was there to launch a campaign whose aim was to get the country and business ready to seize the opportunities that the imminent creation of the EU’s Single Market would present. Yes, the same Single Market that today’s UK government insists it must leave.

You can read it in full here: https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/107219

Drawing attention to the new Single Market of 300 million people, Thatcher opened by asking her audience “(to) just think for a moment what a prospect that is”.

A Single Market without barriers—visible or invisible—giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world’s wealthiest and most prosperous people. Bigger than Japan. Bigger than the United States. On your doorstep. And with the Channel Tunnel to give you direct access to it. It’s not a dream. It’s not a vision. It’s not some bureaucrat’s plan. It’s for real. And it’s only five years away.

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Brexit, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Rees Mogg, Theresa May

Deadlock on #Brexit

This blog was written on saturday morning, Sept 29th 2018, 

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I completely agree with Jacob Rees-Mogg. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Actually, to be more accurate, Rees-Mogg agrees with me. Some weeks ago I wrote a Briefing, The Politics of Hard Numbers, here, in which I argued that there was no majority in the House of Commons for any Brexit deal.

In an article in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph Rees-Mogg argues, as regards Theresa May’s Chequers plan, that the EU:

“…has been so clear that the plan fails to meet its requirements that it is hard to see that it could change tack without a new chief negotiator.”

More critically, he notes:

The domestic opposition is even more important because, although our system provides for a powerful executive, ultimately laws need the support of the House of Commons, which Chequers cannot get. Indeed, if put forward it could be heavily defeated with no direct consequence for the Government.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Jeremy Corbyn

#Brexit Cake-ism in the Soul* (* With apologies to Sartre)

This blog was written on Sept 24th 2018

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Jeremy Corbyn at the 2018 Labour Conference – Pic via Sky News

It is difficult to understand the English reaction to last week’s events in Salzburg. I say English rather than British because that is what Brexit primarily is, an outbreak of English nationalism, a belief that somehow or other, England is being treated unfairly, given its inherent greatness.

The language of the Brexiteers tells you as much. “Global Britain”, set to reconquer the world. Add in suggestions that surfaced over the past weekend from a senior Tory advisor that Ireland should consider re-joining the UK outside the EU. Brexiteers see Ireland “coming home” as the first step on the road to building an Anglosphere consisting of the old white Commonwealth nations, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. When that is done the US will want in.

At the heart of the Anglosphere a “Singapore-upon-Thames” social and economic model for the UK: low tax, deregulation, swashing a buccaneering buckle across the world. In reality, and to be a more accurate, a fantasy version of what Singapore actually is.

Yet these global delusions do not themselves explain the hysterical reaction to last week in Salzburg. See here for a recap on what actually happened.

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Brexit, British Government, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Theresa May

A Bad Week for Theresa May on #Brexit in #Salzburg

Salzburg Dinner
Pic: Getty Images via BBC website

This blog was written on Sept 21st, 2018

In our Brexit Briefing last Tuesday (here) I wrote:

“So, how will Brexit end up?”, they ask. My answer is that I have no idea. I have been following Brexit developments in detail over the past two years and have written some 60 or so of these Briefings. Yet, I have absolutely no idea of what is going to happen between now and March 29th next year. Quite frankly, neither does anyone else.

What happened yesterday in Salzburg, when the EU brutally said that Mrs. May’s Chequers plan was unacceptable and would not work underscores the truth of this statement.

In the run-up to Salzburg it had been widely reported, especially in the UK press, that Mrs. May would use the occasion to appeal to the EU’s political leaders to go over the head of the “Brussels theologians” and show more flexibility in accommodating UK demands to be both in and out of the EU’s single market and customs union at the same time. “In” so as to ensure continued frictionless trade in goods between the UK and the EU so preserving the UK as the European off-shore manufacturing base for US, Japanese and, in the future, Chinese companies.

“Out” for services allowing the UK to cut buccaneering trade deals, with which a swath of UK politicians have an ideological obsession, with non-EU countries.

(For the arguments on why this approach was never going to work see this excellent article by former Irish ambassador, Bobby McDonagh: here)

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Brexit, Conservative Party, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, UK Labour Party

Chucking Chequers and #Brexit… there are just too many ‘unknown unknowns’ in play

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Michael Gove with Andrew Marr (Photo via Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire)

I took the last week off to spend a few days outside Chatal, on the west coast of France. But even there, there was no escaping Brexit.

It is important to understand that Europeans are not obsessed with Brexit in the same way as people are in the UK. Talking to people in France, Belgium or Spain over the past few months leaves you with the impression that most people think the UK is “nuts” or “mad” to leave the EU. But they also believe that the UK never really wanted to be part of “Europe” in the first place, so, goodbye to them.

Nevertheless, quite often when people in France, Belgium or Spain hear you speak English they ask you “What do you think of Brexit?” My first response is to tell them that I am Irish, not English.

It’s amazing the difference that little sentence makes. Any suggestion of hostility immediately disappears as they begin to tell you about a fishing trip they once took on the Shannon or their cycling tour of Connemara.  When they were much younger, of course.

“So, how will Brexit end up?”, they ask. My answer is that I have no idea. I have been following Brexit developments in detail over the past two years and have written some 60 or so of these Briefings. Yet, I have absolutely no idea of what is going to happen between now and March 29th next year. Quite frankly, neither does anyone else.

There are just too many “unknown unknowns” in play, political molecules bouncing around, crashing into one another, producing unintended effects.

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Brexit

#Brexit and Ireland: A Personal View

Lemass Whittaker
L-R: Sean Lemass, Jack Lynch, T K Whittaker 

It was the 1950’s. I think it might have been on Wednesdays, but it could have been Thursdays. From where we lived, you could hear the mooing of the cattle as they were driven up through Stoneybatter (a Dublin north inner-city area) to the markets. They were being herded there to be bought and sold. Ireland’s second biggest export.

What was Ireland’s biggest export in the 1950s? It was its people.

Driven from their own land by a failed experiment to make Ireland self-sufficient behind tariff barriers. We had biscuit factories, canned bean factories, and chocolate factories that survived because of tariffs. We had factories that put back together cars that had been built in the UK and then “knocked down” so they could be reassembled in Ireland. We called it the Irish car industry. In truth, it was little more than Lego for grown-ups. Playing at being the real thing.

Ireland in the 1950s was a sour and sad place. The best and the brightest went elsewhere. Poverty was the price you paid for unfettered sovereignty. I should know. Where I grew up, an outside toilet was considered a luxury.

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