Brexit, British Government, Theresa May

First there was “Hard #Brexit” then there was “Red, White and Blue Brexit” – now, it’s a “Squatters’ Brexit”

This blogpost was written on Tues Oct 30th, 2018

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Brexit negotiations have been on hold for the past week or so pending yesterday’s UK Budget. Both EU and UK negotiators waited nervously to see if the UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, could deliver a budget that could win acceptance in the House of Commons. As I write, on Tuesday morning, it looks like he did.

The cause for concern on the part of the negotiators were recent statements from both hard-line Brexiteers in the Conservative Party and from the Ulster Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that they would vote down the budget in a show of force over their Brexit concerns. However, after Hammond earmarked £350 million for Belfast and another £320 million for the Northern Ireland Executive, it is now unlikely that the DUP will vote down the budget.

But the government is not yet out of the woods as far as the DUP is concerned.  Sammy Wilson, a DUP MP, said the party was not yet planning to oppose the budget, explaining, “To date we haven’t seen the outcome of the withdrawal agreement, so it would be reckless of us to oppose the budget on the basis of something we haven’t seen.” Wilson added, “However, the government will need support when it comes to the finance bill… So, they shouldn’t take it for granted that just because they get the budget passed that they can do whatever they like with Northern Ireland.”

Hammond also loosened spending in what the Financial Times described as “an old-fashioned giveaway Budget”. As the FT further noted Hammond’s budget was “as much about politics as economics.”

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Michel Barnier, Northern Ireland

Now Impossible to See How a UK/EU Deal on #Brexit is Doable

 This blogpost was written on Tuesday Oct 23rd, 2018

commons

After Theresa May’s statement yesterday to the House of Commons, it seems more likely than ever that we are heading for a no-deal Brexit. Fast.

May effectively repudiated Article 49, the so-called “Irish backstop”, in last December’s Joint Report from EU and UK negotiators to Europe’s political leaders. It was this report which allowed the Brexit talks to move on. The EU will not accept the UK reneging on a clear undertaking, especially as the UK is trying to leverage talks on the Irish backstop to force the pace on its future economic relationship with the EU. (For a full history of the backstop see Tony Connelly here).

Nothing destroys a negotiation more quickly than when one of the parties is seen by the other as acting in bad faith. Renege on a commitment and all trust is gone. May with her Commons statement might have seen off a simmering rebellion in the Tory party over her leadership, but at the cost of breaking faith with the EU.

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

U.K. Has Deadlocked Itself on #Brexit

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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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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, British Government, Conservative Party, Michel Barnier, Theresa May

PM May middling on #Brexit: Mogg-ists to the Right of Her, Boles-ists to the Left

This Brexit Blog was written on Sept 3rd, 2018

 

Mogg May Boles

After another week of negotiations between the EU and the UK we are no further along. If anything, things have gone backwards. To coin a phrase, we are in for a long, hot winter.

As we wrote in last week’s BEERG Brexit Briefing, the real issue for the immediate future remains the “politics of hard numbers” in the UK House of Commons. Of course, the UK government and the EU are working to finalise the Withdrawal Agreement by the end of this year at the latest, the October deadline having slipped, however, as any decent trade union negotiator will tell you, there is not much point in coming back with an agreement if the members are in no mind to accept it.

Sometimes the mood is just ugly and it can take a strike to break the logjam.

If the 60, or so, Conservative Party, Moggite, “vote against anything”, ultra-Brexiteers oppose whatever Withdrawal Agreement Prime Minister Theresa May reaches with the EU then she simply doesn’t have the votes to get it through the Commons.

The Moggists are now campaigning under the rubric “Chuck Chequers” the plan on which May still places all her Brexit bets, even after the EU has said no.

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