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

Theresa May is no Thatcher

This blog was written on Oct 7th 2018

3670fad000000578-3700341-former_prime_minister_margaret_thatcher_during_an_exchange_at_th-a-1_1469057484354.jpg

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.

Continue reading

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

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

marr gove
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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Negotiating, Northern Ireland

Dick Barton Word Games Don’t Work on #Brexit

This blog was written on May 21 2018

dick-barton1Between 1946 and 1951, BBC radio aired a popular thriller, Dick Barton – Special Agent. The serial followed the adventures of ex-Commando Captain Richard Barton who, with his mates Jock Anderson and Snowy White, solved all sorts of crimes, escaped from dangerous situations, and saved Britain from disaster time and again.

It gave rise to a popular catchphrase of the late 1940s “With one bound Dick was free!” No matter how dangerous the cliffhanging situation Dick found himself in at the end of each episode, he would always escape by the easiest and most completely implausible method, ready to face danger yet again.

It seems that the UK government believes that it has found a “Dick Barton” escape from the troubles by which it is beset on all sides by Brexit.

Continue reading

Article 50, Brexit, Conservative Party, Theresa May

On #Brexit: You can have the politics or the economics; but you can’t have both

This blogpost was written on May 14th 2018

thatcher-Delors
Margaret Thatcher and Jacques Delors, London 1989

It is increasingly difficult to see any way in which Brexit ends well. The reason is simple: The UK wants what it can’t have. It asks for two incompatible things.

  • It wants to be leave the EU and take back control over its money, borders, laws and trade policy so as to be able to say that it is a completely sovereign country, beholden to no one.
  • But it also wants to continue to trade with the EU in the frictionless manner that it does today so that it will suffer no economic damage as a result of leaving.

As we have repeatedly noted in this Briefing, it wants all the benefits of the customs union and the single market, but without the obligations and restraints that come with those benefits.

Throughout the process the position of the EU has been clear. In accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty it says the UK is free to leave the EU. The very fact that a country can leave the EU shows that sovereignty was never lost. Only a sovereign country can quit an organisation like the EU. Is California or Arizona free to leave the United States? A civil war says no.

Continue reading

Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Irish border, Northern Ireland, Theresa May

They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot #Brexit #BrexitShambles

This week’s blog was written on May 8, 2018
borisAs of today, May 8th, the day after a long, hot, holiday weekend, it is difficult to see Brexit ending well.

It is difficult to see how it even makes it to March 29th, 2019, the date on which the UK is due to leave the EU, with, it hopes, a signed Withdrawal Agreement providing for an orderly exit.

The fault for this state of affairs lies not with the EU but with the UK itself and particularly with the UK government.

Close to two years after the June 2016 referendum, thirteen months after informing the EU that it planned to leave, and with just over 10 months before it actually does leave, the UK cabinet is still debating the nature of the future trading relationship it wants with the EU.

Debating is too kind a word. Hand-to-hand, combat to the death between different factions more correctly describes it.

Continue reading

Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, UK Labour Party

#Brexit: A New UK Politics in the Making?

This blog was written on Fri March 30th, 2018

out out
Leave the EEC campaign – 1975 UK Referendum

In the Ireland of the 1950s and 60s, in which I grew up, you had no choice but to go to Sunday mass. You might get away with not going in the big cities, but not in rural Ireland, the valleys of the squinting windows, where everyone knew your business.

Those who were reluctant mass-goers would wait a few minutes until after the mass had started, then slip in and stand furtively at the back. Needless to say, they did not “participate” in the mass and you would rarely, if ever, see them join in the singing of hymns, much less walk up the church to take communion. As soon as the priest gave the final benediction they were out and gone. There in body, but not in spirit.

It often strikes me that this is a useful way of looking at the UK’s membership of the EU: arrived late, stood at the back, participated as little as possible, and a lot of the time, seemed to wish it were elsewhere.

Continue reading