Article 50, Backstop, British Government, Jeremy Corbyn, UK Labour Party

The nightmare on #Brexit St continues

This blogpost was written on Sunday May 5th, 2019

LE19 UK result

Back in the day in the 1980s, whenever Labour lost an election to Mrs Thatcher’s Tories, the cry would go up from the usual suspects on Labour’s left that the reason the party had lost out, yet again, was because it was not “left wing” or “socialist” enough. It was just too “centrist”. Which is why people voted for Thatcherism instead. If only the raw, red meat of real socialism was on offer, Labour would sweep to victory.

It must have been me, as I never got the logic of the argument that because Labour was not socialist enough people voted for “right wing” policies instead. But then I never had that unique Marxist insight into the hidden dialectics of history, which readers of New Left Review and Living Marxism did, which is probably why I suffered from “false consciousness”.

These remembrances of time past came to mind as I watched reactions on Friday last to the results of England’s local elections as they came in. Bear in mind that not all of England voted on Thursday last, nor did Wales or Scotland.

On the day, the Conservatives lost over 1,300 seats, from a starting position of just over 8,000. Labour, which had expected to make significant gains, was also down by 81. The winners were the Liberal Democrats with plus 695, the Greens up by 194 and “others”, who picked up 662 seats.

The projected national share of the vote, calculated by elections analyst Prof John Curtice for the BBC, put both major parties neck-and-neck on 28% of the vote – both down from 35% a year ago. If that result were replicated in a general election, it would result in another hung parliament.

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Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, UK Labour Party

May’s #Brexit Express is now the little engine that can’t

This blog was written on Sunday April 28th, 2019

Brexit engine

Just over two weeks ago, UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, went to the European Council to ask if the UK’s departure date from the EU could be pushed back again, one more time. We’ll be ready to go by the end of May, she said, though no one was quite sure if she was talking about herself or the month of May. Maybe both.

Reports from the European Council suggest that the French President, Emmanuel Macron, was none too happy with any extension, while others wanted to give the UK another year to agree on what Brexit meant. In the end, an extension to the end of October was offered. There were conditions. The UK would have to hold elections for the European Parliament on May 23rd, and, as a continuing member of the EU, would have to behave itself when it came to EU decision making.

The President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk, warned the UK not to waste the extra time it had been granted. Make the most of it, he said. With that, the UK Parliament went on holidays the week before Easter.

So, nothing has happened in the past two weeks to bring the Brexit process to any sort of conclusion.

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Article 50, Brexit, Brussels, Conservative Party, Rees Mogg, Theresa May, UK Labour Party

No point giving UK more time to just “kick the can around” on #Brexit?

This blog was written on Saturday morning, April 6thMay_Donald Tusk

 

Next Friday, the UK is due to leave the European Union, with or without a deal. As I write these words, and having been a close observer of Brexit for quite some time now, I have no idea how the coming week will play out.

Last Friday morning the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, wrote to Donald Tusk, at the EU Council, to ask that the leave date be pushed back until June 30th. She says that this would allow time for her government to complete talks with the opposition Labour Party about an agreed way forward on Brexit and for the necessary legislation to be put through parliament.

She acknowledged that this date would require the UK to participate in European Parliament elections in May but she hoped that the Withdrawal Agreement would be through the House of Commons before May 22 allowing the UK to cancel its participation in the elections at the last minute. In other words, “Can we screw about with your elections. They are not that important, after all, are they?”

However, by Friday evening the talks with the Labour Party appear to have collapsed. Rather than seeking a compromise, it seems that May’s representatives spent their time with the Labour team trying to “educate” them in just how good the Withdrawal Agreement was and why they should back it.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, UK Labour Party

While #Brexit is a big thing, it’s the little #Brexit things that will add up and hurt…

This bog was written on Friday Feb 8, 2019

ehiccard

It was a week of Brexit big things:

  • Nissan announcing that new models would not be manufactured in Sunderland after all.
  • Theresa May turning up in Northern Ireland and Brussels to tell people that she had a problem, but no solutions.
  • The Labour party setting out proposals which would see the UK as an equal partner with the EU in a “mini customs unions and single market”. But without the stuff the Jeremy doesn’t like.

Big things.

Yet it is the little things in the great scheme of things that people going about their daily lives generally care about. For the most part, few of us bother with politics. Politics are something that happens somewhere else as we just get on with organising the kids for school, driving to the job, doing the shopping, getting home, cooking dinner, falling asleep in front of the television. Life is just everyday ordinariness.

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Brexit, British Government, Northern Ireland, Single Market, UK Labour Party

A Never Ending #Brexit

This blogpost was written on Sunday Nov 4th, 2018
The Prime Minister Meets DUP Leader At Downing Street
Prime Minister May with DUP leaders

It is Sunday and the weekend papers are awash with suggestions that the Brexit negotiators are close to a breakthrough. The Sunday Times reports, almost breathlessly, on “May’s Secret Brexit Deal”. RTE’s European editor, Tony Connelly reports it somewhat differently – and far more soberly.

As usual, the potential deal-breaker is the Irish backstop.

Apparently, what is now being discussed is that the while the whole of the UK would stay in a “bare bones”, temporary customs union with the EU, Northern Ireland (NI) would stay within the full EU customs code and the single market for goods. Regulatory checks would take place in factories and businesses away from the actual border. Instead of the border being down the middle of the Irish sea it might be somewhere in a factory in, say, Liverpool. But then Liverpool was always part of Ireland, really.

Were this deal to be finalised between the negotiators it is being suggested that it would allow UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, to argue that her redlines of no divisions within the UK have been respected and that the NI backstop would never have to be used in practice.

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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

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.

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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.

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