View from the Green Seats- Brexit Bill debate begins in House of Lords

Prime Minister Theresa May sits behind the Speaker (back row) as Baroness Smith of Basildon speaks in the House of Lords, London, during a debate on the Brexit Bill.

Peers from all political parties have begun their first day of debating the Government’s Brexit Bill in the House of Lords.

Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May was even in attendance, sitting on the benches just in front of the Queens chair. She had previously urged the Lords not to frustrate the political process of Brexit and to obey the will of the people.

These sentiments were echoed by Conservative peer Lady Evans who said that: “This bill is not about revisiting the debate.”before adding “Noble Lords respect the primacy of the elected House and the decision of the British people on 23 June last year.”

Opposition Labour peer Baroness Smith of Basildon said that the government would not be given a ‘blank cheque’ for Brexit and promised to make ministers consider “reasonable changes.” to the proposed bill.

Baroness Smith said that this was not “delaying the process” but part of the process of Brexit.

Lord Newby, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Lords, said the bill could be changed and sent back to the House of Commons for reconsideration, arguing there was a “world of difference between blocking… and seeking to amend it”.

He said that the government’s approach was “little short of disastrous” and “to sit on our hands in these circumstances is unthinkable and unconscionable.”

There will be two days of debating the bill in the House of Lords this week, before it moves to committee stage and a potential vote on the final makeup of the legislation.

Although the Lords have said that they will not allow the bill to pass unopposed and unchanged in the same way that it did in the commons, they would be very reluctant to risk open warfare with the commons over the Brexit bill so the bill should pass reasonably quickly.

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View from the Green Seats-Trump to speak in Parliament plans dropped

British officials have confirmed that a plan to allow Donald Trump to speak in Parliament as part of a state visit to the UK have been shelved.

It is expected that the Presidents state visit will be moved to late summer or early autumn, when Parliament is in recess for the summer.

Parliament will be in recess from June until the 5th September, with a months recess commencing on the 15th September to make time for party conferences to take place.

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Not In My House: Speaker Bercow railed against Mr Trump

The move by the government is aimed at averting the prospect of a parliamentary snub for Mr Trump and follows earlier comments made by the Speaker of the House, John Bercow.

Speaker Bercow had come under pressure to resign from the speakership following his unguarded comments about the President in which he accused him of being racist and sexist.

Conservative MP James Duddridge yesterday tabled a motion of no confidence against the speaker in the House of Commons, but this was widely expected to be dismissed.

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James Duddridge MP for Rochford and Southend East

Mr Duddridge said  “I’ve done this because Speaker Bercow for a long time has been overstepping the mark and with his comments on the state visit of President Trump he has clearly expressed views.”

“That is not the role of the Speaker, and it is impossible for him to chair debates as Speaker adjudicating on things he has expressed a view on.”

Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke echoed Mr Duddridge’s sentiments saying : “John Bercow has politicised the office of Speaker and his position is untenable.”

This view was not shared by his colleague Claire Perry MP, who said “I think for us to try and remove a speaker over something that he said would be really rather drastic. He’s entitled to his opinions, perhaps he just shouldn’t have addressed them on this particular issue.”

No formal dates for President Trump’s state visit to the UK have been announced, but don’t expect this to be the last potential opposition action against this most controversial of U.S Presidents.

View from the Green Seats- Speaker: Trump should not be allowed to speak in Parliament

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons has today said that Donald Trump should not be allowed to address Parliament, in comments made earlier today in Parliament.

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Bercow said speaking before Parliament was “Not an automatic right, but an earned honour”

Speaking in parliament, he said “We value our relationship with the US. If a state visit takes place, that is way beyond the pay grade of the Speaker. However, as far as this place is concerned, I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are important considerations in the House of Commons.”

The remarks were made after a point of order raised by the Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who had earlier in the day organised an early day motion calling on the speaker to not give his permission to the government, which would allow Mr Trump to speak in Westminster.

The motion was supported by 163 MP’s.

Mr Bercow who’s role is non-political, is one of the three Parliamentary “Key Holders” said that he could not block a state visit by President Trump to the UK but would use the keyholder position to stop the American president from speaking to both houses.

“In relation to Westminster Hall, there are three key-holders … the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Speaker of the House of Lords and the lord great chamberlain, and ordinarily we are able to work by consensus and the hall would be used for a purpose such as an address, by agreement of the three key-holders.”

Qualifying his remarks he went on to add ” Before the imposition of the migrant ban, I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall. After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump, I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall.”

While the Speakers intervention was welcomed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the government have called Mr Bercow’s comments “hugely political and out of line”.

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Stephen Doughty MP

Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who’s initial motion drew the speakers remarks praised Mr Bercow, saying  “I am delighted that the Speaker has listened to members from across the house regarding our deep concerns that Donald Trump not be honoured with an address in Westminster Hall or elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster, after his comments and actions on women, torture, refugees and the judiciary.

“Our parliament stands for liberty, equality and independent scrutiny of government. It is vital we stand up for those principles not only here but across the world. Mr Speaker has made that crystal clear today.”

 

Brexit White Paper: Government sets out life after EU

David Davis the Secretary of State for Brexit has today unveiled a government white paper on Brexit.

The paper outlines the governments 12 principles required for a successful exit from the European Union.

The move comes just twenty-four hours after the Government’s successful vote to adopt the European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill.

Mr Davis said that the UK’s  “best days are still to come”, outside the EU.

Key points from the white paper include:

  • Trade: The government has reasserted its position that the UK UK will withdraw from the single market, with the eventual aim of seeking a new customs arrangement and a free trade agreement with the EU.
  • Immigration: A new system to control EU migration into the UK will be introduced, and could be phased in to give businesses vital time to prepare for the new rules.
  • British citizens living abroad and EU citizens living in the UK: The paper confirms that the government wishes to secure an agreement with the EU to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK and those Britons living in Europe.
  • Sovereignty: Under the proposed plan, Britain will exit from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice but seek to set up its own legal framework to cover things like trade disputes and employment legislation.
  • Border: The government are aiming for “as seamless and frictionless a border as possible between Northern Ireland and Ireland.”
  • Devolution: As more powers come back to the UK from the EU in the negotiating process, the government have confirmed that it will look to give more powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is a move that it hopes will placate the predominantly remainer nations.
  • Security:  The document confirms that the UK will seek to continue working with the EU “to preserve UK and European security and to fight terrorism and uphold justice across Europe”. This will include remaining in Interpol, the European Arrest Warrant and cross border information sharing initiatives.

The white paper says the government aims to deliver “a smooth, mutually beneficial exit” but says this will require “a coherent and coordinated approach on both sides”.

The paper also reasserts the governments commitment that Article 50 will be triggered no later than the end of March.

Labour have criticised the white paper, saying that it “means nothing” and argued that it had been produced too late for meaningful scrutiny.

The criticism of the timing of the paper was echoed by leading Scottish National Party MP Steven Gethins who took to twitter to voice his disapproval.

The white paper will now pass to the committee stage of becoming a law, which allows for amendments to be made before it passes to the House of Lords for an upper chamber vote.

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“Taking control of our own laws”: David Davis, speaking earlier today in Parliament

View from the Green Seats- Article 50 debate begins in Parliament

Members of Parliament in the House of Commons have today begun the first of two days of Parliamentary debate on the Notification of Withdrawal from the European Union bill, or as its more commonly known: The Brexit Bill.

Debates will take place today and tomorrow, with a vote on whether to send the legislation to the next stage tomorrow evening.

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The Brexit Bill

Once the legislation passes this stage, Prime Minister Theresa May will publish a White Paper which summarises the governments position on Brexit.

The bill will begin its committee stage in the Commons, which gives MP’s an opportunity to take another look at it and potentially revise it. They can try to change the bill by pushing through amendments to the document, although it is unlikely any will pass without the support of a high number of rebel Tory MP’s.

At the end of the committee stage, MP’s will get another chance to debate the bill, followed by a final vote.

It is highly likely that Parliament will vote in favour of adopting the bill, with it being passed to the House of Lords for a secondary debate and vote by its members. If no amendments are proposed and the vote is passed then the bill will be passed to the Queen to receive royal assent.

It is only then that the bill becomes enshrined in UK law.

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David Davis MP

Secretary of State for exiting the EU, David Davis made a short statement in Parliament in which he called upon MP’s to “honour their side of the agreement” following the referendum result and pass the bill. He said voters “will view any attempt to halt its progress dimly”.

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Sir Keir Starmer MP

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer says the House has a short and “simple bill” to discuss, “but for the Labour Party this a very difficult bill.”

“We’re a fiercely internationalist party,” he says. “We’re a pro-European party.”

Labour campaigned to remain in the EU “but we failed to persuade: we lost the referendum”.

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Sir Oliver Letwin MP

Former Cabinet Office minister Sir Oliver Letwin has said that tomorrows vote on the bill is “one of the most important that we will ever take in the House” but he will vote “because the will of the people, in the end, has been expressed”

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Meg Tillier MP

Labour MP Meg Hillier has said that she will vote against the bill saying “I cannot walk blindly through a lobby to give a trigger to a process without a shred of detail from the government”.


In other news MP’s also confirmed that they would debate a recent petition calling for the cancellation of a state visit by US President Donald Trump.

The petition, which began over the weekend has gained over 1.7 million signatures, well over the 100,000 required for a parliamentary debate.

It follows widespread condemnation of Mr Trump’s immigration policies, in which individuals from seven predominantly Muslim nations are being refused entry to the USA for a period of up to 120 days.

A similar petition, which calls for the state visit to proceed will also be debated in the Parliamentary debate after reaching over 100,000 signatures.

The debate will take place on 20th February.

View from the Green Seats- Trident Missile Misfire- Did Theresa May know?

The Prime Minister Theresa May faces tough questions in the commons following revelations that she knew about the failure of a Trident missile test and covered it up ahead of a vote to renew the defence system in July 2016.

The Trident system consists of four Vanguard-class submarines which can carry up to 16 Trident II D5 ballistic missiles, each armed with up to eight nuclear warheads. At any time, one submarine is on patrol, one is undergoing maintenance, one is preparing for patrol and one has just come off patrol and is recovering.

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Trident Explained

It has been Britain’s chief nuclear deterrent for over 40 years and requires regular testing and renewal to maintain its combat effectiveness.

As the last part of a process of certification to allow HMS Vengeance to resume service, the submarine test-fired a Trident II D5 ballistic missile off the coast of Florida.

It was aimed at the southern Atlantic off the coast of Africa but headed off in the opposite direction over the US and the test was aborted. In spite of the obvious malfunction, HMS Vengeance was certified and resumed  naval service in June 2016.

Five days after becoming Prime Minister, the commons voted overwhelmingly to replace Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons programme. More than half of Labour MPs join Conservatives to pass it by a majority of 355, at a cost of more than £40 billion.

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The PM appearing on Andrew Marr on Sunday

Mrs May, who appeared on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, was repeatedly questioned whether she knew about the malfunctioning missile test before the commons vote but refused to comment (despite being asked four times).

Downing Street was later forced to admit that the Prime Minister had been fully briefed on the failure of the missile test but would not comment on whether she purposefully withheld the information from MP’s ahead of the commons vote.

Labour were granted an urgent question on Trident in today’s commons and took the opportunity to press the defence minister Sir Michael Fallon for more details about the test and whether the government had engaged in a cover up.

In a statement to the commons he told MPs: “Contrary to reports in the weekend press, HMS Vengeance and her crew were successfully tested and certified as ready to rejoin the operational cycle.

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No comment: Mr Fallon, speaking earlier today in the commons

“We do not comment of the detail of submarine operations.”

He added: “The capability and effectiveness of the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent is not in doubt. The Government has absolute confidence in our deterrent and in the Royal Navy crews who protect us.”

With the government refusing to comment on these potentially damaging allegations, we can expect further tough questioning in the days to come.

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An earlier missile test failure

View From the Green Seats: Theresa May’s Brexit plan finally revealed?

After months of speculation, press articles and speeches Theresa May has confirmed that she will reveal the Governments plans for Brexit in a speech to take place on Tuesday at Lancaster House, London.

The audience will comprise top level diplomats, ambassadors, high commissioners and the governments EU negotiating team. It is a move that will appease hard line Euroskeptics and remainers alike.

Widespread reports suggest that the government will pursue a so called ‘Hard’ Brexit, completely severing all ties with the European Union, but what does that mean?

Free Movement

The crux of the referendum campaign, immigration and free movement will form a cornerstone of the governments strategy and its negotiating position. While looking to impose restrictions on who can enter the UK, the government has to counterbalance the needs of those UK nationals abroad and to ensure that their rights are protected.

It is a position that will require a great deal of negotiation and compromise on both sides.

Restrictions imposed must allow for the necessary flow of foreign workers which are an increasingly vital part of the UK economy and by virtue essential to economic success.

You can expect a tough line from the government on this key issue, with the government likely to outline a changed immigration system which will take effect once the Article 50 negotiations are concluded.

Access to the Single Market

A market of over 500 million consumers, the European Union forms the largest economic market for the UK and our largest trading partner. However, it is a market that comes with certain constraints in both access and usage.

Constraint number one: All workers within the European Economic Area must be allowed to move freely between member states, with no one state imposing restrictions on movement of any kind.

Obviously this falls under the domain of the aforementioned immigration issue and with the government pursuing a harder line on immigration, this will form the crux of the decision on whether the UK chooses to remain within the single market. It is possible that a deal could be reached which would allow the UK to impose legitimate restrictions on immigration whilst retaining access to the single market, but such a deal does not fall into the Hard Brexit line that the government is keen to pursue.

Constraint number two: No member state may enter into trade agreement or compact independently of the European Union. All trade deals must be made with the agreement of all 28 states.

Despite the obvious advantages of allowing individual member states to sign trade agreements with other nations in the world, the EU has pursued a unified trade policy and as a consequence has been slowed down in its deal making process. As we have seen from the last few months, the number of nations wanting to sign individual trade deals with the UK is increasing at a substantive rate.

With a greater need to preserve increasingly fragile economic markets across Europe, there is a lot of wiggle room for the UK to achieve its goal of economic independence from the EU but retaining access to a necessary partner.

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Parliamentary Issues

We live in a parliamentary democracy and openness is essential to the political process in the UK. However, the Brexit negotiations represent a unique occasion in British politics, where openness is ultimately counterproductive. Think of it as a game of Poker, if you go into the game with your cards face up then your opponent will know what you hold and will be able to beat you far quicker than if you held them close to your chest.

The same is true of Brexit, openness leads to the EU knowing what issues are vital to the future of the UK and gives them an unfair advantage in the negotiating process. We do not have access to the EU’s negotiating position and they are unlikely to give a full account of it before article 50 is triggered.

That being said, if the current supreme court case is anything to go by parliamentary consent and access will be a vital component of the UK’s negotiating position and essential to preserving the role of parliamentary democracy. A negotiation without the consent or input of Parliament would invalidate the whole idea of the parliamentary system.

It is therefore likely that the Prime Minister will use Tuesday’s speech to unveil how the UK’s negotiating position will be debated in parliament and what role it will play in determining the elements of the negotiation.

Economic strategy

With the financial markets a volatile place since the Brexit vote last June, Theresa May will be keen to steady the ship and to outline a viable plan for long term economic success post Brexit.

As with anything, it’s easier to say than to make happen and the final economic strategy of the UK post brexit will depend on how well the EU negotiations go. A key element of any plan is to keep existing businesses here and to encourage new businesses to make their home in the UK.

Keeping the UK an attractive, financially viable prospect is essential and we can expect the government to outline measures to do so, such as the reduction of corporation tax and the relaxation of certain restrictive trade laws.

Financial markets thrive on certainty, confidence and stability. They fail in conditions of instability and uncertainty. Although the FTSE 100 has never been as high as it has in years, the value of Sterling has decreased with the uncertainty of post-brexit Britain.

A clearer strategy should remedy this decrease in value and encourage business to plan for the future in the UK.

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A government defined?

Theresa May’s speech on Tuesday will set the stage for the next five years of politics in the UK and will define her tenure as Prime Minister. Shaping the debate will show whether she can handle the task of taking the UK out of Europe or whether another should take her place.

With Labour on the skids, the Liberal Democrats a party in serious decline the opportunity to create a Conservative Brexit Britain is clear. Should she fail to deliver Brexit in the right way, it is highly likely that voters will turn to other political parties at the general election in 2020.

I for one am looking forward to hearing what she has to say.

 

 

 

London Elects a New Mayor: 2016

For those who don’t know, the City of London was a city built on many rivers and waterways. In point of fact over 21 rivers and tributaries flow in and around what is now the main metropolis of the United Kingdom. They have colourful names like:  The Crane, The Darent, The Mutton Brook, the Pool River, The Ching, The Moselle, The Quaggy, The Silk Stream, The Westbourne, The Wallbrook, The Fleet and The River Thames.

Where most of these rivers have passed into obscurity over the centuries, the River Thames has become London’s river, providing a vital industrial and economic centre while proving to be the original arbiter of London’s success as a capital over the last 2000 years.

As the city has evolved into today’s vibrant capital, the role of the Thames has diminished with the cities status as a financial centre ever increasingly important in determining its success. A prosperous city of London means a prosperous country as a whole.

In that prosperity, the political and economic need has arisen to have a Mayor, who is in tune with the people and businesses of the UK’s biggest city. The office of mayor has become as integral to the long-term future of the city as the River Thames once was before.  The Mayor is now an international figure, lobbying for the interests of London abroad and likewise safeguarding the interests of London in dealings with the government of Westminster. He and his colleagues in the London assembly play a vital role in local government in the city, administering transport, the police and overarching authority on the greater London councils.

Two men have fulfilled this obligation since the office was set up in 2000; Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. Now the time has come again to elect a new Mayor and in a few days 5.5 million Londoners will cast their votes.

There are 12 candidates currently seeking your vote from many different political parties, campaigning on a variety of diverse political issues and platforms from Women’s rights to the legalization of Cannabis and we are now in the final flurries of the election.  While many make convincing arguments on the rightness of their policies in comparison to their opponents, who realistically has the chance of winning?

While it may be somewhat romantic to think of a great underdog candidate becoming the next Mayor, it is highly unlikely that this will occur. What is more likely is a straight fight between the Labour Candidate Sadiq Khan and the Conservative Candidate Zac Goldsmith. As the two leading candidates they command both the biggest election budget and the biggest media coverage.

The coverage given to the candidates is ultimately the battleground on which this election has been fought and it has become a decidedly underhanded and dirty campaign.

Sadiq Khan has repeatedly been accused of having extremist sympathies by both Zac Goldsmith and those media outlets aligned to the Conservative party. As Mr Khan’s opinion polls have continued to rise, these attacks have become accusations of racism and Anti-Semitism. The racism opinions and media spin that have dogged Mr Khan’s campaign have spread to engulf the entire Labour party in anti-Semitism overtures. Other individuals within the labour party, chiefly the former mayor Ken Livingstone and the MP Naz Shah, have been forced to resign or have been suspended as the racism witch hunt continues. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the labour party has attempted to mitigate the reputational damage by calling for an internal review of the parties’ codes and standards with regards to both racism and Anti-Semitism.

Despite the witch hunt engulfing his party and the allegations surrounding his own views, Sadiq Khan has managed to maintain his popularity amongst the voters of London. Mr Khan, being a practicing Muslim and the son of a London Bus driver embodies the very spirit of the new multi-cultural London. Indeed the doggedness of the slur campaign against him may have made him more popular than he otherwise would have been, encouraging a strong sympathy vote from the electorate. Although he and his wife Saadiya enjoy a more upper class status than the average voter in so much that she is a high-profile lawyer and he the Shadow Minister for London they can easily be perceived as being of the people (coming from humble beginnings and working their way up).

Zac Goldsmith, however cannot make this same claim. As the son of the billionaire financier and businessman Sir James Goldsmith, he has enjoyed a wealthy and upper class upbringing along with his two siblings, Benjamin and Jemima. Indeed his political career has to some degree mirrored this wealth and access to opportunities as he was placed at the top of the Conservative A-list in 2006 and subsequently won election to the safe seat of Richmond Park. Safe within what could be described as a very affluent Conservative area, he successfully increased his majority in the 2015 general election.

In announcing his standing for Mayor in September 2015, it could be suggested that he has overreached himself too soon and that a more seasoned political operator would prove more successful in this contest. A candidate with a more proven track record might have been more appealing to the electorate as a whole, but since none could be found the party has been forced to utilise a largely unproven politician.

And so, this assertion has proven to be accurate as Mr Goldsmith has led a campaign that has not captured the public imagination. It would take a special candidate to unlock what has traditionally been Labour’s city, Boris achieved it with sheer force of personality but Zac Goldsmith seemingly does not possess this magnetism.

Both candidates have run on very different platforms, Mr Goldsmith on one hand choosing to favour green policies designed to improve London’s environmental status and Mr Khan on the other seeking to improve the lives of everyday Londoners by a variety of transport, financial and housing concessions.

A London minus a Conservative Mayor would potentially be a significant impediment to the government who have enjoyed four years of relatively unscathed dealings with their man Boris Johnson. It is a period that could potentially come to an end if Mr Khan wins on Thursday and the Conservative party establishment have recognised this late in the campaign as Mr Goldsmith has floundered.

It is this realisation that has triggered the Conservative PR and spin machine to play the only card at their disposal: the Race card and the signal for muck raking of all sorts has commenced. Stories have been leaked, members past histories and affiliations have been examined meticulously and as a result we have been subjected to a very divisive final few weeks of the campaign.

Goldsmith, claiming that he is not the originator of these smears has been keen to benefit from them using his public appearances to appeal to those minority groups which may have been slighted by the allegations made. It is a risky strategy which doesn’t seem to be getting him the votes required to make this a closer contest and in point of fact this strategy could be considered to be backfiring on him. In any event is it a case of too much, too little, too late?

The temptation is not to mention the other candidates entirely but as open minded observers we would be unwise not to consider them.  None of them has greatly distinguished themselves, with the possible exception of Sian Berry, whose party political broadcast was frankly hilarious to watch. While there is no realistic chance of a winner from one of these parties, their chances of having members elected to the London assembly are significantly higher.

So now here we sit twenty-four hours away from Election Day, with a field of candidates that could be called the bottom of the barrel and no stand out winner. Mr Khan seems the most likely to triumph, according to most of the opinion polls and commentators, but I would suggest that we may see a slightly closer contest than is being suggested by the media.

In any event Londoners are faced with the choice and by Friday morning our capital city will have a new Mayor. A new man or woman will occupy the highest office in London local government, they will face new challenges both internal and external, they may ultimately prove to be ineffectual or they may rise to become the new arbiter of London’s success in the same way as the River Thames was the original.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

Should Barack Obama have intervened in the European Union referendum debate?

The United States of America has intervened in the political affairs of a foreign power.  These are powerful words, full of intent and purpose. So often in the world the U.S has flexed its political and military muscles to bring about change in a foreign power over the 20th and 21st centuries.

The thing that separates this intervention from the countless others is that this intervention is not in the affairs of a lesser power in a far off land, where the political system is skewed or slanted towards a specific type of politics, this intervention is in a country of similar political and international stature to the U.S.  I’m talking about the United Kingdom and Barack Obama’s intervention in the EU referendum debate.

So why intervene?

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America and the first black man to hold the office is running out of time.  In the waning months of his second term as president, he knows that his time is almost up. The vultures are circling; ready to pick apart the carcass of his presidency once he becomes a private citizen again. He has faced a heavily Republican senate, eager to block any and all legislation, a partisan populous not ready to face the harsher realities of the post crash world and an international community filled with crises and division.

Like a prize-fighter who knows his fighting days are over, Barack Obama has nothing to lose and can throw everything he’s got at his presidency. His conservative, compassionate stance has gone and has been replaced by a rushed desire to achieve lasting impact in his few remaining months as president.  He has vehemently spoken out on gun crime, on international terrorism, the economy and has pushed through significant diplomatic changes to the United States relationship with Cuba, paving the way for the greatest change in political relations between the two countries for half a century.

Intervention in European Affairs

Turning his attention away from domestic affairs to Europe and the UK could be seen by many as a dramatic overstepping of his presidential authority.  Indeed the rebukes since his initial speeches from the Brexiteers have been as stinging as they have been numerous.  By all means intervene in a foreign power, but save that intervention for a third world country or a dictatorship but don’t intervene in the affairs of an international partner, particularly one who you enjoy a “special relationship” with.

It’s easy to rebuke him, call him a hypocrite and ignore him, but as objective individuals we must look beyond the words to the real aims of his intervention in this integrally British issue.

We’ve already mentioned one point that is a key motivator for him: preserving the “special relationship”. The US has a vested interest in keeping Britain strong and an international power because we can achieve what they cannot: we can tread the fine lines of Europe, work in American interests and still be seen as an independent nation.

Our country provides a vital exporting and importing market to the US with many companies depending on British wealth and spending power to finance them.  Should the UK leave the EU, the United States will have to renegotiate its existing trade agreements with a newly independent UK. Renegotiation takes time and could cause damage to world financial markets, particularly across the European Union.

British influence on the EU cannot be understated, we are one of three key leading nations in the greater European alliance, the others being France and Germany. Our voice carries a significant weight and provides additional strength to the EU message.  As a significant political partner, America cannot help but see this and obviously make the logical leap that Britain outside of the EU is a weaker EU.

Playing the long game

You get the sense that America is playing a long game, keeping the EU strong enough while it readies itself for the inevitable confrontation with the newly resurgent Russian Federation.  A strong EU preserving its borders can accomplish more politically than NATO could in military terms, drawing other territories into the union and strengthening its existing members. Other nations in the EU have dithered in the past on larger world concerns like Iraq and Afghanistan but the UK has not, we have been prepared to move forward where others have been reticent to do so.

That voice in the EU could be used to motivate it to pursue the eventual military action which will undoubtedly occur as the two great superpowers continue to butt heads.

On the other hand, President Obama could be a pawn in a European game designed to keep Britain in the EU in exchange for certain US concessions across the territories.  The statements and speeches have been public but the real politics may be completely secret.

Is he right to do so?

Putting speculation aside, the ethics of President Obama’s intervention in this debate are questionable at best. We are not a dictatorship or a totalitarian society, British democracy has been key too much of the worlds greater democracy and indeed the US owes its constitution and political system to our political system.  Intervening in this debate is ill advised and would only be considered by the US if the issue itself were so serious and so game changing that not intervening would be perceptibly catastrophic to American long term interests.

Whether his intervention proves to be a catalyst for a remain landslide or it provokes the opposite response, he has thrown his hat into the centre of the ring and it is up to us now as voters to decide whether this is right or wrong.

What do you think?

 

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

1st July 2016- Brave New World or Apocalypse Now?

It is the 1st July 2016, the political maneuvering,  celebrity endorsements, speech making and campaigning are over and the fate of the UK in the European Union has been settled.  Amidst the mass of column inches, the “we were right” statements and hurried speculation about the future, what changes can the voters of this country expect, regardless of the result?

The days in the lead up to the referendum will be so frenzied that many of the UK’s voters and political commentators will be saturated and likely sick of the process that many will shut down completely in the post referendum haze.

The EU referendum is the most profound political change to affect the UK in the last quarter century, that much is undeniable but will the common voter care after the vote has been decided?

The popular perception is that a vote to remain in the EU means that nothing will change, that the status quo will continue and things will remain as they are.  This will in all likelihood not be the case, as fallout from the vote sets in. Regardless of the result, changes will occur, many will be subtle but many more will be shattering to the existing political, social and economical structures that exist in this country at present.

The first casualties will undoubtedly be the “Brexiteers” .i.e. those MP’s who elected to join the Brexit campaign since its inception. Cabinet ministers should remain largely unaffected, with the exception of Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary who will probably end up being reshuffled out of the cabinet after the referendum result.  In some senses, he will get off lightly as rebels like Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith who so publicly opposed the Prime Minister in the campaign will face pressure to resign their seats in favour of Cameronites.

The strongest proponent of the remain campaign, the Prime Minister will enjoy an upsurge in popularity amongst the voters and will look to solidify his power base as he moves forward into the final years of his term.

In staying out of the referendum spotlight, the Labour party has ensured that it will remain largely unaffected by either a remain or exit result. In a classic case of political opportunism, Jeremy Corbyn has been keen for the party to remain unified in its desire to remain in the EU. They can afford to let the Conservative party carry all of the debating and infighting, then claim that they are above such petty conflict.

Emboldened by the vote of confidence, the Prime Minister can use the good feeling to hold renewed discussions with the other leaders of the European Union about the UK’s place within it. However in winning the referendum vote, the Prime Minister must check his ego at the door and will most likely claim that he has been given a strong mandate for reforming the EU by the voters.  Whether the leaders of the EU will be keen to have these sorts of discussions with him are anyone’s guess.

Economic uncertainty is almost a given in the aftermath of the EU referendum, as many investors will look to second guess the financial markets both before and after the vote has been cast.  Such a period of uncertainty could be highly detrimental to the UK economy, given its fragile status.  We will not see a panic in the same vein of the 2008-9 financial crash but can expect a drop in the value of investments at all levels of the financial services market.

Foreign investors could on the other hand be keen to put their money into the economy, taking advantage of a foreseeable period of economic uncertainty to make a fast buck.  Legislation may need to be enacted by the UK government to forestall this sort of fire sale in the UK.

An EU keen to reform its financial instruments may look to lessen current financial constraints as a sort of placation of the UK after a positive referendum result. Then again, the EU could look to punish the UK for its attempts to leave “the EU club”.

The area which will be the least affected, at least in the immediate aftermath of the vote would be the UK’s current sociological landscape. Economic migration and immigration will continue in the way that it always has, but the UK will be subject to larger sociological strain as both membership of the EU expands and the tide of immigration continues.  Remaining in the EU will not change the day to day sociological structures; people will still pay tax, attend hospitals and pay benefits.

Current commitments to EU legislation will continue, with the possibility of increased legislation in the weeks and months following the vote.

And now to the other side of the coin, what would happen if the vote endorsed the Brexit?

Would the vote to leave signal the swift exit of the Prime Minister? There is always a possibility that this will happen. Losing such a high profile vote would harm his credibility as both a world leader and leader of the Conservative party. Since Cameron has already said that this term will be his last as Prime Minister, the best option for the victorious Brexiters would be to keep him in power and consolidate their powerbase to take over once the term is over. Choosing this course would give the illusion of a strong and unified party to the general public and could fend off a renewed assault from the Labour party.

While the Prime Minister could remain a paper tiger for the rest of his premiership, other prominent remain politicians would fall into the sights of the Brexiters, chief among them being George Osborne.  Consolidation of power base and its eventual use could easily force the Chancellor out of his position and stop him from making any succession overtures when Cameron’s term ends.

The bombshell of a British exit from the European Union would ripple through Europe. Borders which remained open under the old way would be closed, legislation which affected Britain and British interests would become null and void and many Euro politicians would be out of a job.

The status of those individuals from the EU who live and work in this country as part of the free movement of workers and individuals would need to be quantified. Would they now be effectively deported? Or would a general amnesty on those already here and working here be agreed?

Radical changes to the current working visa system would not in all likelihood occur, but significantly more checks would be conducted with greater emphasis on excluding those individuals who were not here to work, or key workers. An Australian style points system would be favorable in this instance.  Asylum seekers and those fleeing war (like those in Syria) would still be welcome in this country, but benefit tourists would find it far harder to enter the UK.

The question of whether the UK would still allow the resettlement of Syrian migrants leads us to a larger question: Would the international status of the UK change if it were independent from the EU?

The simple answer is No. The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy and enjoys a prominent political and economic status within the international community. Changes made would be only evolutionary as the UK embraces its new status as independent from the EU.

Media speculation makes wild claims that the cost of holidays and travel within the EU would increase dramatically as a result of Brexit, but many of the countries of the EU rely on the income of British tourists so it is not in their final interests for these costs to increase.

As stated previously either referendum result would most likely cause a dip in the financial markets. The idea that many prominent financial institutions would up sticks; move to the continent in the event of a Brexit is pure media speculation and is ultimately not cost effective.  Large multi-nationals have a vested interest in trading in UK financial markets and have been aware of the referendum for some time now; it is naive to think that they haven’t made financial plans to remain in this market. Firms cannot afford to ignore the UK because as mentioned it’s the fifth largest economy in the world.

Signing up to the Single Market formed the basis of the last referendum on the EU and it is this battleground where the UK must make its presence felt.  Trade deficits and agreements need to be maintained and the UK will need to renegotiate entry into the Single market as an independent nation rather than a member of the EU. Other countries within Europe but independent of the EU have such agreements but they are far smaller economies but the UK would be a different kettle of fish. An agreement is vital and must be reached quickly, whether this comes at a cost of further concessions is a problem for the politicians to solve.

So, this brings us back to our initial question: Will the 1st July 2016 inaugurate the start of a brave new world or an apocalypse now?

Speculation can be made that either event will occur because we are in uncharted territory.  Will either result be in the best interests of the UK? We can say with some degree of surety that it will: Britain is a unique country in the world with a proud history and a place at the top tables of the world as a world leader.  This tradition will continue because the people of this nation will make it so.

 

 

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