Brexit: Britain uncut?

“Breaking up is hard to do” EU president Donald Tusk said in a press conference on Friday morning and he couldn’t have been more right. Only last week I was commenting on how Theresa May faced so complex a Gordian knot that even she couldn’t potentially get out of in negotiating the Brexit deal.

Flash forward a week and my glumness has been replaced by a fresh sense of optimism, tempered by the knowledge that there is still much to do before we get out the exit door.

So lets use what I said last week as a guide to illustrate our progress so far…..

Strand One: The Divorce bill

£50 billion. That is how much the UK has potentially agreed to pay and while many people will be keen to point out that it is a shedload of money, my question is: What did you expect?

This is a multi-national organisation with many strands that the UK has been involved in for the better part of 40 years and potentially would have been involved in for another 40 if we hadn’t voted to leave in 2016. No one expected we’d do what we did, so all of the agreements were made in advance.

article-0-0EC931AE00000578-938_634x388The total amount encompasses the cost of exiting pre-existing legal arrangements, European union pensions (the pensions of those people from Britain working within the EU legislative machine), existing financial liabilities (.i.e. things we’ve already agreed to pay) and those financial liabilities which are contingent on us leaving the EU (which is the de facto exit bill).

We were always going to have to pay. If we didn’t pay then the UK would become a pariah in international circles, we would always be known as ‘the country which doesn’t pay’, a reputation which would jeopardise any future trade deals with countries throughout the world. The most surprising thing is the difference in figures between those being quoted in the media and the agreed deal. Wild speculation may sell newspapers but in today’s hare trigger opinion society, the media seems to have forgotten the value of facts.

Strand Two: Soft Border, Hard Border

So the status quo will be maintained in Northern Ireland, with a soft border between it and the Republic of Ireland, thus maintaining the 20 year old Good Friday agreement. While I don’t agree with maintaining a soft border, I can appreciate the sentiments behind it in that no one wants a return to the Troubles.

Going back to what I was saying about not agreeing with the soft border, I feel I need to qualify what I said: A soft border allows goods, services and people to flow backward and forward between the Republic Of Ireland, which remains a member of the EU and Northern Ireland, which ceases to be a member of the EU in March 2019. My concern is that Northern Ireland will become a ghettoised market in which companies will exploit softer regulations in order to benefit their bottom line.

If the UK’s regulations need to be stringent in order to encourage competition, trade agreements, safeguard the UK’s business interests and the allow for the entry of new business, then businesses might just move to Northern Ireland to take advantage of the perceptibly laxer regulations.


A key part of this is that the UK will ensure “full alignment” with the existing rules of the EU’s customs union and single market that uphold the Good Friday agreement, so in a sense we are hamstrung into keeping the EU’s economic foothold in Northern Ireland.

However, the important condition which was secured by the DUP (and caused the delay in getting the Brexit agreement) is that no new regulatory barriers will be allowed between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK without the permission of Stormont in the interest of upholding the Good Friday agreement. So hopefully this ghettoised market won’t happen.

Strand three: Everyone is right. Yay!

This agreement is a vital stepping stone in paving the way for future trade talks yes, but in other ways it represents a first step: A first step in establishing mechanisms by which a member state may leave the EU and still maintain retain a good relationship with the body which it leaves.

In this way we maintain our right to leave the organisation and it reinforces its status as a functioning organisation by providing us the mechanism to do so, thus maintaining its right.

Other countries looking to leave the EU will now know a little more about how that process will be implemented and have some guidance on the potential cost implications. It sets a precedent that can be followed in other instances.

Strand Four: Party Politics

An agreement like this, what ever its shortcomings represents a vital victory for Theresa May at a time when her popularity seems to shift week to week. Ever since she perceptibly ‘lost’ the election (even though she didn’t) the Conservative party has been in a state of damage control, which in some ways parallels the Labour parties implosion after the Brexit vote.


All smiles at the EU: Has Theresa May begun the long road back to restoring her credibility?

Using this victory as a springboard is essential, if she lets that victory grow stagnant then all the credibility she has gained in what was the most exhausting set of negotiations of her premiership will dissolve. As any good football manager will tell you, a number of victories in succession can define a season, in the same way as a number of defeats can.

Any positive legislation, or results can be added to this initial victory to create a base of credibility that can undo the damage done following the general election. It also serves to cement her place as the undisputed leader of the Conservative party. All Labour can do at this point is nothing but support the prime minister, for fear of being labelled anti-Brexit and thus not acting in the interests of the British people.

What is essential though is that the role of the DUP in facilitating the passage of this deal is kept in the background, otherwise the repeated questions about how much power the DUP holds could resurface.

Strand Five: Home Advantage

A settlement opens up the next phase of negotiation, letting the Prime Minister and the government focus on commencing trade negotiations with other countries. But it also serves to allow the Prime Minister to return to the politics of the UK and leave the next phase to the ministers and officials appointed to Brexit positions.

Chief among these individuals will be David Davies, who will be tasked with building on the good relations achieved in the past weeks and months. The Prime Minister can now tackle the infighting in her own party and galvanise them against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.



Breaking Whispers- Theresa May gives speech confirming the Governments position on Brexit

Prime Minister Theresa May has today outlined her strategy for Britain’s exit from the European Union in a speech at Lancaster House in London.


Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about the desire to create “A Global Britain”

The Conservative leader made clear that she would look to pursue a ‘Hard Brexit’ from the EU and that there would be no compromising on things like immigration, access to markets and parliamentary sovereignty.

Mrs May said “We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave. The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. My job is to get the right deal for Britain as we do.”

In a conciliatory but firm statement, the Prime Minister confirmed the following:

Britain will not remain a part of the single market

With speculation that her government would not look to stay in the single market, Mrs May confirmed that Britain would not be staying  within the single market but would instead look to sign a new free trade agreement with the EU.

This proposed agreement would allow the UK to have access to the single market but without membership of it. Membership of the single market required accepting free movement of goods,services, capital and people. In her words retaining membership of the single market “would in all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU.”

Britain will remain a member of the customs union

Trade formed a large part of the Prime Ministers speech and she confirmed that Britain would look to remain a member of the customs union with Europe. However she was keen to specify that Britain would not look to be subject to the common external tariff (a tax on all goods coming into the union from outside it).

The prime minister would not be drawn on whether the custom’s union’s policy of no member country negotiating trade deals on its own would be something that Britain would look to avoid.

The phased approach to Brexit

The Prime Minister underlined the requirement of any exit strategy from the EU to be phased in rather than having what she called a “cliff edge” point, which could cause irreparable harm to the UK economy.

Phasing arrangements would allow the economy, industry and public institutions to make necessary preparations for life outside of the European Union.

Mrs May confirmed that she would look to conclude negotiations with the EU within the two year timescale provided for by Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Controlling Immigration to the UK

The control of Britain’s borders was a crucial part of the decision to leave the EU and the Prime Minister reiterated her desire to enforce this policy.

However, she affirmed that Britain wants to continue to attract “the brightest and best to study and work in Britain”.

Referring to her time as Home secretary, Mrs May said “You cannot control immigration overall when there is free movement from Europe … Brexit must mean control of number of people coming to Britain from Europe.”

The UK’s immigration system post-Brexit has not been announced and the Prime Minister made no reference on how policing immigration from the EU would occur.

An end to the legal authority of the European Court of Justice in the UK

The authority of the European Court of Justice in the UK legal system will cease after the Brexit negotiations are concluded, the Prime Minister has confirmed.

Leaving the EU meant leaving all the institutions of it, with the Prime Minister arguing “We will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws.”

It is widely expected that the Supreme Court will assume all the legal responsibilities currently being undertaken by the European Court of Justice.

The final Brexit deal will be put before both Houses of Parliament

In a move that will appease both remainers and opposition parties alike, Mrs May has confirmed that any final Brexit deal committed to by the UK will be the subject of a vote in both the Houses of Parliament and the Lords.

This move will allow MP’s and Lords to block the plans, but is a vital move in confirming the sovereignty of Parliament in the Brexit negotiations after the recent Supreme Court case involving campaigners led by Gina Miller.

The timeframe for the Brexit deal to be put to the House will be confirmed shortly.

Cautious friends with Europe?

Mrs May stated that “I must be clear. Britain wants to remain a good friend and neightbour to Europe but I know there are some voices calling for a punitive deal. That would be a case of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe and it would not be the act of a friend. Britain could not, indeed we would not, accept such an approach.”

The Prime Minister said she believed that this would not occur but said that “no deal would be better than a bad deal”, warning that Britain would be free to set competitive tax rates, echoing earlier comments by the Chancellor Phillip Hammond.

However she also called for a close relationship with Europe after Brexit- ““Our vote to leave the European Union was no rejection of the values we share. The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours. We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends,” she said.

Cards on the Table?

By confirming the sort of deal that Britain wants from Brexit, the Prime Minister has placed Britain in the metaphorical driving seat of the Brexit negotiations. Much will be made of what the Prime Minister did not say and the lack of specificity on certain points but this is an important step on the road to Britain’s exit from the EU in two years time.

2016- The Year which changed everything

The last of the christmas presents has been opened, the turkey is now only fit for leftovers and everyone has fallen asleep.

As we approach the end of what has been a year of great change and turmoil, it’s customary to look back at the events which have shaped 2016.

10. The Year of the Reaper.

Carrie Fisher, George Michael, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Muhammad Ali, Prince, Robert Vaughan, Anton Yelchin, Victoria Wood, Nancy Reagan, Doris Roberts, Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Glenn, Fidel Castro to name but a few. It seems 2016 was the year that took so many famous and prominent individuals.

But as a wise Vulcan once said, how we deal with death is as important as how we deal with life, or what ever that means.  I choose to remember them for their unique contribution to shaping the modern world, however small or large.

9.  The Migrant Crisis Deepens

With the escalation in the Syrian Civil War and brush fire civil wars springing up all over Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring, Europe has never seemed a more attractive and safe place to live.

Massive numbers of migrants made the land crossing from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, with their destination Europe and safety, fleeing death and persecution by Islamic state and the Syrian Government.

They found countries unable or unwilling to cope with a massive influx of vulnerable individuals and families, as Europe seemed to collectively shut its doors. Lack of collective strategy and action at all levels of European government created conditions where the sheer numbers coming in had nowhere to go.

All the while ever increasing numbers made the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean, with just the clothes on their backs and on what could at best be described as boats and at worst rafts. Preyed upon by unscrupulous people smugglers, they all too often became casualties of the crossing and the Mediterranean became a sea of tragedy.


8. Nice Terror Attacks

A man drives a lorry down a crowded beach front. It seems so simple, but it was a tragically effective means of striking terror into the heart of one of France’s top beach destinations.

truck route.jpg

87 people lost their lives that night before the police stopped the lorry, which travelled all of 1.7km. The driver was later found to be a supporter of Islamic State.

France mourned, as did the rest of the world.

7. Brussels Terror Attacks

Belgium joined the long list of countries affected by the scourge of terrorism when three separate terrorist attacks rocked Brussels.

The attacks, which later proved to be a coordinated by the same terror cell which struck Paris in 2015 were the deadliest in Belgium’s history.

An airport and underground station were attacked, claiming 35 lives, including the three perpetrators and injuring up to 300 people.


6. Coup D e’tat in Turkey.

With any sort of insurrection, it is important to achieve your aims as quickly as possible before your enemy has a chance to react and counter your moves.

The speed and organisation by which elements of the Turkish military attempted to seize the reins of government from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was remarkable and clearly showed months of prior planning and forethought.

But in their haste, they counted on one thing that all uprisings count on: popular support.

Support which just as quickly eluded them, as the presidents forces quickly regained control of Turkey and instituted a bloody campaign of reprisals against the plotters.


In trying to put down a seemingly dictatorial regime, the coup’s plotters ultimately unleashed him on a country in which legitimate opposition is now a dangerous thing to be.

5. Russia takes a front seat in international politics.

Following its suspected involvement in the Ukrainian civil war in 2015, Russia has pursued a more active role in international politics with the eventual aim of recovering its former status as a superpower (lost since the fall of the Soviet Union).

Its support of the Syrian government both militarily and politically have proved decisive in allowing Bashar Al Assad’s forces to regain control of large parts of Syria. While Russian backing has prevented the western powers from acting decisively against Al Assad’s government, for fear of Russian reprisals.

Russian based computer hackers are widely suspected of attempting to hack the email accounts of prominent US politicians to try to influence the recent US election result and interfering in the European Union referendum here in the UK.


It’s athletes have faced suspicion and scrutiny after allegations of state sponsored doping, prompting the withdrawal of many Russian athletes from their Olympic team in Rio.

While it may be just bluster and hot air, it is becoming more and more difficult for the nations of the world to ignore the spectre of the great bear and its ringmaster, Vladimir Putin.

 4. Theresa May becomes UK Prime Minister

The political turmoil that engulfed the UK after it voted to leave the European Union in the 23rd June Referendum, claimed its most high profile victim when Prime Minister David Cameron tendered his resignation.

Many prominent Conservatives circled the job, all making lofty claims that they could effectively lead the UK into the unknown territory that is Brexit.

The successful Brexiteers, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove turned upon each other in a display of backstabbing not seen since Brutus showed Julius Caesar the proper way to carve a steak. In the case of Michael Gove, this betrayal ended a stellar front bench career condemning him to the backbenches.


Amidst the loud voices and press coverage, the campaign of Theresa May began. With her good record as a public servant in her time as Home secretary and her position as one of the most prominent remainers aside from messrs Cameron and Osbourne, the quiet and unassuming Ms May became the only realistic choice for the top job.

And so it proved, when her only remaining rival, the engaging but ultimately error prone Andrea Leadsom’s campaign succumbed to the fallout from explosive and costly gaffes.

In the six months since her ascension as Prime Minister, Ms May has led the Conservative party relatively safely through this time of transition and has benefited from a largely infighting Labour party to form a successful and well respected government.

3. Syrian Civil War

I know it may seem a little funny to call this one of the political events of 2016, given that it has been a conflict since 2011, but 2016 has seen some of the Syrian civil wars worst moments as the conflict intensifies.

The war, which seemed locked in a deadly stalemate, has been pushed decisively in the Syrian government’s favour by the support of the Russian federation.

Support on this scale has exacerbated the humanitarian disaster which has pushed hundreds of thousands of people into neighbouring Jordan, Turkey and on into Europe.

We’ve watched as the regime has exacted a deadly toll on its people, most notably in the city of Aleppo where thousands have died and the city itself has been essentially flattened by the conflict.

Defeated Rebel forces in Aleppo have been forced to flee and a seemingly endless tide of refugees have exited the besieged city.

The longer the war continues, the more lives will be lost and that remains the tragedy of the conflict. If 2017 is remembered as anything it should be the year when the Western powers take action to end the violence and bloodshed.

2. The EU referendum- Britain votes to leave

One story dominated the summer political scene in Britain, the European Union referendum. It was a watershed moment in both the politics of the UK and of Europe, still dominating the headlines even today.

From the moment Prime Minister Cameron returned from meeting with the other members of the EU with the compromise deal, a tide of feeling was unleashed upon the British people not seen since we first entered the union in 1973.

The Conservative party split into two factions: one pro leave headed in part by the former Mayor of London Boris Johnson and in the other camp, the remainers headed by the Prime Minister David Cameron.

The other parties in general chose to remain with the EU, which would cost them dearly when the result was revealed.

A polarising, punishing campaign followed which forced the British public to choose a side, making them fearful of the consequences of either choice.

Leavers were accused of racism, while remainers were accused of being EU cronies and all the while it was the truth which suffered. Vociferous debates pitted politician vs politician and supporter vs supporter, which indirectly resulted in an upsurge of violence and had tragic consequences in the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox.

No one, least of all the leavers could have predicted the result which was staggering to say the least. Britain voted to leave the European Union 51.9% to 48.1%. It was a result which cost David Cameron his job and completely changed UK politics forever.

  1. Donald Trump elected President of the United States of America.

It was a no brainer for Americans, choose a respected public servant from a recognised political dynasty in Hillary Clinton or choose a brash, inexperienced man of indeterminate political views in Donald Trump.

If you thought the EU referendum campaigning was an exercise in mud slinging then the US presidential campaign was a virtual mudslide of epic proportions.

Mr Trump showed very extreme political views, bordering on casual racism and a willingness to throw insults at his opponent. It seemed a strategy doomed to fail, but as the campaigning went on , Mrs Clinton found herself increasingly using similar tactics as she could not deal with the Trump political machine.

The extremist views of Donald Trump provoked a wave of protests across the USA, with violent clashes between Trump supporters and latterly racist violence on both sides.

In the final months of the election, events took a sinister turn when a video capturing off camera derogatory remarks made about women by Mr Trump was made public. It marked a very ugly period in which the election became about the person rather than the politics.

Hillary Clinton didnt get off entirely scot free as allegations of the leaking of state secrets in private emails exploded across the American media.

With both candidates seemingly not winning over the American people decisively, election night came with Clinton holding a slender lead over her New York rival.

Initial counts placed the candidates level on votes, but then Trump won the seemingly certain democratic seat of Ohio and an inexorable tide of wins followed to push Donald Trump over the required 270 seats for an unexpected victory and the Presidency.

With a certain amount of hesitation, we watched Trump give a speech which sounded notes of unity and talked about healing the wounds which the campaign had exacerbated. Mr Trump praised Mrs Clinton as an exceptional individual who fought a very hard campaign.

So, Donald Trump is President of the United States. What he does in that office will shape the destiny of the United States for good or ill. I’ll leave the final word to the President elect.

Brexit Vs Bremain- The First Fortnight: Speeches, Statements and Skulduggery

Two weeks can be a long time in politics, hell two minutes can be a long time in politics. Careers can be broken, made and remade; politicians can go from the flavor of the month to the poor cousin and vice versa. It has been more than two weeks since David Cameron announced the EU referendum and a serious contest has gradually emerged from all the bravado and maneuvering.  In the grand scheme that is the EU referendum two weeks is a small amount of time, but these two weeks determines the flavor of the next six months and beyond.

Keen to make an immediate gain in the contest were the Bremain campaign, who exploited their existing connections in the business world to produce a 200 business strong letter in The Times newspaper voicing their businesses support for staying in the EU.  The implication of this being that their businesses and their employees would both support this intention.

Prominent members of the Brexit campaign made statements in the press denouncing this as governmental propaganda, also citing the notable absence of two thirds of the UK’s main FTSE 100 companies from the letter. It is clear that many of the UK’s businesses remain undecided on whether exit from the EU is good for the UK.

Outside of the campaigns the director of the British Chambers of Commerce, John Longworth was forced to resign after expressing pro Brexit opinions. It was an exit that the campaign rounded on, with cries of double standards and accusations of governmental pressure being brought to bear on the BCC. Some have expressed the belief that Mr Longworth was made to resign by the Brexit campaign rather than the Bremain, as a political bear trap that the government was made to step into, however the truth remains elusive in this regard.

Boris Johnson and the other politicians in the Brexit campaign have been keen to stress the presence of Project Fear: a concerted governmental effort to make the general public so afraid of the consequences of an EU exit that they are forced to vote to remain.  It was a campaign that was very effective in the Scottish referendum and could quite easily be in operation here in the UK.

A major consequence of the EU referendum has been the dropping by the government of plans to reform pension’s tax relief. It is an abandonment of plans that smacks of electioneering, in so much as higher and additional rate taxpayers are the bedrock of the conservative party and to bring these changes now could result in a revenge EU exit vote from them.

It has been a long time since wholesale appeasement was the flavor of the month in British politics, but with so many interested parties in this referendum debate we can expect a climate of voter grabbing headlines, statements in both parliament and the media all designed to gain one thing above all: Your Vote. It’s up to you to decide how you use it.


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