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Flash forward a week and my glumness has been replaced by a fresh sense of optimism, tempered by the knowledge that there is still much to do before we get out the exit door.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

_99126381_border_pa

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.

nintchdbpict000371724389

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.

 

 

Brexit: Theresa May’s Gordian knot?

The Gordian Knot is a myth surrounding that great conqueror of early history, Alexander of Macedon who when faced with a rope so knotted that it could not be unwound by the most skilful of champions took out his sword and cut the knot into pieces: thus solving the problem and providing the first demonstration in lateral thinking.

Flash forward three thousand years, and UK Prime Minister Theresa May finds herself faced with her own Gordian knot in negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union. In each turn of the knot, she finds herself further and further entangled within its shackles. Each knot has its own strand each with its own objectives and impact on the UK and indeed the EU at large.

Strand one: The divorce bill

£27bn, £40bn, £57bn. The price of Britain’s exit seems to increase week to week, certainly in the newspaper headlines anyway. Things are often spun in such a way as to make the EU’s demands overtly punitive, and yes to some degree they are in terms of actual cost. The problem is this: We signed up to these agreements which placed a cost on our membership and now we have to honour those agreements.

brexitbill

What will the final cost of Brexit be and will the UK pay it?

The issue now is that this bill is being used in a game of brinkmanship by the EU. To get the trade deal we must first pay the piper, and the EU is calling the tune. The problem is, if we refuse to pay we can’t legally leave and we risk engendering the bad feeling of future trading partners. However if we pay an overtly large settlement in order to achieve the next step in the process, the Prime Minister loses all credibility in the British parliament and media.

Strand two: What is a soft border anyway?

Historically, the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland has always been a ‘soft’ border than a ‘hard’ one going back to the founding of the Irish free state in 1919.  However with Ireland being a member of the EU and the UK in the future not being a member, the question becomes what to do with Northern Ireland.

1008brexit01

Is this the future for the Northern Irish border?

If we leave the border as a soft one, then we open a backdoor into the UK which could be exploited by thousands of economic migrants both legally and illegally as they would be able to become citizens of Northern Ireland and vicariously the UK.

The problem is if we have a hard border, we risk endangering over 30 years of improved relations between Northern and Southern Ireland, going all the way back to the Good Friday agreement, which ended the Irish troubles. The EU knows this and have given the Irish a veto on any border negotiations between ourselves and the EU.

A border needs to be maintained, there needs to be a clear distinction between what is now EU territory and what is UK territory, with the channel it is easy, with Ireland it will be harder.

Strand three: Proving the EU to be right

The European Union was designed to be an organisation of equal rights where everyone would be happy and everyone’s concerns would be listened to. No one is supposed to want to leave political paradise. Now that we have thrown that dream out of the window in asking to leave, the EU is entering damage control.

2157

Should Mrs May ignore her fellow European leaders as they look to preserve the EU?

Part of that damage control is enforcing an exit that is punitive so as to discourage others from seeking the same exit that we are seeking. Another part is that an exit was never envisioned by the people writing the EU so this is new territory, both politically and sociologically and in any new territory there are going to be bumps in the road.

By pursuing a hard Brexit we achieve our aims but we engender an undercurrent of hostility over our exit from the EU. Other nations, emboldened by our exit may seek to renegotiate their deals and if these negotiations fail, then more and more nations will leave.

Strand Four: Party politics

No party can be seen to go against the will of the British people, especially where the EU referendum is concerned, however the Labour party has been largely indifferent in its Brexit stance, not deciding between a hard Brexit (which would appease the Brexiteers) and a so called soft Brexit (which would appease the remainers, who don’t want to leave the EU).

The more concessions Theresa May makes, the more she loses the support of her own party and now following the disastrous general election in May, Mrs May now has to balance the support of her own party with her new coalition partners: The Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP is a party which has a profoundly religious background of somewhat radical ideas.

Theresa-May-Arlene-Foster-815393

The power behind the throne? With ten hugely important seats in parliament, the DUP is in a position to exert enormous influence on the British political system

Their brand of unionism and their proximity to the Irish question makes them a key player in the EU negotiations add to that their ability to collapse the May government by withdrawing their support and the difficulty that the Conservative government under Theresa May faces is self-evident.

Strand Five: Home problems

When faced with a choice, 52% of voters in this country voted to leave the EU. Regardless of the politics involved we said we wanted to leave and now the government is charged with making that happen.

But politics in this country didn’t suddenly stop, the problems in this country didn’t suddenly cease functioning and they will continue to do so even when we leave the EU. The problem is, finding the right time to address these long standing problems when we have more immediate concerns.

We have two years to leave the EU, as mandated by our treaty with them and we have to make it work within that time. The problem is that parts of the negotiation there affect problems here.

If we pull out of the single market without an effective substitute then our economy suffers, if we lose the European court of human rights without an effective judiciary authority to replace it then the legal system suffers and so on and so forth. So we can’t ignore the negotiations and we can’t address our own long standing problems without addressing short term concerns.

Cutting the knot

Gordian-Knot_Thumbnail

Is there a lateral solution to the Brexit problem?

Alexander demonstrated lateral thinking in cutting the knot with his sword. Theresa May can do the same, but she needs to display the same confidence in her thinking to do so.

Brexit is going to happen and no second referendum is going to change that, however what may be needed is the ability to act definitively: to pay the bill, to sort out the border, to change the language and bring the EU back to positivity in these negotiations, to build a political consensus and to support our own country.

Can she do so? Potentially yes. Will she do so and remain in charge? No. Decisiveness and democracy don’t always get along and I think the first casualty of Brexit will be Mrs May.

The Triggering of Article 50: A European Perspective

Over the past few weeks and months, the preparations being made by the UK to exit the European Union have dominated the countries news and media outlets. It has bred an environment where high profile court cases, large scale protests, parliamentary headaches and a seemingly divided nation have become the norm.

The debate will take a new dimension on Wednesday when Prime Minister Theresa May officially triggers Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon and starts the Brexit process.

She will send a letter to the EU in Brussels informing them of the UK’s desire to leave the European Union as defined in the treaty signed by Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2007 and begin a round of intense diplomatic negotiations.

Article 50

Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon

The Treaty itself provides for a two-year timetable for the perspective member state to leave the EU but many believe that negotiating Britain’s exit will take a lot longer than two years.

While much of the focus of the debate has been on what the UK will do, the European Union has been preparing its negotiating position and determining what is required to ensure an exit which keeps both parties happy.

The EU’s Three Musketeers

Key to the success of the negotiations will be the EU’s negotiating team, made up of the following individuals, representing the different parts of the EU legislative body:

VerhofstadtGuy Verhofstadt, European Parliament chief negotiator on Brexit

An ardent federalist whose appointment made headlines around the EU, Mr Verhofstadt will lead the negotiations on behalf of the European Parliament and can be a very charismatic and good orator.

However, he’s not the most popular figure amongst the Brexit camp, with UKIP’s former leader MEP Nigel Farage once claiming that “Guy Verhofstadt hates everything we stand for, which should mean a much shorter renegotiation.”

The European Parliament are keen to set up a special taskforce on Brexit, which Mr Verhofstadt is hotly tipped to lead and with his reputation for being a strong personality both politically and personally, the EU are making an aggressive statement by appointing him.

BarnierMichel Barnier, European Commission Chief Brexit Negotiator

Former French Minister and Commission Vice-President Michel Barnier will lead the European Commission’s Taskforce for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the UK.

Mr Barnier previously served as Single Market Commissioner (2010-2014), during which time he brought forward several legislative initiatives for the financial sector, such as the establishment of the new banking union as a response to the financial crisis.

A man of significant political connections in both the EU itself and the remaining 27 member states, Mr Barnier was appointed by European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and will be under intense pressure to keep a tough line in the negotiations.

SeeuwsDidier Seeuws, European Council Special Taskforce Chief Negotiator

The final member of the EU’s three musketeers, Mr Seeuws is a diplomat who served as Chief of Staff to former European Council President Herman Van Rompuy (2011-2014) and his appointment to this post has been seen by many as a power grab by the European Council as it looks to take a leading role in the Brexit negotiations.

Mr Seeuws serves as the Director of Transport, Telecommunications and Energy in the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union.

Each of these individuals works for a specific arm of the EU machine, each with its own agenda and objectives in the negotiating process. However, there will be significant pressure from both inside the EU and out to maintain a collective voice during negotiations, as this will ensure an efficient and timely Brexit.

Turning 27 into 1

Differing voices, aims and objectives across the 27 remaining states make it harder to maintain this collective voice especially as the UK has many political and economic allies amongst the less influential member states.

Additionally, general elections in many of the member states occurring over the two-year period will make it difficult to maintain a consistent consensus with potentially adversarial politicians coming into the fray.

While the EU will be keen to keep these voices together, the UK will undoubtedly improve its chances of getting what it wants by keeping the voices separate and thereby increasing the political pressure on the EU to acquiesce to their demands.

ires

Public relations vs popular perception

The Brexit vote was a watershed moment in European politics, as it is the first instance of a member state choosing to leave the perceptually safe and stable EU.

Let’s think about that for a moment from a public relations standpoint: an organisation which is itself designed to engender cooperation and union is now being left by one of its most important member states.

PR wise it’s a disaster, because of two things: the British voice still carries a lot of weight in Europe and more importantly the EU has failed in its objective of keeping a member state happy.

Press coverage of the negotiations over the next two years will vary from positive to negative and a perceptually tough or overly harsh negotiation process can make the EU seem like a petulant parent disciplining its wayward child.

Negativity in negotiation will be seen by European member states and will colour public opinion of the EU in those countries still within the Union.

Often in PR, it’s a case of turning a negative into a positive and the same is true in this case. The EU will be keen to turn the adversity of Brexit into an opportunity to bring the remaining nations of the EU together.

Most likely there will be a period of sustained EU glad-handing and summits designed to keep member states onside and ensure that the British exit remains an isolated incident. Brexit may force the EU to be more accommodating to the remaining 27 states.

Separation Anxiety?

Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world and despite many attempts by the press to belittle it, still a major player in global politics.  A British exit from the European Union is a big event in global politics and casts a significant shadow on the EU.

World powers not in the EU such as China, the U.S and Russia could see the failure of the EU to retain Britain as a signal that it is no longer an effective political entity and can be ignored.

The current American administration seems to prove this point, with President Trump seemingly keener to engage with Theresa May than with Angela Merkel and her European compatriots.

Retaining relevance and importance in global affairs will need to be a by-product of the negotiating position adopted by the EU in its dealings with Britain as it leaves.

Creating a new identity for the EU post Brexit will be key to this, with the reinvention of the EU putting the failure of the EU to retain Britain behind it.

First to leave: Not the last to go?

Many European nations, particularly in the southern European states which have been so severely affected by the migrant crisis and the economic crash may be keen to follow Britain’s lead.

The rising tide of populism that has pervaded Europe over the last year has placed many so called populist politicians in positions of power where they can legislate for a similar sort of exit for their own country.

While these exits may be popular in their respective countries they are catastrophic for the EU.

Public opinion has never been more volatile towards the European Union and more exits would likely signal the end of the European Union as an effective political entity.

eight_col_01-Header-Exit-Door

Financial Market Turmoil?

As we saw in the immediate aftermath of the UK’s referendum result, political developments can have a significant effect on the course and stability of financial markets.

Even though UK financial markets have gained ground in the months following the Brexit vote, the financial damage was evident and the UK has yet to regain the strong financial position that it had prior to the voting result.

An argument can be made that the Euro is more volatile than the Pound and could suffer significant economic and financial damage as a result of a protracted negotiation with Britain.

With the damage from the financial crisis still fresh in the minds of many European politicians, the EU will be keen to ensure that no significant damage is done to European economies by Brexit.

This mitigation could colour the EU’s negotiating position towards a non-punitive and speedy Brexit.

There has been significant speculation that the EU will exert a punishment levy on Britain, with figures bandied about in the press of anything up to 50 billion pounds.

With access to the single market being a key concern for Britain, there is scope in the negotiations for specialised access to be granted after financial reparations are made.

However, there is a need to keep British pounds flowing into the EU, a need which could reduce this potential figure to ensure that British money still flows into the EU and vice versa. Any punitive financial measure taken by the EU against Britain could jeopardise this precarious economic balance.

0EC931AE00000578-0-image-a-1_1452868627739

Seeds of the future

Britain will leave the EU, whether it be in two years or ten- that much is not in doubt. What the EU does in its dealings with the newly independent Britain will sow the seeds of any future relationship between the two entities.

A strong relationship between the two, which seems the most likely will greatly benefit both and if at some point in the future Britain chooses to reapply to join the EU then they will probably be welcomed back with open arms.

A punitive and unfriendly exit for Britain could result in a soured relationship between the two, leading to unrest and enmity between the two entities. In this case a country scorned could be extremely detrimental to the EU’s political, economic and social success as an entity.

Brexit could be the start of the end of the EU or it could signal the beginning of a reformed and reorganised EU, which was the overall objective of the Cameron administration when it sought to renegotiate Britain’s role within the Union itself.  Reform of this sort could ensure longer term stability and prevent more countries going through the exit door.

 Article 50 6

Breaking Whispers-MP’s back Governments Article 50 bill

MP’s have voted overwhelmingly to back the governments European Union (Notification of withdrawal) bill in a parliamentary vote today.

The final count was 498 votes in favour with 114 votes against conferring a majority of 384.

The bill will now pass to the next stage in the political process, clearing the way for Prime Minister Theresa May to publish a government white paper on Brexit tomorrow.

Tonight’s vote followed weeks of speculation that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would impose a three line whip on Labour MP’s, urging them to vote in support of the government.


What is a three line whip?

In the UK a three-line whip is an instruction given to Members of Parliament by the leaders of their party telling them they must vote in the way that the party wants them to on a particular subject. Or more roughly translated, vote as we all vote or you’re out.


Forty-Seven member of the Labour party defied their leaders wishes and voted against the government, along with members of the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats.

Labour Shadow Cabinet members Rachael Maskell who served as Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary and Dawn Butler who served as Shadow Equalities Minister resigned their front bench posts in order to vote against the government.

Prominent europhile and former Conservative chancellor Kenneth Clarke voted against the government after yesterday likening the Prime Ministers Brexit plans to Alice In Wonderland: “Apparently you follow the rabbit down the hole and emerge in a wonderland where suddenly countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that previously we’ve never been able to achieve.”

Today’s vote concludes two days of parliamentary debate on the Brexit bill.

The bill now faces further scrutiny in the Commons and the House of Lords before it can become law.

The prime minister has set a deadline of 31 March for invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, getting official talks with the EU started and this is the first of many steps to come in achieving this goal.

dairy-reacts-to-brexit-vote_strict_xxl

 

Theresa May: Government to publish white paper on Brexit

Prime Minister Theresa May has today confirmed that the government will set out its Brexit plans in a formal government policy document- known as a white paper.

white-paper-1

Mrs May said she recognised an “appetite” for a white paper on her “bold” negotiations on exiting the EU

The move comes after pressure from the Labour party for greater clarity on the governments Brexit plans, initially set out in the Prime Ministers speech a week ago and after speculation that many in her own party (including some ex-ministers) wanted a white paper.

“It was a bit of a surprise but I’m incredibly delighted,” said Ben Howlett, the Conservative MP for Bath who had been calling for a white paper. “We haven’t discussed what amendments might or might not be put in. We’d been focusing our attention on getting a white paper.”

Speaking at Prime Ministers questions earlier today Mrs May said “I recognise that there is an appetite in this House to see that plan set out in a White Paper. I can confirm to the House that our plan will be set out in a White Paper published in this House.”

What is a White Paper?

white-paper-2Simply put, a white paper is a document or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s position on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. In this case the government is setting out it’s Brexit position in a way that is clear, concise and can be debated openly in Parliament.

Mrs May was quick to confirm that the white paper would be a completely separate issue to the article 50 debate, an action which will give the government much needed space to focus its efforts on the upcoming parliamentary debate on triggering article 50.

The Prime Minister said that the white paper would be “a bold vision for Britain for the future”.

Labour MP’s have called upon the government to have the white paper document ready in time for the parliamentary debates on the triggering of Article 50, scheduled in Parliament over the next few weeks in the run up to March 31st.

White Paper 3.jpg

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at Prime Ministers Questions earlier today

A Labour spokesman said: “We now want to see the timing and it is clear the white paper needs to come to parliament in time for the debate … MPs have a right to be able to see what the government’s plan of action is. The speech is not adequate. It set out a wish-list of options.

“As we’ve said many times, Labour respects the decision of the British people to leave the EU and therefore will not frustrate the will of the British people. But respecting the will of the British people is very different from respecting the will of the British government. We need to see the plan and make sure the process is held to account in parliament at every stage.”

 

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.

may-1

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.

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.

single-market-1

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.

sterling-1

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.

 

 

 

Breaking Whispers- UK Ambassador to EU Resigns

Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s Ambassador to the European Union has today resigned from his position, a full ten months before his scheduled departure from the role in November 2017.

resignation-2

Sir Ivan Rogers, pictured here with the Chancellor Philip Hammond last month at a meeting with the EU

The resignation comes a month after making public comments that he felt a post-brexit trade deal could take as long as ten years to conclude, despite the two year limits imposed in Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Downing Street later refuted the comments as not reflecting the view of the British Government.

Mr Rogers was a part of former prime minister David Cameron’s negotiating team when he unsuccessfully attempted to renegotiate Britain’s position within the European Union. A failure which ultimately led to the EU referendum and Britain’s subsequent vote to leave.

resignation-1

Rogers, right pictured with former Prime Minister David Cameron in January 2016

Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who previously worked with Sir Ivan said “If the reports are true that he has been hounded out by hostile Brexiteers in government, it counts as a spectacular own goal. The government needs all the help it can get from good civil servants to deliver a workable Brexit.”

While the Government have yet to issue an official statement on Rogers resignation a source in Whitehall today said that it would not affect the governments proposed triggering of article 50 later on this year.

With preparations for this process to be made and significant ground still to be decided upon, the Government will come under significant pressure to appoint a new ambassador as quickly as possible.

article-50-2

However reports that Nigel Farage had already sent his CV in for the position were described as laughable by one government source.

 

 

 

The Party Line is……….Insurrection

People often have differences of opinion, it’s a fact of life. One person says one course of action is good and another says something different. If your anything like me an argument usually ensues.

But fundamentally, differences of opinion are vital for humanity to succeed, promoting agents of change and societal progress. They provoke debate, with each person seeking to prove the legitimacy of their argument.

Politically, we’ve just had a massive debate prompted by a difference of opinion: The EU referendum. Ultimately, one side triumphed over the other and regardless of the tactics used a debate was had and settled in a vote.

The voracity of the debate polarised the UK, splitting the people in two. It was as though some great force had woken up the populous from their political slumber, provoking a furious response. Once this issue was settled, you could sense that the UK had become a more extreme place to live. This manifested itself in an upsurge in racist attacks on immigrants and online abuse of many individuals on both sides.

With so many winners and losers, it’s becoming harder in the UK to find common ground. Political opportunism is becoming the language of the day.

But what if someone decided that they didn’t like the result? Someone with the means, motive and method to effect an insurgency against this political settlement.

It sounds fantastical I know, but it all stems from a difference of opinion.

Let’s play this little scenario out, shall we?

An insurgency or coup relies on an unpopular decision being made and the popular will to oppose it. If the individuals are rebelling against a popular decision, individual or government then the coup will struggle to achieve the sort of popular support required to legitimise it because they have already lost the battle for public opinion.

Anyone planning this sort of insurgency would have to have large scale support and important allies.

The first being a prominent public figure, someone to serve as a legitimate figurehead to the insurgency. This would most likely be a politician, someone serving on the counter side to the prevailing argument and a well-respected individual.

The second important ally would be the military as they would provide the platform to create the coup, leading the insurgency and once it has achieved its objectives allowing it to stay in power.

There would have to be sufficient military support to both lead the insurgency and then to ensure its long term success, anything other than this and you risk the failure of the coup, as you saw in Turkey.

Speed of movement is essential to the success of the coup, because as soon as you trigger the process mechanisms will work against you to counter your plans almost immediately.

The awareness and preparedness of the opposing forces determines the speed of their response, an unaware opposition being ill prepared to counter and vice versa.

Only if you had a combination of these elements, would your insurgency have some fighting chance of success. But what would a practical coup in the UK look like?

Step one would have to be the securing of London. As its capital city and central hub, London is integral to the UK and would have to be captured and secured before the coup could move forward.

Securing a city like London is no mean feat and would require the cooperation of local authorities, but if these authorities are not privy to the plot, how would you ensure their compliance?

The simple answer is a phony terror plot or state of emergency. This would allow the free movement of the Army through the city under the pretext of preventing loss of life. It would mobilise the metropolitan police, keeping them busy and occupied until the principal targets had been taken.

An additional benefit of utilising the terror plot is the ability to place army personnel close to high value individuals, allowing them to use subterfuge to complete step two.

Step Two involves the capture and forced detention of the Royal family, the Prime Minister and any other high value members of parliament who are otherwise uninvolved in the coup.

By securing these individuals early on in the insurgency, the insurgents would have crucial leverage against any opposition forces that may instigate a counterinsurgency.  They could also be used for blackmail and ransoming should the insurgency fail.

Crucially, securing the Prime Minister would allow them temporary access to the nuclear launch codes that he possesses. I say temporary, because there are redundancies which prevent these from being used in the event of involuntary imprisonment or coercion (Yes, I’ve seen the movies).

Step Three would involve the securing of all the transport hubs in and out of the country, the airports, train stations, ferry ports and most importantly the Channel Tunnel. As the primary entry and exit points, they provide an escape for any high value individual fleeing the country and an entry point for any counter insurgency forces. These must be secured to avoid either eventuality, with the Channel Tunnel being the most likely candidate for destruction.

If steps one through three are achieved, then they will have gone 50% of the way to achieving their aim of taking over the UK.

The remaining 50% of this process is step four: the securing and holding of the UK.

Any individual or group in opposition to the insurgency, not captured or detained by it would immediately become a threat and must be dealt with. The wholesale detention and potentially execution of these individuals becomes a crucial part of enforcing the insurgency on the UK.

Likewise, there must be a concerted effort to prevent external interference from any foreign power, most likely the European Union, who inversely would have the most to gain from a pro-EU insurgency. The difficult thing is utilising already overstretched military forces to combat this while maintaining control of the UK as a whole.

Would the EU welcome a new regime in the UK? Ideologically no, the idea of a coup in a civilised nation such as ours is a complete antithesis to the co-operative community spirit of the EU. However in reality, the interdependency of the nation states of the EU on each other and the UK makes provision for a middle ground/areas of compromise.

This is where the second part of step four comes into play: utilising political means to provide legitimacy to the new regime, while giving the required time for it to bed in and for the people of the UK to adjust.

By providing a public face and voice to the insurgency, the insurgents stop the regime from being considered a rebellion and open up the lines of diplomacy with other nations.

It also allows for that crucial thing: Political continuity. No power vacuum, no alternative means of government just a transition between the previous government and the new. This makes it possible for the completion of step five:  Onward political progress.

I say onward political progress, because as important as it is to conduct the coup and see it done, it is just as important to reinstate the status quo as quickly as possible. The only difference being that the insurgents now sitting at the top of the pile rather than being the unheard minority.

Steps One through Three could be achieved in as little as 5 days, with the right preparation and timing.  It naturally follows that the greatest chance of success would be a coup effected at the weekend as this would maximise the chance of catching the enemy unprepared.

Steps Four and Five would take significantly longer to achieve, but are possible within six months to a year. Longer term success being down to the aforementioned populous and the stability of the new regime. A collection of disorganised and warring individuals is far more likely to collapse than a well-disciplined regime centred around a political figurehead.

At the end of the day, this is speculation and it couldn’t possibly happen in a civilised country such as the UK, could it?

I imagine that the Stuart monarchy felt the same when faced with opposition from Parliament unaware of the civil war that awaited them. Almost 400 years later we are the beneficiaries of that unexpected coup, just as the Stuarts were the casualties almost bringing to an end their short reign.  Things can change just that quickly in the world.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.

The Party Line is…………..Accelerated Politics

On Thursday night, Andrea Leadsom could have been excused for feeling over the moon. She had just defeated her Brexit colleague Michael Gove in the second round of the Tory leadership contest and just one individual stood between her and the top job in British politics. It was a meteoric rise for her and on Friday it became an equally meteoric fall when she learned the first rule of British politics: Never fall afoul of the British Media. In an uncensored newspaper interview, she single-handedly took a wrecking ball to her political chances in the biggest self-inflicted gaffe since Gerald Ratner’s famous “It’s all crap” speech of the 1980’s.

That inexperienced mistake has led to a weekend of ultimately futile firefighting in which she attempted to defend her position and qualify her largely off the cuff remarks. It was a fight she would eventually lose, as was proven when she exhaustedly conceded defeat. This left the remaining candidate and current Home Secretary, Theresa May unopposed and the de facto winner of the leadership election.

In succeeding Prime Minister David Cameron, Theresa May has been given a strong mandate by her colleagues to take the Conservative party forward into the next phase of its political life. Despite this legitimacy, she lacks the crucial additional component for any political leader, a strong mandate from the people. Should she come into Number 10 on Wednesday, she will do so as an unelected leader and will immediately come under strong pressure to call an election to obtain the mandate she lacks.

Great care must be taken in when this election is called as the UK remains at a tenuous stage in its post referendum state. An early election could be a step too far and would increase the climate of general uncertainty pervading the financial markets, but by the same token an election called too late would push the question of the legitimacy of her government to the fore. A suggestion could be made for an election in May next year when the current tribulations may be more settled.

Ms May faces division in both society and her own party and should immediately seek to unify both in common cause. She will face a fractured opposition in the Labour party and a strong one in the Scottish Nationalist Party, newly emboldened by its remain vote will both seek to undermine her premiership from day one.

She will face a strong adversary in the European Union, but an adversary that could turn into a strong ally as she will be free of the vitriol that pervaded so many of the Brexit candidates. In being a politician who voted to remain in the EU, she will come into this job being handed the reins to make the Brexit result a reality. Being a prominent member of the Cameron government, she will know the players in the game but she will be playing it at a whole new level and it will be a sharp learning curve for the vicar’s daughter from Eastbourne.

In the opinion of this writer, Theresa May was the best candidate for the job and represents a crucial compromise between those who voted to leave the EU and those who voted to remain. I hope that this compromise and her premiership signals a new era in British politics, where a more positive, optimistic viewpoint is promoted and enshrined in the newly EU-less Britain.

 

© R Simmons. All Rights Reserved.