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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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- 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

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.

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The Party Line is…..Trump Unbound??

Rarely in history has a US president incurred the wrath of his or her citizens and especially not in his second week in office, but then the USA has never known a President like Donald John Trump.

Calls for the country to unite behind its new president have been drowned out by songs of protest and reaction to President Trump’s increasingly extreme policy announcements.

First it was the Wall.

One of his key election pledges, Donald Trump used his first day in office to sign an executive order to allow for the construction of a wall along the US- Mexican border at an estimated cost of over 12 billion US dollars.  But it’s alright he said, the Mexicans will pay for it!

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Trump’s wall: Bigger than the Great Wall of China?

Cue Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto denouncing the move and cancelling a proposed visit to the US. Looks like the Mexicans won’t be paying for it after all.

Next it was Obamacare.

The defining domestic legacy of the Obama administration, Obamacare or to use its proper name the affordable care act is designed to improve access to health insurance for US citizens.

Without the benefits of a national health service like we have in the UK, every citizen requires health insurance to pay for everything from routine medical procedures to complex operations.

Despite criticism in some quarters, mainly from the Republican party, who disagreed with its slightly socialist overtones, President Obama managed to get this important piece of legislation through a Republican dominated congress.

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Obamacare: Illustrated

Mr Trump’s second act as President was to sign an executive order repealing Obamacare, despite having no clear replacement policy and leaving millions of Americans without health insurance.

A visit from UK Prime Minister Theresa May followed, with some very public hand holding and a lot of talking between the two leaders. Mr Trump seemed more controlled, less prone to an outburst and more likely to be willing to consider his options rather than carrying on regardless.

I felt a certain sense of optimism, like the feeling you get when you wake up and you think things are going to be alright.

But at 4:47pm that bubble burst with the signing of an executive order allowing for the following:

  1. Suspension of the entire US refugee admissions system for 120 days
  2. Indefinite suspension of the Syrian refugee program
  3. Banning entry to the USA of people from  seven majority Muslim countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for a period of 90 days.
  4. Banning of Dual-nationals from those seven countries from entering the country for a period of 90 days.

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Cue chaos at airports across the US as millions attempting to enter the country were turned away, with US border officials struggling to cope with the new regulations.

Cue widespread condemnation from the international community.

Cue a weekend protests in the streets and throughout American society.

Cue a seemingly ceaseless number of stories of hardworking and loyal Americans being turned away from their native land for simply being born somewhere else.

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Did I miss anything out?

So here we are, the ban is almost 3 days old and people are still struggling to come to terms with it. Seeing things from an outside perspective gives you a unique understanding of the problem and for me the problem is simple: Logic.

Donald Trump is a man who has no previous political experience, but has considerable business experience as typified by his status as one of Americas leading businessmen.

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Brand Trump- In Numbers

Business people follow logical patterns of thought, if a person isn’t doing their job they get fired, if the business doesn’t make a profit they fire the CEO, if that doesn’t work they spend money to try to get out of the hole.

Donald Trump is applying business logic to international politics: High number of illegal migrants from mexico harming American business? Simple, build a wall. Obamacare costs too much? Simple, get rid of it. Europe has terrorism primarily undertaken by Islamic extremists? Simple, stop Muslims from coming to the US, no problem.

International Politics is rarely that simple. I wish it were.

Donald Trump is a man who has been given the keys to the car without first learning the responsibilities entailed in driving it. Most of the senior politicians in the world have considerable experience in politics, having come up through the ranks of their respective political parties and serving on various committees and bodies.

With experience comes the tempering of the judgement that got them elected, forcing them to compromise or die.

Mr Trump has had none of this experience having won the election straight to the top job in the US government. There has been no tempering, no compromise.

But he is not entirely to blame for this, the problem is that he is bypassing the US senate and signing executive orders without consulting them. He doesn’t need them.

The US political system is set up in such a way that the President (or the executive branch) can issue executive orders to help officers and agencies of the executive branch (the various departments: State etc) manage operations within the federal government itself.

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The Three Branches of the US Government

These orders are independent of the Legislative branch (Congress) and the Judiciary branch (The US courts) and do not require their assent or consultation to be put into law.

Our system here in the UK has a similar equivalent, Prerogative powers which can be used without the assent of Parliament. These were recently called into use by the government to try to trigger Article 50 without Parliamentary assent, but were vetoed by the supreme court after a legal case.

There is no such check on Mr Trump, nothing to stop him signing whatever he deems to be correct into an executive order and making it law.

The Republican party, buoyed by its resounding dominance of the senate has been completely sidelined by the Presidents position. They cannot check his power because they have no constitutional mechanism to do so, save for impeachment.

But he’s not doing anything wrong and is acting completely within the bounds of his role as the head of the executive branch of the US government.

The outcry that has followed this new immigration ban must give President Trump a clear moment of pause to reconsider the office to which he has been given and the clear responsibility to his 320 million stockholders. He would be wise to calm down his more extreme policies before America yells in a collective voice “You’re Fired”.

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International Whispers- May talks up new ‘Special Relationship’ in US visit

Prime Minister Theresa May has been keen to stress the Special Relationship that exists between Britain and the US in her first visit to America since Donald Trump became President.

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Mrs May arriving in the U.S

Mrs May said that Britain and the US “have a joint responsibility to lead” but will not do so in the same way as previous administrations have done.

The Prime Minister will lay a wreath at the grave of the unknown soldier in Arlington National Cemetery before having a face to face meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office later today.

Both countries are at new phases in their history, with Britain soon to be exiting the EU and the US having a new president after eight years of the Obama administration. It is a tense time for both countries, with both having to heal after very polarising political campaigns (Brexit and the US Presidential election).

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May received a standing ovation from Republicans in Philadelphia

The Prime Minister argued that a new “special relationship” would be nothing like the previous one between Tony Blair and George W Bush, which saw high profile invasions Iraq and Afghanistan. “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are decisively over.”

But as she distanced herself from one previous special relationship, she was keen to stress the parallels between today and the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher particularly when dealing with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin saying “We should build the relationships, systems and processes that make cooperation more likely than conflict – and give assurance to Russia’s neighbouring states that their security is not in question. We should not jeopardise the freedoms that President Reagan and Mrs Thatcher brought to Eastern Europe by accepting President Putin’s claim that it is now in his sphere of influence.”

May said that she was determined to deepen links between the two countries, adding “It is in our interests – those of Britain and America together – to stand strong together to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe.”

When asked how the temperaments of brash billionaire and a vicars daughter would interact ahead of her meeting this afternoon, the Prime Minister said “Haven’t you ever noticed, sometimes opposites attract?”

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The New Odd Couple?

International Whispers- Mexican President cancels trip to U.S over Trump’s wall claims

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has cancelled a planned visit to the U.S after American President Donald Trump signed an executive order to start construction of a wall along the length of the US border with Mexico.

The wall which was a key election promise in now President Trump’s election campaign has caused much consternation in the international community, especially after Mr Trump affirmed his desire to make Mexico pay for all or part of its construction.

In a video address on Wednesday night Peña Nieto told Mexico “I have said time and time again, Mexico will not pay for any wall.” amidst pressure from his own government to cancel the meeting with President Trump.

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Mexican President Nieto came under significant government pressure 

President Nieto later confirmed on Twitter that he had cancelled Thursday’s meeting with President Trump adding that “Mexico reiterates its willingness to work with the US to achieve agreements which benefit both nations”

Mr Trump who was making a speech to republican politicians in Philadelphia, claimed that the cancellation was mutual saying “The president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting next week” but later reiterating his tough negotiating position:

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Trump has signed an executive order to start construction of a wall along the US -Mexico border

“Unless Mexico is going to treat us fairly and with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless, we have to go a different route.”

Many Mexicans have welcomed President Peña Nieto’s decision to not visit the US, particularly after the perceived inaction by Mexico that followed Mr Trump’s visit last August.

With falling popularity ratings in Mexico, the President’s action will undoubtedly win him many fans, both domestically and in the wider international community.

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The new “Special Relationship”?

President Trump is due to meet with UK Prime Minister Theresa May tomorrow to discuss the “Special” relationship and potential trade deals with the UK post Brexit.

The Prime Minister said that Mr Trump had confirmed in conversations that “There is a clear commitment on both sides not just to maintain the special relationship, but to build on the special relationship.”

With President Trump so publicly snubbed, the Prime Minister might be keen to placate the President, but with growing questions on his views on torture and women it may be a tough conversation.

Responding to Labour’s calls to adopt a bullish position in dealing with Mr Trump she said “We have a very clear view: we condemn the use of torture, and my view on that won’t change, whether I’m talking to you, or talking to President Trump.”

But with post Brexit trade deals forming a vital part of this countries long term economic future, it may be a case of losing the battle to win the war.

 

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.

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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.

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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- Supreme Court rules no Brexit without Parliament approval

The UK Supreme Court has overwhelmingly rejected the Governments appeal to trigger Article 50 without Parliamentary vote in its ruling earlier today.

The ruling follows the earlier defeat of the Government in the high court in November and means it cannot use prerogative powers to trigger article 50 of the treaty of Lisbon, beginning Britain’s exit from the EU.

Eleven of the Twelve Supreme Court justices sat in on the case, with the ruling passing by a vote of 8 to 3 in favour of dismissing the appeal of the earlier high court decision.

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Lord Justice Neuberger delivering the courts ruling earlier today

In his summarising remarks, Lord Justice Neuberger said “Section 2 of the 1972 [European Communities] Act provides that, whenever EU institutions make new laws, those new laws become part of UK law. The 1972 act therefore makes EU law an independent source of UK law, until parliament decides otherwise.

Therefore, when the UK withdraws from the EU treaties, a source of UK law will be cut off. Further, certain rights enjoyed by UK citizens will be changed. Therefore, the government cannot trigger article 50 without parliament authorising that course.”

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Gina Miller speaking outside the Supreme Court Earlier today after the courts decision

Gina Miller, the campaigner who led the legal challenge against the Government welcomed the ruling saying “No prime minister, no government can expect to be unanswerable or unchallenged. Parliament alone is sovereign.”

In the wake of the Supreme Courts ruling David Davis, the governments minister in charge of exiting the EU delivered the government’s response in a parliamentary statement in which he announced the publication of a ‘straightforward’ Brexit bill to be put before Parliament in the coming days.

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David Davis announced a new Brexit bill would be put to the house within days

Addressing the ruling directly, Mr Davis said “This will be the most straightforward bill possible to give effect to the decision of the people and respect the supreme court’s judgement.”

He later reasserted the Government’s commitment to triggering Article 50 at the end of March saying that “This timetable has already been supported by this house.”

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Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer has called for greater transparency on Brexit

Labour’s shadow secretary for exiting the EU, Keir Starmer has called for the government to publish a white paper on Brexit saying “Labour accepts and respects the referendum result and will not frustrate the process. But we will be seeking to lay amendments to ensure proper scrutiny and accountability throughout the process. That starts with a white paper or plan. A speech is not a white paper or plan, and we need something to hold the government to account throughout the process. You can’t have a speech as the only basis for accountability for two years or more.”

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The Supreme Court said relations with the EU are “reserved to the UK government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions”

The Supreme Court has also ruled that UK ministers are not obliged to consult with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland during the Brexit negotiations. The Judges added that “the devolved legislatures do not have a veto on the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU.”

However the Government has said that it will include all of the devolved administrations in its deliberations in a move which will it hopes quell the dissent that is bound to occur in both the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

While many will question the need for this case, given the government’s willingness to include Parliament in the Brexit process (as indicated by Theresa May’s speech last Tuesday)  this writer regards the ruling as a victory for the British legal system in asserting the rights of its people.

Also, the case bought by Ms Miller and her compatriots has undoubtedly forced the government to rethink its position on Parliamentary inclusion in the negotiations with Mrs May’s speech and today’s Brexit bill being the natural result.