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.

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

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

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

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Trident Explained

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

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

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

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

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The PM appearing on Andrew Marr on Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An earlier missile test failure

International Whispers- “UK will be a world leader in trade” Theresa May tells World Economic Forum

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has addressed leaders of many of the worlds largest companies at the World Economic Forum in Davos and has said that the “UK will be a world leader in trade.”

In her speech, the Prime Minister launched an attack on the “politics of division” and globalisation which are only serving to fuel inequality between nations.

She said the world was enjoying an “unprecedented level of wealth”, but many people felt this was “not working for them”.

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The Prime Minister addressed some of Europe’s top business people in Davos, Switzerland

Mrs May said: “Talk of greater globalisation can make people fearful. For many it means their jobs outsourced and their wages undercut. It means having to sit back as they watch their communities change around them.

“And in their minds, it means watching as those who prosper seem to play by a different set of rules, while for many life remains a struggle as they get by, but don’t necessarily get on.”

After the speech, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the UK was “now making a choice to control migration, and they are paying a huge price because the economic growth rate of the UK will be impacted negatively by the fact that it will leave the biggest market in the world”.

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Dutch PM Mark Rutte said Brexit would “damage the economy of the UK”

German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble warned Mrs May her claim of the UK becoming “truly global” after Brexit would only be “taken seriously” if she did not slash taxes to attract business.

The speech comes after widespread European criticism to Mrs May’s  keynote speech outlining the governments Brexit position on Tuesday morning.

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IMF Head Christine Lagarde

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde has warned the UK there is still likely to be “pain” in its negotiations with the EU and that any deal with the EU will “not be as good” as membership, she said.

German MP Norbert Roettgen, who represents Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats said: “The UK’s two main economic weaknesses are its considerable trade deficit and a big budget deficit. As such [UK Chancellor Philip] Hammond’s threats with duties and tax cuts would primarily damage the UK and should be regarded as an expression of British cluelessness.”

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Mr Tusk, speaking in Brussels earlier this week

European Council President Donald Tusk sounded a more optimistic note comparing the Prime Minister to Winston Churchill saying “We took note of Prime Minister May’s warm, balanced words on European integration which were much closer to the narrative of Winston Churchill than of the American President-elect Trump.”

In other news, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has today confirmed that he has instructed his MP’s to vote in favour of triggering article 50, should the government lose its supreme court case and be forced to bring a vote to the house:

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Mr Corbyn speaking on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday

Mr Corbyn said “It is very clear. The referendum made a decision that Britain was to leave the European Union. It was not to destroy jobs or living standards or communities but it was to leave the European Union and to have a different relationship in the future. I’ve made it very clear the Labour party accepts and respects the decision of the British people. We will not block article 50.”

Breaking Whispers- Supreme Court to rule on prerogative Brexit

It has been confirmed today that the Supreme Court will deliver its ruling on the long running legal case against the government over Brexit on the 24th of January.

The ruling will confirm whether to reject or allow the government’s appeal against the earlier high court ruling that stopped the government from using prerogative powers to trigger Article 50 without first going to a Parliamentary vote.

The action follows the victory of campaigners Gina Miller and Deir Dos Santos at the high court in November 2016, in which three high court judges ruled against the government.

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Campaigner Gina Miller, Pictured outside the High Court after the successful ruling in November 2016

In its appeal, the government is asking for all 11 judges in the Supreme court to overturn the high courts earlier decision on the grounds that the use of prerogative powers did not undermine the sovereign authority of Parliament.

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It is confirmed that all 11 Supreme Court justices will rule on the government’s appeal

It is unclear whether the government will choose to use prerogative powers should it win its appeal, especially after the Prime Ministers statement yesterday in which she affirmed the governments desire to give Parliament a vote on any Brexit deal.

While some might consider this an unnecessarily petty legal action by losing remainers, this reporter believes that these sort of actions are necessary to preserve the fundamental truth of Britain: We are a Parliamentary democracy.

 

 

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.

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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.

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Parliamentary Issues

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

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

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

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

Economic strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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A government defined?

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

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

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

 

 

 

2016- The Year which changed everything

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

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

10. The Year of the Reaper.

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

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

9.  The Migrant Crisis Deepens

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

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

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

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

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8. Nice Terror Attacks

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

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

France mourned, as did the rest of the world.

7. Brussels Terror Attacks

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

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

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

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6. Coup D e’tat in Turkey.

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

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

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

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

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

5. Russia takes a front seat in international politics.

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

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

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

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

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

 4. Theresa May becomes UK Prime Minister

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Syrian Civil War

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The EU referendum- Britain votes to leave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.