Conservatives – Mrs May’s Government
Well, it looks as though Mrs May has by and large completed the organisation of her Ministry, she has presided over her first Cabinet meeting and she faced PMQ’s in the Commons today before beginning a round of visits to her opposite numbers in Germany and France. At PMQ’s she performed very well and dealt very easily with Jeremy Corbyn who must have come away from the session feeling less than happy.
The first major policy change from that of the Cameron Government appears to be that the incredibly stupid “Net Migration Target” has been scrapped: See this in The Telegraph: “Amber Rudd and Boris Johnson signal Tories’ migration target has been scrapped”. The Guardian has a balanced report: “May and Rudd distance themselves from Cameron pledge to cut immigration”.
The change seems eminently sensible. No government should promise what it cannot deliver. The Cameron “tens of thousands” target was always impossible, particularly because of EU “free movement”, but also because it was unfair to others who had lawful family reunion, marriage, and other proper claims for admission.
Needless to say, this realism has unleashed howls of anger among the unwashed – see this in the Express “Britain’s net migration targets ABANDONED by May’s Government, Johnson and Rudd suggest” and this in the Daily Mail “Cabinet chaos as failed Tory pledge to cut migration by tens of thousands is on the verge of being scrapped“.
The Labour Party
It looks as though the Labour Party is making an attempt to resolve the differences between the Parliamentary Party and the the Leader by way of a Leadership challenge – see this report in The Guardian: “Owen Smith to face Corbyn in Labour leadership challenge“. Whether this will mean that there will be an effective Opposition from Labour after the Summer recess remains to be seen. The Telegraph has this: “Labour stares into the abyss” with this observation: ” It is impossible to speak of Labour under Mr Corbyn as an alternative government.” Today’s PMQ’s served only to reinforce that observation.
(1) Legal Challenges to the Article 50 procedure
The various legal challenges to the Government’s position that Article 50 can be triggered using the Prerogative powers and without a vote in Parliament are under way. See this report in the Financial Times about yesterday’s preliminary hearing: “UK High Court to hear Brexit challenge in October“. See also this report in the Daily Mail: “High Court judges WILL rule on whether MPs can overturn Brexit vote while some campaigners end fight and blame ‘threatening’ racist and anti-semitic abuse“.
(1) the Divisional Court will hear the case in October and after the decision may well allow a “leapfrog” appeal to the Supreme Court so that the issue can be resolved as quickly as possible;
(2) at the hearing the Government would not trigger Article 50 before the end of the year so the the Court will have time to rule on the matter first;
(3) there has been trouble with law firms and clients receiving racist and anti-Semitic abuse from Brexit fanatics and Court warned that ‘aggressive and threatening abuse’ could amount to a criminal offence and would be dealt with ‘very seriously’.
(2) Economic Issues
Warnings about the economic impact of Brexit continue: The Guardian has this: “Brexit impact is going to be horrible, says leading City fund manager“.
(3) UK EU Presidency
Downing Street has announced that it will pass on its 6 month EU presidency in the light of the Brexit Vote. That seems to be a sensible decision.
(4) Brexit Scenarios
The Financial Times has published this: “Four scenarios: how Brexit process could unfold Nasty, neutral or friendly . . . or it might not happen at allFour scenarios: how Brexit process could unfold Nasty, neutral or friendly . . . or it might not happen at all”
The Institute for Government has a useful briefing paper: “Negotiating Brexit“. But more importantly, The Foreign Affairs Select Committee has today published a report “Equipping the Government for Brexit” which reaches two damning conclusions:-
“The previous Government’s considered view not to instruct key Departments including the FCO to plan for the possibility that the electorate would vote to leave the EU amounted to gross negligence. It has exacerbated post-referendum uncertainty both within the UK and amongst key international partners, and made the task now facing the new Government substantially more difficult.”
“The lack of contingency planning inevitably means that the Government’s plans are tentative and just emerging. We intend to examine these at the earliest available opportunity, including how the Government plans to consult other interested parties in the UK.”
(5) The Three Brexiteers
The “Three Brexiteers” (i.e. Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox) have been given a “country house share” – more precisely Chevening House, which was gifted to the nation by the 7th Earl Stanhope. Usually, it is placed at the disposal of the Foreign Secretary but under the May administration the house is to used by the Three Brexiteers – which the Guardian suggested may have indicated something of a Prime Ministerial put down: “Boris Johnson forced to share mansion with Liam Fox and David Davis“. Clown Boris had a fairly uncomfortable time at a joint press conference with the US Secretary of State – see this Guardian Report: “Boris Johnson grilled over past ‘outright lies’ at uneasy press conference“.
Perhaps the Prime Minister’s offer of a “country-house-share” was a hint to the Thtee Brexiteers that they will need to do some homework. For example, this article by Professor Mark Manger of Toronto writes: “David Davis has demonstrated a decidedly muddled understanding of trade policy”.
Small wonder that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee is worried. After so may years in the EU (during which time trade deals were negotiated by the Commission on behalf of all Member States), the United Kingdom simply does not have the requisite expertise, whether among Ministers or Civil Servants. To make matters worse, trade deals cannot made with other countries until after the UK has left the EU.
It is properly arguable that the UK’s interests would be best served by the UK doing exactly what other EU Members have done after a negative referendum result: somehow finding a way to reverse a referendum decision which is against the national interest.
But unless and until the Three Brexiteers fail in the process of preparing a viable Brexit plan, Mrs May is hostage to the stance she has thus far taken.