Hard Times for the Special Relationship

Teresa May’s Mistake

Gideon Rachman writes The Financial Times:- “Donald Trump is a disaster for Brexit – Britain cannot look to the US for support after its divorce from the EU“.

The election of Mr Trump has transformed Brexit from a risky decision into a straightforward disaster. For the past 40 years, Britain has had two central pillars to its foreign policy: membership of the EU and a “special relationship” with the US.  The decision to exit the EU leaves Britain much more dependent on the US, just at a time when America has elected an unstable president opposed to most of the central propositions on which UK foreign policy is based.

The Times has this from Lord Ricketts, the former Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office: “Trump visit will hurt the Queen, May is told – ‘Rushed’ invitation drags Palace into row“.

Theresa May has put the Queen in a “very difficult position” and should downgrade Donald Trump’s invitation from a state visit to spare her further controversy, the former head of the Foreign Office says“.

The Guardian has this: “Theresa May stands firm on Donald Trump state visit as thousands protest – Prime minister says ‘UK takes a different approach’ but defends invitation despite growing outrage over US travel ban“.

As the Guardian points out, the Speaker of the House of Commons allowed a 3 hour emergency debate on the Trump Executive Order:  “That debate culminated in the Commons unanimously passing an emergency motion from former Labour leader Ed Miliband that condemned “Trump’s discriminatory, divisive & counterproductive ban”.

At the time of writing, the Petition to Parliament against the Trump State Visit has had 1,626,210 signatures with 11,196 added in the last hour.

The Guardian has this op-ed by a former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw: “Theresa May was right to see Donald Trump. But she has to condemn him too – As foreign secretary I dealt with the Bush administration – and this is far worse. The prime minister must show some things matter more than a post-Brexit trade deal“.

antitrump

The Guardian also reports on the many mass demonstrations against the Trump policy: “‘Time to take a stand’: thousands across UK protest at Trump policy – US president’s travel ban provokes demonstrations in cities including Edinburgh, Cardiff and London“.

There have to be serious doubts whether massive nationwide street demonstrations against a visit would go down well with the public in the UK, in the USA or elsewhere. All of this seems to add up to the following:

At present a Trump visit to the UK might provoke serious public disorder.  Although the invitation has been delivered, no dates have been agreed.  It might be wise to delay things.

Across the Pond

The New Yorker has this: “A welcome setback for Donald Trump“.

Saving America from the most unhinged and least qualified figure ever to occupy the Oval Office may well require a long and bitter fight. But a couple of early markers have been put down. The new President is not beyond the law. And many Americans will not stand by quietly as he traduces their country’s values, threatens its democracy, and destroys its reputation around the world“.

The New Republic has this: “The Case for Pessimism – What will America look like after four years of Donald Trump? The emerging picture is ugly.

More interestingly, Gallup puts Trump’s approval rating at -7 and Quinnipac at -8.  Those are pretty dreadful scores for a President newly arrived in the Oval Office.  It appears that 57% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track and only 32% think their country is on the right track (See Real Clear Politics Poll Averages).

The Special Relationship

BuzzFeed’s Political Editor writes:  “Theresa May Won Trump Over, But The Special Relationship Is Now High-Risk – The prime minister succeeded in her mission to build a relationship with the new president – but already the potential political costs are becoming clear.

The “special relationship” between the English speaking peoples is of value.  It has its uses.  But sometimes there are difficulties.  I have recollections of a rather funny debate in the UN on, I think, something to do with Vietnam.

There were interventions from the USA and Russia and then from the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  As I recall, Her Majesty’s Government in right of Canada opposed the US position, Her Majesty’s Government in right of the United Kingdom took a neutral position, Her Majesty’s Government in right of Australia supported the US position, then the New Zealand spokesman asked for an adjournment “to ascertain what Her Majesty really thought“.

It was certainly not wrong for Mrs May to visit the USA to make contact with the new administration to further what she, rightly or wrongly, thinks are in the best interests of the UK.

But for so long as the US Administration is headed by Donald Trump, it seems likely that any relationship (special or ordinary) may be very difficult.  We do not seem to be speaking the same language.

 

 

Is a Trump visit now inopportune?

Mr Toad and his Travel Ban

mr-toadThe Torygraph has this: “Parliament set to debate Donald Trump’s UK state visit after petition to cancel it gets more than 900,000 signatures“.  Also this: “When even men who risk their lives for the US are denied entry, the dream of America is dead”  Also this: “Sir Mo Farah relieved to be allowed to return to his family after fears of having to say ‘Daddy might not be able to come home’ following Trump travel ban” and there are several other reports.

This is a major embarrassment for Teresa May.

The Guardian has similar coverage: “Theresa May feels heat over travel ban as Donald Trump stands firm – Tory MPs join Labour to criticise PM’s response as condemnation of US president’s policy spreads across the world

The Chicago Tribune has this: “Trump blocks Muslim refugees, America loses a part of itself“.   The Hill reports: “McCain, Graham: Trump order may become ‘self-inflicted wound’ in terrorism fight”

The New York Times has this Op-Ed from its Editorial Board: “Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Cowardly and Dangerous” which is very strongly worded: –

Republicans in Congress who remain quiet or tacitly supportive of the ban should recognize that history will remember them as cowards.

Well said  the NYT editorial board.

The Wicked Witch Now has a Problem

ww-westminster The Evening Standard reports: “Petition calling for Donald Trump’s state visit to be banned passes 800,000 signatures”  A petition which has gathered so many signatures in such a short time is likely to be debated in Parliament and it looks as if it will have cross-party support.

By the time I added my name to the Petition, I was pleased to see that the total number of petitioners had reached 1,264,857 .

The Conservative Home blog has this selection of tweets “Conservative MPs come out against Trump’s new migration policy” but see also the comments.

The Guardian reports: “UK government faces cross-party calls for urgent debate on US travel ban – Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi and Labour’s Ed Miliband make joint demand for emergency debate on Trump directive“.   The article points out that there is good cross party support for the debate – including the leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

In short, the pressure is building up to the point where the Government may have to conclude that a State Visit by Trump at this time is “inopportune”.

However, HM The Queen has welcomed more that a hundred foreign heads of state during her reign at the instance of her successive Prime Ministers and a fair number of them have been pretty obnoxious people.  Theresa May is Her Majesty’s 13th UK Prime Minister and she has had  more than 160 Prime Ministers in her different Commonwealth realms.

It is a bit early to say that Trump will prove to be quite as nasty as the late Nicolae Ceaușescu  of Romania who was invited in 1978.

 

 

 

 

 

The Witch and Mr Toad

Mrs May and Mr Trump

ww-westminsterIt is becoming increasingly clear that Mrs May (aka the Wicked Witch of Westminster) has made a major mistake by seeking new trade deals outside the EU with unsavoury characters such as Donald Trump (aka Mr Toad)  and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

 

Donald Trump as Mr Toad

mr-toadMost children in the English speaking world know about Mr Toad, either because the have read Kenneth Grahame’s novel – The Wind in the Willows, or because they have seen the Toad of Toad Hall play derived from the book by A.A. Milne , or because they have seen one of the Disney films or the various TV adaptations.

In 2008, the Independent had this story: “Is this the real Mr Toad? – Letters released by the Bank of England shed new light on the inspiration behind Kenneth Grahame’s bombastic anti-hero.

On 30th January 2016, the designer and film-maker Isaac Botkin published this on his web page: “The Incredible Mr Trump“.  He writes:-

Of course, there are some major differences between the much-lamented Toad and the lamentable Trump.

  • The first is that Toad’s blustery songs are actually extremely clever.
  • The second is that Toad has friends who take him in hand, and try to keep him from becoming a total laughingstock. “It’s no good, Toady,” says Rat, “you know well that your songs are all conceit and boasting and vanity; and your speeches are all self-praise and—and—well, and gross exaggeration and—” and so forth.
  •  The third difference is that Toad listens to reason. After pleading for “one more evening, to let myself go and hear the tumultuous applause that always seems to me—somehow—to bring out my best qualities,” he does turn over a new leaf. He even limits the singing of self-aggrandizing songs about crushing his enemies to his own private bathroom.  
  • The fourth difference is that Toad’s pride, immaturity, and selfishness lampooned Britain’s idle rich, and he has served as a cautionary tale for generations of young readers. Donald Trump’s similar faults are being touted (by Trump) as his greatest strengths, and they don’t seem to have had this “cautionary tale” effect on young Americans. At least, not yet.”.

Toad of Toad Hall

Hardly had the Wicked Witch of Westminster left the USA for Turkey than Mr Toad did something very silly and which is inimical to the interests of the EU, the UK and even to the USA by implementing a ban on Muslims travelling to the USA.

The Telegraph (aka The Torygraph“) has this: “Donald Trump’s ban on Muslim refugees: British passport holders blocked from entering US as judge grants emergency stay halting deportation of visa holders

British citizens travelling to America on UK passports will be blocked from entering if they have dual-citizenship with countries targeted in Donald Trump’s ban on refugees. The US State Department said that Britons with dual nationality with Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen will be stopped at the US border for the next 90 days….The revelation about Britons sent Downing Street scrambling for a response and has triggered uproar among MPs…Politicians said tens of thousands of Britons could be caught up in the border chaos as Mr Trump’s new immigration rules hit holidays and business trips….It was unclear last night whether Theresa May was aware that the rules change would affect Britons despite spending hours meeting Mr Trump and his top staff in the White House on Friday.

Tory MPs expressed their “heartbreak” at the development last night and called for Mr Trump to urgently overturn the policy….Nadhim Zahawi, the MP for Stratford-on-Avon who was born in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, said he feared he would be caught up in the ban.

Bloomberg Politics has this: “White House Defends Immigrant Ban After Travelers Stopped“.  

“President Donald Trump defended his order suspending refugee resettlements in the U.S. and barring entry to people from from Iraq, Syria and five other Middle East nations, as confusion broke out at airports around the world and government agencies and airlines tried to interpret the new rules. “It’s not a Muslim ban,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “We were totally prepared. It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over. It’s working out very nicely.”

Nobody in their right mind can agree with this latest Trump idiocy.  It is some comfort to see this op-ed by Roger Cohen in the New York Times: “The Closing of Trump’s America“.

The president does not like Muslims. That, too, is clear. It was obvious when he called during the campaign for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. It was obvious when he showed contempt for the parents of a fallen Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq. It is obvious now as he attempts to justify a planned suspension of visas for Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis and citizens of four other majority Muslim Middle Eastern and African countries, as well as a temporary ban on almost all refugees.

A rough translation of “America First” is Muslims last. “It’s not the Muslim ban,” Trump insisted to Muir. No. It’s just a ban on lots of Muslims.  This is policy fed by anger and prejudice, not reason. The wall announcement has already provoked a damaging clash with Mexico. The proposed visa and refugee measures are not about keeping America safe. They are conceived to nurture an atmosphere of nationalist xenophobia.

Muslims in Europe
eur-muslims

As will be seen from the Pew Research data on the left, very few EU countries have more than 10% of their populations who are Muslims.  The top two in percentage terms are in fact Cyprus and Bulgaria. 25% of the total population of Cyprus is Muslim (Turkish Cypriots) and Bulgaria where 13.7% of the population is Muslim. No other EU country has more than 10% of the population who are Muslims.

In France, 7.5% of the population are Muslims – mainly of North African origin. 5.8% of the population of Germany is Muslim and most of these are of Turkish or Middle Eastern origin. 4.5% of the UK population is Muslim and the majority of these are from the Indian sub-continent, notably Pakistan.

It is perfectly true that a very small minority of the total EU Muslim population has been radicalised but it is worth pointing out that the entities which are involved in such radicalisation are the successors of  the US  CIA inspired  proxy war in Afghanistan.

EU countries and the UK in particular work very hard to disrupt and discourage the radicalisation of our citizens.  We have paid a very high price for the failed US proxy war in Afghanistan and Teresa May who has previously been Home Secretary should know more about that than anyone else in the UK.

The Guardian has this: “Theresa May faces calls to cancel Trump visit over US travel ban – Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron say Queen should not host him while people from seven Muslim countries are barred from US“.   Also this: “Global fury as Donald Trump’s ban on migrants takes effect – Refugees and passengers from a number of countries detained at airports but Theresa May refuses to condemn move“.

This idiocy on the part of Mr Toad is going to have serious consequences for Mrs May.   It is now most unlikely that he can be invited to visit the United Kingdom and one would hope that this would also apply to all other EU member states.  Secondly, there is a “Tit for Tat” principle in relation to visas. Generally there should be reciprocity.  So perhaps the European Union should be looking at changes to the visa regime for US citizens.

People of my age remember some of the questions posed to us on entering the United States.  One question I recall was whether I intended to to overthrow the Government of the USA by force. I recollect that Gilbert Harding responded “sole purpose of visit”.

I would be perfectly happy if people coming to Europe from the United States of America were treated on exactly the same basis.

 

 

 

 

 

The Witch and the Toad

Is Teresa May a Dominatrix ? 

may99There has always been a streak of masochism in the mindset of many Conservative males – often the consequence of  having been regularly spanked in childhood by their nannies and mothers.  In the Thatcher years numbers of them waxed eloquently about the thrill they experienced from the “smack of firm government by a female leader“.

The  phenomenon is now repeating itself with Teresa May in  control of her party.  It is chilling to see how the MPs on the Conservative benches are passively accepting the “hard Brexit” policies of Teresa May.  As set out on our Conservative Difficulty page: as of 24th March 2016 no fewer than 163 Tory MP’s supported continued UK membership of the European Union and only 130 Tory MP’s supported leaving the European Union.  Yet the Remain majority of the Conservative Parliamentary Party appears to have had something of a Damascene conversion since the Referendum.  Could this be in part a subconscious  response to the “smack of firm government” from  Nanny May?

Great Powers 

The expression “a great power” began to be used at the Congress of Vienna 1814-15 when the term was used to differentiate the then major European powers (Austria, France, Great Britain, Russia and (sometimes) Prussia, from the many other minor European entities of lesser importance.  It is certain that a long time ago Britain was indeed a “Great Power”.

It lasted while the British Empire spanned the globe but, with the secession of some minor colonies in North America during the reign of George III, and the transformation of the remainder of the Empire into the Commonwealth post WW2,  it can fairly safely be said that the last genuine recognition of the United Kingdom as a “Great Power” was when it was awarded a permanent seat and veto in the Security Council of the United Nations along with China, France, Russia and the USA.

The Special Relationship

It would be right to say that there is nearly always affinity between peoples who use the same language, share similar values and who trade with one another.  special_relationship In a speech in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946, the late Sir Winston Churchill, spoke of their being a “special relationship” between the English speaking peoples of the USA and the English speaking peoples of the British Commonwealth which was to be considered important. Since then, the expression “special relationship” has  been used to mean the exceptionally close political, diplomatic, cultural, economic, military and historical relations between the United Kingdom and and the United States of America which can be used to to enable both countries to project their common values and interests around the globe.

Nowadays the UK is now no longer a military “superpower” and that means that this relationship is generally more important to the  UK than it is to the USA.

There are those in the UK who think that the time has come to abandon the “special relationship” with the USA. See this article from last year in the Spectator: “Why Britain should end the special relationship with the US – Gratitude for past US military assistance should not stop Britain from pursuing its own interests today“.  The author’s conclusion at the end of the article is significant:-

So far, the sceptics’ case for leaving Europe has been based entirely on nostalgia. Co-operation with America forms part of that delusion. Sovereignty is being wrongly exploited to undermine British interests and security. Instead, a judicious and flexible “special relationship” with Europe should be sought. After all, the United States has expressed a wish for Britain to remain a part of the Union. In this instance, it might be wise to heed the Americans’ advice.

That was, of course, written before the outcome of the most recent  US Presidential Election was known.  It was President Obama who wisely expressed a wish for the UK to stay in the European Union.

FarageTrumpBy contrast Donald Trump, encouraged by that dreadful charlatan, Nigel Farrage, has has been treating the breakup of the European Union as being something beneficial to the Trump vision of future US relations with the continent of Europe.

Whether we like it or not,  Donald Trump is the US President for at least the  next four years. Unless, of course, the Congress comes to its senses.  As a Mr Polman writes in the Athens Banner-Herald on line: “Polman: Time to consider 25th Amendment for Trump“:-

Even the craven enabling Republicans would do well to read that provision, because the day may come when they’re finally compelled to acknowledge – in the national interest – that Trump is dangerously off his rocker“.

Teresa May Addressing US Republicans in Philadelphia 

ww-westminsterMrs May (aka the Wicked Witch of Westminster) flew to the United States of America (1) to address a Republican Party Congressional Conference in Philadelphia and (2) to meet Donald Trump (aka Mr Toad) in the While House.

Wisely, Mrs May’s Philadelphia speech to the Republican “Congress of Tomorrow” came before her meeting with President Trump: the Leader of the UK’s Conservatives addressing the conference of the US Republicans who also think of themselves as Conservatives.

The full text of  Mrs May’s  speech is to be found here on the Financial Times website: “Theresa May: Speech to ‘Congress of Tomorrow’ conference, Philadelphia – Full transcript of UK prime minister’s speech to Republican gathering“.  The Financial Times also has this: “Theresa May strikes balance between courtship and candour – UK leader hails special relationship but warns US not to ‘step back’ from global role“.

CNN reported the event here: “Theresa May praises Trump but pledges end to ‘failed’ foreign wars“.   USA Today has this: “How Donald Trump, Theresa May are the 2017 version of ’80s power couple Reagan-Thatcher

A prominent website for Republicans – Real Clear Politics – has this post: “British PM Theresa May At GOP Retreat: We Have Obligation To Renew Special Relationship In This New Age“. The post is brief but it has embedded a video of Mrs May’s address.  Most Republican activists follow this site so it should get good coverage in Republican circles.

Sadly,  the post ends with reference to a tweet from the obnoxious Nigel Farage:  “I can hardly believe Mrs May’s words about our place in the world and with America. I’ve wanted all of these things for years” but that is a minor irritation.

The checks and balances established by the US Constitution give Congress, and in particular the Senate, significant influence over the President’s conduct of foreign affairs. So, the fact that Mrs May was able to speak to  those who exercise oversight over the Donald Trump executive branch before meeting the President was good and much of what  she said, in particular about the the “special relationship”, the UN, NATO, Europe and Putin,  was very much worth saying.

Writing in the Telegraph, Janet Daley opined: “Donald Trump makes headlines, but it is the Republican Party that Theresa May must charm“.   While one does not always endorse what Ms Daley has to say, this article and Ms Daley’s overall assessment may well be spot on:-

 “It was all done in diplomatically elegant terms but she [Mrs May] could scarcely have been more explicit. What she was saying to the sensible Republicans who control Congress and understand America’s responsibilities was unmistakeable: get your reckless president under control. Did they get the message? It certainly sounded like it.“.

So the message has been delivered.  But there is no guarantee that the recipients will act on it.

Mrs May in Washington

Mrs May then went from Philadelphia to meet the President at the White House.

After a visit to Arlington National Cemetery to lay wreaths, Teresa May went on to the Wite House.  There were private talks and then a joint press conference which was televised.

The BBC White House correspondent posted this: “Special relationship gets a new lease on life“.   The Independent has a video of the Press Conference embedded in this article: “Donald Trump & Teresa  May Press Conference“. The New York Times also has an embedded video – with comments: “President Trump and Theresa May Joint News Conference: Video and Analysis

Many in the UK will be pleased that things went relatively smoothly.  However, others may be less pleased with some of the actions taken by Trump this weekend – still less by the fact that Mrs May is going from Washington to meet with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.   That’s for tomorrow

 

After the Judgment

The Press and the Supreme Court Judgment

David Alan Green who writes on legal issues for the the Financial Times says today: “The Supreme Court judgment shows the constitution is working – Parliament, not the government, is the ultimate power in the land“.  This is a first class analysis of the decision.  Particularly astute was this comment:

The attorney-general said the government was “disappointed” at the result. Such frustration is the sound of a working constitution. Constitutions exist to limit what governments can lawfully get away with. Here an independent court has told the government that parliament is the ultimate power.

The Financial Times also has this editorial “The UK Supreme Court rules for democracy – Brexit supporters wanted British sovereignty — now they have it“.

Likewise, the Guardian has this from by Louis Blom Cooper: “The supreme court has resoundingly dismissed the government’s vanity – The verdict on article 50 was the right one, but the referendum should never have been the end of the matter anyway“.  He rightly points out that the Referendum result had no legal effect.  It was advisory.

The Guardian also reports a panel discussion on the consequences of the Judgment: “Panel verdict: the supreme court decision on article 50 – The justices ruled that parliament must vote before article 50 can be triggered. Our panel responds to the latest Brexit development“.

The Times has this:  “Judges make history in Brexit blow to ministers – Supreme Court rules parliament must decide on Article 50 and Tory rebels demand debate over EU departure“.  That headline assertion is questionable.   The sovereignty of Parliament has long been a fundamental principle of our democracy.

The Independent has this: “Brexit: Iain Duncan Smith makes series of ‘inaccurate’ statements to attack Supreme Court ruling – Is contradicted in short order by David Davis backing independent judiciary“.   It is no surprise that IDS gets it wrong.

The Spectator has a rather splendid piece by its editor,  Frazer Nelson: “The Supreme Court ruling, like the Brexit vote, has defended the sovereignty of parliament“.   This paragraph gets it absolutely right:-

The fault for this entirely unnecessary drama lies with those who advised Theresa May over Article 50 in the first place.  The issue is fairly simple: if parliament passed a law signing Britain up to the EU then parliament needs to pass a law undoing it. As Vernon Bognador memorably put it, sovereignty can be expressed in just eight words: what the Queen in Parliament enacts is law. The only power that the EU ever had in Britain is power that parliament voted to give it. If that power is to be retrieved, then parliament must vote to reclaim it – following the result of the 23 June referendum. No judge, no Eurocrat and no Prime Minister can undo what Parliament has done. All of this was explained by the rather magnificent High Court judgment – which, unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court has just reinforced.

In reality, this too may be a problem which can be ascribed to poor David Cameron who  ditched the highly able Rt Hon Dominic Grieve, PC, QC MP  as HM Attorney General and replaced him with the present Attorney General,  Jeremy Wright MP who might have been good for criminal cases in the Midlands but not a safe pair of hands for much more.

See this in the Sun: “Theresa May backs Attorney General Jeremy Wright after he lands public with MASSIVE bill by losing Brexit case“.

The Wicked Witch takes account of the Judgment

ww-westminsterIt is good news that in PMQ’s today, Mrs May has agreed to publish a White Paper on her Brexit plans: see this BBC Report: “Brexit: Theresa May promises White Paper on EU exit plan“.  This is a first step in the right direction.

It remains to be seen how well Parliament may be able to ensure continued membership of the Single Market in goods and services and the Customs Union.

Donald Trump (aka Mr Toad) and Mexico

trump4The Guardian reports: “Donald Trump to order Mexico wall in national security crackdown – US president due to sign off executive orders, including a temporary ban on refugees from the Middle East“. One is reminded of what a former President of Mexico – Porfirio Díaz (1830-1915) once said:  “¡Pobre México, tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de Estados Unidos!” – Tr: Poor Mexico, so far from God and so near to the United States.  

channel-tunnel-fence

When Mrs May goes to Washington (whether by broomstick or something more mundane) perhaps she should take along an album documenting her efforts to ensure that the “wogs stay in Calais“.  With all her experience as Home Secretary, she could certainly explain to Mr Toad how she seeks to ensure that poor and deserving refugees are kept out of the UK  by fair means or foul and  why she doesn’t want Poles, Bulgarians or even Italians  coming to the UK, taking the jobs our own citizens don’t want and then setting up small businesses with signs like “Polski Sklep” or “Trevi Ristorante Italiano” in her Maidenhead constituency.

Teresa May (aka The Wicked Witch of Westminster) might do well to consider this piece in the Washington Post: “Why Trump’s con can’t last forever“.

The EU is the world’s largest trading bloc, and second largest economy, after the USA. In 2014 the value of the EU’s output totalled $18.5 trillion. The five largest Economies, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain, account for around 70% of the 28-country trading bloc. The UK is better off in the Single Market and the Customs Union than it ever could be outside.

More importantly as an issue for Mrs May’s Washington visit is this editorial in the New York Times: “Russia Gains When Donald Trump Trashes NATO“.    See also this report: “Trump Criticizes NATO and Hopes for ‘Good Deals’ With Russia“.

Defence of the Realm is the first duty of government.  NATO is an essential part of our national defence – as it is for the other members of the alliance.  So it is to be hoped that Mrs May will be able to persuade Mr Toad  of the essential part NATO plays for the security of the UK and Europe and that Vladimir Putin is too dangerous to be an ally.

 

Supreme Court Brexit Decision

The UK Supreme Court Case

Today, the UK Supreme Court is due to deliver its judgment(s) in the appeal of the Government from the decision of the Divisional Court  in  the case of:  The Queen on the application of (1) Gina Miller &  (2) Deir Tozetti Dos Santos -v-  The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) delivered on 3rd November 2016.

The issue in the case was whether the Government had the power to give notice pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union, without an Act of Parliament providing prior authorisation to do so?

The application for judicial review was heard by a 3 Judge Divisional Court: composed of the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Sales.

The full text of the judgment on the application can be read by clicking on the link above but the essential holding was that  the Secretary of State did not have power under the Crown’s prerogative to give notice pursuant to Article 50 of the TEU for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union.  The Divisional Court held that this was a matter for Parliament.

It is unlikely that we will be told what legal advice was given to the government about the prospects of an appeal.  But the Government did appeal, doubtless because Mrs May did not wish to allow Parliament to get involved in the Brexit negotiations with the Commission, the remaining EU Member states and the EU Parliament.

The Appeal to the Supreme Court

_92272197_ukscjustices-dec2013
The Judges of The Supreme Court

Given the high constitutional issues raised in the appeal the Supreme Court decided to sit en banc so that all 11 Supreme Court Judges could participate in the appeal and in associated cases.  The case was heard from 5th to 8th December 2016 – the hearings were televised and the written cases and the transcripts of the hearing are to be found here on the Supreme Court web site.

This morning, a summary of the judgment was read in Court 1  at 9.30 am.  This was streamed on line and the full text of the the decision was posted on the Supreme Court web site as soon as the summary had been read.

As one might expect, the Torygraph has obviously been well briefed by Downing Street and it was running a live online page: “Live – Brexit judgement: Supreme Court delivers ruling on Article 50 case“.  Even before the release of the decision, there were some significant comments on the page:

The Government is widely expected to lose the case, forcing it to put the triggering of Article 50 to a vote. But while Theresa May thinks she can still win the vote and avoid being blown off course, Labour has promised to table a couple of tricky amendments and there are likely to be more on the way from the SNP and others on the backbenches.

Ministers expect to lose the case and are prepared to go to the Commons with an Article 50 bill within hours of judges announcing their ruling.”

The Independent was also running a live page on line: “Brexit Supreme Court ruling live: Bill to trigger EU withdrawal ‘to be revealed by end of the week’ – Verdict to be delivered on whether Prime Minister has enough authority to enact Brexit alone, or must get MPs’ approval“.

The Supreme Court Judgment

The Court decided by a majority of 8-3 that the Government may not trigger Article 50 without first obtaining the authority of an Act of Parliament.  The Court also held unanimously that the Sewel Convention does not give rise to a legally enforceable obligation.

The Press Summary is available on the Supreme Court Website:  Press Summary dated 24th January 2017

The full text of the the Judgment – including the dissents (96 pages) is also now available:  “R (on the application of Miller and another) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Appellant) REFERENCE by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland – In the matter of an application by Agnew and others for Judicial Review REFERENCE by the Court of Appeal (Northern Ireland) – In the matter of an application by Raymond McCord for Judicial Review“.

Consequences 

Perhaps the most obvious consequence of the result of the  appeal is that the Government is going to incur a serious bill of costs both in the Court below and in the Supreme Court. Obviously that will ultimately be paid by the taxpayer – but the appeal to the Supreme Court is likely have more than doubled the bill.

The Guardian has this:  “Lawyers warn May against short Brexit bill if supreme court says vote is needed – PM and Brexit secretary are advised not to put single-clause bill to MPs because it could result in further court appeals“.  The article includes this:

Ministers were keen to make the proposed law as short as possible in order to avoid opposition parties being able to heavily amend the legislation and so it can stick to May’s tight timetable for Brexit.

Having promised to start the formal process by the end of March, the ideal formulation from the prime minister’s standpoint would be a single line asking MPs and peers to rubber-stamp the triggering of article 50.

But politicians and strategists have received advice from internal government lawyers who fear that even if the ruling allows a one-line bill, failure to provide enough detail could leave the government vulnerable to further legal appeals in the future.

There is now the prospect of Parliament derailing the Government’s timetable for triggering the Brexit Article 50 notification.  While it is likely that the Government will try to make the bill as short and simple as possible, and equally likely that there will eventually be a vote in favour of negotiations, there is little doubt that many MP’s will wish to table amendments along the way and the same will be true in the House of Lords.

david-davis-graphicWhile David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, did his best to stonewall the questions from many MPs after his statement in the House of Commons on the outcome of the proceedings,  one had the impression that he was making the best of a bad job and that the Government is going to have a tough time getting a bill through both houses before the March target date for triggering Article 50.

The Independent has this: “Tory MPs pile pressure on Theresa May to publish full Brexit plan before Commons vote on triggering Article 50 – ‘The passage of the Bill will be swifter if a white paper is published’ – former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan”  and also this on the Labour approach:  “Keir Starmer hints that Labour rebels in Article 50 vote will escape punishment – The Shadow Brexit Secretary says ‘no decisions’ have been taken about a threatened revolt by some Labour MPs – but pledges it will be resolved ‘collegiately’“.  Also this on the SNP position: “Brexit latest: SNP threatens Theresa May with 50 amendments to Article 50“.

Meanwhile Mrs May is off to the USA.  That raises other concerns.

Risks of the Trump – Putin Axis

The Independent has this: “Brexit: Theresa May ‘unwitting tool’ of hardline nationalists determined to destroy EU, says Nick Clegg – Former Liberal Democrat leader decries ‘axis of aggressive nationalism’ stretching from White House to Kremlin ahead of PM’s first meeting with Donald Trump” in which there are  these passages:-

Theresa May’s approach to Brexit risks making her the “unwitting tool” of aggressive nationalists seeking to tear the European Union apart, former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is warning.”

He will accuse Mr Trump of “effectively colluding” with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to undermine the security and prosperity of Europe, said party aides.”

ww-westminsterTheresa May’s approach to Brexit is not only contrary to Britain’s national interest, it also runs the risk that the Brexit negotiations unwittingly become the means by which the forces of aggressive nationalism seek to unpick the EU itself.    My message to Theresa May is clear: as you travel to Washington this week, beware the dangers of becoming an unwitting tool for the isolationism of Trump, Putin and nationalists across Europe.

Her vision for a hard Brexit will pull us out of the European single market, the world’s largest borderless marketplace – which was, let’s not forget, designed by the British and championed by the Conservative prime minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher. That is the wrong choice for Britain’s interests.

 

The Wicked Witch of Westminster  might reflect on this while she visits President Trump in the USA.  There are some cogent arguments in this Economist piece: “Donald Trump’s win will make Brexit more painful“.

Plainly, Mrs May cannot do otherwise than talk to Donald Trump.  He is, for better or for worse (more likely for worse), the President of the United States of America, a country which has been the premier power in the free world since WW2.   This op-ed in the Washington Post is relevant: “More signs that Trump is out of touch with reality“.

There is a risk that the combination of  Trump and Putin could do immense harm both to the United Kingdom and to Europe.

So one has to hope that Mrs May will not return from Washington waving a scrap of paper at the airport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A State Visit for Mr Toad ?

The Wicked Witch to visit Mr Toad

ww-westminsterIt has been announced that Mrs May (aka The Wicked Witch of Westminster) is to hop on her broomstick (or perhaps some aircraft or other) on Friday and pay a call on Donald Trump (aka “Mr Toad”).

It is, to say the least, somewhat ironic that the first European leader to visit the newly installed President of the USA will  be the Prime Minister who has only just revealed her plans to take the UK (the 2nd biggest economy in the EU)  out of the EU, and very likely thereby doing immense damage to both the UK and to the EU.  trump2

Before Trump took took the Oath of Office, the Financial Times had already taken a look at the President-elect’s trade policies:  “Fate of free trade depends on the whims of Donald Trump – The US president-elect has bought into the idea that the global economy is a zero-sum game“.  It reported:  “But if there is one person who threatens to endanger this relative peace, it is Donald Trump. While many US presidential candidates have talked tough protectionist language on the campaign trail, Mr Trump’s rhetoric is different.  The president-elect’s plans to impose huge tariffs on imports from China and Mexico and to rip up trade deals unless they are fundamentally renegotiated would be the biggest shock to world trade for decades.”

Likewise, this US analysis of the Trump Foreign Policy agenda is worth reading: “George Friedman – Donald Trump Has a Coherent, Radical Foreign Policy Doctrine“.

It is therefore not clear that NATO as currently constituted is of value to the United States. The United States is liable for the defense of Europe. Europe is not liable for defending American interests, which today lie outside of Europe. Trump believes this relationship must be mutually renegotiated. If the Europeans are unwilling to renegotiate, the United States should exit NATO and develop bilateral relations with countries that are capable and are prepared to work with the United States in areas of its national interest in return for guarantees from Washington.

The same view holds true for Trump’s policy on foreign trade. It is not clear that the current international trade regime has benefited the United States. International trade is not an end in itself; it must serve the interests of each party. At this point in history, the primary economic need in the United States is to create trade relations that build jobs in the United States.”

The terrorist threat cannot be defeated without overwhelming power being brought to bear on the Middle East. Living with terrorism indefinitely is not an option. Therefore, the United States and its allies must bring overwhelming force to bear. The United States is ready to work with any ally prepared to dedicate resources to this goal and to share risks. This includes Russia, which has an internal problem with Islamic terrorists and has significant capabilities it could deploy. Trump sees U.S. and Russian interests as coinciding.

For Trump, the key is to recognize that the Post-World War II period of multilateralism is over, and that continuing to act otherwise is harming the United States’ interests in multiple ways“.

Der Spiegel on line has this: “Donald Trump and the New World Order – The inauguration of Donald Trump heralds the arrival of a new world order. The West is weaker than ever before and rising American nationalism poses a threat both to Germany’s economy and the European Union“.    It is an article well worth reading.

The Telegraph has this piece by Edward Lucas: “Trump and Putin: inside the world’s most dangerous special relationship“.  The writer describes Trump’s approach to foreign policy as “thuggish, self-obsessed and ignorant to the point of caricature“.  All in all, that seems to be a pretty fair assessment.

The Financial Times has this: “May set for ‘frank’ discussions with Trump on European unity – PM the first foreign leader to meet new US president“.

What will come out of Friday’s  meeting between the Wicked Witch of Westminster and Mr Toad remains to be seen.  The one good thing coming from the press this weekend was the inimitable cartoon by Martin Rowson in the Guardian:-

Donald Trump Meets Teresa May

There are mutterings about a State Visit by Mr Toad.

Well, Her Majesty has been obliged to offer hospitality to some pretty obnoxious people since her accession in 1952.  President Nicolae Ceaușescu and Madame Ceausescu of Romania in June 1978 were probably the nastiest – up to now.