Sunday, Bloody Sunday


The Wicked Witch of Westminster’s Septic Plans

ww-westminsterIt seems that Teresa May (aka “the Wicked Witch of Westminster”) is to speak on Tuesday about her Brexit vision.   The Telegraph (aka “The Torygraph”) had this on Saturday: “Theresa May to set out her vision for Brexit in major speech on Tuesday”  According to this report: “Mrs May is understood to be ready to commit to pulling out of the single market if the European Union fails to make concessions on the free movement of its citizens, although they have been dismissed as speculation. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis are contributing to the content of the address, which opposition parties hope will end months of secrecy over the Government’s exit plans”. 

The Sunday Telegraph has gone further: “Theresa May to side with Eurosceptics in major Brexit speech revealing what she wants from negotiations“.  The article states:-

She’s gone for the full works. People will know when she said ‘Brexit means Brexit’, she really meant it,” a government source said. The comments are likely to trigger a backlash from pro-EU figures who will warn the Prime Minister has picked a “hard Brexit” over protections for the economy.  However they will be cheered by Eurosceptics who argue that only the cleanest break with the EU can fulfill what the public wanted when they voted for Brexit.”

If this report is accurate, the only possible conclusion is that the Witch must not to be left in charge of the Brexit negotiations.   Hopefully, the Supreme Court decision will ensure that control is a matter for Parliament.

This was reported in the Guardian yesterday: “Philip Hammond says post-Brexit transitional deal will be needed – Deal after negotiations end in March 2019 will be needed to avoid serious risks to businesses and financial stability, says chancellor“.

Writing in the Financial Times yesterday, Tony Barber made this observation: “The EU 27’s message to Brexit Britain – UK should pay attention or reality will drench it like an ice-cold shower“.

At long last,  Parliament is beginning to react.  The Guardian had this yesterday: “Brexit committee demands transitional deal and parliamentary vote – Cross-party group chaired by Hilary Benn gives Theresa May its first report, urging publication of Brexit white paper“.  The point should be made that this was a cross party committee with both pro Brexit and pro Remain members.

All of this comes before the Supreme Court delivers judgment on the Government’s appeal in R (on the application of Miller and Dos Santos) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and associated references.  The Supreme Court is expected to rule some time later this month.

The Guardian reported on 11th January that the Government expected to lose the appeal: “Government will lose Brexit supreme court case, ministers believe – Senior government figures believe seven of 11 judges will uphold demand that Theresa May secure MPs’ backing for article 50“.  According to the article:-

It is not yet clear when the decision is likely, but the Guardian has been told that the government has asked the supreme court for early sight of the judgment, to allow “contingency planning”.  However, a spokesperson for the supreme court made clear on Wednesday that would not happen, saying: “It’s just too sensitive”.  Ministers hope the court will allow May to put together a short, three-line bill, or even just a motion, which is narrowly focused on article 50 itself and difficult for parliamentarians to amend.”

Also this Sunday, the Guardian reports this: “Hammond suggests UK without single market could become tax haven – Chancellor tells German newspaper if UK was closed off from markets it might abandon European-style social model“.  It is worth recalling that last October, Mr Hammond was trying to ease concerns over a hard Brexit: “Philip Hammond attempts to ease concerns over hard Brexit – Chancellor uses Treasury select committee to announce support for immigration system that accepts need for foreign high-skilled workers“.

In other words, Mrs May’s cabinet is not wholly behind her “Rock Hard Brexit” approach.  So there is still some hope that Parliament can ensure a rational approach to the issue.

The Sovereignty Myth

What seems to motivate many of the Brexit supporters is the idea that the UK needs to recover its sovereignty.  It is worth reading this article by Dr Robin Niblett CMG, the Director of Chatham House: “Europe is now Britain’s essential relationship“.

If you think you have to choose between America and Europe, don’t.    This has been the axiom of British foreign policy for the past sixty years….Following accession in 1973, Britain became enmeshed in an ever larger and more deeply integrated European Union, which has developed into the principal external framework for Britain’s international relations.   Within the EU, British policymakers have helped strike more than 50 trade deals, extend liberal democracy to central and eastern Europe after the Cold War, confront climate change, and tackle instability in North and sub-Saharan Africa….The fact that Britain has a seat at the EU table, from which it can argue for policies that Washington generally also supports, has reinforced the value of the trump4relationship for the US….But can this balancing act still be the guiding principle of British foreign policy following the majority vote by British citizens to leave the EU, and after the belligerent Donald Trump takes up residence in the White House?…..The British government can lay out the red carpet for Donald Trump, all the way to Windsor Castle if necessary, in its attempt to become once again the primus inter pares among US allies. But this will not change America’s underlying global outlook for the time being, or Britain’s place within it…… Europe is now Britain’s essential relationship.”   

The full article is very much worth reading.

See also this article on Politico:  “Post-Brexit, Britain will love Europe – Without the poison of EU membership and with Donald Trump in the White House, Britain may feel European after all.”

The Economist has this: “Donald Trump’s win will make Brexit more painful” which, among other things makes these points:-

US-VOTE-REPUBLICANS-CONVENTION“To say the British establishment is unenthusiastic about America’s president-elect would be to put it politely….Nonetheless, the risks of a Trump presidency—protectionism, geopolitical turmoil, American isolationism—weigh heavy on British interests.

And they do so all the more thanks to the decision in June that so animated Mr Trump: Brexit removes many of the shock absorbers that might have helped Britain to ride out the next few years….

Brexit is a giant shock to Britain’s place in the world. It will sever old links and require new ones to be forged. As some of its keenest proponents concede, this transition will bring painful costs. Most of all it demands lots of good will and flexibility on all sides. In so far as Mr Trump’s win means a meaner, more fractious, more volatile global order, it raises those costs and shrinks that space for compromise and consensus essential for a smooth Brexit.

The Guardian has this: “Don’t treat Donald Trump as if he’s a normal president. He’s not – From the US Congress to Theresa May, everyone needs to understand that when the next president takes office the usual rules will no longer apply“.

See also this in the Financial Times: “Trump team rang EU and asked ‘What country is leaving next?’ – Departing US ambassador to Brussels warns of power of ‘fringe’ voices


Parliament Prepares for its Brexit Role

Other Developments

Tory Grandee William Hague, now ennobled as Lord Hague,  has made a very sensible suggestion about work visas for EU citizens.  See this in the Financial Times: “William Hague backs work visas for EU citizens after Brexit – Conservative grandee argues UK should go ‘one step short’ of free movement“.

The Financial Times also has this: “The City sets plausible goals for life after Brexit – The UK should pursue a deal based on equivalence but not at all costs“.

 Interestingly, the BBC has this report from the Netherlands: “Support for EU freedom of movement rules ‘eroding’“.

One of the most senior Dutch government ministers has said a fundamental EU principle, freedom of movement, needs to be radically reformed. Deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher said support was falling across Europe over the way it has been implemented.  Free movement, which allows any citizen of an EU country to work anywhere across the bloc, had led to wages being undercut and jobs lost, he said. Mr Asscher argued the Brexit talks were a chance to look again at the policy. Reform, he told the BBC, would mean “less immigration” across the EU if undercutting wages was banned. The stark attack on the way freedom of movement operates could be helpful to Theresa May as Britain looks to gain privileged access to the single market at the same time as controlling EU immigration once the UK has left the EU.  Mr Asscher is the leader of the Dutch Labour Party, which is in a coalition government with the People’s Party for Freedom, led by the Netherlands’ prime minister, Mark Rutte – who is seen as an ally of the UK.

This is an approach which is promising.  An approach to free movement which prevents the undercutting of domestic wages within member states might be a attractive to many EU member states.  It also happens to coincide with the policy that Labour has had since the last general election which is that the rules on employers would be tightened, to stop employers undercutting wages by exploiting foreign workers, and banning recruitment agencies from hiring only from overseas. Corbyn thinks this would “probably” reduce the numbers, and his team believe it could have a significant effect.

The Telegraph also has this: “Europe blinks over Brexit talks? Chief Brussels negotiator says ‘special relationship’ with City of London needed after UK leaves

This makes a lot of sense.  At the article points out: it chimes very much with what the Governor of the Bank of England observed: “The comments chime with warnings by Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, who said this week that the EU’s financial stability is more at risk from Brexit than the UK.  It suggests that the EU will be willing to compromise with Britain at the negotiating table to make sure their financial institutions are not locked out of the City.  As the Governor said: “If you rely on a jurisdiction (the UK) for three-quarters of your hedging activities, three-quarters of your foreign exchange activity, half your lending and half your securities transactions, you should think very carefully about the transition from where you are today to where the new equilibrium will be,” he said.

 So, despite the approach of the Wicked Witch and the risks of difficulties with the Trump administration, there is still a (slender) hope that the UK economy will not be wrecked by a hard Brexit.

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