The UK is on the way out of the EU

The Foul Deed Is Done

ww-westminsterTeresa May (aka The Wicked Witch of Westminster) has done the foul deed and delivered the UK Article 50 Notice to the European Union.

The Independent has this by Paddy Ashdown:  “Brexit is a monumental act of self-harm which will bewilder historians – Theresa May said she enacted the ‘democratic decision of the people of the United Kingdom’. She has done no such thing. She has hijacked that decision to feed the anti-European prejudices of her own political party“.

Tim Farron has this in the Guardian: “Leavers, beware: Theresa May is offering the exact opposite of what you voted for – Quitting the single market while keeping immigration at current levels and smearing all criticism of rock-hard Brexit as treachery – that seems to be the plan“.

The Torygraph Telegraph has this:  “Nicola Sturgeon warns Brexit ‘threatens to be an act of self-harm on a scale barely understood’

but also this op-ed: ” The invoking of Article 50 was necessarily cordial. What follows may not be“.

The Torygraph is – for once – right.  The Independent has this: “Brexit latest: Francois Hollande tells Theresa May that talks on EU-UK relations must wait – French President says talks must first determine the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU”  That means that both Germany and France have rejected Mrs May’s desire to have discussions about a post Brexit trade deal simultaneously with discussions on the Brexit terms.  Live reports from a meeting in Malta are saying the same thing.

And in the first of the anticipated many fallouts, the Financial Times reports: “Lloyd’s of London picks Brussels for European base – Belgian capital chosen because of local regulators’ understanding of insurance market“.    It seems likely that the bankers will follow – they have been preparing for some time – see this in the Financial Times:  “US bankers hatch two-stage Brexit plan for City – Executives seek to win time to decide how many jobs to shift out of London“.

In short, Teresa May seems to have scored a massive own goal for Team UK

 

 

 

Dies Irae, Dies Illa

Black Wednesday is Upon Us

The Torygraph Telegraph is full of Brexiteer rejoicing:  Torygraph Brexiteer Front Page.  Perhaps the worst piece comes from that absurd poseur, Jacob Rees-Mogg:  “Article 50 is upon us, so rejoice: British democracy will soon be reborn“.

As a former Downside boy, young Rees-Mogg ought to know better.  The appropriate liturgical music for Black Wednesday is not that of Easter, but rather the “Dies Irae” –  preferably as in the Verdi Requiem.  Click here for a YouTube recording (BBC Prom 4 February 2013).

The Guardian has this:  “Philip Hammond on leaving EU: ‘We can’t have our cake and eat it’ – Chancellor contradicts Boris Johnson before Theresa May speech, saying exiting EU will have ‘some consequences’

The Independent has this: “Brexit: UK’s most prominent ex-ministers unite against Theresa May’s ‘no deal’ threat – Exclusive: As Article 50 is triggered, Michael Heseltine, Peter Mandelson and Vince Cable warn of catastrophic consequences“.

The Guardian reports Mrs May as having said on Monday night:

ww-westminster
The Wicked Witch of Westminster

When I sit around the negotiating table in the months ahead, I will represent every person in the whole United Kingdom – young and old, rich and poor, city, town, country and all the villages and hamlets in between. And yes, those EU nationals who have made this country their home…It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country. For, as we face the opportunities ahead of us on this momentous journey, our shared values, interests and ambitions can – and must – bring us together.”

Apparently these words were taken from a Downing Street Press Release which is set out in full on the Conservative Home Blog.  There are already comments – some of them adverse:-

  • One long platitude. This person doesn’t represent me one bit and her insincere talk of uniting is ridiculous considering how she has gone out of her way to divide this country from the very moment she made that idiotic speech in October at the conference.  Theresa May deserves to fail but Britain does not.
  • A stupid thing doesn’t become less stupid for being inevitable. The wounds created by Brexit will take decades to heal, and fresh ones (Scotland, Northern Ireland) are still to come.
  • Whatever your views on Brexit, how utterly ridiculous it is for a Prime Minister to seek for us to come together when this country has never been more divided as a result of her Governments policies. Witness the rancour on this site.
  • What ever deal is reached most people will be disappointed.  48% didn’t want to leave in the first place.  Most of the rest expect a FTA which won’t damage our exports or living standards. A large chunk of the Leave vote want immigration reduced to the “tens of thousands”. Some or all of these people will have their hopes dashed when the results of the negotiations are announced.
  • It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country.
    It is my fierce determination to have unorthodox sex with Beyoncé- so what, and anyway we have ample proof May will be saying the reverse the next time it serves her career. She had her chance to bring the country together, by acknowledging the limits of the mandate. She chose to trample on half the country, treat remain as not people and take our country away from us forever .  The consequences of this were
    1 A big cheer form the Conference and a nice job for keeps  2 The undying loathing of every soul that voted remain and tried to save the country  This insults my intelligence so it probably pitched about right for Daily Mail reader at whom it is presumably aimed.

EU Responses to Article 50 Notification

It is important to remember that the UK has to deal simultaneously at three levels: (i) with the governments of the 27 remaining countries;  (ii) with the Commission which acts for the Community under the direction of the Council and (iii) with the Parliament which must ratify any agreement.  That puts a great deal of pressure on the state seeking to withdraw.

The Guardian has this:  “First EU response to article 50 takes tough line on transitional deal – Exclusive: Leaked European parliament resolution puts three-year limit on transition arrangement and says no to free trade agreement in next two years“.

The Guardian has obtained a draft resolution put forward in Parliament which is not going to make comfortable reading in Downing Street.

The Article 50 Notification – Text & Announcement

The Financial Times has this on the Article 50 letter: “Theresa May’s Article 50 letter decoded – The UK government’s full Brexit letter with FT correspondents’ notes and comments

The Guardian has this on the first reaction from Mrs Merkel: “Angela Merkel rejects one of Theresa May’s key Brexit demands – Divorce settlement must come before talks about future relationship, says chancellor, as EU leaders respond to article 50 letter

The Independent was more forthright: “Brexit: Theresa May’s Article 50 launch trashed after top EU politicians reject key demands – The Prime Minister’s hopes of quick talks on a trade deal and a focus on security were dismissed on the continent“.

The Torygraph might in due course dredge up something to be said in favour of the Wicked Witch – but overall, the Article 50 letter was, as expected, pretty frostily received.

 

It’s only to be expected.  Teresa May’s approach is one which is well known: –

Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic

 

 

Black Wednesday

Tomorrow is Black Wednesday – May’s Article 50 Notice will be delivered 

On Sunday last the Observer had an editorial which bears reading:  “The Observer view on triggering article 50 – As Britain hurtles towards the precipice, truth and democracy are in short supply“.

The editorial begins:  “Like sheep, the British people, regardless of whether they support Brexit, are being herded off a cliff, duped and misled by the most irresponsible, least trustworthy government in living memory.  The moment when article 50 is triggered, signalling Britain’s irreversible decision to quit the EU, approaches inexorably.  This week, on Black Wednesday, the UK will throw into jeopardy the achievements of 60 years of unparalleled European peace, security and prosperity from which it has greatly benefited.”

ww-westminsterTomorrow, Black Wednesday,  Teresa May (aka The Wicked Witch of Westminster) will cause the senior UK diplomat in Brussels to deliver the UK’s Article 50 Notice to the European Union.   See this report in the Guardian:   “Sir Tim Barrow to hand-deliver article 50 letter to Donald Tusk – Head of UKRep to give document to European council president, signalling Britain’s intention to withdraw from EU“.   The article gives the likely timetable:  “Tusk is expected to make a short statement acknowledging receipt of the letter on Wednesday. On Thursday he will circulate among the remaining 27 member states a draft copy of the EU’s negotiating guidelines, which will provide a broad response to the British government’s letter.

Those guidelines will not be formally adopted by the EU27 until a special summit on 29 April in Brussels. The European commission will issue more detailed directives on the EU’s negotiating stance shortly afterwards but these will need to be adopted by a meeting of EU27 ministers in May, before negotiations with the UK can finally begin.

There will then be 1 year and 10 months of negotiations, but unless the negotiation period is extended by the unanimous consent of the 27 remaining states, the United Kingdom will be out of the European Union in two years’ time.

The Guardian has this by Polly Toynbee: “Now the battle line is drawn before Theresa May’s disastrous Brexit – Reality bites from this week: the reckless charge out of Europe has begun. But at last Labour, thanks to Keir Starmer, is fighting back“.

corbynLabour may, indeed, now be “fighting back” – but far too late:  there can be no doubt that under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership,  the Labour approach both to the Referendum and to the subsequent legislation to implement the result was a disaster.  It is therefore unsurprising that the Independent has this:  “Jeremy Corbyn is as unpopular as Donald Trump, according to poll – Theresa May is more popular than both“:

The results of the UK poll in question were:  Corbyn: Approval 17% Disapproval 58%  –  Trump: Approval 18% Disapproval 60%  –   May:  Approval 46% Disapproval 33%.    President Trump’s US domestic polling is not good (the latest Gallup poll puts him at Approval 36% – Disapproval 56%)  but for the Leader of HM Opposition to be 29 percentage points behind the incumbent Prime Minister shows how useless Jeremy Corbyn has been as Labour leader.

There was an email message from the Liberal Democrats this morning:-

For months, we’ve had to watch as Labour trooped through the lobbies with the Conservatives and UKIP to give the Government a blank cheque for Brexit.  It’s been an appalling sight. But the good news is, in just 36 days’ time, the voters of Manchester have a chance to pass their verdict on Labour in the Manchester Gorton by-election.

The good news is, a group of incredibly generous donors who are so angry with Labour’s behaviour have agreed to match any donation you make – that means for every £1 you donate to help us get a great result in Manchester  Gorton, we’ll get £2 and your donation will have twice the impact!

It was, of course a request for donations and anyone else who might wish to support a genuine pro remain approach might want to help too:  http://libdems.nationbuilder.com/gorton-donate.

How Article 50 Might Go

Anand Menon, professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London is also  the director of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative, writes in the Independent: “This is what will happen once Article 50 is triggered – and how it could lead to Teresa May’s resignation – Two years sounds like a long time, but in reality, when factoring all the breaks in, it’s around 18 months.  I do not know a single expert on trade who thinks a comprehensive deal could be struck within the available time.”

The Torygraph/Telegraph has this: “Theresa May fires starting gun on Brexit with pledge to get the right deal for ‘every single person 
in this country’”  This is the work of the Torygraph’s Telegraph’s Political Editor and might as well have been dictated to a secretary by the Downing Street  Press Office.  Of course, the paper is stuffed with other pro-Brexit pieces.

The Wicked Witch still has the problem of the Brexiteers in her party.  The Financial Times has this report of how they are behaving:  “Eurosceptic MPs walk out from ‘gloomy’ Brexit committee” – because they consider a draft report on the consequences of Brexit to be “too gloomy“.    The possible consequences of Brexit are not merely “gloomy“.  They could easily be “dire“.

Perhaps the Brexiteers could start with this Martin Woolf op-ed in the Financial Times: Brexiters must lose if Brexit is to succeed – If a deal is to be reached with the EU, the UK will need to make concessions“.

The Impact on the UK Union

The Independent has this: “Northern Ireland ‘can rejoin EU after Brexit if it votes for reunification’ – While Scotland would be forced to join back of the queue, a united Ireland would not need to reapply for membership, says David Davis“.

The Belfast Telegraph runs the same story: “David Davis united Ireland letter shows Northern Ireland has automatic route back to EU: SDLP chief Eastwood“.  The comments attributed to the SDLP leader are worth reading.  More worrying – the newspaper is running an on-line poll to see what the public think and at the time of reading 69% of respondents preferred the United Ireland option.  Put at its simplest, the fact that both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom are in the European Union has made it possible for the two parts of the Island of  Ireland to coexist.   Brexit might well lead to the reunification of the Island.

A “hard Brexit” is already a big worry in the Republic:  See this in the Financial Times:  “Ireland braced for economic uncertainty of Brexit – Exports to UK could fall 30% over a decade if Britain leaves customs union“.  It is not just exports to the UK which are in issue.  There is also the problems of exports to the EU which also substantial needing to transit through the UK post Brexit and a host of other problems.  The Republic’s newspapers are as interested in Brexit as we are:  See the Irish Independent’s Business Brexit page.

Meanwhile in Scotland the Guardian reports: “Sturgeon says May’s Brexit timescale matches referendum plan – Scotland’s first minister says prime minister’s disclosure of full Brexit deal by autumn 2018 fits with schedule“.

The Independent has something similar: “Theresa May admits she must secure Brexit deal ‘within 18 months’ – ‘There is an agreement on the moment at which enough will be known for the people of Scotland to make an informed decision,’ SNP says” and the Scotsman has this:  “Nicola Sturgeon: PM has no ‘rational opposition’ to indyref2“.

Today the Scottish Parliament voted 69-59 for a Referendum.  We know, of course, that Mrs May will seek to defer any Scottish referendum for as long as possible.

There is quite a good prospect of both Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the UK Union if the UK Government  does not achieve a sensible result from the Brexit negotiations.  See the post Conservative & Unionist for the implications of that for the Conservative Party.

Pre-Negotiation Skirmishing

It is only to be expected that the UK’s Article 50 Notification will be something of a lead balloon at any meeting of the EU “great and good”.  There will be a lot of preliminary skirmishing.

Michel Barnier has this in the Financial Times: “Europe will be transparent and fair in Brexit talks – An orderly UK withdrawal has to be agreed before any trade deals are struck

Guy Verhofstadt is reported in the Independent: “Europe to block Brexit deal unless EU citizens who enter in next two years can stay, Guy Verhofstadt says – ‘Any unilateral decision to curtail the rights of EU citizens in the UK, while the UK remains a member of the EU, would be contrary to EU law and we would oppose such a move vigorously’“.

The Guardian has this: “Brexit: UK backing away from threat to leave with no deal, say EU diplomats – UK officials recognise that failure to agree post-Brexit trade deal with EU27 would cause havoc, according to EU sources“.

BreakFarOne piece of good news about the former UKIP Leader is reported in the Independent:- “Nigel Farage: I will emigrate if Brexit is a disaster – but the former UKIP leader told a caller to his LBC radio show that he didn’t think it was going to be one”.

There were reports last year that Farage was planning to relocate to the USA – see this report: “Nigel Farage planning to move to US, as Brexit set to batter the UK“.   Why not?   He could pose beside the wall that his Presidential friend has committed to build on the Mexico/US border.

 

 

The Killer Clowns & Brexit

Yesterday’s Terror Attack on Parliament

Today’s newspapers concentrate on yesterday’s terrorist attack on the UK Parliament.  This piece in the Independent is typical: “London attack: This is the new, low-tech face of modern terrorism – The terrorists on our streets no longer need sophisticated plans or complex, costly equipment to kill and seriously injure people“.  It contains this accurate assessment:-

While so much remains unclear or unknown about the Westminster terror attack today – not least the precise motivation of those involved – one thing is apparent: this is another example of the new terrorism.  It’s low tech, it’s suicidal or semi-suicidal, and it’s as indiscriminate as any other iteration of terror. It conforms, as far as can be judged, to the examples seen in Nice and at the Christmas market in Berlin last year, where lorries were weaponised. It also echoes the murderous assault on the off-duty soldier Lee Rigby, who was run over before being hacked to death near Woolwich barracks in 2013. The lesson is plain: anyone with access to a motor vehicle can use it in a terror attack. And there is simply nothing very much to stop that.

We should be grateful for the expressions of sympathy and solidarity coming in from our friends and neighbours – many who whom have experienced similar events.  The Telegraph has this sensible piece: “We must deny terrorists the disproportionate reaction they seek from us“.

The one person who has certainly put his foot in it is one Donald Trump Junior: “Donald Trump Jnr criticised after ridiculing Mayor of London Sadiq Khan hours after Westminster attack“.

“Who needs enemies when one has “friends” like that!”

The Impact of Brexit on the Union

Patrick Cockburn writes this in the Independent: “Brexit unleashed an English nationalism that has damaged the union with Scotland for good – As a system of beliefs the new nationalism is much more appropriate to an English nation state than to a more diverse United Kingdom“.

This conclusion was striking:  “Britain is already weaker as a state than it was two years ago because its government is wholly preoccupied with Brexit and the prospect of Scottish secession from the UK. All other pressing problems facing the country must wait, possibly for decades, until these issues are dealt with. The break-up of Britain is not something that may or may not happen as the result of a second referendum, but is already upon us. The confrontation between English and Scottish nationalism is not going to moderate or evaporate. The one certainty is that “The Scottish Question” and Brexit have come together to destabilise Britain for years to come.”

The Indy also has this fantasy piece: “This is what Scottish independence could actually look like – Independence for Shetland and Orkney, a new political party, a hard border and a brand new currency are all possibilities – and this is how they’d work“.

Closer to today’s reality, the Scotsman has this:  “Tory minister describes Scotland as ‘another country’“.

Guto_BebbThe Minister in question was a nonentity named  Guto Bebb MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales.  click the link on his name to see his Wikipedia entry.

It is worth remembering that the Conservatives presently only hold only 8 of the 40 Constituencies in Wales , so a Conservative prime minister does not have a lot of choice when making up the team for the Welsh Office.   It is also worth noting that that Parliamentary Under Secretaries of State are the lowest ranking ministers in a government.  As a Duke of Devonshire who served in the Macmillan government once noted: “No one who hasn’t been a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State has any conception of how unimportant a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State is“.

The Scotsman report has several quotations from the unimportant Mr Bebb ending with this:

The sense of nationhood in Edinburgh is palpable. For a long time it has been satisfied within the UK. “Is that changing though? My gut feeling is yes and that should be a cause for regret to all of us.

That conclusion must be right: in the 2015 Election, the Scottish Nationalists took 54 Seats of of the total of 59.  The Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and Labour have just 1 seat each and there are 2 Independents.

The Independent has this: “Sturgeon has the better of the argument over the Scottish referendum, while May has the law – In the short run, May is right to assume that the law will prevail; longer term, Sturgeon is correct in believing that will of the Scottish people will indeed be heard“.

The Guardian has this: “Brexit was an English vote for independence – you can’t begrudge the Scots the same – The English were prepared to vote in a way that would disrupt the union, so it’s no surprise that the UK is at risk“.

The Atlantic has this: “Could Britain Break Up? – How the Brexit vote activated some of the most politically destabilizing forces threatening the U.K.“.

may99As pointed out in this post Conservative & Unionist?  is is not just Scotland which may well break away from the Union – there is a real risk that Brexit may also impact negatively on Northern Ireland.  It is increasingly clear that Mrs May’s approach to Brexit is putting the United Kingdom Union at severe risk.

Preparing for Brexit Negotiations

The Guardian has this: “UK to trigger article 50 on 29 March, but faces delay on start of talks – EU sources say Theresa May missed chance of swift start to Brexit negotiations, which are now likely to start in June“.

Writing in the Financial Times a few days ago, James Ganesh was scathing about the behaviour of the Brexit Ministers: “Over-optimistic ministers manipulate the Brexit debate – At each stage they spin the new bottom-line as something they half-expected all along“.  It it is well worth reading.

ww-westminsterHowever,  Mr Ganesh should know better than to expect normal ministerial behaviour from the three Secretaries of State Teresa May (aka “The Wicked Witch of Westminster”) has chosen to lead her Brexit Strategy.   These are the “Killer Clowns” of the Wicked Witch.  They are in office to gull the public into a false sense of security: “Everything will be OK – The Government will get a very good deal from Europe – We are not going to wreck the Economy – Your incomes will not suffer“.

It is worth reading this from 15th March 2015 in the same newspaper: “Davis admits UK has not assessed impact of Brexit without Brussels deal – Article 50 bill set for royal assent on Thursday”  There were over 600 comments from FT readers on this article of which this was one:-

Several days have passed, and I cannot believe that Davis has not been widely torn to shreds for this outrageous admission.The lack of preparation is scarcely believable, utterly irresponsible & reprehensible, almost treason. This is a fine article by George Parker, but why have we not seen a front page headline in the FT saying:  “Shocking admission of planning failures by Brexit minister”? Seriously, dear Editor, why haven’t we?

It is also worth looking at the assessment of someone who, unlike the Brexit Clowns, is qualified to opine: Pascal Lamy is a  former WTO head and a former  EU trade commissioner.  His view was made clear at a talk given at the Institute for Government on 20th March:  “Pascal Lamy: Brexit trade deal is not possible in two years“.  His estimate was that a workable deal would take 5-6 years and he categorised the issues for a EU-UK FTA into the “relatively simple”, “complex” and the “really complex” – of which the following are examples:

Relatively simple Complex Really complex
Goods and tariffs  Trade defence Technical standards
Establishing the UK in the WTO Public procurement Services
Maintaining existing EU FTAs Climate change and environment policy Taxes
Fisheries Competition law and its enforcement Intellectual property (IP) protection
Erasumus programme EU research and innovation Euroatom 

See also this by  Larry Elliott in the Guardian:  “Brexit Britain is suddenly debating trade – but it’s the wrong talking point – Brexit and article 50 has us all talking tariffs and quotas, but it is the less obvious stuff such as EU standards that will be decisive“.

Perhaps the Times cartoonist understood best of all:-

timesbrexitclowns

It has to be said that:-

(1) It is a Conservative Government which has put the Union of the United Kingdom at risk.

(2) It is a Conservative Government which wishes to take us out of the second biggest trading bloc on the planet.

(3)  It is a Conservative Government run by a Wicked Witch and her Brexit Clowns.

In 1653, Oliver Cromwell had harsh words for the Long Parliament and the words were paraphrased by the Conservative MP Leo Amery  addressing another failed Prime Minister: Neville Chamberlain:

You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

One wonders how long it will take before somebody will feel it necessary to say something rather similar to the Wicked Witch and her Brexit Clowns.

 

 

Time to Change to the Lib Dems?

The Swivel Eyed Loons are in Charge

Four days ago the Speaker of the House of Commons announced it and the Independent reported it:   “Brexit bill receives Royal Assent allowing Teresa May to trigger Brexit“.

The two very sensible amendments passed in the House of Lords were rejected by the House of Commons and the Lords did not maintain their opposition to the Bill and it was passed into law without the amendments.

See one of the first pages written for this blog, The Conservative Difficulty. There is set out that a BBC report showed that by  16th May 2016, only 130 Conservative MPs  had declared support for the Leave campaign while 163 supported Remain.  How could it happen that so many Conservatives have changed their position?

It can be argued that the rot within the Conservative Party actually started with Margaret Thatcher’s attempt to introduce the Poll Tax.   That is the premise of this 19th May 2015 piece in the Guardian: “Cameron had the chance to defy the ‘swivel-eyed loons’ and remake his party. He failed“.    Whether the analysis is correct or not,  the fact is that the “swivel eyed loons” are now in charge of the party and those Tories who are sane no longer dare to oppose.

Mark Wallace writing on the Conservative Home blog which was influential in turning the Conservative Party into the Brexit Party writes this: “The EU referendum’s winners and losers are still struggling to adapt to their role reversal“.

That is as may be, but what was certain by Sunday was  that the loons are taking us out of Europe and this may end with Scotland leaving the United Kingdom and possibly Northern Ireland too.

The Guardian had this: “John Major attacks ‘ultra-Brexiteers’ as undemocratic and un-British – The former prime minister accused hardline leave campaigners of ‘shouting down anyone with an opposing view’“.

The Telegraph had this: “Philip Hammond faces mutiny from Brexit ministers as Whitehall departments demand more money after Budget ‘shambles’“.    The latter article was significant.  Put bluntly, it suggests that the Brexit Departments are not even properly equipped to handle the multiple issues of the Brexit negotiations.

The Guardian/Observer also had this:  “Most Britons say Brexit vote makes break-up of UK more likely – poll – More than half of adults agree that leaving the EU puts the union in jeopardy, with the figure even higher in Scotland“.

Labour in Trouble Too

To make matters worse, the Labour Party is is in just as big a mess – it has failed to be an effective opposition over the Brexit issue and the failures are so much wider than that.  Indeed, this Guardian/Observer article highlighted the writing on the wall: “Nick Cohen – Don’t tell me you weren’t warned about Corbyn –  Jeremy Corbyn is going to bury the Labour party. If you don’t want that, do something“.

What can be done ?

There is this in the Financial Times: “Liberal Democrats start the fight to rebuild UK power base – Party is winning council seats, gaining new members and raising more money than Labour“.

Perhaps this is the the solution.

Tim Farron: Whether you support Brexit or not, Britain needs a decent opposition – Liberal Democrat leader delivers his 2017 Spring Conference speech

 

 

Bad Times are just around the Corner

Conservative & Unionist or Conservative & UKIP?

ww-westminsterNow that Teresa May (aka the Wicked Witch of Westminster)  is leader of the Conservative Party it is plain that the Party no longer cares about the Union of the British nations which form the UK.  See the post of 2 days ago:  Conservative & Unionist ?

The Independent has this editorial: “As Theresa May prepares to trigger Article 50, she must try to keep the UK together – The UK should face the challenge of Brexit as a union – but will Scotland and Northern Ireland agree, now we know the true consequences of a hard Brexit?

The Independent bases its story on a leaked Treasury report on the consequences of a ‘hard Brexit’ – “Leaked Treasury report warns of painful ‘economic shock’ if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal – Exclusive: Report on post-Brexit economy seen by The Independent outlines ‘serious consequences’ for businesses and citizens – including higher taxes and rising food prices

What is now becoming clear is the clowns the Wicked Witch has appointed to manage the inane Brexit process are not prepared for the fall-out which is likely to occur.

Parliamentary Ping Pong

3-blind-mice
The Witch’s Brexit Clowns

David Davis, the clown who is Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, was on yesterday’s  Andrew Marr Show.  Holders of UK TV licences who missed the live transmission can see it on the BBC i-Player here:  The Andrew Marr Show of 12 Feb 2017.   In default of that, there are good accounts in the press.  See the Financial Times: “Davis urges Tories not to ‘tie Theresa May’s hands’ on Brexit – Cross-party report criticises government for not preparing for talks to fail“.

This morning the Telegraph reports: “David Davis issues last-minute warning to Tory rebels not to sabotage Article 50 Bill amid fears Brexit could end up in courts“.   This is all about the Parliamentary ping pong due to start this week on the two amendments which the House of Lords made to the Article 50 bill.  These two amendments vastly improve the Bill but, of course, the Witch and her Brexit Clowns wish the Commons to vote them down.

David Davis writes in the Telegraph: “We cannot allow Parliament the chance to veto Brexit“.   In other words “this is a matter for the Executive not for Parliament” which is precisely what the Supreme Court said it was not.  It will be interesting to see whether there are a sufficient number of Conservatives in the Commons prepared to abstain – or better to vote against the Government – in spite of all the bullying from the Government and their whips.

The Guardian has this cartoon:

Ben Jennings  on David Davis’s  Brexit Warning

The Guardian also has this: “No-deal Brexit ‘would put UK in worst trading position of rich nations’ – Research finds no G20 countries interact with EU without arrangements over trade, as UK could do if it leaves without deal“.  It also has this editorial: “The Guardian view on the Brexit negotiations: no deal is not an option -Mrs May pretends she is ready to crash out of the EU. That would be a catastrophe “.

The Financial Times has this: “Theresa May on brink of triggering Article 50 – Rebel MPs admit they are unlikely to block prime minister over starting Brexit process“.

In other words:

Noel Coward – There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner

Conservative & Unionist ?

The Evolution of a Party

ww-westminsterThe present official title of the party which Teresa May (aka “The Wicked Witch of Westminster“) currently leads, is “The Conservative & Unionist Party”.  The origins of the party go back to a faction of the 18th Century Whigs who supported the younger William Pitt who was Prime Minister 1783-1801.

The use of the expression “Tory” began to be used from about 1812 to distinguish the grouping from the Whigs.  The expression “Tory”  was certainly much used in Victorian times – so much so that it was used in Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 libretto for Iolanthe in which the Fairy Queen says to Strephon: “In the Parliamentary hive, Liberal or Conservative – Whig or ToryI don’t know – But into Parliament you shall go!

The title of “Conservative” was officially  adopted  around 1834 when Sir Robert Peel was the Leader of the Party and it became the Conservative and Unionist Party around 1912.  The aim of the Unionists was to preserve the Union of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as a single political entity all governed from Westminster.

Of course, the Republic of Ireland left the Union after the First World War 1922-37 and nationalists in Scotland, Wales and to a lesser extent in Northern Ireland have achieved in differing degrees a measure of devolution from Westminster rule.

Skating on thin ice

Of the four nations in the UK, only England and Wales voted for Brexit.   52.5% of the voters of Wales voted to leave the EU as did a narrow majority of 53.4% in England.  

Wales

The Welsh Assembly has the following membership:  Labour 29, Plaid Cymru 12, Conservatives 11, UKIP 7 and Liberal Democrats 4.   With only 12 seats in the Assembly, Plaid Cymru is a long way from having the sort of clout that the Scottish Nationalists have in Scotland.

Scotland

Scotland is a very different problem.  As of today, the Scottish Parliament has the following make-up: Scottish National Party 63, Scottish Conservatives: 31, Scottish Labour 23, Scottish Greens 6, and Scottish Liberal Democrats 5 and the Scottish National Party has 54 MP’s in the Westminster Parliament.

The SNP  lost a Referendum to leave the Union in 2014:  55.3% Remain and 44.7% to leave.   But in the EU Referendum all 32 Scottish Council Areas voted to Remain with a majority of 62% overall.  A 2nd Referendum to leave the United Kingdom Union is very much on the cards.

See this in the Guardian: “Who will blink first, Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon? – With neither prepared to back down over the possibility of a second Scottish referendum, it’s a high-stakes fight for both“.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Assembly has:  Democratic Unionists 38, Sinn Fein 37, SDLP 12, UUP 10, Alliance 8 , Green 2, TUV  1 and People before Profit 1.  Sinn Fein, of course seeks the unification of the Island of Ireland, while the DUP and UUP wish to remain part of the United Kingdom.

In the EU Referendum Northern Ireland voted to Remain with a majority of 55.8% overall.   Membership of the EU makes for an open border with the Republic of Ireland and a majority of the inhabitants of the North do not wish the return of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

The Financial Times has this on the latest Northern Ireland Assembly elections: “Northern Ireland shows the risks of a hard Brexit – A surge in nationalist support overturns some old assumptions”.

The Belfast Telegraph has this:  “Dublin ‘must seek special status for Northern Ireland within EU’ in Brexit talks“.

The Belfast Telegraph was first published in 1870 and scooped the Best UK Regional Newspaper award in 2012.  Its political leaning has always been Unionist and it now favours the Democratic Unionist Party.  It shows just how far the Peace Process in Northern Ireland has come when the Province’s leading pro-Unionist newspaper calls upon the Dublin Government to help Northern Ireland out of a mess created in Westminster by the Wicked Witch who is leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party.

may99So of the 4 countries that make up the United Kingdom 2 do not support Brexit and in particular the”Hard Brexit” stance of the Wicked Witch.

The Scottish and Northern Irish people and their devolved administrations might just be persuaded to put up with a deal which involves remaining in the Customs Union and the Single Market including the principle of Free Movement, perhaps on EFTA terms.

Bur if the kind of “Hard Brexit” that the Wicked Witch seems to favour comes about,  then that could well result in both Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the UK Union.

Perhaps the Wicked Witch should start thinking about a new title for the Conservatives. A party which takes the UK  out of the European Union and by so doing puts the Union of the UK at risk  really cannot continue to describe itself as “Unionist”.

Back in 2015 the New Statesman had this:  “The shadow of the Nasty Party hangs over the Tories again“.  It pointed out that is was the Wicked Witch herself who coined the description in 2002 when she warned: “There’s a lot we need to do in this party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us – the Nasty Party.”

Perhaps those who support the idea of the UK leaving the EU can think of some new title for a party which is no longer Unionist, remains thoroughly nasty, and which cribs its policies from UKIP.  Answers on a postcard please to the Conservative Party Chairman:  Sir Patrick McLoughlin MP, 4 Matthew Street, Westminster, London SW1H 9HQ.

Parliamentary Ping Pong

With the consideration of the Budget, the House of Commons will not start to consider the Amendments to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2016-17 until Monday 13th March 2017 and continuing as necessary on the two following days.  No doubt the Government will seeks to persuade the Commons to reject the Lords Amendments.

It will be interesting to see (i) how many Conservative MP’s will follow the lead from the Lords and support the two very sensible amendments the Lords have proposed and (ii) how long the Lords will continue to support their amendments in the ping-pong process.

Common sense would dictate a compromise by the Government and acceptance of the two very sensible amendments.  But the Wicked Witch is not that kind of person – as evidenced by her treatment of Lord Heseltine.

Free Movement

The Guardian has this: “European parliament Brexit chief: ‘Let Britons keep freedom of movement’ – Guy Verhofstadt says ‘all British citizens have EU citizenship’ and should maintain these individual rights if they wish to“.

Guy Verhofstadt is a Belgian Liberal who entered the Belgian House of Representatives in 1985.  He has been successively the Budget Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Belgium. He became a Member of the European Parliament in 2009 and became in the same year the Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. He is the lead negotiator for the European Parliament in impending UK Brexit procedure.

timesbrexitclownsThe Guardian also has this: “We’ve been offered an olive branch on EU citizenship. Don’t let them swat it aside – Guy Verhofstadt’s idea that Britons continue to enjoy some rights in Europe was music to millions of ears. The government must respond to this goodwill in kind“.  Well said Mr Verhofstadt and the Guardian – but one fears the the Wicked Witch and her gang of pro-Brexit terror clowns will not be persuaded.

O tempora! O mores!