With continued pressure from her party and the EU, Theresa May’s firm stance over Chequers is starting to look increasingly wobbly. Of most immediate concern for May is a brewing cabinet revolt. Reports suggest that Penny Mordaunt, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey may resign, and Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Dominic Raab are unhappy.
The Irish border issue continues to complicate matters for May. The DUP has threatened to vote down not only a Brexit bill but also the Budget and other Government legislation if its red lines are crossed. Government whips are reportedly resorting to soliciting the support of Labour MPs to push Brexit legislation through Parliament. But in addition to the ERG’s reportedly healthy numbers, there is also Conservative unionist opposition to a backstop – with a Scottish dimension coming into play. The Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, is expressing doubts about the proposed Northern Ireland settlement due to it potentially creating a wedge for Scottish independence. With all of these sources of opposition, it is hard to see the parliamentary arithmetic adding up for May.
BfB contributor and diplomat Sir Peter Marshall notes that the question of a backstop has arisen only because the EU itself has deliberately flouted the terms of Article 50. Ministers and the DUP have a strong case against the EU on which they should be pressing the Commission harder.
Despite Paragraph 2 of Article 50 stipulating that the Commission shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with the withdrawing state, the EU are refusing to take the future relationship into account until we have met their withdrawal demands. They insist on phasing the process, in a manner which works to the serious disadvantage of the withdrawing state.
“In a shameful throw-back to the power politics of the nineteenth century, the 27 leaders and the EU institutions are treating the people of Northern Ireland like pawns,” Sir Peter told BfB.
Meanwhile, Scottish nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon joined those calling for a ‘People’s Vote’, adding to the list of referenda she wants to be repeated. Japanese premier Shinzo Abe announced that the UK would be welcomed into a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with ‘open arms’, as the EU struggles to shake off its reputation as an isolationist clique.
Matteo Salvini, deputy Prime Minister of Italy, lambasted EU financiers as ‘enemies’ of Europe for trying to cripple Italy with debt amidst fears that Italy, like Greece before it, will be made an example of for daring to disagree with Brussels’ deficit diktats. He even went so far as to tweet that “on certain choices individual countries must be able to decide, as on fishing and agriculture.”
In the City, a report by consultants Cushman and Wakefield confirmed London as the most popular city for real estate investment, pouring more cold water over doomsday economic predictions about Brexit.
We have also seen that the EU is funding (through Inteligencia Educativa) what amounts to the offer of a free holiday in Spain addressed to British students and schoolchildren. “We are inviting all students from British schools to come to Madrid for free, and spend a week shooting a film in order to learn about the best of Spanish and European culture”, runs the advert, “UNTIL WE BEAT THE BREXIT” [sic]. BfB hopes to look further into the EU’s unscrupulous use of propaganda aimed at the young in coming weeks.
Brexit Debate at the Scottish Parliament’s Festival of Politics
Last Wednesday Graham Gudgin was on a panel chaired by Times columnist Rachel Sylvester at the Scottish Parliament’s Festival of Politics Brexit debate in Edinburgh.
He argued that ‘The UK is doing the best in Europe at keeping populism at bay… The Ukip vote has absolutely collapsed. Brexit is likely to be the main reason.” Any second referendum would therefore be, “absolutely corrosive of democracy to have a referendum in which Remain was on the ballot”.
The Times published a brief write-up of the event (paywall):
BBC Northern Ireland’s Sunday Politics
You can also catch up with Graham’s appearance on BBC Northern Ireland’s Sunday Politics in Belfast last week, where he discussed Brexit and civil rights. Graham appears around the 12 minute mark:
Our Blogs this Week
The Impossibility of an All-Weather Backstop
We argue that the EU’s demand for an ‘all-weather backstop’ in Northern Ireland is inherently unobtainable. This permanent ‘backstop’ would amount to extraterritorial powers over the UK. Such forceful claims are usually only made by imperial powers, or those victorious in war. These claims by the EU will hamstring any future UK government in attempts to renegotiate the border, despite Michael Gove selling Chequers on precisely this basis. They run contrary to international law, and will surely be thrown out by a future government that is more prepared to stand up for the UK than the current.
“An ‘all-weather Backstop’ is inherently unobtainable… any promise given by a government acting on that fear will be worthless should a (future) government be elected to act fearlessly.”
The UK between Isolationism and Global Britain, by Professor Robert Tombs
In his recent lecture for the Académie Royale de Belgique, Professor Robert Tombs argues that Brexit is in no sense an isolationist endeavour. Isolationism has been foreign to British politics and culture for centuries and the vision of the UK’s future beyond the EU is one of global engagement. Indeed, Brexit Britain suffers far less from isolationist and xenophobic thinking than other European countries.
“If there is anything that can be stated with some confidence – even among the many uncertainties of Brexit – it is that Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is not a move towards isolationism.”
Is Brexit damaging the UK Economy? by Dr Graham Gudgin
At the end of September, the Centre For European Reform (CER) published a widely reported analysis of the impact that Brexit was already having on the UK economy. This report concluded that:
‘The UK economy is 2.5% smaller than it would have been if the UK had voted to remain in the European Union… the damage is growing although the UK is yet to leave the EU.
Graham Gudgin shows in detail how the CER reached their conclusion and why it is likely to be wrong.
The Subscribers’ Views page on the website allows subscribers to submit their own articles. Submissions welcome.
We are also on Twitter at https://twitter.com/briefing4brexit, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news. Bill (@bill_hadd50) comments sardonically on our article about EU demands for an Irish backstop, ‘There’s that word “demanded” again’.
Discussion continues on Facebook too. There we have enjoyed even more antipathy to the EU’s ‘demands’ for an Irish Border backstop from Facebook subscribers than those on Twitter. Anne O’Neill Radcliffe suggests that the EU place such demands ‘where the sun don’t shine’.
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An Oxbridge PhD Student
Dr Graham Gudgin
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge