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Thankfully, after decades of polite conservative posturing, times are changing.
The old roll-over-and-die conservative commentary is giving way to the Millennial Independent rhetoric.
The word ‘Independent’ there is important. Most Millennials with significant online presence are dissatisfied with both Republican and Democratic parties in the US. Here in the UK, they eschew the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats.
I shy away from using the name alt-right to describe this group of bloggers and video makers, because I’m not happy with the negative characteristics the media apply to these people who are fed up with the Left.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says that a white nationalist, Richard Spencer, coined the term in 2008, however, it was Professor Paul Gottfried, Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, who actually invented the label ‘alternative right’.
In August 2016, he wrote a piece for Front Page Magazine on the subject. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:
Last week I was reminded by a call from Associated Press that I had invented the term “Alternative Right.” When I asked about how I had accomplished that, the woman on the other end of the phone referred to a speech I had given in November 2008 in which I urged the creation of an “Alternative Right.” The same caller said that I was considered the “godfather” of what had become Altright, something that the Democratic presidential candidate would be denouncing later in the week. Thereupon I tried to explain in what modest ways I may have inspired the movement that Hillary was about to go after (namely, in a quadrennial ritual in presidential races in which the Democratic candidate accuses her GOP rival of being the second coming of Adolf Hitler).
I pointed out that Altright authors, some of whom I knew, shared my revulsion for the neoconservatives and deplored their influence on the American Right. I also noted that Altright publicists believed that modern liberal democracies had become dangerously fixated on promoting equality; and I’ve made this observation repeatedly in my books …
The professor, rightly, states that he does not consider himself part of the alt-right. However, he says that he shares some of their views. In any event:
They are a breath of fresh air for anyone like me who occasionally forces himself to look at the centrist bilge, ostentatious beating up on Confederate symbols and the shilling for multinational corporations that I encounter on the respectable (non-right) Right. I need hardly add that next to the Never Trump crew laboring directly or indirectly to elect “crooked Hillary” as our next president, my Altright acquaintances are exemplary defenders of the American republic.
Alt-right commentators are not racist or sexist. The_Donald is the best alt-right forum and has many commenters who are Latino/Hispanic and some who are black. Gays and women participate. Everyone gets on well there and, of particular interest, are their members from other countries around the world.
Therefore, when the Southern Poverty Law Center — hardly credible because of their consistent left-wing stances — tags the alt-right with being like Richard Spencer, it’s merely an Alinsky tactic to discredit these Millennials who reject their socio-political outlook. Hardly surprising, then.
On a more optimistic note: the beginnings of an effective post-neoconservative Right may be taking shape in the form of the Trump movement. At least some of the neoconservative camp has split off from the center to join with the Old Right, younger West Coast Straussians, paleolibertarians and the Altright to support Trump’s candidacy. This is the most promising attempt to create a post-neoconservative Right that I have seen since being exiled from the conservative movement eons ago. I’ve no idea whether the center will hold in what is still a loose, ad hoc alliance. But I welcome its emergence in the last few months. Often in politics, it’s the enemy that unites, and in this case those whom circumstances have brought together, have chosen their adversaries well. They are facing with very limited resources, the ultimate traitors to the Right and to an America that should be spared Hillary’s picks for federal judgeships and her refusal to fight specifically Muslim terrorists.
Therefore, from that paragraph, we understand that President Donald Trump’s candidacy coalesced this group of Millennials who bring a different perspective. In Britain, Millennials who supported Brexit comprise this group.
There is another characteristic of this independent group of commentators: their willingness to speak out and use the Left’s own tactics on them, as a Return of Kings post advises:
… the long and short of it is this: embracing and amplifying leftist absurdities are an excellent tactic to counter progressives and SJWs, and three of the ways to embrace and amplify are through increasing the frequency of the embraced absurdity, shifting it slightly to something the leftist finds unacceptable, and/or reversing it on the leftist.
Now, will this tactic work on the leftists themselves? Likely not, for their worldview can only survive on incoherence and absurdity, and so they are used to it—although, in fairness, you may convince the odd leftist to change his mind. However, convincing leftists and progressives is not the point. Rather, the point is to rhetorically neuter the leftists while at the same time helping to sway the fence-sitters to be against the leftists, not for them.
And for the purposes of achieving that particular objective, embracing then amplifying leftist absurdities is a good tactic to use.
Vox Day, a Christian blogger and author writes about the effect of Gamergate (2014-2015), which showed the young Left at their worst in revealing their opponents’ identities, harassing them and sending them death threats:
One of the fascinating things about the last few years is the transition of many apolitical Game writers and sites to politically conscious Alt-Right and Alt-Lite perspectives. This is significant, because all of the writers involved are entirely accustomed to being mobbed and assailed by the mainstream media, so they’re not inclined to cuck and run like most conservatives are when faced with criticism.
That is the principal characteristic of this group, never seen before in such numbers until 2016. They understand how the game is played and they engage time and time again.
These people are not white supremacists or white nationalists. On the contrary, they welcome everyone to participate in dialogue promoting and defending traditional values of informed patriotism, family life and personal integrity.
They will not cave and, as this revolution of words unfolds, they will remain in the front line.
Sorry to be late to the party with this item, but it was in our two-week Christmas issue of the Radio Times, Britain’s foremost television (and radio) guide.
In the 17-30 December 2016 issue, the back page interview was with Prime Minister Theresa May, also the MP for Maidenhead. She answered a variety of questions from reporter Michael Hodges. Excerpts and a summary follow.
On Christmas Day, she and her husband Philip go to church. Afterwards, they meet up with friends for a drink, then it’s off to an ecumenical lunch for the elderly, where May takes time to talk with her constituents.
The Mays return home where the Prime Minister roasts a goose for Christmas dinner. They haven’t had turkey for several years. Although others consider goose to be extremely fatty, May points out:
if you keep the fat, it makes wonderful roast potatoes for quite a long time thereafter.
Absolutely. We also have goose at Christmas, partly for that reason, and for the unctuous stock from the wings.
May, a practising Anglican, lent the Radio Times a photo of herself as a girl with her late father, the Revd Hubert Brasier. She told Michael Hodges what Christmas past was like:
Throughout my life I have been going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and church on Christmas Day morning. As a child I had to wait until my father had finished his services before I could open my presents.
It felt like a very long wait. Others I knew would be able to open their presents first thing in the morning.
I’m an only child and my mother played the organ. So I would sit alongside her while my father was taking the service.
The interview did not mention that May’s parents died within a year of each other. Her father died just as she completed her studies at Oxford and her mother several months later. It can’t have been easy for her, especially with no siblings for support:
When you first lose your parents, Christmas is hugely, hugely important. Now I enjoy Christmas with my husband Philip and we keep up the tradition of going to church. But, of course, it does remind me of my parents.
During her childhood, she watched only the BBC, until:
one day, my mother managed to jiggle the aerial and we got ITV and I saw Robin Hood. That music and Richard Greene as Robin Hood really grabbed me.
This is the iconic theme to which May refers:
May’s other television favourites included early series of The Avengers with Diana Rigg, then Joanna Lumley, although:
I have never had a female role model — I’ve always just got on with doing what I am doing.
As an adult, she watched the ‘very evocative’ Das Boot. These days, she enjoys Scandinavian dramas Borgen and The Bridge. Christmas Day favourites include Doctor Who and David Suchet as Poirot.
She doesn’t take recommendations for television viewing:
My advisers don’t tell me what to watch on the television — I watch what I want to watch.
May ended the interview by saying she had no idea a year ago that she would be Prime Minister today.
What follows is her four-minute New Year’s message. If her father was as eloquent a speaker as his daughter is, he must have been a splendid vicar. May speaks of the change that Brexit will bring this year but also of the unity of the four nations of the United Kingdom and the shared values and experiences that make us one people:
This is very similar to the first speech she gave as Prime Minister outside No. 10.
She and Donald Trump will get on well. Of that, I have no doubt.
Happy New Year to all my readers!
2016 proved to be the year of the impossible made possible.
The Brexit vote, the Cubs winning the World Series after 108 years and Donald Trump’s election are only three such examples. We lived through ground-breaking history this year.
Many people — especially agnostics — commented online that the Hand of God was all over various events that took place. Some of those people returned to the Church. Others, previously unchurched, converted. (The best anecdotal evidence can be found in comments at The_Donald.)
2017 looks even more exciting with regard to change and a break with the past. Light will shine on darkness. Those guilty of lying, malfeasance and indecency will be exposed and shamed. Many God-fearing people will be stunned by what they see in the news. The evil of the past revealed — and the power of the good to come — will cause scoffers to repent.
Therefore, I look forward to the New Year for the first time in decades.
I pray that divine grace and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit imbue and guide each of us in the year ahead. May God bless us all.
David Cameron has once more thrown his toys out of the pram!
Summer recess is now over, Parliament is back in session and the former PR man — the self-styled ‘heir to Blair’ — cannot bear being on the back benches.
He announced yesterday — September 12 — that he will be standing down as MP for his beloved Witney constituency in Oxfordshire.
At least he gave us the referendum.
However, he’s still angry about the result: Brexit, baby, Brexit.
A commenter on the aforementioned link from The Spectator clearly explains Witney, Cameron and British society. This is so true (emphases mine):
That constituency is a definite Remain area. The people in the UK who voted Leave weren’t the upper-middle class, which is what Cameron is. That stratum of society are the ones who buy craft beer and shop at Waitrose. The ones who voted Leave were the aristocracy and the working class. Britain exists in them; the upper-middle and middle are too concerned with their status, being “cool” and their bank balances. As long as there is still an aristocracy and a working class, Britain will prevail. That is why Labour detests the aristocracy, and the working class, and seeks to annihilate them both through mass-immigration. Everybody (and I don’t mean individuals, I mean the groupings) outside those two classes is self-seeking and individualistic, with no real concern for Britain.
Readers who live in or near Witney are particularly welcome to comment.
Let’s look at the timeline. Cameron was re-elected as MP only in May 2015. Then he gave us the EU Referendum in June 2016. As soon as the results were made public he announced his resignation as Prime Minister! Now, after summer break, he is unwilling to continue serving as MP to Witney because Brexit is sticking in his craw. Sad!
What a poor loser.
Not only is he standing down as MP, but he is doing it with ‘immediate effect’:
Spectator columnist James Forsyth surmises that Theresa May’s brand of conservatism is too much of a departure for Cameron:
… I think one of the things that makes it difficult for him to stay on is the extent to which Theresa May is moving away from Cameronism. It’s not just like Brexit is the only issue on which it would be difficult for Cameron to express a view – there are now a whole host of issues because Theresa May has tried to open up clear blue water between herself and Cameron’s government on quite a few things …
Thank goodness for that.
However, Cameron’s resignation sets a bad example for the British public. The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson — not someone with whom I agree a lot — rightly points out:
“Brits don’t quit,” he told us a few months ago: now he has quit, twice. After telling us several times that he’d stay, to fulfil a duty to parliament and his constituents.
Indeed. Such a lack of principle will ultimately reflect on him:
Cameron could have been known for so many achievements: record employment, schools revolution, lowering inequality, crime rates plunging, a majority won against the odds – how quickly all of that is forgotten, how quickly Cameron has been reduced to the bad guy whom Theresa May enjoys defining herself against. Blair’s behaviour after leaving No10 trashed the reputation of Blairism – and it seems the self-styled “heir to Blair” had one more tribute act left in him. Now there is pretty much no one to say that Cameron’s premiership wasn’t all bad. No one can be bothered to hang around and defend Cameron’s reputation. Not even Cameron.
Cameron has acted in a pathetic manner. He led the Conservatives for ten years and was Prime Minister for the last five. He could have gone down in history as a compassionate Conservative.
Soon — by his own actions — he will be forgotten. He brought it on himself.
It has been just under four weeks since the UK voted to leave the EU.
Theresa May has been our PM for one week.
She has done quite a lot of housecleaning in that time with many new appointments to the Cabinet, making it her own, and has created a department for Brexit.
It is unfortunate that the Nice attack took away our initial enjoyment of May’s premiership. I have much to write on her appointment and the lady herself.
For now, a few brief observations follow.
The Conservative Party — best for women
The Conservative Party is the best political party for women in Britain.
Within 26 years, they have given us two female Prime Ministers, redoubtable women both.
By contrast, the right-on, progressive Labour Party has never had a female leader.
Around the time May was entering Downing Street last week, Angela Eagle — a contender for Labour leadership — said that it was high time they had a woman at the top. What Ms Eagle misses is that the Conservatives chose Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May not because of their gender but because of their competence.
I remember watching Andrew Neil’s Sunday Politics (BBC) in 2015 prior to the general election. Several Labour women MPs told Neil week after week that the Conservatives should have more women in Cabinet.
Ho hum. Which party has two female Prime Ministers? The Conservative Party. Which party just happened to have an all-women shortlist for party leadership with Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom just ten days ago? The Conservative Party.
First PMQs an absolute blinder
On Wednesday, July 20, Theresa May held her first Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.
She played an absolute blinder; she was confident, competent and concise. She answered every question with historical data and/or departmental updates. She took questions on housing, Brexit, ‘honour’ killings and the NHS, to mention a few.
Afterwards, I watched Daily Politics (BBC2) with Jo Coburn and her panel, most of whom, like Coburn herself, are very much left-of-centre. All said that May did very well indeed. Veteran reporter John Pienaar said she was much better than Margaret Thatcher in her early days of PMQs.
May will be travelling to Berlin on July 20 to meet with Angela Merkel over a working dinner. (I will have an update in a subsequent post.)
Brexit is likely to dominate the dinner discussions. Terrorism and the recent attempted Turkish coup are also probable topics.
This is an historic occasion, as both Britain and Germany have female leaders at the same time.
The two seem similar in several respects: both their fathers were clergymen, neither has children, both have a penchant for improving society and they have strong personalities.
Expect mutual respect and honest discussions. It will be interesting to see if, once she meets May, Merkel is willing to engage in some sort of negotiations prior to our invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome.
May will be meeting with France’s François Hollande on July 21. Calais and terrorism are sure to be on the agenda along with Brexit.
On July 19, May held her first Cabinet meeting.
She reiterated her commitment to Brexit and will personally oversee that new department as well as those for the economy and social reform.
May has wisely appointed three Leavers to key positions involving Britain’s future outside the EU. Longtime MP David Davis is in charge of the Brexit unit as the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Boris Johnson, MP and former two-term Mayor of London, is Secretary of State for Foreign and International Affairs. Liam Fox is the Secretary of State for International Trade.
Keeping a close eye on Brexit, the economy and social reform ties together May’s overall agenda for her administration:
we will not allow the country to be defined by Brexit; but instead build the education, skills, and social mobility to allow everyone to prosper from the opportunities of leaving the EU.
I hope she continues to make progress in these areas. I’m beginning to like her a lot.
They say that a week is a long time in politics.
This week has certainly proven that dictum true.
Party leader shake-up
Now that we have Brexit, who will see it through?
On July 4, Nigel Farage stood down as UKIP leader, saying he had accomplished his objective of getting us the EU Referendum. He will continue as MEP.
It’s an interesting development. Was family pressure the overriding factor in his decision?
His absence raises the question of who will police the Brexit process from the sidelines and make sure we actually go through with it. Farage is a man with dogged determination and passion for UK independence. Therefore, it is surprising that he is relying on pro-Remain Conservatives to follow through with it.
Labour continue in disarray, although party leader Jeremy Corbyn is still in place, much to the frustration of many of his MPs and party members.
The Conservatives — Tories — held their first rounds of voting to replace outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron.
I still maintain that Cameron resigned in haste early in the morning of June 24 because he was in a fit of pique. Yes, he was also tired and, yes, the PM role was taking its toll on his family, but he had pledged to stay on regardless of the result. The current issue of Private Eye features a little soundbite of his from March 2016. Would he resign if Leave won? ‘No,’ he replied. The problem was that he was quietly certain the result would be Remain. Had the result been Remain, no doubt Cameron would have stayed on as PM until 2020.
I will have another post next week on where this cross-party turmoil is going.
Conservative Party leadership election
For now, I will focus on the election of the next Prime Minister.
Pray God that whoever is elected will stay in until 2020 and win the next general election.
Earlier this week
This week began with five MPs put up for nomination. They were Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Stephen Crabb. Each had a proposer, prominent MPs’ support and a list of other supporting MPs.
Tory MPs except for David Cameron, who wants to remain neutral, voted on Tuesday, July 5, in the first round of candidate eliminations. Liam Fox, despite having been a shadow Cabinet (2005-2010) and Cabinet minister (2010-2011), received the smallest number of votes. His name was eliminated. Stephen Crabb, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, dropped out that night of his own accord. He had the next least number of votes that day.
That left May, Leadsom and Gove in the running for the second round of voting on Thursday, July 7.
Immediately after Brexit, everyone assumed that the Leave campaign’s main man MP and two-term former Mayor of London Boris Johnson would mount a bid to become the next party leader.
Incidentally, Johnson is backing Leadsom.
On Wednesday, July 6, Gove’s campaign manager, MP Nick Boles, urged MPs backing May to block Leadsom winning in the second round of voting on July 7. The Telegraph reported:
Nick Boles, the Justice Secretary’s campaign manager, has sent a text to MPs telling them that it would be in the “national interest” for them to stop Mrs Leadsom getting to the final run-off because she may win the vote of party members.
Mr Boles also claimed that he will “sleep easy at night” if Mrs May becomes the next prime minister, adding that Mr Gove is prepared to spend “two months taking a good thrashing from Theresa, if that’s what it takes”.
In the end, Gove became the next candidate to be eliminated. On July 7, May received 199 votes, Leadsom 84 and Gove a paltry 46.
The Telegraph rounded up reaction to Gove’s loss. Emphases mine below:
Tory backers of the Justice Secretary said his decision to betray the former London Mayor by unexpectedly withdrawing his backing, causing Mr Johnson to pull out of the race, had infuriated MPs.
They also blamed a leaked message showing his campaign was urging MPs to vote Gove to stop Andrea Leadsom had “kiboshed” his chances of becoming Prime Minister.
Critics said his behaviour during the leadership race over the last fortnight has left him “humiliated” in the eyes of colleagues and decreased his chances of winning a cabinet post in the next reshuffle.
Confirmation that he would not be the next prime minister triggered supporters and critics to blame his decision to pull support for Mr Johnson just hours before he formally launched his leadership bid, leading to claims of “back-stabbing” …
A second Tory MP who backed Mr Gove said a candid text message sent by his campaign manager Nick Boles urging people to support him to stop Mrs Leadsom which leaked to the media was “very damaging”.
The MP told The Telegraph: “The Nick Boles text [ha]s kiboshed Gove’s chances. It undermined people’s confidence in him. It made it look as if he’s been conspiring all along. It did more damage to his reputation than anything else.”
There were also suggestions that Mr Gove could struggle to remain in the cabinet given alleged animosity between himself and Mrs May and after his campaign’s attempted to undermine Mrs Leadsom.
Ben Wallace, the Tory MP who managed Mr Johnson’s campaign, told this newspaper on Thursday that it was Mr Gove’s apparent lack of trust that led to his defeat.
“The winning candidate knew that this competition was all about trust. Unfortunately it seemed Michael didn’t.
“The Tory Party and the country want a Prime Minister they will trust to deliver on the referendum result and bring a divided parliamentary party together. You don’t achieve that by playing political parlour games.”
Mr Gove has not yet revealed who he will vote for to become the next Tory leader after dropping out of the race.
Let that be a lesson to future schemers and plotters.
That is a providential development.
Gove’s equally ambitious wife, columnist Sarah Vine, is taking a break from her job at the Daily Mail. The paper has assured The Spectator that she will return in due course.
What happens next for Conservative members
Candidates May and Leadsom will now tour Conservative associations around the country to campaign.
Fully paid-up party members, estimated to be 150,000, will be able to vote for either lady. These members will have also joined the Conservatives three months prior to September 8, when voting ends.
Anyone who bets that May is a dead cert could lose money. The wiser political pundits will say they wouldn’t even begin to predict what the result will be.
Members have voted against MPs’ favourites before. This could be another instance.
We’ll find out who the next Prime Minister and party leader will be on September 9.
MPs’ distrust of party faithful
The number of Conservative Party members has been declining over the past 50 years.
David Cameron’s stances alienated some existing members in the shires. These people view him as living in a London bubble and not in the slightest bit interested in their concerns.
In 2013, Cameron’s close friend Andrew Feldman — Lord Feldman — denied he called the grassroots ‘swivel-eyed loons’. The Guardian reported:
No 10 was particularly sensitive because the alleged remarks revived criticism of the Tory leadership for being aloof and out of touch …
The unease across the party was highlighted yesterday when 35 current or former Conservative associations handed in a letter to Downing Street that accused the prime minister of showing “utter contempt” for the grassroots activists after pressing ahead with legislation for equal marriage. But Cameron came under fire from another wing when Lord Howe of Aberavon, the former chancellor, warned that he was losing control of the party on Europe.
Ben Harris-Quinney, the chairman of the Bow Group and director of Conservative Grassroots, which drummed up support for the letter, said of Feldman’s alleged remarks: “It doesn’t matter who made these comments, the problem is that it comes as no surprise and is representative of a wider malaise in the party – the disconnect between the leadership and the grassroots, between conservatism and the leadership of the Conservative party. The tail cannot continue to wag the dog.”
The Bow Group, which was founded in 1951, intervened in the wake of Feldman’s alleged remarks on Wednesday night, said to have been made shortly after 116 Tory MPs showed their unease with David Cameron over Europe and voted in favour of an amendment regretting the absence of a EU referendum in the Queen’s speech.
On July 5, 2016, the chairman of the Countryside Alliance and serving MP Simon Hart warned that Conservatives in rural areas could upset the Conservative establishment come September 9:
… our own research suggests that there are at least 26,000 Conservative Party members on the Alliance’s database of members and supporters – that’s 20% of the entire Conservative Party. They are politically active, they vote and they are watching this political saga unfold with a keen eye.
These people may not represent a key constituency of swing voters in a General Election, but in a Conservative leadership election they just might …
This huge rural constituency is not swivel-eyed about these things. They know that the country is in flux, pulled in numerous directions in an uncertain world.
Conservative Home bills itself as ‘the home of conservativism’. Yet, in many ways, it is one of the most arrogant, anti-Conservative grassroots sites around. I only started reading it again after six years for additional details on the leadership campaign. Once that is over, I’ll be finished with it for good.
Former MP Paul Goodman wrote two columns there this week which elicited lively comments, not all of which supported his views.
On July 6, he set the torchpaper alight with this provocative title, ‘May has half the vote. If Tory MPs clearly want her, should party members defy them?’
Good grief. The party members serve as a check and balance against party MPs.
Goodman plays the paternalistic role for the good and the great:
Party members have the right to vote for whichever of the two candidates put before them they wish. But what one has a right to do is not necessarily what it is wise to do.
He ends with Tory Leadership Project Fear:
If May emerges during the coming days as the clear choice of a majority of Conservative MPs, should Party members really throw their weight behind another candidate – especially at what is the biggest moment in our national life certainly since Suez, and perhaps since 1940?
This man clearly takes party members for fools.
On July 8, he had another go with ‘For Brexit’s sake and for Britain’s, Theresa May should be the next Prime Minister’.
The man is frightened. After all, look how the people defied the establishment on June 23.
He is scared. The first paragraph states that Brexit must happen because:
if it does not the mainstream parties risk a Italian-style revolt against the entire political class.
Goodman is not wrong. However, he is part of the problem with his fearmongering and condescension:
The British political system is ultimately a Westminster-based one.
He’s not only stating the obvious. He is telling the grassroots to obey their betters! This is why voters are angry. Parliament does not represent them.
Parliament — both houses — represents itself and its own interests. Lady Oona King, a life peeress, said that the public did not understand what they were voting for in the EU Referendum. I can assure her that, to the contrary, we most certainly did.
Again, he says party members should not vote in their own interests, but in MPs’ interests:
Some Party members will doubtless insist that it is their decision, thank you very much, and that if they want Leadsom, then Tory MPs must put up with it. It is their right to do so, and one this site unflichingly supports – and campaigns for. None the less [sic], what one has a right to do is not always what it’s right to do.
Never was this more applicable than now …
Because we are in crisis, man, crisis! Once more, Project Fear has lift off:
The circumstances are unique. The Conservative Party has held leadership elections in government before. But never has it done so with a Prime Minister retiring from office. His replacement will come to office at a supreme national moment.
… the most dramatic, the scale of the challenge is scarcely comprehensible: bigger than that which faced Margaret Thatcher in 1979, almost as great as that which faced Attlee in 1945 – or Churchill six years earlier.
If I were a Conservative Party member and my postal ballot had arrived, I’d be voting for Leadsom after reading that.
Goodman describes May as
honourable if cunning …
An interesting choice of words and one which does not — or should not — inspire confidence that she will do right by voters. However, the campaign is only just starting and we can but see.
The spotlight will be on Leadsom and it may well be that, as May’s 199+ MPs believe, she cannot deliver.
However, scaremongering on the level that the Remain campaign so ably showed so recently will not work.
People rightly vote in their interests just as MPs vote in theirs. Why should the Tory faithful vote to further MPs’ privileged priorities?
When the EU Referendum debates and discussions were going on this year, the widespread understanding among the British public was that, should Leave win, the Prime Minister could trigger Article 50 to start the separation from the European Union.
David Cameron implied as much in his resignation speech on June 24.
In other words, it did not require a vote in Parliament.
Now that Leave have won, elite Remainers say that invoking Article 50 requires a separate Act of Parliament, i.e. a vote in the House of Commons.
Remainers were out in force at the weekend.
There was a Remain protest in London with at least 30,000 protesters taking part.
Then former Deputy Prime Minister (2010-2015) Nick Clegg, a Liberal Democrat, added an additional layer of procedure, saying there should be a fresh election before Article 50 is triggered. The Guardian reports (emphases mine):
Under Clegg’s scenario, MPs after an election would scrutinise the government’s specific plan to ensure it was legal and workable, and crucially, article 50 should only be triggered following a vote of consent from MPs. He points out that many top legal experts have disputed the notion that the prime minister can invoke article 50 on her or his own.
“Finally, the definitive, negotiated terms both of our exit from, and our future relationship with, the EU must then be put back to parliament for a vote of consent,” argues Clegg.
Conveniently, legal experts are already in place, no doubt hired by the Remain elite. Mishcon de Reya is the firm’s name. They are highly expensive and out of the reach of most Britons except for multi-millionaires and billionaires.
The Guardian tells us:
A prominent law firm is taking pre-emptive legal action against the government, following the EU referendum result, to try to ensure article 50 is not triggered without an act of parliament.
Acting on behalf of an anonymous group of clients, solicitors at Mishcon de Reya have been in contact with government lawyers to seek assurances over the process, and plan to pursue it through the courts if they are not satisfied. The law firm has retained the services of senior constitutional barristers, including Lord Pannick QC and Rhodri Thompson QC.
Their initiative relies upon the ambiguous wording of article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which sets out how states could leave the EU. The first clause declares: “Any member state may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”
It would be interesting to find out more about their proposed case, because Article 50 is EU — not British — legislation.
It is odd that this is coming up now, in light of a Leave result. It seems that hiring Mishcon de Reya is a Remain tactic to overturn or push aside the Leave result. Worse, it may be establishing conditions that do not need to exist in order for us to begin ‘divorce proceedings’.
In February 2016, MP Philip Hammond — the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs — led a debate on the EU Referendum. The question of a parliamentary vote arose.
Note that Scotland’s Alex Salmond said the Foreign Secretary — not the Prime Minister — invokes Article 50.
Excerpts from Hansard follow:
Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP)
The Foreign Secretary invokes article 50. Before notification was given under article 50, given that the referendum is an advisory one in terms of the constitution, would there be a vote in Parliament? Would there also be a vote in the Scottish Parliament, given the impact on devolved competencies under the Sewel convention?
The Government’s position is that the referendum is an advisory one, but the Government will regard themselves as being bound by the decision of the referendum and will proceed with serving an article 50 notice. My understanding is that that is a matter for the Government of the United Kingdom, but if there are any consequential considerations, they will be dealt with in accordance with the proper constitutional arrangements that have been laid down.
The next question seemed to concern revoking the Communities Act of 1972, UK legislation which was necessary in order for Britain to become a member of the EU:
Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con)
I rather concur with the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), because I think that before the Government could move to any action as a consequence of the referendum, it would be essential for Parliament to debate the matter and for the Government to obtain consent from Parliament.
On the question of what happens if we leave, may I enlighten the Foreign Secretary? First, there is no obligation to go for article 50. Secondly, we would be taking back control over our borders, our laws and the £10 billion a year net that we give to the European Union. It would buy us plenty of options, which the Government seem determined to prevent us even from discussing.
Repealing the Communities Act would leave us in no man’s land and would immediately cut us off not only from the EU but from other countries with whom we trade. Whereas Article 50 keeps us in the EU and maintains our trade agreements with non-EU countries during a negotiated divorce period, revoking the Communities Act would leave us with nothing. As we are not WTO members because we are in the EU, we would have huge problems. Mr Hammond explained:
My hon. Friend raises again the suggestion that there is no need to treat an exit vote as triggering a notice under article 50. He seems to suggest that there is some other way of doing it. He raised the question on Monday and I looked into it, because he caught my imagination, but I have to tell him that that is not the opinion of the experts inside Government and the legal experts to whom I have talked. We are bound by the treaty until such time as we have left the European Union. The treaty is a document of international law, and Ministers are obliged under the terms of the ministerial code to comply with international law at all times.
The UK’s current access to the single market would cease if we left the EU, and our trading agreements with 53 countries around the world would lapse. It is impossible to predict with any certainty what the market response would be, but it is inconceivable that the disruption would not have an immediate and negative effect on jobs, on business investment, on economic growth and on the pound. Those who advocate exit from the EU will need to address those consequences—the substantive consequences, of the kind that the British people will be most focused on—in the weeks and months of debate to come …
… I asked the Foreign Secretary earlier about the circumstances that would arise if the vote went for out and when article 50 would be invoked, and I have been reading the Library paper in preparation on exactly that issue. The Library paper suggests that the likely formulation would be that there would be a vote in this Chamber before the Government invoked the position, but the Government could say it was an Executive decision and just go ahead anyway. What it then goes on to argue is of great importance.
I wish to clarify something. I answered the right hon. Gentleman on this point earlier, but I have taken advice since. It is the Government’s position that if the electorate give a clear decision in this referendum to leave, the Government will proceed to serve an article 50 notice; there will be no need for a further process in this House.
In his blog, Conservative MP John Redwood foresees a combination of the two approaches. Whatever happens, we do not need lawyers getting involved:
Parliament effectively control the prerogative powers of government. The government can send a letter triggering Article 50 without asking Parliament. Like all such deeds Parliament can review or vote down any action of the government. If the government uses powers in ways Parliament does not like Parliament can pass a vote of no confidence. We do not need lawyers telling us how to legislate or control government.
It is understandable that Leavers, from voters to government campaigners, are concerned by the controversy surrounding Article 50 or the possibility that the result could be ignored.
The Spectator‘s readers have been mulling this over. One wrote:
A week ago on Friday, June 24, Britain woke up to a Brexit result and Prime Minister David Cameron tendering his resignation.
Today, I am starting a new, intermittent series called Brexit Chronicles to chart the progress of the result of the EU Referendum. As with my Brexit series, all posts can be found on my Marxism / Communism page.
Since then, we saw an intransigent leader of the Labour Party hold on, despite a clearance of the shadow Cabinet, which he quickly replaced. However, some party MPs and members are still calling for Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation for not having done enough to support the Remain campaign.
It seems to me Corbyn is a closet Leaver, but who knows?
Labour’s John McDonnell — shadow Chancellor — held a press conference today at which he said he expects a leadership challenge within the next few days.
The best scriptwriters in the world could not have devised a storyline as dramatic and unpredictable as the events of the past week.
I wrote on June 27 that Boris Johnson, the Leave campaign leader, spent the weekend planning his party leadership bid which, if successful, would have seen him accede to No. 10.
However, on June 30 — the deadline for Conservative Party leadership bids — the former two-term Mayor of London and serving MP announced he would not be running. Those attending his press conference were shocked. That includes his brother Jo, also an MP, who was planning on supporting his brother’s candidacy.
Dropping the bombshell to gasps of horror from some, he added: “Having consulted colleagues, and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me”.
Boris’s father Stanley Johnson, a former MEP, placed the blame for his son’s decision on Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Justice. Gove was supposed to have supported Boris and was at his home on Sunday. Gove had said many times before he had no intention of running for party leader and, by extension in this situation, PM. Then his tune changed and he threw his hat into the leadership ring this week:
… Stanley Johnson likened Mr Gove to the Roman senators who murdered Julius Caesar.
Stanley said: “’E[t] tu Brute’ is my comment on that.
“I don’t think he is called Brutus, but you never know.”
Gove blamed Boris and said that tension over his leadership bid had been building over the past several days. Gove concluded:
“I came to the conclusion that ultimately Boris could not build that team, and could not provide that leadership and that unity.
“It had to fall to someone else.”
He added: “There were a number of people who said to me during the week, Michael[,] it should be you’.
“As someone who had argued consistently that we should leave the European Union, and as someone who’s experienced at the highest levels in the Cabinet, I felt it had to fall to me.”
Boris’s people saw it differently. One said:
There was always an odd smell about Gove’s involvement.
Something wasn’t right from the beginning.
Another MP, Jake Berry, tweeted:
There is a very deep pit reserved in Hell for such as he.
Whilst voters are naturally disappointed Boris will not be running, someone in the know told me last weekend that he wouldn’t. I was shocked. Yet, some people close to him said that his backing of Leave was an opportunity to enter No. 10, not a firm personal conviction:
… many believed his backing for Brexit was a calculation — just the latest opportunistic move to further his career at the expense of any of his own real (if somewhat hazy) instincts.
Some venture, after observing him changing his mind on subjects as diverse as the EU and climate change, that he does not really believe in anything at all. Apart from, possibly, himself.
To thicken the plot further, Michael Gove’s wife Sarah Vine is a columnist for the Daily Mail and has written articles this week supporting her husband and explaining his decision.
Samantha Cameron has not taken this lightly. In fact, she is furious, vowing not to speak to the Goves again, even though they were close friends over the past 15 years.
Gove first provoked her earlier this year when he came out in favour of Brexit. Now she has termed his leadership bid as:
The PM’s wife was also livid about a newspaper article that Ms Vine had written to explain Mr Gove’s tortured dilemma, in which she aired his private conversations with the Premier about it.
The pair ended up raising their voices and “effing and blinding”, sources said.
They haven’t seen each other since, but did exchange texts last week to mark Sam’s 45th birthday.
But now the rift appears to have become irreparable given Mr Gove’s manoeuvring for the leadership.
The Guardian had a round-up of today’s headlines:
Julius Caesar aside, three more of the bard’s dramas got mentions too. The Scottish play was widely cited by writers who cast Michael Gove’s wife, Sarah Vine, as Lady Macbeth.
A Radio 4 reporter favoured the denoument of Hamlet, with bodies littering the stage, as the most appropriate description of the Conservative party carnage. And the Times thought Gove would now “have to find his inner Henry V.”
Along the way, there were also references to the House of Cards – Vine as Robin Wright’s ruthless Claire Underwood? – and to Game of Thrones (yet another example of Metro’s wonderfully apt front page headlines).
Most national newspaper editors chose straightforward descriptions in their headlines for what the Guardian’s Gaby Hinsliff rightly called “the most vertiginous fall in modern political history”: “Tory day of treachery” (Daily Mail); “An act of midnight treachery” (Daily Telegraph); “Dramatic act of betrayal” (The Times) and “The betrayal” (The Guardian).
The Sun, which devoted 11 pages to the story of Johnson’s transformation from hero to zero, preferred a pun, “Brexecuted”, while the Daily Mirror revelled in the chance to stick its own knife into Johnson: “Justice!”
Intrigue aside, four other MPs are running for party leader: Home Secretary Theresa May, Leave campaigner Andrea Leadsom, Leave sympathiser Dr Liam Fox and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb.
Leadsom is the only one who hasn’t served in a Cabinet post. As capable as she is — and despite her brilliance and courtesy during the EU referendum debates — the lack of Cabinet experience might hold her back.
Unless … Michael Gove has blotted his copybook. He held a press conference today. Only five MPs were in attendance. That could be because many were attending Battle of the Somme commemorations. It was still bad timing.
As I write on Friday morning and afternoon, betting odds — before Gove’s press conference — showed May in front and Leadsom in second place:
The campaign was fought … and the public gave their verdict. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door and no second referendum. … Brexit means Brexit.
And finally, on June 29, the Conservative Party held their summer party at the huge and exclusive Hurlingham Club, in London’s Fulham, along the Thames. (I’ve been there twice. It is unbelievable!)
The Sun reported that the mood was ‘very sombre’ and that the speeches were so supportive of David Cameron that, at one point, he was seen to be discreetly dabbing a tear from his eye.
My aforementioned insider acquaintance told me last weekend that few Conservative MPs have the stomach to exit from the European Union. Even those who do will try to find the best pro-EU compromise possible.
Leave voters are naturally frustrated by the delay, which, even with a new PM in place by the beginning of September, might not take place until the end of the year!
The sooner we start, the better off we will be. It seems we might be able to count on at least the shadow chancellor, Labour’s John McDonnell, who held a press conference today. The Guardian reported:
There is no appetite from McDonnell to contest the next election on a platform of staying in the EU, the shadow chancellor inferred in his speech today.
McDonnell says he wants to be absolutely clear on immigration. After the UK leaves the EU “free movement of labour and people will come to an end.”
Anti-immigration feeling stemmed from austerity and economic uncertainty, he says, which Labour also needs to confront.
Before the referendum vote, some in the Leave campaign implied that the UK would be able to hold informal negotiations before invoking Article 50. However, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström reiterated what other European leaders have said. We must trigger Article 50 before we can negotiate.
In the worst case scenario, it could take up to ten years to finalise negotiations.
However, Dr Liam Fox, one of the Conservatives running for party leadership, strongly criticised that notion:
He said it was ridiculous to think that French and German politicians would have to go into their national elections next year telling their electorates they do not know how much French wine or German cars they are going to be able to export. He said the commissioner’s stance was doubly bizarre since she had admitted her timetable and interpretation of the procedure would damage the economies of the EU.
Someone will have to hold the new PM’s feet to the fire on Article 50. There is no reason it could not be triggered as soon as s/he assumes office.
Andrea Leadsom is the only candidate who could be trusted to do it quickly. The others, even Theresa May, would no doubt obfuscate and find a variety of excuses to delay it.
Gove would not do it this year — nor does he expect anyone else to!
There is considerable undercurrent of tension right now. Government must end the uncertainty in September.
The Brexit result will further energise Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
It is easy to portray both Leavers and Trump supporters in the usual binary way: unenlightened, uneducated racists and bigots. However, there is more to the story.
In the case of Leave, perspectives were much more nuanced, regardless of what politicians, the media and Remainers say.
As a Leaver on PoliticalBetting.com put it on June 25:
The Leave coalition is quite a diverse one, lefty leavers were for Leave as a vote against globalization, centrist leavers supported Leave as a vote for democracy, right leavers supported Leave as a vote against mass immigration.
As Leave politicians said in the televised debates, their supporters favoured common sense over expert opinion.
The EU Referendum was won by people who rejected the political class, the media, corporatism (including big banks), experts and the elite.
On June 20, Tom Harris wrote an excellent column for The Telegraph, one which took issue with the haughtiness of the Remain camp. An excerpt follows:
Not many people would say it outright, but it’s implicit in some of the discussion around this that merely having a referendum is in itself a dangerous thing, a risk we should avoid.
This is obviously stupid on a surface level. We are a democracy, and democracy entails uncertainty. If we’re going to worry about “jitters” whenever we go to a vote, we might as well give up on the idea of voting at all. Focus groups including Welsh plumbers and single parents in Teesside could be disbanded in favour of specialised all-City panels (better dressed, better canapes). We’re not going to do that, so we’ll all have to find it in ourselves to accept the occasional market wobble.
But on a deeper level the saga of the pound also reveals the suffocating, restrictive groupthink which has dominated the last few months. Remain supporters talk less and less of the “positive” reasons for voting Remain, and more and more about how, since everyone else agrees with them, so should you. And another aspect of the same groupthink is the increasingly frequently stated view that, in fact, referendums in general are a bad thing, and that this should be the last one ever.
The little people (those who live outside SW1) just aren’t clever enough to decide on such a complicated issue as membership of the EU. All those facts and figures are just too difficult to analyse for themselves. That’s why we have a parliamentary democracy, so that our MPs can get on with running our lives while we focus on what’s important to us. Like whippets. Or eating fry-ups.
Harris rightly notes that, were it left up to Parliament, nothing would have been done about our place in the EU. David Cameron worked hard at renegotiating various aspects but, in reality, left Brussels with very few concessions.
We cannot be sure that the EU even ratified them.
The innate superiority of Remain was ever-present, as evidenced by this tweet from actor Robert Webb, a Cambridge graduate, who took issue with Boris Johnson’s Independence Day speech in the final debate on the BBC:
Johnson offers ‘hope’ with a clenched fist as a prelude to invoking ‘Independence Day’ to wild applause from thick people.
Television and talk radio journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer addressed similar sentiments in The Telegraph on June 22:
… perhaps you are afraid of being called a xenophobe or a racist or a Little Englander if you want to vote to control our borders? Well, rest assured that the many millions of people who are voting Leave on 23 June are not nasty, bitter old racists who want to go back to the 1950s. This isn’t about closing our borders and turning our backs on the world. On the contrary, this is about escaping the chains of the past and a positive vision for our future in the 21st century global economy. There is absolutely nothing racist or xenophobic about being concerned about the pressures on housing, schools, the NHS, our roads, public transport and community cohesion that years of mass uncontrolled immigration has brought.
In closing on the ‘little people’, betting patterns were interesting, with Remain on top until shortly after 2 a.m. on June 24. A PoliticalBetting.com reader contributed this comment on June 21 explaining why (emphases mine):
Ladbrokes political betting man on Sky News.
Says those betting on REMAIN bet an average of £450 whilst those betting on LEAVE bet on average less than £100.
So rich people placing bets on REMAIN and poorer people placing bets on LEAVE – no doubt based on the opinions of the people they mix with.
Hence the difference between the betting odds which strongly favour REMAIN and the pollsters’ 50/50.
On June 25, The Telegraph published an article discussing Vote Leave’s man behind the scenes, strategist Dominic Cummings, said to have won the referendum. He carefully ran various talking points by focus groups. In the end:
With a group of only 60 staff inside Westminster Tower and minimal resources, Mr Cummings virtually single-handedly plotted an “asymmetric” campaign against almost the entire political and financial establishment …
By early May, he had settled on the three key points that would form the basis for the final weeks of the campaign: a promise to take back control of £350million a week of taxpayers’ spending from Brussels; a promise to take back control over immigration; and warnings that countries such as Turkey and Serbia were in line to join the European Union in the years ahead.
The Remain team brought Obama over to tell us that if we didn’t vote to stay in the EU, we’d be at the ‘back of the queue’ with regard to the United States. More Project Fear. Ho hum.
Lord Ashcroft Polls has this helpful graphic which explains the reasons both sides voted the way they did:
Note the risk averse reasons from the Remain side versus the ‘take back control’ principles from Leave.
The disagreement about national sovereignty was acute. Remain did not even mention it, which recalls this quote from 1939 saying that national sovereignty is the root of all evil:
This Leaver’s letter to the editor (Telegraph?) further illustrates the Remain mindset:
I’ve just mugged a ‘Remain’ supporter — I took £350 out of his wallet, but he didn’t seem to mind.
I felt a bit sorry for him, so I gave him half of it back, but only on the condition that he spent it on things I say he can and that everything he buys should have a picture next to it of me saying I paid for it. He agreed!
We are meeting again tomorrow to do the same thing. He said that it was a fantastic idea and that he wouldn’t be able to survive without me.
Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed on June 23. The Telegraph published this letter on June 25:
SIR – An email that I received early on Friday from a dear Swedish friend said it all: “What you have done will mean so much for so many, and gives us all hope that democracy will survive and is stronger than all those who wish to control us. Thank you.”
What is Donald Trump gleaning from Brexit?
Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton and Obama sided with Remain. Trump, by contrast, saw it this way. In May, when asked of the possibility of leaving the EU, he said:
I would say that they’re better off without it, personally, but I’m not making that as a recommendation. Just my feeling.
On June 24, he issued a statement on Brexit:
Statement Regarding British Referendum on E.U. Membership
The people of the United Kingdom have exercised the sacred right of all free peoples. They have declared their independence from the European Union, and have voted to reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy. A Trump Administration pledges to strengthen our ties with a free and independent Britain, deepening our bonds in commerce, culture and mutual defense. The whole world is more peaceful and stable when our two countries – and our two peoples – are united together, as they will be under a Trump Administration.
Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first. They will have the chance to reject today’s rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by and for the people. I hope America is watching, it will soon be time to believe in America again.
He soon followed it up with a tweet:
Many people are equating BREXIT, and what is going on in Great Britain, with what is happening in the U.S. People want their country back!
When he was in Scotland last week to reopen his newly refurbished golf resort at Turnberry, he gave an interview to The Times in which he predicted the breakup of the EU:
“The people have spoken. I think the EU is going to break up. I think the EU might break up before anybody thinks in terms of Scotland.” Trump said in an interview with The Times.
“I really think that without the immigration issue [the EU] wouldn’t have had a chance of breaking up … the people are fed up, whether it’s here or in other countries. You watch: other countries will follow.” Trump added.
I’m less sure that immigration was the primary overall reason. It was the continual loss of sovereignty that many of us found frustrating. Regardless of what pro-EU people say, many European nations’ laws come from EU directives that must be enacted and obeyed, whether those concern weights and measures and fruit shapes or — coming soon — defence policy and tax ID numbers.
Just before Trump went to Scotland, he gave a well-received speech on June 22, in which he explained why he was running for president, his reasons for opposing Clinton — and how he perceives the current state of play in America.
This sounds very similar to Leave’s perspective:
Everywhere I look, I see the possibilities of what our country could be. But we can’t solve any of these problems by relying on the politicians who created them.
We will never be able to fix a rigged system by counting on the same people who rigged it in the first place.
The insiders wrote the rules of the game to keep themselves in power and in the money.
That’s why we’re asking Bernie Sanders’ voters to join our movement: so together we can fix the system for ALL Americans. Importantly, this includes fixing all of our many disastrous trade deals.
Because it’s not just the political system that’s rigged. It’s the whole economy.
It’s rigged by big donors who want to keep down wages.
It’s rigged by big businesses who want to leave our country, fire our workers, and sell their products back into the U.S. with absolutely no consequences for them.
It’s rigged by bureaucrats who are trapping kids in failing schools.
It’s rigged against you, the American people.
That is the Leviathan that Leavers opposed on Thursday, June 23.
Americans will have that same opportunity on Tuesday, November 8.
Brexit proved that every vote counts.
The same holds true for American voters.
The newspapers from April 23 and 24 presented the worst case scenarios for British business in case of Brexit.
One of the reasons the government is delaying triggering Article 50, which formally begins Leave proceedings with Brussels, is to give businesses time to plan for the future. There are, of course, other reasons for the delay, mainly David Cameron’s resignation. He clearly said that his successor, to be decided by October, will be the one to invoke the article.
The business section of Le Monde on June 23 had two good articles about Brexit. One of their correspondents, Eric Albert, interviewed a few British business experts (‘Le casse-tête des accords commerciaux post-Brexit’, Économie et Entreprise, p. 4). Highlights follow, translation and emphases mine.
How much of British trade is with the EU?
Currently, the European Union (EU) represents 45% of British exports and clarifying the commercial trading framework will be a matter of urgency.
Article 50 provides for a two-year period of exit negotiation. After two years, it can be renewed and extended.
‘The most rapid EU free trade agreement to date, with South Korea, took four years to be negotiated,’ recalls Jessica Gladstone from the legal firm Clifford Chance. ‘Negotiations between the EU and the United Kingdom could be accelerated, but both parties would have to agree to that.’
At the moment, there are no trade frameworks that would ideally suit the UK’s position.
Norway is not part of the EU, but it is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and benefits from full access to the single market. But, in return, it is obliged to follow the rules and regulations from Brussels; it contributes annually to the EU budget and it abides by free movement of persons. For the United Kingdom, this would change nothing.
Relations between Switzerland and the EU are founded on nearly 120 bilateral agreements. But these do not include financial services, extremely important to the United Kingdom.
Turkey currently has access to the single market without accepting free movement. But that agreement pertains only to goods, not services. Yet, 80% of the British economy relies on services, particularly financial services. Furthermore, Turkey is obliged to adopt European rules and regulations.
Other countries — Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Ukraine — have distinctive agreements which include various aspects of political collaboration. However, those agreements are designed to help those countries become members of the EU. Britain would not benefit from that type of framework.
Another possibility is for Britain to return as a member of the World Trade Organisation. However, that would mean that customs and tariffs applied between the UK and EU. In short, the UK would be no different to India or China in that respect.
So, this leaves the UK in a position of having to renegotiate all 53 free trade agreements which exist between the EU and the rest of the world in order to maintain the commercial status quo in a Brexit Britain. Brussels would have to make significant concessions to Britain, which seems unlikely, but who knows? We would need to have a trading framework specifically tailored to our needs.
Another article on the same page in Le Monde was a Q&A with Andrew Balls, fund manager at Pimco (‘”La faiblesse des salaires nourrit le rejet d’Europe“‘). Balls explained — as the title says — that the British rejected Europe because of increasingly weak salaries.
Reporter Marie Charrel asked Balls whether Brexit would have as ‘violent’ an effect on the UK as the economic crash of 2008. Balls said that, outside of initial market and currency dips in the immediate aftermath, he did not foresee chronic problems in the long term. This is because everyone was aware we were undertaking an EU referendum, whereas no one foresaw Lehman Brothers failing in 2008.
Charrel then asked him what the overall financial impact of Brexit would be. Balls replied:
The heaviest consequences would be concentrated on the British economy. The doubts about an exit process, which could last for months, would penalise investment. A recession is not out of the question, but, overall, [making] any estimates would be tricky.
For the European Union, economic consequences would be more limited. We are much more worried about political risks that a Brexit would only amplify: the rise of Eurosceptic populists, Spanish legislative elections on June 26, the Italian referendum on constitutional reform this autumn … The list is a long one.
She then asked Balls the reasons for these political risks. He said:
Populist movements in Italy or in France, just as the rejection of the EU in the United Kingdom and even the popularity of the Republican Donald Trump in the United States have one thing in common: they are fed by weak growth and salaries which have been going on for years. Moreover, a number of citizens feel that aid given to the banking sector has not actually benefited the economy, and that income inequality has been further reinforced during this crisis [of 2008].
One wonders if our Treasury started developing Brexit plans during the campaign, despite our Chancellor George Osborne’s Project Fear. It could be he was so confident of Remain winning that no one thought of developing — or was allowed to formulate — a Plan B(rexit).