Trump wants UK National Health Service included in trade negotiations

Donald Trump’s visit to the UK was always going to be controversial. He has strongly supported Brexit, something that is dividing the UK. But Trump has upped the ante – he says that when US-UK trade takes start after Brexit (if it ever happens) he wants the UK National Health Service to be opened up to US companies.

Fortune: There’s One Subject in the U.K. That’s as Toxic as Brexit. Trump Just Waded Into It

Once, advocates of the U.K.’s departure from the European Union argued that Brexit would mean more government funding for the country’s National Health Service, or NHS.

Now, President Donald Trump has confirmed the opposite: in trade talks between the U.S. and U.K., which will take place once Brexit has gone into effect, the U.S. wants the U.K. to open up the cherished British public health system to American companies.

“I think everything with a trade deal is on the table… NHS and anything else, a lot more than that,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday, on the second day of his state visit.

The president was responding to a question about whether he agreed with the U.S ambassador to the U.K., Woody Johnson, who said Sunday that he assumed the NHS “would be on the table” in the imminent trade talks, as the negotiations would account for the entire British economy. And his response has already elicited fury among leading politicians from across the British political spectrum.

The public nature of the NHS, which has been free to use for seven decades, is practically seen as sacred in the U.K., and attempts to change that status are politically toxic. A degree of privatization has been taking place in recent years, but NHS bosses want to reverse the process by squeezing out local for-profit contractors such as Virgin Care and Care U.K.

Further opening up the NHS to American contractors would therefore be an explosive political development. The U.S. ambassador’s comment prompted British Health Secretary Matt Hancock—one of the contenders for May’s job, as she is about to step down—to defend the health service in unequivocal terms.

However it’s hard to see much progress being made on US-UK trade talks at this stage. Brexit looks to be far from resolved, and the Prime Minister who Trump is meeting with, Theresa May, is soon stepping down. The NHS is likely to now feature in the contest for leadership of the Conservative party and the country.

RNZ: Trump praises ‘extraordinary’ US-UK alliance on state visit

US President Donald Trump has said the US and UK have the “greatest alliance the world has ever known”.

That’s what you would expect when the current leaders of the US and UK are the greatest the world has ever known.

The US president met Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage at the US ambassador’s residence, Winfield House. Mr Farage tweeted that it was a “good meeting” and Mr Trump “really believes in Brexit”.

Mr Trump also said he turned down a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn, who addressed protesters in Westminster. Mr Trump said Mr Corbyn was a “negative force”. “I really don’t like critics as much as I like and respect people who get things done,” he said.

Mrs May said the scope of trade talks had to be agreed by both countries.

Asked if the NHS would be included in post-Brexit trade talks, Mr Trump said “everything is on the table”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was among several Conservative leadership candidates hoping to replace Theresa May who said they would not allow the NHS to become part of any trade talks. “Not on my watch,” he tweeted.

Perhaps the US will play a Trump card – impose tariffs on the UK unless they hand their health system over to US companies.

New Brexit plan flopping, May faces calls to resign

From Missy:

Theresa May is under growing pressure tonight. It is reported that Theresa May is facing 3 seperate coup attempts tonight. There is incredible anger in the Conservative party over her offer of a Second Referendum, she has now broken every last promise and gone back on her word at every point.

A succession of Cabinet Ministers are expected to have one-on-one meetings with the PM today to tell her not to put her new Brexit deal to the vote, this is seen as tantamount to telling her to quit. Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, and David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary are believed to be the first to go to the PM telling her they will not support the deal.

A delegation of junior ministers has told the chief whip they will resign if the new Brexit deal goes to the vote. It is unknown how many are in this delegation, but it is speculated that it includes Remainers and Brexit supporters alike, neither are happy wiht this deal as it is seen as appeasing the Labour Party.

Finally, the 1922 committee are meeting tonight to again discuss changing the rules to reduce the time between confidence votes from 12 months to 6 months.

On top of this Macron today has backed Michel Barnier for the position of European Commission President when it comes up after Juncker’s term ends later this year, and he has also said that he will not allow a further extension to Brexit, (though he said this last time and ended up voting for the extension).

Cabinet sources are reporting that May will most likely resign on Monday in a podium moment, after the final results for the EU elections are in. Note: Monday is the early summer Bank Holiday in the UK, so if she is going to make an announcement it may be delayed until Tuesday.

Just a note on the EU elections. Due to different voting days across Europe, and the Proportional nature of the votes the results won’t be known until late on Sunday evening, but it is expected to be a humiliation for the Conservatives, especially after May’s revised Brexit agreement.


Reuters: Time to resign? UK PM May’s final Brexit gambit bombs

British Prime Minister Theresa May was under growing pressure to resign on Wednesday after her final Brexit gambit was rejected across the board by lawmakers and even criticized by some of her own ministers.

May’s future, which she herself had curtailed by offering to resign to get her deal through parliament, was hanging by a thread after she softened her position on a second Brexit referendum and customs arrangements with the European Union.

The calls for her resignation further deepened Britain’s Brexit crisis. Almost three years since Britain voted to leave the EU and just under two months after the scheduled departure, it is not clear when, how or even if Brexit will happen.

In her last pitch on Tuesday to get her divorce deal approved by Britain’s deeply divided parliament, she offered lawmakers a vote on whether to hold a second Brexit referendum — once her legislation passes the first stage — as well as closer trading arrangements with the EU in future as incentives.

But the backlash was swift and fierce.

Both ruling Conservative and opposition Labour lawmakers criticized May’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill, or WAB, legislation which implements the terms of Britain’s twice-delayed departure.

There were some signs of support for May in parliament, but swathes of empty Conservative benches during Wednesday’s debate underlined the fact that many of her fiercest critics had decided to stay away.

“The proposed second reading of the WAB is clearly doomed to failure so there really is no point wasting any more time on the prime minister’s forlorn hope of salvation,” Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative lawmaker, told Reuters. “She’s got to go.”

BBC: Calls grow for Theresa May to resign in bill backlash

Several cabinet ministers have told the BBC that she cannot stay, with one saying it is “the end of the line”.

Others, though, insist Theresa May should push on with her plan to put her Withdrawal Agreement Bill to a vote.

Sources have told the BBC that the chief whip, Julian Smith, has informed backbench MPs that the prime minister is not resigning.

Nevertheless, the BBC’s political editor says it appears the government is almost at breakdown.

May’s government has seemed almost at breakdown for months as May has botched attempt after attempt at putting an acceptable Brexit plan to Parliament.

Having the referendum before any plan had been decided on has proven to be a disaster for Britain. And May’s leadership is proving to be another disaster on top of that.

The problem is, if May is deposed as Prime Minister what then? It’s hard to see how anyone could sort out this mess.


Updates from Missy:

The Chief Whip addressed the 1922 Committee, he apparently told them that the PM was not going tonight. He is also reported as saying that the PM will continue campaigning and is focussed on the EU elections.

The 1922 Committee completed their meeting with no decision made on changing the rules, again it seems they bottled it. It is being reported that the chair of the 1922 Committee will meet with Theresa May on Friday.

May has apparently refused to meet with senior members of the Cabinet today. It is unclear if she will meet with them this week.

UK update on Brexit

Missy has updated what is happening in the UK with Brexit.


So, a lot has been happening in the UK / Europe over the last week, though some has been a re-run of what has been happening for the last year, some is new. Over the next few days I will try to catch everyone up.

Tonight: The Conservatives, or more specifically, Theresa May.

Tonight Theresa May outlined her ‘bold new Withdrawal Agreement’ which will go to Parliament in the first week of June for a vote. This will be the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

I haven’t had a chance to read everything around the ‘bold new agreement’ proposed by May, but from what I can gather it includes a compromise to try and get Labour MPs on side.

May has been trying to negotiate with Labour to come up with an Agreement that could pass in Westminster that she could take back to Brussels, however, last week Corbyn declared that the talks were over and no agreement had been reached.

The main points of the WA that May outlined this afternoon are:
i) Alternative arrangements to stop Irish backstop coming into force
ii) If backstop happens, Great Britain to stay aligned with Northern Ireland
iii) Approve treaties with EU
iv) A new workers’ rights bill
v) Ensure environmental standards the same as EU; set up new independent office of environmental protection
vi) Seek as close as possible to frictionless trade with EU
vii) Work towards common standards of food products with EU
viii) MPs to vote on a customs union compromise
ix) MPs to vote on whether second referendum needed on withdrawal bill
x) MPs to vote on political agreement

There is very little here that is different, and what is different panders to Remainers and Labour. This has turned many who voted for the previous agreement against her. It is expected that she will have a much larger defeat than she did in March.

Many in her party held their nose to vote for her agreement in March believing it was the only way to leave the EU by 29 March, when she broke that promise I think she lost some of the support. May appears to be trying to use the same tactics as previously by threatening no Brexit if MPs do not vote for her deal. The problem she has this time is twofold, her own party are making moves to ensure she is gone by the end of Summer (the leadership race has begun) and the EU elections on Thursday indicate the annihilation of the Conservative Party in Europe.

Over the last few weeks the pressure has come on Theresa May to resign, she stubbornly refuses to resign until her Withdrawal Agreement passes.

Over the last few weeks Theresa May has had several meetings with members of the Parliamentary Parliament, most notably the 1922 Committee. What has come from these meetings is that she will resign by the end of July if her withdrawal agreement passes, though many are working on how they can force her out regardless.

Despite the possibility of her not keeping her word the leadership race has begun.

So far Esther McVey, Boris Johnson, and Rory Stewart have all declared they will run, Andrea Leadsom is considering it. Other contenders are Michael Gove, Amber Rudd, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss and Priti Patel.

Brexit Party contesting local UK and EU elections

Missy reports from London about the quick success of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party in the UK.

The UK is on election footing at the moment for (first) local elections and (second) EU elections in May.

Many Conservatives have openly switched to Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party (it is what it says on the tin), and today it was reported that 40% of Conservative Councillors will support the Brexit Party, this comes as many Conservative grassroots activists have said that they will not campaign for the Conservatives until the UK has left the EU.

The Brexit Party launched just over a week ago and is already leading in the polls for the EU elections, and as the EU Parliament is decided on proportional representation there is a fear amongst Remainers in the UK, and in the EU, that they may gain the majority of the UK seats.

Wikipedia: The Brexit Party

The Brexit Party is a pro-Brexit Eurosceptic political party in the United Kingdom, formed in 2019. The party has fourteen Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), all of whom were originally elected as UK Independence Party (UKIP) candidates. The party is led by one of these MEPs, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who announced he would stand as a candidate for the party in any future European Parliament elections, in the event the UK had not left the European Union.

The Brexit Party website headlines:

Change Politics For Good

Democracy is under threat, join us to start the fightback.

We Are The 17.4 Million

Britain Can Do better Than This

Their pinned tweet on launching

Recent tweets:

Guardian:  Nigel and Annunziata’s Brexit show basks in the sun, but winter is coming

On Saturday Nigel Farage made a triumphant return to Nottingham, where, five years ago, when leader of UKIP, he was hit with an egg by a protester. Much has changed since, and now Farage is leader of the Brexit party, which was holding a rally at the city’s Albert Hall.

Beforehand Farage went on a walkabout in the town centre with a small band of activists carrying placards with the defiant legend “Fighting back”. Against whom? I asked one. “The government,” came the reply. Other answers included “the establishment”, “the political class” and “all of ‘em”.

There were, however, plenty of genuine supporters queueing outside the Albert Hall in the glorious afternoon sunshine.

Farage duly announced that the Brexit party would be “intolerant of all forms of intolerance”. And on stage he called for a greater “civility” in British politics, before going on to denounce local Nottinghamshire MP Anna Soubry as “dishonest” and “undemocratic”.

“Nelson, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Ian Botham and Nigel Farage, they’re the people who put the Great into Britain,” said Gary Wilkinson, a retired railway worker.

But no one could upstage Farage, the professionally reluctant politician, driven by the burden of history and his unsleeping conscience to again take up the fight, in the words of the Brexit party slogan, to “Change Politics For Good”. He gave a declamatory speech, full of sweat, denunciation and sideswipes at the likes of EU Commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker and Lord Adonis.

The Brexit Party may well change politics in the UK and potentially in the EU, but it’s too soon to know if it will be for good or not. But it doesn’t look good for Theresa May and the Conservatives, who have been split over Brexit. Missy points out:

Today it is reported that May has been told to resign before the end of June or face the party rules being changed to allow for another vote of no confidence in her as leader, this is not only due to her handling of Brexit, but also down to the amount of support that the Conservatives are losing as a result of their failure on Brexit.

Politics has been in a mess in the UK for years now, and it doesn’t look like improving any time soon.

Summary on Brexit

A summary on what hasn’t been happening about Brexit from Missy:


Due to some matters beyond my control I have not been able to post on the Brexit dramas of the last couple of weeks, so sorry if anyone missed the posts, though to be honest you haven’t missed anything in terms of Brexit as it hasn’t happened yet – despite supposed to have happened on 29 March.

A Quick summary of the main points:

  1.  May has yet again asked for an extension from the EU, she wanted one until 30 June, but has agreed to an extension up until 31 October. I am not sure if this means the UK will have to partake in European Elections (I hope so).
  2. The Government and Labour have been in talks to come up with an agreement that could pass the house, it would most likely include a second referendum and remaining in the customs union (nicely referred to as a customs union so as not to make voters think they aren’t leaving). Though both have reportedly been ruled out by Theresa May (as was extending beyond 29 March, extending beyond 22 May, extending beyond 30 June…. )
  3. Earlier this week a new law was given Royal Consent requiring the PM to go back to the EU to ask for an extension if directed by Parliament, and effectively ruling out the UK voluntarily leaving without a deal, which means the UK are at the mercy of the EU regarding their leaving arrangements. However, I haven’t read the law, and this morning there was discussion about it where a lawyer indicated that it does not require her to follow Parliament’s direction after this extension, and that it just pertained to going back for an extension this time. I don’t know if that is correct, but we can only hope.
  4. A group has taken court action against the Government stating that extending Brexit is in fact illegal under UK law and the UK should have left on 29 March with no agreement.

All in all this seems very much an action by May to try and force Parliament to vote for her deal, it is becoming a bit of a stand off between her and Parliament.

The Conservatives cannot bring another Confidence vote in her leadership until December under their party rules, however, one can hope that enough pressure is applied to her that will force her to quit (though I doubt it). In May there are local body elections, and many campaigning have already stated they are having problems, Conservative candidates are being told they will not get votes due to not having left the EU yet, some Conservative activists and volunteers have gone on strike and are refusing to campaign, and the Conservatives are down 10 points in the polls.

May seeks Brexit extension, and asks for Opposition help on withdrawal agreement

More votes, more meetings, and but no more progress on Brexit in the UK. Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking an extension to the looming deadline, and is asking Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to work together on finding a way forward that is not a total disaster.

BBC:  UK needs further Brexit extension – May

Theresa May will ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline to “break the log jam” in Parliament.

The PM says she wants to meet Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to agree a plan on the future relationship with the EU.

But she insisted her withdrawal agreement – which was voted down last week – would remain part of the deal.

Mrs May said she wanted the extension to be “as short as possible” – before 22 May so the UK does not have to take part in European elections.

Another Brexit vote, another rejection

Political dysfunction continues in the UK.

BBC – Brexit: MPs reject May’s EU withdrawal agreement

MPs have rejected Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement on the day the UK was due to leave the EU.

The government lost by 344 votes to 286, a margin of 58.

It means the UK has missed an EU deadline to delay Brexit to 22 May and leave with a deal.

The prime minister said the UK would have to find “an alternative way forward”, which was “almost certain” to involve holding European elections.

Mrs May now has until 12 April to seek a longer extension to the negotiation process to avoid a no-deal Brexit on that date.

With a clear majority in the Commons against a no-deal Brexit, and with MPs holding more votes on alternative plans on Monday, Mrs May said that the UK would have to find “an alternative way forward”.

The prime minister said that the outcome was “a matter of profound regret”, adding that “I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House”.

Despite the referendum two years ago the UK parliament seems unable to work things out.

May said she would resign if a withdrawal agreement was reached, but someone quipped that that was a threat – ‘vote for what I want or I will stay as Prime Minister’.

In the meantime:

 

May offers resignation after Brexit deal

Many may see this gesture as far too late, but Theresa May has offered to resign if she gets her latest Brexit deal through the UK Parliament.

RNZ:  Theresa May says she’ll step down once Brexit delivered

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has told her Conservative Party MPs she will hand over the leadership once Brexit is delivered.

Mrs May said she would not stay in power for the next phase of Brexit talks on the future trading relationship.

But she did not set a firm departure date, according to Tory MPs who were at the meeting where Mrs May spoke.

Mrs May said she knew there was a desire in the Conservative Party for a new approach in the second phase of Brexit negotiations.

“I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.”

Speaking after the meeting, Tory MP James Cartlidge said: “My recollection is that she said she would not remain in post for the next phase of the negotiations, the implication being that once the withdrawal agreement has passed, she would make way for someone else.”

Tory MP Simon Hart told BBC’s journalist Nick Watt that Mrs May had said she would want to pass her Brexit withdrawal agreement and then set in motion process to replace her.

In the meantime MPs will be voting on eight different options ranging from leaving the European Union without a deal to cancelling Brexit altogether.

However the government has made it clear it won’t necessarily be bound by the results.

Replacing May now would probably make sorting out the Brexit mess even more difficult, but she deserves to go over her mishandling of it.

Brexit debacle – House of Commons rules out another “same in substance” vote

Theresa May and her Government have had another setback in trying to make progress on Brexit, with another vote in Parliament ruled out unless there is “demonstrable change”.

May should know that repeating the same mistake is not a good idea, but House of Commons Speaker John Bercow says she can’t even do that.

Politico: Parliament speaker rules out third vote on ‘same’ Brexit deal

Theresa May’s government cannot hold a third vote on its Brexit deal without securing a “demonstrable change” agreed with the EU, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled, throwing the government’s plans into further chaos.

In a surprise announcement that took both ministers and MPs by surprise, Bercow said that according to parliamentary conventions dating as far back as 1604, the government could not hold repeated votes in the House of Commons on a motion that was the “same in substance.”

fter her deal was heavily voted down in both January and then again last week, May had kept the option open of bringing it back the House of Commons for a third time before this week’s European Council summit where, in the absence of a ratified deal, she will request a potentially lengthy extension to the Article 50 negotiating period, delaying Brexit and forcing the U.K. to participate in upcoming European elections.

Ministers had said that a third vote would only be attempted this week if the government was confident it could win.

After previous heavy defeats it’s hard to see how they could be confident of anything.

Bercow’s ruling appears to have buried any prospect of a vote this week altogether.

As speaker, Bercow’s interpretations of House of Commons conventions are essentially binding unless and until the Commons votes as a majority to break with an established convention.

It is also possible that the government could in theory bring back largely the same deal, but with additional side agreements with the EU, or potentially changes to the non-binding political declaration on the future relationship. Bercow said he would “have to look at the particulars” of any such changes to rule whether they were “in order.”

“I do think a demonstrable change to the proposition would be required,” he said, when asked by Labour MP Hilary Benn whether a new vote would require changes agreed with the EU. “For example, simply a change in an opinion about something wouldn’t itself constitute a change in the offer. So I would have to look the particulars.”

May and her Government seem to have no idea how to proceed with Brexit.

Brexit: Theresa May is now looking like another disaster

From Missy:


As reported yesterday Theresa May did a quick trip to Strasbourg to meet with Juncker (other EU Presidents were also in attendance, along with their Brexit team). At the end of the meeting an agreement was made, and this came out in two statements – one a joint statement, and the second a unilateral statement by May.

Theresa May’s statement outlined what the UK’s understanding of the backstop was, that it is temporary and not a permanent solution. May’s statement also says that if the EU fails to come to an agreement to remove the backstop, then the UK would consider that the backstop had become de facto permanent. This means the UK will have the right to take the EU to the joint arbitration mechanism, it does not mean the UK has a unilateral exit mechanism, nor does it provide a fixed time limit – the two things the House of Commons asked May to try and get if she could not get the backstop removed.

The joint instrument is an 18 point statement which clarifies the commitments both sides make to each other, without changing the Withdrawal Agreement. this interprets how the EU and UK would handle the backstop if it ever came into force. This agreement contains legally binding assurances as opposed to being part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and falls short of what some want.

This morning the Brexit supporting MPs were cautious about the agreements reached last night, all saying they wanted time to read, digest, and analyse the agreement, some stating they would wait for the Attorney General’s legal advice on it before making a decision, and many in the ERG saying they will defer a decision until they had spoken to the DUP.

The AG’s advice was published at around 1130 this morning, and states that the agreement does not change anything as the UK could still find itself trapped in the backstop with no way out. The DUP and Brexiteers have rejected the agreement based on the AG’s advice.

What was looking hopeful this morning for Theresa May is now looking like another disaster for her in the Commons, with some MPs saying she cannot stay in position if she loses again and others saying she needs to call a General Election when she loses the vote. The vote is set down for 7.00pm tonight.