Examining the Russian media war

A very interesting article by Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times that claims Russian influence in what has become known as fake news, used to promote discord and protest and to interfere in elections in countries around the world.

Examples are given of interference in Germany over immigration, in the UK over Brexit, and in the US election.

RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War

How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century — and why it may be impossible to stop.

…Steltner found the phone calls he received that morning confounding. They came from police officers from towns far outside Berlin, who reported that protests were erupting, seemingly out of nowhere, on their streets. “They are demonstrating — ‘Save our children,’ ‘No attacks from immigrants on our children’ and some things like that,” Steltner told me when I met him in Berlin recently.

The police were calling Steltner because this was ostensibly his office’s fault. The protesters were angry over the Berlin prosecutor’s supposed refusal to indict three Arab migrants who, they said, raped a 13-year-old girl from Berlin’s tight-knit Russian-German community.

Steltner, who would certainly have been informed if such a case had come up for prosecution, had heard nothing of it. He called the Berlin Police Department, which informed him that a 13-year-old Russian-German girl had indeed gone missing a week before. When she resurfaced a day later, she told her parents that three “Southern-looking men” — by which she meant Arab migrants — had yanked her off the street and taken her to a rundown apartment, where they beat and raped her.

But when the police interviewed the girl, whose name was Lisa, she changed her story. She had left home, it turned out, because she had gotten in trouble at school. Afraid of how her parents would react, she went to stay with a 19-year-old male friend. The kidnapping and gang rape, she admitted, never happened.

The allegations were false, but Russian news agencies kept publishing them, promoting protests and discord over immigration in Germany.

Officials in Germany and at NATO headquarters in Brussels view the Lisa case, as it is now known, as an early strike in a new information war Russia is waging against the West. In the months that followed, politicians perceived by the Russian government as hostile to its interests would find themselves caught up in media storms that, in their broad contours, resembled the one that gathered around Merkel.

They often involved conspiracy theories and outright falsehoods — sometimes with a tenuous connection to fact, as in the Lisa case, sometimes with no connection at all — amplified until they broke through into domestic politics. In other cases, they simply helped promote nationalist, far-left or far-right views that put pressure on the political center.

What the efforts had in common was their agents: a loose network of Russian-government-run or -financed media outlets and apparently coordinated social-media accounts.

And this is effective. This is evident in New Zealand where ordinary people, especially those with conspiracy tendencies or with strong views about things like immigration or politics, pick up on and amplify the messages – which is of course one of the aims.

After RT and Sputnik gave platforms to politicians behind the British vote to leave the European Union, like Nigel Farage, a committee of the British Parliament released a report warning that foreign governments may have tried to interfere with the referendum.

Russia and China, the report argued, had an “understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals” and practiced a kind of cyberwarfare “reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion.”

I wouldn’t rule out other countries either, like North Korea, from the Middle East – and the US, who are also one of the main targets.

But all of this paled in comparison with the role that Russian information networks are suspected to have played in the American presidential election of 2016.

In early January, two weeks before Donald J. Trump took office, American intelligence officials released a declassified version of a report — prepared jointly by the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency — titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections.” It detailed what an Obama-era Pentagon intelligence official, Michael Vickers, described in an interview in June with NBC News as “the political equivalent of 9/11.”

“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the authors wrote. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency.” According to the report, “Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

The intelligence assessment detailed some cloak-and-dagger activities, like the murky web of Russian (if not directly government-affiliated or -financed) hackers who infiltrated voting systems and stole gigabytes’ worth of email and other documents from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

But most of the assessment concerned machinations that were plainly visible to anyone with a cable subscription or an internet connection: the coordinated activities of the TV and online-media properties and social-media accounts that made up, in the report’s words, “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine.”

The assessment devoted nearly half its pages to a single cable network: RT. The Kremlin started RT — shortened from the original Russia Today — a dozen years ago to improve Russia’s image abroad.

But it is not simple to isolate and combat.

Plenty of RT’s programming, to outward appearances, is not qualitatively different from conventional opinion-infused cable news.

Its fans point to its coverage of political perspectives that aren’t prominent on mainstream networks — voices from the Occupy movement, the libertarian right and third parties like the Green Party. The network has been nominated for four International Emmy Awards and one Daytime Emmy.

This makes RT and Sputnik harder for the West to combat than shadowy hackers.

 RT might not have amassed an audience that remotely rivals CNN’s in conventional terms, but in the new, “democratized” media landscape, it doesn’t need to.

Over the past several years, the network has come to form the hub of a new kind of state media operation: one that travels through the same diffuse online channels, chasing the same viral hits and memes, as the rest of the Twitter-and-Facebook-age media.

In the process, Russia has built the most effective propaganda operation of the 21st century so far, one that thrives in the feverish political climates that have descended on many Western publics.

It is a long article but worth reading if you have any interest in international propaganda and information wars.

As stated it is not just the use of news organisations, it is the use of social media as well. Facebook is gradually admitting how they were used during the US election campaign.

Reuters: Facebook says some Russian ads during U.S. election promoted live events

Some of the ads bought by Russians on Facebook last year promoted events during the U.S. presidential campaign, Facebook Inc said on Tuesday, indicating that alleged meddling ahead of the 2016 election went beyond social media.

Facebook said in a statement that its takedown of what the company last week called Russian-affiliated pages included shutting down “several promoted events.”

Facebook declined to provide details of the promoted events.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, said last week that an operation likely based in Russia had placed thousands of U.S. ads with polarizing views on topics such as immigration, race and gay rights on the site during a two-year period through May 2017.

The Daily Beast, the news website that first reported on the promoted events posted on Facebook, said one advertisement promoted an anti-immigrant rally in Idaho in August 2016.

The rally was hosted by a Facebook group called “Secured Borders,” which was a Russian front and is now suspended, according to the Daily Beast.

In social media they commonly target people who want to believe certain things and  spread issues that have dubious merit.

Morgan and the Macron miracle

The UK vote for Brexit surprised, the election of Donald trump in the US shocked, and then Emmanuel Macron came from virtually nowhere to win the French presidency.

Then Theresa May destroyed a significant advantage to end a disastrous campaign still ahead of the rapidly improving left wing maverick Jeremy Corbyn but severely weakened, both in government and as Prime Minister.

Now France is voting for their Parliament, and exit polls suggest that Macron’s party En Marche will win a majority. Not bad for a party that didn’t exist at the start of last year.

So around the world voters are make decisions that seem to stick it to traditional politics and the status quo.

Could it happen in New Zealand?

Winston Peters and NZ First are often promoted as the king maker, with the baubles of power virtually a formality. But Peters is very old hat and has been there, done that before.

Will voters look for something different?

Barry Soper writes:  In politics anything is possible

Think about it, Prime Minister Gareth Morgan, leading a majority government with half of his MPs never having been elected to office before.

Sounds absurd? Yes well it’s highly unlikely to happen but these days in politics anything is possible as we’re seeing in France at the moment which has to be the political story to beat them all.

The 47 million French voters are again today going to the polls and are expected to give their new 39-year-old President Emmanuel Macron a healthy majority. It’s spectacular because Macron’s party was only founded by him in April last year.

After he won the Presidency last month he was on his own, he didn’t have one MP in the French Assembly. Since then he’s had to cobble together 577 candidates to stand for his party and after the first round of voting they led in 400 constituencies, more than half of them women.

And it looks like En Marche has succeeded.

Let Macron’s success be a warning to those established political parties who think elections are a walk in the park. The Socialists who ran the last French Government failed to scrape together even ten percent of the vote.

Here in New Zealand National obviously have the most to lose, but voters here have shown a reluctance to take big risks. They have preferred a stable government but without absolute power.

NZ First are in the box seat to hold the balance of power, but it’s possible a real alternative is considered.

The 5% threshold is a long shot for a new party, something that hasn’t been achieved before here.

The newly formed Conservative Party got a 2.65% in 2011, and increased to 3.97% in 2014, creditable but not enough. They are out of contention now after the political collapse of Colin Craig.

The only option looks to be TOP. Morgan doesn’t look like getting his party close at this stage, but there is three months to go.

Recent overseas elections have shown that anything is possible, even the unexpected, but a major surprise looks unlikely here.

 

 

The ‘Meh’ election?

There seems to be two major things at play around the Western world in elections, interference by hacking, and a growing dissatisfaction of voters.

Attempts to influence elections via social media manipulation and data hacks, allegedly by the Russians may or may not be making a difference but the intent seems clear.

It looks likely that Marine Le Pen will lose the French election but the fact that a candidate like her can come second shows that many voters are wanting something relatively radical to replace what they have now.

The UK election is certain to have some social media skulduggery but we will have to wait and see if hackers succeed in obtaining data to try and at least disrupt proceedings there – however it’s hard to see anything getting in the way of Jeremy Corbyn dragging Labour down to a bad defeat there.

Coming up in September Germany have their elections and there are already rumblings about attempted interference there.

And in New Zealand we have our election in September too.

We have already had an attempt to swing an election here by hacking, when Nicky Hager launched his Dirty Politics book in the lead up to the 2014 election using illegally obtained emails and other communications. It’s unlikely the Russians were involved in that but they may well have learnt something from.

What may not have been learnt from the New Zealand example is that using hacked data to influence an election can backfire, or at least fail to fire the incumbent government.

The second major factor is what appears to be a growing dissatisfaction with the status quo, whether it be the established government (as in Washington) or with international alliances (as with Brexit and the UK).

Voters seem to be attracted to more radical options because they want change from what they currently have. However while disillusionment and dissatisfaction are common the radical changes are in different directions.

Hence the rise of Donald Trump in the US, and the popularity of Bernie Sanders. They appealed to quite different voter groups.

And in the French presidential election the final two choices are a fairly radical right wing-ish Marine Le Pen, versus Emmanuel Macron, who has been a member the Socialist Party (PS) from 2006 to 2009 of minister in a socialist government, and only started his f En Marche! ‘political movement’ a year ago.

In New Zealand it’s sort of the same and also quite different. The left (Labour and Greens) are struggling to get much traction. Instead we have a mix of radical/maverick and a long established politician, Winston Peters. He has been doing the outlandish vagueness tricks that seem to have worked for Trump, as well as having a running battle with the media.

NZ First are polling better than they have for some time in the lead up to our election. Time will whether their support grows or not. Peters is going hard out anti-immigration, and the media are as usual giving him a lot of publicity, but that may or may not flow through to September.

So for a long time New Zealand has already had Peters attacking the media and being rewarded with publicity, plus dog whistling against immigrants. And we have also had an attempted hack interference.

And while some politicians and media are trying to talk up growing divides and discontents I’m not sure that there is a significant aversion to the status quo here that there is elsewhere. National have maintained unprecedented (under MMP) levels of support for an incumbent government.

They are showing signs of wavering, but the main alternative, Labour, have conceded they can’t match one-to-one and have set up an alliance of sorts with the Greens to try to compete. So far, going by the polls, that has not worked very successfully.

Change here may hinge on NZ First, but in the last few elections voters have resisted giving Peters a say in Government, or more accurately, sufficient voters have kept supporting the status quo.

While New Zealand has major housing issues and also a growing income divide and social issues of concern, our economy is generally doing very well. While we have always had “bloody Government” discord it is nothing like the ‘drain the Swamp’ level of Washington discontent.

While immigration numbers are being debated we don’t have the border problems and numbers of illegal immigrants that cause growing concern in the US and Europe. Peters is trying to scapegoat immigrants, and Labour has dabbled at that as well, but it’s hard to know whether that will appeal to prompt many voters to want to change the government. It had a negative effect for Labour.

One of the media’s biggest concerns seems to over who of Bill English and Andrew Little is the most boring. So they look for headlines elsewhere, hence the promotion of Peters and Jacinda Ardern, and trying to push new faces like Chlöe Swarbrick.

Kim Dotcom dominated a lot of coverage (and election spending) last election, as did the quirky Colin Craig, but the Internet Party in particular failed to attract voters.

Despite some threats Dotcom is largely out of the picture so far this year, Craig is too busy in court, and the one success of Dirty Politics was to have rendered Whale Oil down to rancid.

Despite some politicians and political activists trying to talk down the country and talk up a need for revolution, and despite some media searching for sensation, there seems to be no significant public discontent with our current government. It’s more like ‘meh’.

We don’t really have the levels or depths of discontent that are evident elsewhere.

There have been claims that Wikileaks (or the Russians or both?) have a data dump ready to go for New Zealand.

But if our election campaign is hit by a Dotcom promoted dump of hacked material is that going swing things? Or will the people vote ‘meh’.

Despite the best efforts of some media to sensationalise things – the overplaying of the Pike River videos by Newshub a recent example – and despite Dotcom or Hager or the Russians or the Aussies or whoever dumping on New Zealand this could turn out to be the ‘Meh’ election.

Brexit impact on New Zealand

While the United Kingdom exit from the European Union poses major challenges for the UK and for the rest of Europe, it should mainly offer opportunities for New Zealand.

We are trying to do a trade deal with the UK as soon as that is possible (they will be a tad busy at the moment), and also want to make progress on a trade deal with the EU.

Serena Kelly at Stuff looks at Brexit: the past, present and future impact on New Zealand

The past is of interest but it doesn’t matter much now. What we can do now and our future prospects are more important.

So what does Brexit mean for New Zealand and how has New Zealand reacted to developments?

Trade

Trade is the most vital interest for New Zealand’s foreign policy. Official statistics show that for the year ending June 2016, the EU was New Zealand’s third largest trading partner (and rising), and the UK our fifth largest export market. Out of our total trade with the EU, UK trade makes up 20 per cent.

The EU’s importance to New Zealand was showcased a few weeks ago when Prime Minister Bill English made his first official trip to Europe. In what was possibly a first for his National party, English visited Brussels before the UK.

During his Brussels visit, the possibility of fast-tracking the EU-NZ FTA was promoted on both sides – in order to signal to the world the importance of trade liberalisation in the face of a global trend towards so-called populism.

Indeed, Trade Minister Todd McLay has indicated that the EU-NZ FTA is likely to be finalised before an UK-NZ FTA. This is understandable – Britain still has at least two years to negotiate its exit from the EU and has yet to be accepted as a member in the World Trade Organisation.

No improved immigration access

Immediately after the referendum, there was hope that New Zealanders would benefit from relaxed immigration laws directed at New Zealanders. Unsurprisingly – given the consensus that Brexit was a vote against unfettered immigration – Prime Minister May recently told Prime Minister English that there would be no change.

Patience may be required.

Theresa May’s letter last month means there is suddenly a probable timetable for Brexit– around 18 months. May’s letter only hints at the phenomenal amount of time and manpower required to extract the United Kingdom from the European Union and to come to an agreement about the future relationship between the EU and UK. This means very limited resources for relationships with third countries such as New Zealand.

New Zealand may be a minor player and a low priority – but the UK could benefit from our extensive experience with doing trade negotiations, compared to their almost complete lack since they have been in the EU.

Getting in early would be a big deal for New Zealand. As far as size of trade goes it would be a small deal for the UK, but they could gain a lot more in other trade if they manage to do something quickly with us.

UK and Scottish parliaments clash over second referendum

UK Prime Minister has repeatedly said that “now is not the time” for another Scottish referendum on independence, but the Scottish Parliament has just voted in favour of “seeking permission” for a referendum before the UK leaves the European Union.

BBC: Scottish Parliament backs referendum call

Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second referendum on independence for Scotland had been formally backed by the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs voted by 69 to 59 in favour of seeking permission for a referendum before the UK leaves the EU.

Ms Sturgeon says the move is needed to allow Scotland to decide what path to follow in the wake of the Brexit vote.

But the UK government has already said it will block a referendum until the Brexit process has been completed.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who met Ms Sturgeon for talks in Glasgow on Monday, has repeatedly insisted that “now is not the time” for a referendum.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she is not seeking confrontation.

“My argument is simply this: when the nature of the change that is made inevitable by Brexit becomes clear, that change should not be imposed upon us, we should have the right to decide the nature of that change.

“The people of Scotland should have the right to choose between Brexit – possibly a very hard Brexit – or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and create a true partnership of equals across these islands.”

She added: “I hope the UK government will respect the will of this parliament. If it does so, I will enter discussion in good faith and with a willingness to compromise.

“However, if it chooses not to do so I will return to the parliament following the Easter recess to set out the steps that the Scottish government will take to progress the will of parliament.”

But this looks like a clash of wills between her and Theresa May, and between the Scottish and UK parliaments.

Ms Sturgeon is expected to make the formal request for a section 30 later this week – after Mrs May formally starts the Brexit process by triggering Article 50.

Scottish voters rejected independence by 55% to 45% in a referendum in 2014, but Ms Sturgeon believes the UK voting to leave the EU is a material change in circumstances which means people should again be asked the question.

There certainly has been a material change in circumstances.

While May and her UK government prefers no split it may make sense to find out if that is what the Scots want and take that into account with exit plans from the EU.

Her Scottish secretary, David Mundell, has said that the timescale could include “the Brexit process, the journey of leaving and people being able to understand what the UK’s new relationship with the EU is, so they can make an informed choice if there was ever to be another referendum”.

He added: “We are not entering into negotiations on whether there should be another independence referendum during the Brexit process.

The Scottish Parliament vote may or may not change that position.

There may be some chicken and egg here.

Would plans for the UK exit from the EU be easier if they knew whether Scotland was going to split or remain?

Or should another Scottish referendum wait until they know what the exit from the EU is going to look like for them and the UK?

 

UK & Europe – the Brexit process

Topics about the UK, EU and Europe.

UK-EU


The Guardian explains the Brexit process.

What is article 50?

In just 264 words in five paragraphs, article 50 of the Lisbon treaty sets out how an EU member can voluntarily leave the European Union. It specifies that a leaver should notify the European council of its intention, negotiate a deal on its withdrawal and establish legal grounds for a future relationship with the EU.

What is ‘triggered’ by article 50?

Once a country gives notice it wants to leave it has two years to negotiate new arrangements, after which it will no longer be subject to EU treaties.

How and when will article 50 be triggered?

The Brexit starting pistol is fired on Wednesday 29 March, when the government delivers a letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European council.

Then what?

On Thursday the Brexit secretary, David Davis, will publish the government’s “great repeal bill”. This will set out an end to the authority of EU law by converting all its provisions in British law once the UK leaves.

How will the EU respond?

Tusk has promised that he will respond by Friday with “draft Brexit guidelines”.

How long will they take?

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said he envisages there being less than 18 months of real negotiating time. The crucial window is likely to be the year from October 2017, after the German elections on 24 September.

What are the key sticking points?

It’s a long list, and even the topics for negotiation are subject to negotiation.

For example, the UK wants trade talks to be part of the leave discussions, but senior figures in the EU think trade should be discussed separately. While the UK is still part of the EU it is not allowed to negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries.

Another key topic that will need urgent resolution will be the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and British subjects living abroad. The government ruled out giving EU citizens guaranteed protections before the start of talks, giving rise to fears that they will be used as bargaining chips.

Other pressing but tricky issues include security, migration and border controls.

Brexit: everything you need to know about how the UK will leave the EU

Lords debates Article 50

From Missy in the UK:


Today the House of Lords began their first two days of debate on the Article 50 Bill before it goes to committee stage.

Over the weekend a number of Lords said that it would not get through unscathed, and they were open about wanting to do everything to either water down the legislation, or stop it completely, this has put the Lords on a collision course with both the people and the House of Commons. There have been a number of MPs that have been open about pushing for serious reform – or abolition – of the Lords if they hold up this legislation, and some of the Lords have also acknowledged that if they try to stop this it could mean the end of the House of Lords.

Today a number of critics of the Lords, and a couple of newspapers, called for members of the House to declare their interests in the EU – many are earning either consulting fees, or pensions from the EU, and it is seen by some as a clear conflict of interest. If Brexit happens these Lords will lose their EU income, and some believe that is the real reason they want to stop it happening, coincidentally one of the loudest about stopping the legislation allegedly earns one of the highest pensions from the EU.

Theresa May attended the opening debates in the Lords, she is allowed to as a member of the Privy Council, but it is reportedly unprecedented for a PM to go and listen to a debate on legislation in the House – at least in modern times. The last time a PM attended the House of Lords was David Cameron to listen to the tributes to Margaret Thatcher.

Baroness Evans, the leader of the House of Lords today urged the Lords to recognise the primacy of the House of Commons. She reminded the Lords that they passed the legislation for the referendum without restriction on the result, and that this bill is not about re-visiting the debate.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/20/theresa-may-set-attend-house-lords-article-50-debate-person/

This will be interesting times, but it could also be a catalyst for fundamental change in the UK’s political landscape if some are to be believed – and I don’t mean with regards to leaving the EU.

Article 50 Bill passes third reading

The ”Brexit’ bill in the UK has easily passed it’s third reading and will now go to the House of Lords.

A quick round up from Missy:


As mentioned above the Article 50 Bill passed the third reading today and will go to the House of Lords. Of the large number of amendments put forward, only a minority were selected for voting on, part of this is that many were the same, or covered the same issues.

All of the amendments were defeated, including the one for a second referendum and the one to guarantee EU citizen’s rights in the UK. The Liberal Democrats have said they will instruct their members in the Lords to put forward the amendment again for a vote in the House. There are many commentators on social media that have seen this move as the Lib Dems showing their contempt for British citizens, and only caring about Europeans.

I find this interesting as the EU citizens whose rights they are trying to secure are unable to vote in UK elections anyway, so I am not sure why they think the average Joe on the street will see this as a vote winner for them – only the Pro EU elite in London seem to care about this issue, it isn’t one to die in the ditch over in my opinion.

The Government have already said that they will guarantee the rights of the EU citizens in the UK on 23 June last year on the proviso the EU guarantee the rights of British citizens in the EU – some countries have indicated they are willing to do a deal on that prior to the Article 50 negotiations but Merkel vetoed that and said they would not discuss it until Article 50 has been triggered.

A more interesting side story has been the dramas in Labour. Once again a three line whip was opposed, and once again a number of MPs refused to vote in favour of the bill. The imposition of the whip prompted Clive Lewis – shadow Business secretary – to resign from the front benches. This is seen as a blow to Corbyn as Clive Lewis has been a strong ally of Corbyn’s.

Diane Abbott was another one that was being watched by the media & political junkies. Abbott is a strong Corbyn supporter – they have known each other since the 1970’s – however, at the vote for the second reading Diane Abbott mysteriously disappeared and did not vote. This non-appearance last week was explained away as Abbott having had a migraine, (which if correct I can understand her not sticking around – they can be debilitating), but many have questioned this, as apparently she got sick just before the vote.

Diane Abbott is pro-Remain, her constituency voted Remain, and it is widely believed she wanted to vote against the Bill, but did not want to openly revolt against Corbyn – or put him in the position that he had to sack her. Last night she (allegedly) reluctantly voted for the Bill. And in a gossipy aside, it was reported in this morning’s papers that she told David Davis to F*** Off when he tried to give her a kiss in the Commons Bar last night.

There has been speculation that Corbyn will resign as leader, but Corbyn denied this on Breakfast this morning saying that the party is united. There is also speculation another leadership challenge will be mounted against Corbyn.

Below is the expected timetable for the Bill’s passage through the House of Lords.

Feb 9 (today): Peers start to table amendments
Feb 20-21: The Peers debate the Bill during its second reading, they are expected to vote through the legislation
Feb 27: The first of two days in committee. There are expected to be numerous attempts to amend the Bill – I outlined at least one attempt above, from the Lib Dems.
Mar 1: Second day of debates in committee. More amendments expected to be made and voted on.
Mar 7: Report stage and third reading. If p0assed without amendments it will go for Royal Assent, if not it goes back to the Commons for MPs to agree to the changes.

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

From Missy in the UK:


The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill has been tabled in Parliament.

The Bill is 137 words long (I haven’t counted, am trusting the media have and have it correct):

“A bill to confer power on the Prime Minister to notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

1 Power to notify withdrawal from the EU
(1) The Prime Minister may notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.
(2) This section has effect despite any provision made by or under the European Communities Act 1972 or any other enactment.

2 Short title
This Act may be cited as the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/26/revealed-57-word-bill-will-give-theresa-may-power-trigger-brexit/

Labour MPs are complaining they have not been given long enough.

Labour are planning to table 4 Amendments, whilst the SNP are planning to table 60 Amendments.

It seems the Telegraph article may have been slightly incorrect regarding the number of days of debate. According to the Guardian only two days are for debate with the other three for the committee and report stages and third reading.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/26/brexit-bill-mps-will-get-five-days-to-debate-article-50-plans?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

With a lot of backwards and forwards it seems Corbyn will impose a three line whip on his MPs to vote in favour of the bill. Over the last few days there was suggestion he would do this, then suggestion he wouldn’t, bu today he has apparently said he will. Some MPs have already stated they will defy this and vote against.

UK Parliament on Article 50

From Missy on the court ruling on Article 50 in relation to Britain’s planned exit from the European Union:


Yesterday (Tuesday) both the House of Commons and House of Lords discussed the Supreme Court ruling.

Commons:

David Davis, Secretary for Exiting the European Union, gave a speech in which he said that the legislation to trigger Article 50 should be ready within days, some think it will be tabled today. He also went on to say that there is no going back, and the UK will leave the EU. He also described any attempt to try and block Brexit as “patronising, undemocratic and improper”.

A number of Conservative MPs have indicated they are prepared to join with Labour and SNP in an attempt to force the Government to set out its negotiating strategy.

The Liberal Democrats Leader has instructed all of their MPs to vote against triggering Article 50 in an attempt to force a second referendum.

Labour seem to be as confused as ever, in the morning a statement from Corbyn’s office said that they would table an amendment that would seek to build in the principle of full, tariff-free access to the single market, only for that to be removed from a release 30 minutes later.

Labour MP Owen Smith has stated that he is willing to risk his career to vote against triggering Article 50. His constituency voted to Leave the EU, but in an article in the Guardian he stated that he will vote against Article 50 because he thinks that is what is best for his constituents, not what they voted for.

Lords:

The Lords is a fundamentally pro EU organisation, and previously some of the Lords have said that the House would vote against any legislation to leave the EU, there does appear to be some disagreement on that however.

Lord Blunkett (A Remain campaigner) has warned the HoL they cannot overturn the legislation. He has said that it would be foolish if the HoL, as an unelected body, put itself in confrontation with the bulk of the British people. Lord Blunkett was one of a number of Lords (most Remain) that urged the Lords to not block the triggering of Article 50.

The HoL was reminded that the constitutional position of the HoL is inferior to that of the elected House, and it is therefore important that they do not take action to frustrate the will of the elected House.

Lord Ashdown, an outspoken Remainer who has said he will vote against Article 50, was reminded of his own words on the night of the referendum: When the British people have spoken, you do what they command.

Lord Lamont speaking to media yesterday said that the House of Lords, as an unelected body, needs to tread carefully to ensure it does not trigger a constitutional crisis.

It is believed by many in the House that if the Lords vote against Article 50 it could be the beginning of the downfall of the House, and that some may make moves to abolish it altogether and reform the Parliamentary system in the UK, perhaps moving towards an elected upper house. There has, in the past, been a number of proposals for there to be constitutional and Parliamentary reform around the House of Lords, but in general the appetite to make the changes hasn’t been great enough, however, some fear that this could be what will motivate a push for the reforms many see as being needed. It is this fear of potential reform that leads many to suggest the majority of the Lords will vote for Article 50 despite their own personal view, if only to save their own positions.