Johnson adamant UK will withdraw from Brexit by 31 October, EU not negotiating

Since becoming Prime Minister last month Boris Johnson has been working towards getting the United Kingdom out of the European Union by 31 October.

Negotiations between the UK and EU are at a stalemate, with the EU saying the Withdrawal Agreement is not up for negotiation, .

Attempts are being made by Europhile MPs to stop an exit without the Withdrawal Agreement or to stop an exit altogether.

“It seems all the attempts by Remainers to stop Brexit, or at least dilute it, have been what has led to the likelihood of a clean break.”

From Missy in London:


As everyone knows, Boris Johnson became PM about a month ago, and he has moved full speed ahead. As well as a number of domestic policies, he has been adamant that the UK will be out of the EU by 31 October, to this the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, has released more funds to spend on preparation for leaving with no Withdrawal Agreement, and all departments have stepped up planning.

Johnson has told the EU he is willing to talk with them, with a view to re-negotiating the Withdrawal Agreement, but not until the EU commit to the removal of the backstop. The EU refuse to budge and have stated that the Agreement is not up for negotiation, and only the non legally binding political declaration can be tweaked. So on negotiations they are currently at a stalemate. Whilst some officials, and the Brexit Secretary, have been to Brussels and Europe, Johnson has firmly refused to go, instead he has travelled the country and talked to politicians and people around the UK.

Meanwhile, in the UK Europhile MPs are stepping up their actions to stop an exit without a Withdrawal Agreement, or stop Brexit altogether. Among the actions they have taken is a court case, this has been filed in Scotland as the Scottish courts don’t close for the summer like the English courts do. The court case is to stop the PM from proroguing Parliament in October to force through a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU.

Other actions being looked at include Parliamentary processes, law changes. and a Vote of No Confidence. The last is the most likely action they will take, and is a bit of a gamble on both sides. Johnson currently has a majority of one with the DUP support, and a number of Conservative MPs have indicated they will either abstain or vote against the Government in such a vote, (though some Labour MPs have indicated they would break whip and vote for the Government so it could be balanced out).

If Johnson loses a Vote of No Confidence many are saying he should immediately step aside and let Jeremy Corbyn form a Government, however, by law he has 14 days to try and gain the confidence of the house, after which he can call a General Election, though the opposition also has 14 days to try and gain a majority in Parliament as well. The suggestion put forward yesterday by Jeremy Corbyn was for the Liberal Democrats, SNP and some Conservative MPs support him as a temporary PM to stop Brexit, and then call a GE or second referendum.

The issues with this proposal are threefold:

  1. He requires Conservative MPs to essentially support the installation of a Labour Government, and a hard left Labour Government at that, this will be unpalatable to not only other Conservative MPs, but also Conservative Members and voters. If any Conservative MPs did do this they would essentially be ending their careers. Further, as the Labour Party are currently under investigation for their handling of anti semitism claims, and the accusation that anti semitism is being enabled by the leadership team and their staff, so any Conservative members who vote for Corbyn will be tainted by the anti semitism scandal, (some already are being connected to it by just suggesting they will consider the idea).
  2. Corbyn does not have majority support within Parliament, and a number of his own MPs have said publicly they would not back him in this scenario, it is expected that more Labour MPs won’t back him than potential Conservative MPs will back him, so he won’t have the numbers to pull this off.
  3. Many of the public are more sceptical of a second referendum, with the exception of the hard Remain extremists, most don’t believe it will solve any issues, and even less so after a number of MPs, including the leaders of the Greens and Liberal Democrats, said that unless the vote was in favour of Remain they would not accept or respect the vote. With an attitude like that fewer people actually believe that any vote, except Remain, would be accepted, leaving the country as divided as it is now. On the General Election, there are some that believe Johnson is gearing up for one, and it will most likely be just after 31 October.

Of course, this depends on Corbyn actually calling a vote of No Confidence and not bottling it again. During the Conservative Leadership campaign Corbyn kept saying he would call a No Confidence vote on Johnson’s first day in Parliament, he didn’t because apparently he said he would not have the numbers, nothing has changed in Johnson’s stance, so I am not sure if he would have the numbers still.

One other action that was suggested this week, and whilst not a serious proposition it did come under fire for a lot of ridicule, and that was the suggestion by Caroline Lucas, (Green Party Leader and only MP), for an all Women cabinet of Unity to stop Brexit. Apart from her suggestion amounting to a coup and being unconstitutional and sexist, there was the issue that her Cabinet of Unity was entirely made up of women that think the same as she does, not making it very unifying. Interestingly despite all these issues about it one of the main criticisms was that all of the women were white, and she was heavily criticised for leaving out women from ethnic minorities, and it was this she apologised for whilst doubling down on her idea. For many however, this idea just came across as silly season stuff from an increasingly irrelevant MP during the summer recess.

It has been suggested that the reason the EU has not reached out to the UK, and is not taking Johnson seriously, is because Remain MPs have convinced them that they will win in Parliament and that the UK will not leave the EU, or will leave under the EU’s terms. Of course it might just be that it is August and the EU (and much of Europe) shuts down over August and nothing gets done.

On the other side of the Brexit argument, the Brexit Secretary is set to sign the commencement order to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 within days, bringing it into effect after 31 October, thus ending the supremacy of EU Law, thus meaning that the EU’s rule over the UK will end on 31 October. This has led to some speculating that Johnson might remove the UK from the EU earlier than 31 October, and some have suggested he could do it by the end of August so it is done and dusted by the time Parliament returns in the beginning of September, though I do not think this is the case, I believe that if he is aiming for an earlier date it is likely to be the end of September, but this is also unlikely.

The irony in all of this is that if Gina Miller hadn’t taken the Government to court, to the cheers of Remainers and Remain supporting MPs, and secured a legal ruling that any Withdrawal Agreement had to be ratified by Parliament, the UK would have left under May’s deal and the prospect of leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement would not have entered into play. It seems all the attempts by Remainers to stop Brexit, or at least dilute it, have been what has led to the likelihood of a clean break.

The Secretary of State for Brexit has now signed the Commencement Order which repeals the supremacy of EU law in the UK.

Brexit will happen on 31 October 2019.

EU election results

The official results website:

This shows some changes away from larger centre right and centre left parties, but not a big overall shift.

This is pretty astonishing. BBC projects that the Liberals/Green/Left/Social Democrats will have 359 seats in EU parliament, vs 358 seats in the previous one.

The populists-nationalists seem to have gained ~35 seats but overall the non-centrist right is up by only about 19, probably in large part driven by the collapse of the UK Conservatives.

Clearly the main centre-left and centre-right factions have weakened a lot. But this is a *party political* problem, so why do we report it as a change in the hearts and minds of voters? What’s amazing to me is how consistent broad political opinion looks, in both directions.

Here’s that populism word again.

Farage is talking tough, but Brexit is still going to be a tough thing to sort out.

Swiss majority support for tighter gun restrictions

Switzerland is often cited as proof that many people having easy access to firearms can be safe, but a clear majority of Swiss support tighter gun laws that would bring them more into line with EU gun laws. Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but EU restrictions apply because Switzerland is part of Europe’s Schengen open-border system.

RNZ:  Swiss voters approve tighter gun laws

Swiss voters have agreed to adopt tighter gun controls in line with changes to European Union rules, heading off a clash with Brussels, projections for Swiss broadcaster SRF show.

The projections from the gfs.bern polling outfit saw the measure passing in the binding referendum by a comfortable 67-33 percent margin.

The restrictions, which apply to non-EU member Switzerland because it is part of Europe’s Schengen open-border system, had raised hackles among shooting enthusiasts ahead of the vote under the Swiss system of direct democracy.

After militants killed scores in Paris and elsewhere in 2015, the EU in 2017 toughened laws against purchasing semi-automatic rifles such as the ones used in those attacks, and made it easier to track weapons in national databases.

Opinion polls had shown Swiss voters backing the measure by a two-to-one margin.

The initial EU proposal provoked an outcry because it meant a ban on the Swiss tradition of ex-soldiers keeping their assault rifles. Swiss officials negotiated concessions for gun enthusiasts who take part in the country’s numerous shooting clubs, but any restrictions imported from the EU go too far for right-wing activists concerned about Swiss sovereignty.

Gun rights proponents complained the rules could disarm law-abiding citizens and encroach on Switzerland’s heritage and national identity, which includes a well- armed citizenry.

Switzerland has one of the highest rates of private gun ownership in Europe, with nearly 48 per cent of households owning a gun.

Switzerland has a relatively low crime rate, but easy access to firearms can still be a problem.

Switzerland’s rate of gun suicide, at 2.74 per 100,000, is the second highest in Europe. Gun control supporters claim the fact that guns are to hand at home in moments of desperation leads to suicides that could otherwise have been prevented.

I think it is highly debatable that half of Swiss households having firearms serves any useful purpose.

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:

 

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.


Brexit in peril, May facing defeat

It doesn’t seem to really be news that Theresa May faces defeat over Brexit plans.

Reuters: ‘Brexit in peril’ as PM May faces heavy defeat

Brexit could be reversed if lawmakers reject the government’s exit deal, British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday after two major eurosceptic factions in parliament warned that Prime Minister Theresa May was facing a heavy defeat.

Just 19 days before the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, May is scrambling – so far unsuccessfully – to secure last-minute changes to an EU exit treaty before parliament votes on Tuesday on whether to approve the deal.

If she fails, lawmakers are expected to force May to seek a delay to Brexit which some say could see the 2016 decision to leave the bloc reversed. Others argue that, without a delay, Britain faces an economic shock if it leaves without a deal.

“We have an opportunity now to leave on March 29 or shortly thereafter and it’s important we grasp that opportunity because there is wind in the sails of people trying to stop Brexit,” Hunt told the BBC. “We are in very perilous waters.”

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which props up May’s minority government, and Steve Baker, a leading figure in the large eurosceptic faction of her Conservative party, warned “the political situation is grim”.

“An unchanged withdrawal agreement will be defeated firmly by a sizeable proportion of Conservatives and the DUP if it is again presented to the Commons,” they wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

The Sunday Times said May was battling to save her job as aides were considering persuading her to offer to resign in a bid to get the deal approved. The newspaper also said cabinet ministers had spoken about whether to insist she goes as early as this week.

Amid the political chaos, many company chiefs are aghast at London’s handling of Brexit and say it has already damaged Britain’s reputation as Europe’s pre-eminent destination for foreign investment.

The chances of this turning out well for May or the UK looks slim. It’s a mess with no easy or obvious solutions.

 

May-Merkel agreement on Brexit

From Missy on a possible May-Merkel deal on Brexit – if soi thnis could be a breakthrough for Theresa May:


This is a blog post from the Bruges Group, a eurosceptic think tank that was set up by Conservative MPs / Members in 1989, but now has cross party support. In saying that they generally have a good reputation for well researched articles, and some of the information in this blog post does tally loosely with many rumours circulating at the time of the Chequers deal.

http://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/duplicitous-leaders

“There is no doubt about the veracity of this account since documents have been seen.

On Monday July 9th 2018, several leading French, German and Dutch senior managers were called by EU officials to an urgent meeting.

The meeting was said to be private and those present were informed that Prime Minister May and Chancellor Merkel had reached an Agreement over Brexit. Knowledge of this was attained from the actual transcript of the meeting between May and Merkel.

1) The Agreement was couched in a way to ‘appease’ the Brexit voters.

2) The Agreement would enable May to get rid of those people in her party who were against progress and unity in the EU.

3) Both Merkel and May agreed that the likely course of events would be that UK would re-join the EU in full at some time after the next general election.

4) May agreed to keep as many EU laws and institutions as she could despite the current groundswell of ‘anti-EU hysteria’ in Britain (May’s own words, apparently.)

5) Merkel and May agreed that the only realistic future for the UK was within the EU.

The original Agreement draft was completed in May 2018 in Berlin and then sent to the UK Government Cabinet Office marked ‘Secret’.

NB This Agreement draft was authored in the German Chancellor’s private office.

The Cabinet returned the Agreement draft with suggestions, and there was some to-ing and fro-ing during June 5th 2018.

Private calls between the Prime Minister and Chancellor were made.

The Agreement’s final draft came out late in June 2018. The German Chancellor told Prime Minister May that this was a deal she would support, though there would need to be some more small concessions by the UK to keep the EU happy.

The Chancellor and Prime Minister met in Germany. Merkel had this meeting recorded as a ‘private meeting’ though the Prime Minister was probably unaware of that.

The Chancellor had the transcript of that meeting circulated secretly to EU and key German embassies.

Conclusions

Documents make it quite clear that Prime Minister May was negotiating with Germany, not the EU.

The transcript also makes it clear that the Prime Minister intended to keep all this secret from minsters, especially the Brexit group.

She wants to keep as many EU institutions in UK as intact as possible in order to facilitate an easy return to the EU after 2020.

Chancellor Merkel briefed May on tactics to force Cabinet approval.

The Prime Minister and senior civil servants were working with Germany to stop Brexit or water it down to prevent free trade and the ending of freedom of movement, but to keep cash flowing to the EU.

David Davis was kept in the dark while key EU premiers in France, Holland and Ireland were briefed in full.

Key EU heads were actually briefed in full the day before the Cabinet meeting at Chequers.”

At the time of the Chequers agreement release one journalist said a source let slip that May had said that Angela had seen and approved the deal, this was later denied by no. 10, it was also rumoured that the majority of the negotiation by May was being done with Merkel, and generally believed that if Merkel agreed the deal then it would be agreed to by the EU.

Tomorrow is PMQs, we just have to hope a Brexit supporting MP will bring this up. It will be interesting to see what her response is.

Ardern competing with Brexit mess in trade talks with UK, EU

Jacinda Ardern is in the UK to have trade talks with Theresa May, but with the turmoil over Brexit there is probably not much that can be achieved at this stage.

NZ Herald:  PM Jacinda Ardern to meet Theresa May during time of Brexit tumult

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets her embattled British counterpart Theresa May tonight (NZT) she will be hoping the latter will not be too distracted by the Brexit turmoil in her own country to discuss trade.

Ardern, who is in the UK for a brief visit before heading to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has put trade at the top of her agenda, saying free-trade agreements with both Britain and the European Union are priorities.

But trade agreements are unlikely to be priorities for the UK or EU at the moment.

Ardern will be seeking a reassurance from May that New Zealand will be no worse off, including in trade, following Britain’s departure from the European Union.

May will be much more concerned about how ;worse off’ the UK may be if she doesn’t sort out her Brexit mess – or if she does sort it out.

“My visit to the UK is an opportunity to underline New Zealand’s position as a natural and long-standing partner for the country as it redefines its global role post-Brexit,” Ardern said in a statement last week.

That ignores the fact that the UK dumped New Zealand “as a natural and long-standing partner” in the 1970sw as they turned to Europe and the EU.

While May will hear Ardern’s reminder that New Zealand is high on the list of countries Britain wants to negotiate free trade agreements with, it likely won’t be high on her list of short-term priorities.

Before Britain is in any position to negotiate free trade agreements, the House of Commons must first agree on a way forward or face a so-called “hard Brexit” on March 29 – that is leaving the European Union with no plan.

Ardern is at Davos for two days before heading to Brussels for meetings with European Council and Commission leaders.

Where she will also probably struggle to make much trade headway.

Some nice things will probably be said after both the UK and EU meetings, but it is unlikely much of substance will come out of either at this time.

 

Tricky time for Ardern for trade talks in Europe

In the UK Brexit is in disarray, and this mess will cause difficulties working out future trade alliances there and in Europe. But all this up in the air Jacinda Ardern is going to try.

RNZ: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heading to Europe with a focus on trade

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heads to London this weekend where she’s expected to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May in the wake of her surviving a no-confidence vote.

While there Ms Ardern will push for certainty that New Zealand will be left no worse off in respect of trade following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union (EU).

I doubt that trade with New Zealand will be much of a priority for May or for the UK right now. They don’t know what they are doing for themselves let alone what they might be able to do with countries on the other side of the world.

She will then head to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, along with the Finance Minister Grant Robertson, where the focus will be progressing a free trade agreement with Europe.

The prime minister will then head to Brussels for high-level meetings.

“My visit to the UK is an opportunity to underline New Zealand’s position as a natural and long-standing partner for the country as it redefines its global role post-Brexit,” Ms Ardern said.

What ‘post-Brexit’ will look like is anyone’s guess right now.

“I will be using my engagements to enhance New Zealand’s profile as a likeminded partner to the EU across a wide range of issues, including climate change, social policy, trade and our commitment to the rules-based system,” she said.

“There is still much progress to make in trade talks with our European partners, so a key focus of this whole trip is to speak to European Commission and individual country leaders to shore up support for our ongoing negotiations and ensure New Zealand exporters achieve a great deal.”

Ardern is probably on the mark saying “There is still much progress to make in trade talks with our European partners”.

She has too make the most of her trip to London and Europe, but it is going to be difficult making much progress on trade deals.

Unless Ardern can sort out Brexit for May and the EU while she is there.

“Anything less than a clean break from #EU will be a betrayal of the Referendum vote”

It’s not surprising to see that a majority those who voted for Britain leaving the European Union think the referendum should be honoured.

‘Remainers’ lean strongly towards their EU preference rather than the referendum.