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.

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.


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.

May’s trade assurances to Ardern cannot be taken seriously

Jacinda Ardern has just visited Theresa May in London, and statements and assurances were made, but according to Hamish Rutherford these cannot be taken seriously.

Given that May cannot give her own country assurances over the outcome of Brexit and what that will mean for their trade agreements I think he is right.

Stuff:  Ardern seeks assurances on Brexit as Britain prepares for chaos

When Jacinda Ardern’s visit to Europe was officially announced last week, the prime minister’s office surely knew it was setting impossible expectations.

Although it appears the main purpose of the trip is to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, the visit also included an awkwardly timed visit to London.

Very awkwardly timed – the UK is facing a crisis over being unable to agree on how they will leave the European Union.

Ardern’s meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May was a chance to “reconfirm the understanding that New Zealand will be left no worse off, including in respect of its trade interests” following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

If only it were that simple.

Surely, if the British prime minister does not know the terms under which her country will leave the world’s largest trading bloc, then her assurances of how things will look for Britain’s other trading partners cannot be taken seriously.

Being prepared for dealing with post-Brexit Britain is worth doing, but all we really got yesterday were photo ops and pointless platitudes after a one hour meeting between Ardern and May.

Ardern in the UK

Jacinda Ardern has had a number of meetings on her visit to London, in particular with Theresa May but also tickling the celebrity coverage with a ‘secret’ meeting with Princess Megan.

Ardern’s official release:  NZ UK trade relations advanced in Prime Ministers’ meeting

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May have advanced trade and a range of other issues during a one hour meeting held in London today.

The key areas of discussion were a mutual commitment to the rules-based international system and the future of the trading relationship between New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

“We very much value our relationship with the UK. It is our longest-standing relationship, and still one of our closest,” Jacinda Ardern said.

There has been cooperation on some things, but the UK dumped New Zealand in preference of the European Union on trade in the 1970s, and is looking at repairing that with their exit from the EU.

“The clear message we imparted to Prime Minister May today was, whatever the outcome of the Brexit process, we will have an enduring relationship with the UK across trade and the full range of interactions our two countries share.

Another clear message is that until Brexit is sorted closer trade talks can only be talked about as future possibilities.

“The constant movement of people between our countries, the vitality of investment and business interests between us, and the significant links between our citizens and governments demonstrate the ties between our populations, making us natural partners in a post-Brexit environment.

“Our shared values allow us to work together to address global challenges such as the urgency of addressing climate change and defending the international rules-based system from those who would undermine it.

“New Zealand appreciates the close cooperation we have with the UK on defence and security matters.”

Jacinda Ardern confirmed she has spoken to PM May about New Zealand’s interests that will be affected by Brexit, the priority placed on continuity and stability, and New Zealand not being left worse off as a result.

“Both sides welcomed the signing today of the Veterinary Agreement and Mutual Recognition Agreement on Conformity Assessment Bodies. These will assist in ensuring trade continues to flow freely between our countries, once the UK has left the EU

“These agreements mean current trade-facilitating arrangements covering the export of products into the EU are maintained with the UK.

“They help to ensure New Zealand exporters will not be worse off in the immediate aftermath of Brexit and there will be a continuity of the existing rules. This is a very important arrangement for our exporters.”

The Prime Ministers also reaffirmed the commitment of New Zealand and the UK to launch negotiations on a free trade agreement when the UK is in a position to do so.

“The FTA will be a high quality, comprehensive and progressive agreement that delivers for all of our citizens, contributes to addressing global and regional issues of concern, such as environmental issues and labour standards, and supports sustainable and inclusive economic development.”

New Zealand also welcomed the UK’s interest in acceding to the CPTPP.

“New Zealand supports the expansion of CPTPP to parties willing and able to meet the high standards of the agreement.”

The Prime Ministers also discussed the importance of immigration policies that facilitate the flow of skilled migration.

“New Zealanders continue to contribute to the UK economy and we welcome large numbers of UK citizens to New Zealand, including on our popular working holiday scheme. I welcomed the recent announcement that New Zealand citizens will soon be able to use e-gates in the UK.

“We also discussed a range of domestic priorities where both countries will benefit from learning from each other’s experiences, including through better regulation.

“Today’s meeting was very warm. It was proof of the depth, breadth and longevity of our countries’ relationship and the ongoing importance of our shared history and friendship to both countries’ success in a post-Brexit environment,” Jacinda Ardern said.