“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.

Political will holding up Brexit

Remember Brexit?

“Brexit proposals are not undeliverable but rather it is political will holding up negotiations” – curiously that’s the view of the politician in charge, the United Kingdom’s Brexit Minister Dominic Raab.

Reuters: UK’s Brexit proposals are not undeliverable, it is about political will: Raab

Raab also said Britain shouldn’t have a closed mind in negotiations and was open to listening to other suggestions to help break the impasse on outstanding issues.

Also:

The Independent: Three Tory ministers back new Brexit referendum, Conservative conference event told

At least three government ministers privately support giving the public another vote on Brexit, a former minister has claimed.

Dr Phillip Lee, who quit the government in June in order to speak out on Brexit, said he knew of other ministers who were “on the cusp” of resigning over the issue.

The MP warned a fringe event at the Conservatives‘ annual conference that the party was now “on the side of angry men, against women and young people”.

Asked how many Tory MPs privately support the campaign for a Final Say referendum, Mr Lee told the Conservatives for a People’s Vote event: “I suspect there are significant numbers of colleagues who see the argument for a second vote.

BBC: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU

A referendum – a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part – was held on Thursday 23 June, 2016, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. Leave won by 51.9% to 48.1%.

That was over two years ago. Progress is slow.

When is the UK due to leave the EU?

For the UK to leave the EU it had to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which gives the two sides two years to agree the terms of the split. Theresa May triggered this process on 29 March, 2017, meaning the UK is scheduled to leave at 11pm UK time on Friday, 29 March 2019. It can be extended if all 28 EU members agree, but at the moment all sides are focusing on that date as being the key one, and Theresa May has now put it into British law.

So is Brexit definitely happening?

The UK government and the main UK opposition party both say Brexit will happen. There are some groups campaigning for Brexit to be halted, but the focus among the UK’s elected politicians has been on what relationship the UK has with the EU after Brexit, rather than whether Brexit will happen at all. Nothing is ever certain, but as things stand Britain is leaving the European Union. There is more detail on the possible hurdles further down this guide…

What’s happening now?

The UK and EU have provisionally agreed on the three “divorce” issues of how much the UK owes the EU, what happens to the Northern Ireland border and what happens to UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK but talks are now focusing on the detail of how to avoid having a physical Northern Ireland border – and on future relations. To buy more time, the two sides have agreed on a 21-month “transition” period to smooth the way to post-Brexit relations.

 

Dysfunctional democracies

There seems to be growing dysfunction in democracies with important associations with New Zealand.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom continues to struggle with it’s exit from the European Union after a controversial referendum in 2016 chose Brexit by a fairly close margin. It is claimed that the referendum was unduly affected by social media manipulation similar to what happened in the US election, also in 2016.

Prime Minister Theresa May made a disastrous decision to have a snap election and seems to have gone downhill from there. Her Conservative Party has been in a close contest with the opposing Labour Party in the polls for some time, largely because of the arguably equally unpopular leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Not only does UK politics look in dire straits, their future as a country, especially as a trading nation, looks precarious. They are struggling to sort out an exit of the European Union, and that is delaying attempts to negotiate with alternate trade partners.

The Telegraph: Theresa May is showing how thorny a ‘clean Brexit’ could be so voters reconsider her plan

The Telegraph: Who do you think should be the next leader of the Conservative Party?

Over the past few months notable Conservative politicians and outside voices have questioned Theresa May’s ability to lead the party through Brexit and beyond. This in turn has cast doubt over the stability and longevity of the Prime Minister’s position in the top job.

 

United States

Who is in the most disarray, the Republicans or the Democrats? Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton deserved to lose the 2016 presidential election, and it’s arguable that the worst person won.

Trump has had some short term wins with some policies, especially with huge tax cuts, but the effects of resulting huger debts may case major problems in the future, especially if the record length bull run in the markets hiccups, as it inevitably will at some stage. the odds are that that will be soonish.

Trump has had a shambolic approach to trade ‘negotiations’, and a high risk approach to international relations. He often seems to work (or tweet) at odds with his top officials, and has questionable inclinations towards appeasement with Russia (while his country increases sanctions for interference in their democracy).

National Security Adviser John Bolton: U.S. sanctions to stay until Russia changes its behavior

Trump’s claims of great success in his meeting with Kim Yong Un seem to have been premature: Trump says Pompeo won’t go to North Korea, criticizes denuclearization progress

And his potential legal problems grow. Graham: Trump Will “Very Likely” Fire Sessions After Midterms – sacking everyone who won’t support his attempts at interference is unlikely to save him in the long run.

Much of the world watches in wonder at what the most powerful democracy in the world has become.

While many stupid and troubling things are by Trump there’s hope that his big mouth and little fingers won’t work there way towards the big button – however there are risks that Trump might escalate attempts to divert from all his problems by choosing a military sideshow, a common ploy of tyrants who can make their people revere them.

But the Democrats look in disarray after the disastrous Clinton presidential campaign. Hillary may be considering another shot at the presidency, which would likely dismay many, and there is no clear alternative (although in US politics it’s a long time until the next presidential election (2020). Trump was just an unlikely contender in a crowd of wannabe candidates two years before he won.

Australia

Our relatively) close neighbours the Aussies have a new Prime Minister that most Kiwis are unlikely to have heard of (Scott Morrison, after two leadership votes in a week. The deposing of Malcolm Turnbull adds to the procession of Australian Prime Ministers who have failed to see out a term in office.

See Out with the not very old Aussie PM, in with the new.

The change of leadership looks like a bit of a move right, but looks likely to be tested at an election soon, if Turnbull resigns and the Government loses it’s one seat majority.

Labour’s left has been riven by ructions in the not very distant past.

Depressing

This could be quite depressing for those who yearn for healthy democracies and competent politicians and parties. Is democracy self imploding, or can it recover?

Meanwhile, New Zealand

Here we have a three party government that has it’s challenges, and it’s critics, but the big local political stories of the week have been about the leak of expenses details several days before they were due to be released, and the semi-demotion of a Minister who didn’t properly record or advise having a meeting with someone who could potentially be a big benefit to the country.

Trump visiting United Kingdom

Donald Trump’s controversial visit to the United Kingdom has begun, at the same time a poll has been released saying that 50% of British people polled don’t want him to visit, but with Trump claiming “I think they like me a lot in the UK’.

BBC – Donald Trump: US president heads to dinner with Theresa May

The event at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, is expected to focus on post-Brexit trade, and comes days after Mr Trump said the UK was in “turmoil”.

Protesters have gathered outside the US ambassador’s residence in London, where the Trumps are staying tonight, and near Blenheim Palace.

Extra security is in place to police the protests, but Mr Trump has said that Britons “like me a lot” and that he feels “fine” about any such protests.

Speaking at the Nato summit in Brussels before he arrived, Mr Trump said the UK was a “hot spot right now”.

Trump has had a say on Brexit – Donald Trump: Brexit is turning out ‘a little bit differently’

The US president said “Brexit is Brexit” but it was turning out “a little bit differently” with the UK “partially involved” with the EU.

“Maybe they’re taking a little bit of a different route,” he went on.

Mr Trump backed a Leave vote ahead of the 2016 EU referendum, when he was a US presidential candidate, and he was asked for his views at the Nato summit press conference.

“It’s not for me to say,” the US president said.

“I’d like to see them be able to work it out so it can go quickly, whatever they work out.”

Guardian: ‘I think they like me a lot in the UK’, says Donald Trump – video

Her Majesty’s Official Birthday

Queen Elizabeth was born on 21 April 1926, but for some reason her ‘Official Birthday’ is about now in the United Kingdom.

 

UK election results today

Voting continues in the UK general election at the moment. Polling stations close at 10 pm – UK time is 11 hours behind (their daylight saving time) – so that will be 9 am NZ time.

Polling stations will close at 10pm this evening and an eagerly anticipated exit poll will follow shortly after.

The reason it is so eagerly anticipated? Exit polls are almost always in the right ball park when it comes to predicting the final result.

So we should get an idea from the exit polls mid morning here, with more detailed results coming out through the our day.

Despite the polls closing dramatically during the campaign it seems unlikely they will have closed enough for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to beat the current Prime Minister Theresa May.

The Telegraph:  General Election 2017 Live: Polls predict Tory win as May and Corbyn vote 

Theresa May is on course to increase her majority in the House of Commons with a final General Election 2017 poll giving the Tories a lead of eight points over Labour as the nation heads to the ballot box.

The Conservatives had as much as a 24 point lead when the snap election was called by the Prime Minister.

But Ipsos MORI’s final 2017 election survey for the Evening Standard, which was undertaken on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, puts the Conservatives on 44 per cent and Labour on 36.

Meanwhile, a YouGov poll that was published on Wednesday evening put the Tories on 42 per cent and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party on 35, a lead of seven points.

So it looks like the Conservatives should win fairly comfortably unless there is an unprecedented poll discrepancy.

The results will emerge from the UK during our day here.

EVENING UPDATE:

BBC Summary

  1. General election ends in a hung Parliament
  2. Conservatives set to win 318 seats
  3. Labour predicted to get 262
  4. Theresa May promises ‘period of stability’, but Jeremy Corbyn urges her to quit
  5. Nick Clegg loses his seat, but Sir Vince Cable is re-elected
  6. SNP’s Westminster leader loses his seat

http://www.bbc.com/news/live/election-2017-40171454

There are 650 seats so 326 are needed for a majority, theoretically, but Sinn Fein don’t front up, and as they have 7 seats (at this stage) 323 should be enough.  But May’s gamble has come up short. She may be able to get support from one or more other parties but that weakens the Conservatives considerably, which is the opposite of what May wanted.

A blatant pitch for more power has backfired. The big lesson for New Zealand is the danger of having self serving snap elections.

Theresa May calls for snap election

Missy has details of the big news from the UK overnight:


This morning Theresa May has called for a snap General Election on 8 June. She will take it to the House of Commons tomorrow for the vote, she needs 2/3 majority to overturn the Fixed Parliament Act for this election. Labour have indicated they will vote for the snap election.

She reportedly spoke to the Queen yesterday to tell her of this decision, and discussed it with Cabinet this morning. At just after 11am local time she spoke to media.

It appears the disruptive politics of the opposition parties, and the threats to undermine and disrupt Brexit, has led her to this decision. She is essentially calling the bluff of the opposition who say that the Government has no mandate for their Brexit strategy.

This is a smart move. There was talk a month or so ago that she would call a General Election before triggering Article 50, but when she didn’t, all talk of it stopped. However, by having the election now it means that instead of about a year post Brexit, there will be about 2-3 years post Brexit before the General Election.

There was no indication that she would be calling an early election, though some speculation began this morning when No. 10 said there would be an announcement by the PM, but it was still a surprise to everyone in the media and other MPs. Corbyn was interviewed on GMB this morning and nothing was mentioned about the possibility of a GE.

Theresa May reportedly made the decision over Easter, and has moved quickly on the decision.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/18/breaking-theresa-may-make-statement-downing-street-1115am1/

The radio this afternoon has been interviewing MPs from other parties (all men) who have all been very negative, and suggesting that Theresa May is running scared, and that she wants to have an election before her disastrous Brexit plan becomes public, to be honest they were sounding more desperate and scared than May.


Nicola Sturgeon has claimed that calling an early General Election is a huge political miscalculation because Scots will reject the PM’s divisive agenda. It is a little ironic that she is calling the PM’s agenda divisive since her agenda since last June has been divisive.

Nicola Sturgeon didn’t answer questions as to whether her case for a second referendum would be undermined if the SNP performed worse than in 2015. She claimed that the 2016 Holyrood election result has given her the mandate for a second referendum, however, Ruth Davidson – leader of the Scottish Conservatives – plans to make opposition to a second Independence referendum central to their campaign, and send a strong message that they oppose the SNP’s divisive plan for a second referendum.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/18/nicola-sturgeon-surprise-general-election-political-miscalculation/


Labour seem to be in disarray – again.

There is a lot of speculation on what will happen to Jeremy Corbyn after the election and the expected severe losses that Labour will suffer. Already he is being asked if he will resign after the election if Labour loses seats, but he is not being drawn on that.

One senior Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, said he will not stand in the election due to differences with the labour Leadership, and not long after his announcement another MP, Alan Johnson also said he will not stand again, it is expected that more will follow.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/18/jeremy-corbyn-refuses-say-will-step-labour-loses-snap-election/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4420822/Corbyn-admits-mistakes.html

Confusing new ‘Conservatism’

According to Bloomberg the new ‘Conservatism’ suggested by Theresa May for the United Kingdom is muddled, with some promising ideas and others ‘anything but’.

Theresa May’s Confusing New ‘Conservatism’

You’d think managing Britain’s exit from the European Union would be enough to keep Theresa May busy. But it seems the U.K.’s prime minister wants to design a whole new kind of conservatism as well — one that works not just for Britain’s frequent-flyer elite but also, as she puts it, for “the whole nation.”

Whether her ideas are coherent won’t be clear until the government starts setting out new policies, but the situation bears watching. Some of the ideas she’s suggesting look promising; others, anything but.

A post-Brexit Britain, May says, ought to strive for free trade in goods and services. But the country also needs “a new industrial strategy” that will identify sectors of the economy to “encourage, develop and support.” She says fairness requires, among other things, that consumers and workers get representatives on company boards. It also demands that jobs that could go to U.K. workers shouldn’t be given to foreigners.

There’s tension in this prospectus, to put it mildly.

The article examines the tensions between free trade and a new industrial strategy, while trying to address disenchantment with a political and economic elite and concludes:

May is right to recognize the popular disenchantment with a political and economic elite that, as she said, finds their patriotism “distasteful,” their concerns about immigration “parochial” and their vote to quit the EU “simply bewildering.” To make a success of Brexit, however, the U.K. will need to welcome foreign investors and skilled immigrants, and to let its businesses concentrate on business.

May says she wants a global, outward-looking Britain, but she’s muddling that message. She’d be wise to worry less about reinventing conservatism and more about making Britain competitive enough to thrive in new and testing circumstances.

That’s a fairly business orientated view.

A problem with political labels like ‘conservatism’ is that modern politics requires a Government that wants to last to have a policy mix that can’t be ideologically pure, but along with sound finances needs a fair degree of pragmatism plus a social conscience.

 

UK update – EU, Corbyn

Another UK update from Missy:


EU:

The Irish cabinet today agreed to appeal the decision by the EU Commission over Apple. This was flagged the other day by Ireland, but today after an emergency cabinet meeting it was made official. This has been promoted by some commentators in the UK as showing the tide turning against the EU by the member nations, whether or not this is true time will tell. It will be interesting to watch, but will be a drawn out process.

Labour:

Ooops he did it again! Corbyn has yet again caused controversy, and is facing criticism regarding intolerance in the Labour Party – this time on two counts:

1. Ruth Smeeth, has received over 20,000 threats since she spoke out against Corbyn over the report into Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. One in particular is causing concern, where she was told the gallows would be a fine and fitting place for her. She is under police protection, and the Counter Terrorism unit are investigating a couple of the people sending the message. The messages have all been sent by people saying they are supporting Corbyn, and they have been sent (in her words) in his name.

Corbyn’s spokesperson said “Jeremy condemns all abuse, and no one responsible for it is a genuine supporter of Jeremy’s. He has repeatedly called for a kinder, gentler politics.”

Unfortunately what this shows is that no matter what Corbyn says his supporters are not listening to him, and his response is to bury his head in the sand and pretend they are not really his supporters. And because he is not strong, or decisive, in taking action against them they believe they have his tacit approval to act in this way – and no matter if they do, his inaction makes the public think they have his approval as well.

His supporters are showing Corbyn up to be a weak and ineffectual leader incapable of making the hard decisions required, and the less he does about this, the less he looks like a PM in waiting to the rest of the country. The problem for Corbyn acting on this is that he needs these people in order to keep his position, and it is now at a stage where if he did act, these ‘supporters’ could easily take things into their own hands and become violent – he really is in a no win situation now.

2. On Wednesday Corbyn gave a speech in which he said that Companies should stop the after work drinks as it was unfair on mothers who wanted to get home to their children, and it benefited men who did not feel the need to be home to look after the children. This was said at a speech to launch Labour’s policy on equal rights for women, which was (ironically) followed by a drinks party (obviously no after work drinks don’t apply to him).

I will assume he meant this comment to be positive for women, and about fairness for women in the workplace, the problem is it seems to have backfired on him as he has been accused of sexism on two counts – one by suggesting women are the only ones responsible for looking after children, and two by suggesting fathers don’t want to be home to help look after their children.

There are some that have also accused him of sexism on the grounds of assuming women don’t want to go out and socialise with colleagues after work, and those that have said he is being discriminatory against those without children – or with older or grown children – by suggesting they should be denied after work drinks because of those with younger children. Not to mention the whole implication that the Government should be able to have any say on how businesses and their workers interact socially, or after hours.

One big mess for Corbyn.

A Scottish view on Brexit

Liam McIlvanney , the Stuart Professor of Scottish Studies at the University of Otago, gives a Scottish view on Brexit.

Why has Scotland risen above the anti-immigrant mood that fuelled the Brexit vote?

If it achieves nothing else, Brexit will have taught the world that England is not the same as the United Kingdom. On the results map of the EU referendum, the rising tide of Brexit was cut off rather crisply at the Scottish border.

Scotland voted to remain in the EU by a convincing margin (62% to 38%) and with striking unanimity: all 32 of the country’s electoral areas returned a Remain majority.

How did this happen?

One answer is that Scotland’s revolt against distant, uncaring elites is already under way – only it’s aimed at Westminster rather than Brussels.

The Scottish independence movement, galvanised by the referendum of 2014 and boosted by the Brexit fiasco, appeals to precisely those communities that voted for Brexit in England.

Crucially, Scotland’s independence movement blames neither the European Union nor the presence of immigrants for the country’s woes.

Scotland simply “gets” the concept of pooled sovereignty – the idea that you surrender some of your sovereignty in return for enhanced security and co-operation – in a way that England doesn’t. We get it because we’ve been doing it for over three centuries in the United Kingdom. If the English never viewed the Union in quite this light, that was because, as the larger partner, they simply carried on as if nothing had changed.

Ex world powers with a strong class system take a while to adjust to power sharing.

Well, things have changed now. With Brexit, the UK is completing its retreat into sullen Little Englandism and plenty of Scots want out. Put simply, the Scots are finding the European Union less claustrophobic than the British one. It’s the difference between sharing a flat with your mates and being in bed with an elephant.

One of the elephant’s problems is that it can’t forget the past. It can’t stop recalling the glories of Empire. Post-imperial England is still struggling to adjust to its diminished role in the world. Scotland has been all too successful in forgetting its complicity in Empire, but it is mercifully free of delusions of imperial grandeur. We know that we are a small, peripheral nation occupying the knuckle end of an Atlantic island – and we value the larger context of our European family.

All this makes it sound as though Scotland is inherently less racist and intolerant than England. It’s not. As my own Irish ancestors could testify, Scotland has its own legacy of hostility to incomers. But migration has been central to the Scottish experience for centuries and maybe we find it that bit harder to regard “migrant” as a dirty word.

Historically, Scotland’s problem has been emigration and depopulation, not immigration. Persuading someone who lives in the Highlands or the Borders or the wilds of Aberdeenshire that his country is full up is not the easiest of tasks.

Until recently a significant problem for New Zealand has also been substantial emigration, and to avoid a shrinking population we have to encourage immigrants.

But there seems to be a growing or at least a more vocal intolerance of ‘different’ people coming here.

Don’t underestimate the importance of leadership. The tone of the Brexit debate in England and Wales – as set by the odious Nigel Farage and the blustering Boris Johnson – flirted shamefully with racism.

In Scotland, leaders of all parties have eschewed such tactics. When the result was announced, the first concern of Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, was to reassure migrants that their contribution was valued. In the febrile aftermath of Brexit, Sturgeon spoke directly and graciously to “those who have done us the honour of choosing to make Scotland their home”.

Can you imagine the current crop of English politicians – not to mention those of Australia and New Zealand – having the courage and humanity to set such a tone?

Unfortunately too many politicians here smell votes in stoked up intolerance.

If all the immigrants who are already here were able to nominate what sort of new immigrants they wanted to exclude our population would not only shrink from a lack of immigration, it would probably suffer from an exodus of Kiwis looking for opportunities to thrive elsewhere in the world.