U.K. in 2016

Written by  //  July 18, 2016  //  Geopolitics, U.K.  //  2 Comments

Dear Boris Johnson: here’s my 10-step guide to being Foreign Secretary
By William Hague
… Reject the idea that Britain’s influence in the world will shrink as emerging powers get stronger. Some of those powers are not going to complete their emergence, and those that do are many years from managing peace and security in the world. As we raise our defence spending again, we should use our seat at the UN Security Council with confidence and not let the mistakes made over Iraq neuter our readiness to act.
Jeremy Kinsman comments: Hague gave a speech week before last to the Economic Club in Toronto that was a sort of dreamy anticipation of how great Brexit is going to be. This is in the same dreamy vein. It’s not bad advice on some points – I think he’s right on the personal stuff because he knows Johnson is an intelligent and entrepreneurial connector with people, but it is hopelessly rosy. BTW, the Brexited UK will not keep its UNSC permanent seat for long.
14 July
Boris Johnson is foreign secretary: The world reacts
Newspapers and politicians around the world have been reacting to Boris Johnson’s appointment as UK foreign secretary.
(BBC) Many were surprised, citing his history of faux pas including insulting the president of Turkey and commenting on the US president’s ancestry.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a radio interview Mr Johnson was a liar with “his back against the wall”.
One EU source told the BBC: “Everyone in the European Parliament thinks it’s a bad joke and that the Brits have lost it.”
The Washington Post publishes a round-up of “undiplomatic” things Mr Johnson has said during his time in public life.
Boris Johnson: How Britain’s new foreign secretary has insulted the world
A Short History of Boris Johnson Insulting Foreign Leaders
The brash and flamboyant politician, the U.K.’s new foreign secretary, is one of the more cosmopolitan figures on the world stage—but he’s also one of the least diplomatic.
(The Atlantic) Boris is one of the more cosmopolitan figures on the world political stage: great-grandson of a Turk, born an American citizen (and, depending on whom you ask, perhaps still one), and a veteran journalist on the European continent. He speaks, with varying degrees of fluency, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. If simple knowledge of foreign parts is the foreign secretary’s mandate, he’d be set. But overseeing diplomacy is also in the portfolio, and diplomacy has never been one of Johnson’s strengths. U.S. conservatives howled that President Obama kicked his presidency off with a metaphorical “apology tour,” but Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson might find a literal apology tour essential to kick off his stint in Whitehall.
Theresa May’s decisive reshuffle draws line under Cameron era
Conservative MPs had been expecting new PM’s changes to be gradual but have been met with radical overhaul of cabinet
(The Guardian) May began the day in her Westminster office, holding a series of one-to-one meetings with ministers she had decided to replace, including Gove; education secretary Nicky Morgan; and culture secretary John Whittingdale. She later moved to Downing Street, where senior Conservatives came and went throughout the day to be told their fate.
In total, six of Cameron’s ministers, including former chancellor George Osborne, have been shown the door since Wednesday night. Big winners included Justine Greening, who will run a new beefed-up department for education, and Liz Truss, who takes Gove’s role as justice secretary.
Theresa May shakes-up government with new-look cabinet
(BBC) The current male-female ratio of the cabinet remains roughly the same – at 70% to 30%, while there are 16 cabinet members, including Mrs May, who backed Remain, and seven who campaigned for Brexit.
As it should be
Larry the catDavid Cameron Gets Hustled Out of Downing Street, but the Cat Stays
The only member of the household on Downing Street to be spared the indignity of one of the fastest political transitions in recent memory will be Larry the Cat, a tabby who holds the title of chief mouser to the cabinet office.
Larry the Cat will be staying, the government spokesman said wryly, adding that Ms. May would inherit the tabby, adopted from an animal shelter in 2011 to help address a rat problem. (That didn’t seem to help David Cameron much)
Larry the cat will not be evicted from No 10, Cabinet Office confirms
When the Cameron family leave, it will be without the tabby who has lived in Downing Street since 2011
11 July
And then there was one
Theresa MayTheresa May’s first job? Tackling the damning legacy of David Cameron
The unexpectedly fast selection of Home Secretary Theresa May as the incoming new British prime minister means that she will now move into Downing Street on Wednesday, with David Cameron formally resigning to the Queen earlier that same day. The speedier-than-anticipated transition gives very little time for her to prepare for a massive agenda which, first and foremost, comprises tackling the damning legacy of Mr. Cameron – not just the British exit from the European Union, but also the United Kingdom itself unravelling.
PM-in-waiting Theresa May promises ‘a better Britain’
(BBC) Theresa May promised to build a “better Britain” and to make the UK’s EU exit a “success” after she was announced as the new Tory leader and soon-to-be PM.
Speaking outside Parliament, Mrs May said she was “honoured and humbled” to succeed David Cameron, after her only rival in the race withdrew on Monday.
Mr Cameron will tender his resignation to the Queen after PMQs on Wednesday.
Mr Cameron, who has been UK prime minister since 2010, decided to quit after the UK’s Brexit vote.
It follows another day of dramatic developments in the political world, when Andrea Leadsom unexpectedly quit the two-way Conservative leadership contest, saying she did not have the support to build “a strong and stable government”. Theresa May – Wikipedia
Meet Theresa May, Britain’s next prime minister
May enters the top job with Brexit plans and ‘not a lot of friends’
(CBC) Selected as Britain’s next prime minister in the very process she advised against, Theresa May will now have to negotiate a Brexit deal she didn’t want. … It’s just the latest contradiction in May’s 19 years as an MP, including the past six as home secretary, the top official in charge of public safety.
Andrea Leadsom has pulled out of the race to become the next Conservative leader, saying it is in the “best interests of the country”, paving the way for Theresa May to become prime minister.
6 July
Michael Gove crushed as Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom win Tory leadership ballot
Selection process for new Conservative leader and prime minister will conclude by September 9.
(Politico EU) Michael Gove’s treatment of fellow Brexiteer Boris Johnson backfired spectacularly as Tory MPs swung behind Andrea Leadsom in the race to become the next prime minister and party leader. … Leadsom, a relative unknown until the Brexit campaign, has stolen the spotlight — not always for the right reasons — and many political pundits predict she could win the support of Conservative Party members, who will make the final decision on the country’s and party’s next leader by September 9. She already has the backing of Johnson, who said she had the “zap, drive and determination” required for the top job, and Nigel Farage, who said it was “important the next prime minister is a Brexiteer.” May, who backed Remain but was mostly silent during the Brexit campaign, romped home in both rounds of voting by MPs.
6 July
Tony Blair unrepentant as Chilcot gives crushing Iraq war verdict
Sir John Chilcot delivers highly critical verdict on Iraq war but ex-PM says: ‘I believe we made the right decision’
(The Guardian) A defiant Tony Blair defended his decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003 following the publication of a devastating report by Sir John Chilcot, which mauled the ex-prime minister’s reputation and said that at the time of the 2003 invasion Saddam Hussein “posed no imminent threat”.
Blair’s extraordinary two-hour press conference came after Chilcot, a retired civil servant, published his long-awaited report into the Iraq debacle. In the end, and seven years after hearings first began, it was a more far-reaching and damning document than many had expected. It eviscerated Blair’s style of government and decision-making. It also revealed that in a remarkable private note sent on 28 July 2002 Blair promised Bush: “I will be with you, whatever.”
1 July
Henry Porter: Did Boris Johnson Want to Remain All Along?
This is what happens when you play political Russian roulette.
(Vanity Fair) I am surprised by Johnson’s exit from the race, but I am not shocked. When the Leave campaign unexpectedly won last week, Johnson was hardly in a jubilant mood. He appeared with Gove in the ruins of the citadel without a proper plan, or even the faintest inkling of what to do next, apart from trying to look statesman-like and mumbling platitudes about uniting the country. Gove looked equally shifty. And it was at that moment when I really began to fear for my country. These clowns, both journalists turned politicians, seemed only to have realized then that they were playing with live ammunition. … Meanwhile, constitutional experts seem to have established that Article 50, which initiates the two-year negotiations to leave the E.U., can’t be triggered by the prime minister alone. It requires an act of Parliament, which appears unlikely given that there is a significant pro-E.U. majority in Parliament.
A second referendum is not yet likely, but as people feel the pain of this disaster, there is every possibility that a demand for another vote will arise. A petition for a new referendum on the government site has already been signed by 4 million people, and tens of thousands will demonstrate on Saturday in London in favor of continuing E.U. membership. Nothing can be ruled out in Britain right now, except, perhaps, Boris Johnson’s return to frontline politics.
Gove outlines Tory leadership plan saying: ‘Whatever charisma is, I don’t have it’
He is introduced by Nick Boles, his close ally. Reporters say few Tory MPs have come to the launch to support Gove.
UK Conservative leadership candidates
Conservative leadership race: who are the five candidates? (Soon to be a trivia question?)
Theresa May, Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb, Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox are all in contention to succeed David Cameron
(The Guardian) Following a tumultuous 24 hours during which the odds-on favourite, Boris Johnson, withdrew from the running, the nominations are finally in. The 1922 Committee announced five official candidates. Who are they, what do we know about them and where do they stand?
30 June

How Boris Johnson was brought to his knees by the ‘cuckoo nest plot’
“It makes House of Cards look like Teletubbies.”
(Telegraph UK) Mr Johnson’s most loyal friends were apoplectic. One described Mr Gove’s behaviour as “utter treachery”, and suspicions quickly surfaced that Mr Gove had intended all along to use the popular Mr Johnson to win the referendum vote before ambushing him at the last moment.

Conservative MPs in uproar as Boris Johnson ‘rips party apart’ by withdrawing from leadership contest after ambush by Michael Gove
(Telegraph UK) Conservative MPs who turned up for what they thought would be Boris Johnson’s decision to stand for the Tory leadership at the St Ermine hotel near Scotland Yard are absolutely furious.
The chaos sent shock waves through the campaign as Home Secretary Theresa May announced her bid to succeed David Cameron this morning.
At midday Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, announced that Theresa May, Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom will fight it out to succeed David Cameron.
26 June
What a truly unpleasant pair!
Sarah Vine is married to Michael Gove. She just asked experts to help the country
Mrs “Britain is tired of experts” Gove calls on experts to help the country
25 June
Petition to hold second EU referendum reaches 2m signatures
House of Commons website sees unprecedented traffic for record-breaking petition
(The Guardian) Demand for a fresh vote was so high that it crashed the parliament.uk website on Friday as the petition was shared widely on social media and new signatures were added at a rate of more than 100,000 an hour. Parliament must consider all petitions that reach a threshold of 100,000 votes.
24 June
BRITAIN STUNS WORLD WITH VOTE TO LEAVE E.U.;
CAMERON PLANS TO RESIGN, AND MARKETS FALL
(NYT)  Britain has voted to leave the European Union, a historic decision sure to reshape the nation’s place in the world, rattle the Continent and rock political establishments throughout the West.
Not long after the vote tally was completed, Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the campaign to remain in the bloc, appeared in front of 10 Downing Street to announce that he planned to step down by October, saying the country deserved a leader committed to carrying out the will of the people.
The stunning turn of events was accompanied by a plunge in the financial markets, with the value of the British pound and stock prices plummeting
The margin of victory startled even proponents of a British exit. The “Leave” campaign won by 52 percent to 48 percent. More than 17.4 million people voted in the referendum on Thursday to sever ties with the European Union, and about 16.1 million to remain in the bloc.

Brexit: UK votes to leave EU in historic referendum

The ScreamThe UK has voted by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union after 43 years in an historic referendum.
(BBC) London and Scotland voted strongly to stay in the EU but the remain vote has been undermined by poor results in the north of England.
The pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 as the markets reacted to the results.
The referendum turnout was 71.8% – with more than 30 million people voting – the highest turnout at a UK election since 1992.
Wales and the majority of England outside London voted in large numbers for Brexit.
Britain Votes to Leave E.U., Stunning the World
(NYT) Britain has voted to leave the European Union, a historic decision sure to reshape the nation’s place in the world, rattle the Continent and rock political establishments throughout the West.
Financial markets, which had been anticipating that Britain would vote to stay in, braced for a day of losses and possible turmoil. Economists had predicted that a vote to leave the bloc could do substantial damage to the British economy.
Mr. Cameron had vowed before the vote to move quickly to begin the divorce process if Britain voted to leave. But even if he follows through — some leaders of the Leave movement have counseled moving slowly — nothing will change immediately on either side of the Channel, with existing trade and immigration rules remaining in place. The withdrawal process is expected to be complex and contentious, though under the bloc’s governing treaty it is effectively limited to two years.
Rafael Behr: Brexit earthquake has happened, and the rubble will take years to clear
(The Guardian) The theoretical possibility that Britain might leave the European Union, nominally the only question under consideration on the ballot paper, turns out to prefigure nothing of the shock when the country actually votes to do it. Politics as practised for a generation is upended; traditional party allegiances are shredded; the prime minister’s authority is bust – and that is just the parochial domestic fallout. A whole continent looks on in trepidation. It was meant to be unthinkable, now the thought has become action. Europe cannot be the same again.
Britain has voted to leave the EU – what happens next?
After rejecting the union, Brexiters must choose between an exit from the single market and a half-in, half-out purgatory
The scale of the destruction wrought by independence day is such that one of the last redoubts of the establishment left standing – the civil service led by the cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood – will take centre stage.
It will be his task, in conjunction with the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, and David Cameron to bring a semblance of shape to the chaos that is likely to ensue.

Cleo Paskal: Hard times ahead for European Union
(Sunday Guardian) Whichever way the vote goes on 23 June, the EU debate is far from over. The EU is evolving politically and economically at a time when the world as a whole is changing geopolitically, geoeconomically and geophysically. The Brexit debate has uncovered some very deep differences in political philosophy at the heart of how to handle those changes. And, so far, there is no leadership at the level of Sardar Patel to guide the path ahead. The EU is in for some very tough times. (19 June 2016)

Reuters: The Brexit vote
BBC: The UK’s EU referendum: All you need to know
Europe & EU 2016

(Quartz) The final day of campaigning ahead of the UK’s “Brexit” referendum. The final batch of polls show opinion swinging back towards a vote for Britain to remain in the EU. The “leave” campaign upped its rhetoric in a last-ditch attempt to convince voters to reject the EU, with justice minister Michael Gove comparing economists who say Brexit will harm the UK economy to the Nazi-sponsored scientists who denounced Albert Einstein’s theories. (Yes, really.)
20 June
brexit-door-illustration-380274883Roger Cohen: Jo Cox and Britain’s Place in Europe
This is not the Britain I know. This is not the Britain that accepted my South African Jewish immigrant parents and allowed them to prosper. This is not the Britain whose own union — of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — has been an exercise in successful mingling. This is not the Britain whose capital, London, is perhaps the world’s greatest city because of the openness that has made it the home to every tongue.
“Jo, get up,” pleaded Cox’s assistant, Fazila Aswat, as the politician lay dying. “No, my pain is too much,” Cox replied, her last words.
Come on, Britain! For Cox, for her two children, for Fazila Aswat, for the proud British history of openness, get up! Get up, shun the hatemongers, and vote to remain in the European Union.
Gaming out the British Referendum
Britons will vote in an historic referendum this Thursday, June 23, to determine whether the United Kingdom will remain a member of the European Union.
While Stratfor is not in the business of calling elections, we analyze and forecast the geopolitical factors that influence such a vote, along with the political and economic implications once the outcome of the vote is decided.
The 2016 “Brexit” referendum is more properly viewed as an outgrowth of Britain’s long-term geopolitical survival strategy — a carefully thought-out stance that allows it to pivot as needed between the United States and Europe to secure its own strategic interests. (Free download)
18 June
Brexit is being driven by English nationalism. And it will end in self-rule
Fintan O’Toole
(The Guardian) Over time, the main political entity most likely to emerge from Brexit is not a Britain with its greatness restored or a sweetly reunited kingdom. It is a standalone England. Scotland will have a second referendum on independence, this time with the lure of staying in the European Union. Northern Ireland will be in a horrendous bind, cut off from the rest of the island by a European border and with the UK melting around it. Its future as an unwanted appendage of a shrunken Britain is unsustainable. Wales is more uncertain, but a resurgence of Welsh nationalism after Brexit is entirely possible, especially after a Scottish departure from the UK. After Brexit, an independent England will emerge by default.
And this is of course a perfectly legitimate aspiration. Nationalism, whether we like it or not, is almost universal and the English have as much right to it as anyone else. There’s nothing inherently absurd about the notion of England as an independent nation state. It’s just that if you’re going to create a new nation state, you ought to be talking about it, arguing for it, thinking it through. And this isn’t happening. England seems to be muddling its way towards a very peculiar event: accidental independence.
17 June
Elizabeth Renzetti: Fear and loathing in England as the Brexit debate brings out the worst
a fundamental mistrust of expert opinion lies at the heart of Brexiters’ desire. The head follows where the heart leads. Supporters of the Leave campaign do not appear to be swayed by the advice of boffins, no matter how well-grounded in evidence: A YouGov poll revealed that 68 per cent of Leave supporters agree with the statement, “It’s wrong to rely too much on so-called experts and better to rely on ordinary people.” Twenty-four per cent of Remain voters felt the same way.
(Globe & Mail) By the end of the week, an increasingly nasty campaign had become inextricably linked with Ms. Cox’s death. It was unclear whether her murder was politically motivated, though there are reports that the suspect yelled “Britain First” – the name of an extreme-right, xenophobic group – before he attacked her. He also apparently bought reading material and instructions for making a homemade gun from neo-Nazi groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre. The Guardian newspaper reported that police found Nazi paraphernalia at his home. Ms. Cox was pro-migration, pro-EU, and had worked with Syrian refugees.
The Leave campaign, which polls show slightly ahead at the moment, plays on age-old terrors of immigrant invasion. …
The Bank of England is not alone in issuing a warning, and much of Remain’s argument rests on the fear of a post-Brexit collapse. The International Monetary Fund and the Institute for Fiscal Studies have argued that the economic costs could be dire. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that seniors could lose their pensions and bus passes. George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, enraged pro-Leave Tories with his threat to bring in a tax-raising budget in the event Britain severs ties with Europe. President Barack Obama says a Europe-less Britain will move “to the back of the queue” in trade negotiations with the U.S. Former British Prime Minister John Major, who calls the Leave campaign “squalid,” is worried about the precious public-health system.
16 June
Killing of Jo Cox: grief and shock over death of ‘MP with huge compassion’
Husband of Batley and Spen Labour MP calls for fight against ‘the hatred that killed her’ as politicians mourn victim of shooting and stabbing outside constituency surgery
(The Guardian) The first killing of a serving MP since Irish Republicans murdered Ian Gow in 1990 stunned Westminster on Thursday and forced the suspension of campaigning for next week’s EU referendum until Saturday. Cox had taken part in a high-profile event on Wednesday supporting the remain campaign on the river Thames.
Rupert Murdoch’s Sun Tabloid Urges Britons to Quit the EU
“This is our last chance to remove ourselves from the undemocratic Brussels machine … and it’s time to take it,” The Sun declared in a front-page editorial.
It added: “The Sun urges everyone to vote Leave. We must set ourselves free from dictatorial Brussels.”
9 June
Major and Blair say an EU exit could split the UK
(BBC) Sir John Major and Tony Blair warned a vote to leave the EU will “jeopardise the unity” of the UK as they campaigned together in Northern Ireland.They suggested a Leave vote may re-open Scotland’s independence issue and put Northern Ireland’s “future at risk” by threatening its current stability.
6 June
MPs ‘considering using majority’ to keep UK in single market
(BBC) Pro-Remain MPs are considering using their Commons majority to keep Britain inside the EU single market if there is a vote for Brexit, the BBC has learned.
The MPs fear a post-Brexit government might negotiate a limited free trade deal with the EU, which they say would damage the UK’s economy.
2 June
How Will ‘Brexit’ Vote Go? Monty Python May Offer Clue
(NYT) “They’ve bled us white, the bastards,” says their leader, Reg, played by John Cleese. “And what have they ever given us in return?” His colleagues mention a few things, by way of example.
O.K., Reg says. “But apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the freshwater system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”…
Just as many Britons feel emotionally apart and even alien from Europe, so they see the European Union as an opaque, bewildering abstraction, a mysterious bureaucratic behemoth that hoovers up their money and independence while giving little (or nothing) in return. British understanding of its workings and purpose has not been helped by the over-the-top arguments being thrown around in the debate over the referendum, set for June 23. No one likes having this debate anyway, much less the unpleasantly cereal-bar-and-adult-diaper-like descriptions of its sides: “Brexit” (go) and “Remain” (stay).
25 May
Vote to leave EU would ‘condemn Britain to irrelevance’, say historians
Letter signed by more than 300 prominent historians says voters can ‘stiffen cohesion of our continent in a dangerous world’
In a letter to the Guardian, the academics and writers argue that the referendum offers a chance to underscore the “irreplaceable role” Britain has played, and should continue to play, in Europe’s history.
21 May
Conrad Black: If Britain leaves the EU, where will it turn?
Given British disillusionment with Europe and the end of American reliability as we knew it from the time of Roosevelt to the arrival of Obama, Canada could play a role in leading the development of an alternative bloc, though one associated with both the European Union and the United States. The U.K., the old dominions of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and Singapore and India, as an economic group, would be as great as China, and probably, with recent developments in China and the settling in of the Thatcherite Modi government in India, would grow as quickly. In foreign and strategic policy terms, it would have, or at least could soon have, the second greatest combined naval and air force of any state or grouping, after the U.S. The member-states could broadly co-operate to whatever extent the constituent member states could comfortably agree. It would be at least as unitary a force as the present Europe of 27 states from Bulgaria and Estonia to Portugal.
He can, Carney
The governor is right to intervene in the debate over Europe
(The Economist) BREXITEERS are livid about comments made at a press conference on May 12th by Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England. He presented the bank’s latest inflation report, and then went on to concede that a vote to leave the European Union could “possibly” tip Britain into a “technical recession” (defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth) and destabilise financial markets. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative MP and prominent Brexit campaigner, said that the governor “should be fired” for his comments.
The accusation against Mr Carney is that, by focusing on the problems associated with Brexit, he has taken a political position and thus compromised the bank’s independence. But this is to misunderstand how the Bank of England works. Every inflation report sets out the big risks facing the British economy—the usual suspects recently have been the euro crisis and China’s slowdown. The nine-member monetary-policy committee thinks the referendum is currently the biggest threat to financial stability (look at the currency markets and it is hard to disagree). Britain’s current-account deficit, at an all-time high of 7% of GDP, will be an obvious weakness if Britain votes Leave.
Vote Leave embroiled in race row over Turkey security threat claims
(The Guardian) Brexit group ‘appealing to prejudice’ with argument that Turkey’s accession to EU would put Britons at greater risk of crime
An analysis by the Brexit campaign group cited higher levels of criminality and gun ownership in Turkey as evidence for their position, which was supported by a statement from Penny Mordaunt, a defence minister who backs Brexit.
Vote Leave said: “Since the birthrate in Turkey is so high, we can expect to see an additional million people added to the UK population from Turkey alone within eight years.
“This will not only increase the strain on Britain’s public services, but it will also create a number of threats to UK security. Crime is far higher in Turkey than the UK. Gun ownership is also more widespread. Because of the EU’s free movement laws, the government will not be able to exclude Turkish criminals from entering the UK.” …
The Observer/Opinium’s latest on-line poll suggests 44% of UK adults will vote to remain in the EU, while 40% will vote to leave and 14% are undecided.
20 May
Will Brexit Destroy Britain and Europe?
Philippe Legrain weighs the views of Joschka Fischer, Richard Haass, Joseph Nye, and others on what Britain’s withdrawal from the EU would mean for both sides.
On June 23, British voters will decide in a referendum whether to remain in the EU or go it alone. Advocates of remaining, including Prime Minister David Cameron, may have the better arguments, but the future of the UK – and of Europe – is unlikely to be determined by reason alone.
The long phony war about the United Kingdom’s place in Europe is over. An increasingly vicious domestic “Battle for Britain” has been underway for weeks. In a referendum on June 23, British voters will decide whether the UK remains in the European Union or, after more than four decades of membership, negotiates its withdrawal.
Opinion polls are finely balanced. With the EU increasingly seen through the lens of economic crisis, political turmoil, and unwanted migrants, a British exit – or “Brexit” – is a realistic prospect. Indeed, advocates would seem to have the wind at their backs: In an age of widespread anti-establishment rage, their claim that bossy Brussels bureaucrats are to blame for everything wrong with Britain resonates widely, tempting voters to project their personal visions of Utopia onto a post-EU future. The “remain” camp, by contrast, must somehow sell the reality of the EU as it is, warts and all.
While Britain’s debate about its relationship with “Europe” is often insular, Project Syndicate’s commentators bring a broader perspective to the question. They examine not only the likely implications of Brexit, but also how the UK arrived at this point and what the referendum – however it turns out – means for Europe’s future.
14 May
Pity the British voter! It will only get worse as the June 23rd vote approaches.
The establishment’s anti-Brexit hysterics may alienate voters
(Telegraph View) The EU referendum is becoming a classic story of David vs Goliath. On one side, a small coalition of Brexiters – most prominently Boris Johnson hurtling around the regions in a battle bus. On the other side, almost every powerful and wealthy name that the establishment can drop. And yet, despite all its advantages, the Remain camp has failed to establish an early, sizeable lead. Project Fear has not yet worked.
How long can the Remain camp continue to root its campaign in threats and warnings largely unsupported by cogent arguments and fact? Celebrity-backed projections not only sound insubstantial but also run the risk of alienating the public even further – giving the impression that they are being terrified into voting Remain rather than persuaded. A similar tactic was tried during the Scottish referendum and nearly backfired. The establishment would be wise to remember that the British have a deep and abiding affection for political underdogs.
13 May
Brexit Dangers:The International Monetary Fund is warning of dire consequences if Britain votes to leave the European Union. Speaking in London, Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, said the impact on an exit to Britain’s economy could range from “pretty bad to very, very bad.” British voters are scheduled to hold a referendum on the issue in June.
10 May
EU referendum: top economic thinktank warns of post-Brexit shocks
NIESR forecasts sterling to plunge 20% with prices to soar, pay and growth to fall steadily but immigration unlikely to be cut sharply
(The Guardian) The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has also forecast that prices will soar and Britain’s growth rate will be 1% lower next year if there is a vote to leave the EU.
The thinktank said: “Inflation would jump dramatically as sterling depreciates, investment would plummet and consumer spending would be hit by lower real incomes.”
The loss to average UK households could be as much as £2,000 over the longer term in the institute’s worst-case scenario, which involves a loss of preferential trade links with the EU and a fall in productivity linked to declines in business investment.
9-10 May
Exclusive: London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Religious Extremism, Brexit and Donald Trump
(TIME) Sadiq Khan, 45, was declared the new mayor of London in the early hours of Saturday, becoming the most powerful Muslim politician in Europe.
In these excerpts from the conversation, Khan claims he is the “antidote” to extremism, reveals that the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency might force him to meet U.S. mayors before the end of the year, and explains why he’s campaigning to keep the U.K. in the European Union ahead of June’s In/Out referendum.
6 May
Sadiq KhanBus Driver’s Son Beats Billionaire’s Son in London Mayoral Race
Sadiq Khan overcame the smear campaign leveled against him and Labour colleagues to take back the capital after eight years of Tory rule.
(The Nation) This afternoon, some 17 hours after the polls closed, Labour’s Sadiq Khan was provisionally declared the next mayor of London. First-preference votes put the Labour candidate ahead by 44 percent to 35 percent for Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith, and though Khan’s victory won’t be official until second-preference votes from various smaller parties are counted, they aren’t expected to change the result.
3 May
Electing Sadiq Khan as mayor of London would be the terrorists’ worst nightmare
By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
The very fact of a Muslim being in this high office could do more to combat radicalisation than any number of government strategies
(The Guardian) A Khan victory would also demolish the extremists’ anti-western narrative. If a Muslim can be elected by millions of voters of all backgrounds to take charge of the world’s greatest city, how would the jihadis – how could they – carry on believing and arguing that we Muslims have no future in Europe, or that westerners hate us? This victory could do more to combat radicalisation than any number of government strategies – most of which are in any case unjust and counterproductive.
Londoners don’t want Boris Johnson as PM
Newspaper poll shows support for Johnson’s work as mayor but not for him becoming prime minister.
(Politico) Johnson has made no secret of his desire to replace David Cameron as Tory leader, and the two have been at loggerheads over the future of the U.K. in the EU, with Johnson the highest-profile Brexit supporter.
London will choose its new mayor on Thursday, with Labour’s Sadiq Khan well ahead of Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith in the polls.
30 April
How others see it
The European Union would suffer from Brexit—which is why it could not be kind to Britain afterwards
(The Economist) MOST of the Brexit debate has been about its effect on Britain. But a British departure would also have a profound impact on the European Union. And that would affect how others approach negotiations with a post-Brexit Britain.
For the EU, a vote for Brexit on June 23rd could hardly come at a worse time. The club is in trouble. The euro crisis is not over, with growth slow, youth unemployment high and Greece again in difficulties. The recent fall in the flows of refugees across the Mediterranean may prove temporary. Many leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, seem politically weakened.
The longer-term effects of Brexit would also be serious. The EU would lose much prestige from the exit of one of its biggest members. Britain is one of the few EU countries with real diplomatic and military clout. … All this means other EU countries will see Brexit as a hostile act meriting a firm response.
Muslim’s Labour Candidacy Shapes London Mayoral Race
By STEPHEN CASTLE
(NYT) With Britain struggling to integrate minorities, Sadiq Khan is favored to win election on Thursday, which would make him the first Muslim to lead the city and give a boost to his opposition party.
The son of a London bus driver, Sadiq Khan has had a remarkable rise into the upper echelons of British politics. He grew up with seven siblings in a three-bedroom home in public housing and attended state schools before becoming a human rights lawyer and then a senior government minister.
Now Mr. Khan, 45, a lawmaker and former transport minister for the opposition Labour Party, is the favorite in the battle to become the next mayor of London. He would succeed Boris Johnson, the extroverted Conservative who has held the post since 2008 and is a leading figure in the campaign for Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Mr. Khan’s closest rival is Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate, who says he wants to make London “the greenest city in the world.”
27 April
OECD chief gives Britain blunt warning of Brexit perils
As an economist, diplomat and Secretary-General of the OECD, you might expect Angel Gurria to offer a dry, academic assessment of global issues. Not when it comes to Britain leaving the European Union.
On Wednesday, Mr. Gurria used colourful flourishes, unusual examples and blunt language to argue that there was absolutely no benefit to Britain leaving the EU. “We see no economic upside for the U.K. whatsoever,” Mr. Gurria told a packed auditorium at the London School of Economics. “The only question is where, on the spectrum of possible losses, the outcome winds up.”
22 April
Jonathan Freedland: It took Barack Obama to crush the Brexit fantasy
The US president destroyed one of the Vote Leave campaign’s core arguments, ending a week that may define the referendum debate
First in print and then, more explicitly, in person he spelled out that America has no intention of forming some new, closer relationship with a Brexited Britain. On the contrary, a post-EU Britain would be at “the back of the queue” if it sought to agree its own, new trade treaty with the US.
America, he told his British audience – hence his use of “queue”, not “line” – likes the fact that Britain is already married: it works out really well for all three parties involved. His message was unambiguous. Don’t rush into a hasty divorce because you think we’re waiting for you with open arms. We’re not.
He also explained that of course he had the right to speak, despite Brexiteer Liam Fox’s letter signed by 100 MPs urging him to stay out of the EU debate. As Obama put it, since the leavers are offering “an opinion about what the US is going to do, I thought you might want to hear an opinion from the president of the United States on what the US is going to do”. And the opinion he gave was devastating.
The Guardian view on a key week in the EU debate: Obama sends the right message
Editorial: The remain campaign has played two big cards this week. Britain’s debate about Europe is now much more serious than before
21 April
Strobe Talbott: Brexit’s Threat to ‘the Special Relationship’
(NYT) As the suspense heightens, so should the recognition that Brexit could be the worst news yet for the trans-Atlantic community, particularly for Britain and the United States, and very bad news for the entire world.
Should Brexit occur, a two-year transition period would follow, but the costs to Britain would kick in quickly. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that investor confidence and financial markets would be shaken. A report this week from the Exchequer warned that Brexit would risk stifling economic growth.
More consequentially, Brexit might also shrink the United Kingdom itself. European Union membership is popular in Scotland, both for economic reasons and because it provides a counterweight to being governed from Westminster. When Scotland held a referendum on independence two years ago, a majority said “no.” Brexit might very well prompt another vote — but with a different outcome. This in turn would encourage secessionist movements like Catalonia’s in Spain.
Brexit could also be contagious for the European Union as a whole. The possibility of a British withdrawal is already intensifying centrifugal forces among the 27 other member states.
15 April
Yanis Varoufakis: ‘I’d love to give Brussels a bloody nose’ – video interview
Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis tells Owen Jones he would love to give Brussels a shock – but a vote to leave the EU in the UK’s refrendum in June would lead to the disintegration of the European Union and a return to the xenophobia, racism and ultra-nationalism of the 1930s. He argues that it could also lead to Boris Johnson becoming prime minister
An extended version of this interview is available on Owen Jones’ YouTube channel
See also Ken Matziorinis Comment below
14 April
IMF chief issues impassioned plea for Britain to stay in EU
Christine Lagarde’s warnings of the impacts of Brexit are echoed by the World Bank head and the Bank of England
(The Guardian) The managing director of the International Monetary Fund has made an impassioned plea for Britain to stay in the EU, saying Brexit would spell the painful breakdown of a “long marriage” with grave risks for the global economy.
Christine Lagarde said uncertainty created by the 23 June referendum was already dragging down the UK economy, and a decision to leave the bloc would make matters worse.
She said that if the UK did leave the EU it would spark debate in other member countries about whether they should follow its example, which would create even more uncertainty and risk.
“It’s been a long marriage between members of the European Union. It’s my personal hope that it doesn’t break. And like all marriages, good talks can actually help,” she said at the IMF and World Bank’s spring meetings in Washington.
James Knightley, an economist at ING bank, said the Bank of England was clearly in wait-and-see mode on policy given the pressure on consumer sentiment, business confidence and investment ahead of the vote.
“However, should the UK vote to leave the next move is likely to be a rate cut as policymakers try to shore up confidence,” he said. “We expect sterling to fall sharply, which would push up inflation temporarily, but the expected hit to economic activity in an environment where business and consumer sentiment is severely strained suggests that the BoE will look through this.”
11 April
(Quartz) A long-awaited report calculating the costs and benefits of the UK’s membership in the European Union is due to be released. Meanwhile, David Cameron faces questions in Parliament, soon after the unprecedented publication of his tax returns. The Panama Papers had revealed he benefited from an offshore trust.
Joseph Nye: Brexit and the Balance of Power
(Project Syndicate) The question of the costs and benefits of British membership in the EU divides the British press as well. Many mass-circulation publications support “Brexit,” whereas the financial press supports continued membership. The Economist, for example, points out that some 45% of British exports go to other EU countries, and that the atmosphere for negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal would likely be frosty.Moreover, the EU has made clear to non-members such as Norway and Switzerland that they can have full access to the single market only if they accept most of its rules, including the free movement of people, and contribute to the EU budget. In other words, a Britain outside the Union would gain little in terms of “sovereignty”; on the contrary, it would lose its vote and influence over the terms of its participation in the single market. Meanwhile, rival financial centers such as Paris and Frankfurt would seize the chance to establish rules that would help them win back business from London.
I resigned so I could tell the truth about Brexit – and what it will cost Britain to stay
John Longworth, former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce
(The Guardian) The voices of the real economy are the grafters with good ideas – not the anti-Brexit multinationals who represent only 5% of British businesses
The business community is split on the question of Britain leaving the EU about 50:50, I would think. So why do we hear so much from the multinationals and so little from the authentic voice of the real economy?
Notwithstanding the government’s backing for a massively well-funded remain campaign, there are signs that the political and business establishment are beginning to panic. That is because the leave camp’s message that Britain will have a brighter economic future and greater prosperity outside the EU is beginning to cut through.
Some very caustic reaction in the Comments on this article, e.g.
You didn’t resign. You were sacked, or more precisely suspended, for not adhering to the BCC’s policy of neutrality.
“The business community is split on the question of Britain leaving the EU about 50:50, I would think.”
You don’t need to think, especially as you are wrong. You can have the facts instead. It’s easy to Google for systematic poll results, which show 70% to 80% of business people wish to remain in the EU.
9 April
As Britain Contemplates Exit, Boris Johnson Prepares His Entrance
(NYT) Mr. Johnson, who made an early reputation as a journalist mocking the European Union, has shaken up the debate over British membership in the bloc — and jolted British politics more generally — by spurning Prime Minister David Cameron, a fellow Conservative, and backing the campaign to leave the European Union.
Mr. Johnson’s declaration was far and away the highest-profile defection from the prime minister’s campaign to keep Britain inside the bloc when the matter is put to a national referendum on June 23. But it also focused ever greater attention on his motives — cynical was a more popular judgment than brave — and his ambitions. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, 51, having been in a long and often dysfunctional relationship with Mr. Cameron, effectively used the drama of his choice to announce his intention to succeed him as prime minister.
Natalie Nougayrède: The Brexit nightmare is becoming reality. The remain camp is in denial
From Cameron’s Panama Papers debacle to the weakness of Merkel and Hollande, the omens for Britain remaining in the EU get poorer by the day. Does anyone care?
(The Guardian) A perfect storm is brewing and it could take Britain out of the European Union. Right now it’s hard to see what, or who, will thwart that scenario. For months I thought Brexit was unlikely. Now, I’m alarmed. The push factors are piling up. It’s not just that the gap between remain and leave has been narrowing in opinion polls – perhaps the polls need to be taken with a pinch of salt. What’s so worrying is that developments in the UK and events beyond it are together setting the stage for a train-wreck. For Britain and EU alike, Brexit would be a tremendous loss. Yet a whiff of fatalism in the air, or at least a careless passivity, makes the situation especially dangerous. …
Three years ago Cameron put the future of the UK – and even its territorial integrity (think Scotland) – at stake by setting off towards an in-out referendum on the EU as a way of managing his own party. It is obvious he has failed to put internal Tory dissent to rest. That Boris Johnson has sided with leave brings to mind how in 2005 Laurent Fabius, one of France’s socialist heavyweights, opted for no against his own party’s leadership in the referendum campaign on the EU constitution. That led to disastrous results – despite a majority of the French media calling for a yes vote.
15 March
Brexit and Britain – what would it mean for UK trade?
(Reuters) The stakes will be high for Britain’s historic role as a free-trading nation when it holds a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union on June 23.
There is no precedent for an economy as big as Britain’s leaving a trade bloc, and the rival campaigns paint contrasting pictures of what quitting the EU might mean for its trade.
Below are some of the main issues around the potential risks or benefits for British trade of a so-called Brexit.
Campaigners seeking to keep Britain in the EU say it would be in a weak negotiating position if it left and then sought to hammer out a trade agreement with its former partners, something many “out” campaigners say they want.
Government figures show 12.6 percent of Britain’s economic output is linked to exports to the EU’s 27 other members, for whom only 3.1 percent of output is linked to exports to Britain.
Pascal Lamy, a former head of the World Trade Organisation, said a post-Brexit Britain would probably have to resort to raising its import tariffs on EU and other countries’ goods or restricting access to its market in services in order to gain some muscle for trade talks that could last as long as a decade.
24 February
In graphics: Britain’s referendum on EU membership
A background guide to “Brexit” from the European Union
(The Economist) ON FEBRUARY 20th David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, set June 23rd as the date for a referendum on the country’s membership of the European Union. His announcement followed a protracted renegotiation of the current conditions of Britain’s membership at a summit in Brussels. The move immediately prompted government ministers to declare their backing for either the “remain” or “leave” campaigns. Mr Cameron strongly believes in the benefits of continued EU membership, but a handful of high-profile MPs, including justice secretary, Michael Gove, and London’s mayor Boris Johnson, have pledged support for the “out” campaigners. In early 2015 the chances of ”Brexit”— Britain departing from the European Union—seemed remote. Today, largely because of Europe’s migration crisis and the interminable euro mess, the polls have narrowed. Some recent surveys even find a majority of Britons wanting to leave.
21 February
Analysis – EU’s real brake isn’t Britain but Franco-German impasse
(Reuters) Forget Brexit. The real obstacle to deeper European integration is not the awkward British, whether they choose to stay in the European Union with a “special status” or leave.
It is a long-running Franco-German impasse on how to make the euro zone stronger and more sustainable, reconciling two radically different economic and political cultures.
Now that David Cameron has won a deal to enshrine formally Britain’s semi-detached status in the 28-nation bloc – if his sceptical voters don’t detach it completely – the onus will return to Europe’s founding nations to work out a way forward.
European federalists such as Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel are fretting that the terms granted to Britain’s embattled leader may whet others’ appetite for opting out of EU policies and ultimately lead to a disintegration of the union.
19 February
EU summit: Cameron secures deal and starts campaign to keep Britain in – as it happened
David Cameron has claimed victory and pledged to campaign with “all my heart and soul” to keep Britain inside the EU after a deal was struck on Friday evening to redraw the terms of the UK’s membership.
David Cameron’s EU deal: what he wanted and what he got

2 Comments on "U.K. in 2016"

  1. Professor Kenneth Matziorinis April 17, 2016 at 5:26 pm · Reply

    Varoufakis is articulating a highly coherent description of political economy that is difficult to disagree with. I agree with his assessment of Europe. Although Europe needs more Europe, it needs a different kind of Europe. A Europe that is more aligned to the original goals of the European Project, a Europe that is more the union of free nations, a democratic Europe. The Europe we have been getting since Germany has taken over the driver’s seat is an undemocratic, corporatist and feudalistic miscreant of humanity. Even before Syriza’s ill-fated attempt to extract some measure of common sense out of the Troika I had given up on Europe. I was certain that the whole attempt of the Syriza government would result in a devastating defeat. I am surprised that even my friend Varoufakis could not see it at the time. I suppose that one must be forgiven for feeling hopeful. Ken Matziorinis

  2. Diana Thebaud Nicholson June 24, 2016 at 2:21 am · Reply

    Remember, that I am strongly pro-European Union as an idea, but critical of how it has been realized. I see the EU as the most successful peace-project of our time.
    Brexit
    72% voting, many in heavy rain and even thunderstorms tell something about democracy working in UK. The result is not a surprise, but certainly decisive.
    What next? I had a luncheon with my older brother just before the Summer recess. He was among those who negotiated us into the EU and dealt after that with EU-related matters for years. He predicted a 52 to 48 win for Brexit, then followed by two years of negotiations after which there will be a new vote and UK will decide to remain.
    First the EU external borders must be made tight, the Brussels bureaucracy made less over-bearing and no new members.
    He could very well be right, as he has almost always been in these sort of matters.
    Putin is pleased, but should be told to mind his own business, Merkel has to alter her migration policy and Juncker must sober-up. (Literally also!) Idiotic trips to Strassbourg must stop, over-all bureaucracy lessened and the Riot Act read to those kicking over the traces. Strengthen Trans-Atlantic ties and continue business as usual. There is no cause for hysterics.
    The British do not see themselves as Europeans and have never done so. However, they do share the same values and ideals with us more than do for instance the Bulgarians, Cypriots, Greeks, Romanians or certain present applicants.
    I would like to see Brexit as a wake-up call for the EU, not as the beginning of an end, but as a beginning of something new and better.

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