Brexit, EU & UK 2018

Written by  //  December 22, 2018  //  Britain/U.K., Europe & EU  //  Comments Off on Brexit, EU & UK 2018

21 December
May Is Hatching Secret Plan B to Avoid No-Deal Chaos
By Tim Ross, Robert Hutton, Kitty Donaldson and Alex Morales
If Parliament kills the deal, the people may need to decide
May’s authority is draining away and leadership threat remains

(Bloomberg) What should she do if her deal is thrown out? In private, the options on the table are dramatic and include postponing the divorce from the European Union, calling another referendum or even announcing fresh national elections.
May is trying everything she can to win support among increasingly suspicious lawmakers for the unpopular divorce settlement she’s negotiated. She was forced to pull out of a vote on it on Dec. 11 and has now rescheduled the ballot for the week of Jan. 14.
In public, May and all her ministers are adamant that her exit deal is the only one available to avoid potential economic and social chaos. They are putting all their efforts into winning the vote in Parliament.
Behind closed doors, her inner circle is discussing the options if she fails. Increasingly, the idea of sending the question back to the British public to answer is gaining ground, according to a senior government official. That could be through a new referendum — an idea winning support in mainstream U.K. politics but which May herself adamantly rejects — or even a national election to choose a new government.

19 December
Andrew Cohen: London, at Christmas, braces for Brexit and awaits a saviour
This holiday season, Britain is an automobile accident happening in slow motion. As Brexit approaches, its political class is paralyzed with indecision and insouciance. It gives new meaning to John Lennon’s query: “So this is Christmas/And what have you done?”
Yet London celebrates as if this were the summer of 1939. The shops on Regent and Oxford Streets are full, the crowds so large in Piccadilly Circus that police limited access to the Tube station there the other day. The clerks are overwhelmed at Waterstones and Topshop.

17-18 December
Sherlock Holmes and the Brexit mystery
Finding a solution is far from elementary — but one outcome looks increasingly likely.
“When you have eliminated the impossible,” Britain’s most loved fictional detective famously said, “whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
After another week of melodrama in London and Brussels, the array of plausible outcomes to the longest-running soap opera in European politics may be narrowing, but probably not sufficiently yet to allow for a definitive Holmesian deduction.
Britain ramps up no-deal Brexit preparations, including military help if necessary
British Chambers of Commerce releases gloomy economic growth and business investment forecast
(AP/CBC) Cabinet was meeting Tuesday to discuss ramping up preparations for the U.K.’s departure from the European Union without a deal, after Prime Minister Theresa May postponed Parliament’s vote on her divorce agreement until mid-January.
With departure from the bloc just over 100 days away, it remains unclear whether the country will leave with a deal or crash out without one — an outcome that risks plunging the economy into recession. With uncertainty lurking, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said preparations for a disorderly exit must become much more of a priority for businesses.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, on Monday submitted a motion of non-confidence in the prime minister, accusing May of deliberately wasting time by delaying the vote, forcing Parliament to choose between her deal and no deal.
Corbyn’s move was symbolic: Losing the vote on such a motion would increase the pressure on May, but unlike a non-confidence vote in the government as a whole, it wouldn’t trigger a process that could lead to an election.
Labour and Tories clash over call for confidence vote
Opposition say No 10 is ‘running scared’, but Conservatives accuse Corbyn of ‘bottling it’
(The Guardian) In the Commons on Monday, May told MPs in a tense and often acrimonious debate that a chaotic and economically costly no deal would happen – unless they voted for her deal, or parliament decided to abandon Brexit altogether.
No deal, the prime minister said, would “risk the jobs, services and security of the people we serve” at the price of “turning our backs on an agreement with our neighbours that honours the referendum and provides for a smooth and orderly exit”.
May also told MPs that negotiations were continuing between the UK and the EU, telling MPs that she was seeking “further political and legal assurances” over the unpopular Northern Ireland backstop, in an effort to demonstrate that it was temporary.
Facing opposition, UK’s May will bring Brexit deal back to parliament
(Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday she would bring her Brexit deal back to parliament for a mid-January vote, pledging to get assurances from the European Union before then to break a deadlock over Britain’s fraught efforts to quit the bloc.
A mid-January vote could oblige lawmakers to make a decision between her deal or leaving without one on March 29, a nightmare scenario for many businesses.
May is pressing on with her deal to leave the EU, rejecting calls for a second referendum or to test support for different Brexit options in parliament, despite hardening opposition to the agreement to maintain close ties.

13 December
How Ireland Outmaneuvered Britain on Brexit
Irish diplomats set the terms of the Brexit talks long before the British caught on. Here’s how they pulled it off.
The day after former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled his plan for a Brexit referendum in January 2013, he grabbed his Irish counterpart Enda Kenny in a VIP room in Davos.
Cameron told Kenny he had to hold the vote, according to one of the people with them. But there was no reason to worry, everything would be okay. … As the talks played out over the next two and a half years, the Irish question would shape the negotiations, expose the flaws in the Brexit rhetoric of “control” and ultimately put the entire project in jeopardy. This week Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, was pleading with EU leaders for a lifeline to break the impasse created by the Irish border.
After the U.K. leaves the European Union, a 310-mile line running from near Derry in the north to Dundalk in the south will form the bloc’s only land frontier with Britain. That’s a legacy of the partition of Ireland in 1921 following the War of Independence against the British.
Controls along the border largely melted away in the 1990s as the two economies joined Europe’s single market and the Good Friday settlement cemented an uneasy peace in a region devastated by sectarian violence.
As the Brexit drama raised the prospect of checkpoints returning, Kenny could see all those gains put at risk.
The British, who’d barely considered the issue, seemed unprepared. To compound their problems, Cameron had ordered his officials not to plan for a possible departure before the referendum to avoid handing arguments to the Leave campaign.
By the time Theresa May took office in July 2016, the Irish had already started framing the border issue and the EU was determined it wouldn’t allow anything to jeopardize the peace.

10-11 December
Theresa May Delays Brexit Deal So It Can Die Another Day
(New York) She doesn’t have the votes. She never did — and most likely, she never will. Indeed, May’s Brexit deal was practically dead the moment she first unveiled it, with over 60 members of Parliament rejecting it out of hand. The objections came from all quarters: pro-Europe MPs who didn’t support Brexit at all, hard-line members of her Conservative party who wanted a “harder” Brexit, and Northern Irish allies of the Tories who consider her plan for the Irish border unacceptable.
May’s leadership under threat as Tory MPs mobilise against her
Prime minister’s critics lobby for no-confidence vote amid anger over her handling of Brexit deal
(The Guardian) Theresa May’s grip on power appears to be slipping as speculation grows at Westminster that she could face a vote of no confidence from Tory MPs exasperated at her last-minute decision to pull the meaningful vote.
While the prime minister took a whistlestop tour of European capitals on Tuesday in an effort to win fresh concessions from EU leaders, MPs were lobbying colleagues to submit letters of no confidence in her leadership to Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers.
Meanwhile the EU is moving into full no-deal mode, with May’s shock decision to pull Tuesday’s vote on her Brexit deal prompting Brussels’ chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, to warn privately of a sudden escalation of risk.
May is due to hold a cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon before flying to Dublin to meet the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.
As she shuttled between EU capitals on a whistlestop diplomatic tour aimed at salvaging her deal, the prime minister said the hastily scheduled cabinet meeting would discuss what further steps the government needed to take in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Brexit in turmoil as UK’s May pulls vote to seek changes to EU divorce
(Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday postponed a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal to seek more concessions but the European Union refused to renegotiate and lawmakers doubted her chances of winning big changes.
“If we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow, the deal would be rejected by a significant margin,” she told parliament of the agreement she clinched after 18 months of tortuous negotiations.
Both May’s ruling Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party are publicly committed to carrying out Brexit. But a no-deal Brexit is seen as so disruptive that parliament would be under strong pressure to block it.
The ultimate outcome will shape Britain’s $2.8 trillion economy, have far-reaching consequences for the unity of the United Kingdom and determine whether London can keep its place as one of the top two global financial centers.

7 December
What happens if the British Parliament votes down Theresa May’s Brexit deal?
(WaPost) With Britain and the European Union’s carefully crafted divorce deal headed for likely failure in the British Parliament this week, European leaders are bracing for more Brexit chaos — and warning they have little to sweeten the bargain for London.
The landmark 585-page agreement, a thicket of legalese that extracts Britain from the European Union after more than four decades of membership, has proved politically toxic in Westminster. Everyone from hardcore Brexiteers to pro-E.U. Brits finds aspects to dislike. But both British Prime Minister Theresa May and E.U. leaders warn that the deal is the best on offer, given the red lines on both sides of the negotiating table.
Europeans … say they can offer little other than cosmetic tweaks that might help May save face with her own Conservative Party. And they have begun to accelerate their emergency planning to prepare safety nets that could avoid some of the humanitarian and economic chaos that might happen if Britain crashes out of the European Union on its deadline of March 29, with no other plan in place.

7 December
May warned she could be forced out if she pursues rejected Brexit deal
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith cautions prime minister and her cabinet not to ‘brazen it out’
Theresa May could be forced to stand down as prime minister if her Brexit deal is defeated in the Commons next week, a Tory former leader has warned.
Pressure is mounting on May to delay the 11 December vote to give herself time to ask for more concessions from the EU at a Brussels summit at the end of next week, with 29 Tories saying they would vote against the deal, analysis showed.

4 December
Reuters: The European Union’s top legal adviser said Britain had the right to withdraw its Brexit notice, opening a new front in a battle over Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to leave the EU, which could be rejected in parliament next week. On top of the risk that Britain will leave the EU in March without a transition deal, its government faces an extra headache next year: the biggest debt-refinancing bill in recent history. The City of London’s policy chief said mismanagement of Brexit has made Britain the new “hot heads” of Europe.
Chaos, or keep calm and carry on? What happens if May loses Brexit vote

28 November
UK worse off under all Brexit scenarios
UK government analysis concluded that under a no-deal scenario, GDP growth was projected to be 9.3 percentage points lower after 15 years compared to remaining.
(Politico Eu) As the U.K. prime minister attempts to sell her Brexit deal agreed Sunday in Brussels to MPs at home, her government produced analysis showing all Brexit scenarios would hurt the economy but the impact of leaving under May’s plans would be significantly less than exiting with no agreement at all.
The government analysis was echoed later in the day by a separate report from the Bank of England, which warned economic output in the U.K. could drop by as much as 10.5 percent if Britain drops out of the EU without a deal in place, compared to expectations had the U.K. stayed in.
“Brexit is unique,” the Bank’s report said. “Large negative supply shocks are relatively rare, and there is no precedent of an advanced economy withdrawing from a trade agreement as deep and complex as the European Union.”
The government’s 83-page document sets out a range of scenarios and makes a number of assumptions, reflecting the uncertain nature of the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU and post-Brexit immigration policy. It makes comparisons with projected GDP growth if Brexit does not go ahead.

20 November
May heading to Brussels amid scramble to finalise Brexit deal
(BBC) Theresa May will meet EU officials later as the two sides scramble to finalise a Brexit deal in time for Sunday’s summit of European leaders.
The EU missed its deadline on Tuesday to complete the text of its declaration on future relations with the UK, amid concerns from several member states.
Stumbling blocks remain over UK access to the EU single market, access to UK waters for EU boats and Gibraltar.
Spain threatens Brexit deal over Gibraltar status
(CNN)British Prime Minister Theresa May’s efforts to pass a Brexit deal have suffered a further setback after Spain threatened to veto her draft divorce agreement over the handling of Gibraltar.
Madrid has objected to part of the deal that covers future trade and security relations between the UK and the European Union. It insists arrangements relating to Gibraltar, a small British territory on the southern tip of Spain, should be discussed separately.

15-17 November
New Evidence Emerges of Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica’s Role in Brexit
By Jane Mayer
(The New Yorker) For two years, observers have speculated that the June, 2016, Brexit campaign in the U.K. served as a petri dish for Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign in the United States. Now there is new evidence that it did. Newly surfaced e-mails show that the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Cambridge Analytica, the Big Data company that he worked for at the time, were simultaneously incubating both nationalist political movements in 2015.
Emma Briant, an academic expert on disinformation at George Washington University, has unearthed new e-mails that appear to reveal the earliest documented role played by Bannon in Brexit. The e-mails, which date back to October of 2015, show that Bannon, who was then the vice-president of Cambridge Analytica, an American firm largely owned by the U.S. hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, was in the loop on discussions taking place at the time between his company and the leaders of Leave.EU, a far-right nationalist organization.
Jenni Russell: The Men Who Want to Push Britain Off a Cliff
Theresa May has a Brexit deal. Now a group of feckless Conservatives wants to torpedo everything.
(NYT) A few days ago, Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled her deal with the European Union. Within 48 hours, Britain’s government spun into crisis. Mrs. May’s survival is threatened as furious prominent Brexiteers go public with their intention to unseat her. Four ministers have resigned, more resignations may follow and nobody believes that she has the votes to get her deal through Parliament. What happens after that is a conundrum.
The cause of this paralysis is the hard-line Brexiteers, a frighteningly powerful cohort within Mrs. May’s Conservative Party, a group that is heedless about economic damage to Britain in pursuit of a political goal. Everything is up in the air in the Britain’s tumultuous politics right now, but there is one certainty: There is no limit to the practical, economic and psychological damage these Brexiteers are prepared to inflict on the rest of us in the pursuit of their delusions or their demented desire for power.
Theresa May under pressure after Gove rejects Brexit Secretary job
Theresa May will continue to sell her Brexit withdrawal deal on Friday as cabinet minister Michael Gove is understood to be considering quitting.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said she understood Mr Gove had rejected the PM’s offer to make him Brexit secretary, because May would not let him renegotiate the deal.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 14: British Prime minister, Theresa May delivers a Brexit statement at Downing Street on November 14, 2018 in London, England. Theresa May addresses the nation after her cabinet of senior ministers met and approved the wording of the draft Brexit agreement which will see the UK leave the European Union on March 29th 2019. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Theresa May faces hostility on all sides as she fights to save Brexit deal
British prime minister rocked by resignations of two Cabinet ministers as she tries to sell her EU divorce plan.
By Charlie Cooper
(Politico Eu) British Prime Minister Theresa May’s premiership was left hanging by a thread Thursday after a chaotic day in Westminster during which two of her top team resigned and a handful of prominent Brexiteers said they would topple her over the draft Brexit deal she negotiated with the EU.
The threat of a challenge to the prime minister’s authority, just as time runs out to negotiate a divorce deal with the European Union before the U.K.’s looming exit in March 2019, plunges British politics into greater levels of uncertainty and increases the chances that the U.K. will exit with no deal at all, risking significant economic disruption.
The prime minister, who secured Cabinet agreement for the plan on Wednesday evening only for her Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab to resign on Thursday morning, struck a defiant tone at a press conference in Downing Street Thursday afternoon and vowed to “see this through” in the face of open hostility among her own party.
May told reporters her party and the country should “unite behind” the draft agreement, warning that to step back now would lead to “deep and grave uncertainty” for the country.
But in a fractious House of Commons appearance earlier on Thursday only a handful of Conservative MPs spoke up in support, and May was met with fierce opposition from the Labour Party, from Brexiteer MPs within her own party and from her Northern Irish backers, the Democratic Unionist Party. Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg formally called for her to “step aside.”

14 November
Theresa May’s draft Brexit deal: what is it and what happens next?
The PM has thrashed out plan to withdraw from the EU and now has to convince her cabinet to back it
(The Guardian) Finally, more than two years after the UK voted to leave the European Union, after torturous negotiations, Theresa May has the draft of an agreement to withdraw from the EU to present to her cabinet, the parliament and the country.
May announced on Tuesday that she had a draft text of the deal, which is said to run to 500 pages. On Tuesday night she summoned those in her cabinet one by one to Number 10 for briefings on the agreement, in what is being seen as a divide-and-conquer strategy. Some among the cabinet, including Andrea Leadsom and Penny Mordaunt, are hard Brexiters, who want the UK to fully exit the customs union, which would limit the UK’s ability to negotiate trade deals with other countries. May has to convince this group to back her version of the deal.

9 November
Jo Johnson: why I have resigned – and why we need a second referendum
(The Spectator) Brexit has divided the country. It has divided political parties. And it has divided families too. Although I voted Remain, I have desperately wanted the Government, in which I have been proud to serve, to make a success of Brexit: to reunite our country, our party and, yes, my family too. At times, I believed this was possible. That’s why I voted to start the Article 50 process and for two years have backed the Prime Minister in her efforts to secure the best deal for the country. But it has become increasingly clear to me that the Withdrawal Agreement, which is being finalised in Brussels and Whitehall even as I write, will be a terrible mistake.
Indeed, the choice being presented to the British people is no choice at all. The first option is the one the Government is proposing: an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened, with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business. The second option is a “no deal” Brexit that I know as a Transport Minister will inflict untold damage on our nation. To present the nation with a choice between two deeply unattractive outcomes, vassalage and chaos, is a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis. My constituents in Orpington deserve better than this from their Government.

30 October
Voters skeptical of UK promises of Brexit upside
Snap poll for POLITICO by Hanbury Strategy suggests Brits don’t buy government warnings about no-deal Brexit.
Theresa May has a problem: Half of Britain still doesn’t believe her government on Brexit.
The U.K. chancellor called time on austerity Monday with the biggest giveaway budget since the 2008 financial crash, splurging £100 billion more over the next six years than previously planned — and with almost all of it going on the National Health Service. With an eye to the upcoming vote on the Brexit divorce deal with Brussels, Philip Hammond also held out the prospect of even more spending to come if the country secures an orderly exit from the EU, promising MPs a “double deal dividend” for the economy and public spending if they back a deal and avoid crashing out of the European Union in March 2019. The twin-pronged message — of an end to austerity and an extra Brexit deal bonus for voters — in the government’s last annual budget before the U.K. quits the bloc comes at a time of maximum danger for May. As well as seeking a deal with Brussels that is acceptable both in the U.K. parliament and to the country more widely, the prime minister must also neutralize the threat from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, which continues to sit within touching distance of the government in most polls.

23 October
UK readies flotilla plan for supplies in no-deal Brexit
Government looks at chartering ships to ferry in critical food and medicines
(Financial Times) Britain is drawing up plans to charter ships to bring in food and medicines in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit next March, in a move greeted with disbelief at a stormy meeting of Theresa May’s cabinet on Tuesday. The cabinet was told that the heavily used Dover-Calais route could quickly become blocked by new customs controls on the French side, forcing Britain to seek alternative ways of bringing in “critical supplies”. The warnings about the consequences of a disorderly British exit from the EU came at a cabinet meeting which saw ministers divided into two camps over how to unlock a deal in Brussels. One witness said there was “an almighty row”.
The prospect of Britain facing shortages of perishable food and medicines provided a bleak backdrop to the cabinet discussions, as Mrs May urged her ministers to back her attempts to secure a breakthrough.

21 October
With divorce deal almost done, May repeats rejection of EU proposal on Northern Ireland
(Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May will tell parliament on Monday that 95 percent of Britain’s divorce deal has now been settled but will repeat her opposition to the European Union’s proposal for the land border with Northern Ireland.
With just over five months until Britain leaves the EU, talks have stalled over a disagreement on the so-called Northern Irish backstop, an insurance policy to ensure there will be no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland if a future trading relationship is not agreed in time.
But May’s attempt to unlock the talks by considering an extension to a status-quo transition period beyond the current proposed end date of December 2021 has further stirred passions at home.

15 October
Bloomberg: Brexit impasse | The latest round of Brexit negotiations broke up in stalemate over the weekend, all but eliminating any chance of a breakthrough at this week’s European Union summit in Brussels. What follows will likely be more talk of a chaotic and acrimonious no-deal split, coupled with threats of resignations from the U.K. cabinet. Prime Minister Theresa May must now focus on holding her government together long enough to get an agreement that can be put to a parliamentary vote.
Explaining Brexit and the Northern Ireland question
The British government’s stated aims—leaving the EU single market and customs union, preventing a hard border with Ireland, and ensuring a countrywide approach to Brexit—have proven impossible to reconcile
By Amanda Sloat
(Brookings) Although Northern Ireland was rarely mentioned during the Brexit referendum campaign, it has become the central challenge to withdrawal negotiations. In a new paper—“Divided kingdom: How Brexit is remaking the UK’s constitutional order”—I examine the background to this dispute and the consequences of failing to resolve it. …
The challenge of satisfactorily meeting the requirements of Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances has thus far precluded agreement on a final deal.
The U.K. is currently part of the EU’s customs union and single market. After Brexit, it will leave both: This will raise the status of the Irish border to that of a customs border, with associated checks and controls. In addition to creating practical and economic challenges, this is politically and psychologically unimaginable for many who live there.

11 October
Times Brexit Briefing: In Brussels they call it “going into the tunnel”: a week of secretive talks between British and European negotiators where red lines get bent before a “grand compromise” emerges blinking into the light of public scrutiny.
In Westminster Theresa May’s opponents see it differently. To stretch the analogy, they want to derail the train before it gets out of the tunnel, using domestic political pressure to stop what they see as disastrous compromise ever seeing the light of day.
They fear that if a deal is concluded at next week’s summit in Brussels then the prime minister will have the momentum to see it through. They want to kill it off before it’s too late.
At five o’clock this afternoon Theresa May will gather a group of her most senior cabinet ministers in Downing Street.
What the prime minister wants from the meeting is to bind her most senior ministers into the compromises that will be necessary to get a deal in time for next week’s EU summit. They will have to agree a form of words that will bind the whole of the UK into a customs union with the EU as part of the Irish backstop. They will also have to sign off on the final text of the governance arrangements for the withdrawal agreement, which will mean some role for the European Court of Justice. Mrs May needs to ensure that, when and if she authorises Oliver Robbins to sign off on a final text, it is not rejected by the cabinet at a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday to approve the offer formally.

6 October
‘Cultural jail’: Brexit could bring booming industry to its knees
Top UK musicians tell PM in open letter why Europe is so important to their industry
(The Guardian) One of the signatories, the broadcaster and award-winning composer of choral music Howard Goodall, said he believed the time had come to put diplomatic reserve to one side.
“Bob (Geldof)’s letter is passionate and very emotional and that is one of the things missing from the wider debate,” he told the Observer this weekend. “A lot of musicians will have believed that there would be some sort of musicians’ passport arrangement. That’s what makes this letter so timely. People are going to lose their jobs if there’s no deal, and even if there is a Chequers-style deal, there will be no provision for this kind of professional travel. Everything is going to change.”

2 October
Peter Apps Commentary: Britain’s Brexit process approaches roller coaster endgame
(Reuters) Only a few weeks ago, Britain’s exit looked like it would be a relatively moderate affair, shaped by a series of compromises brokered by the prime minister with the cabinet at her Chequers country residence in July. That deal, however, has now been rejected both by much of her own party and then irritated European leaders last month in Salzburg. This week, May and her party appear to be moving towards a much harder break, perhaps no deal at all.
That scenario, with all its implications for disruption of borders, markets and supplies is already doing Britain serious economic harm. One report estimated the country is now losing 500 million pounds a week in economic activity. So great is the uncertainty, however, that this damage is likely to escalate rapidly.
Within the next year, it is entirely plausible that Britain will have a Eurosceptic conservative government slashing taxes and spending in the hope of creating a right-wing Singapore-style haven. Or a snap election could usher in the opposition Labour Party on exactly the opposite platform, raising taxes on the rich and major firms to fund dramatic public sector investment. Calls are growing for a second referendum – but how that would work is very far from clear.

29 September
Brexit Countdown: With 6 Months to Go, Is Britain Ready for the Worst
Sunday marks six months to Brexit Day—March 29, 2019. As things stand, that will be the day the U.K. leaves the European Union (EU), whether with a newly-negotiated relationship or with nothing at all.
(Newsweek) It may be six months until Brexit Day, but any divorce agreement between the two sides realistically needs to be reached by October 18, when leaders leave an EU summit in Brussels.
Though there have been rumours that a deal has almost been reached, the question of what Brexit will look like is tearing the British political scene apart. While EU negotiators and nation states at least appear united, Prime Minister Theresa May and her Conservative Party are struggling to agree on a way out.
Currently, the U.K. is trundling towards a “no-deal” scenario in which the nation leaves Europe with no agreement and no time to smooth the transition. Rather than the two-year adjustment period initially proposed, Britain would face a “cliff-edge” exit.
Opponents claim this scenario would spark chaos, grounding flights, shutting down border crossings, collapsing the pound and strangling food and medical imports.

(The Economist) Love God, leave Europe Polls suggest that Anglicans supported Brexit by a 2:1 margin. More surprising, perhaps, is new research showing that relatively keen Anglicans, attending church at least once a month, are less committed to Brexit than lukewarm Anglicans. These softcore followers, it seems, adhere to the faith because it is integral to English culture and part of national heritage. In other words, they espouse the conservative nativism that many associate with Brexit

19 September
Brexit and the Irish border question explained
What are the areas of contention and how likely is it that the UK, the EU and Ireland will find a solution to them?
(The Guardian) The UK and the EU agreed at the end of the first phase of Brexit negotiations in December that there would be regulatory alignment between both parts of the island of Ireland in the event of no deal. That December deal was struck and then undone after objections by the Democratic Unionist party, which had not been consulted. To placate their concerns that Northern Ireland would, post-Brexit, be treated differently, Theresa May also agreed there would be “no regulatory barriers” in the Irish sea. This immediately sowed the seeds for an insoluble problem unless the UK struck a deal which involved remaining in the single market and the customs union, both red lines for the prime minister.

11 September
Bank of England’s Mark Carney extends term an extra seven months to help with Brexit
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney will stay at the central bank an extra seven months until the end of January, 2020, to help smooth Britain’s departure from the European Union next year, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond told Parliament on Tuesday.
Mr. Carney had been due to step down at the end of June, 2019 – having extended his term by a year already to cover the immediate months after Brexit – but last week he told legislators he would be willing to stay longer if requested.
British media had previously reported the Finance Ministry was keen for Mr. Carney to extend his stay and was having difficulty finding a suitable successor.
Theresa May Could Try a Leisurely Brexit Stroll
The pound liked Barnier’s quick deal timetable. A drawn-out reveal might suit May better.
(Bloomberg) The Brexit-battered pound jumped for joy yesterday when European Union trade negotiator Michel Barnier told an audience in Slovenia that a finalized divorce agreement between the U.K. and the EU is “realistic” in six to eight weeks. That doesn’t mean that we can all exhale by November.
The divorce deal — which dictates the amount the U.K. will pay into EU coffers, citizens’ rights, a transition period and other matters — is over 80 percent complete. There is no reason it couldn’t be done in six weeks, or four weeks. Indeed, the parties, the core positions and the red lines remain exactly what they were six months ago. Any agreement, then, will rely on a certain amount of fudging the remaining issues.
For Barnier, it’s easy to see how cutting a deal sooner rather than later makes sense. There’s a lot of money on the table — 39 billion pounds ($50.8 billion) — for the budget-constrained EU. The longer negotiations drag out without agreement, the greater the potential that cracks will appear in the EU’s united front. The negotiations also take attention and energy away from the EU’s own reform discussion while increasing the risk of market jitters and mischief-making from euroskeptic politicians in Italy, France, Hungary and elsewhere.
From May’s perspective, Barnier’s timetable could look rushed. Better for her if disheveled EU negotiators emerge bleary-eyed from an all-night negotiating session hastily convened to prevent a Brexit bust-up in late November or even December.

14 August
Public backing for Final Say referendum leaps amid division over May’s Brexit plans
Exclusive: Polling for The Independent shows support for a new vote has jumped four points in the last month
The survey comes amid dwindling public support for Ms May’s Chequers deal plan for Brexit, not to mention growing discontent in her own party, with some insiders suggesting a leadership challenge is becoming likely this year.”there’s an unrefined quality to his world view, a blinkered embrace of far-left positions over the years that make him seem divorced from reality. If left-wing populists don’t jettison their hoarier positions, they risk wreaking as much havoc as their right-wing populist counterparts—if they ever win outright, of course.”
British expats in EU launch Brexit legal challenge
Group says leave campaign broke electoral law, making 2016 vote unconstitutional
Nearly 80% of the estimated 1 to 2 million Britons living overseas in EU countries are of working age or younger. Many fear Brexit will threaten their livelihoods and make it far harder to travel across the continent. … “Our clients contend that the prime minister’s decision to trigger article 50 and start the Brexit process was based on a factual error, namely that the referendum truly represented the will of the people following a lawful, free and fair vote.”

12-13 August
Follow the nuance: Labour is edging towards ditching Brexit
(The Guardian) The referendum that propelled Britain towards exit from the European Union was called because David Cameron ran out of options for holding the Tories together. It would be a neat historical symmetry if the country voted on a reversal because Jeremy Corbyn faced the same problem with Labour.
A referendum on Brexit terms is not Labour policy….  “We’ve not ruled anything out,” John McDonnell said in July. “But our preference is a general election.”
That preference flows from three calculations. First, the collision between Theresa May’s Brexit deal and parliament this autumn will be so gruesome that the prime minister will fall. Second, that her departure will somehow propel Corbyn into Downing Street. Third, that the Brexit process will as a result be magically detoxified. All peril comes from Tory rule and ends when Labour’s crack team rides into the breach. Each of those judgments are debatable; the last one is delusional.
Corbyn’s allergy to discussion of a Brexit reversal once looked tactically astute. Now it looks shifty. It compounds the impression of leadership unmoored. The row over antisemitism that has consumed Labour this summer is a mess of complex genesis on the far left, but the situation is made worse by general stagnation. The noxious miasma grows denser over a party that can’t seem to move forward on any front. It doesn’t even have anything useful to say on the biggest issue facing the country.
This Euro-stasis is the expression of deadlocked forces that do not map on to pro- or anti-Corbyn faultlines. The alliance that wants to press on with Brexit unites the “old Labour” right, who fret about immigration control, with the “old Labour” left, which hates the EU’s legal framework for competition and free markets.
The rival coalition is a fragile compound of unrepentant Blairites, who focus on the economic folly of quitting the single market, and the younger radicals in Momentum, who see Brexit opening a portal to an “alt-right” hellscape where Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg perform endless Donald Trump tributes.

Counting the cost of Brexit inaction
Obsessed by the EU, British policymakers have left big problems unaddressed.
(Politico EU) the virtual absence of significant action on any of these pressing issues by a political class mesmerized by how, when and whether to leave the EU represents an opportunity cost that, for once, deserves to be labelled massive.

12 – 13 July

The Guardian view on Donald Trump in Britain: this was the visit from hell
Theresa May should have grasped that this US president is an enemy of stability in Europe. Now she should learn from her mistake
He is not our ally. He is hostile to our interests and values. He may even, if this goes on, become a material threat. This week he deliberately inflamed the politics of Europe and of Britain. Yes, Mrs May brought it on herself, but it was hard not to feel for her as a person over the last day and half. She now needs to learn the lesson, and to lead Britain, Brexit or no Brexit, into a constructive and effective relationship with our more dependable allies, who share our values, in Europe.

Trump vows ‘great’ trade deal with UK, abruptly changing tack on May’s Brexit plan
(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he looked forward to finalizing a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain, marking an abrupt change from a newspaper interview when he said Prime Minister Theresa May’s strategy would kill such an agreement.
In an interview published just hours before the two leaders held talks, Trump chided the “very unfortunate” results of the prime minister’s proposals for Brexit and her negotiating tactics as Britain prepares to leaves the European Union in March next year.
However, Trump later said May was doing a “fantastic job”.
Why Brussels is keeping quiet on May’s White Paper
Brussels has said since the beginning of Brexit negotiations that the UK can’t pick and choose the “best parts” of EU membership and walk away from the rest when it leaves. Yet that’s exactly how the White Paper is interpreted in EU circles.
There is no way Michel Barnier [the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator] will accept it as is.
Brexit: What does the government White Paper reveal?
By Chris Morris Reality Check correspondent,
(BBC News) The new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab unveiled the White Paper on Thursday
The government has published its long-awaited Brexit White Paper. The document is 104 pages long and follows last week’s Chequers agreement which set out the sort of relationship the UK wants with the EU after Brexit.
The White Paper is split into four chapters: economic partnership, security, cooperation and institutional arrangements. Most of the debate surrounds the first section, the future economic relationship. So here are the key excerpts from the chapter on “economic partnership” and what they mean.
With May’s Government Teetering, Trump Gives It a Shove
(NYT) In the interview with The Sun, Mr. Trump second-guessed Mrs. May’s handling of the main issue on her plate: how Britain should cut ties to the European Union. He cast doubt on whether he was willing to negotiate a new trade deal between Britain and the United States, and praised Mrs. May’s Conservative Party rival, Boris Johnson, as a potentially great prime minister.

10 July
J.K. Rowling, who has been known to make her feelings about Brexit pretty clear in the past, waded in on Monday. Specifically, she wanted to address the resignations of Johnson and Davis.
“This is what happens when you have men in government who’ve been raised from birth to believe it’s someone else’s job to clean up after them. They throw tantrums when they finally make a mess no-one can fix. #Brexit “— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling)  July 9, 2018

7-10 July
Boris Johnson Has Ruined Britain
“He knows that the verdict of history is about to come down on him — and bury him.”
By Jenni Russell
(NYT Opinion) For the second time in three years, Boris Johnson, a politician whose ambition and superficial charm far outstrip his ability, judgment or principles, is destabilizing the British government and threatening the country’s future.
At the start of 2016, Mr. Johnson was perhaps the most popular politician in Britain. Supporters and fans mobbed him at train stations and traffic lights; pollsters and pundits thought he could reach the parts of the country that other Conservatives could never touch. But he was also driven and insecure, so desperate to guarantee he would be the next prime minister that he cynically abandoned his own previous positions on the European Union in order to try to secure support from his party’s Euroskeptic right wing.
David Frum: The End of the Brexit Illusion
The grand promises of withdrawal from the European Union run aground on the tedious and technical details that campaigners ignored.
Since the June 2016 referendum on a British exit from the European Union, the winners have bumped into a sequence of practical problems to which they can offer no credible solutions. As time dribbles away, the British government has backed into ever-greater concessions to the European Union point of view—without coming any closer to a finished agreement by the deadline of March 29, 2019.
This past weekend, May convened a meeting at her country home, Chequers, to propose to her cabinet a draft basis for negotiations with the European Union. The plan proposed what has been known as “soft Brexit”: Britain would seek to exit the Union—and end the free movement of people from the EU into Britain—while effectively remaining within the EU Customs Union. It’s not at all certain that such an outcome could be reached
British foreign secretary quits in protest over May’s Brexit plan
(Reuters) – Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson quit on Monday over Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to leave the European Union, the second resignation in a day leaving the British leader’s Brexit plans all but in tatters.
May’s plan ‘sticks in the throat’, says Boris Johnson as he resigns over Brexit
Senior Conservative becomes third minister to walk out over ‘common rulebook’ proposal
(The Guardian) Boris Johnson has quit as foreign secretary, claiming in his resignation letter that the UK was headed “for the status of a colony” if Theresa May’s soft Brexit plans were adopted.
The leading Brexiter said that he tried to support the line agreed at Chequers on Friday but while the “government now has a song to sing” he could not manage to support the plan agreed.
David Davis steps down as Brexit secretary in blow to PM
David Davis, the UK’s Brexit secretary, has resigned from the cabinet following Friday’s summit at Chequers.
In his resignation letter he blamed the “dilution” of what he said was a firm Chequers agreement, delays to the White Paper, and omissions from the “backstop” customs proposal that would leave the UK in a “weak negotiating position” at best. He says his role requires an “enthusiastic believer” in May’s approach rather than a “reluctant conscript”.
He was followed by deputy, Steve Baker, and another Brexit minister Suella Braverman.
Brexit betrayed or the end of May: What does David Davis’s resignation mean?
(Reuters) May’s survival will depend on keeping other senior cabinet ministers in the government. All eyes are on Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who is due to speak at a diplomatic conference later on Monday, and Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
At-a-glance: The new UK Brexit plan agreed at Chequers
(BBC) These proposals represent “a precise and responsible approach to the final stage of the negotiations”, the government says.
According to the government the plan:
Gives the UK an independent trade policy, with the ability to set its own non-EU tariffs and to reach separate trade deals
Ends the role of the ECJ in UK affairs
Ends annual payments to the EU budget with “appropriate contributions for joint action in specific areas”
The early reaction from Brexiteers has been that they need to see the full 100-plus page plan to see whether or not they agree with the government’s claims.
Full details will be released in a white paper next week.
This is not a final Brexit deal. This is an agreement on the UK’s preferred way forward as negotiations with the European Union about the future relationship reach a crucial stage.

2 July
UK’s latest Brexit proposal is unrealistic, say EU officials
EU sources who have seen drafts of white paper say proposals would never be accepted
(The Guardian) The prime minister is gathering her squabbling ministers at Chequers on Friday for a one-day discussion to thrash out the UK’s future relationship with the EU. But EU sources who have seen drafts of the long-awaited British white paper said the proposals would never be accepted.
“We read the white paper and we read ‘cake’,” an EU official told the Guardian, a reference to Boris Johnson’s one-liner of being “pro having [cake] and pro-eating it”. Since the British EU referendum, “cake” has entered the Brussels lexicon to describe anything seen as an unrealistic or far-fetched demand.

30 June
Jonathan Chait: The Other Russia Collusion Scandal Is Breaking Wide Open
(New York) In 2016, Vladimir Putin reaped two of his greatest foreign policy triumphs in quick succession. The United Kingdom voted narrowly to exit the European Union, advancing a longstanding Russian goal of splitting Western allies that have long been united against it. Later that year, the United States voted even more narrowly to elect Donald Trump president.
Friday evening, the New York Times revealed new detail about Russian involvement in the Brexit vote. The more we learn, the more similar the pattern of behavior in the two countries becomes clear, and the more suspicious the denials of Putin’s partners grows.
In both countries, the right-wing pro-Russian populists indignantly insist there is no more incriminating information to be found beyond what was known at any given moment, even as the bounds of what is known at any moment continues to expand.
Brexit’s biggest campaign donor ‘investigated by National Crime Agency over links to Russia’
Emails reportedly show Arron Banks was offered three Russian business deals
(The Independent) The emails reportedly show Mr Banks was offered three Russian business deals in the buildup to the Brexit vote, including a gold mine in west Africa and a stake in Russia’s state-owned diamond mining organisation Alrosa.
In the US, Democrats in Congress recently obtained a trove of Mr Banks’s communications and are exploring whether he, Nigel Farage and other senior members of Leave.EU served as a bridge between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

16 June
Arron Banks, Brexit and the Russia connection
(The Guardian) The foreign secretary of Britain had made critical remarks about a hostile foreign power. And, so these documents appear to suggest, prompted the Leave.EU team to swing into action in support of the hostile foreign power. And, astonishingly, to write a personal note of support to the country’s ambassador.

14 June
(The Economist) In Britain we try to make sense of yet another week of Brexit chaos. Amid the resignations, rebellions and recriminations, a simple truth is beginning to emerge. A “hard” Brexit—free of the clutches of European judges, trade policy and migration rules—has long looked inevitable. No longer. Parliamentary arithmetic and the need to keep an open border in Ireland are leading inexorably to a softer deal, in which Britain stays close to Europe.

10 June
Top Brexit Backer Passed Trump Transition Team Info to Russians
(New York) Concerns about Russia’s election meddling — in the U.K. — reached new heights on Saturday after leaked emails revealed extensive links between one of the top backers of a pro-Brexit campaign and Russian officials. The Observer and Sunday Times of London obtained the some 40,000 emails sent by millionaire businessman Arron Banks, the chief financial backer of U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage’s Leave.EU campaign, and Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s director of communications.
The emails show show that Banks had previously undisclosed meetings with Russia’s U.K. ambassador (which were set up by an alleged Russian spy), and had made a previously undisclosed visit to Moscow at the peak of the Brexit campaign.

29 May
Soros-backed campaign to push for new Brexit vote within a year
Billionaire says holding fresh referendum soon could save UK from ‘immense damage’
(The Guardian) A campaign to secure a second Brexit referendum within a year and save the UK from “immense damage” is to be launched in days, the philanthropist and financier George Soros has announced.
The billionaire founder of the Open Society Foundation said the prospect of the UK’s prolonged divorce from Brussels could help persuade the British public by a “convincing margin” that EU membership was in their interests.
In a speech on Tuesday ahead of the launch of the Best for Britain campaign – said to have already attracted millions of pounds in donations – Soros suggested to an audience in Paris that changing the minds of Britons would be in keeping with “revolutionary times”.
Best for Britain had already helped to convince parliamentarians to extract from Theresa May a meaningful vote on the final withdrawal deal, he said, and it was time to engage with voters, and Brussels, to pave the way for the UK to stay in the bloc. It is expected to publish its campaign manifesto on 8 June.
George Soros: How to Save Europe
(Project Syndicate) … territorial disintegration, exemplified by Brexit … is an immensely damaging process, harmful to both sides. But a lose-lose proposition could be converted into a win-win situation.
Divorce will be a long process, probably taking more than five years – a seeming eternity in politics, especially in revolutionary times like the present. Ultimately, it is up to the British people to decide what they want to do, but it would be better if they came to a decision sooner rather than later. That is the goal of an initiative called Best for Britain, which I support. This initiative fought for, and helped to win, a meaningful parliamentary vote on a measure that includes the option of not leaving before Brexit is finalized.
Britain would render Europe a great service by rescinding Brexit and not creating a hard-to-fill hole in the European budget. But its citizens must express support by a convincing margin in order to be taken seriously by Europe. That is Best for Britain’s aim in engaging the electorate.
The economic case for remaining an EU member is strong, but it has become clear only in the last few months, and it will take time to sink in. During that time, the EU needs to transform itself into an organization that countries like Britain would want to join, in order to strengthen the political case.

30 April
Brexit: Government defeat in Lords over terms of meaningful vote
(BBC) Peers have defeated the government in voting to give Parliament a potentially decisive say over Brexit.
An amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill giving MPs the power to stop the UK from leaving without a deal, or to make Theresa May return to negotiations, was approved by 335 votes to 244.
Its supporters said Parliament, not ministers, must “determine the future of the country”.
Analysis by the BBC’s Alex Forsyth
So far, the government has framed Parliament’s vote on a final Brexit deal as a stark choice; take it or leave it.
The implication – if MPs reject whatever terms are negotiated – the UK would leave the EU without a deal on future relations.
But this amendment agreed by the House of Lords could prevent that, by giving Parliament the power to decide what happens if MPs turn down the final agreement.
The result will embolden those pushing for a greater role for Parliament in the process.

7 March
May’s Brexit red lines will damage UK economy, EU trade guidelines say
Document on bloc’s vision of future relationship says PM’s red lines mean Brussels is limited in what it can offer
The EU is offering a free-trade deal that will be economically damaging to the UK and has ruled out a series of demands made by Theresa May, a document on the bloc’s vision of the future relationship reveals.
The prime minister’s red lines limit what Brussels can offer the UK, the paper says, and in return for even a limited free-trade agreement the British government will have to sign up to a commitment not to become a low-tax, low-regulation state undercutting the EU model.

15 January
EU leaders say UK can reverse Brexit decision if it wants to
Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker say door to EU remains open if Britain changes its mind on Brexit
(The Guardian) The door remains open to the European Union if the UK wants to change its mind on Brexit, the most senior leaders of the EU institutions have said.
In a speech to MEPs, Donald Tusk, the head of the European council, suggested reversing Brexit was still a possibility in his mind. “If the UK government sticks to its decision to leave, Brexit will become a reality – with all its negative consequences – in March next year. Unless there is a change of heart among our British friends.”
Tusk recalled the words of the UK Brexit secretary, David Davis, who said in 2013 that “if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy”. Quoting these remarks, Tusk said: “We, here on the continent, haven’t had a change of heart. Our hearts are still open to you.”

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