Boris, Brexit & Britain

Written by  //  January 15, 2020  //  Europe & EU, U.K./Britain  //  No comments

Brexit: What is the Irish border backstop?
The Guardian Brexit
BBC: Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU
Brexit, EU & UK – June 2019
Boris, Brexit & Britain July-November 2019

How Megxit put Queen Elizabeth II in the role of crisis manager once again
(NYT) At the peak of the latest crisis facing the House of Windsor, which saw Prince Harry and Meghan announce, via Instagram, their decision to quit their roles as senior royals, it was Queen Elizabeth II who took hold of the spinning wheel, to steady the family — and protect the royal brand.
At 93, an age when many matriarchs would be among the dearly or nearly departed, or elbowed aside to allow an ambitious younger generation to run the show, the queen remains firmly in charge — of both a sprawling, often problematic family and the monarchy.
It was the queen who convened the meeting at her royal estate in Sandringham this week to deal with Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. And although her son and heir, Prince Charles, reportedly assisted, afterward it was the queen who issued her very personal statement to sort out the matter.


12 – 13 December

The Economist: We have published a special edition with our analysis of Britain’s astonishing general election. As we went to press, Boris Johnson was heading for a majority of around 80 seats, the largest Conservative victory since the days of Margaret Thatcher. Under Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, Labour has suffered its worst result since 1935. The vote marks a profound realignment in British politics. For the first time since the referendum of 2016, it is clear that Britain will leave the European Union. The party of the rich has buried Labour under the votes of working-class northerners and Midlanders. And, after a decade of weak or non-existent majorities, Britain has a prime minister with immense personal authority and a free rein in Parliament.

The United Kingdom Has Voted. Will It Remain United?
Boris Johnson’s resounding victory means Britain will almost certainly leave the European Union. But what will become of Scotland and Northern Ireland?
(NYT editorial) Brexit is now a fact, and that is the first and most concrete takeaway from the election. Without any viable opposition in his own Tory ranks, whose dissidents he had purged before the election and whose deputies all vowed to support him on Brexit, Mr. Johnson is likely to get his Brexit bill through Parliament within days or weeks, and Britain to formally leave the union by the end-of-January deadline. … The survival of the “United” in United Kingdom itself was in question after a strong showing by the nationalist party in Scotland and its certain demand for a new referendum on independence, as well as the uncertain fate of Northern Ireland under Mr. Johnson’s Brexit plan.
Boris Johnson pledges to prioritise NHS after election victory
Prime minister wants ‘healing to begin’ after gamble on Brexit-focused election pays off
(The Guardian) Boris Johnson has claimed he wants to “let the healing begin” over Brexit, pitching himself as the prime minister of a one-nation government after winning the largest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher.
Speaking outside Downing Street, Johnson said the NHS would be his top priority in government, and the country needed “a permanent break” from the issue of Brexit after three and a half years of bitter division.
The prime minister gave his speech a few hours after visiting the Queen to inform her he had the support to lead a government, after the Conservatives won an 80-seat majority with the help of previously Labour-held seats across the north of England, the Midlands and Wales.
Jeremy Corbyn ‘very sad’ at election defeat but feels proud of manifesto
The Labour leader is under pressure to step down but did not give a timetable for departure
The Labour leader gave a short statement in which he did not apologise to the 60 Labour MPs who lost their seats since its 2017 result or acknowledge any responsibility for the party suffering its worst result since 1935.
Could Boris Johnson Be the Last Prime Minister of the U.K. As We Know It?
(New York) While Johnson may claim victory in this election and in the debate over Brexit, his legacy and his political future will depend on how he governs over the coming years. With the threat of another Scottish independence vote (and an uncertain future for Northern Ireland), he might end up being the last prime minister of the U.K. as we know it today. British — or rather, English — politicians a generation from now could find themselves in a downsized House of Commons, debating whether breaking up with the European Union was worth breaking up their own union as well.
It’s Boris Johnson’s Britain Now
His impact in a short period of time has been revolutionary, and his resounding victory means he can remake the country.
(The Atlantic) In the six months since Johnson took over from Theresa May … He has sheared off the Conservative Party’s most liberal wing, radicalized Britain’s divorce deal with the European Union—and won a thumping mandate from the public to see it through. In doing so, he has eliminated the opposition’s chances of blocking Brexit and set the country on course for a future not only outside the EU, but also one that remakes its regulatory, legal, and economic order.
Tom McTague:The Britain that has emerged today is different from the one that came before, its old political map erased, its economic model upended, its prospects uncertain—even its very unity in doubt. The Britain built by Tony Blair is gone, fatally undermined by David Cameron’s Brexit referendum and now swept away in a provincial tide of support for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
Gwynne Dyer: English turkeys vote for Christmas with ‘Brexit election’
Down on the turkey farm, the Scottish and Irish birds noticed the smiling man was holding a hatchet behind his back, and hid. The Welsh turkeys looked confused and huddled together squawking. But the English turkeys marched bravely up to the chopping block, confident this would be a Christmas to remember.
Boris Johnson’s big victory in Thursday’s “Brexit election” was achieved almost entirely with English votes. Only 20 of the 364 seats won by the Conservative Party were in the other three nations of the United Kingdom.

10 December
So much for polls!
UK’s Johnson now less certain of election victory: YouGov
(Reuters) “Based on the model, we cannot rule out a hung parliament,” Anthony Wells, YouGov’s director of political research, told The Times newspaper, which published the results.
U.K. Health Service Poses a Late Election Issue for Boris Johnson
There is a dawning realization among voters that the prime minister’s vow to complete Brexit could undermine the N.H.S.
(NYT) With Britain on the precipice of an election that could soon lead to a decisive break with the European Union, Brexit looks to many people more like a threat to their cherished health service than its salvation. The system has already deteriorated under the watch of Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party, with beds overflowing, waiting times swelling and nurse and doctor vacancies piling up.
Zoe Williams: The Tories have underestimated young voters’ anger. That could be costly
‘Young’ isn’t a demographic any more but a class cohort with similar problems – and they’re treated with baffling prejudice
(The Guardian) There are rumours that Boris Johnson’s camp fears “t’n’t” – turnout and tactical voting.
It is true that the get-out-the-vote campaign is superior on Labour’s side, a corollary to the party’s larger activist base. It is true, too, that the polls consistently show a progressive majority in this country that could beat this extreme ethno-nationalist variety of Toryism hands down, if it all voted the same way. But experience knocks the edges off these fears: the right has the overwhelming support of the over-65s, who everyone knows are the best at turning out.
Yet there are some threats they do not seem to have factored in. The most obvious is the youthquake, which is a curious oversight, since it was only two years ago that it happened last. There is a tendency right across the political spectrum to write young voters off as a kind of joke constituency: flighty, capricious, liable to get distracted by a bee or put off by a spot of rain. This is partly down to a misunderstanding of what we mean by “youth” – in the 18 to 24 and 24 to 35 age brackets, the preferences are solid and overwhelming – 3:1 progressive parties to Conservative/Brexit parties.
Something interesting happens when you alter the cutoff ages – if your next age bracket is 30 to 39, as in a recent YouGov poll, that drops to 2:1, a significantly closer ratio but still, in polling terms, conclusive – a 30-point lead for the left over the right. However, when your age bracket is 35 to 44, as in this ICM poll, the Tories are actually one point ahead of Labour. As a political entity, “young” is now any age up to 39. Among the over-40s, opinions are a lot more divided – until you get to 70.

Brexit deal includes two-way customs checks, insists Ireland
Foreign minister challenges Johnson’s claim about goods moving from Northern Ireland to Britain
(The Guardian) “It was very clear when the deal was done,” he said in Brussels on Monday. “The EU has made it clear they want to minimise the impact on goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, but at the same time goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will need to have some checks to ensure that the EU knows what is potentially coming into their market through Northern Ireland.”
The comments contradicted Johnson’s claims, repeated last Sunday, that there would be no checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
Coveney’s tacit rebuke followed sharper censure on Monday from Arlene Foster, the Democratic Unionist party leader, who accused the prime minister of misrepresenting the Brexit deal and breaking his word to Northern Ireland.
A document leaked last week, written by officials in the government’s Brexit department, warned that Johnson’s stated goal of implementing his deal by the end of 2020 presented a major challenge because of the need to create new protocols and systems for business in Northern Ireland.
The document, obtained by the Financial Times, claimed that 98% of export businesses were “likely to struggle to bear the cost” of the extra paperwork, fuelling concerns of increased prices for consumers.
Northern Ireland customs protocol could thwart Brexit plans
Arrangement to apply part of EU customs code to region is ‘major’ block to Brexit delivery

1 December
In Prince Andrew Scandal, Prince Charles Emerges as Monarch-in-Waiting
After a public-relations debacle stirred questions about the role of Queen Elizabeth II, the Prince of Wales is asserting a newfound authority in British royal affairs.
(NYT) The Prince of Wales was said to be worried that the scandal had spiraled so rapidly that it was threatening to eclipse this month’s general election in Britain, The Times of London reported.
The latest crisis erupted at a time when Britain’s political leaders, paralyzed by Brexit, are in little position to help. Far from steadying the crown, … today’s politicians are drawing her into their own frantic machinations.
Critics accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of misleading the queen when he asked her to suspend Parliament for a period of weeks, rather than the customary few days, in an effort to curtail parliamentary discussion and action on Brexit. The decision was later declared illegal by Britain’s Supreme Court.

29 November
Bloomberg Politics: Election peril | U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading opinion polls but, as he heads into the final campaign stretch for the Dec. 12 election, he could be facing his biggest danger yet. …Trump’s brief visit to London next week — to mark NATO’s 70th anniversary — has senior Conservatives worried for a whole host of reasons.

27 November
UK’s Conservatives set for biggest win since 1987: YouGov model
(Reuters) – Britain’s Conservative Party is on course to win its biggest majority in parliament since 1987 at a Dec. 12 election, according to a new poll, which would give Prime Minister Boris Johnson a mandate to take the country out of the European Union.
“The swing to the Conservative party is bigger in areas that voted to Leave in 2016, with the bulk of the projected Tory gains coming in the North and the urban West Midlands, as well as former mining seats in the East Midlands,” said Wells.

25 November
All I want for Christmas is Brexit
Boris Johnson sets out timetable if he wins the election.
(Politico Eu) “My early Christmas present to the nation will be to bring the Brexit bill back before the festive break, and get parliament working for the people,” Boris Johnson said ahead of the Conservative manifesto launch on Sunday. “As families sit down to carve up their turkeys this Christmas, I want them to enjoy their festive season free from the seemingly unending Brexit box-set drama.”
But far from being free from drama, Johnson’s pledge will mean Brexit upheaval that could last right up to Christmas Eve.
Downing Street announced today that the queen will make her trip for the state opening of parliament on Thursday, December 19 — presumably with some degree of déjà vu after she went through the same ceremony in October when Johnson closed and re-opened the parliamentary session. The state opening will take a full day and no government business can be brought forward until after it is finished.

Boris Johnson plays for time with a cautious, tepid manifesto
Prime minister pins his hope on ‘getting Brexit done’ while not scoring any own goals
(The Guardian) Take no chances. Make no mistakes. Maintain strict message discipline. …the Conservatives think the only way they can lose the election is if they throw it away.
The contrast between the manifesto launched by Boris Johnson and Labour’s last week was marked. Behind in the polls and with only three weeks to go before election day, Jeremy Corbyn has gambled that voters are ready for radicalism.
The prime minister, by contrast, is seeking to run down the clock until 12 December, relying on the fact that his “get Brexit done” line has cut through. Things started to go pear-shaped for Theresa May in 2017 when her manifesto plans for social care were dubbed a “dementia tax”. This time, the Conservatives have said the answer is to build a long-term, cross-party consensus.
Johnson’s pitch throughout the campaign has been that Britain’s departure from the EU will unleash a wave of pent-up investment and, by ending the uncertainty, lead to faster economic growth. But there is no guarantee that this will happen, particularly since even if Brexit does go ahead on 31 January next year, the rest of 2020 will be spent trying to conclude a trade deal with the EU before the transition period ends,
… The safety first approach has its risks. Pledging to spend more on hospitals, schools and the police has been a recognition that voters have wearied of austerity and want a change of course. This is an election that is being fought on ground that suits Labour.

11 November
Brexit party will not contest 317 Tory-won seats, Farage says
Party leader announces election climbdown in effort to avoid splitting leave vote
Nigel Farage has said the Brexit party will not field any candidates against the Conservatives in the 317 seats they won at the last general election, after Boris Johnson committed to leaving the EU by 2020 and pursuing a Canada-style trade deal.
Farage said his party’s climbdown came after months of trying to create a leave alliance with the Tories, but he felt it was time to put the country before his party and make a “unilateral” move.
He will announce on Friday in which seats the Brexit party is standing. Speculation continues over where the party will stand but it is not expected to run in Northern Ireland or parts of Scotland.
As he spelled out his general election strategy at a rally in Hartlepool, which voted 70% to leave the UK, Farage said he had concluded that if the Brexit party had stood a candidate in every seat it could split the vote and usher in dozens of Liberal Democrat MPs and, in turn, create the circumstances for a second referendum.

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