All posts by admin

Brexit is a blank sheet of paper that can never be filled in


by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

19th December 2017

 

The frenzied negotiations to conclude the first phase of Brexit negotiations have usefully clarified the real choices faced by the British government in the second phase. The ambiguous and variously defined terms “soft” and “hard” Brexit have outlived their usefulness. It is clear that the British government must now decide whether it wishes after Brexit to remain close to the standards and regulations of the European Union, thereby limiting the economic damage and disruption from a radical break with the Union. Or whether, on the contrary, it wishes for political reasons to facilitate this radical break, even to the extent of leaving the Union with no agreed template for future economic relations between the two sides. The vigorous debate at the beginning of December about a possible “hard” or “soft” border within the island of Ireland arose largely from the fact that the British government has not yet decided which of these two options it favours. The confused nature of the text relating to Ireland finally adopted by the EU and UK reflects this continuing uncertainty. Continue reading Brexit is a blank sheet of paper that can never be filled in

Grade inflation? Brexit and Canada+++

By Dr Andrew Blick, Senior Lecturer in Politics and Contemporary History, King’s College London;
Senior Research Fellow at the Federal Trust

19th December 2017

 

The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, has described his plans for a future trading arrangement with the EU as ‘Canada plus plus plus’. But what precisely does this expression mean, if anything, and what are the trade and political implications? Continue reading Grade inflation? Brexit and Canada+++

Ulster and Brexit: The shape of things to come


by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

5th December 2017

 

Even during the European referendum last year it was clear that those who wished the UK to leave the European Union fell into two quite different camps, those who wanted Brexit to mark a decisive break in the economic and social life of the United Kingdom; and those who wanted Brexit to take place with minimal social and economic disruption. This division has become more pronounced in the months since the referendum and is at the heart of the current controversy over the Irish border. This particular controversy may be resolved in such a way as to permit movement towards the second phase of Brexit talks at the European Council on 14th December. The fundamental divisions within the pro-Brexit camp can however only become more obvious and more acute in this second phase of negotiations. The debate over the Irish border may well come to be seen in retrospect as simply a precursor of other even more intractable dilemmas thrown up by the self-contradictions of the whole Brexit project. Continue reading Ulster and Brexit: The shape of things to come

“Hard Brexit or no Brexit?”, that is the question

 

By Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

1st November 2017

 

In his recent testimony to the House of Lords, Sir Ivan Rogers, former British Permanent Representative to the European Union, criticized as premature and ill-prepared the Prime Minister’s triggering last March of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This is unfair to Theresa May. No different date for the beginning of the Brexit negotiations could or would have rendered them any less painful for the British participants. No amount of extra preparation on the British side before triggering Article 50 could or would have resolved the numerous internal contradictions of the Brexit project. Continue reading “Hard Brexit or no Brexit?”, that is the question

Mrs May shuffles the cards in Florence but cannot change them

 

By Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

25th September 2017

 

The limited concessions outlined in Theresa May’s Florence speech will probably have been enough to prevent the immediate breakdown of the Brexit talks, a breakdown which seemed at the beginning of the month a real possibility. They are, however, insufficient to reassure the EU 27 that enough progress has been made in the first tranche of negotiations (covering Ireland, citizens’ rights and the budget/exit bill) to move onto the issue of principal interest to the British government: future trade relations. The difficulties Mrs. May faced within her party in the days preceding (and, not least, following) her Florence speech illuminate how politically difficult, and probably impossible it will be for her to go significantly beyond the concessions she alluded to in Italy. The speech itself moreover continues to reflect a number of the crippling fantasies and misconceptions which make it difficult for this Conservative government to limit the economic damage arising from Brexit. Continue reading Mrs May shuffles the cards in Florence but cannot change them

BREXIT: Labour makes a move but is it in the right direction?

BREXIT: Labour makes a move but is it in the right direction?

 

 

By Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

1st September 2017

 

The recent article by Keir Starmer, Labour spokesman on Brexit, setting out the Party’s commitment to continued British membership of the EU single market and the customs union for a transitional period post-Brexit is a welcome and significant development in the European debate. In the short term it will give Labour a political and intellectual basis on which to criticize the government’s conduct of the Brexit negotiations, particularly in relation to the form of the transitional period to which the government is now committed. It would be overoptimistic however to claim that the Starmer initiative represents a comprehensive or sustainable approach to Brexit over the longer run. “Constructive ambiguity” stays in place, even if it is now more intelligently constructed. Continue reading BREXIT: Labour makes a move but is it in the right direction?

The Brexit transition deal debate: an exercise in futility

 

by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

15th August 2017

 

On almost every day since Theresa May went on holiday in late July, the British public has been treated to the contradictory and often self-contradictory thoughts of various ministers about the desirability, inevitability or unacceptability of a “transition” period after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Apart from its very public and divisive nature, this debate has been remarkable in a number of respects. It is bizarre that such a fundamental discussion within government is only now taking place, more than a year after the EU referendum; the terms of the debate have remained notably confused and ill-defined; the controversy has been pursued with an insular indifference towards the views of the other members of the EU, and it is unclear towards what final goal this period of transition should serve as a preparation. This whole strange episode, which now appears to have run its course in time for the Prime Minister’s return, has reflected many of the underlying incoherent self-deceptions of the Brexit project. Continue reading The Brexit transition deal debate: an exercise in futility

No good choices for the British government in the Brexit negotiations

 

by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

20th July 2017

 

David Davis has been criticized in some quarters for spending only two hours in Brussels this week negotiating with Michel Barnier before returning hurriedly to London. This criticism is misplaced. As Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Mr. Davis needs to exercise the closest possible control on all the negotiations relating to Brexit. Most of these negotiations are currently taking place in London, within the government of which Mr. Davis is a member. The EU’s negotiators have, as is well known, been able to impose on the negotiations in Brussels a “sequencing” of topics to be discussed. Similar “sequencing” applies to the London end of the negotiations.  Mr. Davis needs to conclude his Brexit negotiations with his colleagues in London before he can rationally engage in  Brexit negotiations with Mr. Barnier.  These negotiations in London show little sign however of coming to any early conclusion. Continue reading No good choices for the British government in the Brexit negotiations

A chaotic Brexit is still a possibility

A chaotic Brexit is still a possibility

 

 

by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

28th June 2017

 

 

The terms of the political debate about Brexit in the aftermath of the General Election are gradually becoming clearer. Since the project of Brexit is an essentially irrational one, its discussion will always tend towards paradox and conundrum. Nevertheless, the weeks since the General Election have clarified the choices with which the British government and other political actors are likely to find themselves confronted over the coming months. How they will react to these choices remains as much a matter of speculation as ever. Continue reading A chaotic Brexit is still a possibility

The dilemmas of Brexit have not been changed by the election

The dilemmas of Brexit have not been changed by the election

 

 

by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

13th June 2017

 

The parallels between the European referendum of 2016 and the General Election of 2017 are striking. Both were risky and avoidable events, called into being exclusively by the perceived political advantage of the Conservative Party. They were both carried out with complacent incompetence by the Prime Ministers of the day and led to precisely the opposite outcomes to those desired by Mr. Cameron and Mrs. May. Mr. Cameron’s foolishness paved the way for the potential national catastrophe of Brexit and cost him his Premiership. Mrs. May is not expected to remain long as Prime Minister after the electoral humiliation of 8th June. It is however too early to calculate with precision all the consequences of a minority Conservative government in a hung Parliament. Those who now see a possibility of “softening” or even preventing entirely the looming disaster of Brexit may be premature in their optimism. A yet more disorderly and damaging Brexit is a distinct possibility emerging from the election of 8th June. Continue reading The dilemmas of Brexit have not been changed by the election