Director's Blog

Mrs May has no choice but to obey Jacob Rees-Mogg

by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

18th July 2018

 

The Conservative MP, Anna Soubry, stunned the Commons and the media earlier this week by asking rhetorically whether it is the Prime Minister or her fellow backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg who “runs the country” when it comes to Brexit. The events of the past ten days, and particularly the Prime Minister’s acceptance of four wrecking amendments to the Brexit Customs Bill on Monday, give a clear answer to Anna Soubry’s question. Mrs May does not and cannot set her own course in the Brexit negotiations. Jacob Rees-Mogg and those who think like him have a veto on all her European policies, a veto they are now every day more confident and determined in applying.  This veto is guaranteed by the dominance of radical Euroscepticism within Mrs May’s Conservative Party, a dominance that Westminster-based commentators often overlook. Continue reading Mrs May has no choice but to obey Jacob Rees-Mogg

Brexit: Irish realism meets British wishful thinking


by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

22nd May 2018

 

 

The Irish strand of the current negotiations between the UK and the EU presents a rich case study in the delusions and dilemmas of Brexit. It is difficult to think of any other area of the negotiations which more neatly encapsulates the failure of the Brexit reality to correspond with the predictions and assumptions of the “leave” camp in 2016. Continue reading Brexit: Irish realism meets British wishful thinking

Brexit: A “meaningful” vote for MPs implies a “meaningful” vote for the people

by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

18th May 2018

 

The Conservative Cabinet has spent the past month in public controversy about the customs regime to be applied on the island of Ireland after Brexit. It is widely recognised that neither of the two favoured solutions canvassed within the Cabinet, a “customs partnership” and “maximum facilitation”, is acceptable to the European Union. Less widely understood has been the fact that this purely British debate ignores entirely the much more urgent Irish issue, namely the finding of an acceptable text for the “backstop” guarantee sought by the Irish government that intra-Irish trade (and broader social exchanges) will in all circumstances continue to flow freely after Brexit. Even full British participation in a Customs Union with the EU would not be sufficient to guarantee this freedom. The Irish government rightly points out that substantial elements of the European internal market would need to be retained in Northern Ireland as well, a reality for which the British government appears as yet wholly unprepared. Continue reading Brexit: A “meaningful” vote for MPs implies a “meaningful” vote for the people

Brexit: Anything could happen in the next half year

By Brendan Donnelly
Director, The Federal Trust

 

 

23rd April 2018

 

Last week saw two potentially important developments in the continuing campaign against Brexit. There was a significant defeat for the government in the House of Lords on the subject of the Customs Union (CU); and a coalition of pro-European groups launched a campaign to bring about a “People’s Vote” on the terms of the EU withdrawal agreement negotiated by Mrs. May and her ministers. These can only be initial steps in a process over the coming six months whose outcome is unpredictable. The former trade minister, Lord Digby Jones, was sufficiently concerned to warn that “they will DESTROY Brexit” while anti-Brexit campaigners will certainly hope that this is one European issue on which he will turn out to be correct. Continue reading Brexit: Anything could happen in the next half year

Labour’s Brexit Options: Starmer’s Step in the Right Direction

 

By Brendan Donnelly
Director, The Federal Trust

 

27th March 2018

 

Last week was a difficult period for those inclined to argue that the Labour Party is or may become an effective political vehicle for opposition to Brexit. To the applause of John Redwood, Jeremy Corbyn dismissed Owen Smith from the Shadow Cabinet for suggesting that the Brexit terms negotiated by Mrs May might need to be submitted to a referendum; the Party’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer told the Guardian that he saw no realistic prospect of preventing Brexit from taking place in 2019; and the same Sir Keir truckled to the most vulgar forms of Eurosceptic nativism by urging that future British passports should be made by British producers, whatever the economic cost. The Labour Party seemed finally to be resolving its studied ambiguity in European policy by a more or less grudging acceptance of Brexit, with occasional attempts to outbid the Conservative government on its nationalist flank. Continue reading Labour’s Brexit Options: Starmer’s Step in the Right Direction

Brexit and the Withdrawal Bill: a multi-player game?

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

 

14th March 2018

Through its insistence on leaving the European Union (EU), the Theresa May government has created an immense challenge for itself. The task is one of immense administrative and technical complexity. Moreover, it must be completed within a perilously short timeframe. Continue reading Brexit and the Withdrawal Bill: a multi-player game?

Is Brexit worth it, Prime Minister?

by Brendan Donnelly
Director, The Federal Trust

3rd March 2018

 

After her speech yesterday about the Brexit negotiations, the Prime Minister was asked by a German journalist whether she thought Brexit was worth all the effort and disruption it entailed. Although British withdrawal from the EU is probably the most important national decision taken since the Second World War and it will inevitably define the success or otherwise of Mrs. May’s Premiership, she was unable or unwilling to answer this question. Instead, she answered a different question. There was no chance, she said, of the United Kingdom’s changing its mind on this issue. For Mrs. May, in the same way as Brexit means Brexit, the UK is leaving the European Union because it is leaving the European Union. Reflections about whether this is a desirable or rational course of action are beyond her pay grade.

Continue reading Is Brexit worth it, Prime Minister?

The case for a new British referendum on the EU is becoming unstoppable

by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

24th January 2018

 

In recent weeks, there has been widespread discussion of the possibility of a new referendum later in the year to endorse or reject the terms negotiated by Mrs May and her government for British withdrawal from the European Union. A surprising potential supporter of a new referendum has been Nigel Farage. His intervention in the debate, together with the earnest assurances of the Prime Minister that no further European consultation will take place, have convinced many observers of the likelihood, perhaps even inevitability, of a further referendum in the autumn of this year. The case for such a referendum will be strong if Mrs May succeeds in reaching an accord with her EU partners on Brexit. It will be even stronger if she fails to reach any agreement at all. Continue reading The case for a new British referendum on the EU is becoming unstoppable

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+++