Category Archives: Blog

May’s Rocky Road Ahead: Why Brexit May Not Happen

op12In this article our director Brendan Donnelly argues that the triggering of Article 50 will not be the end of the Brexit story. Mrs May is likely to face over the next two years growing obstacles in her path of extricating the UK from the European Union. There is a chance that these obstacles could be so numerous and so severe as to prevent Brexit from happening altogether.

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A “Titanic” success for the government in the High Court

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By Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

 

When challenged about its claimed right to initiate the process of taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union without Parliamentary consent, Mrs. May’s government has relied on two arguments, one legal and one political. The first is that the renunciation of treaties, such as the Treaty of Rome, is under the UK’s largely unwritten constitution an executive privilege of government. The High Court on 3rd November decisively rejected this claim by the government, a decision that will be challenged in the Supreme Court next month.  Whatever the decision of the higher court on the strictly legal issue, it will leave open the broader question of the political and ethical appropriateness of the British government’s seeking to leave the European Union without Parliamentary sanction. In response to this challenge, the government deploys its second, political argument, that the British people have spoken in the referendum of 23rd June, their decision to leave the European Union is irrevocable and those who seek to reverse it are acting undemocratically. This claim deserves much more critical scrutiny than it has received in public debate over recent months. Too many commentators and politicians have allowed themselves to be browbeaten and morally blackmailed by accusations from the government and its allies in the media that the referendum of 23rd June, with its narrow majority in favour of ill-defined revolutionary change, constituted a mandatory basis for whatever action the government decided it wished to take in interpretation of that decision. Continue reading A “Titanic” success for the government in the High Court

I am their leader. I must follow them.

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By Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

 

It should have surprised nobody that it took a bare three months for Theresa May to metamorphose from tepid advocate of continuing British membership of the European Union into an enthusiastic proselytiser at the Conservative Party conference for the benefits of “national sovereignty and independence” outside the Union. Her refusal during the referendum campaign to be more openly supportive of the Prime Minister can now be seen as a tactic to allow her to benefit from either outcome of the vote on 23rd June. It would have been very difficult for any other Minister from the “Remain” side to slip so effortlessly from opponent to Prime Ministerial champion of Brexit.   More generally, Mrs. May’s volte-face represents the culmination of a process whereby the internal management of their party has for 25 years been the most important determinant of Britain’s European policy for Conservative Prime Ministers. Mrs. May has apparently concluded that there is no point in trying to appease the radical Eurosceptics in her party. She has decided to join them instead. Continue reading I am their leader. I must follow them.

“When we have decided what you voted for, we will tell you.”

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by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

 

It used to be claimed during the Cold War that in the countries of the Soviet bloc elections could not take place until the government had decided what their result should be. Here, we order these matters differently. We had a referendum on 23rd June about the European Union, but the government has still to decide what its result will be. The widely-advertised “brain-storming session” of Mrs May on 31st August has taken us little further in the search for content to fill out the empty assertion that “Brexit means Brexit.”  The only specific matter upon which Mrs May and her colleagues could apparently agree was their hostility to the principle of European free movement. This is not an encouraging basis on which to erect a negotiating strategy for the “sensible and orderly departure” of the United Kingdom from the EU that Mrs May says she seeks. Continue reading “When we have decided what you voted for, we will tell you.”

Brexit, what Brexit?

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by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

 

Recently installed as she is at 10 Downing Street, Theresa May has probably not yet given much thought to her resignation honours list when she ceases to be Prime Minister. If she does, an obvious candidate for preferment should be the official who invented for her the magnificently vacuous mantra, “Brexit means Brexit.” These three little words have provided over the last month at least some decorous concealment of the indecent confusion which comprises current British governmental policy towards the European Union. The phrase corresponds well to Lloyd George’s definition of a perfect parliamentary answer: it is short, true and wholly uninformative. Of course, “Brexit” means “Brexit.” The question is what “Brexit” means. No answer to that question has yet been given, and it is difficult to see how Mrs. May’s government and party can ever arrive at a consensus on this issue. Continue reading Brexit, what Brexit?

The Countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Brexit impact

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by Viara Bojkova, Head of Geo-Economics Porgramme and Senior Research Fellow, Global Policy Institute

 

While the UK economy and the society are still adjusting to the new political and business reality, to make any final conclusions about the Brexit impact on the rest of Europe seems challenging. My intention with this piece is to make a few points to describe how the relations between Britain and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe might be affected. Continue reading The Countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Brexit impact

The light at the end of the tunnel is several oncoming trains

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By Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust for Education & Research

Until the time of writing (15th July) the chaos wreaked on the United Kingdom by the disruptive and unexpected outcome of Mr. Cameron’s referendum on 23rd June has been more obviously political than economic. The personal ambitions and resentments of the leading personalities in the “Leave” campaign have spilled over into a Jacobean drama of revenge and treachery which has diminished our country in the eyes of the rest of world. At times, it has appeared that the UK’s likely exit from the European Union was simply a collateral consequence of the dysfunctional Conservative Party, a consequence not necessarily desired by all its apparent advocates. Despite this febrile background, we now however know and understand more about a number of issues which will be central to the process of attempting to terminate British membership of the European Union. Continue reading The light at the end of the tunnel is several oncoming trains

We have seen the future and it doesn’t work

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By Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

 

It was a favourite dictum of the late Robin Leigh Pemberton, former Governor of the Bank of England, that it was easy to predict the future but impossible to know when it would happen. Events since 23rd June have more than borne out his contention. Many who feared and campaigned against a “leave” vote last week fully expected that the reckless undertakings and contradictory aspirations of the “leave” camp would create difficulties for any government charged with implementing BREXIT. Few can have expected so rapid an unravelling of the political and economic prospectus offered to the electorate by those wishing Britain to leave the European Union. Continue reading We have seen the future and it doesn’t work

Brexit: Why the Larger English-Speaking World is Against It

Our Greatness Lies in Staying in Not Pulling out

Ira-StrausBy Ira Straus, U.S. Coordinator of the Committee on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO, an independent policy analysis organization; and Chair of the Center for War/Peace Studies

 

Americans and Britons have a common interest in avoiding Brexit. I hope it will not be taken amiss if, as an overseas citizen of the Anglo-American world, I discuss why Americans see it that way. People around the world comment all the time on how Americans ought to vote, and we mostly take it for granted. In the days of the Empire, Brits took it for granted, too. My appeal is to that spirit, not least because I wish to discuss the matter from the vantage point of our common history and the vast inheritance we have jointly build over the centuries. Continue reading Brexit: Why the Larger English-Speaking World is Against It

London’s new mayor needs to lobby for more powers – or risk being left behind

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

This article was first published on The Conversation.

As the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan will gain command of a budget worth £17 billion to be spent mainly on fire services, transport and policing. He will also take on responsibilities for culture and the environment, addressing health inequalities, urban regeneration and development. The mayor also has a duty to issue strategy documents covering each of these fields, as well as performing the function of London’s police commissioner. Continue reading London’s new mayor needs to lobby for more powers – or risk being left behind