Tag Archives: Brendan Donnelly

Pointless soft Brexit, suicidal hard Brexit

Pointless soft Brexit, suicidal hard Brexit

 

 

By Brendan Donnelly
Director, The Federal Trust

 

In a controversial article last week the associate editor of the Financial Times Wolfgang Muenchau asserted that after the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty it was now inevitable that the United Kingdom would leave the European Union. Those who had voted “remain” in last year’s referendum should renounce their anger at and resentment of the present government’s negotiating tactics. They could more usefully devote their energies to reappraising the unsuccessful arguments they had put forward in last year’s referendum. They could thus prepare themselves better for future debate about eventual British re-entry into the European Union.   Wolfgang Muenchau is a respected and influential commentator, but on this occasion his arguments are unpersuasive.  The fortnight since the triggering of Article 50 has shown with embarrassing clarity the frivolous and incoherent nature of the whole Brexit project. It is a strange conclusion to draw from these developments that the United Kingdom cannot in any circumstances abandon the self-damaging path on which the Conservative government, or more precisely a segment of this government’s supporters, have set themselves. Continue reading Pointless soft Brexit, suicidal hard Brexit

How long will Parliament ignore the 48% ?

How long will Parliament ignore the 48%?

 

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by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

 

David Jones, the Minister for Brexit, assured the House of Commons this week that it would have the opportunity to vote on the treaty negotiated by Mrs. May’s government to bring about British withdrawal from the European Union. This assurance provoked mixed reactions. It helped to suppress a brewing Conservative revolt, but was widely criticized on the Opposition benches as giving no meaningful choice to the House of Commons, since the Minister had made clear that Brexit would anyway proceed, irrespective of the outcome of the Parliamentary vote. Both the welcome and the criticism for Mr. Jones were equally illuminating. Neither his supporters nor his critics seemed to recall that Parliament has the right to decide for itself whether it wishes to vote on the Brexit treaty and that it is up to Parliament to decide what the consequences of any such vote might be.  Parliament does not need to be dependent upon more or less tasty morsels from the governmental table furnished by Mr. Davis. The willingness of many Parliamentarians to subsist on a constitutional diet determined by the government well reflects the indecent haste with which they have rejected (at least for the short term) the chance offered it by the Supreme Court to play an autonomous role in the UK’s proposed withdrawal from the European Union. Continue reading How long will Parliament ignore the 48% ?

The Supremes say “Stop in the name of Parliament”

The Supremes say “Stop in the name of Parliament”

Brendan Donnelly

 

By Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

 

 

On general principles of good governance yesterday’s decision of the Supreme Court must be welcomed. Most Parliamentarians are profoundly uneasy at the erratic course Mrs. May and her government have steered over the past six months in response to the ill-defined outcome of the advisory European referendum on 23rd June. It was politically convenient for Mrs. May to claim to believe that a modern version of the divine right of kings dispensed her from the obligation to involve Parliament in these matters.  Happily, the Supreme Court has rejected such pretensions. Nevertheless, any pleasure at yesterday’s verdict must be tinged with disappointment that the Court needed to take such a decision in the first place. Continue reading The Supremes say “Stop in the name of Parliament”

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

“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?

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: The Northern Irish dimension

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by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

 

This article was first published on the LSE BrexitVote blog.

Much concern has already been expressed by some British commentators  about the possible implications for Scotland of a vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union on 23rd June. Less comment has until now been directed, at least on the British mainland, to the implications of such a vote for Northern Ireland. Commentators and politicians in both halves of Ireland have been less reticent. The former Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, recently warned that a British decision to leave the Union would be “negative in every way” for Anglo-Irish relations, in particular for exchanges between Northern Ireland and its southern neighbour. Continue reading BREXIT: The Northern Irish dimension

Ever closer union – neither a goal nor an aspiration, but a process

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by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust

 

This article was first published on the LSE BrexitVote blog.

When the Conservative members of the European Parliament first formed in the early 1990s a joint parliamentary group with the MEPs from the European Peoples Party, there was a certain condescending expectation on the British side that their continental colleagues were in for a bracing lesson in pragmatic politics from their hard-headed British colleagues. The reality of the newly established parliamentary group could not however have been more different. British MEPs rapidly realized that their new continental colleagues conducted their business with a ruthless and effective pragmatism. If anything, it was the British wing of the newly-established parliamentary group given to ideological anguish and soul-searching. Continue reading Ever closer union – neither a goal nor an aspiration, but a process