Vote to Leave EU Throws British Labour Party in Crisis

Lawmakers move against Jeremy Corbyn at the same time as the Conservatives seek a new leader of their own.

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech in Aberdeen, Scotland
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn makes a speech in Aberdeen, Scotland (PA)
  • Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has lost the support of his lawmakers in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
  • Angela Eagle is expected to challenge Corbyn. Coming from the soft left of the party, she could be a unifying figure.
  • The Conservatives are looking for a new leader of their own after David Cameron announced he is stepping down as prime minister.
  • Boris Johnson, a top contender, has won the support of Justice Secretary Michael Gove, a fellow Euroskeptic.
  • Stephen Crabb and Sajid Javid are teaming up to vie for the support of Tory modernizers.
Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 201610:56 AM

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament today there will be no secret negotiations with the British before they trigger Article 50.

Some of the leaders of the leave campaign suggested on Monday there could be “informal” talks before Britain initiates the divorce proceeding. But Juncker wants to get on with it. “I would like the United Kingdom to clarify its position,” he said.

Dutch defense minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, a former European Parliament member herself, similar said on behalf of the Dutch presidency of the EU that nobody benefits from a period of “political limbo” and the ball is “in London’s court” to begin exit negotiations.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 201611:55 AM
Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands speaks with his British counterpart, David Cameron, at Chequers, England, February 21, 2014
Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands speaks with his British counterpart, David Cameron, at Chequers, England, February 21, 2014 (Rijksoverheid)

The fear in the Netherlands is that Britain’s exit will invigorate those clamoring for more Europe, not less.

Halbe Zijlstra, the parliamentary leader of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal party, said on Monday that he understands the British were dissatisfied with the “European express train that keeps thundering on.”

“This sentiment lives in the Netherlands as well,” he said.

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Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 201612:15 PM

The Daily Mirror, a Labour-supporting tabloid, has called on Jeremy Corbyn to resign. “We have concluded that the survival of the Labour Party is more important than any individual,” the paper writes.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 201612:22 PM
Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 8, 2015
Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 8, 2015 (European Parliament)

Nigel Farage did Britain no favors with his self-congratulatory speech in the European Parliament today.

The UKIP leader called for a “grownup and sensible attitude” to negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU.

Except he couldn’t bring himself to demonstrate such an attitude.

If the rest of Europe were to “reject any idea of a sensible trade deal, the consequences would be far worse for you than it would be for us,” he warned.

That’s no way to negotiate.

If you tell the other party you’re prepared to walk away unless they give you exactly what you want, don’t be surprised if they let you.

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Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 201612:29 PM

Yvette Cooper, the former shadow home secretary who was defeated by Jeremy Corbyn in last year’s leadership election, has said he is losing the party support across the country — “and particularly in the towns and coalfields that built the Labour movement in the first place.”

“Jeremy would be letting down Labour voters and communities across the country who badly need a strong Labour voice right now, and who badly need a Labour government, if he drags this out any longer,” she said.

Cooper is seen as a strong leadership contender, if not now then in the near future. Michael Savage of The Times tweeted earlier today that the options for Labour are picking Tom Watson and/or Angela Eagle to unite the party through an election or Cooper as a credible prime ministerial candidate.

In related news, Alan Whitehead just resigned as shadow energy and climate secretary. I’ve lost count, is there anyone left in the shadow cabinet?

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20161:34 PM

German chancellor Angela Merkel poured cold water on the plans (such as they are) of the leave campaign today, telling her parliament Britain cannot “cherry-pick” the terms of its new relationship with the EU and that the bloc’s “four freedoms” — of capital, goods, services and people — cannot be split up.

That means: no single-market access without the free movement of people. Which is what the leave campaign promised.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20162:05 PM

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who may be a long-shot leadership contender, argues in The Telegraph that Britain must do what it can to maintain its single-market access.

He proposes a “Norway plus” model: “full access to the single market with a sensible compromise on free movement rules.”

This is improbable. No free movement means no full access to the single market. You can’t have it both ways.

Hunt also suggests to wait with triggering Article 50 until such a deal is done and then “put it to the British people, either in a referendum or through the Conservative manifesto at a fresh general election.”

This is ridiculous. The rest of the EU is not going to wait for months or years for Britain to make up its mind.

“We are not dealing with a consensual divorce,” Germany’s Europe minister, Michael Roth, told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper. “Article 50 is clear: if no agreement is found within two years, the UK has to leave anyway.”

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20162:31 PM

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tried to put some distance between keeping Scotland in the EU and taking Scotland out of the United Kingdom in a speech to her legislature, telling lawmakers she was “emphatically not asking parliament to endorse” a second independence referendum today.

Sturgeon is asking for a mandate to negotiate directly with EU authorities. She is due to meet with Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, tomorrow.

Scots voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union. The leader of Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party in Westminster, Angus Robertson, said yesterday, “We have no intention whatsoever of seeing Scotland taken out of Europe. That would be totally, totally democratically unacceptable.”

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20163:18 PM

Scottish Labour Party leader Kezia Dugdale suggests there could be “a federal United Kingdom” with some of its nations, like Scotland, staying in the EU or at least obtaining an “associate status” with the bloc.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20163:21 PM

Politico reports that Stephen Crabb has written an email to parliamentarians to say he will run for the Conservative Party leadership.

I argued this weekend that Crabb, who took over as work and pensions secretary from Iain Duncan Smith, looks more like a future leader than somebody who can bring the Conservative Party together in the next few months. He is decidedly on the party’s left, which lost the referendum.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20164:34 PM

Labour’s lawmakers have voted 172 to forty for a motion of no-confidence in their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the BBC reports.

This was a long time coming. Most lawmakers recognized from the start that Corbyn was a disaster. His priorities are far-left hobby projects, not the country’s. His economic and foreign-policy views are so far out of the mainstream that even the majority of Labour’s 2015 voters disagreed with them. And then there is his insufferable high-mindedness and the clueless adoration of his fringe supporters. It all had more than a whiff of a neo-Marxist clique putting ideological purity over electability.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20165:15 PM

Corbyn says he’s not going anywhere.

I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 percent of Labour members and supporters and I will not betray them by resigning.

Meanwhile, John Baron, a frequent Conservative Party rebel who led the push for an EU referendum in the last Parliament, has said he will stand for the leadership as well. He’s not going to win, but he could split the “Brexit” vote to Boris Johnson’s detriment.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20165:24 PM
Bohuslav Sobotka, Robert Fico, Beata Szydło and Viktor Orbán, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, meet in Prague, June 8
Bohuslav Sobotka, Robert Fico, Beata Szydło and Viktor Orbán, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, meet in Prague, June 8 (PiS)

Central European countries have endorsed the call for a more modest European Union in the wake of Britain’s referendum vote to leave the bloc on Thursday.

“The work of the union should get back to basics,” argue the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia in a statement that was released on Tuesday: “upholding the fundamental principles upon which the European projects has been founded, using the full and genuine potential of the four freedoms, achieving the still incomplete single market.”

They also emphasize the need to listen to European citizens and the national parliaments.

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Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20165:38 PM

David Blunkett, the former home secretary, tells the BBC Corbyn “has no self-awareness at all” if he doesn’t step down now.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20165:52 PM

EU candidate nations in the Balkans are worried that Britain’s exit will delay their accession, Reuters reports.

Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, which suffered terribly during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, are all at different stages in joining the bloc.

Not only will they have lost a champion in Britain, which tended to favor enlargement as a way to dissuade Europe from political union; the mood in the remaining 27 is likely to turn against admitting any new member states for a while.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20166:10 PM

Strong words from Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary: It is a “Trotskyist fantasy” that Jeremy Corbyn can carry on as Labour leader, he tells Sky News, whom he compares to George Lansbury, the pacifist 1930s party leader who was forced to resign in disgrace.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20166:25 PM
London mayor Boris Johnson poses for a photo, November 24, 2011
London mayor Boris Johnson poses for a photo, November 24, 2011 (i-Images/Andrew Parsons)

A smart right-wing take on Britain’s vote to leave the EU comes from Yuval Levin in National Review.

He writes that an assertive cosmopolitan elite has conspired in recent years with a weakening of traditional communities in Europe to create “an intense desire for a reassertion of control and authority from the bottom up.”

This resurgent national yearning is in one way or another growing in most Western societies. Many things could be said about it, good and bad, but one is surely that it strongly suggests that globalism is not the future and nationalism is not the past.

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Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 28, 20169:00 PM

Boris Johnson will have the support of Justice Secretary Mochael Gove, as expected, if he announces a candidacy for the Conservative Party leadership tomorrow.

Gove was a leading figure in the leave campaign and would expect a promotion in a Johnson-led government.

Environment Secretary Liz Truss has also come out in support of Johnson, as has Lynton Crosby, the Australian mastermind of the Conservatives’ last general election victory.

Meanwhile on the Labour side, ITV’s political editor, Chris Ship, reports that Angela Eagle is likely to challenge Corbyn and, according to George Eaton at the New Statesman, so are Yvette Cooper and Dan Jarvis.

Eagle, from the soft left of the party, could be a unifying figure. Cooper and Jarvis are more centrist and would mark a repudiation of the Corbyn line.

Shaun Riordan Shaun Riordan June 28, 20169:04 PM

Corbyn’s position is analogous to Brexit: the metropolitan elite versus the man (and woman) in the street.

Corbyn was elected by the party rank and file against the wishes of lawmakers. In this case, it is the metropolitan elite that is rebelling. Corbyn is hoping to be able to ignore the parliamentary party, which has already adopted a motion of no-confidence, and rely on his support from the unions and party activists. Like the Brexiteers, he may ultimately be disappointed. There are none so fickle as the man and woman in the street. Both Britain’s major parties have earned the wisdom of Edmund Burke’s warnings against direct democracy.

Shaun Riordan Shaun Riordan June 28, 20169:11 PM
European Council president Donald Tusk speaks with British prime minister David Cameron in Brussels, June 28
European Council president Donald Tusk speaks with British prime minister David Cameron in Brussels, June 28 (European Council)

While the presidents of both the European Commission and the European Parliament have called on Britain to invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty to start the exit process, it may be a while.

The referendum is only advisory. Parliament, where two-thirds of lawmakers want Britain to remain in the European Union, is sovereign. David Cameron has left the decision to activate Article 50 to his successor. He or she will almost certainly want parliamentary approval. Politicians will be reluctant to ignore or overturn the referendum result, but they may be willing to complicate Brexit by laying down conditions for the negotiations, for example, by insisting on access to the single market.

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