Shock of EU Exit Reverberates Through British Politics

Read our live commentary on the crises in Britain’s ruling Conservative and opposition Labour Party.

The Houses of Parliament in London, England, February 19, 2013
The Houses of Parliament in London, England, February 19, 2013 (Martin Robson)
  • Britain’s Conservative Party is seeking a new leader following David Cameron’s announcement on Friday that he will step down. Home Secretary Theresa May looks like a strong contender.
  • The opposition Labour Party is in revolt against its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who lawmakers say did too little to prevent the vote to leave the European Union. There are even rumors of a split.
  • Gibraltar and Scotland are in talks to try and find a way for both to stay in the EU.
  • Markets have plummeted despite Chancellor George Osborne’s assurances that the British economy is facing the future “from a position of strength”. Airline, bank and property shares tumbled while sterling hit a 31-year low.
David Downing David Downing June 27, 20161:43 PM

There is now a rumor going around that alongside the mounting pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to resign, the broad church of Labour could be on the verge of splitting.

Most of the resignations have come from those in Labour who occupy the center ground. They have all been replaced by Corbyn with more likeminded parliamentarians who are further to the left. What the rumor suggests is that these resignations are a prelude to the formation of a new center-left party.

Click here to continue reading.

David Downing David Downing June 27, 20162:18 PM

As things stand, 23 shadow cabinet members and high-ranking Labour officials have resigned. Also counting Hilary Benn, who was sacked, that makes 24.

Among those who stepped down are Heidi Alexander, the shadow health secretary; Angela Eagle, the shadow business secretary; Ian Murray, the shadow secretary for Scotland; Lucy Powell, the shadow education secretary; and Charles Falconer, former lord chancellor and shadow justice secretary.

Ryan Bohl Ryan Bohl June 27, 20162:25 PM

The markets are about to open here in New York, but the big news is the stunning drop of the pound to the dollar to the lowest level I’ve ever seen it: 1.10 to 1.

Speculators will take advantage of that, which might push it back up some or mitigate some of the damage, but the widespread uncertainty over whether it’s smart to invest in the United Kingdom anymore will be a strong pull downwards.

Ryan Bohl Ryan Bohl June 27, 20162:31 PM

Dow is already plummeting on Wall Street. More bleeding seems needed to balance out the effects of Brexit.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20162:32 PM

Angela Eagle, talking to the BBC, laments Corbyn’s “ambivalence” in the EU referendum campaign as well as his inability to reach working-class voters. “After having tried to work with him,” she says, “I don’t think that he now has the answer.”

The number of resignations has risen to 29.

David Downing David Downing June 27, 20162:33 PM

In non-Labour news, it would appear as though the former editor of The Sun, one of Britain’s most influential tabloids, regrets his decision to urge readers to vote “leave”.

“When I put my cross against leave, I felt a surge as though for the first time in my life my vote did count. I had power,” he writes.

Four days later I don’t feel quite the same. I have buyer’s remorse. A sense of be careful what you wish for. To be truthful I am fearful of what lies ahead.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20162:34 PM

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has reportedly told Corbyn he has “no authority” in the parliamentary party anymore.

Watson is a machine politician with pretty hawkish views on foreign policy (supported the Iraq War, defied Corbyn last year to vote for airstrikes in Syria), but he was never New Labour. Indeed, as Gordon Brown’s ally, he played a part in removing Tony Blair from office. So I guess you can say he’s been here before.

Click here for a good profile on Watson from The Independent.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20162:46 PM

The BBC’s Nick Robinson argues the country is rudderless.

Leaders of the leave campaign — Michael Gove and Boris Johnson — apparently thought David Cameron would clean up the mess they created by staying on as prime minister and invoking Article 50 of the EU treaty. Now that he’s said he won’t, they’re shellshocked.

So basically they led Britain out of the EU without any plan for what to do next. Probably because, like many voters, they never expected “leave” would actually win.

Ryan Bohl Ryan Bohl June 27, 20162:56 PM

Pound is at 1.32 to the dollar, but the selloff is hammering Wall Street.

Meanwhile, speculation continues about how American banks may move from London to Dublin, Frankfurt or Paris.

David Downing David Downing June 27, 20163:02 PM

With regard to Ryan’s point about banks moving from London: Paris has already said they would “roll out the red carpet” for those that exit the City.

One can perhaps imagine they are saying this with a sense of glee, as in 2012 David Cameron promised to “roll out the red carpet” for French businesses and individuals fleeing the country to avoid high taxes.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20163:19 PM

Conservative Party backbenchers have proposed a timetable under which candidates for the leadership would have to put their name into contention by Wednesday and a successor to David Cameron would be in place by September 2.

This is pending approval from the rest of the party.

Leaders of the so-called 1922 committee, which will oversee the contest, have also proposed following the same rules under which Cameron was elected in 2005. That would mean lawmakers cull the list of candidates to two who would than vie for the support of ordinary party members.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20163:29 PM

David Cameron just arrived in the House of Commons to applause from his side. Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench looks rather more… spacious.

We’ll provide live commentary on the prime minister’s statement and subsequent debate.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20163:36 PM

“There can be no doubt about the result.” The prime minister doesn’t leave any room for reconsidering the outcome of the referendum, as some ardent remainers have suggested.

“The decision must be accepted and the process of implementing the decision in the best possible way must now begin,” he says.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20163:41 PM

The devolved authorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland will be “fully involved” in Britain’s separation from the EU, Cameron says.

Both regions voted to remain in the EU. The Scots are particularly dismayed and may now attempt a second time to secede from the United Kingdom in order to stay in the European Union.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20163:46 PM

A combative Jeremy Corbyn blames Tory austerity and anti-immigrant rhetoric for the vote to leave.

The Labour leader also takes aim at his own members by claiming the country won’t stand for factional infighting at this time of uncertainty.

Daniel Berman Daniel Berman June 27, 20163:56 PM
British home secretary Theresa May speaks at a mosque in East London, England, February 12, 2015
British home secretary Theresa May speaks at a mosque in East London, England, February 12, 2015 (UK Home Office)

It is not only the Labour Party where maneuvering is occurring regarding the succession. While Boris Johnson has been hailed by the international media as the presumed frontrunner to succeed David Cameron as Conservative leader and prime minister, the party has a long history of rejecting both frontrunners and assassins.

With Chancellor George Osborne likely out of the race, his most likely foe is Home Secretary Theresa May, who is expected to announce her campaign tomorrow morning.

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Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20163:57 PM

“We have no intention whatsoever of seeing Scotland taken out of Europe,” says the Scottish National Party’s Angus Robertson. “That would be totally, totally democratically unacceptable.” He calls for a new independence referendum.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20164:43 PM

No more dramatic news coming out of the debate in the Commons. David Cameron is being congratulated from both sides of the house for his conduct in the last few days. He has emphatically rejected calls for a second referendum and is leaving all major decisions to his successor.

He announced that a special unit is being set up in Whitehall to figure out all the complications arising from Britain’s decision to leave, including the situation in Northern Ireland and how to separate EU from British law. The latter, we reported last week, is going to be quite excruciating.

Daniel Berman Daniel Berman June 27, 20164:53 PM

The Polish government has expressed displeasure in the manner in which European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has handled EU policy toward Britain, the Financial Times reports, echoing calls from the Czech Republic yesterday for Juncker to step down.

“We think that today the European institutions should start to admit they made a mistake,” the foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, said.

Waszczykowski argued that “part of the European leadership should suffer the consequences” and make way for new leaders who are not associated with “the defeat that was Brexit.”

There is this atmosphere that has been expressed by the British society, that the call of for example Mr Juncker from a few months ago for politicians to break away from their electorates and to take care of the European concept, has been rejected.

Waszczykowski further said Prime Minister Beata Szydło will make “quite radical” proposals at the European Council meeting in Brussels tomorrow that would shift power away from the commission and to the conclave of national leaders.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20165:50 PM

Janan Ganesh argues it are Michael Gove and Boris Johnson who must now govern. “The British people have instructed their rulers to leave the EU,” he writes. “It cannot be done by a prime minister who believes the instruction was foolish in the first place.”

Leavers have won what was essentially a referendum and a general election all in one. They must be responsible for the country in the coming years. The economy, the union and the commitments made during the referendum campaign are all theirs to safeguard. A European settlement that simultaneously satisfies Brussels and the 52 percent is theirs to negotiate.

But of course this is impossible. There is no way of harmonizing the promises that were made by the leave campaign with economic security and the survival of the union. It’s one or the other. If Britain leaves, its economy will suffer — at least in the short term — and Scotland will almost certainly secede.

The likes of Gove and Johnson knew this, or should have known this. The fact that they advocated an exit anyway is what makes them so reckless.

As a remainer, I understand the temptation to let them crash and burn. Even if that’s the democratic thing to do, though, is it responsible for other politicians to let them?

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20165:56 PM
View of the Queensway Quay Marina from the Rock of Gibraltar, April 23, 2002
View of the Queensway Quay Marina from the Rock of Gibraltar, April 23, 2002 (James Cridland)

Gibraltar is in talks with Scotland to find a way for both to stay in the EU, the BBC has learned.

One possibility under discussion is for Gibraltar and Scotland, which both voted to stay in the EU, to maintain the United Kingdom’s membership of the bloc.

Northern Ireland, which also voted to remain, could potentially be included in the talks.

Click here to continue reading.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20166:16 PM

Matthew d’Ancona argues in The Guardian that Johnson must work fast to stop Cameron’s departure and Brexit itself being remembered as the price party and country paid for a single politician’s ambition.

The conviction that Margaret Thatcher was toppled by pygmies and that Gordon Brown was cheated out of the Labour leadership in 1994 poisoned their respective parties for years.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20166:19 PM

Leonid Bershidsky makes a point in his Bloomberg View column on why the rest of the EU is so keen to get the divorce proceeding underway.

Until the UK triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin the formal exit process, the EU is a lame structure: Many of its decisions require the consent of all members and the UK has veto power without any of the responsibility that comes with it.

European leaders worry that Cameron’s successor may be willing to use that leverage to get the best possible deal for Britain.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20166:29 PM

The Financial Times has encouraged Labour’s parliamentarians to move again Corbyn, arguing that his contribution to the remain campaign “was little short of sabotage” and the outcome of the referendum exposed “the extent to which Labour is hemorrhaging support to the UK Independence party in the north of England.”

This is not some temporary setback. After being obliterated by the Scottish National Party north of the border in last year’s general election, Labour risks suffering the same mortal blow in large parts of England.

To Corbyn’s critics, it has been obvious from the start that would only further alienate Labour’s core supporters. It should now be obvious to everyone and there really is no good reason to keep him anymore.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20167:38 PM

Labour lawmakers are meeting and it’s not going well.

The BBC’s Vicki Young reports a lot of shouting in the room. According to Steve Reed, a parliamentarian for Croydon North, Corbyn “didn’t seem to have heard a single word anyone’s said,” though.

Hundreds of Corbyn’s supporters are demonstrating outside Parliament right now. Which is typical of the far left: if you can’t get your way through parliamentary means, you take to the street.

A secret ballot will be held tomorrow afternoon on a motion of no-confidence in Corbyn. Considering the way things have been going today, it looks certain to pass and then the party will hold a leadership contest.

Ryan Bohl Ryan Bohl June 27, 20167:50 PM

The Dow has dropped nearly a thousand points since Thursday’s vote. While not as dire as this winter, when it plummeted to 15,000 points, this drop is nevertheless indicative of how much the markets disapprove of Britain’s choice.

Recent studies have said that the average British household may lose up to £4,000 per year owing to recession and reduced growth.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20167:52 PM

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor and a Corbyn ally, tells left-wing activists outside Parliament that Corbyn will not resign and that if there’s another leadership election he will stand again.

“This is about democracy,” he insists, which they will not allow to be “subverted by a handful of MPs who refuse to accept Jeremy’s mandate.”

Of course, it’s not a handful of parliamentarians. It’s the bulk of them and they can argue they were each elected in their own right and together represent millions, as opposed to Corbyn’s 250,000 votes in the 2015 leadership election.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20167:59 PM

Jeremy Corbyn is addressing the crowd outside Parliament and doing his usual spiel: the government is cutting benefits, leaving behind the vulnerable, etc.. This is all hugely overblown. Austerity is not pain-free, but listening to Corbyn you would think it’s the nineteenth century!

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20168:04 PM

Environmental reviews, human rights, mental health, racism.. Corbyn is rattling off all the ways in which he wants to make Britain better. Which is fine, but he’s not rising to the occasion here. His parliamentary party is in open rebellion! What is he doing?

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20168:08 PM

“Stay united!” Corbyn implores his supporters — and then walks off.

He does know his party is on the verge of breaking up, does he?

This speech will not have changed anyone’s mind.

Before he walked outside, lawmakers reportedly plead with Corbyn to stand down for the good of the Labour Party, fearing they might lose dozens, maybe a hundred seats in the next election — which could take place within months.

But Corbyn is a fanatic who cares less about the Labour Party than he does about his cause. He may give centrist lawmakers no choice but to split off, as David reported earlier today.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20169:06 PM

Politico reports some of the things Jeremy Corbyn was told by lawmakers this evening and it’s brutal.

“You’re not fit to be prime minister and you’ve got to resign,” said one.

“You’re not uniting the party. You’ve got no vision. The only person who can break this logjam is you by resigning,” said another.

“You’re not a leader. You need to go for the sake of the party.”

And so on.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20169:10 PM

Scots found a “sympathetic hearing” in Luxembourg today, agriculture minister Fergus Ewing told Reuters after meeting with his European counterparts.

Over the past 24 hours, senior officials in Europe have said they would like to see Scotland as the 28th member state.

He recognized there is no mechanism in place for one part of a member state to remain while another leaves, “but the EU has shown itself to be adaptable and flexible,” he said.

David Downing David Downing June 27, 20169:17 PM
Two supporters of Britain's European Union membership look out over the Thames in London, England, June 15
Two supporters of Britain’s European Union membership look out over the Thames in London, England, June 15 (Garry Knight)

Among young voters, the mood is one of anger and disbelief.

If you are under thirty, chances are you voted to remain and can relate to this comment in the Financial Times that has been making the rounds:

The younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors.

Click here to read more.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 20169:55 PM

Alex Massie writes in The Spectator that chances of Scotland seceding are rising. Especially if Boris Johnson becomes prime minister and the United Kingdom Independence Party becomes more popular in England, “the notion Scotland and England are not distinct political entities who’d be better off apart will become ever harder to resist,” he argues.

There are Scottish Tories, including I think some Tory members of the Scottish parliament, who will privately concede this.

All the same, the SNP will not rush into a second independence referendum. It cannot afford to lose again. “Two defeats puts the question away for a long, long time.”

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens June 27, 201610:03 PM

Both Fitch and Standard & Poor’s have downgraded Britain’s creditworthiness with the former forecasting an “abrupt slowdown” in economic growth.

S&P said Britain’s vote to leave the EU could lead to “a deterioration of the UK’s economic performance, including its large financial services sector” and “weaken the predictability, stability and effectiveness of policymaking.”

Britain’s borrowing costs might be expected to go up as a result except everything else is worse. With the rest of the market is in turmoil, government bonds are actually trading at record-low interest rates.

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