American Media Divide Generations, Labour Attempts to Divide Conservatives

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016 (PES)

Just when Britain’s Conservatives were getting their act together — twenty months after the country voted for Brexit — Labour has thrown a wrench in the works.

Sebastian Payne writes in the Financial Times that by supporting a continued customs union with the EU, Labour is testing the loyalty of those Conservatives for whom a Canadian-style trade agreement with the bloc falls short.

Labour has consistently stood back and allowed the Conservatives to set out a position and then nudged or fudged its own policy to somewhere slightly softer, but without alienating its own “leavers”. Mr Corbyn is still an unreformed left-wing, quiet supporter of Brexit, but this is about beating the government.

Conservatives who opposed Brexit will also be disappointed by the reality of a “Canada plus” deal. The EU has consistently warned that there can be no cherry-picking. The United Kingdom must be either in or out. Read more

Brexiteers Disparage Good Friday Agreement, Berlusconi Hints at Tajani Premiership

Daniel Hannan makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, February 5
Daniel Hannan makes a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, February 5 (European Parliament/Fred Marvaux)

Politico reports that Brexiteers have launched a broadside against the agreement that has kept the peace in Northern Ireland for twenty years.

Former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson and Labour “leaver” Kate Hoey believe the Good Friday Agreement has “outlived its use.” Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament, argues the agreement has “failed”. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent backbencher, disputes that Brexit puts the peace at risk.

The timing is awkward. Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for thirteen months. Although Brexit isn’t the main issue separating pro-British unionists and pro-Irish nationalists, it does factor into the parties’ calculations given that the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) supports Theresa May’s government in Westminster.

The problem is that the Conservatives have committed to both take the United Kingdom out of the EU customs union and single market and protect the Good Friday Agreement as well as the all-island economy in Ireland. Those goals are incompatible so long as Ireland does stay in the EU.

A solution would be for Britain to remain in the single market, like Norway, or in the customs union, like Turkey, but that is unacceptable to hardlines. Read more

Corbyn’s Spy Career, Catalan Language War

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn meets with in Highbury, North London, January 8
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn meets with in Highbury, North London, January 8 (Catholic Church England and Wales)

The Sun reports that, as a freshman parliamentarian, Jeremy Corbyn was targeted for recruitment by the Czech secret police in 1986 and met at least three times with an intelligence officer posing as a diplomat.

Corbyn says he never knowingly consorted with an East Bloc agent, but John Schindler, an intelligence expert, points out that only one year before the Labour politician was approached, Britain had expelled 25 Soviet “diplomats” who were really KGB officers “and the high-profile case got nonstop coverage in the British media.”

For Corbyn not to have considered the possibility he might be meeting with a spy would have been incredibly naive.

Moreover, Czech human rights abuses under communism were well-known even at the time. What was Corbyn thinking?

Corbyn, I’m sure, will argue it’s important to hear both sides. That’s what he said when he was asked to defend inviting Hamas and Hezbollah representatives to London in 2009. Except he never invited or met with Israeli representatives, just as he didn’t seek meetings with American officials during the Cold War.

Corbyn has a long history of instinctively siding with enemies of his country and the West, from Irish republican terrorists to Fidel Castro to Hugo Chávez to Muammar Gaddafi. Michael J. Totten wrote a good overview in The Atlantic last year. That’s what makes the Czech spy story, despite coming from the notoriously sensationalist The Sun, so believable. Read more

Brexiteers Without a Plan, Republican Big Spenders and Competitor to NATO

British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American secretary of defense, James Mattis, at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11, 2017
British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American secretary of defense, James Mattis, at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11, 2017 (DoD/Jette Carr)

Politico reports that American businesses are unconvinced by Theresa May’s post-Brexit vision. She has promised to turn the island into a “beacon for technology and innovation,” but a lack of detail about what kind of country the United Kingdom wants to be once it leaves the EU is hurting her case.

Janan Ganesh calls on Brexiteers to provide such detail:

Voters are being urged to brave a hard exit that would tug at the seams of the kingdom, disrupt the economic life of the Irish republic and risk some material cost to themselves. The least they should expect in return is an impressionistic picture of Britain’s post-EU economic model from the people who are keenest on the idea. Instead, they have to make do with generalities about sovereignty.

There are two possible explanations:

  1. Twenty months after winning the referendum, Brexiteers still have not through through the consequences of leaving the EU.
  2. They fear the popular reaction to proposals for dramatic liberalization.

Britain is already one of the most lightly-regulated, low-taxed economies in Europe. A post-Brexit backlash to attempts to transform it into Singapore-on-Thames might put the Labour Party back in power. Read more

May Has No Good Options to Heal Party Rift on Brexit

British prime minister Theresa May gives a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 25
British prime minister Theresa May gives a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 25 (WEF/Jakob Polacsek)

Divisions over Britain’s exit from the European Union are once again dividing Conservatives, leaving Prime Minister Theresa May with no good options. Read more

Britain Moves to Norway-Style Deal with EU

British prime minister Theresa May attends the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017
British prime minister Theresa May attends the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

Back in October 2016, I argued there were three ways Brexit could go:

  1. A “hard” exit
  2. A Norway-style relationship
  3. A bespoke deal

Brexiteers argued for the third option: continued membership of the single market without needing to pay into the EU budget or following EU rules. Who wouldn’t want that?

It was never a realistic proposition. Read more

Brexit Takes Toll on Kingdom’s Global Influence

Tower Bridge in London, England, January 2, 2012
Tower Bridge in London, England, January 2, 2012 (Michael Garnett)

Politico reports that Britain’s exit from the European Union is already taking a toll on its international clout:

  • EU allies, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, abstained in June from a United Nations vote on the Chagos Islands, a British territory in the Indian Ocean that houses the Diego Garcia military base and is also claimed by Mauritius. The question of sovereignty has been referred to the International Court of Justice.
  • In November, Britain was forced to withdraw its candidate to fill a vacancy on the same court when it became clear it would lose a UN vote.
  • British diplomats are increasingly ignored in international forums. Read more