British Parties Do Just Well Enough in Local Elections

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)

In local elections on Thursday, both of Britain’s major parties did just well enough to keep criticism about their leaders at bay without doing well enough to silence it altogether. Read more

British Home Secretary Resigns, Italy’s Five Stars Make Overture

British home secretary Amber Rudd attends a conference at the Vatican, October 27, 2016
British home secretary Amber Rudd attends a conference at the Vatican, October 27, 2016 (UK in Holy See)

British home secretary Amber Rudd has resigned for misleading lawmakers about her migration policy.

She told Parliament there was no Home Office target for deportations, but then The Guardian revealed she had written to Prime Minister Theresa May about her aim to increase “enforced removals” by 10 percent.

Politico reports that Rudd’s departure — the fourth by a cabinet minister in six months — risks destabilizing May’s government at a time when it is negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union. Rudd was one of the leading pro-EU Conservatives and seen as a potential future party leader.

The scandal also shines a spotlight on May’s failure to develop a new immigration policy almost two years after the Brexit referendum in which it played such a major role. Read more

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 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

EU Defense Union Worries Americans, Social Democrats Rally the Troops

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison of the United States going into a North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, February 14
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison of the United States going into a North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, February 14 (NATO)

Americans continue to worry that closer defense cooperation in Europe might compromise NATO.

Echoing Madeleine Albright’s “three Ds” — no duplication, no decoupling, no discrimination against non-EU NATO states — Kay Bailey Hutchison, the United States ambassador to NATO, warned on Wednesday that European efforts shouldn’t be “protectionist, duplicative of NATO work or distracting from their alliance responsibilities.”

“In Texas we say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,'” the former senator added.

But transatlantic solidarity goes two ways. On the same day Hutchison cautioned European allies against weakening NATO, Defense Secretary James Mattis hectored them for failing to meet their defense spending targets.

Their boss, Donald Trump, has in the past declared NATO “obsolete”. Little wonder Europe is making its own plans.

Many of which complement NATO, from improving mobility by creating a “military Schengen” to developing a European infantry fighting vehicle.

Also read Tobias Buck in the Financial Times, who reports that Germany still has a long way to go before it can lead a European army. 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

Conservatives Undermine Their Best Argument Against Labour

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives for a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, December 17, 2015
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives for a meeting with other European socialist leaders in Brussels, December 17, 2015 (PES)

Alex Massie argues in The Spectator that Britain’s Conservatives are making a mistake pooh-poohing forecasts about the economic impact of Brexit.

At the next election, this will make it much easier for Labour to wave away warnings about its program. Read more

Brexiteers Come to Terms with Reality

David Davis and Michel Barnier, the Brexit negotiators for the United Kingdom and the European Union, deliver a news conference in Brussels, June 19, 2017
David Davis and Michel Barnier, the Brexit negotiators for the United Kingdom and the European Union, deliver a news conference in Brussels, June 19, 2017 (European Commission)

Euroskeptics in Britain’s ruling Conservative Party are finally coming to terms with the realities of Brexit.

  • They once rejected working out the terms of Britain’s exit before negotiating a trade deal. They have since accept Europe’s timetable.
  • They once suggested Britain could leave without a deal. Now they are willing to make the concessions necessary to avoid a “hard” Brexit.
  • They once ruled out paying an exit bill. Now they are prepared to cough up £50 billion for an amicable divorce.
  • They never during the 2016 referendum campaign mentioned a transition period, during which EU rules and regulations would continue to apply. That now looks inevitable. Read more