After Week of Turmoil, What Next for British Politics?

Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament in London, England
Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament in London, England (Unsplash/Paul Green)

Tuesday was an historic night in British politics, and one whose outcome could reverberate through the coming months and years.

Lawmakers voted 328 to 321 to take control of the parliamentary agenda from the government in order to demand that Boris Johnson, the prime minister, ask for an extension of Britain’s exit from the European Union if no withdrawal agreement is in place by October 17.

Johnson, who currently has a 100-percent loss rate in Parliament, and is the first British prime minister since William Pitt the Younger in 1793 to lose his first vote, refuses to delay Brexit and called for an early election instead.

But that too failed. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, a two-thirds supermajority is required to call an early election. Many opposition lawmakers, who fear an early election is a government trap to bring about a no-deal Brexit, abstained. Read more

There Is No Better Brexit Deal

Flags of the United Kingdom and the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29, 2016
Flags of the United Kingdom and the European Union outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, January 29, 2016 (European Commission)

There is no better Brexit deal to be had.

The European Commission’s spokeswoman, Mina Andreeva, confirmed it on Wednesday, when she said, “There has been no change in our position on the matter” of the Northern Ireland backstop, which is the main reason Britain’s Parliament has thrice voted down the withdrawal agreement.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, confirmed it in an op-ed for The Sunday Telegraph, in which he described the backstop as the “maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state.”

Britain isn’t listening. Read more

Britain Tries the Tsipras Approach to Negotiating with the EU

Copies of Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper on sale in Oberding, July 3, 2015
Copies of Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper on sale in Oberding, July 3, 2015 (Tomas Thoren)

Brexiteers learn nothing.

Less than two months away from Britain’s deadline to leave the EU, they still believe they can bluff their way to a better deal.

Hence Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resistance to legislation that would block a no-deal Brexit. He and his allies claim that to get a better exit agreement, the EU needs to know that Britain is prepared to walk away.

This is the Alexis Tsipras approach: give me what I want or I’ll shoot myself in the head.

It didn’t work for Greece and it won’t work for the UK. Read more

Even Parliament Must Make Way for Brexit

The statue of Richard the Lionheart and the Palace of Westminster in London, England, August 12, 2014
The statue of Richard the Lionheart and the Palace of Westminster in London, England, August 12, 2014 (Shutterstock)

To its supporters, Brexit is all that matters. If it means plunging the country into deep uncertainty, undermining the public’s trust in institutions, trashing Britain’s alliances, causing Northern Ireland and Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, even destroying the Conservative Party — so be it.

The latest victim of this obsession is parliamentary democracy.

In the battle between popular and parliamentary sovereignty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sided with the former and suspended Parliament, so it will have almost no time to prevent the United Kingdom from crashing out of the European Union without an exit agreement. Read more

Boris Johnson and the Brexit Ultras Deserve Each Other

Then-British foreign secretary Boris Johnson answers questions from reporters at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, June 18
Then-British foreign secretary Boris Johnson answers questions from reporters at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, June 18 (UN/Jean-Marc Ferré)

When Boris Johnson’s last bid for the Conservative Party’s leadership failed, I argued here that the former mayor of London’s many flipflops had finally caught up with him.

“You can only change your mind so many times before people start to see you for the political opportunist you are,” I wrote.

My mistake was to think the British right cares about principle and integrity. Read more

Brexit Fanatics Don’t Argue in Good Faith

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, April 9, 2010
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, April 9, 2010 (Geir Halvorsen)

John O’Sullivan’s latest column in National Review perpetrates all the mistakes of hardline Brexiteers and their sympathizers in the United States. He:

  • Ignores the risks of a no-deal Brexit;
  • Accuses the EU of being an “undemocratic empire” and a complete failure on all fronts;
  • Raises the success of Brexit to a test of democracy itself;
  • Accuses Tory “remainers” of wanting to keep Britain either in the EU or controlled by it; and
  • Totally mischaracterizes the motivations of Europhiles. Read more

Brexit Is Restructuring British Politics

The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England
The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England (Unsplash/Matt Milton)

Friday was meant to be Brexit Day, but it wasn’t. Instead, after two “meaningful votes” about leaving the EU, a third was held in Parliament, which — like the previous two — did not succeed.

On Monday, Parliament will continue its indicative voting to see what, if any, resolution to the crisis can command a majority in the House.

Meanwhile, British politics continues its Brexit-themed realignment. Read more