Johnson Puts British Diplomacy, Internal Relations at Risk

Boris Johnson
British prime minister Boris Johnson listens to a reporter’s question in Brussels, October 17, 2019 (European Commission)

British prime minister Boris Johnson has been accused of “legislative hooliganism” and running a “rogue state” for bringing forth legislation that would breach international law.

The Internal Market Bill, which Johnson’s government is planning to enact in order to establish the legal framework for Britain’s internal market following the end of the Brexit transition period, would contravene the withdrawal agreement Britain has negotiated with the EU.

The withdrawal agreement subjects Northern Ireland to EU rules on exports and state aid in order to avoid the need for a border with the Republic of Ireland. The open border has helped keep the peace between Catholics and Protestants in the region for twenty years.

The Internal Market Bill gives UK ministers the power to opt out of those rules. Read more “Johnson Puts British Diplomacy, Internal Relations at Risk”

Spain Proposes Schengen Membership for Gibraltar

Gibraltar
Bay of Algeciras seen from the Rock of Gibraltar (Unsplash/Freja Saurbrey)

Politico reports that Spain has proposed to include Gibraltar in the EU’s passport-free Schengen Area to facilitate cross-border travel.

The arrangement would be similar to Liechtenstein’s, which is not in the EU but a member of Schengen. Andorra is negotiating a similar status. Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City are in neither the EU nor Schengen but maintain open borders.

The proposal is backed by Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo.

96 percent of his citizens voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, but they were overruled by majorities in England and Wales.

Although Britain formally left the EU at the end of 2019, the bloc’s rules and regulations still apply until the end of 2020.

Gibraltar, like Britain, was never in the Schengen Area, but it was in the EU single market, allowing it to trade freely with the EU’s 27 other member states. Before the pandemic, commuters were typically waved through by Spanish border police. Read more “Spain Proposes Schengen Membership for Gibraltar”

Britain Still Thinks It Can Bluff Its Way to a Better Deal

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

What do you call doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Brexit.

I’ve also called it the Tsipras approach to negotiating with the EU, after the Greek prime minister who thought he could get his way by threatening to blow himself up.

It didn’t work for Alexis Tsipras, and it hasn’t worked for the United Kingdom. Despite threats to walk away without a deal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year agreed to essentially the exit agreement the EU had proposed all along.

Now his government is unhappy with the agreement it made and, once again, threatening to walk away. Read more “Britain Still Thinks It Can Bluff Its Way to a Better Deal”

Singapore-on-Thames Is Unlikely

London England
The sun rises over London, England (Uncoated)

With the Brexit transition period ending in just four months, concern is rising that the United Kingdom might crash out of the EU’s common market and customs regime without a deal.

Not everyone is worried. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, argued it “wouldn’t be the end of the world” if Britain left without a deal. Right-wing economists are looking forward to setting “attractive tax rates” once the United Kingdom is free of the EU’s grasp. The UK, they believe, could become a “Singapore-on-Thames”, gain a “competitive advantage” over the EU and draw businesses and investment away from continental Europe.

That is unlikely. Read more “Singapore-on-Thames Is Unlikely”

Britain’s Demands in EU Trade Talks Are Not Unreasonable

Boris Johnson
British prime minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, England, January 22 (Prime Minister’s Office/Andrew Parsons)

EU and UK negotiators have made little progress in talks for a post-Brexit trade deal since March. With half a year to go before the transition period — during which EU rules and regulations still apply in the United Kingdom — expires, and Britain insisting it will not seek an extension, the risk of a no-deal exit from the EU is once again rising.

Without a deal, tariffs and borders will go up on January 1. Agriculture, which the EU protects with an elaborate system of rules, subsidies and tariffs, would be hit hard. So would services, which now benefit from open borders, open skies and harmonized regulations. British and European authorities have separately calculated that the UK economy could be 10 percent smaller in fifteen years under a no-deal scenario. Read more “Britain’s Demands in EU Trade Talks Are Not Unreasonable”

No, Project Fear Wasn’t Wrong

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

Brexit is due at midnight. Cue the inevitable glee from Brexiteers when the sky doesn’t fall. “Project Fear”, they will claim, was wrong all along.

No thanks to them. The very mandarins who warned against the consequences of leaving the EU have been working for the last three years to prevent their own predictions from coming true. Read more “No, Project Fear Wasn’t Wrong”

Price of Brexit May Be United Kingdom Itself

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)

Britain’s Conservatives won the election this month, but it may come at the expense of the union of the United Kingdom their party — which has “Unionist” in its name — is sworn to protect.

Conservatives neglected their responsibility to the union by calling the EU referendum in the first place. David Cameron hoped to resolve an intraparty dispute over Europe. He ended up dividing the four nations of the UK. Majorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU. They were outvoted by majorities in England and Wales.

Rather than attempt a “soft” Brexit that might appease Scots and prevent either a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, Cameron’s successors Theresa May and Boris Johnson negotiated a hard break: leaving the European customs union and single market in order to regain full control over immigration and economic policy.

The price could be Scottish independence and Irish unification, making Britain smaller than it has been in three centuries — and making a mockery of Brexiteers’ aspiration to lead a “Global Britain” outside the EU. Read more “Price of Brexit May Be United Kingdom Itself”

Johnson Accepts Brexit Deal Britain Rejected Two Years Ago

Boris Johnson
British prime minister Boris Johnson answers questions from reporters in Brussels, October 17, 2019 (European Commission)

After two years of drama, British prime minister Boris Johnson has accepted the Brexit deal the EU offered all along.

Rather than keeping the whole of the United Kingdom in a customs union with the EU to avoid an economic border between the island of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Johnson has agreed to keep only Northern Ireland in such a customs arrangement.

This is unacceptable to Johnson’s right-wing allies in Northern Ireland, meaning he will need support from opposition parties to get the deal through Parliament. (Johnson’s Conservatives do not have a majority.) Labour now officially argues for a second referendum. The Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party are opposed to Brexit altogether. No wonder European leaders, meeting in Brussels on Thursday, are skeptical Johnson can get this done. Read more “Johnson Accepts Brexit Deal Britain Rejected Two Years Ago”

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 “After Week of Turmoil, What Next for British Politics?”

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 “There Is No Better Brexit Deal”