What Britain’s General Election Result Means

London England
View of the Houses of Parliament from Whitehall in London, England (Shutterstock/Alan Copson)

Britain’s ruling Conservatives are projected to lose control of Parliament. The exit poll for Thursday’s election shows them falling from 330 to 314 seats. Twelve more are needed for a majority.

Assuming the exit poll isn’t too far off, what does this mean for Britain’s next government, its major political parties and the process of divorcing the United Kingdom from the EU? Read more “What Britain’s General Election Result Means”

Brexit Is an Opportunity to Take Back Control — For Spain

The Rock of Gibraltar, April 6, 2016
The Rock of Gibraltar, April 6, 2016 (Scott Wylie)

When Brexiteers said leaving the EU would be a chance to “take back control”, they probably weren’t thinking of Spain. But Spain has been thinking about them.

Now that the United Kingdom has formally triggered its exit from the bloc, Spaniards smell an opportunity to take back control of a territory they ceded to Britain three centuries ago: Gibraltar. Read more “Brexit Is an Opportunity to Take Back Control — For Spain”

Victory for Brexit Fundamentalists as May Invokes Article 50

British prime minister Theresa May speaks at the United Nations in New York, September 20, 2016
British prime minister Theresa May speaks at the United Nations in New York, September 20, 2016 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

Brexit fundamentalists scored another victory on Wednesday, when the United Kingdom began the process of withdrawing from the European Union without a plan for what comes next.

Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, to inform him that Britain intends is leaving the bloc. This triggers a two-year divorce process under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

May has revealed little about her strategy. The hope is that Britain can secure some form of preferential access to the European single market, but this seems unlikely given that she has prioritized immigration control. Read more “Victory for Brexit Fundamentalists as May Invokes Article 50”

Brexiteers Keep Lowering Expectations

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson answers questions from reporters in Kiev, Ukraine, March 1
British foreign secretary Boris Johnson answers questions from reporters in Kiev, Ukraine, March 1 (Shutterstock/Nazar Gonchar)

Britain’s advocates of an EU exit have skillfully lowered expectations, writes Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times.

Last year, they told voters Britain could stay in the single market even if it left the European Union. No matter that Norway and Switzerland had been denied that privilege. No matter that EU officials warned there would be no such deal for Britain either. The likes of David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, who are now responsible for Brexit, maintained that the EU would come around. It was on that promise that British voters opted to leave.

When it turned out the EU meant it and remaining in the single market was not an option, leavers started talking about “access” to the market. Read more “Brexiteers Keep Lowering Expectations”

“Hard” Brexit Dilemma for Scottish Nationalists

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, gives a speech in Edinburgh, September 28, 2016
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, gives a speech in Edinburgh, September 28, 2016 (Scottish Government)

Theresa May’s admission last week that the United Kingdom will have to leave the single market at the same time as it leaves the EU means the Scottish nationalists face a difficult choice: relent or demand a second independence referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish National Party leader and regional first minister, had urged “flexibility” in Britain’s exit negotiations with the EU. 62 percent of Scots voted to remain in the bloc last summer against 47 percent of the English. Many feel like Sturgeon that Scotland is being taken out of the EU against its will.

Sturgeon warned that a “hard” exit, under which all parts of the United Kingdom would lose access to the European single market, could convince her party to seek independence a second time. Read more ““Hard” Brexit Dilemma for Scottish Nationalists”

Brexiteers Demand Subjugation of Institutions to Will of “The People”

The British flag flies over the Cabinet Office in London, England
The British flag flies over the Cabinet Office in London, England (Shutterstock/Willy Barton)

Brexit’s erosive effect on British democracy continues.

Consider this recent story in The Telegraph, which takes the entire civil service to task for refusing to make Britain’s exit from the European Union a success.

The reality is that Britain’s civil servants are among the world’s most capable and that leaving the EU is going to be painful. There is no way to make Brexit a “success” by any objective measure.

As recently as a few months ago, serious Brexiteers recognized as much. They admitted that leaving the EU would have a negative effect on the economy, at least in the short term. But, they argued, independence from Brussels would make up for it in spirit.

Now even such admissions are taboo in Euroskeptic circles and civil servants who dare state the obvious are considered traitors to the cause. Read more “Brexiteers Demand Subjugation of Institutions to Will of “The People””

Brexit Imperils May’s Compassionate Conservatism

British prime minister Theresa May speaks at the United Nations in New York, September 20, 2016
British prime minister Theresa May speaks at the United Nations in New York, September 20, 2016 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

British prime minister Theresa May has said helping those on middle incomes who are “just about managing” is her top priority.

The trouble, as became clear from Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday, is that her government doesn’t have the money — and that’s because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Read more “Brexit Imperils May’s Compassionate Conservatism”

There Are Basically Three Ways Brexit Can Go

Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom and Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark answer questions from reporters in Copenhagen, October 10
Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom and Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark answer questions from reporters in Copenhagen, October 10 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Tom Evans)

While the British press frantically reports on every move and countermove in the phony war that is their nation’s withdrawal from the EU before it has even started — and while the markets attempt to infer a plan from the every word of Theresa May and her ministers when there clearly is no plan — the outlook really hasn’t changed since Britons voted to leave the European Union in June.

There are essentially three ways this can go. Read more “There Are Basically Three Ways Brexit Can Go”

“Flexible” Brexit Is Not a Realistic Solution for Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, gives a speech in Edinburgh, September 28
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, gives a speech in Edinburgh, September 28 (Scottish Government)

A “flexible” Brexit, under which those parts of the United Kingdom that voted in June’s referendum to stay in the European Union would remain members of the single market, may be the answer to many political headaches, but it’s almost impossible to pull off.

Such a scheme might work for Gibraltar and Northern Ireland, which share land borders with the EU but not with Great Britain.

But it’s difficult to imagine how this could work for Scotland. Would continental goods that were exported tariff-free to Scotland be taxed at the English border? What about Europeans visiting Edinburgh or Glasgow without a visa? Would they need to go through customs if they wanted to see other parts of the United Kingdom? Read more ““Flexible” Brexit Is Not a Realistic Solution for Scotland”

Spain Unwilling to Keep Gibraltar in EU Single Market

Prime Ministers Mariano Rajoy of Spain and Theresa May of the United Kingdom meet in Madrid, October 13
Prime Ministers Mariano Rajoy of Spain and Theresa May of the United Kingdom meet in Madrid, October 13 (La Moncloa)

Since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June, Spain has ramped its rhetoric surrounding the territory of Gibraltar, a sliver of land that has been in British hands for centuries but to which Spain continues to claim sovereignty.

Earlier this month, the acting foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, threatened to “put up the flag” on the Rock, hinting at a Spanish takeover.

He insisted that if Britain leaves the EU, “Gibraltar is out” as well, even though 96 percent of its residents voted to stay. Read more “Spain Unwilling to Keep Gibraltar in EU Single Market”