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

Brexiteers to Parliament: Drop Dead

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)

So much for the claim that Brexit was about restoring the sovereignty of British institutions.

According to a ComRes poll published in The Telegraph on Monday, more Britons would support Prime Minister Boris Johnson using any means necessary to take Britain out of the European Union than would oppose him — even if it meant suspending Parliament.

Of those with an opinion on the question, 54 percent of respondents said they agreed Johnson should do whatever it takes and prevent lawmakers from blocking Brexit. 46 percent disagreed.

If undecideds are included, the figures are 44 percent “agree” and 37 percent “disagree”. Read more

Conservatives Put Party Before Country. They’ve Harmed Both

Former Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, former British prime minister David Cameron, former London mayor Boris Johnson and American president Donald Trump
Former Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, former British prime minister David Cameron, former London mayor Boris Johnson and American president Donald Trump (La Moncloa/The Prime Minister’s Office/Georgina Coupe/Shutterstock/Nazar Gonchar/Michael Vadon)

Center-right leaders in Britain, Spain and the United States have put the interests of their parties ahead of the good of their countries. Both their parties and their countries have suffered as a result. Read more

British “Patriots” Kowtow to Trump

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017 (NATO)

When Donald Trump won the American election in 2016, I warned his European admirers that they should not expect favors from him. Trump may be a kindred spirit, but his zero-sum view of the world was never going to benefit anyone else.

The sorry tale of the British ambassador to the United States, Kim Darroch, is a case in point. Read more