Does New Zealand provide Brexit lessons for Britain?

What lessons does New Zealand provide for Brexit Britain? Hamish McDougall (LSE) argues that while parallels between New Zealand and Britain in the event of no-deal Brexit are tenuous, New Zealand’s approach to free trade remains a relevant historical case study.

Insights into a no-deal Brexit can be found, of all places, in 1970s New Zealand, according to a recent Bloomberg news article. This follows a similar suggestion by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney that New Zealand may be a relevant historical case study for a hard Brexit.

The idea is that New Zealand, long dependent on agricultural exports to Britain (especially dairy and lamb), faced a massive economic, political and cultural ‘shock’ when the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. According to such arguments, the sudden exclusion of New Zealand’s key exports from the EEC inflicted 20 years of pain on the South Pacific nation.

Some Remainers or soft Brexit advocates see this as a salutary lesson for the current UK government, which risks crashing out of the EU with no deal on 31 October. For some Brexit proponents New Zealand, a loyal ally and former colony, was among those ‘betrayed’ by Britain’s turn to Europe in 1973. Others point to New Zealand as an example of a nation successfully ‘going it alone’ on the global stage, overcoming initial hardship to build trade links with fast-growing economies in Asia-Pacific, rather than stagnating ones in Europe. But are these impressions of New Zealand’s response to European integration accurate? An examination of history suggests not.

There is no doubt the New Zealand economy suffered during the 1970s, but European integration was not the key factor. The OPEC oil shocks of 1973 and 1979, monetary crises, rampant inflation and isolationism and trade protection emanating from Washington, Tokyo and elsewhere were arguably more detrimental to New Zealand than enlargement of the EEC. Nor was New Zealand’s need to diversify its export base away from Britain a penny dropping in 1961 or 1973. As early as the 1930s the New Zealand government began the hard slog to find new export markets around the world, as economic historians such as Jim McAloon have shown.

An obvious point, albeit one missed by many commentators, is that Britain’s entry to the EEC in 1973 was not a great shock to New Zealand. Britain first applied to join the EEC in 1961 and the full effects of entry were not felt by third countries until the end of the transition period in 1977. Even the vetoes by French President Charles de Gaulle in 1963 and 1967 could not dissuade most that British accession would happen eventually, providing more than 15 years of adjustment to the idea of the United Kingdom in an enlarged Common Market.

Throughout this period the New Zealand government publicly backed the idea of British membership of the EEC, providing New Zealand’s ‘vital interests’ could be secured in the process. This security came in the form of a special arrangement for New Zealand dairy exports to Britain. It was included as a clause in the Accession Treaty and negotiated with the Six existing EEC members by Britain on New Zealand’s behalf in Luxembourg in June 1971.

Although negotiations were tense and compromises were required on all sides (largely because of French opposition,) it was not a bad deal from New Zealand’s point of view. It allowed over 70% of New Zealand’s dairy exports to remain in the British market by the end of the five-year transition period in 1977, with provisional undertakings to review and extend the arrangement in future. The EEC also pledged to stop ‘dumping’ its excess dairy products into third markets.

New Zealand’s lucrative lamb exports to Britain were not greatly impeded by British entry in 1973. Behind-the-scenes lobbying and separate agreements secured in previous GATT negotiations meant sheepmeat was not yet subject to the EEC’s Common Agricultural Policy (although it was subject to a 20% Common External Tariff). In 1971 it was the British Government which applied a 20% tariff on New Zealand lamb to satisfy the domestic farm lobby, a decision made irrespective of British accession to the Common Market.

New Zealand products previously destined for Britain were slowly finding their way elsewhere in the 1960s and 1970s, but not necessarily because of EEC enlargement. Britain’s protectionism, diminished buying power and reduced manufacturing capacity all played a part, as did the opening of China and closer economic relations between New Zealand and Australia.

Nevertheless, the UK government did not betray New Zealand in 1973. Its considerable efforts to secure satisfactory access for New Zealand dairy cost it political capital among its future EEC partners and required financial concessions in other areas, including the UK’s contribution to the Community budget during the transition.

This effort on New Zealand’s behalf was not altogether altruistic. In the early 1970s, the Edward Heath-led Conservative Government was terrified that an alliance of Labour frontbenchers and Eurosceptic Conservative backbenchers would seize on New Zealand as a cause célèbre, introducing unpalatable legislative amendments and causing Heath’s European accession bill to fall in the House of Commons. Because of this, Heath and other senior Tory ministers went to considerable lengths to ensure the New Zealand government was happy with the terms of the Accession Treaty. As lead official Sir Con O’Neill put it, this gave the New Zealanders an effective ‘veto’ on British entry.

The special arrangement for New Zealand dairy was further enhanced by the Harold Wilson-led Labour government’s renegotiation in 1975 and eventual accords were agreed with Brussels for sheepmeat, horticulture, dairy and other New Zealand products in the 1980s and 1990s. This kept Britain and the European Union among New Zealand’s top four trade partners into the Twenty-First Century.

Considerable political, diplomatic, economic and cultural links between New Zealand, Britain and Europe remain to this day. New Zealand is currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the EU and is on a priority list of countries to do the same with Britain (presuming the UK has an independent trade policy, post-Brexit).

Importantly, the New Zealand strategy in the second half of the Twentieth Century was not to dismantle its existing trade with Britain and Europe in favour of markets elsewhere. Rather, it wanted to retain as much of its traditional agricultural trade with Britain as possible and use these lucrative export receipts to restructure and re-orientate the economy, including expanding new markets in Asia, the Middle East, Australia and USA.

New Zealand’s continued trade with Europe was not incompatible with trade elsewhere, in theory, or practice. Nor has New Zealand stopped advocating for freer world trade within a multilateral, rules-based system. With some hiccups, New Zealand’s strategy has largely proved successful. Modern-day UK politicians could do worse than take note.

So the parallels between New Zealand and Britain in the event of no deal Brexit are tenuous. If there are comparisons to be made, it may be between 1970s New Zealand and current day Ireland: a relatively small former British colony, reliant on trade with Britain but diversifying its markets and keen to express its own national independence, is having a disproportionate influence on the future of European integration. Like New Zealand in the 1970s, Ireland’s influence derives from its deft and dogged negotiating strategy, its international networks, and also from a peculiar set of political circumstances in Westminster. There was no great shock or betrayal for New Zealand in 1973. It remains to be seen if the same can be said of the United Kingdom in 2019.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. Image C00 Public Domain.

Hamish McDougall is undertaking a PhD in the International History Department at LSE. His research topic is Britain’s entry to the European Communities and its relationship with New Zealand in the 1970s.

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No Deal would destroy Britain’s international reputation

How will Britain’s power in the world look after a no-deal exit? A chaotic exit from the EU would certianly destroy the UK’s international reputation, argues Nicholas Westcott (SOAS).

One thing you can say about much of the British media – they don’t let contact with the outside world sully their views on the Brexit debate. Weeks assiduously reading the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, The Times and The Sun while also talking to a wide range of foreign government and media representatives from all over the globe suggests the disconnect between Britain’s self-image and how the rest of the world sees us has never been wider. Brexit is steadily destroying Britain’s reputation in the world, and a no-deal exit will shatter it. It will be seen everywhere (but here) as a resounding defeat for Britain and a clear demonstration of its accelerating decline into international irrelevance.

Brexiteers, of course, see things differently. They see an exit by whatever means, at whatever cost, as a proof that Britain is strong, independent and free: ‘free’ to control its own borders, set its own laws, assure its own security, negotiate its own trade deals. If the rest of the world thinks differently, they say, just wait till we show them.  Britain remains a Great Power with one of the largest economies, best militaries, biggest aid programmes (‘a development superpower’) as well as a seat on the Security Council and immeasurable soft power. As the Prime Minister, a master of boosterism, would put it, the British have an infinite capacity to make do and mend, use our ingenuity, vim and vigour to ping off the guy ropes of adversity, and leap from the telephone booth of Brexit into superhero-like action… or whatever.

But they are wrong.  Let me explain why.

It’s all about power. Power depends on three things: economic strength, military strength, and having friends. If you have all three, you are treated with respect. If you have the first two, but not the third, your power is acknowledged but resented. The less you have of the first two, the more you need the third. That was part of the genius of the European Union: it provided small countries with guaranteed friends, prevented big countries going to war, and enabled them all to negotiate as equals with the great economic powers of the world – the US, Japan and China. In pooling their power, as friends, they made themselves individually stronger in the world.

How will Britain’s power look after a no-deal exit?

First, the freedom to control our own borders. In a no-deal scenario, the government say they will keep the Irish border open. But the EU will impose controls on it, to save the Single Market from destruction. Who wins? Not the UK: the border controls will be there. The EU will protect the Single Market – one of the most valuable economic innovations of the 20th century – but the UK will have imposed heavy additional costs on everyone, especially themselves. Not great. Certainly not a success. In addition, EU immigrants to Britain will fall off. But to keep our economy, agriculture and health services running, we will have to open up to more immigration from other parts of the world, to our friends in Africa and Asia. Which is fine, if that is what you wanted.

Second, freedom to conclude trade deals. Everyone will be happy to sign new trade agreements with us. The question is, on what terms? There is no free lunch in international trade (I know, I have spent years negotiating such deals). Size matters: the bigger you are, the better the deal you get. Britain is smaller than the EU, the US, China or Japan. Once we have left the EU with no deal – on the infamous ‘WTO terms’ – we will be at a disadvantage to everyone else who currently has a free trade deal with the EU, and will be demandeur for the best deal anyone will give us. The US Administration has generously offered a quick deal (though it is Congress not the Administration that will decide what it is and when we get it) and that offer will be to open up the British market to US food and US pharmaceuticals, on their terms. This will cut us off from, or penalise us in accessing, the EU markets that currently take most of our goods. And will the US really open up to our services in its current protectionist frame of mind?  So who wins? The US, not the UK. India, Africa and China will all demand a quid pro quo for continued trade, an improvement on the deals they have with the EU. These concessions will not be what the UK wants, because we need the deal more, but what they want: more protection for services and industry, freer immigration access to the UK, less human rights conditionality. Who wins? Again, everyone but the UK.

Third, freedom of laws and security. The EU was built on the principle of the rule of law, and member states collaborate extensively on law enforcement. Security is one area where everyone has said the UK will be worse off if, under no deal, we lose access to police cooperation. Who wins? Not the British public, whose security services will be overstretched trying to compensate for the lost intelligence. And have the Royal Navy really enough ships (and sailors) to police all the UK’s fishing waters now we no longer have access to the European Court of Justice to enforce British rights, and escort British tankers in the Gulf, police the Red Sea and challenge China in the South China Seas?

Finally, in leaving the EU Treaty obligations without a Withdrawal Agreement, and effectively abrogating the Good Friday Agreement by forcing the re-establishment of a border in Ireland, the UK will be seen as untrustworthy – not to be relied upon to respect its international commitments. If in addition, it refuses to pay its debts by settling its outstanding budget obligations, its creditworthiness will also come into question – which could prove costly to both the government and the country. Do the British public care about this?  Maybe not. But the rest of the world will, and a reputation once lost is very hard to recover.

In short, a no-deal Brexit would be seen as a heavy international defeat for Britain. We would not have got our way. We would have proven unable to negotiate – with our nearest friends – a deal that protected our economic interests. And the world will see this. They – the US, China, India, Russia, the Gulf states, African and Latin American countries, Spain, Mauritius, Argentina – all will say to themselves that Britain is now weak, it needs our support, and we can ask for whatever we want.

The Prime Minister will blame the EU (or rebel Tories, or anyone else he can think of) for his defeat. Of course. I’m sure Napoleon blamed Wellington for his defeat at Waterloo; Charles I (the last man to try to rid himself of a troublesome Parliament) no doubt blamed Cromwell for his defeat in the Civil War. But they still ended up defeated and, in the latter case, dead. What the PM’s famed War Cabinet do not seem to realise is that they have ten tanks and their opponents have fifty. That requires very skillful tactics to win. Sadly, the PM’s tactics seem more reminiscent of the Charge of the Light Brigade than El Alamein. It might make a great poem, but not a famous victory.

In the anarchic society that international relations is becoming once more, it is important to know your strengths. But it is even more important to know your weaknesses, so that at least you don’t expose them. It is surprising that the Prime Minister does not realise this, riding into battle with his rusty armour hanging off. But nor it seems does the Foreign Secretary, nor the Chancellor,  the International Trade Secretary, the Defence Secretary, the International Development Secretary or the Home Secretary, who are supposed to tell him. I am sure their officials are all too aware of the limits of British power, but it seems they are no longer welcome to explain them. Doomsters and gloomsters will be banished, like some disloyal SPAD.

In today’s international jungle it will also be more important than ever to have friends, and a no-deal Brexit is the best way to lose them fast. The Commonwealth is too disparate, and will wonder if this is how Britain treats its neighbours, how will it treat them? So Britain may have no option but to turn to the US, swapping 27 firm and equal friends for one big fickle one. Good luck with that.

There was a time, in living memory, when a British government ignored the realities of power and ploughed ahead to prove its virility to the world. But the Suez crisis of 1956 did not end well for Britain, thanks no little to the US. In less than ten years the British Empire had disappeared.  This time the victim of a no-deal Brexit is more likely to be the United Kingdom itself, broken into pieces too small to even pretend to be a great power. Some might call it hubris. Others, unbelievable stupidity. But either way, Britain will be the weaker and the poorer, and the world will know it, even if we don’t.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. Image copyright Jon WorthSome rights reserved.

Dr Nicholas Westcott is Research Associate, Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS.

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What’s next as Brexit showdown hits House of Commons

LONDON — Boris Johnson wants to take the U.K. out of the European Union — deal or no deal — on October 31. A large number of U.K. lawmakers stand in his way.

After years of posturing and weeks of positioning, British MPs are preparing to make their move Tuesday. The British prime minister is poised to counter-attack on Wednesday.

This battle is the latest chapter in an ideological standoff that predates the June 2016 referendum as Britain wrestles with itself to define what kind of country it wants to be after breaking with its Continental neighbors. Whereas Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, was determined to navigate the storm without splitting the Conservative Party, Britain’s new prime minister seems hell-bent on pushing to breaking point those who disagree with his belief that the electorate will not forgive the Tories if they fail to deliver Brexit in October.

Here is POLITICO’s guide to how events in Westminster could play out in the coming days.

Change the law to force a delay

MPs opposed to quitting the EU without a deal have put forward legislation to force the prime minister to ask for a three-month extension to negotiations if a deal is not agreed between the EU and the U.K. by October’s European Council.

MPs will on Tuesday apply to take control of the schedule of the House of Commons — usually set by the government — in a bid to turn the proposals in the private member’s bill into law.

Hilary Benn, a senior Labour MP and one of those behind the plan, said it “gave the government time either to reach a new agreement with the European Union at the European Council meeting next month, or to seek parliament’s specific consent to leave the EU without a deal.”

If neither condition has been met by October 19, the prime minister must send a letter to the president of the European Council requesting an extension to negotiations until January 31, 2020.

The prime minister would then be forced to immediately accept an extension until January 31, 2020 if the Council agrees to one or, should the Council propose a different date, accept that period within two days unless this plan is rejected by the House of Commons.

Former Tory Ministers Alistair Burt, Philip Hammond and David Gauke have all put their names to the bill, demonstrating there is cross-party support — but is there enough?

Do they have the numbers?

If the bill is to become law, there needs to be a majority of MPs willing to support it. That will rely on Conservatives defying party whips, and threats of deselection.

Downing Street upped the ante Monday night, threatening rebellious Tory MPs with a general election on October 14 if they attempt to change the law to prevent the U.K. from leaving the European Union without a deal.

Boris Johnson warned in a speech outside 10 Downing Street that such a bill would make negotiations “absolutely impossible.”

While the prime minister insisted he did not want to call a general election, senior officials later said that if it loses the vote on Tuesday, the government would push for one on October 14.

A person close to the rebels said that while the numbers would be “quite tight,” they were “quietly confident” they had enough support in the House of Commons, despite the election threat.

Former Justice Secretary David Gauke had earlier told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show that he would be prepared to lose his job to block no deal. “I have to put what I consider to be the national interest first,” he said.

Back to the people

If enough Tory rebels defy the government and allow parliament to take control of the schedule of the House of Commons — the first step in their bid to turn the plan to bind the prime minister’s hands — the U.K. government will make its own counter-move to trigger an election.

Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, passed in 2011 after the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government, British prime ministers are no longer able to unilaterally ask the queen to dissolve parliament and trigger an election. The prime minister must first secure backing for the poll from two-thirds of the MPs in the House of Commons.

The government will put forward a motion requesting an early election if MPs do manage to start the process of legislating for an extension. This will be published in readiness on Tuesday and voted on the following day.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn indicated on Monday he was likely to back the move, saying the U.K. “needs” a general election, which makes it seem likely any bid to hold an election would pass the House of Commons.

Election blocked

An unlikely, but possible, scenario is that Johnson does not secure the two-thirds support he needs for an election at this point.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday warned a pre-Brexit election would be an “elephant trap” for the Labour Party.

Tory MPs threatened with deselection and some rebel Labour MPs could block an election, but would be unlikely to succeed if both the Conservative and Labour Party leadership were whipping in favor of the move.

Is there time?

But even if the prime minister is unsuccessful in his bid to call a general election, it remains uncertain whether the plan to pass a bill forcing an extension would have enough time to move through both houses of parliament and receive royal assent before Johnson suspends parliament for a month. That’s a lot of legislative hoops to get through before next Monday, named by the government as the earliest possible date for suspension to begin.

“It’s possible, but it’s extremely tight,” the Institute for Government’s Hannah White told the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. “It’s easier in the Commons than it is in the Lords. In the Commons you can do what’s called programming legislation, which means you set out exactly how long there is to debate each stage.”

The Lords is less certain. “The Lords’ procedure is much more flexible and there’s been discussion about whether members of the House of Lords might try to prolong debate in order to prevent the legislation receiving royal assent before prorogation,” White said.

Ignore the law?

If the rebels manage to overcome all of these hurdles and get a new law onto the statute books, could Johnson simply ignore it?

In his statement in Downing Street Monday, Johnson said there would be “no circumstances” under which he would request a Brexit delay from Brussels.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson insisted earlier Monday that “every government adheres to the law,” but a government official explained that the prime minister’s reaction would depend on exactly what the legislation said.

“This lot do have a lot of form for bringing forward legislation which is defective,” the official said. “You cannot say we will abide by anything that they put forward as it may well be impossible.”

Parliament traditionally defers to the executive on matters of foreign policy but, like much in the British system, the letter of the law is very much open to interpretation. Could parliament ask EU leaders directly for an extension rather than relying on Johnson to make the request?

“Lawyers would argue for a million years over that. Put five lawyers in a room and you get five answers,” the official said.

The figure close to the rebels said the reason MPs felt they had to act now is because they believe they may have to take the government to court in this scenario — a move which could take at least three weeks. If they had waited until Johnson had a chance to renegotiate with the EU, they could risk running out of time and crashing out without a deal.

Whoever comes out on top, time is in short supply.

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Luke de Pulford: We must stand with Hong Kong, even if it harms trade with China

Luke de Pulford is Director of the Arise Foundation and serves on the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission.

As No Deal looms large a terrible question hangs in the air: can Brexit Britain afford to stand up to China? (I’m an unrepentant leaver, before you ask).

Resolving our approach to this question is becoming urgent. We have witnessed continuing demonstrations in Hong Kong, including the closure of the world’s 8th busiest airport and the sight of the Red Army amassing on its borders. Events like these are placing before the UK a stark choice: do we want to prioritise trade prosperity or our human rights obligations? With China threatening economic consequences if the UK continues to “interfere”, it’s starting to seem like it will have to be one or the other.

I’ve been genuinely surprised by how many party colleagues seem content to hold their noses in a search for post-Brexit prosperity. The trade-trumps-all strand of thinking is alive and well. But these Conservatives are in danger of forgetting their tradition. The Party has a proud history of confronting authoritarianism. On top of that, we have more skin in the game with Hong Kong than anyone else.

The peaceful transfer of Hong Kong’s sovereignty, ending 156 years of British Rule, was the result of careful diplomacy led by Conservative Governments. This was motivated by the same commitment to the rule of law, self-determination, democracy and freedom that led us to oppose fascism and the USSR.

When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, she worked closely with Murray MacLehose, then the Governor General, to take forward discussions that had begun with Deng Xiaoping. Three years later she sent Edward Heath, as her Special Envoy, to continue the negotiations, paving the way for her own visit to China in 1982.

Deng, who was placing China on a trajectory of post-Mao and post-Cultural Revolution political and economic reform, told Thatcher that “I could walk in and take the whole lot this afternoon”. In her characteristic response, she agreed – and, with words that have great relevance today, she added “there is nothing I could do to stop you, but the eyes of the world would now know what China is like”.

By December 1984, in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, political pragmatism and statesmanship culminated in the signing of the Sino-British Declaration. Four Conservative Foreign Secretaries, Geoffrey Howe, John Major, Douglas Hurd and Malcom Rifkind, and Hong Kong’s last Governor, Chris Patten, all played their part in creating the internationally guaranteed Treaty that created “two systems in one country.”

So when Boris says he is with the Hong Kong people “every step of the way”, he is invoking a tradition that goes to the heart of the Party. These were events of seismic importance, engineered and delivered by successive Conservative administrations. As I say: we have skin in the game. 

For years, Martin Lee, the “father of democracy in Hong Kong” – whom I recently had the privilege of meeting – has been warning of the gathering storm clouds. The reforms of Deng Xiaoping are a distant memory, superseded by a return to the authoritarianism of Mao under Xi Jinping. Lee’s warnings are coming to fruition. A harbinger of what Hong Kong people fear was plain to see in an editorial in the Communist Party’s Global Times which claimed that the brutal suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen, 30 years ago, had “immunised” China against political instability.

Authoritarianism is not to be confused with political stability. And when an all-powerful Communist State imprisons political dissidents, academics and lawyers, sends a million Uighurs to detention centres, bulldozes Catholic and Protestant churches, and is accused of myriad other human rights abuses, it is authoritarian. When an authoritarian state violates a treaty with Britain to the detriment of the rule of law in Hong Kong, we have a moral as well as legal duty to act.

Tom Tugendhat is surely right to argue that we should guarantee the citizenship and right of abode of Hong Kong’s people. Even better if the Commonwealth were to make this pledge at the Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda next year. This is the very least we can do given our obligations to the people of Hong Kong. The very worst we can do is pretend not to notice in anticipation of favourable trading terms.

Conservatives must not forget their history. Unbridled market-worship is much of the reason the younger generation struggles to identify with Conservatism, and prioritising trade over our obligations to the people of Hong Kong would be a tragic affirmation of their criticisms. In contrast, our greatest moments have been where we have stood up for underdogs beleaguered by authoritarianism. The consequences for standing up for Hong Kong may well be punitive trading terms with China. But, in Thatcher’s words, at least “the eyes of the world would now know what China is like.”

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Trump warns Johnson: EU not easy to do a deal with, ‘just ask Theresa May’

BIARRITZ, France — The U.K. and the EU may not reach a Brexit deal, Donald Trump predicted on Monday, lavishing praise on Prime Minister Boris Johnson but warning that the EU was “not easy to deal with.”

“They’re going to be going at it for a little while,” he said of London and Brussels’ deadlocked Brexit negotiation. The U.K. “may have to get out, they may not make a deal,” he added. “The EU is very tough to do a deal with. Just ask Theresa May.”

Trump, touching on Brexit during a lengthy press conference at the close of the G7 summit in Biarritz, also predicted Johnson would be a “great prime minister” and said he had been “waiting for him to be prime minister for about six years.”

“I told him ‘what took you so long?'” the U.S. president said.

But drawing on his own trade dispute with the EU, he warned that Johnson faced an uphill task achieving a renegotiated Brexit deal, and appeared to predict a no-deal Brexit on October 31. Johnson said on Sunday after meeting Trump that the U.S. president wanted to put a post-Brexit trade deal in place less than a year after the U.K.’s planned exit from the EU.

In a curious aside, Trump also claimed that he had asked Johnson about the use of the term “United Kingdom” rather than “England” — one of the U.K.’s four constituent nations.

“I ask Boris, where is England, what’s happening with England? They don’t use it very much anymore. We talked about it, it was interesting,” Trump said, adding that the U.K. is a “great place.”

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Trump admits ‘second thoughts’ on China, but predicts trade win

BIARRITZ, France — Donald Trump today predicted that Beijing would blink first in its trade dispute with the U.S. but also made a rare confession that he had entertained doubts about whether the escalating tit-for-tat tariff duel was the right course.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the U.S. president insisted that the Chinese “want to make a deal much more than I do,” but added that he had “second thoughts about everything.”

In a lively exchange with reporters ahead of their meeting at the G7 summit in Biarritz, Trump and Johnson heaped praise on one another but could not hide significant divisions over Trump’s approach to trade and to Russia.

Taking on the increasingly widespread accusation that the U.S.-China trade war is tipping the world into a downturn, with U.S. stocks lurching into a tailspin on Friday, Trump suggested that the media wanted a recession because “maybe that’s the way to get Trump out.”

“Our country is doing really well, we have horrible trade deals but I am straightening them out,” he said. “The biggest one by far is China.”

“We are in favor of trade peace on the whole. The U.K. has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade” — Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister

Johnson, meeting Trump for the first time as prime minister, gently demurred, venturing what he called “a faint, sheeplike note of our view on the trade war.”

“We are in favor of trade peace on the whole,” he said. “The U.K. has profited massively in the last 200 years from free trade.”

As if to prove Johnson’s point about the faintness of the U.K.’s voice, Trump seemed to have no sense that other countries were pressing him to back down.

“Nobody’s told me that,” Trump shot back after a reporter asked if allies were pressuring him to “give up” his tariff-led efforts to force a trade agreement with China.

Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson heaped praise on one another ahead of their meeting | Pool photo by Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images

“Nobody would tell me that,” he added. “I think they respect the trade war. I can’t say what they’ve been doing to the U.K. and to other places, but from the standpoint of the United States, what [China] has done is outrageous.”

The U.K. finds itself in an awkward position at the G7, seeking to lobby Trump over a post-Brexit trade deal, while also remaining consistent with its long-term foreign policy stance in favor of free trade and other issues. On key dividing lines between the U.S. and European allies, including policy on Iran and Russia, the U.K. is far closer to France and Germany than the U.S.

Asked about the possibility that Trump could invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the G7 next year — a proposition that has little support beyond the White House — the U.S. and U.K. leaders said Russia had been the subject of a “lively” discussion at the summit dinner on Saturday evening.

“We had a very good discussion on Russia and President Putin, a lively discussion, but really a good one,” Trump said.

“It was lively,” Johnson agreed.

On Brexit and the prospect of a U.K.-U.S. trade deal, Trump said he had been “stymied” from moving quickly on negotiations by the previous Downing Street administration of Theresa May but that Johnson was “a different person.”

The U.K. and the U.S. cannot enter substantive negotiations on trade or strike a deal until the U.K. has left the EU. Trump suggested EU membership had been an “anchor around their ankle” for the U.K.

Asked what advice he would give Johnson on Brexit, Trump said: “He needs no advice, he’s the right man for the job. I’ve been saying that for a long time. It didn’t make your predecessor [May] very happy.”

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Air Boris blasts into Biarritz

BIARRITZ, France — Boris Johnson was quite clear about what he wanted discuss with the president of the United Sates.

“Cauliflowers!” the U.K. prime minister bellowed over the sound of jet engines as he briefed reporters on his Royal Air Force Voyager plane bound for the G7 summit in Biarritz.

Not just cauliflowers: “U.K. bell peppers,” “wallpaper, pillows and other fabrics,” “British-made shower trays,” and — crucially — “Melton Mowbray pork pies.” All face restrictions to entry to the U.S. market, he said, and he had made the point to Donald Trump and would make it again on Sunday when the two leaders have their first face-to-face meeting of Johnson’s premiership.

Reporters had gathered near the front of the plane for a mid-flight huddle. Johnson, suited and with an uncharacteristically neat collar, clutched a few pages of notes — some typed, some scribbled by hand. He went on for several minutes, while increasingly bemused journalists waited to ask questions about some of the more pressing matters on the G7 agenda: Brexit, the Amazon rainforest fires, the threat of a global economic downturn.

Anyone used to Johnson from his days as foreign secretary and mayor of London would have recognized the schtick: distract and divert with humor, and hope to avoid scrutiny. Even Johnson knows his routine has been rumbled. The Q&A would now begin, he said at last, “having cunningly exhausted as much time as I can with this lengthy but very, very important recitation of the problems British exporters face in the U.S.”

“President Trump has pioneered a quite remarkable way of communicating directly with the electorate” — Boris Johnson, British prime minister

In fairness to Johnson, he then fielded questions happily for 10 minutes, his ease in front of the press in stark contrast to his predecessor Theresa May, whose own briefings on ‘May Force One’ were curt, uncomfortable and sometimes difficult to hear over the sound of the engines. Then again, he is a former journalist who has spent a good part of his life talking to fellow hacks and clearly enjoys their company.

Only the imminent landing of the plane stopped him from talking for longer. “We’ll get thrown off the plane if I don’t get you sat down,” said one Downing Street aide to reporters, as the RAF crew politely but firmly requested everyone return to seats for landing.

“Are you getting used to being prime minister?” one reporter asked before heading back to their seat. “Yes!” Johnson replied. “At last. It took a while.”

New captain, same course

Fellow G7 leaders seeking to get a handle on what kind of British prime minister they are dealing with could still leave the summit perplexed.

Johnson with French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 meeting | Pool photo by Andrew Parsons/Getty Images

Johnson seems to face both ways. His enthusiasm for Brexit, and his free-wheeling diplomatic style appear to place him firmly in the Trump camp. But on other areas of substance, his decisions to maintain continuity with British foreign policy on questions like climate change and Iran put him alongside Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

The split personality was on display on RAF Voyager. He spoke of his horror at the Amazon fires and listed biodiversity, free trade and girls’ education as his three key summit priorities.

His shopping list of grievances against Trump and U.S. trade policy was in part an attempt to amuse, in part very deliberate positioning of the U.K. in favor of internationalist free trade over protectionism (although he was clear some things were “completely off limits” for the U.K. in any trade deal, including the National Health Service.)

Asked about the U.S.-China tariff stand-off, he delivered a sharp rebuke to Trump (and to China) warning that those imposing tariffs “risk … incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy.”

But in the same breath he lavished praise on the U.S. president. Asked if he was flattered by comparisons to Trump, he noted that it was “the most important thing for any prime minister of the U.K. … to have a very close, friendly relationship with our most important ally.”

“President Trump has pioneered a quite remarkable way of communicating directly with the electorate. My impression is that is also popular with large numbers of people in our country,” he said. (That’s not what Britons are telling pollsters — according to YouGov, only 21 percent of British people have a positive opinion of Trump and 67 percent negative.)

Brexit battles

But while a meeting with Trump on Sunday is the centerpiece of this G7 for Johnson, the most pressing issue in his in-tray at home, Brexit, still overshadows everything.

He waded into a row with European Council President Donald Tusk, who warned Saturday that Johnson risked going down in history as “Mr No Deal.” Johnson suggested it was Tusk who might earn the label if the EU refuses to agree to the U.K.’s demand to re-open May’s Withdrawal Agreement and scrap the Northern Ireland backstop plan for avoiding a hard border.

Asked about his relations with Tusk, and the European Council president’s comment that those who promoted Brexit without a plan had a “special place in hell”, Johnson joked with reporters that he didn’t want to get into “post-Brexit eschatology with the president of the Council.”

‘Eschatology’ — referring to the field of theology concerned with death, judgment and the final destiny of humankind — is not a word that commonly featured in Theresa May’s clipped press briefings.

For Boris Johnson, Brexit still overshadows the entire agenda | Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images

But while the former prime minister made an art of giving unrevealing answers, Johnson’s own bombastic style can also be a way of dodging difficult questions. Pressed on whether he would bring forward the “credible alternatives” to the backstop that the EU is demanding as the basis for further talks to avoid a no-deal Brexit, he fudged it. There were “a large range of alternative arrangements” which “will be discussed with our friends in the coming weeks,” he said.

Asked what he would do if the U.K. parliament legislated for a Brexit delay, Johnson swerved again. “It’s parliament’s job now to respect not just the will of the people but to remember what the overwhelming majority of them promised to do over and over and over again and that is to get Brexit done,” he said.

Two sides talking past each other on Brexit, and a parliamentary battle waiting at home. May Force One may have made way for Air Boris, the prime minister’s style of communication may be the polar opposite to his predecessor’s — but Britain still faces the same tricky course to avoid a crash landing.

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Boris Johnson’s double Donald dilemma

LONDON — For Boris Johnson, G7 will be a tale of two Donalds.

The new U.K. prime minister flies into Biarritz Saturday lunchtime determined to show the world Britain has its mojo back. The centerpiece of his weekend is a meeting first thing Sunday with Donald Trump. Hours later, Johnson will come face-to-face with Donald Tusk.

“My message to G7 leaders this week is this: The Britain I lead will be an international, outward-looking, self-confident nation,” Johnson said in his pre-summit statement. Those who think Brexit — even the no-deal Brexit he is prepared to enact in just 10 weeks’ time — means the U.K. retreating from the world are “gravely mistaken,” he added.

If the Trump meeting is likely to be hailed by Johnson as an exemplar of the U.K.’s new place in the world, the Tusk one will be a reminder of the fractious Brexit process he needs to navigate before he can pursue that agenda with gusto.

In truth, neither head-to-head will be easy. While in style Johnson might appear to share the straight-talking rambunctiousness of his North American ally, in substance many of the prime minister’s policy positions remain closely aligned with those of his Continental counterparts. Play too nicely with one and he risks antagonizing the other — or worse still being stranded, lonely in the middle.

European Council President Donald Tusk | Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images

Trump might talk up his good relations with Johnson, choose the prime minister as his first bilateral of the summit and discuss the agenda with him by phone beforehand, and Johnson may enjoy sharing the limelight with a U.S. president, but the two countries are far apart on key foreign policy questions, particularly on Iran and climate change. Regarding a new U.S.-U.K. trade deal, despite public confidence, officials in London are under no illusions about the serious hurdles that need to be overcome.

As for Tusk-Johnson, the European Council president said in February said there was a “special place in hell” for those who championed Brexit without a plan to carry it out. Most thought he was referring to Johnson, the champion of the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, who was then a backbench MP opposing Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

As fellow leaders, their diplomatic relations haven’t been much more cordial. This week Tusk responded to a letter from Johnson requesting that a key pillar of May’s deal — the Northern Ireland backstop — be removed by effectively accusing the U.K. prime minister of wanting to reimpose a hard border on the island of Ireland.

And despite some warm words and mixed messages from Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel this week, a new deal before October 31 that could avert an economically disruptive, crash-out Brexit still looks unlikely, and Johnson knows it.

“I want to caution everybody, OK? Because this is not going to be a cinch, this is not going to be easy. We will have to work very hard to get this thing done,” he told broadcasters on Friday. No wonder then that the other message Johnson intends to convey to Tusk on Sunday, according to officials, is that the U.K. really means it (this time) when it says it will leave with no deal.

Looking both ways

The paradox of Boris Johnson’s G7 agenda is that while the Trump meeting is at its heart, his other key messages could hardly sound more different to those of the U.S. president.

A convinced advocate of global action to combat climate change and protect the environment, the U.K. prime minister joined Emmanuel Macron in advance of the summit in highlighting the seriousness of the “heartbreaking” Amazon rainforest fire.

On Russia, he opposes Trump’s wish to invite Vladimir Putin back into the G7 fold, and on perhaps the most pressing foreign policy issue on the summit agenda — Iran — he stands with France and Germany.

U.K. officials indicated in advance of the summit that there was no change in the U.K.’s support for the nuclear deal, and that London, despite the change of leadership, was still not supportive of the U.S. “maximum pressure” on Iran strategy.

New Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is, one official said, more inclined to a hardline stance on Iran than his predecessor, Jeremy Hunt (Johnson’s vanquished leadership rival), but the overall direction of U.K. foreign policy — on this and much else — has not radically changed.

This much was clear from Johnson’s pre-summit statement.

“We face unprecedented global challenges at the very time when public trust in the institutions designed to address them risks being undermined,” he said. “International tensions and new trade barriers are threatening global growth. Violence and conflict are trapping countries in poverty, depriving children, and particularly girls, of the universal right to education. Climate change is accelerating the devastating and unprecedented loss of habitats and species.”

It’s not a pitch tailor-made to appeal to Donald Trump.

Nor will the two leaders necessarily find an easy path to a new trade deal between their countries. In private, U.K. officials recognize the difficulties involved in securing a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. — namely ensuring protection for U.K. farmers and the NHS, while persuading Washington to open up the U.S. market to the U.K.’s services firms.

Boris Johnson (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump greet before a meeting on United Nations Reform at UN headquarters in New York on September 18, 2017. | Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Talk of a series of mini-deals, promoted by Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton on a recent visit to London, is not considered viable in London, and Downing Street is downplaying any suggestion of a timetable for negotiations emerging from the Trump-Johnson meeting.

“The prime minister and president have both repeatedly expressed their commitment to delivering an ambitious U.K.-U.S. free-trade agreement and to starting negotiations as soon as possible,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.  “Of course we want to move quickly, but we want to get the right deal that works for both sides.”

Johnson’s real fight back home

And then, of course, there’s Brexit.

Angela Merkel’s suggestion on Wednesday of a 30-day timetable to find a solution briefly raised hopes in the U.K. that the EU might climb down from its refusal to countenance a re-opening of the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement struck with May.

However, EU officials have been clear that there has been no change of position and that it is still up to the U.K. to come up with what Tusk on Monday called “realistic alternatives” to the Northern Ireland backstop plan.

While Macron hinted on Thursday at more talks led by the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the EU has not dropped its insistence that the backstop stays in the Withdrawal Agreement.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

As Merkel in particular emphasized, the non-legally binding Political Declaration on the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU — the second element of the Brexit deal — can be changed, and Barnier is authorized to start talking about that. But without changes to the Withdrawal Agreement the U.K. won’t be at the table — so deadlock looks likely to persist.

EU leaders also have half an eye on Johnson’s home front. MPs return to parliament in little over a week’s time, and opposition parties and Conservative rebels are expected to fight tooth and nail to block Johnson from taking the U.K. out of the EU on October 31 without a deal. While it is not yet a public position, many government officials are convinced Johnson will seek an election to prevent the House of Commons — where he has a majority of one — standing in his way.

For now, that is where Johnson’s real fight lies, and until he wins it, his fellow G7 leaders will be justified in wondering how long his tenure as a member of their exclusive club will be.

David Herszenhorn and Gaby Orr contributed reporting for this article.

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A big question about Hong Kong – and even bigger ones about migration and China

We have been here before – at least, in a manner of speaking.  In 1989, the then Conservative Government granted British citizenship to some 250,000 people from Hong Kong.  There was a paradox to the decision: Ministers’ intention was not that they should enter Britain under the scheme.  Rather, this was that it would encourage them to stay in Hong Kong, by giving them certainty about their future, thus halting a mass exodus.

The gambit was sparked by doubts about whether China would honour the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, under which the two countries agreed terms for the transfer of Hong Kong, and which was due to come into effect in 1997.  It worked.  Tensions simmered down, and there was no mass take-up of UK passports.

But there has always been a giant questionmark against China’s honouring of the “one country, two systems” provisions within the declaration.  It is highly visible now.  Two years ago, the country’s Foreign Ministry described the declaration as an “historical document, [which] no longer has any practical significance, and does not have any binding effect on the Chinese central government’s management of the Hong Kong”.

It is unlikely that China will presently send troops into Hong Kong, and formally tear up the commitments enshrined in the join declaration.  But the possibility exists, now or in the future: it is currently showing videos of troops massing on Hong Kong’s borders.  This is part of its response to pro-democracy protests, which were concentrated originally on opposition to an extradition bill, under which suspects could be sent to China for trial.  But the aims of demonstrators spread wider: they demand the free election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and legislature.

In essence, the settlement left by the joint declaration is unstable. For example, Hong Kong has a legislature of which only half the seats are directly elected.  And although China has powerful incentives not to tear up the “one country, two systems provisions” – which would do its Belt and Road initiative abroad no good – the people of Hong Kong cannot be sure what the future will hold.

Hence the proposal by Tom Tugendhat and others to grant British citizenship to the 169,000 or so British Nationals Overseas in Hong Kong.  Some want a bigger offer: the Adam Smith Institute also proposes to “open up the application process to the 4.5 million Hong Kong nationals”.  Some, a smaller one: the Sun wants Britain to admit “the best and brightest in the small territory”.  It might be that such a scheme would have the same effect as that of 1989: in other words, to encourage people to stay in Hong Kong rather than leave for the United Kingdom.

Then again, it might not – either now or, far more likely, in future.  And the context in Britain has changed since 1989.  Some, very largely but not exclusively on the left, support all migration, pretty much.  Others would welcome a big influx of hard-working, family-orientated, Hong Kongers: this has an appeal for parts of the right.  But even though public concern about immigration seems to have eased off recently, there is reason for caution.

As the Migration Observatory puts it in one of its headline findings: “British views are not favourable towards immigration and a substantial majority would like immigration to be reduced”.  Furthermore, Government policy is in flux.

Boris Johnson wants to scrap Theresa May’s unmet pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, and promises Dominic Cummings’s fabled Australian-style points system instead.  But it is far from clear what numbers this plan would produce – and numbers, though not everything in immigration debate, are much.  And the system faces a daunting challenge in any event.

The Government now says that in the event of a No Deal Brexit – arguably now the most likely outcome – free movement will end immediately, which would certainly be popular with many voters.  However, it isn’t apparent what system will be used to distinguish between EU nationals who have applied for the new settlement scheme and those who haven’t, to name only the most obvious of the problems bound up with immediate change.

In 1989, Norman Tebbit led a backbench revolt against the passport plan for Hong Kongers. It was less successful than advance publicity suggested.  But there is no guarantee that the outcome would be similar this time round, were the more ambitious of the Hong Kong schemes to be tried.

Ultimately, the problem of how to respond to China over Hong Kong is a sub-set of the problem of how to respond to it more broadly – which points to the wider debate over Huawei, China, our infrastructure and national security.  We could and should, as in 1989, offer some passports to Hong Kongers.  But, as then, the should and must be strictly limited.

Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that the Joint Declaration is a legally binding treaty, registered at the United Nations.  Which means that third parties have an interest in upholding it, however distant.  In the case of Donald Trump, this might not be remote at all, given his stance on China.

Boris Johnson is due to see Trump soon – and frequently, given the mutual interest in a trade deal.  The former ought to put Hong Kong on the agenda.  Admittedly, the President is no fan of more migration to America.  But it just might be that there is an Anglosphere offer to be made to Hong Kongers on a bigger scale than Britain could make alone.

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Parvez Akhtar: The Government must speak up against India’s mistreatment of Kashmir

Parvez Akhtar is an engine design specialist and a former Conservative mayoral candidate for Bedford.

Part of London was brought to a standstill by a demonstration outside the Indian High Commission last Thursday. This annual event usually passes without much fanfare as a few hundred people protest about the plight of Kashmiris on the day India celebrates its independence from Britain.

However, this year, it attracted a huge crowd of many thousands from across the country incensed by the recent decisions of the BJP government. These include: instituting a total communications blackout (from phone lines to internet to television) on the region; placing Kashmiri politicians, including those sympathetic to India, under house arrest; introducing a complete curfew now in its third week; and, crucially, revoking Article 370 and 35A from the constitution.

Since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the disputed territory of Kashmir has been occupied by the two countries. Article 370 and 35A were added to the Indian constitution to buy support from the Kashmiris and ensure they ceded the territory to India, not Pakistan. These protections afforded Kashmiris special rights and privileges and for 72 years, Indian-administered Kashmir has remained autonomous as a result.

But the removal of this constitutional protection on the August 5 means that the state has effectively been annexed by India.

As troubling is the way this was done in the world’s largest democracy. Indian law requires the assent of Kashmir’s state legislature for any change but in order to get around this, the Hindu Nationalist BJP government of Modi dissolved the state legislature and an emergency federal rule was imposed on Kashmir, which allowed Delhi to unilaterally change the law.

At this point, ConservativeHome readers will argue we have enough on our plate delivering Brexit, mending public services and keeping Corbyn out of Number 10. So why is what’s happening in Kashmir important?

Firstly, there are over a million people in Britain of Kashmiri origin, some of whom are spread over 30 or so battleground constituencies where the size of the majority is smaller than the Kashmiri vote. Although this vote is historically more Labour-leaning, over the last decade a lot of progress has been made in seats like Bedford, Watford, Milton Keynes North, Wycombe, Peterborough, Burton, Walsall North, Crawley, Reading West, Worcester, and Pendle. All the MP’s in those seats get regular representations on the issue from their constituents.

Our Government’s response on the latest crisis has fallen well short, perhaps because the focus is elsewhere but on the eve of a crucial General Election, a million votes are at stake.

Secondly, the United Kingdom has called out unjust, illegal, and undemocratic actions of governments around the world – East Timor, South Sudan, Kosovo, and Hong Kong to name a few. Kashmir should be no exception, especially as we ruled the princely state for over 200 years and left without resolving its status during the partition of 1947. Having played a part in the enduring conflict between India and Pakistan, it important to bring both sides to the negotiating table so that UN resolutions, which give the people of the state the right of self-determination, can be implemented.

What about trade? Can we afford to upset India post Brexit? Our exports to India amount to some 5.7 billion… but our imports are closer to 10 billion. The Indian economy is contracting, and having spent two and a half years in India with Jaguar Landrover, I have seen first-hand rise of unemployment amongst young engineers and graduates. Just as in the case of the EU with Brexit, I would argue India needs us more then we need her.

Our exports to China are also five times those to India but the intervention of the Foreign Secretary on Hong Kong shows we won’t be held hostage to trade when it comes to calling out violation of international law or abuse of human rights.

How about the geopolitics of the region? Isn’t India important to counter the rise of China? Yes, it is, but I would argue Pakistan is even more important, because it serves as a gateway into central Asia and has played a vital role in the war in Afghanistan. The Belt & Road Initiative is already strengthening the co-operation between Pakistan and China, and allowing India to annex Kashmir, would drive Pakistan further into the arms of China.

Militancy and terrorist attacks may also increase in India and if relations deteriorate further we could end up with a fourth war between the two nuclear armed states, which is why the United Nations Security Council met for the first time in over 50 years to discuss the conflict at a special session behind closed doors last Friday.

This is an untimely headache for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, who have full inbox at the moment, but for all the reasons I have mentioned Kashmir really does matter to us. As a permanent member of the UN security council, our government must continue to press for the implementation of the 11 United Nations resolutions which give the people of Kashmir the right of self-determination.

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Despicable migrants? UK’s treatment of foreign criminals will only harden after Brexit

An increasing number of EU nationals who have committed crimes find themselves being deported. In the context of the UK’s tortured departure from the EU, the deportation of foreign criminals has become a touchstone of British notions of the public goodwrites Nevena Nancheva (Kingston University London). She argues that the UK has effectively curtailed the rights of what it sees as a particularly despicable group of migrants – foreign criminals. Rather than looking at its own inequalities, it has chosen to tighten its physical and invisible borders. 

Britain used to deport its criminals. In fact, it used to deport all ‘wicked and evil-disposed persons’ whom the judges were too merciful to execute instantaneously for a long list of crimes against property, or indeed, for being idle or seeking employment, as section V of the Transportation Act of 1717 mandates. Such offenders were transported originally to the West Indies (where they habitually neglected to stay), then to America (a secret often brushed under the carpet by American historians and politicians alike), then, amidst the turmoil of American revolution and to prevent the French from extending their empire, to Australia in 1787.

In those days, the dispossessed, the idle, the vagrant, the lewd fell into the category of criminals because they threatened the established social order. They were bound for expulsion to protect sovereign landowners, the common good, and the good society. The mobile, in particular, were frowned upon as ‘the chrysalis for every species of criminal’. From a longue durée historical perspective, Bridget Anderson spends a lot of time unpacking the link between vagrancy and criminality in Britain, positioning the migrant as essentially a ‘failed citizen’.

Today, we begrudgingly agree that our criminals, petty or not, are our own problem and should not be dumped on indigenous peoples around the world. (That is, unless we can strip them of their citizenship and invite Bangladesh to deal with them!) Foreign criminals, however, are a totally different matter: a cause célèbre for a host of Labour and Tory leaders, the deportation of foreign criminals has gradually become the norm, rather than the exception to the rule.

Changing the rule book

The notion of Britain’s ‘public good’ has remained intrinsically linked to this development: under the 1971 Immigration Act, non-citizens are liable to deportation if this is deemed to be ‘conducive to the public good’ (section 3(5)). There is no explicit mention of criminality in this law, but the 2007 UK Borders Act amends the omission by explaining that ‘the deportation of a foreign criminal is conducive to the public good’ for the purposes of the above (section 32).

The amendment came after a string of scandals and heated public debates over the fate of some 1,023 foreigners who had been released from British prisons into society since 1999, rather than considered for deportation, costing the office of the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke. It is perhaps not coincidental that these discussions arose in the process of EU enlargement to the 10 former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. Even though regions in turmoil (such as Somalia) or human rights (e.g. international refugee protection) were cited at the time as constraints on deporting foreign criminals, Charles Clarke went on to write a book about the threat of migration within the EU, capturing a long-standing concern of the British public with the open borders and the freedom of movement which the EU seemed to be all about.

The invisible boundaries of Britain

In the context of Brexit and UK’s tortured extraction from the EU, the deportation of foreign criminals has become an interesting touchstone of British notions of the public good: that elusive abstraction which pits the lives and rights of concrete men, women and children against a fuzzy and imagined, but clearly incomparably more significant, entity: the nation. In 2018, I conducted a pilot study of the impact of deportation on the families of foreign criminals in the designated foreign nationals male prison HMP Maidstone. What I discovered in my conversations with matter-of-fact prison wives, is that the law is implemented with implicit disregard for the integrity of their families and the welfare of their children. That the much-lauded ‘public good’, upheld in the letters from the Home Office and the decisions by the judges, should trump the best interests of these families points to the boundaries of Britain’s community of value. As the Brexit dynamics narrows these boundaries, the distinctions between those who clearly do not belong (such as foreign criminals) and those who should belong but are not really welcome (such as EU nationals) become blurred.

Image: author’s, Walls of HMP Maidstone, The Visits Building (1819).

No Article 8 rights for foreign criminals

Even the immigration-control-obsessed 2007 UK Borders Act provides an exception (section 33(2)(a)) to the deportation of foreign criminals in cases where the removal of an individual would breach his or her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular the right to family and private life under Article 8. Before a decision for deportation was made, the individual’s rights would be weighed against the public interest on the basis of a five-stage test (the case of R (Razgar) v SSHD [2004] UKHL 27), normally by a panel of judges at a tribunal, covering a wide variety of factors (‘as varied as life itself’, lawyer Nick Nason sympathetically explains). These rules were swiftly changed, first by the executive in 2012 and then by the legislature in 2014, to limit the cases when individual rights would disable deportation, and to give decisively greater weight to the public interest.

Thus, a prison sentence of anything more than 12 months could justify interference with the rights of a foreign citizen to maintain his or her spousal or parental relationships in the UK, which would otherwise have been protected under human rights legislation. The Secretary of State’s practice to ‘certify’ these rights as ‘clearly unfounded’ (aka ‘deport now, appeal later’) aimed at ‘cracking down on the appeals conveyor belt used by criminals to delay their removal from the UK’, as then Immigration Minister James Brokenshire claimed after the practice was upheld at the court of appeal in 2015.

Disturbing stories began to emerge of petty criminals being ‘treated like animals’, apprehended when signing on with the Home Office and rushed on chartered flights to Jamaica at the break of dawn. Even as the Supreme Court ultimately ruled the system for deportation before appeal unlawful, the Windrush scandal followed in 2018, to illustrate the extreme extents to which Britain’s fascination with deportations had legitimised the practice.

What of EU criminals?

Interestingly, since 2014 an increasing number of EU nationals find themselves among the deported foreign criminals. This is somewhat surprising since EU law mandates a much higher level of protection against deportation for EU citizens than the domestic rules for other foreign criminals. This number is in addition to the homeless EU nationals deported from the UK on the basis of Home Office’s creative interpretation of EU Treaty rights as incompatible with homelessness. The removal of homeless EU nationals has fed into Britain’s own soul-searching over the enforcement of the 1824 Vagrancy Act continuing to criminalise homelessness and begging!

In favour of closure…

So Britain seems to have gone full circle from the days of the penal colonies and the deported mobile poor. It has effectively curtailed the rights of a particularly despicable group of migrants – foreign criminals – all the while making clear its displeasure with order-disturbing vagrants. Rather than looking at its own inequalities, it has chosen to tighten its physical and invisible borders. Brexit will inevitably bring further legal restrictions in the governance of migration. One can only surmise their impact on the public good of Britain after the EU.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor LSE. 

Dr Nevena Nancheva teaches Politics, International Relations and Human Rights at Kingston University London. She has studied EU migration to the UK since 2016, with a British Academy grant, building an academic network of scholars working on the topic. Her current research focuses on transnational identities and the marginalisation of migrants in the context of Brexit. This piece is based on a pilot study of EU nationals in detention with a view to family reunification and human rights protection.

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The insecurity of a new no-deal Brexit Prime Minister

The economic consequences of the UK leaving the European Union without a deal have received significant attention, but a no-deal Brexit would also have important security implications. Helena Farrand Carrapico, Jocelyn Mawdsley and Richard G. Whitman explain what leaving the EU without a deal might mean for the UK’s internal and external security, as well as the country’s future security relationship with the EU.

The Conservative leadership race seems to be increasing the likelihood of a no deal Brexit. Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have made clear they are willing to contemplate a no deal Brexit on 31 October if a revised agreement cannot be reached with the EU on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal. And the EU’s member states have made clear that they are unwilling to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement reached with Theresa May’s Government.

The likely impacts of a no deal Brexit on the EU-UK economic relationship have been given significant attention with hair raising accounts of the probable effects on trade, borders, travel and UK manufacturing and services. However, the effects on the security interrelationship between the EU and the UK have been given much less prominence. Currently, as a member state, the UK is connected to the other EU member states through a variety of cooperation arrangements for internal security (on borders, policing and criminal justice) and external security (managing security threats from outside Europe and which include cooperation on conflict management and defence). A no deal Brexit means that this cooperation would be thrown into uncertainty.

Internal security

A no deal Brexit would have considerable impact on the UK’s internal security, in particular on police and judicial authorities’ capacity to address issues such as organised crime and terrorism, and on the UK’s role as a leading country in the area of security, including its ability to propose new instruments and shape EU decisions so as to align them with its national interests. In fact, one could even go as far as to say that a no deal Brexit constitutes a substantial threat to UK security given the current critical and unprecedented levels of organised crime activities, as well as the continued severe level of international and domestic terrorism.

Against a background of wide-ranging police cuts (namely the loss of 44,000 police officer jobs since 2010) and the accumulation of austerity effects, the rapidly growing levels of insecurity are having a clear impact on the everyday safety of the UK population, with serious and organised crime currently endangering more lives than any other national security threat. Given that these problems are transnational in nature, the key to addressing them lies on intelligence and information exchange, rather than on the reinforcement of borders as has been occasionally expressed.

The UK currently has access to a large number of EU instruments, databases and agencies that allow it to have direct access to crucial information, to exchange best practices and to coordinate strategies and operations with other EU member states. The most important instruments include, for instance, the European Arrest Warrant, the Schengen Information System, the European Criminal Record System, Europol and Eurojust, whose access is part of a carefully designed relationship that the UK has negotiated with the EU since the early 90s and which has allowed it to adopt a selective participation in the area of internal security.

Within this model, the UK has been able to take part in instruments that are aligned with its national interests, at the same time as it has been allowed to opt out from others it considers less useful (for a complete list of UK opt-ins and opt-outs from this area, please visit the UK Governments’ dedicated website). As the UK progressed through the negotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement, its future security negotiation position also became clearer: it wishes to find alternatives to EU instruments that are capable of maintaining the same level of cooperation, in particular regarding data-driven law enforcement, practical assistance to operations, and multilateral cooperation through agencies.

A no deal scenario creates considerable uncertainty regarding the future UK-EU relationship as it implies a sudden loss of access to data and EU instruments, an abrupt interruption in cooperation, a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and a decrease in the levels of trust between the two sides.

Defence and security

As far as external security and defence consequences go, the immediate consequences of a no deal Brexit are less serious than the internal security ones. This is because the UK has already retreated from an active role in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in preparation for Brexit, for example handing over the operational command of Operation Atalanta (that deals with the piracy threat in the Horn of Africa) and leaving the roster of EU Battlegroups (standby military forces that the EU keeps available for conflict management). Most military operational activity now is either bilateral with other member states or through NATO.

Helicopter refuelling at sea as part of Operation Atalanta, Credit: European Union Naval Force Somalia Operation Atalanta (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

However, anticipating Brexit the other EU member states have set an ambitious agenda for EU defence policy and with the UK having little say in its objectives. There are now well-advanced plans to develop more shared military research and development, defence industry collaboration and common defence procurement. All of these are for the purpose of giving the EU a greater military capability to act independently of other countries such as the U.S.

The foreign and trade policy consequences of a no deal Brexit have significant knock-on consequences for defence too. As far as trade policy is concerned, a no deal Brexit will have negative consequences for British manufacturing, including the space, aerospace and defence industries. Delays and additional costs to exports may endanger British firms’ participation in major international supply chains. This coupled with a significant gap between UK defence policy commitments and budgetary allocations makes the UK a less desirable and reliable partner for future multinational procurement projects as the FCAS developments have shown.

Indeed, the recklessness of a no deal Brexit, after three years of political turmoil, would send a bad signal to the UK’s partners about its reliability in security and defence matters. Already there seems to have been a cooling off of UK-French defence cooperation because of French concerns about UK reliability both in operational participation and defence industry cooperation.

Brussels re-set

A no deal Brexit has broader foreign and security policy consequences for the UK’s relationship with the EU. The UK’s internal security relationship with the EU’s member states would be thrown into significant uncertainly and with dislocating effects for the policing, information sharing and judicial cooperation relationships that are currently in place.

Even without a no deal Brexit EU member states have already created a blueprint for further security and defence integration that do not anticipate a significant role for the UK as a non-member state. The agenda for close and special partnership, provided for under the current Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, would be in tatters. And the UK would be seen as unreliable partner unable and unwilling to deliver on security and defence cooperation.

A new EU leadership coming into office and coinciding with an October no deal Brexit may have no lived experience of the extensive contribution that the UK made to existing EU security and defence policies and capabilities. Their formative impression of the UK could be as a security challenge to be managed rather than an indispensable partner for security cooperation.

This article gives the views of the authors, not the position of LSE Brexit or the London School of Economics. It first appeared on our sister site EUROPP – European Politics and Policy.

Helena Farrand Carrapico is an Associate Professor in Criminology and International Relations at Northumbria University. She is on Twitter @hcarrapico

Jocelyn Mawdsley is a Senior Lecturer in European Politics at Newcastle University. She is on Twitter @JocelynMawdsley

Richard G. Whitman is Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent. He is on Twitter @RGWhitman

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Boris Johnson’s real agenda: The ‘Singapore scenario’

While immediate political attention has focussed on urgent questions of how, when or if Britain’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, will succeed in taking the UK out of the EU, the longer-term agenda of a Johnson-led Conservative administration has been pushed into the background. This is unfortunate. Johnson’s dream, should his premiership survive, is of a post-Brexit Britain akin to a European ‘Singapore of the West’, writes Charles Woolfson (Linköping University). He cautions, however, that this ‘Singapore scenario’ leaves a lot to be desired.

In Johnson’s eyes and those of fellow ardent free-marketeers, a ‘Singapore scenario’ would be achieved by an ultra-business-friendly environment with low or zero corporation tax, low wages, weak trade unions, vestigial welfare provisions and a significant temporary migrant ‘non-citizen’ workforce (around 30 per cent of the total workforce), largely without the protection of national labour laws or access to welfare provisions.

Yet, as the Prime Minister of Singapore pointed out, the transposition of a Singaporean model to the UK is not so simple. Currently, the UK government spending on the public sector accounts for 40 to 45 per cent of the GDP, while for the Singaporean government it accounts for a mere 16 to 17 per cent of the GDP (Bloomberg News, 2018). Furthermore, the Singaporean economy, while ranking second in the World Bank index of 190 countries in terms of ‘ease of doing business’ (pro-business regulation), is also accompanied by powerful regulatory social controls and an extensive system of government patronage (Trading Economics, 2019). Social inequalities in Singapore are rising. A recent review of 157 countries in terms of commitment to reducing inequalities ranked Singapore overall at 149, among the 10 worst performers, and at 157 in terms of redistributive progressivity of tax policies (Development Finance International and Oxfam Report, 2018). Noting a decline in ranking since the previous year, the report concludes, ‘On labour, it (Singapore) has no equal pay or non-discrimination laws for women; its laws on both rape and sexual harassment are inadequate; and there is no minimum wage, except for cleaners and security guards’. As a prescription for a post-Brexit labour market, a ‘Singapore scenario’ leaves a lot to be desired.

None of this has dampened enthusiasm for turning Britain, free of European regulation, into some kind utopian free-market paradise. Johnson’s trademark rhetoric has consistently excoriated the EU for ‘trussing the nations together in a gigantic and ever-tightening cat’s cradle of red tape’. It was exemplified by Johnson’s theatrical appearance before the cheering Conservative Party faithful on the final leadership election hustings. Brandishing of all things, a kipper, Johnson claimed (incorrectly, as it happens) that ‘Brussels bureaucrats’ required that each kipper sent through the mail be accompanied by a coolant bag, an unnecessary and ludicrous burden on business.

There are echoes in Johnson’s buffoonery with the 1980s satirical BBC TV series, ‘Yes, Minister’. A 1984 Christmas special edition depicted an incompetent and opportunistic James Hacker as Minister heading the Department of Administrative Affairs, reluctant to sign a Xmas card to a Brussels Commissioner (one rather French-sounding ‘Maureece’ by name). In contention was a proposed Brussels directive to standardize the ‘EuroSausage’ and re-designate the ‘Great British Sausage’ as an unappetising ‘emulsified high-fat offal tube’. In the same election hustings speech, Johnson proclaimed, kipper to hand, ‘And when we come out, therefore, we will not only be able to take back control of our regulatory framework and end this damaging regulatory overkill but we will also be able to do things to boost Britain’s economy, which leads the world in so many sectors’ (New Statesman, 2019).

Hostility to EU regulation is merely a surrogate target for hostility to regulation in general, seen as holding back burgeoning British free enterprise. To realise full ‘regulatory divergence’ from EU controls (the glittering prize of a no-deal Brexit), Johnson has now proposed the creation of free economic zones or free ports, offering lower import taxes and customs tariffs, favourable manufacturing locations, and looser regulation to lure investment in up to 10 ports around the country. These free ports will be situated mainly in declining and ‘left-behind’ areas such as Teeside. Such zones are not specifically precluded by EU regulations, although it is true to say that they are regarded by the Commission as potential havens for counterfeiting goods and money laundering. In fact, over 80 exist within the EU, the majority in the newer member states of Eastern Europe. Besides providing free-enterprise zones where capitalism can be let loose to do what it does best, their attractiveness for employers is that they are typically insulated from employment protection and minimum wage legislation, while collective bargaining and trade union representation are generally non-existent. Free ports are ‘the Singapore scenario made real’ in the UK context. They will be the forward positions in a greater national project of wholesale deregulation accompanied by comprehensive labour subordination, UK-apore as one big free port.

The post-Brexit foreign trade and investment environment

Ironic, therefore, is the announcement by Brexit-supporting Sir James Dyson, one of Britain’s most celebrated entrepreneurs of the relocation of his corporate headquarters from England to Singapore. This comes only a few months after a previously announced ongoing UK investment programme, much welcomed by Theresa May, and portrayed as a sign of business confidence in Britain’s post-Brexit future. For Dyson, the business logic is presumably compelling. While preserving his UK sites, the company already has manufacturing and new R&D facilities in Singapore, in part following a previous relocation from the UK. The Singapore investment is proximate to profitable East Asian markets for his luxury products, not to mention providing a suitable base for Dyson’s new plan to develop electrical automotives. Not least, however, the move to Singapore potentially offers zero corporation tax. A further incentive is access to labour markets in the East Asia region providing both compliant and relatively cheap human resources when compared to the UK. Dyson Ltd presents a paradigmatic example of ‘foot-loose’ capital investment shopping for regulatory regime advantage in a globalised ‘race to the bottom’. As a pointer to the investment potential of a post-Brexit Britain, Dyson’s decision is ominous.

An additional dimension to the post-Brexit competitive challenges facing the UK economy is the fate of existing foreign direct investment. Japan, for example, is a significant investor in the UK. Nissan, Toyota, and Hitachi between them account for 40 billion pounds (nearly half of Japanese direct investment intended for the EU in 2015 and 144,000 UK manufacturing jobs. Japanese business has sought reassurances that the UK will remain in the European customs union and single market, a demand that is profound anathema to Johnson.

In or out of the single market and customs union, the fact is that the EU is itself remoulding the global trade and investment environment through an extensive series of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), several of which it was hoped would be with potential trading partners for the new ‘Global Britain’. Recent among these is the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) of 2017. This will remove nearly all significant tariff barriers to trade. While the UK has already one of the least regulated labour markets in the EU, such agreements place further competitive pressure on a post-Brexit UK to show even greater ‘flexibility’ on labour and other standards. It is pressure to downgrade that will surely intensify as the UK government embarks on the mammoth task of ‘replicating’ forty years of existing European trade deals or tries its unskilled hand at forging new ones. If preliminary exchanges with the US regarding food safety standards in a future trade deal (specifically, the acceptability of chlorine-washed chicken) are anything to go by, the prospects are not enticing.

Labour migration: an unresolved contradiction

Theresa May’s successful wooing of Nissan investment in Sunderland may prove to have been only a temporary demonstration of foreign investor confidence in the future of the UK economy. As the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned, ‘Japanese businesses rely on inexpensive labour from Eastern Europe in the manufacturing and agricultural industries in the UK’.

Labour migration, the toxic driver of the Brexit debate, will present unique challenges to a free-market Johnson government, not least as its internal logic would suggest a more liberal and open regime. Migration, therefore, presents an unresolved contradiction at the heart of the ‘UK-apore’ project. To appease his core supporters it is more than likely that Johnson’s government will be forced, reluctantly or otherwise, to replicate much of the exclusionary path towards continued free movement of labour that informed the policies of his predecessor.

As Central-Eastern European migrants return home, (or refuse to come to the UK for the wages and conditions on offer) both of which increasingly they appear to be doing, UK nationals will need to be ‘persuaded’ to accept those low-paid ‘3D’ (dirty, dangerous, and demeaning) jobs that they had previously rejected. The ‘Singapore scenario’ applied to the UK would mandate a downgrading of current welfare and labour standards in a massive recalibration of labour expectations of the domestic labour force. Such a recalibration would be achieved by a radical shrinking of what remains of the welfare state, combined with a raft of ‘incentives’ to accept whatever jobs are on offer.

Questions of the downside of globalisation are not new but much accentuated by Britain’s current precarious political and economic conjuncture as it departs from the EU. In short, Boris Johnson’s ‘UK-apore’ can only be realised in a ‘race to the bottom’ to the significant detriment of existing standards. If the business model of labour and welfare devaluation in a ‘Singapore scenario’ is the pathway towards Britain’s economic salvation, then such standards now become integral to the democratic politics of post-Brexit Britain.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. Image by David RussoSome rights reserved.

Charles Woolfson is Professor emeritus of Labour Studies at the Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO), Linköping University, Sweden. Since arriving in Sweden in 2009 after a decade of residency in the Baltic states, he has written on East-West migration from the newer EU member states, and on the impacts of radical austerity programmes in the Baltics following the crash of 2008. He co-edited with Jeffrey Sommers, The Contradictions of Austerity: The Socio-Economic Costs of the Neoliberal Baltic Model, Routledge, 2014.

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Prime Minister Johnson has appointed a no-deal Cabinet

After Parliament successfully ended May’s hopes of securing her version of Brexit, Britain now has a new Prime Minister and a new government, all with less than 95 days to go until the UK is due to leave the European Union. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle has been characterised as brutal, but what does the new Cabinet mean for the UK’s departure from the European Union? The PM has appointed a no-deal Cabinet, says Thomas Eason (University of Nottingham).

Looking first at the Prime Minister himself, Johnson has said that he wants the UK to leave the EU with a newly negotiated Withdrawal Agreement. However, if a new deal cannot be obtained, his preference is for the UK to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019. Unfortunately for Johnson, the prospects of negotiating a new deal are slim. Not long after he took office the EU quickly stated that it would not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. Johnson’s preference for a newly negotiated deal is, therefore, a unicorn – it is promised but cannot be achieved. This leaves him with 3 credible options. He can try to get May’s deal through Parliament again, he can cancel Brexit and keep the UK in the EU, or he can opt for no-deal. His rhetoric clearly suggests the latter is his preference, and so too do some of his key Cabinet appointments.

Starting first with the appointment of the Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, one could be mistaken for thinking continuity is Johnson’s plan. Barclay served as Brexit secretary under Thresa May, making him one of the few secretaries of state not to be purged from the Cabinet. However, while serving under May, he did not have altogether that much power over the Brexit process. This was because the Prime Minister chose to handle many of the negotiations herself. Indeed, Barclay’s input seemed to be limited to managing no-deal preparations. These have since been handed over to Michael Gove, thus begging the question, what will Barclay be doing as Brexit Secretary now? Well, The Department for Exiting the European Union’s website claims that the department is responsible for overseeing Brexit negotiations, and it is very likely that the machinery of the department is doing just that. As before, Barclay’s role in negotiations will ultimately depend upon how active the Prime Minister chooses to be, but his control over the department will ensure that his voice is heard by both his colleagues around the Cabinet table and the EU, and his position seems to be the same as Johnson’s. Barclay believes that if a new deal cannot be reached, crashing out of the EU under no-deal is the next best option. Since we know the EU is unwilling to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, no-deal is apparently the Brexit Secretary’s first choice.

Next then is Michael Gove. Gove has been appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, an obscure post that many have been forced to look up. As suggested above, he has been given control of the Cabinet Office and no-deal preparations. The Cabinet Office is responsible for coordinating government policy across departments, and since a no-deal Brexit would impact all areas of government policy, giving it control over no-deal preparations is probably a wise move. Ultimately then no-deal preparations are Gove’s responsibility, and since taking up his new position Gove has claimed that no-deal is now “assumed” by the government. Gove himself was famously one of the key faces of Vote Leave, meaning few can question his commitment to leaving the EU.

Taking the job of Secretary of State for International Trade in Liz Truss. In this role, Truss will be responsible for promoting British trade and securing new trade deals around the globe, a key part of the discursively constructed “Global Britain” image. When it comes to Brexit, Truss is one of those MPs that had a sharp change of opinion. During the referendum, Truss voted Remain. However, she has since become a very staunch Brexiter, claiming that if a deal cannot be secured, leaving the EU without a deal is the preferable option. Based on her current discourse then, Truss is another government voice speaking in favour of a no-deal Brexit.

That said, while many in the new government now promote a no-deal Brexit, few have done so as strongly as Dominic Raab, the new Foreign Secretary and de-facto Deputy Prime Minister. Like the others, Raab has repeatedly argued that if a new deal cannot be made, which the EU suggests it cannot, then no-deal is the best option. Indeed, he has even suggested that he would be willing to prorogue Parliament to ensure MPs cannot prevent no-deal from happening. The responsibilities for negotiating the Brexit and new trade deals may well fall under the control of other departments, but the role of foreign secretary is still important to the Brexit process. As Foreign Secretary, Raab will be seen as a spokesman for the British government by both domestic and international audiences, and thus any statements that he makes about Brexit will be heard around the globe. Furthermore, in conducting Britain’s diplomatic relations, the Foreign Office itself will be playing a crucial part in the process of creating new trade deals. Together, this all makes Raab a key player in the Brexit process and his preference is for no-deal secured through prorogation if necessary.

These extreme views are shared by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new Leader of the House of Commons, whom will also be attending Cabinet. In this role, Mogg will be responsible for controlling government time in the House of Commons, and thus (alongside the Chief Whip) will be tasked with getting any new deal through Parliament. More importantly, he will also be responsible for blocking any attempts by MPs to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Over the years Mogg has made his views very clear. He believes that a no-deal Brexit is preferable to May’s Withdrawal Agreement and that the Government should prorogue Parliament to secure a no-deal if it needs to. Like Raab then, Mogg supports no-deal Brexit and the prorogation of Parliament to get there.

Lastly, there is Sajid Javid. As Chancellor, Javid will be crucial to ensuring economic stability in the event of a no-deal, and Johnson has reportedly ordered Javid to ensure Gove has all of the resources necessary to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. Like Truss, Javid is another MP that voted for Remain but now supports no-deal if the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be renegotiated.

Together then, taking into account the fact that the UK cannot renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, every single member of the Johnson Cabinet with significant control over Brexit now supports crashing out of the European Union without a deal. Indeed, considering the fragmented nature of May’s government, collective Cabinet responsibility is back in fashion, united behind no-deal. For those that wish to leave the EU with a deal and those that wish to remain, this is obviously a pretty bleak picture. Understandably so, since many experts agree that this scenario will be damaging to the UK’s economy, NHS, and global influence.

Regardless, based on Johnson’s rhetoric and Cabinet appointments, it looks very likely that the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal on 31 October. Furthermore, as this is the legal default, there is nothing that Parliament can really do to stop this without a change in the law. Such a change that would be very difficult to make within the time that is left and would very likely require an election. Even if MPs do take action, the threat of prorogation is very real with Mogg as Leader of the House of Commons. Ultimately then, a no-deal Brexit is now the primary policy of the British government and, while still not certain, appears to be the most likely outcome of the Brexit saga.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. Image by ChiralJon,(CC BY 2.0).

Thomas Eason is a PhD International Relations student at the University of Nottingham.

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Brexit Britain’s Trumpian moment?

Boris Johnson’s adoption of a No-Deal exit as a viable policy option can only be described as Brexit Britain’s Trumpian moment, writes John Ryan (LSE).

US President Donald Trump told a crowd in Washington: ‘Boris is good. They call him Britain Trump.‘ German English-language service Deutsche Welle published an article with the title ‘Boris Johnson’s clowning glory‘. Seen as Donald Trump’s boastful mini-me by many with no electoral mandate from the British people for No Deal and with a record of incompetence, ineptitude and intellectual laziness – Boris Johnson has nevertheless just been elected by the Tory party membership to become the Conservative party‘s leader and then by default the UK’s prime minister.

In what can only be described as Brexit Britain’s Trumpian moment, Johnson showed his political opportunism by adopting the Brexit Party’s key policy of No Deal Brexit as the way to stem the rise of arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage and to prevent the terminal decline of the Conservative party. Johnson’s lack of a viable plan for government besides a No Deal Brexit raises the prospect of a repeat of his tenure as Mayor of London in which he achieved little in eight years and in which he wasted money with little in the way of tangible benefits for Londoners.

Many adversaries, as well as colleagues of Boris Johnson, feel that he is personally unfit to be Prime Minister. The Guardian recently ran a series of articles during the Conservative leadership election pointing out his political and personal deficiencies. They say that he is a habitual liar, a cheat, a cruel betrayer of the women in his life, a politician who connived in a bid for a court order to suppress mention of a daughter he fathered, a do-nothing mayor of London and the worst foreign secretary in living memory. He was described as a diagnosed narcissist whose entire political career has been constructed through the prism of personal opportunism. Johnson as foreign secretary contributed to a British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian citizen being incarcerated in Iran after he wrongly stated she was teaching journalism in the country, a comment cited by Iran to undermine her case.

There are known to be several Conservative MPs who have deep reservations about serving under a prime minister who is prepared to leave the EU without a Brexit deal on 31 October. An early vote of no confidence would trigger a 14-day period during which someone else – including Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn – could try and form a government which wins the support of the Commons. If that cannot be achieved, then the UK would face a general election. But to prevent a No Deal Brexit, there would need to be a new prime minister in place who is prepared to go to the EU to ask for a further extension before the 31 October 2019 deadline is reached.

Holding an election out of his own volition would be dangerous for Johnson with the poor state of the economy, the weakened pound, businesses leaving or not investing in the UK, the sad state of health care, council cuts to old-age care, rising debt and corroded public finances, the lack of police on the streets, climate change, supporting Trump’s foreign policy adventures, and dealing with China, Iran, Israel, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The political fallout associated with the economic hit of a Johnson-induced No Deal Brexit should not be underestimated. We know that higher barriers to trade, investment and migration will damage UK productivity growth; and that British consumers will be forced to buy more expensive imports or lower quality British alternatives, hitting living standards. It will be a mix of the two, but that mix is hard to quantify. What is more, the Brexit referendum in 2016 coincided with robust global growth. With signs of a slowing global – and European – economy, the costs of Brexit would be more acute now. The immediate damage would be enormous, if only because of the uncertainty and the lack of preparation, both among governments and companies both in Britain and the EU.

Newly appointed members of the Boris Johnson cabinet do not inspire confidence. Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, now foreign secretary, was mocked for confessing he “hadn’t quite understood the full extent” of the UK’s dependence on the Dover-Calais crossing for trade. Former development secretary and staunch Brexiteer Priti Patel now home secretary made the outrageous suggestion that Britain should use the threat of food shortages to force Ireland to change its approach to Brexit. The tragedy of the Irish famine which caused the death of over a million Irish men, women and children was one of the most shameful episodes in British history.

Some people appear as stupid or ignorant because that is exactly what they are. Ignorant people can succeed against the odds if success depends on other, unrelated qualities. Boris Johnson is the populist’s populist and has been described as both the thinking man’s idiot and the idiot’s thinking man. For many inside and outside Britain, the Tory party seems to be governed by a self-involved clique which includes Boris Johnson that rewards group membership above competence and self-confidence above expertise.

Clearly, MPs damaged Johnson‘s hopes of forcing a No Deal Brexit through Parliament on 18 July 2019 when they voted by a large margin to prevent a future Johnson government from suspending it to prevent it from voting against No Deal. But that does not mean Parliament can legislate to stop No Deal without the government’s consent. There were some 47 Conservative MPs who defied the whip: 17, including the former digital minister Margot James, voted for the plan, while another 30 abstained, most notably Cabinet ministers at the time of the vote Philip Hammond, David Gauke, Rory Stewart and Greg Clark. Any plan by Boris Johnson to leave the EU without a deal would result in Parliament passing a vote of No Confidence in his government, with a high chance of success. That would almost certainly precipitate a General Election, in which a new mandate would be offered to ‘the people’, either to revoke Article 50, or to offer the nation a new referendum on Brexit.

Johnson wants to ensure there is no hard Irish border, even in a No Deal scenario, through so-called alternative arrangements – technological approaches by which customs and regulations checks would take place automatically, or away from the land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The consensus among experts in the UK and the EU is that such technology is several years away from being useable, and there is not the slightest chance of a system being in place for 31 October 2019. Analysts at JP Morgan investment bank said the two Prime Ministerial candidates’ quest for a Brexit withdrawal agreement without the “Irish backstop” was like hunting a unicorn. “A unicorn with a lick of paint is still a unicorn,” analysts Malcolm Barr and Allan Monks wrote in a note sent to clients.

Johnson has got a technical working majority of two, which could fall to one after a by-election in Brecon on 1 August 2019. Last Wednesday Chancellor Philip Hammond, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, Justice Secretary David Gauke and de facto deputy Prime Minister David Lidington all handed in their resignation after Theresa May’s final Prime Minister’s Questions and before May formally handed in her resignation to the Queen. A total of 17 ministers from Theresa May’s Government, including Penny Mordaunt, Liam Fox and Jeremy Hunt, were either sacked, resigned or retired. That is a  purge of unprecedented scale. Dominic Cummings, the former head of the Vote Leave campaign, was appointed Senior Adviser to Boris Johnson.  This is a now a radical right-wing Vote Leave Brexit government. Even before he stepped foot through the door of No.10, Johnson knew that others could drive the narrative of his premiership.

At Eton, notes James Wood in the London Review of Books, they were taught to impose themselves on the world with “effortless superiority”. But these people fall short too often. The trouble is they keep failing upwards – constantly given the benefit of the doubt, leaving them with the benefits and the rest of people of the UK with the consequences of leaders who are unable to run a modern society and economy with a detrimental effect for the less well-off citizens of Britain. On 22 July 2019,  an opinion piece in the New York Times gave this damming assessment of Boris Johnson:

“Boris Johnson, to whom lying comes as easily as breathing, is on the verge of becoming prime minister. He faces the most complex and intractable political crisis to affect Britain since 1945. That should be concerning enough. But given Britain’s political system — which relies for its maintenance on the character and disposition of the prime minister — it carries even graver importance. Mr. Johnson, whose laziness is proverbial and opportunism legendary, is a man well practiced in deceit, a pander willing to tickle the prejudices of his audience for easy gain. His personal life is incontinent, his public record inconsequential.”

On 24 July, the assessment in The Guardian editorial “Boris Johnson’s leadership: the years of a clown” was stark: “Burning bridges to Europe is an act of arson, not statesmanship. Leaving the EU without a deal threatens to wreck the UK economy, break up Britain and rekindle violence on the island of Ireland.” Prime Minister Johnson’s first soundbite outside Number 10 was “Forget the Backstop, the Buck Stops Here”. The first part of the phrase is wishful thinking, but the second part may come back to haunt him – especially with Nigel Farage’s Brexit party waiting for him to fail. There is no trust or enthusiasm for Prime Minister Johnson in the EU which will make any chance of a deal very difficult.

With the right-wing populist Boris Johnson taking the country’s premiership, Britain’s Trumpian moment has arrived. En route, Johnson has lulled the Tory party into Brexiteer unicorn illusions and raised the prospect of a No Deal Brexit. When reality hits, it may not only be a sore awakening for Boris Johnson and his government, but also for the United Kingdom.

This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of LSE Brexit, nor of the London School of Economics. Image © Flickr / BackBoris2012Campaign

Professor John Ryan is a Visiting Fellow at LSE IDEAS. He has been a researcher at CESifo, Munich, Germany, St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin, Germany. John is working as a senior partner in consultancy as a Brexit adviser for EU, Gulf and Asian clients.

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Post-2016 Britain faces a generation of constraining dissensus

Modern British politics is usually dated to either 1945 or 1979, both years symbolising generational resets that created new consensuses in British politics. As Tim Oliver (University of Loughborough) explains, 2016 is the new year by which British politics is dated. But instead of a new consensus, post-2016 Britain faces a generation of constraining dissensus.

The Conservative party leadership race, and Boris Johnson’s many foibles, has taken some attention away from Brexit. But as with so much in British life today, Brexit lurks in the background. The leadership race itself shows how Brexit has consumed, confounded and humiliated Britain’s political class. No wonder that the idea of suspending parliament to allow a no-deal Brexit is being taken as a serious idea by some in the Conservative party. They hope a British exit will allow their party, parliament and the country to move on.

But Britain is not going to move on. British politicians and public are still coming to terms with a generational reset of British politics triggered by the 2016 vote. Hopes a no-deal exit or some new withdrawal deal can end the bickering and divisions are as deluded as hopes a second referendum victory for Remain can return life to some pre-June 2016 norm. 2016 is becoming the year by which modern British politics is dated and defined. Traditionally 1945 and then 1979 were the years by which British politics was dated. But instead of some new political consensus emerging, as happened after 1945 and 1979, post-2016 Britain faces a generation of dissensus and all the constraints and obstacles that flow from that.

For Britain, 1945 was not only the end of the Second World War. It was also the year Winston Churchill, for all he had done to lead the country in its finest hour, was thrown out of office by a landslide victory for the Labour party. Clement Attlee’s Labour government set about building a ‘cradle to grave’ welfare state and a mixed economy. Management of Britain’s relative decline became the norm for a post-war retreat from empire while trying to hold on to global status through such things as the acquisition of an atomic bomb.

In 1979 that consensus was swept aside by Margaret Thatcher. The power of the market replaced the power of the state. Relative decline was given short shrift by the Iron Lady. Her successors up to David Cameron lived in her shadow as those before her had lived in that of Attlee.

The consensuses following 1945 and 1979 were, of course, the product of changes long in the pipeline and connected to wider international trends. Whether it was the Great Depression or the collapse of Bretton Woods, each new consensus reflected problems from the previous system. Nor were they complete revolutions or entirely accepted. Despite Thatcher’s efforts, state spending remains high and British relative decline very real. What few dispute is that the Thatcher and Attlee governments set the political weather for the following generation. It’s why their statues stand in the lobby of the House of Commons alongside those of Churchill and Lloyd George, the other two defining – and wartime – prime ministers of 20th century British politics.

Sixteen years into the 21st century and Britain once again faces a reset of its politics. Far from leading to a period of consensus, however, it’s likely Britain is now entering a generation of dissensus. It’s long been clear that the referendum was about more than UK-EU relations. Through the voting for Remain or Leave the British people voted on a range of issues and were motivated by more than just relations with Brussels.

In the political uncertainty that has reigned since the vote, politicians, not least Theresa May, have not only tried to find a way of withdrawing Britain from the EU. She tried to use Brexit as a means to affect a wider change to Britain’s political economy, identity, constitution and place in the world. That May failed and that no other political or ideological consensus has prevailed reflects the tumultuous political weather of the post-2016 consensus. Instead of one narrative or ideological agenda, Britain’s politics, society, economics, constitution, unity and place in the world are now deeply contested.

Such divisions are hardly new. The referendum and the post-referendum politics, however, have combined them, polarised opinion and forced the UK to face difficult choices it has long put off. It means successive prime ministers – whether Boris Johnson now or somebody else such as Jeremy Corbyn – will be unable to create a new consensus.  Instead of a new consensus, future governments will be faced by a period of dissensus, and thanks to all the divisions it will be a constraining dissensus at that.

The idea of a ‘constraining dissensus’ has been applied to the EU itself. The emergence over the past thirty years of multiple forms of Euroscepticism have left the EU struggling to integrate in ways it once did when a more permissive consensus about integration prevailed amongst the EU’s citizens and politicians. The UK faces something of a similar fate. Even the unity of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is contested. A recent survey showed a majority of Conservative party members willing to accept Scotland and Northern Ireland’s departure from the UK as the price worth paying for an EU exit.

Equally fraught divisions over immigration, identity politics, the economy, the constitution, relations between the USA and Europe and much more now constrain Britain’s politicians, political parties and parliament. Add into the mix a constitutional setup thrown into a state of unprecedented flux and it becomes clear that even a large majority for one party in the House of Commons is unlikely to allow a prime minister or single party to set the agenda.

Much like the EU itself then, Britain’s politics for at least a generation is set to be one of ambivalence and division.

This article gives the views of the author, not the position of  LSE Brexit or the London School of Economics. This article also appeared on the Clingendael blog. Image © Flickr / BackBoris2012Campaign.

Dr Tim Oliver is Senior Lecturer at the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance at Loughborough University London.

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