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Stilton drives wedge between UK-Japan Brexit deal


stilton
stilton

A post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and Japan may have met an unlikely obstacle – stilton cheese.

On Friday, the two sides said they hoped to agree the details of a post-Brexit trade agreement by the end of the month.

The Department for International Trade said talks are ongoing.

But progress has reportedly been blown off course after International Trade Secretary Liz Truss requested better terms for British blue cheeses.

The Financial Times, which first reported that talks had hit a snag, said Ms Truss may be looking for a symbolic victory, as sales of blue cheese to Japan from the UK were only £102,000 last year.

A better deal for the products may mean her department could claim a slightly more favourable deal than the one the EU secured with Japan last year, when the two sides secured a cut of €1bn of tariffs on food.

Dairy and other food products are among the EU’s biggest exports to Japan.

Ms Truss is a long-term fan of UK produce. In 2014, when she was environment secretary she told the Conservative Party conference it was a “disgrace” that “we import two-thirds of our apples, nine-tenths of our pears, and two-thirds of our cheese”.

The Department for International Trade declined to say more about the report, other than that talks are ongoing and point to Ms Truss’s comments from Friday, when she said a consensus had been reached between the UK and Japan and said a deal was expected by the end of the month.

“Negotiations have been positive and productive, and we have reached consensus on the major elements of a deal – including ambitious provisions in areas like digital, data and financial services that go significantly beyond the EU-Japan deal,” she said in a statement at the time.

“Our shared aim is to reach a formal agreement in principle by the end of August.”



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‘The ball is in the UK’s court,’ EU’s #Brexit negotiator says



Britain must send “clear signals” that it wants to seal a deal with the European Union on their relationship after Brexit, the bloc’s chief negotiator said ahead of more talks with London, adding a deal was still possible before the end of the year, write Gabriela Baczynska and Jan Strupczewski.

Michel Barnier (pictured) said Britain had so far not engaged with tentative openings floated by the EU side on state aid and fisheries in the previous negotiating rounds, which have mostly been held on video calls due to coronavirus safety restrictions.

“The ball is in the UK’s court,” Barnier told an online seminar on Wednesday. “I believe that the deal is still possible.”

He said he was “disappointed” with Britain’s refusal to negotiate on foreign policy and defence but that he was open to finding a “margin of flexibility” on thus-far conflicting EU and UK positions on fishing and the state aid fair play guarantees.

“As well as with fisheries and governance, we are ready to work on landing zones, respecting the mandate of the EU,” he said when asked how far the bloc could go towards Britain on the so-called level playing field provisions of fair competition.

They are among the chief obstacles to agreeing a new relationship between the world’s largest trading bloc and the world’s fifth-largest economy. Britain left the EU last January and its standstill transition period ends at the end of 2020.

Barnier said “the moment of truth” would come in October when the negotiating teams must finalize a draft deal if it is to be ratified by all the 27 EU member states in time for 2021.

Should talks fail, Barnier said the UK would be more severely affected than the EU if trade quotas and tariffs kick in, meaning that the bloc would not seal a deal at any cost.

“The level playing field is not for sale. It is a core part of the our trade model and we refuse to compromise to benefit the British economy,” he said.

Barnier added that, while Britain refused to sign up to the level playing field commitments in exchange for access to the single market, it was keen to retain very close ties on financial services and the electricity market.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants a narrower trade deal with the EU, but the bloc is pushing for an alliance that would cover transport, fisheries, security and other areas.

Barnier named nuclear co-operation and internal security as areas where progress had been made but said agreeing a role for the bloc’s top court and sealing Britain’s commitments to the European Convention of Human Rights were still missing.

He pressed Britain to advance preparations for the sensitive Irish frontier as agreed under the EU-UK divorce deal last year.

London and the bloc have agreed to intensify negotiations, with contacts planned every week until the end of July and resuming on 17 August after a summer break.



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Coronavirus live news: EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tests positive | World news


French police officers patrol and control citizens while a strick lockdown comes into in effect to stop the spread of the Covid-19

French police officers patrol and control citizens while a strick lockdown comes into in effect to stop the spread of the Covid-19 Photograph: Laurent VU/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

France has suggested extending a two-week lockdown to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus as the interior minister blasted “idiots” who flout home confinement rules and put others at risk, AFP reports.

President Emmanuel Macron has ordered French residents to stay at home except for essential excursions such as going to the doctor, walking the dog, or going for a solitary run, and banned any gatherings.

For a two-week period that began Tuesday, people can go to work only if their employer cannot make tele-commuting possible.

But news reports have shown groups of friends and families strolling in parks despite the clampdown, prompting calls from some officials for even stricter limits.

Many have been observed ignoring the one-metre (three feet) safe inter-personal distance in queues at the essential businesses that were allowed to stay open.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said people ignoring the measures were “idiots”.

“There are people who underestimate the risk… There are people who think they are modern-day heroes by breaking the rules while they are in fact idiots,” he told Europe 1 radio.

Macron on Thursday urged companies and workers to continue their activities “in compliance with the health safety rules”.

Genevieve Chene, who heads France’s public health agency, said between two and four weeks are needed for the outbreak to be adequately contained.

“Within two to three weeks we should be able to observe a slightly different dynamic” to the outbreak’s momentum, she told Franceinfo radio, and “a significant braking” within two to four weeks.

“It is likely that it is indeed necessary to extend (the containment measures) in order for the braking to be sufficient,” Chene said.

Meanwhile, the French government has started requisitioning hotel rooms for homeless people to occupy during the confinement period, Housing Minister Julien Denormandie announced.

More than 170 rooms will be made available in Paris by the end of the week, and the government has identified 80 sites elsewhere across the country to accomodate the country’s estimated 250,000 homeless people.



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Britain heralds end of ‘cheap labour from Europe’ with #Brexit immigration system


Britain will prioritize access for high-skilled workers from around the world in its post-Brexit points-based immigration system, the government said on Tuesday (18 February), setting out its plans to put an end to a reliance on “cheap labour from Europe”, writes Kylie MacLellan.

Concern over the impact of high levels of immigration from the European Union was one of the key drivers behind Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the bloc and the government has said it plans to bring overall migration numbers down.

The new system will assign points for specific skills, qualifications, salaries or professions and only give visas to those who have enough points. It will come into force from Jan. 1, 2021 and will treat EU and non-EU citizens the same.

“We have got a number of routes through the points-based immigration scheme that will enable people to come here with the right kind of skills that can support our country and our economy,” Interior Minister Priti Patel said.

But business groups said that many firms relied on overseas labour and cautioned there might not be enough domestic workers to tend crops, care for patients and serve food – a deficit that could undermine the world’s fifth largest economy.

EU citizens will not need a visa to enter Britain as a visitor for up to six months.

The Home Office said it would follow a recommendation made last month by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent body which advises the government, to lower the minimum general salary threshold for skilled migrants to 25,600 pounds ($33,330) a year, from 30,000 pounds.

Skilled workers will need to meet criteria including specific skills and the ability to speak English, the government said, and those applying will need to have a job offer.

There will be no specific entry route for low-skilled workers, something the government hopes will help reduce the number of migrants.

“We need to shift the focus of our economy away from reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust,” the government said in a policy document setting out its plans.

The MAC estimated the impact of the government’s planned salary and skills thresholds would mean around 70% of European Economic Area citizens who have arrived in Britain since 2004 would not have been eligible for a visa.

Students will be covered by the points-based system, the government said, while there will be separate initiatives for scientists, graduates, National Health Service workers and those in the agricultural sector.

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#Brexit – UK open to looser ‘Australia-style’ trade deal with EU: source


“There are only two likely outcomes in negotiation – a free trade deal like Canada or a looser arrangement like Australia – and we are happy to pursue both,” the source said.

Johnson is due to give a major speech on trade on Monday, following Britain’s departure from the EU on Friday after nearly 50 years of membership.

Previously Johnson has said his main goal is to reach a Canada-style trade deal with the EU before an 11-month transition period expires at the end of the year, after which British firms would face tariffs to sell goods to the EU.

But Johnson has also said Britain will not commit to continue following EU rules after the transition period, and Saturday’s remarks suggest he is growing less willing to make the trade-offs that many businesses want to smooth a deal.

Canada does not follow EU rules, but some EU governments are reluctant to give Britain similar leeway to diverge on labour and environmental standards, given the much greater trade volumes involved.

In some areas, such as the minimum wage, maternity leave and the elimination of single-use plastics, British standards significantly exceed EU minimums.





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Brexit no detour for migrants hoping to cross Channel to UK


CALAIS, France (AP) — Migrants and refugees waiting by the French side of the English Channel say Brexit hasn’t derailed their determination to cross over to pursue better lives in Britain.

Mingled alongside police officers in the French port of Calais, hundreds of people live in squalid conditions and watch for a boat or truck to carry them to their dreams as stowaways.

Many of them came to Calais from former French colonies such as Ivory Coast and Niger, only to have their asylum requests rejected by French authorities.

The northern French city, laced with high fences and a wall, is the place in France closest to Britain. There are two regular cross-Channel transportation routes from Calais that draw migrants, the Eurotunnel and ferries to Dover, England.

A desire to curtail immigration played a role in the U.K.’s 2016 vote to pull out of the European Union, which guarantees EU citizens the right to live and work in any of the member countries.

Brexit taking effect late Friday doesn’t appear so far to have dented the will of the desperate people from outside Europe who made it to Calais to make an end run into Britain. They bide their time playing soccer and keep warm by building small fires.

“For us, (Brexit) doesn’t change anything,” a man from Ivory Coast said. “We are still living this (dire situation) with the same desire to get to England because France does not want us. We are sick of that.”

The man would not give his name because he feared it might hurt his chance to seek asylum.

A migrant from Gambia who would not give his name for the same reason expressed his anguish by singing a reggae song he composed with the lyrics, “Living in this jungle, yeah, living in this jungle yeah, we don’t have nowhere to go and nowhere to stay.”

At one point, thousands of refugees and migrants congregated in Calais, assembling a huge makeshift camp dubbed “The Jungle.” French authorities eventually cleared and closed it. Neither repeated sweeps nor increased security in the area has stopped the flow of people.

“The situation is pretty bad here, It always has been. I personally don’t think anything will change,” said Clare Moseley of the non-governmental organization Care 4 Calais.

“The things they are fleeing from are worse than anything that can happen here,” Moseley added.

So Brexit or not, migrants still wait and hope that at some point they will ride a lucky opportunity across the expanse of water, although chances are slim.

French border police and maritime officials patrol northern France by land, sea and air, combing beaches, dunes and coastal waters to catch the increasing number of people attempting to get across the Channel in small boats.

Britain has pressured France to do more to stop those attempting the dangerous trip and financed a renewed deterrence operation over a year ago.



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Brexit news: Labour Leavers pay biggest price of Corbyn’s failure on Brexit day | UK | News


With or without a bong, Britain finally leaves the Brussels bloc today and sails the seas of a new adventure outside the European Union as a truly free and independent nation. The Brexit battle fought by the Tories in the last four years against the ever-demanding team in Brussels and Remainer MPs unwilling to accept their defeat in the UK Parliament, has finally paid off for the nation. The biggest price of Britons’ decision to leave the EU will be paid by those who voted for their own fate in the 2016 referendum, a bitter Remainer would say. And Brexiteers will endlessly work to debunk the argument going forward, proving Brexit Britain has been well worth the struggling fight. One thing is already certain, though. The Labour Party’s inability to engage with its own voters and the rest of the country on the most important issue in a generation has cost them the biggest electoral defeat of a lifetime.

Labour was catastrophically defeated in the December 2019 election against Boris Johnson.

Yet, the outgoing leadership is still failing to admit it was its Brexit policy to campaign for a second referendum that cost them the result.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, now in the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn in April, is adamant the reason Labour lost the December election is in the delivery of all the “radical” policies the party had drafted for the country.

But pro-Brexit Labour MPs who lost their seats in December pinpoint the devastating loss on Sir Keir Starmer’s masterminded proposal of a second EU vote.

And even the most prominent figures of the Labour Party who have been battling to take the UK out of the EU since 1975 now admit Labour has put himself on the wrong side of the Brexit argument for decades.

Former Chair of Labour Leave John Mills admitted the Labour Party has never been “in the best position in either camp” when both fighting for Britain to leave the EU in 1975 and siding with its Remain supporters in 2019.

READ MORE: Brexit shock: Keir Starmer vows to bring back freedom of movement

brexit news labour party jeremy corbyn brexit day labour leave tony benn

Brexit news: Jeremy Corbyn failed to stand his ground on Brexit and lost (Image: GETTY)

Both times, Labour lost and the Tories won.

During the 2016 referendum campaign, Labour Leavers would promptly bring former Labour Chairman Tony Benn’s anti-EU speeches to light to prove their true, core belief lied in a Britain freed by Brussels shackles.

And standing side-by-side the same “father of Brexit”, as some of them branded Mr Benn, was no one else but Jeremy Corbyn himself.

The Islington MP, who ran as a candidate for deputy leader to Tony Benn in 1981 before even becoming a Member of Parliament, stood on platforms across the country to fight the Brexit battle before any eurosceptics in the Conservative Party even had a say in the matter.

But given the opportunity to become Labour leader in 2015, the same man failed to stand his own ground and pretended to support the complete opposite of what he had preached for decades just to please an ever-excited new band of members who so badly wanted to remain EU citizens.

“One of the things about 1975 was that about 80 percent of the Tory Party voters voted to Remain, whereas most of the Leave support camp came from the left,” John Mills told Express.co.uk.

“Now that’s the other way around. Certainly, in Parliament and among the Labour Party membership, there’s much more of a Remain campaign now than there is a Leave campaign.

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Labour Party politician and Chairman of the Labour Party, Tony Benn (1925-2014) (Image: GETTY)

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Anthony Wedgwood Benn (1925 – 2014, right) and Jeremy Corbyn (centre) at the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool, UK, 1992 (Image: GETTY)

“It’s the other way for the Conservatives, so there has been a big swing around.”

He added: “I don’t think that the issue of the EU was the only reason behind the election result in 2019.

“But I think it was a very important factor and I do think that so many people voted Conservatives did so because they disagreed with Labour’s stance on the EU and for the fact that the party was becoming too much metropolitan, too London-orientated, too Remain, too much the party of the middle class and the public sector and so on.

“When you run an election on that basis you need to have your large number of industrial and traditional Labour voters campaign behind you as well.

“And that’s what didn’t happen.”

The businessman and economist admitted his own core group of Labour Leavers could not win against the Conservatives’ clear message of “taking back control” and “get Brexit done” with their ideological fight against capitalism and ever-growing support for Remain in their core metropolitan elites.

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He said: “People always had different reasons for wanting to leave the European Union.

“Why did people vote to leave the EU and particularly working-class people, I don’t think it’s entirely because of problems of capitalism.

“I think it was much more because they wanted to have control of their own lives, they thought the EU was too much of an elitist organisation.”

He added: “We’ve had a situation where MPs have very strongly been Remain, most Labour MPs and most Labour Party members have been really strongly Remain as well – probably 80 percent of the members.

“But when it came to Labour voters the situation was very, very different.

“Of all the people that voted Labour for the last few decades, about half of them probably were on the Leave camp.

“I think what we’ve done is to keep alive a handful of Labour Leave people which was quite important for the referendum result.”

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Brexit news: Labour Leave member Lord Glasman (Image: EXPRESS)

One of those Labour Leave people is Labour peer Lord Glasman. A staunch supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour eurosceptic told Express.co.uk in April 2019 that his party needed to present Britons with the “socialist opportunities of Brexit” to contrast the Conservatives’ “globalised capitalism” possibilities of trading with other nations outside of the EU.

He said: “A third or maybe half of the Labour manifesto could not be implemented if we stay in the EU.

“Workers could not be given first choice about buying a company because they would violate EU competition laws.

“We couldn’t have nationalisation, we couldn’t have an industrial strategy, we couldn’t have a pro-worker movement.

“And it’s also the case that every country where the socialist Labour parties have supported the EU, their support died and they no longer exist.

“So Labour has to work this out. What I’m saying is that Corbyn represents, and many of us in Labour represent, the democratic and socialist possibilities of Brexit.

“And you can’t have that without democratic sovereignty.”

brexit news labour party jeremy corbyn general election 2019

Brexit news: Jeremy Corbyn lost 60 seats for the Labour Party at the December 2019 election (Image: GETTY)

Adding: “The politics that is to come will be a Conservative vision of globalised capitalism, and a Labour vision of a democratic nation that could make its own decisions.

“And that should be a split between Labour and Conservative, but as it stands, this whole debate about the EU is getting in the way of what has to come.”

And what did come only a few months later was exactly that. A Labour manifesto full of “radical” socialist proposals that just did not convince the nation.

The Labour Party manifesto included plans for the re-nationalisation of rail, water and energy as well as a tax increase for the highest earners in the country.

Ahead of the election, Jeremy Corbyn also pledged to compensate WASPI women who lost money due to delayed retirement with a £58bn war chest.

The policies Mr Corbyn put forward however failed to convince voters and caused the party to lose 60 seats, including in northern heartlands where Brexit dissatisfaction pushed some Britons to back pro-Leave Tories.

Now all the Leavers in the red party are left with, is the bitter victory of leaving the dreadful EU bloc at the expensive cost of the possible final days of their own party.



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Nigel Farage explains how he thinks Brexit came about – Channel 4 News


Twenty six years ago, a tiny political party was founded with the aim of pulling the UK out of the EU. In just 100 hours time it will have achieved its aim.

Nigel Farage was a founder member of UKIP and led the party for nine years as Brexit switched from being the obsession of a minority to the will of the majority in the 2016 referendum.

Many say he is responsible for that , so how does he think it came about?



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Brexit Endgame: The 2019 UK Election


After nearly four years of wailing and gnashing of teeth, Britain has made up its mind. We’re leaving the EU. At 22.00 on Wednesday 12th December 2019, the BBC/Sky/ITV exit poll opened the final chapter in Britain’s Brexit saga. A crushing majority for Boris Johnson’s Conservative and Unionist Party has redrawn the political map. Constituencies which have been Labour for decades have turned Conservative. The Brexit Party failed to gain a single seat but upset the voting balance. In my home city of Sunderland, had the Brexit Party not stood then a constituency which has been Labour since the First World War would have turned Tory. The Liberal Democrats not only failed to rally the remains of Remain, they actually lost a seat – awkwardly, the seat of their leader Jo Swinson. Following John Bercow to the House of Commons exit are high-profile Remainers Anna Soubry, Chuka Umunna, and Dennis Skinner – who lost his Labour constituency of 49 years to a Tory. Despite climate concerns being a big campaign issue the Greens have failed to achieve anything resembling a breakthrough. Meanwhile in Scotland, a huge surge for the SNP means that 2020 will be dominated by an existential struggle not over the future of Britain in the European Union, but the future of the 350-year old British union itself. British politics used to be boring. Not any more.

The immediate question is, “why?” There isn’t a single answer, and at the headquarters of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and even the Conservatives, heated debates on this question are now taking place. But one answer is that this wasn’t so much a vote of confidence in Boris Johnson, it was a vote of no confidence against Jeremy Corbyn.

The signs have long been there. In 2015 Corbyn faced a vote of no confidence by his own party, and lost. His response was to do nothing. In 2017 Corbyn entered a general election, and lost to the robotic Theresa May. His response was to do nothing. In 2019 Corbyn faced a national vote in the European elections, and lost (even losing his own constituency’s seat in the European Parliament, and on his birthday as well). He responded by doing nothing. Two by-elections showed a collapse of support for the Labour Party, and his response was to do nothing. Now, Jeremy Corbyn has led the Labour Party to its worst defeat since 1935. His response, for now, is to do nothing. Not even resign. This, coupled with Brexit, explains last night’s election result.

Much has been said about the December 2019 election being a Brexit election. And undeniably, Brexit was a major factor. But despite a great deal of discussion and tentative polls about Remainers now having a bigger majority than Leavers (and the former head of YouGov’s disturbing rhetoric in January 2019 about “Crossover Day”, whereupon enough Leave voters had died that a second referendum should be held to return a Remain result), there was not a surge in support for Remain options. The answer to this is Brexhaustion and the clarity (or lack thereof) of party leaders’ positions on the biggest peacetime political issue the British have faced since the stirrings of revolution in 1832.

Under Boris Johnson, the Conservatives advocated an “Oven-Ready Brexit”; not so much a gourmet a la carte Brexit option but a lukewarm, reheated version of what Theresa May had offered four times before. This was not a Remain option, but neither was it a crash-out Hard Brexit option. Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats evolved from calling for a second referendum to simply offering to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit. Nigel Farage’s position of immediately leaving the EU under WTO rules was, at best, vaguely phrased. Jeremy Corbyn’s position has long confused people, until entering the election campaign with a promise of negotiating a magical, perfect deal with an irritated and impatient European Union in record time, holding a Leave/Remain second referendum, but not actually taking a side himself and leaving open the bizarre possibility of him negotiating a deal and then campaigning against his own deal. Anna Soubry’s Independent Group for Change, which was stillborn to begin with, has become as politically relevant as UKIP or the novelty candidates Lord Buckethead, Count Binface, or Mr Fish Finger. Nigel Farage, now turning into the British equivalent of one of the USA’s “perennial candidates” who won’t go away, became an irrelevance as Boris took the limelight as the lead figure for Leave, gifting the Brexit Party a net total of zero seats in Parliament despite their success in the European Parliament earlier this year.

Forced to choose between the Conservative, LibDem, Brexit Party, and Labour options (the SNP’s proposal being irrelevant for most British voters incapable of voting SNP), Johnson’s seems to have been the least unpleasant option on the menu. Swinson’s proposal to ignore more than half of the electorate and cancel the whole process has failed spectacularly, reflecting widespread concern in Britain over the last few months that this Liberal Democrat proposal was neither liberal, nor democratic. The Lib Dems failed to rally the remains of Remain, possibly because the British people are simply exhausted by Brexit and want it to end – one way or the other. And Corbyn’s plan to be an “honest broker” favouring neither Remain nor Leave has backfired worse than anyone anticipated.

The nation has been glued to opinion polls throughout the campaign, anxiously and excitedly watching as the Lib Dem and Brexit Party vote share collapsed, while the Conservatives and Labour raced upwards. But hopes or fears of Corbyn achieving the same as in 2017 – of eating into the Conservative majority just enough to cause a hung parliament – failed to materialise. 2019 is not 2017. The Conservatives are no longer led by a reluctant Remainer and mediocre politician, but by an admittedly charismatic leader and enthusiastic Leaver. The Brexit Party became irrelevant once their far bigger rival came under Leave leadership. The Lib Dems’ policy was clearly unpopular with many Remainers uncomfortable at the idea of just cancelling the biggest democratic decision in British history, regardless of their own views. But while the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Brexit Party all clearly stated their Brexit positions and evolved them, Labour did not. The Brexit option offered by Jeremy Corbyn remained more or less the same as his position during the 2016 EU Membership Referendum campaign itself – vague and unclear to everyone.

Labour’s mistake was to frame the December 2019 election around domestic issues. Twelve years after the Global Financial Crisis and ten years after the start of state austerity, Britain is in a shockingly poor condition. Unemployment, growing child poverty, the spread of zero-hours contracts, public services from hospitals to bus routes to police stations being financially eviscerated, intense housing pressure, skyrocketing levels of personal debt – all of these are real, and urgent, and Labour was right to draw attention to them. But Labour was wrong to believe that these were more important to the British people than Brexit.

For the last three (now, nearly four) years, Brexit has colonised British consciousness to the point of complete saturation. Since the beginning of David Cameron’s referendum campaign in 2016, “Brexit” has been a word which the British people have been unable to avoid on a daily basis. Love them or loathe them, Swinson, Farage, Johnson, and Sturgeon at least had a clear position on an issue which has not simply dominated British politics, but has been the entirety of British politics, since 2016. Corbyn’s attempt to focus on domestic issues while treating Brexit as a footnote, was misguided. He wasn’t helped by the poisonous atmosphere of British politics and the polarisation of the British population into warring camps who see the other as not merely different, but evil. He wasn’t helped by his unclear promises on a second Scottish independence referendum, nor by his commitment to scrapping Britain’s nuclear deterrent, nor by his past associations with groups whose commitment to peace and cooperation is, to say the least, highly questionable. He wasn’t helped by a manifesto which promised too much and which was offered by a man whose complete inability to deal with the foul anti-Semitism scandal in Labour gave a widespread impression that if Corbyn can’t manage his own party, he can’t manage an entire country. And he certainly wasn’t helped by a broad perception that the Labour Party (even before he took control) has come to represent the London middle class, rather than the British working class. But as 2017 demonstrated, Corbyn at least had the ability to muddle through these issues, and in the 2019 campaign his past associations with terrorist groups, or his position on Trident nuclear submarines, was barely mentioned compared to 2017. What felled him in December 2019 was a public lack of trust in him and his Brexit position, and a public desperation for Brexit to end, one way or the other.

Britain is now approaching the Brexit endgame. Corbyn will linger on for a while longer, until he steps down in favour of another radical socialist who will lead a remnant of the Labour Party in opposition against a huge Conservative government more preoccupied with the SNP than the Labour MPs sitting across from them. The leaderless Liberal Democrats will wander in the wilderness until reforming as a party dedicated to rejoining the European Union. Nigel Farage will follow Tony Blair into the lucrative job of an after-dinner speaker. In the meantime, Boris Johnson will deliver Brexit. But potentially, a Brexit which is not as harsh as many Remainers feared.

With such a huge majority, and with his rivals and opponents trounced, Boris is not in the same position as Theresa May – trapped by hardline Eurosceptics in the ERG and held to ransom by Arlene Foster’s DUP. 2020 will be dominated by a race against the clock to negotiate a trade deal with Brussels, and the looming war of words between a significantly strengthened case for Scottish independence versus a significantly strengthened case for One Nation Conservatism. But Boris can now comfortably ignore demands for a Hard Brexit and deliver a softer version which will disappoint everyone. But perhaps everyone being disappointed is preferable to half the country being furious. In his speech on the morning of Friday 13th December, Boris acknowledged that much of his vote, like the 2016 Brexit vote, came from the vast and mysterious land beyond London, called “Britain”, whose people are tired of being ignored, tired of being left behind, and eager for remedies to a broken economy and a broken political system. Brexit is coming, and nothing can stop it now. But maybe, just maybe, a majority government aware of the need to placate four angry nations, and aware of the need to strike a good deal with the EU to prevent the further polarisation of the country after January 31st 2020, can do what the British do best, and half-heartedly muddle through.





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Boris Johnson sees ‘wonderful adventure’ after Brexit. But Scotland and Northern Ireland brace for a bumpier ride.



The constituency was once held by a former Labour prime minister, the centrist and close Bill Clinton ally, Tony Blair. It swung behind the Conservatives big time in Thursday’s general election — whose outcome handed Johnson a clear path to steer Britain out of the European Union.

Yet even as Johnson leaned forward with promises of good times to come, many are wondering which of the United Kingdom’s four parts — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — Johnson was appealing to.

Scotland on Thursday overwhelmingly voted for a nationalist party that wants its own breakaway plan: secede from the United Kingdom and stay in the European Union.

In Northern Ireland, for the first time in its history, the region elected more nationalist lawmakers, who support unification with the Republic of Ireland, than unionists, who emphatically demand to remain a part of Britain.

Ever since England and Wales voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, while Scotland and Northern Ireland did the exact opposite, the sides have worried or wondered when the union might crack up over Brexit.

The next few years may tell us.

In England, Johnson’s Conservatives won new seats across the opposition Labour Party’s former working-class heartlands, giving his party its largest parliamentary majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1987.

Johnson acknowledged that the former Labour supporters who backed him were tentative, still skeptical crossovers. Yes, they swiped Tory-curious — but they were not true believers ready to back the traditional Conservative doctrine of lower taxes, less government, fewer services, and more free-market capitalism.

Instead, these former Labour-leaners were driven to vote for Johnson over their frustration that the Brexit they had voted for in June 2016 was not delivered.

“I can imagine people’s pencils hovering over the ballot paper and wavering, before coming down for us and the Conservatives,” Johnson said in Sedgefield.

“And I know that people may have been breaking the voting habits of generations to vote for us, and I want the people of the northeast to know that we in the Conservative Party, and I, will repay your trust,” the prime minister said.

In Scotland, the task of healing is arguably greater. The first time Johnson was there as prime minister in July, he was booed.

On Friday, Johnson spoke to Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, and rejected her calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence, which she says she now has a mandate for, following her own party’s triumph this past week. (In 2014, Scottish voters solidly turned down an independence question.)

The Scottish National Party, which wants Scotland to break free, nearly swept the board in Scotland, winning more than 80 percent of the seats, higher than even optimistic predictions.

But the Scottish government can’t unilaterally call an independence referendum — they need the support of Parliament. And Westminster, now controlled by Johnson’s Conservatives, does not appear in the mood for another divisive referendum.

Next week, Sturgeon said, she will publish her case to transfer powers from Westminster, so that Scotland can hold a referendum. Johnson has made it clear he will reject the request, setting up a battle to come. Given the Conservative landslide, the battle could rage for many years to come.

“It would take massive and sustained protests — think Hong Kong — to be able to get Westminster government to change its position on this,” said Thomas Lundberg, a lecturer in politics at the University of Glasgow.

Johnson’s cunning, clever campaign that successfully united the pro-Brexit vote in Wales and England — and created an existential crisis for the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats — swept him into office with a mandate to “get Brexit done.”

For the past three years, British politics has been dominated by Brexit, which Britons voted in favor of 52 percent to 48 percent in June 2016.

Johnson is keen to push the Brexit process to the next phase. Starting Monday, Johnson is expected to announce his new leadership team, and then Queen Elizabeth II will formally open Parliament on Thursday.

Johnson wants to hold a vote on his Brexit withdrawal agreement before Christmas. If it passes and then is ratified by the European Parliament, Britain will leave the European Union in January, entering a year-long transition period.

When he was asked whether the dreams of those who want to remain in the European Union were over, Michael Heseltine, a former Conservative deputy prime minister and a prominent pro-European, said that the debate was over.

“We have lost. Let’s not muck about with the language,” he told the BBC on Saturday. “Brexit is going to happen and we have to live with it.”

Heseltine said that it could be 20 years or more before the issue of rejoining the European Union is raised again, but he added: “You can’t escape the devastating results on Scotland and Northern Ireland, so the agenda is not going away.”

The divisions that existed last week have not disappeared overnight. Hundreds of protesters descended on the prime minister’s official residence at 10 Downing Street on Friday night, some waving E.U. flags and others carrying placards that read “Defy Tory Rule” and “No to Racism.”

Johnson’s Conservative Party won 44 percent of the vote share. In Britain’s first-past-the-post system, that is enough for a thumping victory. But an autopsy of the results also suggests challenges that lie ahead.

“Boris has won his gamble in England definitely and also in Wales, but the price is that you exacerbate divisions and you create a state crisis. The whole future, the territorial integrity of the state, is clearly in question in Scotland in Northern Ireland,” said Richard Wyn Jones, a politics expert at Cardiff University.

Johnson is fond of calling the four territories of the union the “awesome foursome.” But unionists in Northern Ireland say that Johnson’s “oven ready” Brexit deal will leave Northern Ireland in the E.U.’s economic space, which they say changes the terms of the union for Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, meanwhile, Johnson’s elite, old Etonian schoolboy persona goes down poorly. Sturgeon’s SNP has called him a “recruiting tool” for their cause. Polls in Scotland show that an uptick in support for independence over the past year have come largely from those wanting to remain in the European Union.

Sturgeon on Friday acknowledged that the election results do not mean that all those who voted for the party “necessarily support independence, but there has been a strong endorsement in this election over Scotland having a choice over our future.”



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