Brexit or the Wall

I do not know what is a worse mess, the UK’s future tied up in Brexit, or the US Govt. brought to a stand-still by the budget dispute over The Wall!  I have a modest proposal. To let cool heads prevail in both cases, let the Governments switch, just for the solution to these two seemingly insoluble problems.  Let Pres. Trump and the US Govt. take over the Brexit negotiations, and let PM May and her Govt. take over the negotiations for the Wall.

While the Brexit negotiations primarily concern the UK Govt. and the EU, this is far from being the main problem.  The main problem is convincing the House of Commons (HC) to accept May’s Plan to resolve the problem and to satisfy the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that their border will be a “soft” border, according to the so-called “back-stop” agreement.

With the US border with Mexico, the problem is not Mexico, the problem is getting the Democrats to agree to compromise with Trump and pay towards the Wall (or fence) in order to allow the US Govt. to avoid another shut-down.  Maybe with fresh eyes, people on both sides could see a better way ahead.  Perhaps the Democrats would find it easier to compromise with May than with Trump, and perhaps the MP’s would find it easier to compromise with Trump rather than with May.

What would happen if this idea was instituted, it could be a model for future intractable problems, let another Government and system come in and resolve the problem their way.  But, actually I don’t see it happening, it’s like when couples throw their keys into a bowl, but they always take out their own keys.  The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.  So let Trump not worry about taking a hammering in the Commons, and let May not worry about begging Pelosi to give her a few dollars.  They have big enough problems of their own. Still it would be a nice experiment.

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Plan B = Plan A

The twisting complex plot of Brexit gets ever more confusing.  You may remember that  last week PM Theresa May presented her Plan for Brexit, the British exit from the EU.  At that time she basically stated that this was the only possible Plan, negotiated over the past few years in detail with the EU.  But, the House of Commons (HC) didn’t like her “take-it-or-leave it” approach, so they voted it down by a huge margin.  There were a variety of opponents, including those against Brexit, those in favor of a “hard” Brexit with no further connections with the EU, and even those who want a “no-deal” Brexit with no deal with the EU, those who want to extend the period of negotiations, those who want a second referendum, etc.

Given this rare defeat for the Government, the leader of the Labour opposition Jeremy Corbyn introduced a vote of non-confidence in the Govt.  But, this failed because the majority of MP’s didn’t want to change horses in mid-stream.  They want May to continue the process, but with their input (or control).  As such they mandated that May return in 3 days (!) with a Plan B, showing her flexibility and responsiveness to their (often contradictory) concerns.

Not surprisingly when May returned 3 days later and presented her Plan B, it was very much like Plan A (how could it not be).  She changed two things, she dumped the plan to charge EU citizens living in the UK a fee for applying for residence, and she said she would modify the so-called “back-stop” agreement between the UK, that includes Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the EU (of which Ireland is a member).  This agreement is necessary so that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland does not become a “hard” border again.  Precisely how this back-stop agreement will be changed is unclear, but depends on re-negotiation with the EU.

Since the PM put her Plan B up for discussion, this allowed MP’s to add amendments, and here the opponents crawled out of the woodwork.  The Speaker of the House used his authority to dismiss most the more outlandish amendments, however, about 8 were allowed.  Only one of them that was passed has significance.  Although it is not binding on the PM, it requires that there be NO “non-deal” Brexit.  In other words, the UK must sign an exit agreement with the EU.  Finally, after all the amendments, the Plan B was voted on and it passed by a resounding acclaim.

So largely the difference between Plan A and Plan B was that Theresa May took a much softer approach to the opinions being expressed by the MP’s.  She listened to them, she agreed to continue to consult with them, she appeared more flexible and less dogmatic, and this worked.  But, word from out of Brussels was that the EU is not interested.  Their attitude, as was May’s Plan A, is that the long negotiations have concluded, that an agreement has been arrived at (650 pages) and that there is no turning back and no renegotiation possible, and that the back-stop agreement on the Irish border is part of that agreement, period.  Now May faces the unenviable task of returning to Brussels to plead with them to agree to re-open these issues when as far as they are concerned, all negotiations are over.  Can she persuade them to at least show the appearance of flexibility, as she did so expertly in the HC

 

Brexit Chaos

, The resounding defeat by 230 votes of PM May in the Brexit vote last Tues in the HP, raises many questions about how the UK is governed.  It effectively renounces her agreement since it requires ratification by both the UK and EU Parliaments.  The vote of no-confidence that followed the next day which was won by May by a much smaller margin of 19 votes, with the support of the UDP, shows how tenuous the situation is.  But, a loss of the no-confidence motion introduced by Labor Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, could have resulted in the fall of the May Government and the calling of a general election, so thank goodness that fate was averted, at least for now.

May is required by a vote in the House to bring an alternative plan to the one that she said that there was no alternative to, and which the EU had said the same.  The MP’s would not accept a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, and having rejected that one plan they now not only will expect to get at least one alternative to May’s plan, but they will now be able to propose their own amendments to her suggestion, that could lead to chaos.  Not only will Brexiteers, those wanting to leave the EU, have the chance to propose alternatives, but even anti-Brexiteers, those not wanting to leave, and everyone in between, can make their own amendments.  How not to govern a country!

However,there are serious challenges to the current process.  First, some argue that the referendum that supported Brexit by a majority cannot be amended by Parliament, so that all these demands and votes are not constitutional.  Second, the demand for a second referendum is a case of second guessing, I don’t like what came out of the decision we made, so now I want to change it, but it can’t be done.  In other words a second referendum, which Labor supports, is also unconstitutional.  Third, it may be immoral, if not illegal, for those who voted against Brexit previously to now change their vote in order to influence what Brexit deal is arrived at.  Also, any change to the current plan negotiated between May’s Government and the EU, requires that the EU approve any changes to that agreement, which they have said they will not do. Finally, it is unconstitutional in the UK (which has no constitution) for Parliament to set policy, that is the responsibility of the Government.

So May is left hanging by a thread, faced by the hard Brexiteers in her own Conservative Party who do not want any arrangement with the EU after Brexit, those who never wanted to leave in the first places (such as in N. Ireland and Scotland), Labour who unenthusiastically support Brexit, but whose interest really is only to get a General Election in order to oust May, and so on.  A truly chaotic situation.

Parallel Crises in the US and UK

It is strange that both the US and UK are entangled in serious crises relating to their relationship to their neighboring countries.  In the case of the USA it is in relation Mexico and the many thousands of illegal immigrants continually streaming over the southern border, in other words “the Wall.”  In the case of the UK it is the relationship to the European countries that make up the EU, in other words Brexit.

In the US, the failure of the Democrats to support the strengthening of the southern US border with a “wall” or fence has led to a crisis in which the US Govt. is shut down.  Even though opinion in the US is mixed, and even though many have ridiculed Trump’s statements, nevertheless there is a real case to be made for the need for such a “hard” border.  Of course, the leading Democrats, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, blame Trump for the Govt. shut-down and the failure of the Govt. to pay some 800,000 workers.

In the UK, Theresa May’s Govt. has been defeated in Parliament over her policy of negotiating a deal with the EU and presenting it as a fait accompli.  As she states, “it’s either my deal or no deal.”  Many of her own Conservative Party have shown their opposition to this approach by voting against her and in the latest fracas, a majority of 11 voted for an amendment to her Plan, that if it is voted down next Tues in Parliament, she will have to come up with a Plan B in 3 days!  This is really an embarrassment and a defeat for May, and puts her in a very difficult position.  This all started with the need for a “soft” border between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) which voted to stay in the  EU and the Republic of Ireland (Eire) which is in the EU.  This resulted in the the Ulster Democratic Party  (UDP), withdrawing their support for May’s coalition Government and her “backstop” border solution.

So you could say that in both cases the crises are over a choice between a hard or a soft border.  In both cases, May and Trump have basically put their political lives on the line in a take it or leave it stand, either for a hard border with Mexico, or my Brexit or none.  It will be very significant to see how they each fare in the two showdowns.  Afterwards they should meet for a drink to compare notes.

Brexit Deadlock

Imagine, there was a time before we had even heard of Brexit. Now it is moving towards a confusing deadlock. UK PM Theresa May seems to have done the best she can to achieve an actual British exit from the EU, while retaining some trade advantages for the UK as well as finessing the issue of the Irish border.  She managed to defeat a vote of No Confidence in the Commons last week.

The problem is that the Brits are totally divided between about five different approaches, most of which differ from May’s pending solution.  The options are: 1. Hard Brexit: There are some mainly in the right of the Conservative Party who want a total and complete exit from the EU, without any remaining connections, consequently they oppose May’s compromises with the EU; 2. No Brexit: There are those on the other extreme who cling to the original majority of those in several areas of the UK, namely Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and London, who opposed Brexit in the original referendum; 3. Another Referendum: Those who say that things have changed so much since the first referendum, and that now there is a definite agreement between the UK Govt. and the EU, that the people should be able to vote again in a second referendum; 4: New election; Those mainly in the Labor Party who maintain that May has not been able to come up with an acceptable solution to Brexit and they want a complete new election in the hope that they will be elected, note that Labor has generally opposed Brexit; 5. May’s Agreement; those who support May insist that this is the best deal they could get from the EU, allowing UK independent sovereignty while retaining some beneficial ties to the EU.

The final deal has to be voted on by the UK Parliament, and it seems none of the above options has a majority,  May’s position is that this is the only deal on the table and has been arrived at thru extensive and difficult negotiations, and she hopes and expects in the final analysis that those who are in the other four groups, when push comes to shove, will vote for her deal rather than face the prospect of a No-Deal Brexit (NDB).  Most people agree that such a NDB would be disastrous for the UK and the EU.  The Vote will be in 2 weeks and the actual final Brexit date is in less than three months. We shall see.

 

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit…

You can easily tell when you’re on a British TV station, they are always talking about Brexit, the exit of the UK from the European Union.  It’s without doubt the most discussed, examined and debated issue in Britain, to the point of being obsessive.

Almost two years ago the British people voted in a referendum to leave the EU, i.e. to carry out Brexit.  But, since then there have been interminable negotiations with the EU, internal splits within British parties, UK elections, parliamentary maneuvers, resignations galore, and finally as the deadline for the actual Brexit looms, successful agreements.  And at the same time, as those who oppose Brexit and those who think the UK-EU agreement reached will not be a clean break or a “hard Brexit”, there have been calls for going back to the beginning and having another referendum.  Oh, no, how boring!

Since Theresa May became PM when anti-Brexit Conservative leader David Cameron resigned, she has struggled manfully with this issue.  She even called an election to gain support, but unfortunately for her she lost support.  However, she was saved by the small Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that formed a coalition with her Conservatives.  But, then there is a sting in the tail, as soon as May revealed the outlines of the Brexit terms at a meeting at her official residence Chequers, she has been dogged by an even greater split within her own party.

And when the official papers for the Brexit terms (585 pages) and the expected relationship between the UK and EU after Brexit (26 pages) were published this week, a veritable explosion occurred.  Three Ministers resigned, the former Brexit Minister himself opposes the agreement, and the DUP decided not to support the terms of Brexit.  Part of the reason for this is that the Irish Republic (Eire) is in the EU, and Northern Ireland (and Scotland) voted against Brexit, while the rest of the UK voted for it.  Then the issue of the Eire-NI/UK border became crucial, since no-one wants it to be a “hard” border, but if Eire is in the EU and NI is out, how can this be managed.  Also, the issue of Gibraltar came up between Spain and the UK, but this has been finessed by agreeing to discuss any future changes with Spain.

Today Boris Johnson, former FM of the UK, who resigned because he wants a “hard” Brexit, spoke to the DUP at their conference in NI, and they gave him a strong welcome.  But, Theresa May stated last week that the current agreement is the only one available and is the best that Britain can get.  But, it must now be voted on and approved by both the British and the EU Parliaments.  If it fails in either, then there will be NO Brexit agreement and Britain must leave the EU without an agreement.  This would cause massive chaos.  The hope is that the majority, even those who oppose some aspects of this agreement, when push comes to shove, will vote for it rather than risk a no-agreement Brexit.

Corbyn’s Bias

A great deal has been made of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-semitism.  I am not so concerned about that.  After all he represents a party that supposedly caters to the working class in the UK, and from my experience growing up there, the working class in the UK is endemically anti-semitic. Not that the upper classes are not, but they at least are more polite and subtle about it.

Also, Labor increasingly comes to represent the immigrant groups from Africa and Asia, but mainly Muslims from Pakistan.  There are now Pakistani Muslim Brits at all levels of the Labour Party, and some of them have been openly anti-semitic and anti-Israel.  So it is not surprising that the rank and file of the Labour Party would choose someone like themselves to represent them as their leader.

No, what is really worrying and indeed unacceptable in a British leader is that Corbyn has allowed his animus towards Jews to influence his political ideology so much that he has repeatedly called Haimas and Hezbollah his “friends”.  Let’s remember that these are terrorist organizations, involved in murdering innocent civilians in many countries.  Further, they are recognized as terrorist organizations by the UN, the US and importantly by Britain.  As a friend of these terrorist organizations, as well as the BDS boycott movement against Israel, Corbyn should be on an MI5 watch-list.  He has shared stages on numerous occasions with known terrorists, who not only call for the destruction of Israel and the victory of Islamism, but have also themselves participated in the planning and carrying out of terrorist attacks.

They may not be al Qaeda or IS, but I challenge anyone to show me the basic difference between their ideologies.  The increasing tempo of lone wolf attacks in Western Europe, including in France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Sweden and Britain, are carried out by a sick ideology that believes that killing infidels in their homelands will bring about the religious war that will result in the victory of Islam in all of Europe and then the world.  The sick thing about this is that the leader of the British Labour Party is on their side!