Current Affairs Politics

Backstop Deal Under Threat As Theresa May Accuses Europeans Of Jumping The Queue

With the ink barely dry on the draft withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, Sky News in London is reporting that the UK is already searching for ways to sabotage the backstop elements of the proposed deal with Brussels and Dublin.

Theresa May is examining a last-minute plan to scrap the Irish backstop in a bid to win over mutinous Conservative Brexiteers and bring the DUP back onside.

The prime minister told her cabinet that she was exploring “technological” solutions to maintain a soft border in Ireland in place of her backstop plan as she looked to appease her Brexiteers ahead of a critical vote in the Commons on her deal next month.

The revival of “alternative arrangements” to keep the border open came after senior Brexiteers met with the prime minister in Number 10 on Monday to present their own plan.

Of course this wouldn’t be the first time that the wayward Conservative Party government in Britain, allied to its parliamentary supporters in the hard-right Democratic Unionist Party, has retreated from a Brexit deal with its former partners in Europe. So there is little surprise in the rumours being reported in the British news media. The Tory leader is clearly attempting to have her cake and eat it, by making sensible and constructive promises to the EU in public that she then undermines in private by countenancing the fantasy opinions of her europhobic cabinet ministers and party colleagues. Which partially explains this recent example of Theresa May throwing red meat to the rabid dogs of the Brexit movement, as highlighted by The Washington Post:

Prime Minister Theresa May basically called the 3 million Europeans living in Britain a bunch of queue jumpers. This has upset some people, because it is quite an insult here.

Understand that in Britain, jumping the queue is simply not done. Not by the British people, or their long-term guests.

East London, West London, posh or poor, public school or private, city or country — if there is a queue, you bloody well take your place.

You know who cuts in line? In the British mind? Barbarians. Vikings. Foreigners.

While the comments by the UK premier may not have matched the rhetorical excesses of Donald Trump, they certainly matched his dog-whistle intent, giving credibility to the xenophobic beliefs of some British voters that foreign interlopers – Europeans – have an unfair advantage in the country due to the imposition of partisan rules and regulations by the EU.

Meanwhile, if the governments of the Continent were hoping that the political opposition in the United Kingdom would place good relations with the European Union, and peace in Ireland, above their own immediate electoral aspirations or goals, they will be sadly disappointed. From Sky News:

Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon have teamed up in a bid to block the government’s draft Brexit deal – and stop a “no deal” divorce.

The Labour leader and Scottish First Minister joined a delegation including shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer to discuss blocking a “blind” separation from the EU.

They met the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable, and other senior representatives from the Greens and Plaid Cymru.

It comes as a series of key Labour MPs – who represent Leave-backing constituencies that the government was relying on to help pass a Brexit deal – revealed they would be voting against it.

And their joint alternative option to the draft agreement? There is none.

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24 comments on “Backstop Deal Under Threat As Theresa May Accuses Europeans Of Jumping The Queue

  1. As the desire to restrict immigration from the EU was one of the reasons people supported Brexit, it’s hardly surprising that the British government is trying to find ways to restrict it. If there will be restrictions to the movement of goods and services, why not to people? The British government’s proposal is that Europeans already in the UK and Britons in Europe will continue to have rights of residence they now have, but that will not apply to future would-be emigrants and immigrants.

    The opposition parties have a variety of reasons for opposing the EU’s proposals: the SNP wants to keep the whole UK in the EU, as do most Labour MPs. Jeremy Corbyn and his allies want to leave and set to work establishing socialism in one country. They may have no joint alternative option to the draft agreement but they all think that their own wishes are more likely to be fulfilled if they oppose it.

  2. What insular, national-chauvinist nonsense – there are plenty of other countries where the queue is the norm: Germany for instance.

    This is just another example of the demonisation of EU citizens living in Britland that they can expect post-Brexit. No wonder so many have left or are making plans to leave.

    And on the pledge to block hard-Brexit – you’re quite right – there is no plan. Just by blocking everything the DUP and the ERG can get what they want – they just have to wait it out until the end of next March.

    A general election would be blocked by the DUP and the Tories, so the only option is a parliamentary vote for a new referendum, probably combined with an extension of Article 50, which would almost certainly be granted by the EU in the context of a referendum.

    And that may escape blocking by the DUP and ERG if the BLP whipped for it, because sufficient Tories may rebel.

    I’ve always favoured a 3-way referendum between no-deal Brexit, Brexit a la May, or remain with one round of single vote transfer. This would deliver a significant majority for one option, probably remain.

    But the British Labour Party can’t yet bring themselves to that point.

    • Does anyone know what the leadership of UK Labour actually wants in the context of Brexit? Beyond their backsides in Downing Street when the whole things implodes (or explodes)? I’m still lost on their intentions.

      • There are two main schools of thought: one side, represented by Keir Starmer, thinks leaving the EU will have a disastrous effect both on the UK and – to a lesser degree – to the EU. Corbyn, MacDonnell and their allies maintain that the EU prevents the UK taking necessary measures – renationalisation, directed aid for industries, protectionism among others – for their economic plans and that the EU will probably fold up in a bad way anyway eventually.
        Both sides probably agree with Tony Benn: “When I saw how the European Union was developing, it was very obvious that what they had in mind was not democratic. I mean, in Britain you vote for the government and therefore the government has to listen to you, and if you don’t like it you can change it. But in Europe all the key positions are appointed, not elected – the Commission, for example. All appointed, not one of them elected.
        “…my view about the European Union has always been not that I am hostile to foreigners, but that I am in favour of democracy. And I think… we have to find an answer, because I certainly don’t want to live in hostility to the European Union but I think they are building an empire there and they want us to be a part of that empire, and I don’t want that.”
        It’s just that one side doesn’t think democracy is a good thing if it leads to something they don’t like, the other that democracy has got it right this time, so they’re all for it.
        There’s the further question of how they’ll vote in the Commons when – if – it comes to a vote. Both may well oppose the present proposals, but then there will be a split. The Corbynites would welcome no deal and freedom to do what they think right when – as they believe will happen eventually – they form a government. “The worse it is, the better.”
        The others would support another referendum on whether to leave or not. They’ll quote Burke on being representatives, not delegates if their constituencies supported leaving before and as the Corbyn brigade is trying to get rid of the old guard they aren’t much bothered about their future fate. “At least if we drown that bugger Corbyn drowns with us.” you might say, apart from the fact they genuinely think it will be a disaster.

        • Well it’s quite obvious the EU needs some type of reform that’s for sure. However, if Britain either manages to stop Brexit or eventually reapplies for membership, they obviously won’t have much credibility in terms of what the reform will be.

          However, the thing about British Democracy is this….It comes across and confusing, arcane, and not terribly robust. I can look at the governments of almost any nation in Europe (including Russia), Mexico, Central America, South America, India, and more. And one can see pros and cons, of different features in different systems.

          But honestly the elected only governments I’ve seen that are half as confusing as the British one are Israel’s (also that unwritten Constitution), and Lebanon’s. And with Britain trying to read up on and it and study it only seems to make it more confusing not less so.

          The Unwritten Constitution thing is perhaps the most unusual. Then you have The House of Lords. The insanely low Quorum in both Houses of Parliament. The whole “City of London” thing. The unelected officials in The House of Common as well as Lords. The MPs who never show up-sometimes for years on end. The crazy libel laws.

          The fact that local govt is such as piecemeal affair,and that all the “nations” except England have some sort of local Assembly or Parliament. To me England on its own just seems to large not to be Federalized.

          I’m not saying this to be some Brit-basher. If anything I feel a little bit sorry for liberal-progressive people there (especially the English). I understand very well that Democracy in the UK was even more limited when most of The Empire’s worst atrocities happened.

          But to me, it looks as if Britain needs massive governmental reform. Possibly a second round would be needed for England itself regardless of the outcome with NI, Scotland and Wales. Their government is just so old, so arcane, so piecemeal in any reform they’ve had in at least 300 years, and so much the product of a time when the ruling class ruled.

          • I’ve wondered about that issue of democracy Wee Jim, but my read is that given the EU is made of nation states almost all of which would have conniptions if there was any effort to really shift to an EU government (and in my view rightly so) there’s no real way other than something like the Commission to blur between the national and the EU. Actual democratic legitimation would either see larger states with larger populations dominate, or alternatively wind up with a US Senate like situation where small states have the same weight as large states. So while Benn is right in one way he is somewhat evading the central problem of how to protect the interests of smaller lower populated states with individual cultures and societies and also have democratic legitimacy. I’ve no real read on how one can bridge that gap easily – it seems to me there’ll always be a tension between the EU (or any successor org) parliament and national states unless we go for a federal arrangement. Personally, and I know opinions differ on this, I would not be in favour of the latter, I’ve reached the point where I think this much and no further for a generation or two might be no harm (and for those like myself on the left would allow for some regroupment of forces and effort to engage at an EU level to push for some genuine reforms which for me would include more powers, but not full powers to the parliament, etc, etc).

            • Truth be told WBS, I don’t think having “a US Senate like situation” is necessarily such a bad thing. I’m certainly not going to sit here and prescribe that as the correct solution for the EU. But IME, having at least one element of government where large and small units or states get equal weight (such as the US Senate) and balancing it out with other elements that operate on a more majoritarian principle, is a sound concept.

              I say this as exactly the kind of “Yank” you might expect to be the most critical an anti- majoritarian feature like the Senate, as I’m involved in a movement to make sure our President gets elected by a majority and perhaps down the road IRV like in Ireland. But when it comes to the structure of Congress, I’m actually a defender of the current set-up with regards to Senate and House. (My reasons for that are a bit complicated.)

              And it’s certainly true that small European nations have much better reasons to WANT such extra protection from “the big boys” than smaller US States do. Nor do I see Ireland or Greece abusing the concept of “states’ rights” as has happened in the US-like causing a Civil War over human bondage!!!! Or creating internal legislation even 1/10 as bad as Jim Crowe.

              I’d expect even with increased Democratic legitimacy, that the question of when Democratically elected national governments get to make their own choices, and when the EU has the right to come in and dictate things…..is going to be something you can expect to grapple with for quite some time. In some respects, this question reminds of the state vs. federal question in India.

              But anyhooo that’s just my take as somebody who has indeed watched “US Senate like situation” namely the actual US Senate since my early teens!!! Take it for what it’s worth!!

  3. 2 hours ago – Angela Merkel has threatened to pull the plug on the Brexit summit unless negotiations are finalised within 24 to 48 hours Guardian, Merkel is correct to put a stop to this show boating by the UK, it will turn out better to have them gone from the EU decision making.

    • I agree. London is trying to roll back on the deal, at least in private talks with its Brexiteer elements. I get the impression that no one in the UK knows what to do about this mess. Despite all the talk of a Commons’ defeat, I wonder if the draft agreement will actually squeak through Westminster? What’s the alternative?

  4. Some language she’s using, but I wonder does she figure it’s a no-brainer because all she has to do is get the deal across the line and this as you say ASF throws some meat to her Brexiteer flank? I don’t admire her tendency to reach for the extremes rhetorically and otherwise (those stupid cosmetic billboard/loudhailer anti-illegal immigrant vans she had scurrying around Britain)…

    • Getting the deal across the line seems to be the bottom line. Which is realpolitik, I suppose.

      It’s remarkable that May is still in power. Where is the certain and fatal coup? She’s outdoing Thatcher, which is astonishing. Or is it that most politicos in and around Westminster know that no realistic deal is possible and they are terrified of being seen with their fingerprints on the eventual Brexit disaster, compromise or not?

      • Definitely, what else can she do but that. I wonder could she still be there in a year or two? My reason for saying that is precisely due to what you say, no one wants their fingerprints on this deal, success or fail as it may be (I know that in the broader sense it is a failure given it is lesser than what was there but in a narrow sense if it just about works then it is a sort of limited failure/limited success).

  5. Pat murphy

    Poor Teresa fcuked if she does and fcuked if she doesn’t. Brings to mind that old saying ‘stop digging’. The only good thing is it’s not 1914 again. The brits may be bitting at their own hands but at the end of the day they haven’t the balls to stand up to Europe. The empire is no more. They are now beginning to pay for hundreds of years of walking over everybody. Johnny Foreigner doesn’t give a shit about them. Unfortunately the free state has allowed a European plantation in Eire, causing hundreds of thousands of our youth to leave and call it a ‘lifestyle choice’. Exploiting immigrants for their own enrichment. Being a full bred bastard seems to be the main qualifying criteria to becoming a politician on both sides of the Irish Sea.

    • Don’t waste too many tears for poor Theresa. She spent her time at the British Home Office persecuting Johnny Foreigner in the shape of black British people and immigrants.

      Which set the context for Brexit. So she deserves her current circle of hell.

    • Honestly, if they had simply tried to play by the EU rules, or tried to reform the EU from within, they wouldn’t have likely been made to “pay” for anything. If anything without this Brexit stunt Britain would have been in the catbird seats for pushing EU reform. Now they will lose all credibility even if they stop the Brexit or eventually reapply.

      Because realistically a lot of nations in the EU aren’t in the best position to throw stones. The French Empire was in some ways more brutal if less extensive. Belgium had that horrible thing with The Congo. And Germany? The most powerful nation in the EU? I think that speaks for itself. Germans would be terrified at STARTING any game that involves bring up EU states historical laundry. The Spanish Empire also wasn’t all peace, love, and brotherhood either.

      • Pat murphy

        I agree with what you say but given the chance I will shoot the dog who bites me or mine.

      • Oh, they did try to “reform” from within, they wanted to be rid of all social legislation like EU employment laws, they refused to help in any bailouts of EU members and lots more, I know the damage the English did this country in their 850-year occupation of Ireland, the EU is an attempt to rid Europe if its violent past and, by the way, the UK has the record of any European country of being involved in more wars since 1945 .

        • The way it looks to me is that England is a country where the average citizen only rarely gets much of a say. I hear that many who voted for Brexit didn’t think it would pass but wanted to “make a statement”.

          To me that’s symptomatic almost of a people who while they do on rare occasions get to vote on “big ticket” questions like this Brexit, mostly occupy a society where Democracy is weak, weak, weak. Their governmental system strikes me as dysfunctional in the extreme.

          A lot of the UK government trying to get out of labor laws, would not be the same thing as trying to correct the relative Democratic deficit in the EU, for example.

          Of course, that does NOT excuse some of the behavior of many Brexiteers.

          But I wonder how much of this Brexit stuff is symptomatic of an extremely dysfunctional British government as much as anything related to the EU itself…..That when the British people get a real choice as voters, they make such an irresponsible decision because they:

          a) So rarely get the opportunity.
          b) Because of low Democracy they aren’t used to the idea that how they vote can have real consequences.

          • The first past the post system encourages democratic deficit. Indeed, it institutionalises it. PR, while messier, is also inherently fairer, and tends to weigh politics towards the consensual middle.

            • Actually ASF, to my thinking “first past the post”, is the least of either Britain or the US’s problems with Democracy and voting. And to my mind, Britain is 15x worse. This is part of where the Trump/Brexit analogy falls down. (Honestly, I think Trump has more in common with some strong men leaders in S. Am. countries with a strong tradition of “caudillismo” than the Brexit mess.) Americans have a real instinct that says a bad POTUS choice has consequences. Most Trump voters absolutely do. But either they are “GOP or bust” voters, uninformed, extremists, or made that choice in a spirit of willful and knowing destructiveness. (It almost has to be seen to be believed.) With every Brexiteer I’ve met and indeed a lot of English people I’ve talked politics too over the years, I often get the sense that the “sense of consequences” just isn’t there at all. I’ve known them to conflate even the very idea that political choices matter much with, “Americans take themselves too seriously”. (Of course, 90% of the time they don’t realize it when I’m joking or being facetious, and I’ve watched them do the same with other Americans. And they always say we are too literal and don’t get irony.)

              With Britain I’m thinking about a much wider variety of things. The uncodified (they say it’s not quite ‘unwritten’) Constitution is the single biggest item. The whole set-up with the House of Lords is another biggie. And the “City of London”. To me even something like Parliament’s insanely low-almost token- Quorum makes Britain an extremely weak Democracy. Basically both Houses of Parliament can vote on almost any issue with less than 1/10 of the members even showing up.

              Of course, a lot of countries have either an appointed upper house (Ireland) or one chosen by state or provincial govt (Russia, India, even the US Senators were chosen by state govt until the 17th Amendment in 1912.). But I can’t think of a country with a set-up even 1/10th as strange as The House of Lords-except maybe Lebanese Parliament.

              Also you have other things like the crazy libel laws. The fact that local govt and education is just catywampus. It’s really strange that while England all by itself is really too large not to be Federalized, it’s still the only part of the UK with no Assembly like Scotland, NI, or Wales.

              What I’m up to now involves getting my state into NPVIC (a plan for ensuring that POTUS is elected by national popular vote without a Constitutional Amendment). We could make it so Senators and the POTUS are elected by IRV like the Irish President but that would require an Amendment. Another plausible “corrective” could be a “soft” form of compulsory voting, where penalties are small and where you aren’t required to vote per se, but merely report to a polling place.

              I have mixed feelings about PR, actually. And in my mind, Britain’s political system suffer from much, much more profound problems that what we are facing in the US.

              • Sure, but FPTP is a major part of the problem. It encourages – or incentivises – a two-party system, suppressing or negating minority party votes.

                On the UK House of Lords, I always think it extraordinary that only the UK and Iran gives senior religious clerics automatic seats in the legislature. In the British case, members of the state-religion, the Church if England.

                That is a peculiar situation, along with the UK head of state being the head of the de facto UK state-church.

            • I understand the theoretical argument for PR. But I’m not sure, that it would work out quite so well in reality as in theory. For one thing it assumes an absolute “party not the man” paradigm-one that I feel overlooks considerations in a candidate such as competence, ability to think through complex issues (the kind that often refuse to conform to party ideology!!), and being prepared to lead in an emergency-some members of Congress end up in line of Presidential succession, often state legislators can end up line of succession if anything happens to both the Gov and Lt. Gov. Not to mention that even in a multi-party system parties are often not 100% ideologically homogeneous.

              Honestly, you are among the first people I’ve met to agree with me that The House of Lords is a hinky institution. How the Irish Seanad Eireann has a mix of appointed officials, those elected by committee and those elected by graduates of one of two major unis? (Epistocracy anyone?). It’s a bit of a strange set-up. But NO national upper house I know of, is remotely as crazy as The House of Lords. That odd mix of hereditary peers, clerics, and various appointees-it makes no dog-gone sense. Like I said the US Senate worked much like the Russian Federal Assembly and the Indian Rajya Sabha up until 1912.

              But with regards to other aspects of govt the English truly puzzle me. (Scottish people not so much.) I don’t know whether or not to take a perspective like this at face value:

              https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/brexit-is-a-collective-english-mental-breakdown-1.3356258

              I was brought up with a narrative that said WWII changed the psyche of The British and especially English people to a radical degree. Indeed nearly every American progressive who is neither an Anglophile nor a Brit-basher, bought into it to one degree or another.

              Now I have no idea what to think.

              As for the NPVIC (National Popular Vote Interstate Compact) cause, I’m actually less concerned about the current set-up favoring small states than I am about the tendency to foster extremely low voter turnout outside of “purple” or “swing” states. This is a dysfunction that has gotten slowly but steadily worse in the Post-Bellum era. Now it’s come to a head and has to be dealt with.

              https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/

              Since NPVIC is based on a state’s right to form interstate compact AND to decide how its distributes its own electoral votes-It’s not a Constitutional Amendment. I actually like the fact we can try it out for a time and then talk about if/how to amend the Constitution. Earlier in US history different states had different set-up for distributing Electoral votes. Some had the State Senate decide. Some did majority votes. Some did district voting. Some had a hybrid of district voting deciding some electoral votes, while the state senate decided others. As far as US Constitution is concerned a state Governor could decide to give the decision to his drinking buddies, or a state could pass a law saying “We always give our electoral votes to the GOP/Democrats/Green Party”.

              I am personally hoping that the NPVIC proves to be as much as “Conversation Starter” and a way to improve voter turnout as an actual measure to see the POTUS elected by majority vote. (And yes, we’ve had numerous Constitutional scholars, and legal experts on Interstate Compacts, and other experts from different party backgrounds go over the NPVIC, and nobody’s managed to poke a hole in it, yet.)

  6. Labour would be wise to tread carefully as it is claimed a sizeable majority of their voters came from regions that voted leave. That being said the news that the UKIP has enrolled mi5 operative ‘Tommy Robinson’ into its ranks will no doubt take the heat and pressure off them and the Tories. It takes time for the establishment to get all its pieces into place!

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