Posted on January 9, 2017
Moving the Debate
As 2017 starts, the Prime Minister is trying to move the political debate wider than Brexit – as other than Brexit, she has plenty to do. She has long been a believer in trying for the Government to intervene with the inequalities in UK society, which led in part to the Brexit vote. The National Health Service (NHS) is in winter crisis mode, described by the UK Red Cross (normally an organization slow to comment) as a NHS ‘humanitarian crisis’. The UK Red Cross have said that they have been brought in to help the NHS with a crisis that, among other impacts, has seen some hospital Accident and Emergency services close their doors to patients.
In addition, the transport Unions have crippled the train network this week. Southern Rail remains pretty much closed down, and Monday this week saw no subway service in London. So Prime Minister Theresa May, who after all has a country to run, has her work cut out moving the debate beyond Brexit.
On Brexit, Prime Minister May has again given clear indications that the UK is heading for a ‘hard Brexit’. Speaking during a televised interview, she said: ‘Often people talk in terms as if somehow we are leaving the EU but we still want to kind of keep bits of membership of the EU. We are leaving. We are coming out. We are not going to be a member of the EU any longer.’ This hard stand may well be a negotiating tactic to show the European Union (EU) that the UK is serious in its resolve to suffer an economic cost in order to control its borders, and that the Government will do what’s necessary to keep on side with the voting public. Sterling fell a couple of cents against the dollar on Monday morning, following her comments.
The Complications from Leaving the EU
UK Government Ministers are now more aware of how complicated leaving the EU will be. Covering everything in two years does now seem, at least in some Ministers’ minds, a tough ask. The former Ambassador to the EU, Ivan Rogers, told Ministers back in October of last year that it would likely take 10 years. Rogers has now resigned this post and his replacement Tim Barrow is a career diplomat. Barrow is seen as a tough negotiator, well-respected by the Commission, and someone who knows the EU and how it works. If Sir Tim Barrow concurs with the 10-year Brexit assessment, a number of questions would be raised on what the EU itself will look like by that time. Will the Euro survive and will the sacrosanct free movement of people still exist? All these questions are for the future.
One thing that hasn’t changed for Theresa May is her ‘stakeholders list’ that she needs to keep watching closely. Scotland tops this list, particularly the increasingly impressive Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who continues to needle the PM. Accusing May of ‘muddled thinking’ on Brexit, an accusation held more widely than the prime minister would like, Sturgeon’s call for a second Scottish independence referendum, if the UK leaves the Single Market and Customs Union, does not help May. This is all part of the Scottish National Party’s agenda to place the threat of independence centre stage.
One thing to watch for this January will be the UK Supreme Court’s ruling on whether the Government will be able to bypass Parliament before triggering Article 50. If the Government loses their appeal, they will likely have to enact an Act of Parliament to allow them to stick to their March timetable for triggering Article 50. It would be expected that MPs would be forced to vote in favour in order to confirm the ‘wishes of the people’.
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