Beyond Brexit

  • May's Humiliation Could Make Brexit Easier

    The Conservative government’s surprise loss of its parliamentary majority in the United Kingdom’s June 8 general election will greatly complicate the task of withdrawing the country from the European Union (EU), on which negotiations are due to start June 19. But it might conceivably lead to a better outcome in the end.

    Prime Minister Theresa May specifically called the “snap” election on April 18 in order to increase the Conservatives’ seventeen-seat majority in the House of Commons. This, she argued, would give her a stronger mandate for the so-called “hard” Brexit she was demanding from the EU—involving complete departure from the EU Single Market and Customs Union and a clampdown on immigration.

    Far from achieving such a mandate, she has received a stinging and humiliating rebuke. The Conservatives now have only 318 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons, down from 330. While she will try to carry on governing with the support of ten Democratic Unionist...

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  • Theresa May’s Failed Election Gamble

    British Prime Minister Theresa May made a gamble when she decided to call early elections with the hope of shoring up political support ahead of difficult Brexit negotiations. That gamble did not pay off.

    May’s Conservative Party, while still the largest in Parliament following the June 8 election, failed to secure the 326 seats necessary to hold an absolute majority in the House of Commons. The Conservatives now have 318 seats, down from the 330 seats they had before the election. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party increased its number of seats from 229 to 261. As a result, the United Kingdom now has a hung Parliament.

    This outcome raises many questions, including about the negotiations on the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (EU), set to start on June 19, and May’s own political future.

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  • May's Lead Slips in the Polls Days Before UK Election

    With polls showing a narrowing margin between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the British general election to be held on June 8 is starting to look quite interesting. The idea that May would secure a landslide victory—one so prominent when she unexpectedly called the election five weeks ago—now seems to lie in the dim and distant past.

    No one, bar a few Labour politicians who naturally have to make the case, is yet saying that Labour will actually win the election. However, there is the glimmer of a possibility that the election could result in a hung Parliament, with no party having an overall majority and with the United Kingdom (UK) facing the prospect of either a minority or a coalition government.

    That would be a slap in the face for May and her mantra of a “strong and stable” government necessary for the upcoming negotiations on the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), due to start just ten days after the...

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  • Macron is Good and Bad News for Brexit Backers

    For anxious Britons seeking a good deal in their forthcoming Brexit negotiations with the European Union, the strong probability that Emmanuel Macron will be the next president of France is both good and bad news.

    The good news is that a Macron victory is the outcome most likely to ensure the EU remains a relatively stable and undistracted negotiating partner and a strong future ally for a post-Brexit United Kingdom (UK). In notifying Brussels of the UK's intention to leave, British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote on March 29 that her government “wants the EU to succeed and prosper.”

    Anyone who feels that way can only hope that Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front party loses the second round of voting in the presidential election on May 7. A victory for Le Pen against all the odds would throw the EU into chaos,...

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  • May Hopes Snap UK Poll Will Ease Brexit

    The snap UK general election called by British Prime Minister Theresa May for June 8 is likely to strengthen her political authority and ease the tortuous negotiation of Britain's departure from the EU - provided of course she wins. All the signs are that she will.  

    The political climate is unlikely to be as favorable to May as it is now for a long time. With Brexit negotiations due to start later in June, May has a valid claim that she needs a personal and political mandate from the country to conduct the talks in the way she chooses. Equally important, much of the country has not yet woken up to the pain of Brexit that the negotiations will progressively reveal. 

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  • The Brexit Election

    British Prime Minister Theresa May’s surprise decision to call for a snap general election is a powerful admission by her government that Brexit will not be an easy process.  The next United Kingdom (UK) general election had been scheduled for May 2020, a date that would force May to campaign just as all the disadvantages of Brexit become clear. On April 18, May called for the election to be moved up to June 8, 2017. With five years allowed between elections, and assuming she wins the contest in June , the prime minister will have an additional two years—until spring 2022—to get through a difficult post-Brexit “transitional” phase before facing the voters again.

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  • Brexit Bargain Should Not Include Defense

    One might have hoped that the United Kingdom’s security relationship with Europe could be kept out of the Brexit negotiations, which will be difficult enough without an added layer of political complexity. Alas, just a week after the UK fired the starting gun on its departure from the European Union, it is already clear that this won’t be the case. The security relationship has already been politicized by Brexit, and it is largely London’s fault.

    In British Prime Minister Theresa May’s letter formally activating the EU exit process on March 29, she suggested that if an agreement couldn’t be reached between the UK and the EU-27, “cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.” This did not go over well in Europe. The Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt,
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  • The EU Now Controls the Brexit Talks

    With the United Kingdom formally starting the process of leaving the European Union on March 29, the Atlantic Council is launching a series of blog posts that will track the course of the Brexit negotiations and the many challenges they pose for the future of US-UK relations. 

    By formally notifying the European Union that it plans to leave, London has effectively handed over control of its exit negotiations to those on the other side of the table—the EU institutions and the remaining twenty-seven member states. In diplomatic terms, the United Kingdom has become the demandeur, the one asking for favors.

    Since the referendum last June that endorsed the country’s departure from the EU, the UK has been engaged in an often-angry debate over how far it should actually disentangle itself from EU regulations and the key components of the Union, notably its single market and its customs union. 

    Many Britons have seemed to think...

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  • A ‘Strange Allegation’ About UK Spying

    Trump administration must defuse crisis with its ally, says Sir Peter Westmacott, a former UK ambassador to the United States

    US President Donald J. Trump’s support for an unsubstantiated claim that his predecessor, Barack Obama, asked Britain’s spy agency to eavesdrop on him is a “strange allegation” that “calls into question very important elements of our intelligence relationship,” said Sir Peter Westmacott, a former British ambassador to the United States and a distinguished ambassadorial fellow at the Atlantic Council.

    “This sort of thing does not go on between such very close allies,” Westmacott said, adding, “the intelligence relationship between the US and UK is uniquely close and very precious. It would, in any case, be against US law for any American official to ask us to act in such a way.” Westmacott served as the UK’s ambassador to the United States from January 2012 to January 2016.

    White House spokesman Sean Spicer first...

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  • Westmacott in Time: Brexit Britain and Trump’s America Can Have a Special Relationship


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