John Roberts

  • Decision Time for Brexit, But Not Quite as Planned

    Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU) will not take place on March 29, as British Prime Minister Theresa May has promised on countless occasions in the past two years. But a week which has seen the EU wrench the Brexit timetable from May’s hands will still be followed by one which could well set the course for Britain’s relations with Europe for generations to come.

    It is not just the decisions taken by the European Council, comprising the EU’s heads of government, that has so transformed the atmosphere. On March 20, May appealed over Parliament’s head to the British people. But the result was that she entirely lost her authority in Parliament itself, ensuring that it will be the House of Commons, and not her own government, that now has effective control of the Brexit agenda.

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  • Nazarbayev’s Gift to Kazakhstan: An Orderly Transition?

    President steps down after almost thirty years in office

    By resigning from the presidency after almost thirty years, Nursultan Nazarbayev may have given his greatest gift to Kazakhstan: a peaceful transition to a new generation following nearly three decades of stability—a stability that was likely solidified by Nazarbayev’s willingness to commit human rights abuses and corruption.

    Nothing should be taken for granted. In general, transitions in the former Soviet Union have proved difficult, sometimes involving revolutions, internal coups, and last-minute changes in the succession before the new leader takes control.

    But although Nazarbayev effectively became president-for-life in 2007 when he secured a right to contest presidential elections indefinitely, he has in fact been planning carefully for at least twelve years to ensure a smooth transition in the event of his retirement or death in office.

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  • House Speaker Delivers a Fresh Blow to Theresa May’s Brexit Plans

    John Bercow rules prime minister cannot put the same Withdrawal Agreement to a third vote

    The British government’s hopes that it might somehow be able to navigate a way through the Brexit maze were dashed on March 18 when the speaker of the House of Commons ruled that British Prime Minister Theresa May could not put her Withdrawal Agreement to a third vote unless there were substantial changes.

    And, quite astonishingly in a country that prides itself on keeping the monarchy out of politics, one of the few ways in which the government could overcome this block to its plans would involve a highly symbolic presentation by Queen Elizabeth II. 

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  • Theresa May’s Brexit Deal May Still Win Over a Highly Fractured Parliament

    MPs vote to seek to delay departure from the European Union

    British Prime Minister Theresa May finally secured a key parliamentary victory on March 14 that strengthened the prospect she will eventually be able to get parliamentary approval for her deal to take Britain out of the European Union.

    But the price she has had to pay is that Britain will seek a three-month extension to its planned exit date on March 29. And in that time, not least as a result of an impassioned intervention by Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn, pressure to hold a new referendum on whether Britain should end its forty-six-year membership of the world’s biggest trading block is expected to grow.

    Moreover, while the government will now formally seek an extension to Article 50, the mechanism that sets the withdrawal date, it is for the twenty-seven remaining EU member states to decide whether to agree such an extension, and even one rejection would be enough to veto it.

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  • Brexit: End This Torment

    British members of Parliament reject no-deal Brexit

    Britain’s government is falling apart. The problem is that there is no sign that the country is coming together.

    March 13 turned into another tumultuous day in Britain’s Brexit saga: members of Parliament voted to take a “no-deal” departure off the agenda—but were immediately told that Britain might still crash out of the European Union without a deal; they heard the chancellor of the exchequer call for a cross-party consensus to get a Brexit deal across the line—and offer a £26 billion incentive (some called it a bribe) to secure that goal—and they watched the prime minister and the leader of the opposition engage in the most fruitless exchange in years.

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  • Political Chaos as May’s Brexit Plan Goes Down in Flames

    Britain was plunged into political chaos on March 12 after Prime Minister Theresa May lost a key parliamentary vote to take the country out of the European Union on terms agreed with the European Commission last November.

    The immediate consequences of her stunning defeat—by 391 votes to 242 votes—are predictable. But what happens after two further votes in the next two days is much harder to assess. Right now, Britain could be heading for a general election, for an internal Conservative Party coup against the prime minister or for a further referendum on whether Britain should abandon its effort to quit the EU.

    What is clear is that May’s authority is shattered beyond belief—and that the divisions within the country on Brexit are getting deeper every day. The prime minister has twice been defeated by unprecedented margins in her efforts to secure parliamentary approval for her deal. She has already had to concede to her own party rebels that she will not lead the Conservatives into the next general election; now she may have to concede that she cannot lead them at all and that someone else must take over.

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  • Brexit: The Bumpy Road Ahead

    British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivered last-ditch declarations late on March 11 aimed at ensuring the British Parliament would formally vote to approve last November’s negotiated agreement on Britain’s departure from the European Union.

    But it remained far from certain that the “legally binding” declarations that Juncker and May announced in Strasbourg, France, concerning the vexed question of the Irish “backstop” would prove sufficient to ensure a parliamentary majority for May in a crucial vote on the Withdrawal Agreement scheduled for March 12.

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  • Brexit Backtracking

    Within twenty-four hours both the British Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have backtracked on major policy issues concerning Brexit. And in both cases, the question is whether they are actually committed to their declared change of course.

    Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament on February 26 that if she failed to secure parliamentary approval on March 12 for her agreement to leave the EU then the next day she would introduce a motion that would allow Parliament to rule out leaving Europe without a deal. If that also failed, then on March 14 she would introduce a further motion providing for Britain’s exit from the EU to be delayed – for a short and limited period – from the currently planned departure date of March 29.

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  • Britain's Parties are Doing the Splits

    When British Prime Minister Theresa May and Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn faced off at prime minister’s questions on February 20, they were both diminished figures. May’s Conservative Party had just lost three of its members of Parliament (MPs) and Corbyn’s Labour Party eight.

    It was the image of the eleven members of the new Independent Group sitting together in the House of Commons that captured the eye, and may, over the next few weeks, prove more important than the barbs exchanged by May and Corbyn.

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  • May's Brexit Defeat Splits Parties and Could Prompt a Constitutional Revolution in Britain

    An astonishing day in the British House of Commons as the Government slumped to a striking defeat over its plans for Brexit, with parliamentarians calling for a constitutional revolution under which parliament would instruct the government on just what it has to do to end the Brexit crisis.

    Moreover, as both the ruling Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party struggled to whip their own rebels into line, Labour finally came out with a clear statement of just where it stands on the future of Brexit – either the UK should enter a customs union with the EU or there should be a second referendum to ensure Britain did not leave the EU without a deal.

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