United Kingdom

  • 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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  • The Only Thing Certain About Brexit is That it Won’t Happen on March 29

    The United Kingdom will no longer leave the European Union (EU) on March 29 as originally planned. However, policy makers on both sides of the English Channel still do not know when Brexit will happen, how it will be implemented, or even if it will really come to pass. Despite more than two years of negotiations, little is known about what will be the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the EU.

    Here is a quick look at where things stand and what to watch out for in the coming weeks:


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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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  • Use Brexit Delay to Investigate Russian Money

    An opportunity arises from the British Parliament having voted to delay Brexit. If the British government gets approval from the European Union next week for an Article 50 extension, the months ahead should be used to finally get to the truth about the opaque sources of money spent in the 2016 referendum before implementing its results.


    This will only happen if British politicians and investigators prioritize quickly getting the public more conclusive answers. And it is important because the evidence revealed thus far raises the suggestion that the 2016 referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the EU was targeted by a foreign adversary violating British sovereignty to undermine its democracy.


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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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  • May’s Last-Minute Gamble to Secure Brexit Deal

    British Prime Minister Theresa May’s late-night trip to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on March 11 has secured “legally binding changes” to her Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union, which May believes can pass a vote in Parliament on March 12.

    May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced three new provisions to the Withdrawal Agreement at a press conference just before midnight on March 11—a day before members of Parliament in London are to vote on the deal.


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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: The Four Issues That Need Resolving After This Week’s Votes

    Trying to predict how Brexit will play out is a bit like trying to hit a moving dartboard while wearing a blindfold—it’s difficult and you’ll probably end up looking very silly. So this is a probably ill-advised attempt to set out what will happen after this week’s scheduled Brexit votes in the British Parliament.


    It seems highly likely that the meaningful vote planned for March 12 will be defeated. After that, Parliament will again vote against leaving without a deal, then Parliament will vote for an extension of Article 50.


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