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Nearly three years after the EU referendum, I no longer feel the same connection. Then Brexit happened. People who were aware of my plan to move to Greece, people whose children are dating foreign nationals, how could they vote for Brexit? I don’t want to say I’ll never come back to the UK because I will always be British. I started to think about going back to Europe the next day. I stopped speaking to people who voted leave. Everyone keeps saying we don’t know what people voted for. We’re lucky – some of our friends here have only British passports and are worried that they will be told to go home. They are sad about Brexit, but have moved on. We’re sorry we asked you to do the same thing every other country was doing!” Maybe now the politicians will realise the world is bigger than Great Britain.
While a Brexit extension is a near-certainty, the official departure date is still 29 March. While British officials remain involved in discussions, the UK will hang back on strategic questions about how the EU should approach China. A government spokesperson said: “The UK will continue to take a full part in discussions at the [Foreign Affairs Council], focusing on those issues that matter most to the UK and EU.” Other day-to-day EU business provides a jarring contrast with the government’s Brexit strategy: one of Theresa May’s last acts as an EU leader will be to sign a routine communique on strengthening the single market – the one she insists Britain must leave. “A politician’s life is always uncertain, you never know if you are going to come back for the next mandate.” MEPs who back the government also acknowledge the uncertainty. He was speaking last month before May suffered a second humiliating defeat on her Brexit deal. British MEPs have been told to clear their offices by 29 March, as their passes will stop working soon after. “It’s uncertain, it’s unnerving that we still don’t have an answer,” one assistant said. I will be fighting this thing until the very end.” He was speaking last month, after voting on the future of the common agricultural policy – and dismissed the suggestion this is a waste of time for a British MEP. The UK continues to speak out on crises or short-term business, whether that is the war in Yemen, or the EU’s 2018 budget. Officials are now thinking hard about how to preserve British influence, when there is no British voice or vote in the room.
After the chaos, contradictions and incompetence in the UK’s handling of Brexit, European media have spotted a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. On past form, of course, it will soon be extinguished, but the endgame seems – at least for now – to be approaching. “At long last, MPs now have to decide where they stand,” said Die Zeit in Germany after the Commons voted in favour of a short extension to article 50 on Thursday evening, having earlier in the week rejected both Theresa May’s Brexit deal and no deal. “Empty promises to voters and pithy speeches in parliament will no longer cut it. The drama currently being played out in Westminster represents, at long last, the painful intrusion of reality into Britain’s Brexit debate.” Party discipline had gone, arguments were mutating and majorities were switching, the paper said. It is loud and it is painful, but it is bringing much-needed clarity.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reckoned the UK’s “battered prime minister may perhaps have slightly more reason for hope than before. However, Le Monde warned that the “apparent bright spot” masked “a weakening of May’s authority that is alarming not just for her political survival but for the democratic functioning of the country”. In Dublin, the Irish Times said that after the “chaos and humiliation of a double defeat in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Theresa May had a relatively good day” on Thursday. Neither May’s Conservative government nor parliament had “a clear picture of where Brexit might end up”, it said. “Brexit Day was supposed to be in two weeks.
before the result of yesterday's vote on Theresa May's Brexit Deal was announced, one could be forgiven for thinking it was just an ordinary day in the British parliament. This time by 391 votes in favour to 241 against - a defeat by 149 votes. When the unimplementable promises made by the Leave campaigners before the referendum turned to dust, May's government still persevered in trying to make Brexit happen. Both parties are riven by splits on EU issues - 75 Conservatives refused to back May in yesterday's vote, with the majority of those opponents favouring a "no-deal" Brexit instead. On the Labour side, about half of the MPs do not back Corbyn's Brexit line and want the UK to hold a second referendum and stay in the EU. Meanwhile, three Conservative and eight Labour MPs have recently left their respective parties to form The Independent Group, a proto-party in the House of Commons, to try to force the idea of a second referendum onto the agenda. Throughout all of this, May and Corbyn, both of them steeped in party politics - they have each spent more than 40 years in their respective parties, refuse to seriously seek solutions collaboratively. So, the House of Commons cannot move forward. But lacking a solution, in the next fortnight the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal, with major economic and political consequences. While that idea might appeal to enough MPs, the EU side is not keen.
Brexiters lobby for European veto of article 50 extension Read more Verhofstadt claimed Farage wanted an extension to article 50 in order to keep Britain in the EU, so he can continue to have his MEP’s salary and transfer it into an offshore company. The former Ukip leader later told the Guardian: “Mr Verhofstadt is just plain wrong. I have never been the beneficiary of any offshore company.” As well as having had a show on LBC radio, Farage has been a regular political commentator on international television channels since stepping down as Ukip leader in 2016. Farage, who has criticised others for avoiding tax, has come under fire in the past for using Thorn in the Side Ltd to reduce the tax bill on his media appearances. The MEP has previously admitted setting up a trust fund in an offshore tax haven that could have enabled him to cut his tax bill. Farage, who condemned tax avoiders in a speech to the European parliament, said in 2013 that he paid a tax adviser to set up the Farage Family Educational Trust 1654 in the Isle of Man. He has denied benefiting from the arrangement and said he made a loss. He claimed the “only neat solution” was to leave the EU on 29 March, calling for any extension request from Britain to be vetoed. All MEPs are entitled to a transition allowance linked to their length of service in the parliament to bridge their move into a new job. MEPs who have served one term could get a maximum pre-tax payment of €50,900 (£43,575), while an MEP in office since 1999 could receive €169,680 before tax.
He will turn 70 in May, shortly after the local elections, which will be handy for his political obituarists if Labour does as poorly as polls currently suggest. The Labour left has been othered. In recent weeks, MPs at a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party have reportedly applauded the Independent Group breakaway, despite the immense damage it has done to the chances of a Labour government. Despite, or, rather, partly because of, all the panics about the Labour left, it has rarely been dominant in the party. “Labour leaders tremble at the relentless advance of Benn’s army,” warned the Express in May 1981, after Benn launched his famous bid for the party’s deputy leadership. And yet, in large part because the press othered him so effectively, as a kind of foreign demagogue – “Ayatollah Benn”, according to the Sun, after Iran’s revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Khomeini – he did not win. He co-founded the SDP partly to block it. Last month, at the launch of the Independent Group, Leslie caricatured Corbynism in almost exactly the same way. Does it matter that so many people don’t want British politics to include a left of any significance? Even if you’re not at all leftwing, recent British history suggests it does.
Former PM David Cameron has suggested the launch of a ‘Shag a Stabber’ campaign to help lower knife crime. With the rise in knife crime across Britain becoming a serious concern, the former prime minister believes serious action is required. ‘We need to hit it hard and hit it fast. Just like my “Hug a Hoodie” campaign stopped teens from wearing hoods, we need a “Shag a Stabber” campaign to stop knife crime,’ said Cameron. Cameron believes such a campaign would be a huge success as the increased amount of copulation would lower stress levels and lead to a decrease in violence. ‘Sometimes it’s hard to remember that not everyone has a dead pig to take out their sexual frustrations on. We need to come together as a nation, figuratively and literally,’ said the former PM. Cameron says he has forwarded the idea to Conservative HQ but no-one seems to be returning his calls for some reason.
The US should join the back of a queue for a post-Brexit trade deal if it thinks its “woefully inadequate” and “backward” animal welfare and food safety standards will be accepted in Britain, the former farming minister George Eustice has said. Eustice, a leading Brexit supporter who resigned from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last week, said signing any deal that allowed a reduction in food standards would be a mistake, as it could “give free trade a bad name”. The issue is a contentious one within the UK government as Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has insisted food and welfare standards will be maintained, but Liam Fox, the trade secretary, has defended the safety of chlorine-washed chicken. “Their livestock sectors often suffer from poor husbandry which leads to more prevalence of disease and a greater reliance on the use of antibiotics,” he said. “Whereas we have a ‘farm to fork’ approach to managing disease and contamination risk throughout the supply chain through good husbandry, the culture in the US is more inclined to simply treat contamination of their meat at the end with a chlorine or similar wash.” He said the situation in relation to animal welfare was even worse, as “legislation as regards animal welfare is woefully deficient”. Food fight: doubts grow over post-Brexit standards Read more “There are some regulations governing slaughterhouses but they are not as comprehensive as ours,” he said. “If the Americans want to be granted privileged access to the UK market, then they will have to learn to abide by British law and British standards, or they can kiss goodbye to any trade deal and join the back of the queue,” he said. Johnson, who has been ambassador since 2017, set out the US position on a post-Brexit trade deal in the Telegraph last week, saying it was a myth that chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-pumped beef were bad. “You have been presented with a false choice,” he wrote. Inflammatory and misleading terms like ‘chlorinated chicken’ and ‘hormone beef’ are deployed to cast American farming in the worst possible light.” Johnson described using chlorine to wash chicken as a “public safety no-brainer” and insisted it was the most effective and economical way of dealing with “potentially lethal” bacteria.
He assured them that the referendum would be honoured despite the machinations of the establishment. And he insisted in various ways that Brexit must mean Brexit. The government can work properly only if the prime minister can command the support of her ministers and her party. Mrs May had no choice but to bend to their will. British political parties have always contained pressure groups that try to influence their parties. ERG members increasingly identify themselves as ERGers rather than mere Conservatives when they appear on television. The ERG is frequently closer to other Eurosceptic parties than it is to the left of the Conservative Party. The three Tory MPs who recently left the party to join the new Independent Group issued a colour-confused warning that the Conservative Party was in danger of being taken over by “purple Momentum” and becoming “blueKIP”. British politics is not quite as broken as American politics. But thanks to Mr Rees-Mogg and his wrecking crew, it is getting there fast.
“Who are these 9 per cent?” Well, I’m one of them. I think British politics is working well. That is British politics working as it should. Any prime minister would have struggled to reconcile a popular vote to leave the EU with the implemention of it by a House of Commons, three quarters of whose members voted to remain. Any prime minister would then have found it even harder to construct a majority out of a parliament split three ways, reflecting public opinion split three ways. I think the referendum was the right and inevitable response to democratic pressure to reconsider our relationship with the rest of Europe. I don’t agree with them, but that’s the British political system, and that’s how it works. The 82 per cent who say British politics is working badly ought to be able to say how it would work better. The most popular was: “Parties and politicians trying harder to work together and reach compromise” (73 per cent). And the other two were: “A different type of people becoming MPs” (59 per cent) and “The public to become more politically engaged” (58 per cent).