When answers are in short supply, sometimes the best we can do is try to ask the right questions. Some of those dive into legal and constitutional arcana, as experts try to work out how Boris Johnson can climb out of the hole he has spent this last week digging ever deeper for himself. Now that the opposition parties have refused to accede to his cunning plan for an October election, and will next week see passed into law their demand that he seek an extension of Britain’s EU membership, he’s left with a series of unpalatable alternatives – from breaking the law to resignation to tabling a motion of no confidence in himself.
Still, even if it’s later rather than sooner, polling day is coming. So here goes with the three questions that will decide the next election and, with it, the fate of Brexit.
First, when? Given the procedural chicanery and willingness to trash established convention we’ve witnessed these last few days, nothing is certain, despite today’s move to block a poll before 1 November. What’s at stake here is the context in which the election will take place. Johnson’s preference has always been to face the voters before the exit deadline, lest he be cast as having failed in his “do or die” mission to leave by 31 October. This is the prize the opposition has agreed to deny him, forcing him, they hope, to confront the electorate in November as a failure, guilty of either treachery or incompetence. Their hope is that Johnson’s inability to take Britain out of the EU will pump new air into the Brexit party balloon, thereby splitting the leave vote that Johnson had bet everything on uniting around himself.
Source: The three questions that will decide the next general election | Jonathan Freedland | Opinion | The Guardian
The last few months have seen US aggression toward Iran creep dangerously close to war. Washington’s propaganda line is generally that Iran is the major aggressor in the Middle East. But amid this saber-rattling, Donald Trump has just given the latest in a long line of free passes to what is perhaps the region’s biggest villain.
Free pass to Saudi Arabia, yet again
On 24 July, Trump announced a veto over resolutions passed in the Senate to block weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He said:
This resolution would weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners
Source: Trump enables arms sales to Saudi dictatorship while saber-rattling against Iran | The Canary
The Senate repudiating a president of the majority party on a matter of national security would be unusual under any circumstances. That it comes at a time when tensions with a major international foe are boiling over is nothing short of astonishing, a sign of how far President Trump has fallen as commander in chief even among Republicans.
The Post reports on the Senate’s vote to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia:
Trump has cited rising tensions with Iran as justification for using his emergency powers to complete the deals.
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), had initially filed 22 resolutions of disapproval against the sales — one for every contract the administration had expedited by emergency order, effectively sidestepping congressional opposition. But after weeks of negotiations, Senate leaders agreed to hold just three votes, which will encompass the substance of all the blocking resolutions, congressional aides said.
In other words, senators don’t believe the president is playing it straight on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which set off a firestorm regarding the Saudis on Capitol Hill. They do not believe in Trump’s policy of making Saudi Arabia a proxy in a battle with Iran over regional dominance. And, moreover, the Senate is willing to undercut Trump at the precise moment his credibility and judgment are under fire in a standoff with Iran.
Source: Senate’s Saudi Arabia vote is what happens when you have an unfit commander in chief – The Washington Post
Jean-Claude Juncker has raised the prospect of an emergency summit of EU leaders next week to decide on a Brexit delay, blaming ongoing chaos in Theresa May’s cabinet.
The European commission president said a letter from May requesting an extension to article 50, delaying the UK’s exit beyond 29 March, had not arrived overnight as expected.
Source: Juncker raises prospect of emergency Brexit summit next week | Politics | The Guardian
If the resignation of Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen means the Tories are becoming a narrower and less tolerant party, it is a disaster. The Conservatives cannot afford to decline into a sect which drives out all those who are unable to subscribe to whatever its stern, unbending ideology happens to be at any particular moment. It must remain a broad church within which a continuous and never finally settled argument about doctrine can take place. Only then is it able convincingly to offer its services to the nation as a party of government.
Theresa May looks so weak because she has been attempting to hold her party together. She is not herself of a sectarian disposition: an accusation which can more justly be levelled at Jeremy Corbyn. She is a pragmatist, who hopes she can persuade the vast majority of her backbenchers to support a pragmatic Brexit deal, even though it does not conform in every particular to the different and mutually incompatible things they would like in an ideal world to see.
Source: The resignation of three Tory MPs is a dire warning to the party | Andrew Gimson | Opinion | The Guardian
A group of disaffected Labour MPs is preparing to quit the party and form a breakaway movement on the political centre ground amid growing discontent with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership on Brexit and other key issues including immigration, foreign policy and antisemitism.
The Observer has been told by multiple sources that at least six MPs have been drawing up plans to resign the whip and leave the party soon. There have also been discussions involving senior figures about a potentially far larger group splitting off at some point after Brexit, if Corbyn fails to do everything possible to oppose Theresa May’s plans for taking the UK out of the EU.
On Saturday night, three of the MPs widely rumoured to be involved in the plans for an initial breakaway – Angela Smith, Chris Leslie and Luciana Berger – refused to be drawn into talk of a split, and insisted they were focused on opposing Brexit. But they did not deny that moves could be made by the spring or early summer.
Source: Rebel Labour MPs set to quit party and form centre group | Politics | The Guardian
Freedom of movement for EU workers has been front and centre in the Brexit debate. Fear of foreign workers undercutting the wages and working conditions of locals helped to fuel the leave campaign. Now EU nationals – Poles and others – who have called Britain home for years, sometimes decades, face an uncertain future in the UK.
But while attitudes to migrant workers in Brexit Britain are often seen as a case apart, free movement of people evokes hostility in other EU countries too. The belief that foreigners take away jobs from local workers is – and has long been – a textbook example of false information. Research has proved again and again that the belief is ill-founded. Yet to some, it feels true no matter how many studies show that it is not.
Source: Why freedom of movement is causing divisions – across Europe | Ines Wagner | Opinion | The Guardian
They are sick of the whole thing. They just want it to be over. No more uncertainty. Brexiteers want resolution. They will be disappointed. Willing something does not make it so. Aethelred wanted Viking raids to stop. The kingdoms of Wales, Scotland and Ireland wished the Norman and Plantagenet monarchs of England would cease their predatory lunges into their territory. Neville Chamberlain hoped that Hitler would be content with Czechoslovakia. Oliver Letwin wished there was an island we could send all migrants to. The hopes of politicians and rulers are whispers in a gale.
There is no end state in our relations with Europe. There is only millennia of collaboration, conquest, disputes, exchange, competition and alliance.
We live on a small archipelago just off the north-west coast of Europe. We are not a tribe cocooned by towering, razor-sharp mountain ridges in the New Guinea highlands. We are connected. At times, continental armies have marched across the fields of Wiltshire, Wexford and West Lothian. At others, the British have watered their horses in the Seine, Rhine and Danube. The seas around us have facilitated exchange, not prevented it. People, ideas and stuff have crossed the water, mocking the decrees of princes and parliaments.
Source: Brexit is not an end to Britain’s liaison with Europe. It’s just a new beginning | Dan Snow | Opinion | The Guardian
Theresa May has secured approval to negotiate a soft Brexit deal with the European Union, signing up her fractious cabinet at a Chequers awayday to a controversial plan to match EU standards on food and goods.
The prime minister released a statement following the critical afternoon session of the long-awaited summit that alarmed Tory hard Brexiters, in which she confirmed she had won over the cabinet to new customs arrangements ending political deadlock on the issue.
May said the cabinet had “agreed our collective position for the future of our negotiations with the EU”. That included a proposal to “create a UK-EU free trade area which establishes a common rule book for industrial goods and agricultural products” after Brexit.
Source: Theresa May secures approval from cabinet to negotiate soft Brexit | Politics | The Guardian