House of Commons

June is the end of May

It must be a big political drama if I’m writing a brand new blog post!

So, she has finally caved in. That’s right, PM Theresa May has resigned. We all saw it coming so it’s no surprise. Well, it is a surprise that she lasted this long, let’s be honest.

This week, the final nail(s) in the coffin was the resignation of Andrea Leadsom, now former Leader of the House of Commons and her cabinet refusing to support her bringing back a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement for the *counts fingers* umpteenth time. Going through the usual administration process of the business for the week commencing, the Leadsom’s replacement, Mark Spencer, announced:

“We will update the house on the publication and introduction of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on our return from the Whitsun recess,” he eventually said. Theresa May over. 

It seems this would foreshadow her resignation this morning.

In her teary resignation speech, she spoke of the regret she felt in not having been able to deliver Brexit. Almost makes you feel sorry for her. Almost.

Theresa May resigns as Prime Minister in a teary speech delivered outside No. 10 Downing St

Now what? Well, May formally resigns on June 7 which kickstarts the Tory leadership campaign (of which there are may contenders – we’ll get to that in a sec). The campaign should last until July in which the next leader of the Conservatives (and thus PM) will be announced. Whoever is elected leader will still have to deliver Brexit and in true British political fashion, call a general election. I mean let’s face it, it’ll be the only way for them to democratically legitimise their premiership. May also need a referendum on Brexit because we Brits sure love a good election! Anyone else got electoral fatigue? I sure don’t!

Who could be our next PM? The likely contenders*….

  • Boris Johnson – former Mayor of London and Foreign Secretary, it’s no secret that Boris has yearned for the PM position for many years. Having been the face of the Leave campaign, could he be the one to deliver Brexit and take on Farage? After all, it was Farage and the rise of UKIP that fuelled this Brexit mess in the first place.
  • Esther McVey – Former Work and Pensions Secretary, she quit the position last year due to her disagreement with the withdrawal agreement with the EU. In a radio interview, McVey said she would take part in a leadership contest if she commanded enough support.
  • Sir Graham Brady – Up until this morning, Brady was Chairman of the 1922 Backbench Committee, however he has been pondering whether to take part in the leadership bid. Staying on as chairman and participating in the contest would be a conflict of interest. Obvs.
  • Jeremy Hunt – Hunt took over the role of Foreign Secretary after Boris had resigned, leaving his post as Health Secretary. He’s been regarded as a ‘reborn Brexiteer’ after campaigning for Remain in the 2016 referendum but later criticising the EU, referring to it as the soviet union.
  • Michael Gove – Ah Gove, the man responsible for destroying the UK’s education system with his GCSE reforms. Currently Environment Secretary, Gove (alongside Boris) had been one of the key faces of the Vote Leave campaign. Despite being a Brexiteer, he remained loyal to Theresa May by not resigning his post as his other colleagues did.

*Full list of potential leadership contenders can be found on this very useful article by the BBC here.

Whoever succeeds Theresa May will have to face the curse that is Brexit, and will be praying that Brexit doesn’t take another tenure. Is Brexit really an impossible task or is it just the right person to deliver such a task is yet to be found? We await as the drama unfolds. Never a dull moment in British politics, eh!

A renewed (post-Brexit) ‘special relationship’?

Last week Parliamentarians commenced their summer break, and with a ‘zombie government’ in procession, not much is going in the world of British politics. But even so there are still several issues which continue to be scrutinised and debated, the major one being (you guessed it) BREXIT!

Brexit negotiations commenced in Brussels a few weeks ago now and as expected not much has been agreed but there is indeed much that needs to be compromised on. As Britain looks to seek trade deals outside of the European Union, it seems Britain will rely heavily on it’s ‘special relationship’ with the US, now more than ever.

UK/US Special Relationship: derived from Winston Churchill’s 1946 ‘Iron Curtain Speech’, the term describes the political, diplomatic, cultural, economic, military and historical relations between the United Kingdom and the United States.

As talks continue, politicians and commentators alike have been trying to hazard a guess as to what trade deals may be made with other countries and how quickly those deals would be able to come to pass. Undoubtedly because of the UK/US special relationship, trade with America would be top of the list. But what exactly would we be trading with them? One thing that has dominated the headlines this week is chlorinated chicken. *cringe*
Earlier this week, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said any trade deal with the US would ‘have to include agriculture’ which sparked fears for the arrival of imported US chicken washed in chlorinated water and hormone-fed beef. Contradicting Fox’s statement, Environment Secretary Michael Gove stated we should not allow chlorinated chicken to be imported or the UK.

“No. I made it perfectly clear, and this is something on which all members of the Government are agreed. We are not going to dilute our high food-safety standards or our high environmental standards in pursuit of any trade deal. Our position when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, and our position now, is to be a leader in environmental standards”

During his appearance on BBC Newsnight, Fox seemed to stand by his position in re-aligning Britain’s relationship with the US, saying there is “no health issue” with chlorine washed chicken and that concerns “lies around some of the secondary issues of animal welfare and it’s perfectly reasonable for people to raise that but it will come much further down the road.”

 

The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee warned that animal welfare standards could be undermined if post-Brexit trade deals left UK farmers competing against less-regulated foreign rivals. They warned that imports from lower-welfare countries could “undermine the sustainability of the industry or incentivise a race to the bottom for welfare standards – contrary to the wishes of the UK industry”.

What this demonstrates is that Brexit is more than just about the economy and immigration; it will have a life-changing impact on every single Briton and will be reflected even in the food we buy and the meals we eat. In a world where many are becoming health conscious (you only have to watch Netflix’s ‘What the Health‘ and rethink your whole diet!), how can we look after ourselves and how can we ensure the food we eat doesn’t have a long-term impact on our health? As we all know, chlorine is more widely used in swimming pools to keep them free of bacteria that can be used to harm us, but there is a BIG difference between swimming in it and ingesting it.

And it’s not only chicken we should be worried about – there are now fears from politicians in Scotland that sub-standard whisky could be imported if the UK strikes a trade deal with the US after Brexit.

The Scotch whisky industry is worth £4bn to Scotland and it is protected from sub-standard products by an EU definition of whisky – but this will change after our European divorce. Politicians in Scotland have thus written to the UK Government, asking for a legal definition of the spirit to be enshrined into law.

Scottish economy secretary Keith Brown said: “Aside from being a key part of Scottish culture and identity, our whisky industry supports around 20,000 jobs. The US made clear in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership discussions that they would support a relaxation of the definition of whisky, which would open the market up to a number of products which do not currently meet that standard”.

It seems where Brexit is concerned, NOTHING is safe…

 

Conservative Party divisions continue…

…and at the heart of those divisions is, you guessed it, BREXIT.

Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis announced freedom of movement between Britain and the European Union will end as soon as the UK withdraws from the bloc in March 2019. In response, Home Secretary Amber Rudd commented:

“We are applying our own rules on who we want to come to the UK.”

Liam Fox, a hard-line brexiteer has said keeping free movement after Brexit would not keep in line with the EU Referendum result of last June. However, Phillip Hammond has said free movement wouldn’t necessarily be curtailed straight after Brexit, reiterating the need for a transitional period and recommending that new trade deals and regulated movement of peoples isn’t done immediately after leaving the union.

It was only last week there were a few leaks made by cabinet ministers in regards to remarks made by the Chancellor, again sparked from divisions over Brexit so this week to see again another fisticuffs only demonstrates the deep emotions over the issue and proves just how difficult this divorce process will be, not just with our European counterparts but on home soil.

Ministers have been particularly vocal over the post-Brexit transitional period and how that should look like. Pro-Brexiteers in visage the free movement of people will and should be different on the day after we leave the EU in comparison to the day before. These comments come from Mr Fox (he seems at odds with everybody this week eh!) who dismissed the idea that there is a broad consensus n Cabinet that free movement would end in name only for three years after Brexit, as part of a transition deal with the European Union.

Critics such as newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable, has expressed to the media that the latest schism “reveals a deep, unbridgeable chasm between the Brexit fundamentalist and the pragmatists. Businesses which might have hoped that Philip Hammond had pulled the Government back from a commitment to a catastrophic cliff edge, crashing out of the EU, have been misled. There is no Cabinet consensus for moderation. And the rumours of Boris Johnson being about to resign fuel the uncertainty”.

The Chancellor has said there would be a registration system in place for people coming to work in the UK after Brexit.

Meanwhile, the Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel has warned that Britain could have to pay a Brexit divorce bill of up to £54bn.

“It is now time for the European Union to make an analogy with the famous quote of Mrs Thatcher, ‘We want our money back'”

Downing Street expects to reveal plans for a new immigration system later this year, to be in place by the time the UK leaves the EU. Amber Rudd has also commissioned a “detailed assessment” of the costs and benefits of EU migrants, as well as the possible impact of reduced EU migration. Whilst the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has hailed the report as a “sensible first step”, whilst critics have said the study, which is to be published just six months before Brexit, will come a year too late.

 

So much for enjoying the start of summer and listening to May’s call for “strength and unity” eh!

 

Other things you may have missed…

History was made this week as Brenda Hale became the first female president of the Supreme Court. Also another female judge, Lady Justice Black, became the second woman appointed to Britain’s highest court. Hale, a champion of diversity in the judiciary who joined the Supreme Court in 2009, has previously said, “Excellence is important but so is diversity of expertise”, and in 2015 warned the Supreme Court should be ashamed if it does not become more representative of the population. Her appointment is historically important as the Supreme Court has over the years been criticised for it’s lack of female representation in being primarily dominated by men. Hale’s new role shines a light on women being able to sit as judges in the UK’s highest court but we mustn’t sit idly – there is still long way to go in terms of wider representation, for instance appointment of judges from widespread ethnic minorities. Commenting on the announcement, the Bar Council said Hale’s appointment will “serve as an encouragement to all”.

 

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has announced plans to ban developers from selling newly built houses as leaseholds to protect homeowners from extortionate fees. Properties in the UK are either sold as freeholds or leaseholds, and those who buy leaseholds must pay fees to a freeholder, who owns the ground the house is built on. These fees – including service charges and ground rents – can increase by vast amounts every year, leaving homeowners paying thousands of pounds on top of their own mortgage payments. Under the proposals, ground rent would be significantly reduced and leaseholds on new builds banned. The planned proposal could prove to help the growing housing crisis in the UK, particularly in London, also giving first time buyers an opportunity to buy a property without the added hassle and cost.

With the way Brexit negotiations are going, we all could do with some good news!

 

Britain returns to Iraq

Two weeks ago, MPs voted overwhelmingly for the launch of air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq. It comes after many hostages, both from the United States and the United Kingdom have been brutally murdered by the extremist group. Cabinet ministers told the Commons that Isis would only be crushed if the group was pursued to its bases inside Syria. Unsurprisingly, America had welcomed the vote, considering it was Obama that insisted Britain needed to intervene. As a result of the vote, Downing Street confirmed that six Tornado jets would be in the skies of Iraq, also stating that the Commons had permitted the sending of UK military advisers to Iraq to train the army.

But here’s my concern as a global citizen: what good does violence do but just create more retaliation? By sending in these air strikes, is the government not giving in to the trap of Isis? Think of it like this: A person comes in your house and steals your stuff. In turn, you do the same, to make them feel the same terror and anger you felt. But then that person then takes one step further and steals your cat or something. The acts of retaliation continue, creating a never-ending circle of theft – but in this case, a circle of violence. Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama have already made it clear that it is impossible to negotiate with such barbarians – that may be the case but how will this issue ever be resolved without knowing the true cause? Do we go back to the Iraq war under Blair? The assassination of Saddam Hussein? Or do we go as far back as to the 8th Century with conflicts between Islamic empires and the rest of Europe and the West? Whatever the cause, i’m sure violence is not the answer…

It is also surprising that only 43 MPs voted against the return of air strikes in Iraq, especially after the public outrage towards Blair as the Iraq war emerged. Although defence secretary, Michael Fallon has said they will be careful as to “avoid civilian causalities”, how can we be sure innocent people will not be caught in the crossfire. We have already seen innocent citizens lose their lives in the middle of this ‘war’ so how can we be sure these western leaders will not do the same? The MP for Tower Hamlets, Rushanara Ali, who expressed a similar concern resigned as shadow education minister in order to abstain before the vote. She feared “further air strikes will only create further bloodshed and pain in Iraq”

Now what happens? Well Britain is still set on its defensive against IS as RAF jets have joined US-led bombing missions. Please note the following video may be of a sensitive nature.

The Conservative MP and former defence secretary Liam Fox said it had been a mistake to exclude Syria from air strikes saying: “Isis operates from Syria. It attacks individuals, communities and the Iraqi state itself from Syria. There is a clear legal case for attacking Isis bases in Syria.”

Labour MP John McDonnell said: “This is madness and an absolute disaster. We are already talking about mission creep and a strategy that could last three or even 10 years … the war on terrorism will be brought to our streets as a result.”

I would like to think the decision made by the Commons wasn’t taken lightly, but at the same time, i would like to believe there could’ve been an alternative to stopping violence with violence. Either way, it looks like neither the West nor IS will halt their attacks on each other.