Brexit 5: More Brexit Bollocks

By Felix Zadek-Ewing June 14, 2019 12:43 pm

Under pressure

Boris: the word on everyone’s lips. The bookies’ favourite to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative party and Prime Minister, Johnson secured the highest number of votes in the first ballot, over three times as many as his closest rival, Jeremy Hunt.

Now that six potential leaders remain – after Hancock’s recent decision to bow out – Boris has faced growing pressure to take part in scheduled televised debates, in which his rivals have already agreed to participate. A contentious political figure, Boris has been notably absent from the fray in recent weeks, having only answered six questions from journalists during his entire campaign. Yet he has now confirmed that he is “more than happy” to take part in the BBC’s televised debate on Tuesday, but will give Channel 4’s debate on Sunday a miss.

The man to beat in this leadership race, Boris’ team worry that the other candidates are likely to turn on him and figure that he has very little to gain from debating. But he risks accusations of cowardice and hypocrisy failing to attend, particularly given that last September he claimed that televised debates were an “essential” part of politics, adding: “The public does need to see interchange between their potential leaders.” It seems Boris cannot win in this scenario. Joining the debate, he must cope with six potential leaders, determined to tear him down in front of the nation. Failing to show up, he faces national embarrassment – further reinforced by Channel 4’s announcement that he would be represented by an empty lectern.

Deal or no deal

Michel Barnier, European Chief Negotiator for the United Kingdom Exiting the European Union, has announced that whichever candidate wins the leadership race is irrelevant, given that the withdrawal agreement negotiated by May was the only one possible. He went on to explain that the new Prime Minister will simply fail in an attempt to renegotiate, leaving three options: accept the agreement, cancel Brexit or leave without a deal.

The EU has declared that it is ready for a no-deal exit on 31 October, acknowledging that it remains a “possible, although undesirable, outcome.” The report stipulates that the EU is now prepared for a swift departure and has no further contingency methods planned. The European Union’s executive said it would pay particular attention in coming months to crucial areas including citizens’ rights, financial services, transport and fisheries ahead of Britain’s departure from the bloc

British businesses have reportedly made little progress preparing for October in spite of the growing possibility that the UK will leave without a withdrawal agreement. Businesses were called on to accelerate efforts to prepare for all outcomes by the Institute of Directors, advising that they “cannot afford to put their faith in politicians to produce a Brexit resolution”.

Labour suffer heavy blow

Labour’s endeavours to prevent a no-deal suffered a defeat as their motion lost by a majority of 11, despite 10 Conservative MPs rebelling to support it. Eight Labour MPs ignored party orders and opposed efforts to stop a no-deal, with many more abstaining on the party’s motion. If passed, it would have given opponents of a no-deal Brexit the chance to table legislation to prevent the UK from leaving without any agreement on the 31 October deadline.

Shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, had earlier urged MPs to support the measures in order to introduce a “safety valve” into the Brexit process, in light of some of the promises being made by Tory leadership candidates. He also said of the Tory leadership race: “It’s become an arms race to promise the most damaging form of Brexit or to make the most absurd or undeliverable promises.”

Tory MPs cheered as the motion was defeated, with Jeremy Corbyn, responding: “You won’t be cheering in September”. Labour sources made clear they would try to find other parliamentary routes to block the possibility of a no-deal before it’s too late.

More Change for Chuka

Chuka Umunna, after fleeing the sinking ship that is the Independent Group (formerly Change UK), has joined the Liberal Democrats, marking his third political party this year alone. The Member of Parliament for Streatham, once an aspiring candidate for the Labour leadership, admitted that he hugely underestimated the challenge of setting up a new political party, but firmly declared that “there isn’t room for more than one centre-ground option” in British politics.

Many have been quick to identify Umunna’s previous comments regarding the Lib Dems, drawing attention to a string of tweets that have emerged from 2017. His remarks included “You can’t trust a word the Lib Dems say” and “Whatever common ground we may have with LibDems & some Tories on Brexit I can’t forgive what they’ve done to my area”. Clearly experiencing a change of heart, it seems Umunna has been able to forgive the Lib Dems after all.

Disillusioned or uninterested?

Brexit is turning Britain away from the news, a recent survey published by Oxford University has found. Reports on the UK’s departure make people angry, sad or bored, resulting in more than a third of Britons making a conscious effort to avoid news programmes and publications. Two years ago, roughly one in five British people claimed to sometimes or often ignore the news, but this figure has now jumped to almost a third.

Both Leave and Remain voters were likely to have lost interest in current events in the past two years, with Brexiteers largely claiming that the news cannot not be trusted and Remainers tending to disclose that the news makes them feel hopeless and sad.

On the other hand, somewhat ironically, Oxford University Press  announced this week that ‘Brexit’ has won the accolade of ‘Children’s Word of the Year’. Having analysed more than 100,000 stories in a short story competition for youngsters, researchers found that children used the word Brexit over four times as frequently as the previous year, with most stories conjuring up an imaginary deal or cancelling Brexit completely. It seems that children, perhaps surprisingly, are just as obsessed with Brexit as adults.

The Whitehouse team are experts in the potential impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here, or, if you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at chris.whitehouse@whitehouseconsulting.co.uk.

 

By Felix Zadek-Ewing June 14, 2019 12:43 pm

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