Classical liberalism, Britain’s Conservative Party – and Brexit

Daniel Hannan is a polite, erudite and humorous author (who also writes a column for The Sun newspaper). He is a self-described Old Whig, and is one of the four surviving British Conservative party members of the European Parliament.

And he is a leading Brexiteer.  In a tolerant globalising sort of way – arguing for freer trade, more skilled migration and protecting the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK.

He provides a case study of those classical liberals in the Conservative party who have been won over to Brexit.

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Parliament is sovereign – but that means it has to exercise its sovereignty

As every first year constitutional law student knows, in the Westminster system, Parliament (or the Queen-in-Parliament) is sovereign.

There is no question where responsibility for the UK’s leaving the EU must lie – with Parliament.

So the British Parliament exerted its plenitude of sovereign powers when it installed a government pledged to Brexit following the 2017 general election. And when it passed laws setting a leaving date.  Also when it rejected the EU withdrawal treaty negotiated by former PM Theresa May.  And definitely when it granted supply to the May government and its succeeding Johnson government to keep on trucking.

So what is one to make of Boris Johnson asking the Queen to prorogue Parliament (that is end the Parliamentary session in mid-September and then start a new one after a delay of a month or so – ostensibly to pass his triumphantly-negotiated but highly-unlikely new EU withdrawal agreement). Continue reading “Parliament is sovereign – but that means it has to exercise its sovereignty”

Victims of a no-deal Brexit: the civil service?

When London’s Sunday Times splashed Government contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit – five pages of fearsome consequences – the public response was surprisingly tepid. That they appear to have been prepared under the previous administration might lessen the scare factor. But this sort of material seems to be losing its power to shock, surprise – and convince.  Partisans of both sides mine the data to support their views.  But it may be useful in another way.

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What’s the EU to do after Brexit?

The implications of Boris Johnson for the EU are dawning slowly.  They will probably take some time to work through.

Assume – plausibly – that the EU’s Brexit negotiators represent its bureaucracy and the centralising faction in European politics.  Assume too that their principal objective was – and still is – to make leaving the EU a political failure. The problem then is that they over-achieved. The exit agreement negotiated with former British PM Theresa May was so successful at reducing Britain to subordinate status that it was rejected. (One can’t help being reminded that the EU achieved a similar Pyrrhic success in negotiations over the UK’s status before Britain’s Brexit referendum.)

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The not-so-secret plan for EU domination

With all the focus on Brexit turmoil, it’s easy to miss recent changes in the EU. Unfortunate, because they are important.

The appointment of former German defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, as president of the European Commission was rightly seen as a signal of Germany’s predominance in Europe but her political programme is even more significant. This can be found in the aptly-titled manifesto A Union that strives for more“.  And it surely does – in enough detail for liberal nightmares.

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Brexit forecasts are getting more optimistic

As the likelihood of Britain leaving the EU without a formal agreement increases, expectations of the impact are more benign.  Britain’s independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) ran some numbers and chose the scenario (note – not forecast) of a mild recession with a 2.1% drop in GDP in the event of a no-deal Brexit.  It’s a long way from the terrifying 8% crash in GDP scenario (obviously based on different assumptions) put out by the Bank of England last November.

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What would a no-deal Brexit look like?

Throughout the Brexit negotiations, the media have struggled to describe how a no-deal Brexit might work.  Understandable really, as it all depends.  On the actions the parties take; the responses to each other’s actions; and adaptation to new policy realities.

The most recent effort from The Times (see here) sacrificed clarity for comprehensiveness, listing outcomes ranging from the far-fetched (that aerospace companies will abandon their investments and skilled workers and decamp to Europe and China) to the near-inevitable (that volume car manufacturing in the UK is facing serious restructuring). But in speculating on outcomes, it might have missed a chance to explain the choices driving them.

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Second (and last?) chance for Britain’s Conservative party

Conservative party MPs are starting the process to replace Theresa May as Britain’s Prime Minister. Candidates are proffering policy positions and personal cameos as if they mattered (they don’t for now – maybe later), with little recognition of the changed rules of the game, and less of the abyss that looms before them.  It’s a little like Kerensky’s ministers arguing over personal expenses, while the Bolsheviks stream through the gates of St Petersburg’s Winter Palace.

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