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Westlake Legal Group > United Kingdom

Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. For more information about his work, visit www.lordashcroft.com and www.lordashcroftpolls.com.

In August, my research in Scotland found a slim majority for independence. In September, my poll in Northern Ireland found a tiny margin for leaving the United Kingdom and joining the Republic. This month, to round out the picture, I have surveyed voters in England to see how they feel about the Union, especially the parts of it that voted to remain in the EU, and how they see the prospect of one or more of the home nations deciding to go its own way.

Who benefits?

Many English voters think Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively benefit more from the Union than the rest of the UK. This is particularly the case among those who voted Leave in the EU referendum, and especially among Conservative Leavers – two-thirds of whom say Scotland benefits most from being part of the Union, compared to one in five who think all parts of the UK benefit equally from its membership.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.11.57 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley   Notably, people were slightly more to think Scotland benefits disproportionately from being part of the UK than they were to say the same about Northern Ireland.

Just over half of English voters think that England subsidises Scotland financially, and they are divided as to whether or not they are happy with this arrangement (while four in ten say they don’t know whether they subsidise Scotland or not).

Conservative voters are by far the most likely to think that England provides financial support to Scotland – three quarters believe this to be the case, and most of them are unhappy about it. Tory Leavers are also the most likely to think that England subsidises Northern Ireland, but with the difference that they are more likely to be happy to do so.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.11.57-1 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley   Our focus groups – conducted with voters of different political outlooks in Bexley, south east London, and Newcastle upon Tyne – shed some light on this apparent discrepancy. The widespread view that the English “pay for Scotland” goes hand-in-hand with the knowledge that Scots get certain things – free NHS prescriptions and free university education – that are not available in England: in other words, that English taxpayers are paying for the Scots to have things that they don’t get themselves.

There is an extra dimension to this in Newcastle, where people question the idea of a more prosperous England supporting its poorer neighbour to the north: affluence was really confined to “that belt that goes from the Cotswolds through to London, into Essex to some extent, not as far north as Norfolk and Suffolk, not the Midlands”.

Moreover, it rankled with some of our English voters that Scotland seemed to show little affinity for the Union they felt they were paying to maintain: “It’s always Scotland. They say ‘I’m not British, I’m Scottish’;” “With the Barnett Formula they come out ahead, and they’re still moaning;” “I’ve got nothing against Scotland but if they want to be independent let’s stop paying the funds.”

Indeed, some felt that those who had voted against independence in 2014 had done so for purely economic reasons: “My Scottish friends are worried about their pensions if they become independent. They hate the English;” “I don’t think the people who voted to stay were particularly attached – I think they just thought it was in their best interests.”

These things do not apply in the same way with Northern Ireland, for three main reasons: people feel the province is much less able to support itself financially than Scotland; there was no perception that people there enjoyed benefits that were not available in England; and there was little awareness of a concerted movement to take Northern Ireland out of the UK or “moaning” about the English while enjoying their apparent largesse.

The Brexit effect

A plurality of English voters – including a majority of EU Remainers – think Brexit makes Scottish independence in the foreseeable future more likely, while Leave voters are more likely to think it makes no difference. For some in our groups, this was more because it had given the SNP “an excuse to go for another referendum” rather than any material change: Scots had already had “a chance to make a decision and they bottled it… They decided to stay part of the UK, therefore you have to sort of grin and bear what the general UK decision is. You’ve got to live with that.”

However, this was a minority view. Remainers were unsurprisingly sympathetic to the argument that Scots were being taken out of the EU against their will: “I can identify with their feeling of loss, they’re feeling angry that someone has taken something away that the majority of them wanted to keep. It adds to the longstanding list of things that ‘people in bloody Westminster do and we have to put up with’.”

But English Leave voters – themselves feeling that their democratically expressed will was not being acted upon – also empathised with the Scottish Remainers’ predicament: “I’d be miffed. We’re miffed because we voted out and we’re not;” “Let them have their independence so they can stay in the EU if they want to.”

However, some were less sure that Brexit had hastened Scottish independence, arguing that the post-2016 saga might make some voters reluctant to go through the whole thing again: “If I were Scottish, I would be thinking – is there a Withdrawal Agreement, is it deal or no deal, what does that mean? They don’t want the farce of the three and a half years that we’ve had.”

Indeed, many English Leave voters saw many parallels between some Scots’ desire for self-determination and their own wish to leave the EU: “It’s similar in the way we want to control our own destiny. Scotland want their independence, we want our independence from the EU for roughly the same reasons… Taking back control.”

Remain voters also sympathised – especially with the wish not to be “taken out” of the EU – but often ascribed more noble motives to the independence movement: “With Brexit, a lot of it was prejudice, ‘we don’t want foreigners in our country’. With Scotland it’s not as emotional.” While Brexit had in their view been driven largely by immigration, the Scots “are really into their heritage. It’s ‘I really want to be Scottish’.”

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.14.14 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley   Most voters think Scotland is on course to leave the UK – and while most of those think Brexit has accelerated the process, a large minority of them (and three in ten of all Leave voters) think Scotland would probably vote for independence in the next few years whether Brexit was happening or not.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.16.24 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley   When the same questions are applied to Northern Ireland, English voters are much less likely to have a view. Apart from the observation that “the religious element is very strong,” very few had any grasp of the dynamics of Northern Irish politics, which seem complicated and even mysterious to many people.

Some were not even aware that Northern Ireland’s long-term place in the Union was even an issue, and for others the question seemed less to do with self-determination, as in Scotland, than with identity: while Unionists there “probably feel much like us, that they’re part of us”, it was natural that others should feel that “Ireland is their own country. There’s water separating England and Ireland. So if Northern Ireland became part of Ireland, that’s Ireland, one whole country.”

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.18.28 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley   Only just over a quarter of English voters – and only one in three Conservative Leavers – think it would be wrong on principle for some EU laws and regulations to apply in Northern Ireland after Brexit but not to the rest of the UK. A plurality – and a majority of Tories – think such an outcome is not ideal, but an acceptable compromise to get a sensible Brexit arrangement.

Should they stay or should they go?

On the big question of Scotland and Northern Ireland’s membership of the union, English opinion largely divides between those who say yes, and those who say it is for the Scottish and Northern Irish people to decide.

Of this latter group – more than two in five of the English population – only a handful say that if either voted to leave the UK they would be happy to see them go. Of those who say it is for Scotland and Northern Ireland to decide, a large minority nevertheless say they would be sorry to see them leave if they chose do so. This means that, overall, most English voters would rather keep the Union together if it were up to them – though they recognise it isn’t up to them.

This overall view was also reflected and expanded on in our focus groups. Many felt there was something important but intangible about the Union, and that the country would be diminished if one or more parts of it were to leave: “I like being part of the United Kingdom, I do. I think if we divide it we could make ourselves weaker, not stronger;” “We’re known as the four countries together worldwide. The Royal Family, bringing all of us together – people see us as one. I don’t think people abroad see us as separate countries;” “It’s like a family. You have dysfunctional families but you still come together;” “Historically, worldwide, the UK has been a leading force in a lot of areas. If it was all divided up I don’t think we would have the same standing in the world;” “If we separate from Scotland, would there be a border? That would be pretty sad. It would be going backwards. It’s the Berlin Wall all over again and the Mexicans and Trump. It’s not positive.”

As in the poll, very few of our focus group participants actively wanted Scotland to leave. For those who would be least unhappy to see them go, the point was not that we disliked them, but that the Scots seemed to resent the English. As mentioned above, this made the idea of financial subsidies harder to swallow: “We don’t want to be governed by the EU, they don’t want to be governed by us. But they still want our money.”

And while the idea of unity was good in principle, it seemed illusory to some, who often also felt that rivalry and antagonism went back much further than the Union: “You go up to the borders of Scotland and see the castles and everything. We were always fighting;” “I don’t feel we’re united anyway. They’ve fought us for years and years;” “We’ve been segregated for quite a long time actually. I don’t think there’s much unity.”

This also helps to explain why, when asked what they would do if they had to choose between going ahead with Brexit and keeping Scotland and Northern Ireland in the Union, most Leave voters chose Brexit. As was clear from the groups, this does not reflect a callous disregard for the Union but a pragmatic view that all parts of the UK had the right of self-determination. England and Wales had voted to leave the EU; if Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted to chart their own course, so be it: “If they want to be their country, what’s it got to do with us? Just let them crack on” – especially since their campaigns to leave the UK would continue whether we were in the EU or not.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.19.20 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley   But even most of these voters hoped it wouldn’t come to that: “I’d be prepared to say goodbye to all of them, because that’s what we voted for. But I don’t want that to happen;” “You’d have to change the flag and everything. It wouldn’t be the United Kingdom any more;” “We’re proud of our little nation and I don’t want bits breaking off. I want people to remember us as a dynamic little nation that fought against major powers and beat them. And it’s strength in numbers and historically what we’re known for. I’d rather we all stay together.”

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Letwin let-down: Parliament shuts down Brexit approval in key procedural vote

Westlake Legal Group johnson-rees-mogg Letwin let-down: Parliament shuts down Brexit approval in key procedural vote United Kingdom The Blog Parliament Letwin amendment European Union elections Brexit Boris Johnson Benn Act

Yesterday, it looked like Boris Johnson had the momentum to gain a narrow majority in Parliament to approve his new Brexit deal. Just hours later, however, the question got mooted through a procedural effort to close off any attempt at a covert no-deal Brexit. The PM and his government lost a vote on an amendment from Oliver Letwin that withholds any approval on Johnson’s deal until he supplied the actual legislation that would enable it. The loss will now force Johnson to seek an extension — although Johnson himself insisted that he could avoid it:

Lawmakers voted 322-306 for the amendment, put forward by former Conservative lawmaker Oliver Letwin. It means that parliament will not vote on Saturday on whether to approve Johnson’s agreement.

Unless Johnson has approved a deal by the end of Saturday, he is obliged by law to ask the EU for a Brexit delay until the end of January 2020. If Johnson can get all the legislation through parliament, he could still deliver Brexit by Oct. 31.

The final vote on the Letwin Act is significant, as it signals real trouble for Johnson’s deal regardless of the procedural issues. The DUP, which has provided the necessary seats to prop up the Tory government since Theresa May’s disastrous snap election, wound up voting for the Letwin amendment today in protest of the deal itself. Had the DUP stuck with him, Johnson would have defeated the Letwin amendment 316-312 and scored the first major parliamentary success of his government. A no-deal Brexit would be preferable to the DUP, at least theoretically and in the short run, than the deal Johnson negotiated that cuts Northern Ireland out of the UK’s customs and regulatory regime.

If Johnson can’t get the DUP back behind him on the outlines of this deal, then the enabling act has little chance of passing either. Letwin himself says he will likely vote for it now that his amendment has foreclosed a default no-deal Brexit, but will the rest of the 305 MPs who tried to kill the Letwin amendment? The devil of Johnson’s deal will be in those details, and the more of those Johnson has to put on paper without Parliament having already committed to authorizing the deal, the more risk he assumes of having soft support peel away.

More acutely, Johnson now has to decide whether to abide by the Benn Act. He had until 11 pm GMT today to gain parliamentary approval for any Brexit deal without requesting the EU for a 90-day extension on Article 50. Parliament passed the bill at the beginning of September to prevent Johnson from cooking up an impasse that would lead to a default no-deal Brexit, and they even wrote into the law the precise wording of the letter the PM must send to the EU for the request. If the EU approves the request, the PM must abide by it; if the EU counter-proposes a different date, the PM must accept it or else Parliament can accept it in his stead. It was written to be watertight, and any attempt to bypass it will quickly end up in court.

Johnson claimed in the post-Letwin speech that he doesn’t think the Benn Act obligates him, but so far his office is playing that argument very coolly. He has a few hours to ruminate on this, but it does appear that Johnson’s hands are tied.  Guardian reporter Rafael Behr suggests that Johnson will pout for a while, then abide by the law:

Johnson doesn’t have too many options left, at least if he intends to abide by the law. The Letwin amendment cut off his most promising avenue of getting around the Benn Act, but he has a few other options. Johnson could send a second letter repudiating the first, but the EU could simply recognize the first and ignore the second in offering an extension, too. Johnson could work with any allies within in the EU to get one member-state to veto the extension, but given the annoyance factor the UK has provided, there’s probably few to zero European leaders willing to pull Johnson’s political chestnuts from the fire, especially not in service to a no-deal Brexit. Johnson could leverage his unpleasantness within the EU by threatening to sabotage it if forced to remain within it, but that’s a short-term strategy with long-term consequences — whether it works or not.

If Johnson really wants this deal, an extension should be no big problem. If he can get the enabling act passed by Parliament in the next two weeks, the extension won’t be needed anyway. If, however, this deal was intended as an end-around for Johnson’s desire for a no-deal Brexit, as Letwin and 321 other MPs suspected it was, then he’s stuck … unless the EU rescues him. Hmmm:

Even assuming Johnson does send the Benn Act letter and the EU offers the extension, what does come next? This deal will likely go down to defeat unless the terms change enough to get DUP on board, and the changes necessary won’t be accepted by the EU. Labour wants a second referendum, but that’s absurd; what happens if Remain wins this time 51/48? Which referendum would matter more? Why not hold a third referendum after that and call best-out-of-three?

The real solution is to clarify the electorate’s desires by holding a national election on the Brexit question. That’s how parliamentary systems are supposed to work, where executives operate on the confidence of the legislature and therefore their negotiations with foreign powers have credibility and legitimacy. Two successive Tory governments have lost so many votes on Brexit this year that credibility and legitimacy are practically laugh lines at this point. Johnson can either campaign on this deal or a no-deal Brexit, while Labour can campaign on Remain, and the end results should make it clear to the Parliament that the election produces how to proceed with the EU. Until that happens, Johnson’s not the only one stuck in the Brexit brambles.

Addendum: Don’t forget that Johnson’s government told a court two weeks ago that he would comply with the Benn Act if this circumstance came to pass. Refusal to do so now could mean a boatload of legal trouble for Johnson:

Legal sources believe the prime minister is in significant legal peril. Lawyers for the UK government told the court on 9 October they knew the solemn pledges given at an earlier hearing that Johnson would comply with the act were legally-binding.

The UK government told the court of session on Friday 4 October the prime minister accepted “he is subject to the public law principle that he cannot frustrate its purpose or the purpose of its provisions. Thus he cannot act so as to prevent the letter requesting the specified extension in the act from being sent.”

And the court will also adjudicate on a second part of the application: an interdict forcing the UK government not to frustrate or undermine the intent of the letter, by attempting to sidestep the extension move.

If he or his ministers, or their proxies, try to subvert the request for an extension – say be sending a second letter asking the EU to ignore the extension application, they will also be at risk of contempt.

And the court has the authority — rarely invoked but still extant — to use a contempt order to bypass the PM:

It is only if Johnson fails to send the letter and fails to adhere to the court’s interdict requiring him to do so that the court will consider the nuclear option. It has unique powers called nobile officium, which allow the court or its agent to send that letter to all 27 EU member states and institutions on Johnson’s behalf.

Johnson and his team are no doubt mulling over that point, but their concession to get the court to beg off the fight is what created this trap.

The post Letwin let-down: Parliament shuts down Brexit approval in key procedural vote appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group johnson-rees-mogg-300x162 Letwin let-down: Parliament shuts down Brexit approval in key procedural vote United Kingdom The Blog Parliament Letwin amendment European Union elections Brexit Boris Johnson Benn Act   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Hmmmm: BoJo’s Brexit deal set to pass Parliament tomorrow?

Westlake Legal Group bojo-hands Hmmmm: BoJo’s Brexit deal set to pass Parliament tomorrow? United Kingdom The Blog Parliament European Union Brexit Boris Johnson

The situation has been fluid all day in Westminster, but The Guardian’s calculations suggest Boris Johnson just might get his Brexit deal passed. Ten Labour MPs have declared their intention to support the proposal, along with enough Tory rebels returning to get to a majority of two, even without the DUP. That’s an early assumption, however, and a key loss on a procedural motion might throw a spanner into the works for Johnson tomorrow.

For now, though, Johnson looks like he’s building a winning coalition:

Onn partnered up with Tory MP Victoria Prentis on an op-ed to urge unity in getting Brexit done and “move on”:

Last month, we came together with colleagues across the house to find a middle ground between the extremes of no deal and a second referendum. Our mission was to give a voice to the silent majority – both in parliament and across the country – a voice to those who respect the result of the referendum, and who want us to leave with a deal and move on. …

That’s why we have decided to write together the day before this historic sitting – not just as a proof that MPs of different stripes can work together, but to implore our colleagues to use this unique chance to help us move on, and get back to helping our constituents.

A no-deal Brexit will risk their prosperity, and a second referendum will only deepen the schism of the past three years. Pride needs to be swallowed on both sides, and clear heads must prevail.

The risk of letting this final shot at a deal slip through our fingers is too great. Our collective hope rests on brave Labour MPs, and indeed others, who can see that.

There isn’t a word in this essay that supports any of the elements of the deal, nor a single word about Boris Johnson. Still, it appears that the momentum has swung his way and that Johnson’s deal might still pass.

That might not be the end of it, however. Some apparently suspected that Johnson might try to use this version of a deal as a stalking-horse for a later no-deal Brexit. Johnson’s government lost a vote to keep the authorizing bill from being amended, and Parliament began attaching conditions to the deal. The most significant of this is one offered by MP Oliver Letwin that suspends approval of the deal until the government passes enabling legislation, which is separate from the approval that may pass tomorrow:

The amendment would withhold approval of the deal, until the legislation to enact it was safely passed – a move that would automatically trigger the “Benn Act” and force the prime minister to request a further postponement of Brexit until 31 January. …

Sir Oliver’s amendment is a cunningly-crafted proposition which, crucially, could be voted for by MPs who want a deal, but don’t trust this one, and don’t trust the government.

It rests on the idea that were Parliament to approve the deal for the purposes of the Benn Act now, there might then be a danger that the subsequent legislation to enact it might be, somehow, derailed, resulting in a no-deal exit on 31 October.

With the Benn Act out of the way, they believe that some manoeuvre, some legislative judo move, by factions inside and outside the government, who favour a “clean Brexit” could leave no time for any effective counter… and Britain would be out, with no deal.

The perceived need to seek such a guarantee in legislation speaks to a profound lack of trust in Johnson and his fellow Brexit hardliners. Given all of the machinations on all sides over Brexit to this point, it’s hardly outside of the realm of possibility that Johnson could have been angling for a way to get to a no-deal Brexit by finding a way to get around the Benn Act. That would have been a clever ploy, one that would have enabled Johnson to avoid some of the political damage for splitting off Northern Ireland as he has in this current version of the deal while still claiming to have delivered a functional Brexit deal.

Letwin insists he’s not trying to scupper the deal but to save it:

“My aim is to ensure that Boris’s deal succeeds, but that we have an insurance policy which prevents the UK from crashing out on 31 October by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation,” Letwin said in an explanatory note sent to reporters.

It might, however, be a poison pill in the end that some Brexiters can’t swallow. At the very least, tomorrow’s sitting might end up being more academic than climactic:

This assumes that the EU would grant another extension, a point that is far from established. However, it would be almost automatically granted if Parliament passed the authorization and needed a little more time for the enabling legislation to pass; certainly the EU would not jeopardize their own interests in a pedantic argument over the deadline with nothing else at stake. With that as the context and another no-deal escape hatch closed, will hardline Brexiters come along with Johnson? At least one of them announced this afternoon that she’ll throw in with the government on the deal:

Johnson might still need a few more to get around the DUP, but it’s now leaning in his direction.

The post Hmmmm: BoJo’s Brexit deal set to pass Parliament tomorrow? appeared first on Hot Air.

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WATCH: Climate Change Protestors Learn a Hard Lesson About Blocking People From Getting to Work

Westlake Legal Group maxresdefault-2-620x349 WATCH: Climate Change Protestors Learn a Hard Lesson About Blocking People From Getting to Work Video United Kingdom Trains Shocking Politics London insane Glue Front Page Stories Front Page Featured Story Extinction Rebellion Crazy Climate Change Beaten Allow Media Exception

Early this morning in the United Kingdom, climate change protestors dubbing themselves part of the “Extinction Rebellion” took to the streets. Some of them got the bright idea of climbing on top of the morning commuter trains, which effectively forced the city to stop running them. This left thousands of people stranded with noway to get to work and frustrated by what was transpiring.

Then things got a little rowdy.

If you watch the video, you’ll see the two protestors start to get pelted with what looks like coffee cups and other pieces of debris. Eventually, an angry commuter climbs up the side and pulls a man down into the crowd where he presumably gets pummeled (you can’t really see at that point).

It’s a pretty crazy visual, but not surprising. Trains are already a form of “green” energy, are they not? And you aren’t going to win any converts by stopping people from making money to to support their families.

And what is it with these people and glue?

This stuff is only hurting their cause. People don’t respond well to insane people invading their lives and forcing hardship on them.

Further, these protests are nonsensical. Do they expect to convince China to stop burning coal by gluing themselves to trains in the UK? Even if everyone these people interacted with said “you know, I see the light,” it still wouldn’t change anything.

All this comes back to the religious nature of the climate change movement. These people really think they can “save the world” and affect the climate. In reality, they’d be much better off using their time coming up with technological solutions to deal with any possible rise in temperatures over the next 100 years. Because the truth is, even if catastrophic climate change were real and wholly caused by man, there’s essentially nothing we can do about it.

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The post WATCH: Climate Change Protestors Learn a Hard Lesson About Blocking People From Getting to Work appeared first on RedState.

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Parents of British teen killed by diplomat’s wife tell Trump: We’ll meet Sacoolas in the UK, not the US

Westlake Legal Group dunn-gmb Parents of British teen killed by diplomat’s wife tell Trump: We’ll meet Sacoolas in the UK, not the US white house United Kingdom The Blog robert o'brien intelligence community Harry Dunn donald trump diplomatic immunity Anne Sacoolas

Did Donald Trump’s attempt at a rapprochement in a difficult diplomatic jam backfire? The parents of a teen killed in a road accident involving the wife of an American diplomat in the UK met with Trump to urge him to withdraw Anne Sacoolas’ immunity and send her back to face criminal charges. Trump declined to do that, but offered instead to arrange a meeting between the parents of Harry Dunn and Sacoolas … who just happened to be in the next room, along with members of the media.

No thanks was the reply to the offer, which the parents called an “ambush” later. Charlotte Charles was aghast at the idea for Sacoolas’ sake as well:

The parents of British 19-year-old Harry Dunn, who was killed in a traffic accident involving American Anne Sacoolas, tells “CBS This Morning” they rejected President Trump’s surprise offer to meet with Sacoolas during a White House meeting on Tuesday.

After offering them his condolences, “it didn’t take long for [Mr. Trump] to then drop into the conversation that Anne Sacoolas was in the building,” mother Charlotte Charles said in her first U.S. TV interview since the meeting.

Dunn’s father, Tim, said when he first heard the offer to meet with Sacoolas, it took his breath away.

“He did ask two or three times,” Tim said, adding, “It was a bit pressure, but we stuck to our guns.”

Charles said it was the “wrong setting.”

“We’ve said all along that you know we are willing to meet her. We are still willing to meet her. But it needs to be on U.K. soil, you know, and with therapists and mediators,” Charles said. “And that’s not just for us. That’s for her as well.”

In fact, as CBS later explains, Sacoolas herself would have been ambushed by the circumstances of the meeting. She had been called to the White House and apparently informed that Dunn’s parents were meeting with Trump, but was not aware of the plans made for an attempt to bring them all together. As the attorney for the parents describes itawkward might be the most polite description possible. Radd Seiger lays out four surprises that awaited his clients, with the third perhaps the most unpleasant of all:

“Thirdly that Mrs. Sacoolas was present in the building and fourthly that it was the president’s intention for Harry’s family to meet Mrs. Sacoolas in the Oval Office in front of several photographers in what was obviously designed to be a press call,” Seiger wrote in his statement.

The Dunn family blames National Security Adviser O’Brien for the misstep. “It struck us that this meeting was hastily arranged by nincompoops on the run and in particular Mr. O’Brien, who appeared to be extremely uptight and aggressive and did not come across at all well in this meeting which required careful handling and sensitivity,” Seiger wrote. “The family remain open to the possibility of meeting Mrs. Sacoolas one day in the future but in a neutral and appropriately controlled environment.”

The description by Daily Beast correspondent Barbie Latza Nadeau might come closer to the mark:

You can almost imagine the reality-show excitement that surely went into the ill-considered plan to introduce Anne Sacoolas, the American diplomatic wife who killed 19-year-old motorcyclist Harry Dunn when she drove down the wrong side of an English lane in August, to Dunn’s grieving parents.

What was nat-sec adviser Robert O’Brien doing as facilitator for this meeting anyway? That should have been either Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State or one of his deputies, if the claim of diplomatic immunity relates to actual diplomatic function. O’Brien’s presence leaves the impression that Sacoolas’ husband is involved in a different kind of diplomacy (cough cough). This case needed an especially deft diplomatic touch regardless, not an intelligence operation.

Let’s be honest, though; we all know where the reality-TV show approach originated. It didn’t come from O’Brien, although one might have thought that a nat-sec adviser would have suggested to his boss that he needed to dial down the attention on this case rather than blow it up. It came from the man who leveraged his reality-TV experience into a presidency, and whose instincts still run in the reality-TV direction. Sometimes that works spectacularly well for Trump, but in this case it produced a traumatic backfire that victimized two already grieving families.

Even so, Charles remained gracious about Trump, both on CBS This Morning and on Good Morning Britain. She tells both programs that she thinks Trump sincerely wants to find a way to help her get justice for her son, although she also concludes that it’s not likely to happen. It’s a terribly sad situation, but Trump’s already got enough troubles with the diplomatic and intelligence communities. He can’t afford to touch off any more retaliation, especially right now.

The post Parents of British teen killed by diplomat’s wife tell Trump: We’ll meet Sacoolas in the UK, not the US appeared first on Hot Air.

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Brexit-rella? EU sets midnight deadline for resolving Irish border issue

Westlake Legal Group barnier-ap Brexit-rella? EU sets midnight deadline for resolving Irish border issue United Kingdom The Blog Northern Ireland Michel Barnier European Union DUP Brexit Boris Johnson backstop

Why will Boris Johnson turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight? The EU’s chief negotiator has set that as a deadline for the British prime minister to offer his concessions on the Irish border in writing. It’s the last minute, almost literally, before the EU meetings that could possibly accept a revamped Brexit deal before the Hallowe’en deadline.

And even that might not work if Johnson can’t sell Parliament on the necessary concessions:

Michel Barnier has set Boris Johnson a midnight deadline to concede to EU demands and agree to a customs border in the Irish Sea or be left with nothing to take to the Commons.

According to sources, the EU’s chief negotiator told ministers that without a major move there was little prospect of a deal being signed off by leaders at a summit on Thursday, before a special sitting of the UK parliament on Saturday.

Don’t get your hopes up, either. While Johnson has discussed some potential concessions, he’s put nothing in writing yet. Until that happens …

Legal text had yet to be tabled by the British negotiators, Barnier told ministers in Luxembourg. He advised the EU capitals he would announce on Wednesday whether negotiations on an agreement would have to continue into next week.

Barnier warned that the starting point for a deal has to be the Northern Ireland-only backstop, keeping it in the EU’s single market for goods and erecting a customs border in the Irish Sea, a proposal previously rejected by Theresa May.

It’s a proposal that will get immediately rubbished by the DUP too, which is why May had to reject it in the first place. The DUP provides the Tories what little claim they still have to a parliamentary majority, and they have made clear in the past few days that their position has not changed. Northern Ireland has to get treated exactly the same as the rest of the UK or it’s no deal.

Still, hope springs eternal, and Barnier told the media earlier that anything is possible:

Time is running out, however, and an agreement would need to include the complete legal text — not just conceptual agreement. That might make this the thirteenth hour more than the eleventh:

A senior German official wouldn’t rule out a Brexit agreement in principle by Wednesday afternoon, but stressed the importance of the specifics — and how time consuming they will be to work out.

“The basis for our decisions are legal texts in which the details are settled,” the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity in line with department rules, said in Berlin. “But there has been progress, and as always in these negotiations the biggest progress happens over the final meters.”

Late Monday, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said the British proposals to keep the Irish border protected from smuggling and fraud once it leaves the bloc were insufficient.

“The U.K. proposal contained some steps forward but not enough to guarantee that the internal market will be protected,” Blok said.

Word around the UK campfire will be that Johnson will publish a proposal by tomorrow, and that it will attempt to eat his cake whilst having it too:

It is understood that the negotiating teams have agreed in principle that there will be a customs border down the Irish Sea. A similar arrangement was rejected by Theresa May as a deal that no British prime minister could accept.

Johnson will still have to win over parliament – including the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) and the hardline Tory Brexiters in the European Research Group – on the basis that, under the deal, Northern Ireland will still legally be within the UK’s customs territory.

“Northern Ireland would de jure be in the UK’s customs territory but de facto in the European Union’s,” one diplomatic source said of the tentative agreement.

The prime minister will be able to boast that the UK “whole and entire” has left the European Union.

That’s, um, pretty much what the EU offered two years ago. May might have gone for it if she hadn’t gambled on a snap election and wound up in the DUP’s debt. Will the DUP allow Johnson to save face by agreeing to this rhetorical compromise but major functional concession? I’d call it doubtful at best.

For now, the safe bet is that Johnson turns into a pumpkin at midnight. And then the question becomes whether he can legally cross over the border on Hallowe’en or whether he becomes subject to agricultural inspections. Heyyy-yoooooo ….

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David Gauke: Whatever briefings from Downing Street may claim, an election fought on a No Deal platform would be disastrous

David Gauke is a former Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, and is MP for South West Hertfordshire.

How much has the Conservative Party changed? To what extent has it moved from being a mainstream, centre-right party containing a broad range of views to being a party overwhelmingly focused on delivering an uncompromising Brexit?

It is a question I have asked myself a lot in recent months. Having fought off a deselection attempt because I opposed a No Deal Brexit, and having lost the Conservative whip because I continued to oppose a No Deal Brexit, it is hard to escape the conclusion that quite a lot of Conservatives disapprove of people who oppose a No Deal Brexit. Has the debate become so rancorous and intolerant that there is no longer a place for the likes of me in the Conservative Party?

The answer to that question is uncertain, but I took some encouragement from the Manchester Party conference.
I admit to attending with some trepidation. My position on Brexit is evidently a minority one within the Party. I have not sought to hide my criticisms of the substance and tone of the Government’s approach to Brexit. And I have not ruled out standing in my constituency as an independent if the whip is not returned. If ever I was going to get a hard time from Party activists, now would be the time.

And yet, at fringe event after fringe event, Party members were courteous and polite. Andrew Gimson generously wrote up my appearance at the ConservativeHome event, but a similar report could have been written for those I did with the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator. Don’t get me wrong: I am not claiming that I won the audiences over to my position – the occasional eye-roll, sigh and shake of the head was detectable – but nor was there anything like the hostility one might expect if, for example, you ever read the comments below one of my ConHome articles.

In truth, the Conservative Party felt – in those fringe meetings, at least – very similar to the party of which I have been a member for 29 years. Sensible, practical, well-meaning and decent.

I also take some encouragement from the apparent, new-found enthusiasm within the Government to reach a deal on Brexit. In previous columns, I have argued that seeking a deal and being willing to compromise is the right approach. That view would appear to be in the ascendant at the time of writing.

Until recently, an alternative approach appeared to be prevailing which seemed determined to crash us out on  October 31 at any cost. I have previously acknowledged the electoral case for this strategy, but in terms of the outcome for the country, it is thoroughly irresponsible. As such, it is also a huge departure from the modern traditions of the Conservative Party.

Let me give seven examples of principles that most Conservatives would support. I would happily sign up to each and every one of them but I struggle to reconcile them with those pursuing a No Deal Brexit at any cost.

  • We believe that living standards can only be raised and public services properly funded if you have a strong economy.

It is the argument that we have to fight at every election when our opponents make great promises but we respond by pointing out that we have to create the wealth in the first place if we properly want to fund the NHS, for example. Yet the overwhelming economic consensus is that No Deal Brexit would result in a sharp contraction in GDP. And before anyone rushes to claim that this is all a re-run of 2016’s ‘Project Fear’, remember our economy is 2.5-3 per cent smaller than it would have been had Remain won.

  • We believe in free trade.

Open markets benefit both our exporters but also our consumers. This has not always been the Conservative position but, thankfully, it has been for some time. And I know that there are plenty of Brexiteers who are sincere free traders and think that Brexit provides great new opportunities for bringing down trade barriers.

Unfortunately, it is simply not true. The Government’s analysis shows the benefit of getting trade deals with all the English-speaking nations and the major emerging economies will be just 0.2 to 0.6 per cent of GDP whereas the loss of access to European markets of a Canada-style free trade agreement (let alone a no deal Brexit) will be 4 to 7 per cent of GDP. The net effect of a No Deal Brexit or even a Canada style FTA will be to make our economy less open and more protectionist.

  • We believe in fiscal responsibility.

This was the battleground of British politics from 2009 to 2015 when we made the case for getting the deficit down. The contraction of the British economy will inevitably result in deteriorating public finances. Add to that a political strategy which focuses on winning the support of traditional Labour voters which has meant that we are almost certainly already breaking our fiscal rules.  Remember when we criticised Labour for more borrowing and more debt?

  • We don’t believe that the Government should bail-out unviable industries or businesses.

As a statement, this sounds like a bit of a throw-back to the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher weaned the country off supporting lame-duck businesses. But what do we think would happen when businesses no longer became viable because of the impact of No Deal? The pressure to provide support ‘in order to deal with the temporary disruption’ will be immense. The Government has already prepared for this with Operation Kingfisher but removing that support will be very difficult politically. There is a risk that our economy will become much more corporatist than any time since the 1970s.

  • We believe in our national institutions – Parliament, the monarchy and the independent judiciary.

This should go without saying but when Number Ten briefs that the next election will be people versus Parliament, that the Prime Minister will ‘dare the Queen to sack him’, that the judiciary is biased and that the Government will not comply with the law, we don’t sound very conservative (to put it mildly).

  • We believe in national security and ensuring that we do all we can to protect our citizens from terrorism.

And yet a ‘source in No 10’ says we will withhold security co-operation from those countries that fail to block an extension. Meanwhile, the former head of MI6 says that our security depends upon co-operation with the EU and that leaving without a deal means we will have to ‘start again with a blank sheet of paper’. In addition, it is hard to see how any ‘no deal’ outcome doesn’t destabilise the Good Friday Agreement one way or another. The Prime Minister, it is reported, is increasingly concerned about the risk of an upsurge in terrorist activities by dissident republican groups.

  • We believe in the United Kingdom.

It is obvious that Brexit is placing a strain on the union. A No Deal Brexit would be likely to result in a border poll in Northern Ireland, especially with Stormont not sitting and some form of direct rule being necessary. As for Scotland, the chaos of a No Deal Brexit provides plenty of ammunition for the separatists.

Not every Conservative voter will agree with every single one of those principles, or my criticisms of a No Deal Brexit. But a Conservative Party that fights a general election with No Deal at its heart must know that it will be pursuing an approach that is such a radical departure from the traditions of the Conservative Party and that it is vulnerable to losing the support of millions of our longstanding supporters.

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Suspect arrested on suspicion of terrorism in Manchester stabbing spree

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There was an apparently random stabbing spree inside a mall in Manchester, England earlier today. Video showed the suspect being arrested just outside the mall by two police officers. As you can see, one of the officers had fired a taser at the suspect:

The BBC describes the scene inside the mall:

One witness said they saw a man “running around with a knife lunging at multiple people”, while another described people “screaming and running”.

The centre was put on lockdown as officers confronted the attacker, with some shoppers taking refuge in stores.

A shop worker, who only gave his name as Jordan, 23, said: “A man was running around with a knife lunging at multiple people, one of which came into my store visibly shaken with a small graze…

Freddie Holder, 22, from Market Drayton, Shropshire, said he heard “a load of screams just outside” the shop he was in.

He said a woman then came into the shop and told others “a guy just ran past the shop and tried to stab me”.

He added: “I’m still kind of in shock from it, I’m shaking a little bit… all shops had been locked down just for safety.

Three people were transported to the hospital with serious injuries and are expected to live. Police gave an update in which they said that almost immediately after the attack began the man was confronted by two unarmed officers. The suspect began chasing them and they radioed for help. Other officers arrived and the suspect was arrested. Police are still saying they don’t know the motive for the attack but the suspect was arrested on suspicion of terrorism:

Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson told a press conference that while the suspect was initially arrested for serious assault, he has now been arrested on “suspicion of the preparation, commission and instigation of an act of terrorism.”

There was a similar knife attack in Paris last week when a long-time employee of the police department killed four of his colleagues inside police headquarters. In that case the suspect was killed. Police were initially downplaying terror as a motive, but after a search of the suspects computer and phone they announced that terrorism investigators were taking over the case. A short while later, we learned the suspect had recently adopted more conservative Islamic views and had “expressed his support for the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks.”

We’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out what motivated the Manchester suspect. In most cases, people carrying out these attacks are not trying to go unnoticed. On the contrary, they usually announce the motive in some way. Since he’s still alive, maybe he’s also talking. Here’s a video of the police press conference.

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Johnson: No-deal Brexit will be Merkel’s fault

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To be fair, blame the Germans has proven to be a solid political strategy regarding European affairs for quite a while, and not for no reason. It’s nearly as popular in the UK, historically speaking, as blame the French. And Leo Varadkar might be happy that Boris Johnson isn’t blaming Ireland for the no-deal Brexit everyone knows is coming.

But even as much as everyone likes to blame the Germans, this looks like a stretch:

An anonymous official in Boris Johnson’s office told broadcast reporters on Tuesday that negotiations with European leaders over Brexit were “essentially impossible” after the British prime minister concluded a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. …

An anonymous source in Johnson’s office briefed British broadcasters about a morning call between Johnson and Merkel, asserting that the Europeans would not budge an inch.

“It was a very useful and clarifying moment in all sorts of ways,” the British official was quoted as saying. “If this represents a new established position, then it means a deal is essentially impossible, not just now but ever.”

Narrator: It doesn’t represent a new established position. In fact, what Merkel appeared to say today was what the EU has said for the past three years, but 10 Downing is spinning it as something new:

“Merkel said that if Germany wanted to leave the E.U., they could do it, no problem. But the U.K. cannot leave without leaving Northern Ireland behind in a customs union and in full alignment forever,” the British source was quoted as saying.

This has been the backstop position all along. The EU is willing to negotiate a Brexit but only if the UK can solve the problem it has created with Brexit. The backstop — having Northern Ireland in the customs and regulatory union or all of the UK — would last as long as it takes the UK to solve the problem that backstop temporarily resolves.

This is the problem: The UK committed to a frictionless border in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which was easy to establish when both the UK and the Republic of Ireland were both in the EU. Brexit from the EU on the UK’s terms would require border checks to enforce the two different customs and regulatory regimes that would exist by the UK’s design on the island. Those don’t just apply to trade, but also to immigration, over which the UK also wants to regain its sovereignty through Brexit. It is therefore incumbent on the UK to come up with a solution that allows them to comply with the Good Friday Agreement, a point which Johnson himself has acknowledged.

Essentially, Merkel told Johnson that his latest proposal — which envisions border checks, even if located elsewhere than the physical border — doesn’t solve the problem. That would require the backstop to remain in place until the UK comes up with a plan that actually does resolve the conflict between the GFA and Brexit. If that means the backstop would remain in place “forever,” as this leak claims, it only points up the painfully obvious-by-now fact that Johnson really has no idea at all how to solve the problem.

That’s not Angela Merkel’s fault. It’s a flaw in the original design of Brexit, one which the Tories have tried to ignore or downplay ever since.

In response, the EU told Johnson to grow up:

The European Union accused Britain of playing a “stupid blame game” over Brexit on Tuesday after a Downing Street source said a deal was essentially impossible because German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made unacceptable demands. …

“Boris Johnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game,” European Council President Tusk said on Twitter. “At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?”

Such abrupt remarks indicate the Brexit blame game has begun in earnest, and that now both London and European capitals are preparing for an acrimonious and potentially chaotic Brexit for which neither side wants to be held responsible.

This does smell like end-game spin, but especially in the UK. Johnson may have hoped that the EU was desperate enough to avoid the damage from a no-deal Brexit that they’d glumly accept his ultimatum. The EU, however, has committed to Ireland that they will protect the GFA and the open border on the island. Plus, it’s in their interest to make sure that the checks necessary once the UK goes its own way on trade deals are firmly in place rather than scattered in warehouses throughout not just the Six Counties but also throughout Ireland too — and Varadkar doesn’t want to get stuck holding the bag for being the UK’s customs enforcer.

The no-deal Brexit is upon us now. The only thing left to see is who gets the blame for the damage that will follow, and whether Northern Ireland decides to enforce another clause of the GFA by holding a referendum on reunification — which would solve the whole problem by pushing the border into the Irish Sea.

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BoJo to Trump: Return diplomat’s spouse to face vehicular homicide charge

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This has the potential to get very awkward for both leaders who are depending on each other a little more than usual recently. The US whisked a State Department official’s spouse out of the United Kingdom after an accident that killed a motorcyclist, claiming she had diplomatic immunity. Responding to the outrage at home, Boris Johnson is now demanding her return to face charges, and plans to challenge his key ally Donald Trump — who has problems of his own on international relations at the moment:

“I do not think that it can be right to use the process of diplomatic immunity for this type of purpose,” Johnson told the BBC.

“I hope that Anne Sacoolas will come back and will engage properly with the processes of law as they are carried out in this country. That’s a point that we’ve raised — or are raising today — with the American ambassador here in the UK, and I hope it will be resolved very shortly.”

Dunn died when his motorcycle collided with a car near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on Aug. 27.

Mother of three Sacoolas — whose husband, Jonathan Sacoolas, was based there — initially “engaged fully” with police and said “she had no plans to leave the country in the near future,” a police spokeswoman told The Guardian.

The Northamptonshire police chief constable, Nick Adderley, said they had appealed in “the strongest terms” to apply a waiver to her immunity and “allow the justice process to take place.”

How exactly does Sacoolas have diplomatic immunity in the first place? That’s another awkward point. According to The Telegraph, she had only been in the UK for three weeks before the accident. Sacoolas had stopped after the collision and admitted fault, having driven on the wrong side of the road. The husband is reportedly assigned to the military base, raising questions about what kind of “diplomacy” might be involved. Normally, diplomatic immunity only applies to dependents of officials assigned to London, although there are (cough cough) exceptions, and Sacoolas seems to be one of those:

The diplomat, his wife and their three children, had only arrived in the UK at the beginning of August, the Telegraph understands. …

Dependants of diplomats based outside London do not usually hold inviolability or immunity.

However, there are some individuals outside of London who have diplomatic immunity under the Geneva convention.

That exception for RAF Croughton personnel was arranged by a 1994 agreement, for some (cough cough) reason.  It’s the exception that appears to be rankling the Brits. With Brexit at the breaking point, this is a political headache Johnson doesn’t need, but on the other hand he can’t afford to alienate Trump over it either. If Johnson succeeds in getting a no-deal Brexit, he will need an immediate trade pact with the US to stave off as much economic damage as possible. That will require a lot of help from Trump, who up to now has promised to make it as painless for Johnson as possible.

What can Trump do about it, though? Having made the claim for diplomatic immunity, he can hardly withdraw it now. His ambassador and political ally Woody Johnson already refused the UK’s request to rescind immunity. If Trump reversed that, it would look as though he’s sacrificing a diplomat for his own political purposes — even if it might serve the interests of justice in this particular situation. It might also raise questions about how she ended up with immunity in the first place, although a refusal could actually make that question more acute than less so.

Plus, this comes as the State Department is already on edge over Ukraine-Gate. Employees at other embassies (and other facilities, cough cough) will be watching this closely to see if Trump has their backs. It’s not a propitious moment to break diplomatic traditions to throw the wife of a diplomat to the wolves for the sake of a trade deal, even if the wolves in this case are the civilized Brits and the sacrifice is someone who killed a young man by driving badly.

Now that Johnson has promised to “be raising it myself personally with the White House,” though, the temperature has escalated on the issue. If Johnson comes back empty-handed, it won’t help him project strength in the American partnership on which he’s basing his no-deal Brexit strategy. And Trump almost certainly can’t afford to help Johnson prevent it.

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