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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Europe"

Daniel Hannan: Brexit. Vote Conservative in the European elections to help us deliver it – and finish the job.

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

The latest two opinion polls show the Conservatives at 16 and 15 per cent in advance of the European elections, a huge decline over the past month. Those figures are bad enough, but the actual result could be even worse.

At this point in the cycle, surveys tend to overstate support for the traditional parties. Why? Because, although the pollsters’ question is “How will you vote in the European election?” many respondents hear it as “Which is your favourite party?” Polls therefore flatter Labour and the Conservatives and underestimate single-issue parties. At this stage last time – April 2014 – opinion polls had us at 27 per cent. On polling day, we secured 23.

That, though, is just the start of it. At the last three European elections, the date of the local elections was moved to coincide with the Euro-poll (a tiny example of how our domestic traditions are forever being rearranged for the EU’s convenience). This time, because the European election was unforeseen – and, even now, might theoretically not happen – it will stand alone. The lift that Conservative Euro-candidates get from their councillors will be removed. Many of our supporters won’t vote, whereas single-issue pro- and anti-Brexit parties will have no difficulty motivating their voters.

It gets worse. Until now, the Conservatives have had resources – human and financial – to fight campaigns. This time, we have no budget and many of our activists are on strike. And that’s before we get to the central problem, namely the anger that people feel over the delay in Brexit.

We could sink into single figures next month. Keen to give us a bit of a slap, voters might knock us into a hole too deep for any future leader to clamber out of. I know that we are supposed, before an election, to talk up our party’s prospects. But, on this occasion, it would be silly to ignore the gravity of our predicament. The European election could mark the moment when, after 190 years (350 if we count the Tory prelude) the Conservative Party ceases to be viable.

That is why, though I hate the fact that this poll is happening, I felt I had to stand again. I couldn’t walk away and watch as Jeremy Corbyn, buoyed up by victory, snatched at the levers of power.

I know some ConHome readers are sceptical. I know it because they keep telling me. It’s only a European election, they say. We want to register our annoyance at the failure to deliver Brexit, they say. We don’t want to endorse Theresa May, they say. We want to send a message on Brexit, they say.

Folks, that message was sent on 23 June 2016, when more Brits voted to leave the EU than have ever voted for anything. The Conservative Party got the message. What it didn’t get was the numbers needed to implement it.

This point cannot be stressed too strongly. The reason that Brexit hasn’t yet happened is not that Tory MPs are secretly trying to keep us in the EU. It is that all the other parties (except the DUP) are openly trying to do so. If you want to break the deadlock, give us the numbers. Give us the votes.

It’s true, obviously, that a European election isn’t a general election. But what do you think will happen if one of the two main parties is wiped out at a national poll? Such a party doesn’t just get up and start winning again. Look at the Canadian Tories after they were obliterated in 1993. True, a reconfigured Centre-Right eventually came back. But whereas Canada was governed in the intervening 13 years by a relatively moderate Liberal Party, we face Jezza.

I want an agreed and amicable Brexit, one that does not involve handing the EU permanent control of our trade policy, but that keeps a close and friendly relationship. If we are going to get such a deal, we need at least some MEPs to support it.

Think of it another way. Whom would you rather have in charge of the Brexit talks – Jezza or whoever takes over as Tory leader? No, I don’t know who it will be either, but I do know that, whoever it is, he or she will be more competent than an old Trot who manages to be simultaneously in favour of and against Brexit, and whose main beef with the EU is that its competition laws would prevent him from completing a Castro-style seizure of our economy.

The Prime Minister has already said she is resigning. The only question is over timing. She might be gone before 22 May, or at least be in the process of going. A leadership contest tends to give any party a poll boost, as broadcasters and other media focus on it, and as voters keep hearing its putative leaders setting out their optimistic visions.

But if you, dear ConHome reader, decide to back someone else or to boycott the poll, there may be nothing for those putative leaders to inherit.

I have spent 30 years working to restore our national independence. I’m not prepared to drop out now, not when we are so close to success. Please – give us the support we need to get the job finished.

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Ouch: Pelosi Shades AOC Once Again in What May Be Her Her Most Pointed Jab Yet

Westlake Legal Group Untitled-2-1-620x317 Ouch: Pelosi Shades AOC Once Again in What May Be Her Her Most Pointed Jab Yet United Kingdom Politics North Carolina Nancy Pelosi Front Page Stories Front Page Featured Story Featured Post Europe democrats Culture Congress Campaigns AOC Allow Media Exception Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 2020 Elections

When it comes to showing who is the boss, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) has been unafraid to take soft jabs at freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14).

The most recent example came Monday night when Pelosi was speaking in front of a U.K. audience. Newsweek reports:

“When we won this election, it wasn’t in districts like mine or Alexandria’s. And she’s a wonderful member of Congress, I think all of our colleagues will attest,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, told an audience Monday night at a London School of Economics event during a U.K. visit.

“But those are districts that are solidly Democratic. This glass of water would win with a D next to its name in those districts,” she said, picking up the water at her table.

“And not to diminish the exuberance, and the personality, and the rest of Alexandria and the other members…but the 43 districts—we won 43, net gain of 40—were right down the middle. mainstream, hold-the-center victories.

“If we’re going to be helping the one-in-five children in America who goes to sleep hungry at night, who lives in poverty in our country, we have to win.”

Watch video of Pelosi’s remarks below:

AOC posted a tweet this afternoon that appeared to be a response to Pelosi’s remarks:

Ocasio-Cortez won’t want to admit this Pelosi is actually right here. AOC acts like she can just declare an issue to be the most important one of our time and then everyone will magically fall in line with her.

In real life, it doesn’t work that way. You have to build a consensus, and obviously for House Democrats that would be harder to do if they didn’t win as many competitive/toss-up/right-leaning Congressional districts last year.

That being said, it’s amusing to watch this play out from the cheap seats. I have zero doubt Pelosi has had this talk with AOC behind the scenes, but she’s clearly not listening. So Pelosi has taken it public.

It’s like a proxy battle between representatives of the DCCC and AOC’s Justice Democrats.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of either of them, but I’m all for Pelosi continuing to do this. When Ocasio-Cortez feels slighted, she goes on wild Twitter rants that further expose her unhinged, erratic nature.

Plus, people get a bird’s-eye view of just how outside of the mainstream she actually is.

More, please.

Westlake Legal Group giphy Ouch: Pelosi Shades AOC Once Again in What May Be Her Her Most Pointed Jab Yet United Kingdom Politics North Carolina Nancy Pelosi Front Page Stories Front Page Featured Story Featured Post Europe democrats Culture Congress Campaigns AOC Allow Media Exception Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 2020 Elections

—————————
Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter.–

The post Ouch: Pelosi Shades AOC Once Again in What May Be Her Her Most Pointed Jab Yet appeared first on RedState.

Westlake Legal Group Untitled-2-1-300x153 Ouch: Pelosi Shades AOC Once Again in What May Be Her Her Most Pointed Jab Yet United Kingdom Politics North Carolina Nancy Pelosi Front Page Stories Front Page Featured Story Featured Post Europe democrats Culture Congress Campaigns AOC Allow Media Exception Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 2020 Elections   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

France and Belgium Refuse Support for New Trade Talks With the U.S.

Westlake Legal Group 15EU-TRADE-facebookJumbo France and Belgium Refuse Support for New Trade Talks With the U.S. United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Protectionism (Trade) Macron, Emmanuel (1977- ) International Trade and World Market France European Union European Parliament European Commission Europe Customs (Tariff) Belgium

BRUSSELS — France and Belgium refused on Monday to support the launch of new trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States, highlighting divisions over President Trump’s trade and climate policies.

The opposition by France and an abstention by Belgium arose during a vote by agricultural ministers. Neither is enough to prevent negotiations, but officials in Brussels said that such a fracture was virtually unheard-of in the bloc’s recent history. Trade measures like this normally pass unanimously.

President Emmanuel Macron of France has said he objects to negotiations because the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris climate agreement in 2017. But the vote also shows that nationalist sentiment stoked by Mr. Trump in the United States can influence European politics, experts say.

Mr. Macron faces pressure from a populist movement at home to adopt more protectionist trade policies, notably for agricultural products, ahead of European Parliament elections in May. At the same time, an environmentalist youth movement has risen in France and across Europe.

But France is not the only European Union member balking over trade talks with the United States. Punitive tariffs and tough talk by Mr. Trump in the past year have made key American allies wary.

The vote on Monday by member states was focused on two mandates for the European negotiators to pursue: to eliminate tariffs for industrial goods, excluding agricultural goods, and to make it easier for companies in the United States and the European Union to meet the other’s technical requirements.

Last month, a majority of the European Parliament voted down a nonbinding resolution in support of the negotiation mandates.

Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian member of Parliament for the European Green Party, voted against the mandates. The far left, the far right and the Greens usually oppose any trade deal that does not include tough environmental standards and certain protectionist measures, particularly in the agricultural sector, Mr. Lamberts said.

“What’s new here is that an increasing faction of the socialist group and the French representatives in general want to repair their reputation on free trade deals ahead of the elections,” he said, referring to next month’s ballot.

Belgium abstained because the regional government of Wallonia, a French-speaking area in the south, viewed the negotiations much like France, according to a Belgian diplomat, who declined to speak on the record given the continuing negotiations.

In 2016, Wallonia temporarily blocked the ratification of a free-trade deal between the European Union and Canada, on both protectionist and environmentalist grounds.

The two negotiation mandates were first proposed in January by the European Commission, which negotiates trade deals for the bloc’s 28 member states.

Last year, Mr. Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum produced in the European Union. The European Union retaliated with tariffs on a list of goods imported from the United States. In July, leaders on both sides called a truce during a meeting in Washington and vowed to work toward a free-trade agreement.

However, Congress has made clear that it will not ratify any trade agreement with the European Union that doesn’t include agriculture. And the Trump administration has repeatedly insisted that agriculture be included in later negotiations, something that European countries, including France, have forcefully resisted. Meanwhile, the United States has been threatening to impose punitive tariffs on European car imports.

Peter Chase, a former United States trade representative in Brussels and currently a resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, said: “The U.S. administration is trying to push Europeans to adopt a negotiating mandate using the threat of the auto tariffs to ensure that mandate is broad and includes agriculture. The U.S. will push, and the E.U. will push back.”

“I do think that it is possible that the U.S.-E.U. trade relationship will become more contentious over the next few months,” he said.

The European Union “is not afraid of anything,” Cecilia Malmstrom, the bloc’s chief trade negotiator, said during a news conference on Monday afternoon.

“I’m aware of some of the concerns and the fears” in the European Parliament and by certain member states, she said, but “the fears they had have been accommodated in amendments to this morning’s mandates.”

“Agriculture will certainly not be part of these negotiations — this is a red line for Europe,” she said.

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In Search for Leverage, Trump May Be Undercutting His Own Trade Deals

Westlake Legal Group 14DC-TRADE-facebookJumbo In Search for Leverage, Trump May Be Undercutting His Own Trade Deals United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Politics and Government Mexico Japan International Trade and World Market Europe China Canada

WASHINGTON — President Trump is embracing a new tactic as he tries to rewrite the rules of global trade: Don’t believe a final deal is truly final.

Mr. Trump, who has called deal-making his “art form,” has used his unpredictability as a source of leverage in discussions with Europe, Canada, Mexico, Japan and elsewhere. He has dangled the possibility of lifting American metal tariffs while threatening to add new tariffs on automobiles at any time. He has repeatedly agreed to new trade terms with foreign partners, then talked about undoing those deals to achieve additional goals.

Mr. Trump has argued that this aggressive and unpredictable negotiating style allows him to extract greater economic concessions than past administrations — and he may be right, at least in the short run. But his approach is causing concern among business groups and foreign officials, who say the uncertainty Mr. Trump loves to sow could undermine the role the United States has traditionally played in setting and stabilizing the global rules of trade, hampering economic growth in the process.

His administration is working on a slew of trade deals, including agreements with South Korea, Canada and Mexico and attempts to reach trade terms with China, Europe and Japan. On Monday, the European Union is expected to vote on a mandate that would give the bloc the authority to negotiate a trade agreement with the United States. And Japanese officials are scheduled to meet on Monday in Washington for preliminary trade talks with their American counterparts.

But constantly moving the goal posts comes at a cost. In upending the norms of international relationships, trade experts say Mr. Trump appears to be encouraging some partners to drag their feet in dealings with the United States or find other trading partners to diversify away from the relationship. The president has also created uncertainty for companies that may throw the entire benefit of any trade deal he strikes into question.

“This administration’s approach to trade is bully, bully, bully,” said Mary Lovely, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “What will be the ramifications in the future? We really don’t know. We need cooperation on so many things.”

Canada and Mexico have been forced to repeatedly scramble as a result of Mr. Trump’s tactics. After months of painful negotiations, the United States reached a revised North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico last year. Mr. Trump in November hailed the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement as “probably the largest trade deal ever made” and called on Congress to immediately ratify the pact.

He has since undercut his own agreements, refusing to lift American tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico and, more recently, threatening to override the new U.S.M.C.A. by taxing imports of cars and car parts from Mexico. The United States had signed an agreement with both Canada and Mexico as part of the deal that would immediately prevent the United States from taxing auto imports, but Mr. Trump has since threatened to scrap that.

On April 5, the same day that Mr. Trump’s negotiators were meeting in Washington with their Chinese counterparts to haggle over their trade deal, Mr. Trump threatened to put a 25 percent tariff on Mexican cars “if for any reason Mexico stops apprehending and bringing the illegals back to where they came from.”

“This will supersede USMCA,” the president wrote.

It is not clear that the president, who has repeatedly threatened auto tariffs on trading partners, would follow through with his threat. If he does, Canada and Mexico could reasonably argue that all of the agreements reached in the U.S.M.C.A. are void, resulting in the breakup of a trade pact, which is a critical agreement for businesses across North America.

“Because he is so unpredictable, you are not sure he’ll stick to anything,” said Maryscott Greenwood, chief executive of the Canadian American Business Council.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund cited global trade uncertainty, including Mr. Trump’s trade wars, as it slashed its projections for global growth. And in a survey by the Business Roundtable last September, nearly two-thirds of responding chief executives said recent tariffs and trade policy uncertainty would have a negative effect on investment decisions over the next six months.

Jesús Seade Kuri, the under secretary for North America at the Mexican foreign ministry, was in Washington last week to meet with legislators and lobby for passage of the Nafta replacement. He told reporters at a news conference that Mexico did not intend to mix discussions of trade with migration and avoided comment on the auto tariff threat.

But in an interview with a Mexican radio station on Friday, Mr. Seade laughed off the threat of auto tariffs. “That is being talked about,” he said, chuckling. “The art of the threat.”

That threat also hangs over Europe, South Korea and Japan, all major sources of imported automobiles for American consumers. The potential for American car tariffs has brought foreign officials to the negotiating table, with South Korea signing an updated trade deal last year, and Europe and Japan just now beginning negotiations. But those talks may be aimed more at receiving temporary protection from Mr. Trump’s auto tariffs than breaking new trade ground.

The president is required to decide whether to impose auto tariffs by May 18, but he has the option to exclude countries if they are currently in negotiations with the United States. For some foreign officials, the prudent choice has been to enter into limited negotiations with the United States, while hoping that will forestall any levies.

The European Union was set to give final approval Monday for a formal mandate to carry out trade negotiations with the United States. But relations remain tense. Last week, the Trump administration threatened the E.U. with tariffs in a fight over plane subsidies and the president tweeted that the bloc was “a brutal trading partner with the United States, which will change.”

European officials have also complained about Mr. Trump changing the objective. The two governments announced last July that they had reached an agreement with the United States to negotiate a trade deal on a limited scope of goods, only to find that American officials have since insisted on expanding that scope to include farm products.

“The president and administration threaten a lot but do not always follow through,” Peter Chase, a former diplomat who is a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Brussels, said in an email. “This does cause foreign governments to wonder how they should deal with Trump — will he or won’t he pull the trigger? How high do I need to make the cost to ensure he doesn’t?”

Some foreign leaders have determined the best approach is to draw out negotiations for as long as possible.

Last September, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to enter into bilateral trade talks with the United States. But those talks have been delayed as the Trump administration battled with China and other nations. For Japan, that has been a welcome distraction.

“Yes, the guy is unpredictable, but I think if there are other issues occupying his attention, that means less chance that he would turn against Japan,” said Takuji Okubo, managing director and chief economist at Japan Macro Advisors.

Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s economic and fiscal policy minister, was expected to begin preliminary talks with Robert E. Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, on Monday in Washington. Japanese officials have been willing to enter into an agreement on goods and some services, but said they planned to resist commitments on managing the Japanese currency or limiting automobile shipments to the United States.

The lack of certainty from the United States has prompted its trading partners to seek comprehensive deals elsewhere. Japan, along with Canada and Europe, have been entering into negotiations with other countries to try to diversify away from the United States. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multicountry trade pact that Mr. Trump withdrew from, has already gone into effect, as have European trade agreements with both Japan and Canada.

Chinese negotiators have also tried to buy time and hedge against Mr. Trump’s changing whims. Beijing has been hesitant to commit to a summit meeting with the United States until all of the details of the wide-ranging agreement they are negotiating with the United States are ironed out. They are wary that Mr. Trump will decide at the last minute that the deal isn’t good enough and send President Xi Jinping away empty-handed, as Mr. Trump did when he met the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February.

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Should Conservative MPs and members vote for the Party in the European elections (if they happen)?

The mass of Conservative polling crisis and leadership candidate stories in today’s papers raise three questions for Tory MPs and activists to ponder. Answers need to be provided by the time Parliament returns on April 23.

  • Is it possible to use, change or utilise Conservative leadership rules in order to ensure a swift challenge to Theresa May – soon after MPs return to Westminster?
  • Should Tory MPs and activists vote Conservative in the European Parliamentary elections, if these happen – and, if not, what should they do?  (We never thought it would come to having to raise this question.)
  • Should leadership election rules be changed to ensure that more than two candidates are put before members in the final stage of a contest?

Finding solutions that work for the country and the Party will not be easy, but one point is clear: the Prime Minister has to go, and the sooner the better. We will offer our own ideas over the coming Easter period.

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Polls, Brexit postponed – and the slump of the Conservative vote

The most recent opinion poll results that we can find are as follows:

BMG research – April 11

Conservatives: 27 per cent (- 8).

Labour: 31 per cent (no change).

Liberal Democrats: 8 per cent (- 2).

UKIP: 7 per cent (+ 1).

Change UK: 8 per cent (+ 3).

Brexit Party: 6 per cent.

Other: 10 per cent (- 1).

Hanbury Strategy – April 10. For European Parliamentary elections.

Conservatives: 23 per cent

Labour: 38 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 8 per cent.

UKIP: 8 per cent.

Change UK: 4 per cent.

Brexit Party: 10 per cent.

Green Party: 4  per cent.

SNP: 4 per cent.

Deltapoll – March 31

Conservatives: 36 per cent.

Labour: 41 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 7 per cent.

UKIP: 7 per cent.

Green Party: 3 per cent.

SNP: 3 per cent.

Plaid Cymru: 1 per cent.

Other: 3 per cent

Now these results don’t compare like with like.  In the last case, we’ve been unable to find results showing changing share.  In the middle one, the polling refers to European Parliamentary elections.  And there are bound to be other national polls that we’ve missed.

None the less, we have three results with the Conservative share at under 40 per cent.

The period immediately before the earliest one saw the run-up to the last “meaningful vote”, including a round of indicative votes (on March 27) and Theresa May’s original letter requesting extension (March 20).

Evidently, a significant slice of the Tory vote is being taken by UKIP/the Brexit Party, and a smaller share perhaps by Change UK.

We seem to be heading back towards where British politics was between 2005 and 2015: in other words, towards more of a three or four or perhaps more party system, with its effects perhaps constrained by first past the post in Parliamentary elections.

Two factors related to Brexit are central.

The first is reaction against it, of which Change UK is a beneficiary, and the other is for it, and against the failure to deliver it.  The future prospects of UKIP and the new parties will be constrained by how many candidates they can find for elections.

That will be less of a factor in a European Parliamentary poll, if one at all, though it will count a bit in the local elections next month.

Since the October extension is neither long nor short, it is most likely to offer the status quo – namely, a drift towards control by the legislature of the Commons timetable, if May’s deal isn’t passed (and whether or not she is forced out).

A new Tory leader would doubtless come with a new Brexit plan, but wouldn’t have the numbers in the Commons for change.

He or she would thus be pushed towards an autumn election, while pro-second referendum MPs agitated in Parliament for another vote.  The timetable is very tight for either.  We face Brexit stasis.

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Iain Dale: Why I believe that the October deadline leaves no time for a second referendum

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

The word ‘deadline’ is being devalued. First it was 29 March. Then April 12. Then May 22. Now, it’s Halloween.

And who’s to say that deadline won’t be kicked down the road again. Just make it stop, say some people. This week, Peter Oborne jumped from the Brexit boat, landing on the ship of Remain. It’s not the first time he has flip-flopped, but he did it with some style, writing a 4,000 word essay on a website that few have ever heard of.

My LBC colleague Nick Ferrari was the next to be ground down, announcing on Wednesday: “Honestly, there’s so much else going on in this country that we’re not addressing, not least the people who are being stabbed and shot, and the schools that are under-performing, and the hospitals that aren’t working, and the NHS that’s creaking at the seams… I give up! Enough! Right. I’ve reached the bloody point. I cannot go on and on about Emmanual Macron any longer. Just bloody stay and we’ll move on to other things.”

It’s an understandable sentiment, but wrong. If you believe in something, you see it through, rather than crack out of boredom or frustration. None of us could have envisaged the shambolic way the Brexit process has been handled, but that’s no reason to give up on it.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

The extension of Article 50 is neither fish or foul. It gives everyone a bit of a breathing space but, despite claims to the contrary, I don’t see it giving enough time for campaigners to fulfil their dream of a second referendum. Sky’s Lewis Goodall was terribly excited about the prospect on Twitter on Wednesday night, and was trumpeting a conversation he had had with the head of the Electoral Commission, in which he had said that a poll would be possible to achieve within six months.

This ignores the fact that there is no majority for a second referendum in the Commons, so the passage of any legislation – even if the Government promoted it – would be tortuous to say the very least. Sir Bill Cash’s lips are probably already being licked.

In addition, the Electoral Commission has a statutory 14 week period to consider the question – and that would be hugely controversial, so I don’t see that period being cut short, and if it were, as I understand it, that would also need legislation.

And then there would be the campaign, which would surely have to be a minimum of two months. Given that we also have the August summer holidays to consider, I just don’t see how a referendum could be held before 31 October.

– – – – – – – – – –

On Tuesday I interviewed the leader of The Independent Group of MPs, Heidi Allen. Right at the end of the interview I asked her why they hadn’t been able to build on their number of 11 MPs since February. She said that they didn’t want to precipitate a general election, but were talking to a number of MPs on both sides of the House with the expectation that there would be further recruits soon.

Much to my astonishment she went on to name seven Tory MPs the TIGs are talking to – Justine Greening, Antoinette Sandbach, Sam Gyimah, Alberto Costa, Phillip Lee, Huw Merriman and Guto Bebb. I’m sure that information was lapped up by Julian Smith.

– – – – – – – – – –

It is a disgrace that we are having to spend public money on fighting the European Elections. This breaches yet another of the Prime Minister’s so-called red lines.  You’d have to be insane to be a Conservative candidate in these elections, but no doubt there will be enough people willing to put their heads on the block to fill the 70 places.

They will probably serve as an ersatz second referendum. It’s highly likely that Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party and UKIP will, between, them, achieve more votes than any other party. Whether Farage can sideline UKIP totally, I somewhat doubt. He will paint them – correctly – as the new BNP, but I suspect that won’t be enough to suppress their vote below ten per cent.

The Independent Group, which will fight the elections under the Change UK banner, are unlikely to make a massive breakthrough and will be fighting the Liberal Democrats for the Remain vote. If they get 20 per cent between them, I’d be astonished.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Conservatives score under 15 per cent. Judging from the current polling Labour will top the vote, although Nigel Farage’s aim will be eat into it. If both Labour and the Tories do badly on May 2 in the local elections, that could provide him with the springboard to do just that.

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Dan Boucher: Is it time for a Leadsom Convention?

Dr Dan Boucher was the Conservative candidate in Swansea East at the 2017 General Election.

One of the remarkable things about the unwritten British constitution is the way in which parliamentarians willingly stop short of pressing home what would otherwise be a political advantage because of unwritten conventions. Why is it that legislators stoically abide by these codes even when it costs them? Perhaps the answer lies in their effect. Enabling us to rise above the need for the aggressive application of law, they impart a certain constitutional flexibility and freedom. To some this might seem rather quaint, but it arguably brings, or at least should bring, a sense of dignity to our arrangements.

One such convention is the Salisbury-Addison Convention which has obtained since 1945. Named after the Conservative and Labour leaders in the Lords, it established the principle that the unelected chamber should not block a Bill at Second or Third Reading which was introduced in order to honour a manifesto commitment made by the elected party of government.

This principle makes good sense. Notwithstanding the constraints on its power, the Conservative-dominated Lords could have pressed home its right to vote down the Attlee Government’s legislation. Rather than taking this path, however, Conservative peers proactively recognised a moral obligation to respect the ballot box and, rather than waiting to be forced by law to have this freedom fettered, chose to rise to this challenge by embracing what was effectively a principled self-restraint. It is this capacity for principled self-restraint that does not seek the pressing home of legal rights just because it is possible to do so, but effectively pauses to ask whether it is right to press home such rights, which has helped to enable our political institutions to evolve out of difficulty.

The vitality of the British constitutional tradition, which famously finds it strength in being an ongoing growth rather than a finished creation, expresses itself not only by upholding existing conventions but also in developing new conventions, recognising the need for new manifestations of self-restraint as our political system evolves. In this regard, the constitutional convention that was inaugurated by Lords Salisbury and Addison in the 1940s is relevant to our present predicament.

The current difficulty arises from the fact that we have a referendum result pointing in one direction and a parliamentary majority pointing in another. Some might respond to this by saying that, as a matter of law, Parliament has the final say. On this basis, from a technical legal point of view, referenda are always advisory. Having a referendum cannot change the fact that any new law to implement a referendum result must be made by Parliament as our law-making body, not by the people in a mass plebiscite.

This technical legal reality, however, has to be held in tension with the political reality that if you give the people a referendum, don’t like their advice and then try to ignore it or tell them they were wrong, you create a huge political problem. This difficulty is greatly compounded in the current context, because the pamphlet the government sent to every household ahead of the referendum said: ‘The referendum on Thursday, 23rd June is your chance to decide if we should remain in or leave the European Union.’ The sense then was not that the referendum was being held to ask the British people for their advice, but rather to ask them to decide whether or not we should remain in the EU.

Some might respond to this by pointing out that the failure to be clear that the referendum was only advisory does not change the fact that in the British constitutional tradition it could only ever be advisory. Whilst this apparently purist presentation of constitutional doctrine may sound compelling, the truth is that the sovereignty of Parliament does not present a fatal problem for our evolving and unwritten constitution.

There is already an important sense in which, thanks to the Salisbury-Addison Convention, one of the Houses of Parliament has willingly embraced a convention of self-restraint in response to the democratic imperative. Once one House has used its sovereignty to willingly embraced self-restraint in this way, it follows that the other  could embrace self-restraint for the same reason. The only difference here is that the nature of the democratic imperative is more compelling in relation to a referendum mandate than in relation to a manifesto mandate – and thus the case for self-restraint by the Commons is stronger.

The Lords embraced voluntary self-restraint because it accepted that the government party is elected by the people on the basis of their manifesto. This then gives its election manifesto democratic legitimacy, even though it is highly unlikely that the winning party will have been elected because all its policies were liked equally. As Philip Norton observes: ‘Though an elected government may claim a mandate for whatever programme was embodied in its election manifesto, it cannot demonstrate definitively overwhelming support for any one particular proposal’.

For instance, whilst the electorate returned Margaret Thatcher in 1987 with a majority of over 100, it is doubtful that everyone who voted Conservative was doing so because they wanted the poll tax. By contrast, because a referendum is concerned with a very specific issue (notwithstanding debates about what different words may mean), it is possible to demonstrate express support for a particular proposal – in this case leaving the European Union.

In the context of the enhanced democratic mandate attending a clear public vote on a specific issue, the logic that called the Lords to exercise self-restraint applies even more to the Commons. Crucially, this would not result in changing the fact that Parliament remains sovereign. Parliament would remain so. It would freely choose to use its sovereignty to pass appropriate legislation to respect the referendum result, courtesy of a new convention of self-restraint that would develop (like the Salisbury Convention) to deal with the tensions resulting from the fact that a majority of people voted to leave the EU in the referendum while a majority of MPs would rather remain.

Given that the Salisbury-Addison Convention was named after the Conservative and Labour Leaders in the Lords, perhaps the time has come for a Leadsom-Vaz Convention in the Commons? That would hopefully restore greater dignity to our arrangements, shutting the door on revoking article 50 and hopefully opening the door to a greater determination to really honour the referendum result.

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Robert Halfon: Labour, Corbyn – Kim Jong-un, for that matter. I’d talk to anyone, anywhere to ensure that Brexit takes place.

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Let me get one thing clear: as someone from a Jewish background, the anti-Semitism infecting Labour fills me with dread, and I have experienced it locally in Harlow. Her Majesty’s Opposition is socialist rather than social democratic – and all Conservatives have a duty to oppose it. So I understand the anguish about Theresa May dealing with Jeremy Corbyn.

Like most Tories, I would rather we had a bold centre-right agenda, making the case for fairer capitalism, enveloping blue collar conservatives, white van conservatives, with DNA Conservatism of lower taxes and the free market.

  However, when it comes to voting on the EU, we can choose either to vote idealistically or for the least worst option, given the current political realities. Politics must be the art of the possible.

Idealism only works if there is a majority in Parliament to get those ideas through. So when I plan to vote on the fourth Meaningful Vote on Parliament I will take the below – irrefutable facts – into consideration.

  1. We have to accept that much of Parliament is for staying in the EU, a long delay or a second referendum – all of which I am opposed to. Everything that has happened since the Second Meaningful Vote failed to pass the Commons has been moves towards a ‘People’s Vote’, delay or revocation.
  2. It does not matter who is Party Leader, whether it be Mother Teresa or Theresa May – the arithmetic of Parliament does not change. Only Tory plurality in the Commons and an arch-Remainer House of Lords. Even were a charismatic leader elected, who managed to unite most of the Conservative Party, this does not change the lack of a majority in the Commons, or the Conservative minority in the Upper Chamber.
  3. Corbyn is literally a thread away from Downing Street, thanks to the disastrous 2017 election, which wiped out the gains from 2015. 

We are also unpopular in many parts of the country, because of the painful effects of austerity and the rising cost of living. The Brexit shenanigans have made it worse. We have no majority in Parliament, made worse because of four Tory defections. Three of these defectors have no love of any kind for their old party.
  4. Whilst difficult to happen, an early general election is not impossible. It is true that MPs have to vote for it, but a few renegade Parliamentarians upset about the handling of Brexit make a General Election less unthinkable than it might seem. DUP support for the Conservatives is no longer guaranteed.

Given the current opinion polls and the anger from the public against the political class, I don’t think that even the most Pollyannish type Conservative would think that an general election would bring anything less than a wipeout at worst, another hung parliament at best.

So when I choose how to vote on the EU deal, my whole purpose will be to avoid these four scenarios, particularly 1 and 2 above – avoiding either a long extension, a second referendum, or not leaving at all, with the possibility of a Corbyn Government.

For these reasons, I don’t care who Theresa May talks to about a deal – whether it is Corbyn or Kim Jong-un. When we next vote on the above, the least worst option may be the only one that avoids 1, 2, 3 and 4. That means getting some for Brexit over the line so that we legally leave the EU.

May met with Corbyn a few weeks ago after the First Meaningful Vote. No one appeared to see it as such a problem then. Indeed, the Labour leader was criticised for initially refusing to talk to the Prime Minister. Rather than get worked up about the talks with Labour, we should be reflecting what the current political realities are – whether we like it or not.

It may be when all this is over (if it ever is) there is a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to decide what went wrong; who the guilty men and women are; why the negotiations with the EU have gone the way they have, how the 2017 election was ever allowed to happen – et al. But all that is for another day. The priority now must, must, must be to unify the country, keep the Conservative Party together, stop Jeremy Corbyn entering Downing Street and to retrench, re-inforce and regroup ready for the mighty battle ahead – hopefully in 2022.

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