There’s a hidden truth behind the snap election – we must be suspicious | Liam O’Dell

After nearly three weeks since the triggering of Article 50, the Tories have finally spat out the Brexit pill which no party wants to swallow. A snap election on June 8 will continue to create more uncertainty that Theresa May promised to end.

Photo: Number 10 on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

“At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division.

“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” the Prime Minister said in a speech earlier today.

We must be suspicious. An arrogant Conservative Party determined to defy the rulings of judges and Lords to pass the Brexit Bill has once again resorted to Cameron’s levels of cowardice. Voters will remember that, but they must question the true reason for calling the election.

The immediate presumption would be that it is an attempt to decimate Labour, but that is questionable. It seems too great a risk for May to sacrifice the Tory majority (and a supposed lack of opposition on Brexit from Corbyn) to ‘kill’ the left-wing party. If the PM expects to win back a majority in June, then she is forgetting that a general election has become more than a Labour vs. Conservative battle.

A call for a snap election is – of course – a gamble, and it’s one May appears to have taken due to the disunity in other parties (according to her speech, at least).

With Labour’s in-fighting continuing to bubble every once in a while, the SNP tackling their own referendum and the Lib Dem’s membership slowly rising, it seems as though May is aiming for a wipeout whilst building upon her majority. But when has disunity within other parties ever hindered the Tories’ Brexit plans? If anything, it’s almost given May a ‘carte blanche’ to do her thing without any real scrutiny.

It’s even more confusing when the Conservatives have always been arrogant and stubborn when enforcing policies. To gamble their majority for the sake of silencing other parties, or getting them to support their plan, seems unfathomable.

So what is the explanation for the snap election? My friend Jarrad Johnson raises an interesting point, saying on Twitter that “someone or something has forced May’s hands behind the scenes.”

It’s an interesting comment when we look back at the past. The last time we had a vote between the typical five-year period was, of course, the 2016 EU referendum. On that occasion, it was believed that this was to end the internal conflict within the Tory party about whether we should leave the European Union. Now, as we face another surprise election before the end of the usual five-year term, we have to consider whether the same arguments are occurring once more.

The Tories must end the blackmail and secure the rights of EU nationals | The Friday Article

There’s a dangerous indignation sweeping the right. Donald Trump’s war against the media is an annoying distraction from his ‘Make America Great Again’ mantra, and in the UK, the judiciary and legislature continue to frustrate Theresa May’s Article 50 deadline.

The House of Lords voted to add a new amendment to the Brexit bill this week - protecting the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. Photo: Liam O'Dell.
The House of Lords voted to add a new amendment to the Brexit bill this week – protecting the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. Photo: Liam O’Dell.

This week, it was the House of Lords’ amendment to the Brexit bill to secure the rights of EU nationals living in Britain. It comes just over a month after the High Court ruled Parliament must have a say on the legislation, and the PM isn’t happy. The government has said that it will try to overturn the amendments.

“Our message to MPs is that we expect this bill to go through unamended,” a No. 10 spokesman said in an article on Sky News’ website. “MPs voted it through unamended and we expect that to be the case.”

Indeed they did, but the two arms of Parliament must agree in order for a bill to be passed. A constant ‘ping pong’ between the two houses until a deal is made would only highlight the pure indignation of the Tories. They must stop this childish attitude of refusing compromise on such an important issue. Their fight against the decision of the judiciary was alarming, and now their reluctance to protect the rights of EU nationals living in the UK is hypocritical.

“We will provide certainty wherever we can,” Theresa May said in a speech at Lancaster House in January. “There will have to be compromises. It will require imagination on both sides, and not everybody will be able to know everything at every stage.

“But I recognise how important it is to provide […] everybody with as much certainty as possible as we move through the process. So where we can offer that certainty, we will do so.”

If anything, the issue with the Lords continues to cast doubt over the whole Brexit dilemma. The above comments contradict what the Conservatives are planning to achieve at the moment. If the Tory government can’t even reach a compromise with the House of Lords, then how on earth can they compromise with the EU member states in Brussels? The worrying remark by the PM in the January speech that ‘no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain’ hardly provides certainty. It sounds like a game of blackmail with the EU – a sense of hostility which we do not need at a time when the UK is so delicate.

It’s no surprise that EU nationals living in Britain feel like bargaining chips. The government has explained that it wants the rights of Britons living in other EU countries guaranteed before it can promise that the rights of EU nationals living here will be protected. Aside from the ‘putting our own people first’ connotations that creates, what happens in the unlikely circumstance that the European Union cannot guarantee the rights of ex-pats? Will the ‘no deal’ rule still apply, and we would start deporting EU nationals living here?

As Lady Molly Meacher said to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I believe it [the amendment] can be won in the Commons on the basis of morality and principle” – to fail to guarantee the rights of EU nationals would be a dismissive action at a time when the definition of ‘Britishness’ is under scrutiny.

The Tories must of course keep some cards close to their chest, but the dangerous levels of blackmail which the Conservatives plan to adopt in Brussels – with EU nationals as a ‘bargaining chip’ – is an arrogant way to approach negotiations. It also contrasts the sweet-talking of Trump and the state visit invitation – why must we treat a divisive President with respect yet approach the EU with hostility?

To ‘cherrypick’ and blackmail our way to a deal will only decrease our chances of getting what we want, and could effect the strong relationships with other European countries that a post-Brexit Britain desperately needs.

Theresa May’s Brexit speech: A statement which failed to solve the problem of certainty

The post-Brexit debate has always been about seeing both sides of a very complicated equation. Our exit from the EU must satisfy the leave voters that wanted a return of Parliamentary sovereignty, whilst pleasing those who wanted more controls on immigration. It must be a clear removal from a union, whilst also reassuring remainers that their rights to live, work and travel around Europe won’t be affected – at least not too much. However, one of the biggest problems Theresa May failed to solve in her speech at Lancaster House yesterday was that of certainty.

Photo: DFID – UK Department for International Development on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

There is a balance to be struck ahead of triggering Article 50. Understandably, May must keep some of her cards close to her chest, as it were, when going to the negotiating table – not everything can be disclosed to the public beforehand in case it jeopardises our position. Yet, the vagueness that comes with describing Brexit with cake metaphors, colours or the popular line ‘Brexit means Brexit’ does not provide certainty to those who need it most: the remainers. Uncertainty leads to frustration and anger, which only adds to a debate which is currently dividing our country.

Of course, the first point about the PM’s 12-point plan for leaving the EU was about certainty, but whilst the transitions of EU law into British law after Brexit (until they are repealed by Parliament) was reassuring, that’s not the only thing remainers are worrying about. Sure, all this talk about a ‘Global Britain’ may reassure some business owners if they forget about the fact we’re leaving the single market, but what about dealing with the division in the UK? What about addressing the rise of anti-immigration sentiment and right-wing populism? What are you doing about those, Theresa?

In a sense, it was a statement structured like a non-fiction novel. They mostly tell us things we already know, but present some new information too so we don’t feel patronised. Unfortunately for Mrs May, telling us that we’ll need to control our immigration and that we want to make our own laws doesn’t prevent a feeling of deja vu from lingering in the air. Likewise, mentioning that we’ll be leaving the single market and protecting workers’ rights (the latter should please Labour to an extent) in passing won’t help either.

It was a speech littered with juxtapositions too. LBC’s James O’Brien mentioned on his show yesterday that it suggested “we’re a global country that doesn’t want you to come here”. Whether it’s a lack of detail or contradictory remarks, both don’t provide the clarity we need.

Finally, there came a line which will only add to the anxiety remainers have at the moment. “While I am sure a positive agreement can be reached,” said May, “I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.”

During the referendum campaign, those who backed a vote to stay mocked and joked about Brexit having a disappointing outcome. The comments all followed the same tone of it being a magical post-Brexit future which never comes to fruition (be it told in the style of a dodgy divorce, bad plans for a night out or so on). It’s a joke which may just become possible.

After all, Theresa May plans to give Parliament a vote on the final deal. Yet, with Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Party MPs all opposing the Conservative’s plan for Brexit (on varying levels), it’s unlikely that an agreement on the terms of exit will be struck in the Commons.

A disastrous ‘no deal’ remains a possibility. This, combined with May’s unclear comments on leaving the single market and resolving our country’s division, has only created more uncertainty – something forced optimism always fails to mask.

After her first speech as PM, Theresa May must defy her party in order to unite the country | The Friday Article

Theresa May faces a challenge which the media are failing to report. After her first speech as Prime Minister, May must now confirm her intentions – be it delivering on the rather left-wing, anti-establishment policies mentioned in her statement, or adhering to the desires of capitalism and business which are at the heart of the Conservative party.

Theresa May
Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister was left-wing and anti-establishment. The public will want these changes to happen, and she must make them happen. Photo: DFID – UK Department for International Development on Flickr.

After all, Britain’s vote to leave the European Union was – amongst other things – a mass rejection of the establishment’s ideology. Our society is fed up with governments working with big businesses and wants democracy, accountability and more power brought to us as individual members of society.

Whilst May’s talks of unity would be expected from both sides of the political spectrum after such a divisive EU referendum, the former Home Secretary’s plans to lead a government “driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by [the majority]” would alarm fellow Tory MPs. A party which has always been on the side of businesses and entrepreneurs would be reluctant to turn these ambitions around in a slight move to the left.

The public long for some political stability at a time where their trust in politics is almost non-existent. Whilst Theresa May becoming Prime Minister may help with the former, it’s the decision she makes next which determines whether the public will begin to trust politicians again.

Theresa May’s speech alluded to equal pay and fairer legislation when it comes to taxes, and they are policies which those filled with hope and longing will cling on to. Fixing the divisions caused by Brexit is only one part of the problem, as should Theresa May turn her back on these left-wing policies, then the anti-establishment rhetoric and division within British society will only grow, and their party will crumble.

May was pandering to this exact mindset in her first statement, and so it was no surprise that the speech was heavily left-wing and anti-establishment – the real surprise was that it was spoken by a Conservative politician. Now, Theresa May must choose between following the beliefs of the public, or the privileged few who always drive the policies of her political party.

Liam

If Boris is next, he must accept a vote to remain | The Friday Article

Throughout the referendum, Vote Leave has made a slow progression to the far right. In its final push to win over voters, representatives from the campaign have talked about how the EU’s freedom of movement will affect the NHS (something you’d hear from UKIP, not top Tory ministers) and this week, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have both suggested an Australian-style points-based system when it comes to immigration – again, something UKIP have mentioned in the past.

Regardless of the result, columnists are alluding to the end of David Cameron’s time as Prime Minister, backed up with the fact that there are already talks about Cameron’s replacement – with Boris Johnson being one of the top favourites.

Boris Johnson
If Boris is to succeed David Cameron following a remain vote, then he must put the result behind him. Photo by Andrew Parsons/Parsons Media on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode.

If the former Mayor of London is to replace him, then there’s no doubt that the result of the EU referendum will haunt the Conservative government. Boris Johnson leading a government dealing with Brexit wouldn’t be a problem. However, should he be forced to accept a vote to remain, then it could be a problem for his leadership – depending on how willing he is to acknowledge the public’s decision.

It’s a problem which lingers over the Scottish National Party today. Despite the people of Scotland voting against independence last year, the SNP are still desperate to push for independence where possible. At the moment, the next opportunity for the party is if Scotland leave the European Union against their wishes. As much as Johnson may dislike the remain vote, Boris should sever ties with the Vote Leave campaign as Prime Minister and learn to accept the result. By doing that, he would break free from a problem which currently affects the SNP, where they are waiting for every possible opportunity to get their desired result.

Even if the thought of a second referendum is off the cards, there’s a more immediate method which Boris Johnson could exercise as a possible Prime Minister. In his role, he could invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty at any time, without a referendum. Obviously, members of the public who voted remain would object to this decision – as would many parties within the Houses of Commons – but it is a possibility, even if it is rather extreme.

At the end of the day, the public voted in the Conservatives for other policies, so it would be wrong for the next four years of Tory rule – possibly under Boris Johnson – to be dominated by a push for Brexit. Not only should the opinions of the British public be respected after the referendum, but Boris’ desire to leave the EU – along with Vote Leave’s ideas – should be left with UKIP. If we want to leave, there will be a time where it will happen.

Liam