- BREXIT BLUES
Brexit Endgame: Parliament Sends Contradictory Messages as Deadline Nears: Amanda Sloat, Brookings, Jan. 30, 2019 —
On January 29, two months to the day before the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union (EU), the British Parliament prepared to take charge of the Brexit process.
What Europe Thinks of Brexit: Christopher Caldwell, Spectator USA, Jan. 31, 2019 — In Paris in December, I sat with a journalist friend in a café on the Boulevard Auguste-Blanqui and listened to him explain to me why a no-deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for Britain.
Europeans Can’t Understand the Existential Drive Behind the British Wish to Leave The EU: Thomas Kielinger, The Spectator, Feb. 9, 2019 –What can the EU do to help the Britons out of their Brexit quagmire?
British Jews Apply for German Nationality as Brexit Looms: Kirsten Grieshaber, AP, Jan. 29, 2019- Simon Wallfisch grew up in London as the grandson of an Auschwitz survivor who had sworn to never return to the country that murdered her parents and 6 million other Jews.
On Topic Links
EU Economies Are Faltering, And the Costs of Brexit Are Exaggerated: Ashoka Mody, Briefings for Brexit, Feb. 6, 2019, Podcast. At the 15 min. point, Mr. Mody speaks about Brexit.
Convulsions Over Brexit and the Struggle for The Western Nation: Melanie Phillips, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 6, 2018
Britain And Israel Sign Trade Continuity Agreement to Take Effect After Brexit: The JC, Feb. 18, 2019
Divided Kingdom: How Brexit is Remaking the UK’s Constitutional Order: Amanda Sloat, Brookings, Oct. 18, 2018
BREXIT ENDGAME: PARLIAMENT SENDS CONTRADICTORY
MESSAGES AS DEADLINE NEARS
Brookings, Jan. 30, 2019
In January 29, two months to the day before the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union (EU), the British Parliament prepared to take charge of the Brexit process. It considered a series of amendments on alternative approaches to the unpopular deal that Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the EU. Yet rather than seizing control, Parliament adopted a non-binding motion opposing a no-deal Brexit and rebuffed measures that could have avoided that outcome. It also called for the Irish backstop to be replaced by “alternative arrangements,” which the EU has repeatedly said it will not do. These votes result in a contradiction: if Parliament does not ratify a withdrawal agreement with a backstop, there will be no deal. Despite the legislative drama, little has changed, and this cycle will repeat on February 13. The U.K. is creeping ever closer to a no-deal Brexit on March 29.
On January 15, the House of Commons defeated May’s Brexit deal. As required, May delivered a statement on January 21 that addressed the bill’s defeat and outlined her next steps—including greater engagement with Parliament on the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU, stronger guarantees for workers’ rights, and protection of the Irish border in a manner supported by Parliament. May also tabled a motion that Parliament could amend as a means of considering other options.
On January 29, Parliament finally had the opportunity to debate and vote on its own proposals. MPs put forward numerous amendments, with Speaker John Bercow selecting seven for consideration. Parliament adopted by narrow margins the last two amendments it considered:
No-deal amendment: Proposed by Conservative former Environment Minister Caroline Spelman, this amendment said the U.K. would not leave the EU without a deal. In a 318-310 vote, MPs adopted this advisory motion that is not binding on the government.
Amendment to replace Northern Ireland backstop: Proposed by senior Conservative MP Graham Brady and supported by May, this proposal enabled MPs to express their unhappiness with the Irish backstop and called for it to be “replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border.” (For background on these Northern Ireland issues, see this earlier blog post.) It also said the advocates of this amendment wanted to leave the EU with a deal and would support May’s plan if this change were made. This amendment passed by a 317-301 margin.
Meanwhile, Parliament rejected by comfortable margins several other amendments, including: Official Labour amendment: Proposed by opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, this amendment sought to prevent a no-deal Brexit by ensuring that Parliament could vote on options preventing this outcome (including a permanent customs union with the EU).
Amendment to Article 50: Proposed by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, this amendment would have required Parliament to vote on a measure asking the EU to extend Article 50 (the legal process governing the U.K.’s withdrawal that currently expires on March 29) until the end of 2019 if May failed to secure a deal by February 26. Some opponents included Labour members who represent Leave-supporting constituencies. Following its defeat, the British pound dropped 0.6 percent against the U.S. dollar… [To read the full article, click the following Link – Ed.]
WHAT EUROPE THINKS OF BREXIT
The Spectator USA, Jan. 31, 2019
In Paris in December, I sat with a journalist friend in a café on the Boulevard Auguste-Blanqui and listened to him explain to me why a no-deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for Britain. It had to do with an article his newspaper had published about the Mini. You might think they were typically British cars, he said, but the plant where they were made in Cowley belonged to BMW! The steering wheels were assembled in Romania! The tail lights came from Poland!
So? I asked. Brexit was about leaving the EU, not making globalization un-happen. Who do you think wants to close the Mini plant? Britain does not want to damage its export sector any more than Romania or Poland wants to shut down a factory that provides the livelihoods of thousands.
But this explanation, so reasonable sounding to me, made no impression on my friend. Almost all elite Brexit opinion, in Europe as in Britain, is built on the premise that somebody on the other side of the Channel is going to do something profoundly against his own self-interest. These kilometers-long traffic jams at Dover that are supposed to strike fear into us. Should they happen, won’t someone do something about them? How long would they last? An afternoon? Three days?
Last weekend, before votes on the amendments were due, France’s newspaper of record Le Monde tried to rise to the occasion. It opened its editorial pages to distinguished French historians who advanced two seemingly contradictory opinions about Britain: a) it is an absolutely horrible country, and b) it is essential that France, through the European Union, continues to bind this awful nation’s fate forever to its own.
Britain — ‘the leading slave-power of the 18th century’, according to one of these historians — ‘would have had to stop fighting [the Nazis] in 1943 if not for American aid,’ according to another, and now merely aspires to be like Singapore, ‘the “nation of shopkeepers” of the 21st century.’ This vision of free trade ‘cannot disguise the wish to revive a “white” and xenophobic Empire’, said a third. It would nonetheless be a shame to lose Britain from the EU, since Le Monde has it on good authority that ‘in the pubs, they serve more espressos than “English breakfasts”’.
Throughout the past weekend, the continental media were thus raving about the heroes of Remain. Here was a feature on Speaker John Bercow, with his charming bumper-sticker (‘Brexit aux chiottes!’ as Le Parisien renders it). There was the Francophone Dominic Grieve, the Unbowed Conservative, as Le Monde styled him. ‘Whether you call him a miracle or an anomaly of British–style bipartisanship,’ the paper’s correspondent wrote, ‘this pragmatic European, this workhorse, sits on the same side of the chamber as the Europhobic dilettante Boris Johnson, whom he detests.’ … [To read the full article, click the following Link – Ed.]
EUROPEANS CAN’T UNDERSTAND THE EXISTENTIAL DRIVE BEHIND THE BRITISH WISH TO LEAVE THE EU
The Spectator, Feb. 7, 2019
What can the EU do to help the Britons out of their Brexit quagmire? Until very recently, the answer would have been ‘little, if anything’. There is a deal on the table, which Theresa May herself pronounced to be non-negotiable. Well, parliament directed her — and by implication, the EU — to think again and to reconsider the vexed question of the Irish backstop. Does anybody on either side of the channel really want to wreck the future relationship between the UK and the EU over the unsolved issue of the Irish border, as well as risk creating renewed enmity along it? God forbid.
The EU’s reluctance to come forward with a compromise is of course rooted in the inability of Europeans to understand the existential drive behind the British wish to leave in the first place. They simply can’t conceive of their British partner, so beloved across a hugely Anglophile continent, wanting to ditch its cosy alliance for the purpose of going it alone again in the world.
Everybody was somehow goaded into thinking that the term EU makes for a joint identity, erasing intrinsic differences of national characteristics. Wrong. There remains a significant gulf between the sceptered isle and the continental approach to history. A seafaring nation and continentals sing from quite different hymn sheets.
On the eve of Trafalgar Lord Nelson told his captains, ‘Something has to be left to chance. Nothing is certain in a sea fight.’ The English, wrote Orwell, are ‘inveterate gamblers.’ It boils down to the same thing. On the high seas you have to trust to fortune as well as to your skills and your confidence in this blessed plot. The British character emerged from a combination of guts and risk-taking, with sovereignty and a ‘free hand’ as the ultimate aspiration.
As a result, the country has never subscribed to a supranational body with rights to adjudicate in its own affairs. At least not ad infinitum. Forty-five years of belonging to the European community has just about exhausted the British willingness to go along with an outfit which remained alien to its national psyche.
You may think I’m speaking like an unreconstructed Brexiter. Far from it. While I understand the forces of British history, having studied them over long years, I fear that Brexit may be a ‘inveterate gamble’ too far — and doubt whether the EU, led by France and Germany, can extricate the Brits from their quicksand… [To read the full article, click the following Link – Ed.]
BRITISH JEWS APPLY FOR GERMAN NATIONALITY AS BREXIT LOOMS
AP, Jan. 29, 2019
Simon Wallfisch grew up in London as the grandson of an Auschwitz survivor who had sworn to never return to the country that murdered her parents and 6 million other Jews.
But more than 70 years after the Holocaust, Brexit has prompted Wallfisch and thousands of other Jews in Britain to apply for German citizenship, which was stripped from their ancestors by the Nazis during the Third Reich. “This disaster that we call Brexit has led to me just finding a way to secure my future and my children’s future,” said Wallfisch, 36, a well-known classical singer and cellist who received his German passport in October. “In order to remain European, I’ve taken the European citizenship.”
Many Britons whose ancestors came from other parts of Europe have been claiming citizenship in other EU member states so they can keep ties to the continent. But for Jews whose families fled Germany to escape the Nazis, the decision has meant re-examining long-held beliefs about the country.
The German Embassy in London says it has received more than 3,380 citizenship applications since the Brexit referendum in June 2016 under article 116 of the German Constitution, which allows the descendants of people persecuted by the Nazis to regain the citizenship that was removed between 1933 and 1945. In comparison, only around 20 such requests were made annually in the years before Brexit.
Wallfisch’s grandmother, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, was 18 in December 1943 when she was deported to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in occupied Poland where more than 1 million Jews were murdered. She survived because she was a member of the camp’s girls’ orchestra. As a cellist, she had to play classical music while other Jews were taken to the gas chambers.
In November 1944, she was taken to Bergen-Belsen — the concentration camp where diarist Anne Frank died after also being transferred from Auschwitz at about the same time — where she was eventually liberated by the British army in April 1945.
Lasker-Wallfisch immigrated to Britain in 1946, got married and had two children. Her career as a famous cello player took her around the world, but it took decades until she overcame her hatred enough to set foot on German soil again in the 1990s. In recent years, Lasker-Wallfisch, 93, has become a regular visitor, educating children in Germany about the Holocaust and speaking last year during the German parliament’s annual Holocaust memorial event.
On Sunday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Lasker-Wallfisch, her grandson Simon and her daughter Maya Jacobs Lasker-Wallfisch performed for the first time together on stage at the Jewish Museum Berlin in commemoration of their family. They played music with other members of their extended family and read letters from the past as a tribute to those who survived and those who perished in the Shoah.
Before the show, the three generations sat together on the red couch in the museum’s dressing room and told The Associated Press about the emotional thoughts that went into the younger two’s decision to take German citizenship. “We cannot be victims of our past. We have to have some hope for change,” said Maya Jacobs Lasker-Wallfisch, a 60-year-old London psychotherapist who is Simon’s aunt and is still waiting on her German citizenship to be approved. “I feel somehow in a strange way triumphant. Something is coming full circle.”… [To read the full article, click the following Link – Ed.]
On Topic Links
EU Economies Are Faltering, And the Costs Of Brexit Are Exaggerated: Ashoka Mody, Briefings for Brexit, Feb. 6, 2019, Podcast. At the 15 min. point, Mr. Mody speaks about Brexit — The prize-winning Indian economist Ashoka Mody explains why the EU is facing long-term economic decline, and why the economic costs of Brexit have been greatly overstated.
Convulsions Over Brexit and the Struggle for The Western Nation: Melanie Phillips, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 6, 2018 — The West is convulsing as a new world order struggles to be born. Nowhere is that convulsion currently proving more agonizing and potentially catastrophic than in the United Kingdom.
Britain And Israel Sign Trade Continuity Agreement to Take Effect After Brexit: The JC, Feb. 18, 2019 — The UK and Israel have signed a trade continuity agreement to take effect after Brexit, with the Department for International Trade saying the move would “deliver significant savings and help to safeguard British jobs”.
Divided Kingdom: How Brexit is Remaking the UK’s Constitutional Order: Amanda Sloat, Brookings, Oct. 18, 2018 — In June 2016, British voters decided in a referendum to leave the European Union, though clear majorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland preferred to remain.