Voters sense betrayal in Britain’s Brexit heartlands

There is a whiff of betrayal in the air across Britain’s Brexit heartlands where many impatient voters fear Prime Minister Theresa May is going soft on implementing last year’s decision to leave the European Union.

May’s gamble in calling a snap election on June 8, only to lose her parliamentary majority, has thrown the future of Brexit into doubt and the opening rounds of divorce talks have raised the prospect of a complex and expensive withdrawal which could take years to complete.

Throw in a visceral distrust of the London political classes, and for many voters it all points to one thing: a plot to water down, or even stop, Brexit.

“We voted to come out, so why didn’t they do it straight away? Why have we got to wait?” asked 64-year-old Chris Murdoch, in the small English town of Chatham, 50 km (30 miles) east of London. “We won’t come out completely because it’s not in their favor.”

Her husband Peter, a retired construction worker, added: “They’re all in it for themselves. They’re all two-faced … We don’t trust any of them.”

Like 52 percent of Britons, both Chris and Peter Murdoch voted for Brexit last year and, like most, according to recent opinion polls, they haven’t changed their minds.

Such views in Chatham, a stronghold of May’s Conservatives in recent years, are shared widely in much of the country. That spells danger for May who must unite her party, divided for decades over Europe, to drive Brexit legislation through parliament and win approval for the final deal with Brussels.

It also means likely disappointment for those European politicians who hope Britons will have second thoughts about the wisdom of Brexit, and settle for a close relationship with the EU if the divorce has to go through.

Many Brexit voters in Chatham now fear that Britain’s leaders – who they say have ignored their interests for decades and are beholden to big money – are plotting to betray their dream of a clean break with the EU.

May called the early election to win a mandate for her vision of a ‘hard’ Brexit that prioritized immigration controls above the interests of the economy. Instead she emerged wounded, reliant on a small Northern Irish party to win major parliamentary votes and under pressure from her party’s pro-European wing and business to compromise with Brussels.

Some European leaders seem still not convinced by May’s mantra that “Brexit means Brexit”. French President Emmanuel Macron has said the EU’s door remains open and European Council President Donald Tusk even invoked the lyrics of John Lennon to ‘Imagine’ a Brexit rescinded.

At home, former Conservative prime minister John Major has said there is a credible case for giving Britons a second vote on the Brexit deal. His successor, Labour’s Tony Blair, has said repeatedly the process can and should be stopped.

LITTLE SYMPATHY

There is little sympathy for this in Chatham, one of a cluster of towns on the banks of the River Medway that for centuries acted as part of England’s naval defense against the fleets of its European enemies.

Earlier this year the town marked an ignominious chapter in English history: the 350th anniversary of a daring raid by Dutch ships which caught the King’s defenses napping, sailing up the Medway to capture and burn prized assets of the fleet.

Nowadays Chatham’s dockyards are a museum, the barracks are being converted into flats and despite regeneration efforts, a higher-than-average 12.2 percent of the local working-age population receive government social payments.

The Medway towns, including Chatham, backed Brexit by almost two to one. Like so many of the towns outside England’s major cities that overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU, it has long struggled to adapt to a decline in traditional industries.

“My fear is that they won’t follow it through and they’ll find a reason to stay in,” said former postal worker Trevor James, a 61-year-old Brexit-supporting voter from Chatham.

 

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Supreme Court judge insists government must provide legal clarity on Brexit

President of the UK’s Supreme Court, David Neuberger, says the government needs to spell out how British courts should interpret rulings from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Brexit.

Currently Britain must abide by ECJ judgments but Prime Minister, Theresa May’s government has said that Britain will leave its jurisdiction after Brexit.

Britain has begun the long and complicated process of disentangling UK legislation from more than 40 years of EU lawmaking, however the government has said the British courts might still take note of ECJ rulings after the country has left the bloc.

Neuberger, told the BBC in an interview aired on Tuesday: “If the UK parliament says we should take into account decisions of the ECJ then we will do so, if it says we shouldn’t then we won’t.

“Basically, we will do what the statute says.

“If it doesn’t express clearly what the judges should do about decisions of the European Court of Justice, then the judges will simply have to do their best.

“But to blame the judges for, as it were, making the law when parliament has failed to do so would be unfair.”

Deciding the scope of ECJ is set to be one of the main sticking points in divorce talks, such as whether the three million EU nationals living in Britain should be able to seek recourse to the European court after Brexit.

Brexit supporters say the ECJ should have no say at all over British matters and that the vote to leave the EU was partly about restoring legislative sovereignty.

However, former British Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, a vocal Brexit opponent, said Neuberger was right.

“The legislation for withdrawing us from the EU … leaves very unclear what the relationship subsequently between European Court of Justice decisions and jurisprudence and our own courts should be,” he told BBC radio.

“We’re incorporating large amounts of European law into our own law to ensure continuity but how is that to be interpreted thereafter?’’

A government spokeswoman said ministers had been clear that the direct jurisdiction of the ECJ must come to an end.

“However, we want to provide maximum certainty so the Repeal Bill will ensure that for future cases, UK courts continue to interpret EU-derived law using the ECJ’s case law, as it exists on the day we leave the EU,” she said.

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S/Court judge insists government must provide legal clarity on Brexit

President of the UK’s Supreme Court, David Neuberger, says the government needs to spell out how British courts should interpret rulings from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Brexit.

Currently Britain must abide by ECJ judgments but Prime Minister, Theresa May’s government has said that Britain will leave its jurisdiction after Brexit.

Britain has begun the long and complicated process of disentangling UK legislation from more than 40 years of EU lawmaking, however the government has said the British courts might still take note of ECJ rulings after the country has left the bloc.

Neuberger, told the BBC in an interview aired on Tuesday: “If the UK parliament says we should take into account decisions of the ECJ then we will do so, if it says we shouldn’t then we won’t.

“Basically, we will do what the statute says.

“If it doesn’t express clearly what the judges should do about decisions of the European Court of Justice, then the judges will simply have to do their best.

“But to blame the judges for, as it were, making the law when parliament has failed to do so would be unfair.”

Deciding the scope of ECJ is set to be one of the main sticking points in divorce talks, such as whether the three million EU nationals living in Britain should be able to seek recourse to the European court after Brexit.

Brexit supporters say the ECJ should have no say at all over British matters and that the vote to leave the EU was partly about restoring legislative sovereignty.

However, former British Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, a vocal Brexit opponent, said Neuberger was right.

“The legislation for withdrawing us from the EU … leaves very unclear what the relationship subsequently between European Court of Justice decisions and jurisprudence and our own courts should be,” he told BBC radio.

“We’re incorporating large amounts of European law into our own law to ensure continuity but how is that to be interpreted thereafter?’’

A government spokeswoman said ministers had been clear that the direct jurisdiction of the ECJ must come to an end.

“However, we want to provide maximum certainty so the Repeal Bill will ensure that for future cases, UK courts continue to interpret EU-derived law using the ECJ’s case law, as it exists on the day we leave the EU,” she said.

NAN

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UK sets out new powers to impose sanctions after Brexit

The British Government has published plans on Wednesday for a bill that would give it the legal power to impose sanctions after it leaves the EU, including making it easier to cut off terrorism funding and freeze assets.

Britain now negotiates and imposes non-UN sanctions against specific countries through EU laws.

Without the new legislation, it would not have the legal authority to enforce those sanctions.

More than 30 sanctions regimes are currently in place, including against Russia, North Korea and Iran.

“This will enable us to impose sanctions as appropriate either alone or with partners in the EU and around the world, to take targeted action against countries, organisations and individuals who contravene international law.

Others are commit or finance terrorism or threaten international peace and security,” Alan Duncan, the Minister for Europe, said in a statement.

The new powers would see the introduction of an annual review of sanctions regimes to ensure they remained appropriate.

It would also allow individuals and organisations to challenge sanctions imposed on them.

The government said its proposals would also make it easier to freeze a suspected terrorist’s bank account and stop a person from making money

 

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Brexit not about ‘Britain turning away from the world’

Brexit “is not, was not and will not be about Britain turning away from the world,” British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said in New Zealand on Tuesday.

Johnson said this at a news conference in Wellington during his first visit to New Zealand.

“On the contrary, it is about us wanting to keep great relations with all our European friends and partners and do a great free trade deal with them,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who is visiting the south-west Pacific nation for three days, met with Prime Minister, Bill English, and Foreign Minister, Gerry Brownlee and discussed topics including North Korea and the “nuclear adventurism of that regime” as well as the fight against terrorism.

On Tuesday in Wellington, Johnson said the people who voted for Brexit weren’t hostile to immigrants, they just wanted to feel that the British government had a handle on migration.

“I have been the mayor of London where 40 per cent of the population were born abroad,” Johnson said.

“Being open to talent is a great thing, but in any society you have to manage it and you have to control it. That is what Brexit was about,’’ he said.

He also said Brexit was also about rediscovering and intensifying friendships and partnerships around the world.

Johnson said Britain and New Zealand would continue to work on a range of issues of mutual interest, including opportunities that existed for citizens to live and work in each other’s countries, Johnson said.

 

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Brexit not about ‘turning away from the world,’ Johnson says

Brexit “is not, was not and will not be about Britain turning away from the world,” British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said in New Zealand on Tuesday.

Johnson said this at a news conference in Wellington during his first visit to New Zealand.

“On the contrary, it is about us wanting to keep great relations with all our European friends and partners and do a great free trade deal with them,” Johnson.

Johnson, who is visiting the south-west Pacific nation for three days, met with Prime Minister, Bill English, and Foreign Minister, Gerry Brownlee and discussed topics including North Korea and the “nuclear adventurism of that regime” as well as the fight against terrorism.

On Tuesday in Wellington Johnson said the people who voted for Brexit weren’t hostile to immigrants, they just wanted to feel that the British government had a handle on migration.

“I have been the mayor of London where 40 per cent of the population were born abroad,” Johnson said.

“Being open to talent is a great thing, but in any society you have to manage it and you have to control it. That is what Brexit was about,’’ he said.

He also said Brexit was also about rediscovering and intensifying friendships and partnerships around the world.

Johnson said Britain and New Zealand would continue to work on a range of issues of mutual interest, including opportunities that existed for citizens to live and work in each other’s countries, Johnson said.

 

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‘France to use Brexit to weaken City of London’

France is seeking to use Brexit to weaken the City of London, the British finance sector’s EU pointman warned in a leaked report published Sunday.

A demonstrator holds up a placard saying “Stand together Stop Brexit” at an anti-Brexit protest in Trafalgar Square in central London on June 28, 2016.
EU leaders attempted to rescue the European project and Prime Minister David Cameron sought to calm fears over Britain’s vote to leave the bloc as ratings agencies downgraded the country. Britain has been pitched into uncertainty by the June 23 referendum result, with Cameron announcing his resignation, the economy facing a string of shocks and Scotland making a fresh threat to break away. / AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS

“They are crystal clear about their underlying objective: the weakening of Britain, the ongoing degradation of the City of London,” Jeremy Browne, a former government minister who is now the City’s Brexit envoy, said in a memo.

The leaked report, published by the Mail on Sunday tabloid, was written as a summary to ministers of a trip made by Browne to France in early July.

“The meeting with the French Central Bank was the worst I have had anywhere in the EU. They are in favour of the hardest Brexit. They want disruption,” he said.

Browne acknowledged there may be political benefits to France of playing “bad cop” in the negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, which began last month and are due to resume in Brussels on Monday.

But “we should nevertheless have our eyes open that France sees Britain and the City of London as adversaries, not partners”.

This approach was not confined to a few officials, but was a “whole-of-France collective endeavour, made both more giddy and more assertive by the election of (Emmanuel) Macron” as president in May, according to Browne.

The Mail on Sunday headlined the story “Macron’s Brexit Saboteurs”.

Browne adds that “every country, not unreasonably, is alive to the opportunities that Brexit provides, but the French go further”.

He says they are “seemingly happy to see outcomes detrimental to the City of London even if Paris is not the beneficiary”.

Paris is competing with Dublin, Frankfurt and other centres for an expected shift in finance jobs out of London as a result of Brexit.

With Britain at risk of losing the “passporting rights” financial firms use to deal with clients in the rest of the bloc, employees in direct contact with customers may need to be based on EU territory in future.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe earlier this month laid out a raft of measures aimed at boosting Paris’s attractiveness, including eliminating the top income tax bracket.

Browne, who was an MP for the pro-European Liberal Democrats until 2015, served as a junior foreign office minister in former prime minister David Cameron’s coalition government.

He was appointed special representative to the EU by the City of London Corporation, which represents the financial sector, in September 2015.

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Brexit: London worst hit, over 70,000 jobs losses

London will suffer from Brexit more than other regions of the UK, with the financial sector expected to lose up to 70,000 jobs, a report of the UK-based think tank Centre for London said on Thursday.

“The risks to London’s economy, from the loss of these workers and students, and access to the European Single Market, are considerable.

“70,000 jobs could be lost in financial and related services alone,” the think tank said, adding that London depends on students and workers from across the European Union “to a far greater extent than the rest of the country.”

According to the report, such losses would be a significant blow for financial services of the UK capital, but the sector would still survive.

“Highly-specialised clusters like financial services and other world city functions are ‘sticky’, and London would still retain the critical mass to be one of the major global centres for financial services,” the report stated.

The think tank noted that London “needs to remain open, and also needs to become more affordable and liveable.”
It presents a number of recommendations for the UK government to soften the influence of Brexit, including the suggestion for London Mayor Sadiq Khan to join the withdrawal negotiations.

“The Mayor of London should join with the mayors and leaders of the UK’s major cities to form a Convention of City Leaders on Brexit, and the next government should actively engage with these cities, to ensure that their needs are properly addressed in negotiations and further devolution,” the report said.

Other recommendations of the report include introduction of a regionally managed migration system for the regions to be able to “define their skills needs and to agree work permit quotas with Government.”

Others are the introduction of one-year City Maker Visas for EU citizens to visit London to look for job opportunities, and two-year post-study work permits for graduates to stay in London and “contribute to the economy.”

The UKm officially launched the Brexit process on March 29.

The negotiations with the European Union on the terms of withdrawal from the bloc started on June 19 and are expected to conclude by the end of March 2019.

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