September 21st 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Federal Government should abolish Renewable Energy Certificates

ENERGY BP annual Review shows consumption, production up

CANBERRA OBSERVED NSW Labor caught in Panda's paws doing 'whatever it takes'

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM Religious discrimination bill: A litany of questions

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Boris' brinkmanship shakes up Britain, EU

WATER POLICY Angry farmers protest over Murray-Darling Basin Plan ... again

TECHNOLOGY Are we the dumbest devices in the room?

HISTORY AND POLITICS Lord Acton, nationalism and multiculturalism, Part 2

LITERATURE D.H. Lawrence: The Modernist in exile

MUSIC Dialectical transcendence

CINEMA The Farewell: Elegant and bittersweet

BOOK REVIEW Owning up to market imperfections

BOOK REVIEW Heroism and faith under tyranny

BOOK REVIEW The love that comes after love is gone


EDITORIAL Gladys Liu controversy ignores reality of China's interference

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Boris' brinkmanship shakes up Britain, EU

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, September 21, 2019

Britain’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has well and truly thrown the cat among the pigeons by proroguing the Houses of Parliament for a month in the run-up to Great Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, due on October 31.

The word “prorogue” comes from Old English, and means to discontinue sessions of Parliament without dissolving it.

At the time of writing, Britain’s Houses of Parliament are meeting for a week, and are expected to consider a vote of no confidence in the Government, proposed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Johnson has already thought about that one. There is widespread discontent in Britain about the Parliament’s failure to agree to a suitable withdrawal agreement; and, despite the vocal demonstrations, polls show majority support for Johnson’s move to prorogue Parliament, to clear the decks for final negotiations with the European Union.

Johnson has only a bare majority in Parliament, and could easily lose the vote if enough disenchanted Tories join Labour in a no-confidence vote. If that happened, Johnson would undoubtedly recommend to the Queen that Parliament be dissolved, and a fresh election held. If an election were called, it would occupy the whole period up to October 31, when Parliament has voted to leave the EU. So, effectively, the Parliament would have no further say over the terms of Brexit.

Interestingly, the reputable YouGov pollsters found, in polls conducted after Johnson’s announcement, that support for the Conservatives rose to 32 per cent, followed by Labour with 22 per cent, the Liberal Democrats (a left-liberal party) 17 per cent and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party with 13 per cent. Minor parties such as the Scottish Nationalists, Ulster Unionists and the UK Independence Party make up the balance.

Large majority

As Britain has a first-past-the-post voting system, if this was reflected in a snap election, it would give Boris Johnson a large majority in a new parliament.

The other problem for the pro-EU parliamentarians is that Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is insisting that he should be the interim Prime Minister if Johnson loses a no-confidence vote in Parliament, because Labour contributes the largest number of votes.

However, Tory rebels, the Ulster Unionists and others have said that under no circumstances would they support Corbyn’s appointment as Prime Minister, even on an interim basis.

So it looks like a stalemate.

An alternative would be for the House of Commons to vote against a no-deal Brexit. But, as Boris Johnson has said that he wants to negotiate a deal with the EU, it is unclear what the effect of such a resolution would be.

Boris Johnson’s action throws a gauntlet down to the European Union. Although the European Parliament does not want to give any ground to the British leader, the fact is that Europe has a lot to lose from a no-deal Brexit, and some of Europe’s business and political leaders are deeply concerned about it.

Since Britain joined the European Common Market over 50 years ago, its economy has become deeply integrated with that of Europe. The EU countries’ exports to Britain in 2018 were valued at £345 billion ($A623 billion), while Britain’s exports to the EU were valued at £289 billion ($A522 billion).

The figures show that the EU exports about $A100 billion a year more to Britain than it receives.

Additionally, many large businesses in the EU have production facilities across the EU, which will be affected by any interruption to trade. A typical example is the world’s second largest aircraft manufacturers, Airbus, which manufactures components in different countries, including Britain. And Nissan, Honda and Toyota have their major European manufacturing plants in Britain, from where they export to Europe.

London is also a financial hub for all Western Europe, and the consequences of withdrawal from the EU are uncertain but will be profound.

The consequences of a disruption of Anglo-European trade are clear in the short term, but Britain hopes to secure new trading relationships with countries like the United States and Australia.

A further major issue involves Britain’s contributions to the European Union budget. While the exact level of British support for the EU depends on which figures are included, and whether to include payments from the EU, everyone agrees that Britain, like Germany, France and Italy, is a net contributor to the EU budget.

The EU budget is about €120 billion ($A196 billion) a year, and Britain contributes about €12 billion ($A20 billion) of that.

Boris Johnson has already said that, if Britain withdraws from the EU, its contributions to the EU will cease. In response, the EU has threatened no deal on trade; which, as previously discussed, will hurt both sides, but it will hurt European exporters more than Britain’s.

The logic suggests that the EU should encourage a smooth Brexit but, with many EU politicians and bureaucrats fearing it will trigger the break-up of the European Union, logic may go out the window.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm