December 14th 2019


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY A myriad transformations effected by one birth

VICTORIAN POLITICS Andrews hacks away at another way of life and source of jobs

CANBERRA OBSERVED Labor must own up to why it took the thrashing it got

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Hong Kong voters reject Beijing and its proxies

LIFE AND FAMILY On the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, how are we doing?

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Brexit: Quintessentially British party politics

OBITUARY Fr Paul Stenhouse: The thoughtful editor for the 'ordinary' reader

OBITUARY Vale David Milne, paragon of loyalty and perseverance

ASIAN AFFAIRS Taiwan and Hong Kong: Pawns in a bigger game

U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS How and why the U.S. should stop financing China's bad actors

HUMOUR You can't stop the music, Paddy

MUSIC 2020 foresight: A musical odyssey

CLASSIC CINEMA North by Northwest: The immaculately produced nightmare

BOOK REVIEW Truncated truths for post-truth times

BOOK REVIEW Food for a summer immersion program

POETRY

LETTERS

THE QUEEN V PELL: A blight on the whole of the criminal justice system

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Johnson to take UK out of the EU on January 31

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Johnson to take UK out of the EU on January 31


by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, December 14, 2019

Following his massive election victory on December 12, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has secured long-delayed Parliamentary approval for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) on January 31. Despite the opposition of the Scottish Nationalists, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the process is inevitable.

Boris Johnson

In the last days of the election campaign in December, Johnson’s critics – who include “our” ABC, SBS and the BBC – said that the election would be close, and that Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn could possibly win.

In the event, the Conservatives secured a majority of 11 per cent over Labour, a parliamentary majority of 80 seats over all other parties combined, and a majority of 163 over Labour.

It is significant that all the attempts in the House of Commons to delay Brexit throughout 2019 had the effect of solidifying the determination of the majority who wanted Britain to leave, despite the economic uncertainty surrounding withdrawal.

The EU, which also attempted to delay Brexit in the hope that a second vote would reverse the 2016 referendum, also came to accept that a British withdrawal was inevitable, and negotiated a withdrawal agreement with former Prime Minister Theresa May; then, when she was defeated on the floor of Parliament, with her successor, Boris Johnson.

 

Mandate

The election outcome not only gave the Conservative Party a mandate to withdraw from the EU, but also marked a decisive defeat for the Labour Party under its left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn, who was never strongly pro-EU, radically mishandled his position on the issue.

His official position was that he would renegotiate the terms of Britain’s withdrawal with the EU, then put that to a second referendum.

He took this line because the Labour Party is deeply divided over Brexit, and he clearly thought he could not take either a pro-EU or an anti-EU position without splitting the party.

However, his approach satisfied no one. The Labour grass roots which wanted Britain out of the EU because of the acceptance of EU sovereignty over migration, fisheries and law, were deeply dissatisfied by what appeared to them to be a formula for interminable delays to Britain’s withdrawal, and kowtowing to the leftist intelligentsia, which is pro-EU.

Many of them abandoned their traditional voting patterns to support the Tories or the pro-Brexit parties, or simply decided not to vote.

On the other hand, the left-wing intelligentsia that backed Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party was overwhelmingly pro-EU but was alienated because Corbyn was contemplating the possibility of Britain’s withdrawal. Many of them defected to the Liberal Democrats, whose position was strongly pro-EU.

The result was predictable.

As the polls had shown consistently for months, the Tories gained a decisive majority over Labour. The Liberal Democrats, although getting around 15 per cent of the vote, secured only a handful of seats in Parliament, and their leader, Jo Swinson, lost her seat to the Scottish Nationalists.

Under Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system with voluntary voting, the Conservatives secured an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons.

Johnson has moved to put into effect his hundred-day plan to move on from Brexit.

Following Britain’s official withdrawal from the EU, he will introduce a February Budget that will include tax cuts promised before the election, and expanded spending on the National Health Scheme.

For the time being, Britain’s trading relationship with the EU will be unchanged, pending the negotiation of a new agreement with the EU.

Boris Johnson will have the rest of 2020 to negotiate the terms of that agreement, which must cover not only trade but also the extent (if any) of the sovereignty of EU laws, and financial arrangements for EU citizens living in Britain and British citizens living in the Eurozone, along with other issues.

Britain is expected to use the Norway model, adapted for the particular circumstances of the UK.

Norway is not a member of the EU but has a close relationship with the EU through the European Economic Area agreement, which gives Norway access to the EU’s single market in most areas. However, because the EU subsidises agriculture and fishing, these are excluded from the European Economic Area agreement.

Britain would undoubtedly want to exclude some industries, including fisheries, from its EU agreement.

Norway is the one of the largest trading partners of the EU, exporting oil and gas from Norway’s North Sea fields, while importing manufactured goods.

Norway has twice conducted referenda on joining the EU, but the people voted against it both times. Recent opinion polls show that Norwegians remain strongly against EU membership, but support a close trading relationship.

The balance of trade between Britain and the EU is firmly in favour of Europe, so there will be strong pressure on the EU negotiators to reach a reasonable accommodation.




























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