Sunday, June 30, 2019

An eventful June but Brexit impasse continues

June has in many ways been extremely eventful, but at the same time little or nothing has happened.

Theresa May finally made a tearful farewell at the end of May having been forced out by the hardline Brexiters in her party. Her resignation set into motion a leadership contest that became almost comical as more than a dozen candidates put their names forward. By the time voting began however, the list had dwindled somewhat and by the final round only Jeremy Hunt and the favourite, Boris Johnson remained.

Amid this contest President Donald Trump came to town storming into Stansted with two jumbo jets, one for himself and another for his daughter, son, relatives and officials. The party was then ferried about in a fleet of helicopters as well as a cavalcade of vehicles that required the shutting down several streets in central London.

Surrounding the Trump circus were a series of protests. On the first day of his visit the protests were fairly low key and around the Victoria memorial the crowds were a mixture of supporters, protesters and inquisitive sightseers and tourists.

However, while there were certainly a number of Trump supporters, they were relatively few in number. Indeed as his cavalcade travelled from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, the Mall was almost empty.

The following day as Trump was due to meet the outgoing prime minister Theresa May, thousands filled the streets protesting against the president's visit complete with a giant baby Trump balloon.

While there were perhaps legitimate reasons behind the protesters' anger towards the US president, one should not also overlook the fact that he to some extent had a duty to attend the 75th D-Day anniversary commemorations that took place in the days that followed.

In fact many commentators, usually critical of Trump, observed that the US president had been dignified during commemorations and had not made any major missteps.

With the Trump visit over, British papers were focused less on politics than on the weather as heavy rain swept across many parts of the country bringing flooding to many areas. The wet weather did not continue however and by the end of June there were perhaps some wishing for some rain as a 'Sahara plume' brought a brief heatwave with temperatures exceeding 30°C.

Perhaps it was not surprising that with such high temperatures, Climate Change protesters seized on the opportunity to bring their message to the streets. "Hot isn't it? That's global warming" a chalked message, on a piece of street furniture, proclaimed near the Houses of Parliament as thousands of protesters lobbied their MPs.

Parliament however is in a state of winding down as the summer recess draws closer. Despite the urgency to solve the Brexit crisis, there is little on the parliamentary calendar and the Tories are all too preoccupied with their leadership contest to focus on how to move forward on that other than to put forward unrealistic proposals. In less than Three weeks parliament will wrap up for summer and won't return until early September.

That will leave only 8 weeks during which MPs will have to solve the Brexit impasse. Those eight weeks are not quite as long as one might think either. In parliamentary terms it is only 32 days, since parliament only sits for four days each week. And it might be a great deal less than that since party conference season may well eat into the parliamentary agenda.

By default Britain will leave the EU on the 31st October without a deal unless parliament finds some way of stopping it. The 'Withdrawal Agreement' - often referred to as Theresa May's deal - is essentially dead since the next Tory PM, be it Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt, is unlikely to bring it before parliament again.

Both claim that they will seek a 'new deal' with the EU, despite the European Union having iterated many times previously that the negotiations are at an end and that they will not be opened up again.

Thus there is now only one of two routes Britain is heading towards. A 'no deal' Brexit or no Brexit. But before either of those two potential outcomes, September and October will prove to be politically very turbulent.

And talking of turbulent, outside the insular world of Brexit and way beyond Britain's waters there is much concern over Iran and the risk of war between the US and the middle eastern country following accusations it targeted two tankers in the Gulf and later downed an American drone. Thus far, there has only been a war of words with rhetoric coming from both sides. But it only needs a small misstep for the rhetoric to boil over and become a serious military conflict.

Should that happen Brexit will be the east of Britain's worries since as a member of NATO it may well get drawn into any potential conflict. Furthermore, any disruption to the flow of oil from the Middle East which would likely follow any war with Iran would send the global financial system into a spin, that's to say nothing of the effect it might have on the energy sector and industry.

Perhaps the tensions between the US and Iran might all cool down over the summer, even if the weather a little on the warm side.

tvnewswatch, London, UK