Top 3 Developments
May’s movements: Travelling through Ireland and parts of Europe, May outlined the desire to have a flexible trading relationship with the EU, carving out its own unique model of integration separate to the models that already exist.
Barnier back for Brexit: Michel Barnier, the scourge of the City whilst Internal Market Commissioner, has been appointed by the Commission to lead its Brexit negotiations. Famed for his federalist views, pragmatism and robust negotiating style, Brexit Secretary David Davis will have a strong adversary in the Brexit negotiations.
Labour’s lost productivity: Corbyn’s confirmation on the labour leadership ballot this week buoyed his supporters. However, at a time when the Opposition should be scutinising the Government’s every move, Labour supporters of all sides will be worried at the polls showing their party trailing by 16 points in the polls.
May travels without borders
With Parliament on recess for the summer, Theresa May’s travels continued with the PM visiting Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Slovakia and Poland to discuss the implications of the Brexit vote.
May used her trip to both parts of Ireland to stress that nobody wanted to see a return of “borders of the past”, emphasising that there is a strong will to keep the free movement of people between the UK and Ireland. The PM added that she wanted to “maintain the closest possible relationship” between the two countries despite the vote to leave the EU. Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that Brexit was not the outcome Ireland wanted but expressed hope that the UK would remain ‘outward-looking’.
May has chosen to take her plans for Brexit directly to fellow European leaders and bypass the European Commission, visiting a number of European countries so far. In Italy, May stated that the UK should be flexible in its trading relationship with the EU post-Brexit and should not try to emulate any other country in how it interacts with the bloc. In Slovakia, who hold the presidency of the EU Council until the end of the year, she suggested that Britain would not seek to replicate Norway’s relationship with the EU (member of the European Economic Area, full access to the single market, obligated to contribute financially and accept majority of EU laws and free movement), saying “we should be driven by what is in the best interests of the UK and what is going to work for the EU, not by the models that already exist”.
Since her appointment as Prime Minister, May has stated that the British government could only ensure the protection of European citizens living in the UK if British citizens were afforded the same rights in other EU states. This is a point that she reiterated when meeting with the Polish prime minister this week.
The situation is challenging for the PM, who will need to balance the expectations of the Brexit voters in regards to controlled immigration, whilst also ensuring continued access to the single market, on which the British economy relies. Based on May’s comments during her European tour it appears as though she is trying to carve out a unique model of integration for Britain.
Barnier commissioned to lead Brexit negotiations
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker caused some consternation this week by appointing former French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier to lead the European Commission’s Brexit negotiations. Described as an ‘arch-federalist’, this potentially spells some trouble for the Prime Minister and Brexit Secretary David Davis, as Barnier may not want to see the UK leave the EU painlessly. However, others, including Conservative MEP Syed Kamall, have defended his pragmatism and his long experience as a negotiator. Barnier’s previous stint as Internal Market Commissioner often saw him at odds with the City of London over financial services regulation.
Generally, though, the appointment has been interpreted as a signal of intent from the Commission; against Britain for thinking they will have it all their own way in the upcoming negotiations and also against the European Council, who has been accused of side-lining the Commission since the referendum.
Labour of love
After weeks of disputes, Jeremy Corbyn’s place in the leadership race was finally secured beyond all doubt this week, following a High Court Ruling that there was no basis to challenge the NEC’s decision that Labour leader should automatically be on the ballot.
Corbyn remains the overwhelming favourite to retain the leadership, with the latest Opinium/Observer poll putting him in front of Smith by a margin of 32 points. Whilst that poll may have buoyed Corbyn supporters, news that Labour are now trailing the Conservatives by 16 points in national polling may have been a bit more unsettling. Despite this, Corbyn remained bullish in an interview with the Guardian, claiming that Labour could win a snap general election.
Meanwhile, his leadership opponent Owen Smith had his own media problems to worry about, as he outlined his policy ideas at a conference in Orgreave, scene of the clash between police and miners in 1984. Whilst he demonstrated his left wing credentials with measures including making zero-hours contracts unlawful, and an end to the public sector pay freeze, it was his ill-advised rhetoric and his vow to ‘smash’ Theresa May ‘back on her heels’ that caught the headlines – a comment he originally stuck by, before coming under a torrent of abuse and eventually apologising on Thursday.
Labour Leadership Contest
- July 20-August 15, 12pm– Supporting nominations (MPs and MEPs announcing their support for candidates) open
- July 22-September 16– Hustings period
- August 4 – Live debate between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith in Cardiff
- August 22– Ballots mailed out
- September 21, 12pm– Ballot closes
- September 24– Result announced at Labour Party Conference
Party Conference Dates
- Green Party Friday 2nd September – Sunday 4th September (Birmingham)
- UKIP TBA – the party’s new leader will be declared at the party’s conference
- Liberal Democrats Saturday 17th September – Wednesday 21st September (Brighton)
- Labour Party Sunday 25th September – Wednesday 28th September (Liverpool)
- Conservative Party Sunday 2nd October – Wednesday 5th October (Birmingham)
- SNP Thursday 13th October – Saturday 15th October (Glasgow)