Politics

With Theresa May's heavily trailed Europe speech rapidly approaching, the commentariat have gone into a kind of speculative overdrive as they feverishly try to second guess the shape and form of any revised Brexit offer the Prime Minister might make. Tales of a two year transition period and a £35 billion Brexit bill have been bandied about for the last week, and will no doubt become even more speculative as the big day draws closer.

People shouldn't get their hopes up. As I explained in an earlier article, it seems unlikely that any deal offered by Britain will be sufficient to satisfy the EU negotiators, regardless of what each member state might privately think.

If, and it's a big if, the figure of £35 billion is even reasonably accurate, it cannot simply be forked over without expecting something in return. Such an offer will surely be conditional on the UK exiting both the Single Market and the Customs Union in March 2019. This would allow the UK to negotiate trade on its own while retaining tariff free access to the Single Market for a short period. It will also deliver on Britain's commitment to the current EU budget period which ends in 2020. This all seems quite reasonable, generous even, but Michel Barnier et al have thus far proved completely unwilling to accept any offer which is not an exact continuation of the current status quo.

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Where the hell did that come from?

North Korea's alleged H-bomb test seems to have taken the world completely by surprise. Indeed, when it comes to constructing impossible devices with no resources, Big Kim and his boys would surely give the A-Team a run for their money.

There are two possibilities here. Firstly, that a nation instructing its soldiers to "steal corn from the fields" has somehow managed, in complete secrecy, to expedite such a rapid development in its nuclear program that the power of its weapons has increased fivefold in eighteen months.

The second possibility is that they've had outside help.

Given that Pyongyang's gloating publicity pictures immediately made me think that Sean Connery was about to burst in and beat up the bad guys, I'm pretty confident that, as usual, China is the hidden director behind this latest international drama.

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Roll up, roll up! Get your new and improved Labour Brexit right here! Much softer than brand Tory and guaranteed to preserve the status quo by remaining inside the customs union and the single market. It's kinder and more moral too, with extra freedom of movement and ECJ oversight baked in for another two years…or maybe that's four, or maybe, perhaps, possibly even longer than that. But don't you worry, Britain absolutely will be leaving the European Union in 2019. Oh sure, there are some details to sort out, but apart from the continued jurisdiction of the ECJ, freedom of movement, membership fees and EU trade supremacy, Britain will be completely independent. We are absolutely committed to delivering Brexit.

Seriously, is anyone still buying this snake oil b******t? If they are, then I have a very nice bridge…

If Sir Keir Starmer's new Brexit formula feels oddly familiar, it's because we've been here before, several times. The Labour Party is taking a well-trodden path to a certain dead end, and it clearly believes its voter base is either too dim or too blindly tribal to notice or care. Labour's newly unveiled Brexit policy is exactly the kind of cherry picking fantasy the EU has firmly rejected from day one, and with good cause. If the whole Brexit process has proven one indisputable fact, it's that you're either in the EU or you're not. There are no half measures, yet the Labour Party seems to think it can somehow leave and remain at the same time. Good luck with that.

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Following the bloody events in Charlottesville over the weekend, the Durham (North Carolina) branch of the Workers World Party (WWP) held a rally of solidarity in support of those "anti-fascist" protesters who clashed with Unite the Right marchers on that tragic day.

The WWP website reports that there were over 100 protesters present at this solidarity rally, during which a statue dedicated to the Confederate soldiers of the Civil War was pulled off its plinth and onto the ground. Video of the incident was uploaded to the internet and has since become worldwide news, clocking up well in excess of 100,000 views.

To the credit of local law enforcement, one of the main instigators of this illegal act has since been arrested and charged with various offences such as incitement to riot and damage to property.

Regardless of anyone's opinion on the merits of Confederacy monuments, the County Sheriff's office were absolutely right to take action against the main instigator of this event, WWP member Takiya Fatima Thompson. She remains predictably unrepentant, and she has amassed an army of online cheerleaders to help fight her cause. This glaring example of highly selective and conditional support for the rule of law is indicative of a growing and disturbing trend within Western civilisation generally and the US in particular.

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At first glance, that seems like an outrageous question with a self-evident answer, but the last two years should caution us all against taking anything for granted. Received wisdom just ain't what it used to be.

As I've watched the US media establishment abandon any pretence of objectivity to declare war on their elected head of state, it's been tempting to buy into the narrative that President Trump is indeed an overgrown man-baby who is morally and intellectually incapable of holding high office.

Tune into CNN, MSNBC or ABC; visit the New York Times, the Washington Post or any other mainstream media outlet and we basically hear the same story. This week has been Trump's worst. It's a disaster. His White House is ineffective and chaotic. Staff are fighting each other and the leaks just won't stop. He's bound to fall at any moment. Stay tuned…here it comes…

Sure, on the face of it that seems like a pretty reasonable assessment, but the normal rules no longer apply and this president is following a different playbook.

Does anyone else think it strange that Trump continually goes out of his way to pick fights with an unashamedly partisan media class?

Why?

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Unless things change dramatically, it's looking increasingly like Britain will leave the European Union without any kind of meaningful trade deal or reciprocal arrangements on citizens' rights.

This will be a great disappointment to the vast majority of both leave and remain voters, but the latest round of talks in Brussels has demonstrated that both sides are approaching the negotiations from fundamentally different perspectives. Interestingly, these two divergent viewpoints neatly serve to illustrate the underlying tension behind Britain's restive relationship with the European Union, and its true motivation for walking away.

Whilst frustrating and very concerning for everyone involved, the increasingly fraught Brexit process has finally killed any pretence that the European Project is about anything other than ever increasing political power. Don't take my word for it, but look instead at the primary motivations of the opposing parties.

While the British approach is essentially pragmatic, focusing on trade, cooperation and partnership, the EU is concerned primarily with maximising political influence over the UK after March 2019. This is why the talks will most likely fail as neither side is capable of relinquishing what it sees as its own inalienable rights. The idea of EU institutions continuing to control UK law is anathema to the British, while the EU simply cannot imagine any kind of relationship with the UK which doesn't involve direct political influence. Oddly enough, they're easily able to imagine such a relationship with Canada and Japan, but the UK will be treated very differently. The reason for this glaring double standard is because the UK is now a clear and present threat to the European Project.

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