The battle of wills is surely between Theresa May and Angela Merkel

Lots and lots is written daily interpreting the minutiae of government words on Brexit. I don’t want to add to it. My angle is about personalities. Perhaps I’ve missed it, but the media don’t seem to be focussing on the key battle between to two main combatants, Theresa May and Angela Merkel.

theresa_mayLets look at what each has said in the past two days. Firstly, Theresa May on the Sophy Ridge Show in Sunday, then what Angela Merkel said on Monday.

Sophy Ridge asking about prioritising control of immigration over membership of the single market, Theresa May said,

‘We are leaving. We are coming out. We are not going to be a member of the EU any longer.

‘So the question is what is the right relationship for the UK to have with the European Union when we are outside. We will be able to have control of our borders, control of our laws.’

Angela Merkel, speaking to the German Civil Service Association, said,

angela_merkel_2011“One cannot lead these [Brexit] negotiations based in the form of ‘cherry picking’. This would have fatal consequences for the remaining 27 EU states.”

“Britain is, for sure, an important partner with whom one would want to have good relations even after an exit from the EU.”

But Mrs Merkel said it was important to be clear, “that on the other hand, we are clear that, for example, access to the single market is only possible under the condition of adherence to the four basic principles. Otherwise one has to negotiate limits (of access).”

Angela Merkel will, surely, have been aware of what Theresa May said on Sunday. No obvious agreement there that I can see. From what we know about the two of them, there are remarkable similarities. Both are religious, lead centre-right political parties, have held similar positions in their respective parties and government, are of a similar age, have no children, and are from a non-metropolitan background,

So far, so similar. Both have succeeded in the male-dominated world of politics, so will both have exhibited grit and determination to succeed and survive. Perhaps it might be said that both show a stubbornness. On Brexit both Merkel and May have frequently repeated their positions, with neither varying very much from those positions.

There’ll be appointed European negotiators, though not yet exactly sure who and what. While the people in the negotiations will be important people, they’re not as important, in my opinion, as that of Merkel for the EU, and May for the UK.

An American magazine sees both sides of the High Court Brexit ruling

Much has been written about the ruling in the High Court that the government must seek a vote in Parliament prior to activating Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Heck, I’ve written about it HERE, pointing to the variety of opinions on the court’s judgement.

national-reviewIt’s the USA’s National Review magazine that offers two well argued interpretations – one against the ruling, the other for. A famously litigious country that is the USA, and one where Supreme Court judges interpret their constitution, it’s perhaps fitting that two American writers offer their perspective. Both deserve reading in full.

Tom Rogan writes in Brexit: British Judges Defy British People,

Whatever the outcome, this is a deep judicial strike at the democratically enacted will of the British people.

And concludes in his article,

The consequences of yesterday’s ruling are clear. The democratic authority of the British people, burnished by the Blitz and Magna Carta, is now in limbo. Forming cause from arrogance, the judiciary has acted to restrain British freedom. June’s referendum had a commonly understood purpose: to devolve the decision about the U.K.’s future in the EU to British citizens. The outcome of that decision was clear: Brexit. The Supreme Court must remember those whom the High Court has forgotten: its master, the British people.

Meanwhile Andrew Stuttaford, referencing Tom Rogan’s article in Brexit and the Judges, says,

I’m not convinced [at Tom Rogan’s deep judicial strike]. As regular readers around here will know, I have supported Brexit for quite some years. I still do. Nevertheless, I do not support the idea that the referendum result plunges the rest of the British constitution into suspended animation. If Britain is to leave the EU, it must do so according to the law of the land. The EU has done a great deal of damage to the UK’s constitution. It would be ironic if Brexit were to do a bit more.

Quality journalism is a vital ingredient in times of change

We’re lucky in this sceptred isle to have a flourishing free press – occasionally under attack from illiberal forces, while also that freedom is sometimes squandered by the press itself.

Anyway, the subject of press freedom is not the subject of this article. What it is about is valuing quality commentary and journalism, irrespective of its political leanings.

I’ve not added the commentary sites I value to my blogroll, nor do I receive any as an email newsletter. I already spend far too much time reading current affairs articles.

reaction-lifeThere are two sites whose articles I value, both have been edited by Iain Martin, one of my most favourite journalists. He was founding editor of CapXmission to deliver the best thinking and writing from across the world, and is now founding editor of – features commentary and analysis on politics, economics, culture and ideas from leading writers.

I may not agree with everything in either journal, or by Iain Martin. I do value the articles, and how they challenge my views. Click on image to link to Reaction.

A scholarly and readable review of the Brexit referendum

the-english-revoltI’ve read numerous articles analysing the result of the EU Referendum in June. I missed this one The English Revolt by Robert Tombs in the New Statesman on July 24th. While it’s a long article, it’s an excellent account of why we ended up voting to Leave the EU. Here are a few snippets from the article.

Worst of all, [Remain voters] main argument – whether they were artists, actors, film-makers, university vice-chancellors or prestigious learned societies – was one of unabashed self interest: the EU is our milch-cow, and hence you must feed it. This was a lamentable trahison des clercs. The reaction to the referendum result by some Remain partisans has been a monumental fit of pique that includes talking up economic crisis (which, as Keynes showed, is often self-fulfilling) and smearing 17 million Leave voters as xenophobes. This is both irresponsible and futile, and paves the way to political marginalisation.

Many Europeans fear that a breakdown of the EU could slide into a return to the horrors of the mid-20th century. Most people in Britain do not. The fundamental feature of the referendum campaign was that the majority was not frightened out of voting for Leave, either by political or by economic warnings. This is testimony to a significant change since the last referendum in 1975: most people no longer see Britain as a declining country dependent on the EU.

Political editors interview the Prime Minister in quick succession

I’ve been meaning to write about this for days. Just busy with other stuff.

Earlier this week the Prime Minister addressed Parliament about his draft deal with the EU. Following this he was quizzed about it in interviews with senior political editors – Laura Kuenssberg – BBC News, Robert Peston – ITV News, and Faisal Islam – Sky News.

In each of the interviews David Cameron’s demeanour didn’t change – very impressive. The things I noticed about the interviews were not, particularly, the questions or answers, but these,

  • Robert Pestonit was a new interview location in my view, though still somewhere most probably in No.10 Downing Street.
  • the interview location apparently seemed to be a poky corner, although well lit. It positioned the political editors and David Cameron in very close proximity, unusually so in my view again.
  • the location and closeness must surely have been designed by the No 10 communications team. It’d be interesting to know of their thinking and the perceived advantage accruing to the PM of the location and setting.
  • now to the three interviews by the political editors. It was coincidence that meant me seeing the three interviews in quick succession.
  • all the political editors sat back in their chairs, while Cameron leaned forward. Now Cameron’s forward lean indicated a positive interest in the questions. And yet, I think I observed Cameron lean further forward to Laura Kuenssberg, which is a sign of aggression. At one point in Laura’s questioning she pressed Cameron, who leaned even further forward saying, ‘well, that’s the answer you’re going to get’.
  • Laura Kuenssberg was the sharpest questioner,
  • Faisal Islam tried hard, with no more success than Kuenssberg
  • Robert Peston’s interview wasn’t to my liking, his questioning being laborious, verging on the irritating. Cameron impressively showed not the slightest irritation, and I looked hard at his expression.
  • I didn’t see Channel 4 political editor Gary Gibbon’s interview, and it’s not online, although his blog post is HERE.

Result: Cameron and his comms team would be well satisfied with his performance. I wonder if we’ll see the same location used again. Perhaps not, as I think the political editors were under pressure to get an interview with the PM. On other occasions they’ll not be so pliant, methinks.

I wonder if the conversation with Samantha Cameron later that evening wouldn’t be about how the day went but more about Ed Balls’ performance on Celebrity Great British Bake Off.

I leave it to you to judge on the relative performance of the three political editors. I only listened to short parts of each interview. Well done to you if you saw through all three.