To be or not to be – the battle for Brexit reaches its climax

Next week could see a Parliamentary victory for Johnson on his negotiated Brexit deal but this might merely be a battle won and not the war Yet again the right wing Brexiteers have been frustrated in their attempts to take Britain out of the EU by the sheer fact of a lack of a majority and thus opposition in Parliament to their efforts. His goal has been to try to realise Brexit by 31 October in order to fulfil his promise in his earlier campaign to become leader of the Tories. This goal may also account for the very arbitrary and overly forceful way that he has proceeded and the resistance that that has engendered. Prime Minister Johnson returned from Brussels brandishing Brexit Deal Mark Two only to see it shot down on Saturday as MP’s realised that his attempt … Read more

How charismatic populism is a threat to the survival of democracy in Britain

Today the UK Parliament enters upon an extended period of suspension, of prorogation, in the midst of one of the biggest crises the British state has encountered since the crises of the Stuart era in the 17th century. Such is the evolution of the current crisis over Brexit that we now have a struggle for power between the executive and legislature as happened in that earlier era. What has stood out recently is how the act of prorogation has been another measure of what an observer has called “executive exceptionalism” in the name of popular sovereignty against that of representative democracy, but also one where a charismatic authoritarianism risks being allowed at the expense of the requirements of elective democratic consent to the actions of the executive. What is so dangerous is that these actions are teaching people a lesson … Read more

How Johnson’s prorogation tactic threatens democracy itself

Why has Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament shortly before Brexit caused such outrage? Non-UK readers might be puzzled but to many observers within the UK, in the midst of the struggle over Brexit that has fractured the nation, it is already being called a “coup”, an “attack on democracy”, and an “authoritarian” action from the leader of the Vote Leave movement who campaigned in the name of democracy. More thoughtful observers say that within reactionary nationalist populism in many countries there is an authoritarian undercurrent, and this is arguably its British manifestation. Democratic outrage Prime Minister Johnson’s announcement of the prorogation of Parliament until shortly before Britain is due to leave the EU has stunned and outraged many democrats. The Speaker of the House of Commons has called it a “constitutional outrage”. Observers should by now be under no illusion that … Read more

To leave or not to leave the EU, that is the question

“To be, or not to be: that is the question”, said Hamlet in Shakespeare’s celebrated play, “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?” The chemical-weapon poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK city of Salisbury comes neatly near to the year-point, 29 March 2019, when the UK is to leave the EU, and also to the anticipated re-election of Putin as Russian president. The two dates are not unconnected, Britain beset by a near-paralysis over Brexit and weakened internationally, and Putin’s need to shore up his flagging vote. It thus provides us with a useful litmus test of the viability of Brexit, given that calls for another referendum are growing. Foreign policy weakness exploited by the … Read more

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