Politics @ Surrey

The blog of the Department of Politics at the University of Surrey

What about the abyss?

freakish_formations-_an_abyss_yawning_in_the_bottom_of_an_extinct_crater-_-_nara_-_298385I’ve been looking back at my posts from last summer, when things Brexit-y were in much more obvious flux. this was triggered by last week’s post on the looming Article 50 notification, which reminded me that I’d sketched out some options.

Briefly re-stated, these suggested that the UK would aim for either close or distant relations with the EU in the initial post-membership phase and then in the longer-term relationship: thus, you could have a ‘Norway’ (close, then close), ‘reverse accession’ (close, then distant), ‘abyss’ (distant, then close) and ‘hard’ (distant, then distant) path.

Pakistan and Very Real Terror

While the western world reeled from the shock announcement of a non-existent terrorist attack in Sweden last week, other countries counted their very real dead. Pakistan in particular has been rocked by a series of attacks that have put the state onto a war footing, and led to an increase in tension with neighbouring Afghanistan.

The wave of attacks started last Monday, when a group of pharmacists protesting a change to drug laws in Punjab were attacked by a suicide bomber from a faction of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP).  A strange target for a precision terrorist attack to be sure. Perhaps it could be written off as an anomaly, a flash of indiscriminate horror in a country that has known all too much of it. Then on Wednesday two suicide bombers detonated their vests as they attempted to make entry into the Mohmand tribal headquarters in Ghalanai in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Two police officers and three by-standers were killed and again, a faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility. On the same day, another suicide bomber on a bike targeted a van carrying four judges (three of them female) in nearby Hayatabad. The judges survived but a police officer was killed. The TTP took direct responsibility.

Tick follows tock follows tick: Waiting for May in March

We find ourselves at the end of the phoney war. Probably.

With only a few weeks left until Theresa May’s self-imposed deadline for Article 50 notification, the most striking thing as one looks around is the almost-complete absence of interest in the issue.

In the UK, this might partly be understood by the wait on the House of Lords to complete their approval of the legislation. However, despite the government’s expectation that this will result in amendments and thus ‘ping pong’ with the House of Commons, which in turn might mean missing the end-March deadline, there is scarcely a whisper of discontent.

A bridge to nowhere?


Spot the bridge

About a decade ago in the US, there was a minor scandal about a ‘bridge to nowhere’: substantial federal funds had been appropriated to build a bridge to replace a little-used ferry to an Alaskan island, mainly – it appeared – to serve the pork-barrel politics of Washington.

Theresa May might find herself reflecting on this tale as she returns from the informal meeting of EU heads in Malta on Friday. Alongside the ostensible purpose of the summit – to discuss migration policy and plan for the future of the EU – this was a last opportunity for May to demonstrate her bone fides to colleagues ahead of Article 50 notification next month.

How to read the Brexit White Paper

Today’s White Paper on “The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union” fulfils a government commitment to provide Parliament with its considered opinion about how to manage the process of Brexit.

Quite aside from the timing issue – coming as it does a day after the second reading of the EU(NOW) Bill – the White Paper is important as its lays down something of a benchmark for the government that it cannot move away from too easily.

However, unlike the vast majority of such documents, this relates to a negotiation, with the EU, its 27 other member states and its own parliament.

We’re on our (Brexit) way!

2maxresdefaultEppur si muove. A scant 7 months after the referendum, last night Parliament passed the second reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill* by a clear 498 votes to 114. Job done, Parliament no obstacle, what could go wrong?

As usual – in accordance with Usherwood’s law – plenty can go wrong, no matter who one is.

To be clear, the first and second readings are on the principle of a piece of legislation, not its detail. While there might be broad consensus on that principle, there is much less doubt about the operationalisation of it. From the government’s perspective, it will be the committee stage, where amendments are considered, that will be much more consequential and challenging. Seen in that light, the size of last night’s rebellion will be cause for much concern.

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