Remainers launch campaign for second Brexit referendum

Brexit opponents have begun pushing for a new referendum in the hopes that British voters have had a change of heart about leaving the European Union. That may be the case, reports Samira Shackle from London.

Demonstrators take part in a protest to show solidarity with the EU following Britain's Brexit referendum in 2016

At the end of December, former Labour minister Andrew Adonis resigned from his position as chair of the government-backed National Infrastructure Commission. His strongly worded resignation letter made his reasons clear: “The European Union withdrawal bill is the worst legislation of my lifetime,” he wrote. “It arrives soon in the House of Lords and I feel duty bound to oppose it relentlessly from the Labour benches.”

In the month that has passed since, Adonis has dedicated himself to campaigning for a second referendum on Brexit, introducing a proposal in the House of Lords and this week launching a nationwide tour to convince the public.

Read more: UK waits to see how the post-Brexit winds will blow

Calls for a second public vote have long been dismissed by politicians; both conservative Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, head of the Labour party, have, at different points, ruled out the possibility. Any talk of a second referendum has been portrayed in the right-wing media as anti-democratic, a cause promoted by “out-of-touch Remoaners.” Yet it might not be out of touch after all. A January poll by ICM and the Guardian found a 16-point margin in favor of a referendum on the terms of the final Brexit deal.

Read more: Brexit Diaries: The Three Musketeers of Brexit make a return

A sitting member of the House of Lords, Adonis is hardly the ideal figurehead given the criticism of Remain supporters being elitist. On his tour around the country, he is being accompanied by a group of young anti-Brexit activists. Femi Oluwole, co-founder of “Our Future, Our Choice,” is one of these activists. He recently quit a traineeship at the EU Fundamental Rights Agency to campaign to stop Brexit.

“I know what’s coming if Brexit happens, and if I look back in 20 years, and I haven’t done everything in my power to stop it, I’d hate myself,” Oluwule told DW. “The fact is, the under-55 population of the UK voted to remain in the EU. If Brexit is supposed to mean making ‘all our own laws’ and negotiating ‘all our own trade deals,’ then Brexit can’t be completed in less than 20 years. By anyone’s maths, by 2021 we’re a “remain” country, based purely on age statistics.”

New referendum is an outside possibility

Until recent weeks, the whole idea of a second referendum seemed preposterous. But it remains an outside possibility as the clock ticks and political pressure over the Brexit deal mounts.

Read more: 2018: The year of Brexit decisions

“A second referendum is still a long shot, but it is gathering momentum and it looks more likely than it has at any time before — partly because the government is at serious risk of splitting as reality bites around reconciling the promises they’ve made on leaving the customs union and having no border in Ireland,” said Polly Mackenzie, director of the think tank Demos. “If that splits the government in a way that triggers a crisis, then a second referendum maybe the only way forward.”

In mid-January, Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage appeared to advocate a second vote — although he later backtracked from this, saying he’d only meant that “Leave” supporters should prepare for the possibility. Adonis recently unearthed some 2011 comments by Brexit-supporting Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg: “We could have two referendums,” he said. “As it happens, it might make more sense to have the second referendum after the renegotiation is completed.”

Read more: Irexit: Brexit’s Nigel Farage takes fight to Ireland

A person holds a sign that reads 'Don't blame me I voted #Remain'Remainers only hope is a new referendum

Such statements from Brexit’s most high-profile advocates certainly make it harder to portray a second referendum as a plot by “Remain” campaigners. “Saying we should ignore the legitimate result of the referendum is out of touch,” says Mackenzie. “Saying we should ask people what they think cannot logically be out of touch — that’s just a convenient argument to shut people up.”

Conservatives split

Although Adonis and others are mobilizing to campaign for a second referendum, if it happens, it will most likely be because of splits in Westminster rather than political activism. “It all depends on whether the EU sticks to its guns on a final decision by autumn, or allows May to delay further,” Tom Follett, policy and projects manager at think tank ResPublica, told DW. “Politicians waiting for a big change in opinion won’t get it until May is forced once and for all to demonstrate that there is no ‘have cake and eat it’ option.”

The question of Europe has long divided the Conservative Party, and these divisions are still very much present. In recent months, May has been attacked by Brexiteers such as Rees-Mogg, because, despite her tough rhetoric, her actions point to a softer Brexit. Meanwhile, Remain-supporting Tories such as Anna Soubry have also criticized the government. It might be that a second referendum is needed in order to get unity in parliament.

Read more: The NHS and Brexit: Don’t get sick in the UK

Andrew AdonisAndrew Adonis may not be the most appealing figure to lead the campaign

“Going to the people could look like an attractive get-out for politicians facing a choice between a jobs-killing Brexit or a rule-taking relationship with the EU,” added Follett. “It is then that Adonis’s campaign will really matter because it establishes a second referendum as a ‘serious’ option. But by the time that big decision must happen, there could be very little opportunity left for parliament to arrange a referendum.”

For his part, Oluwole plans to continue campaigning. “It is not democracy if the decision of the people is based on the lies of those who hold the power. For the most part, I don’t blame people for voting Brexit. They listened to what their trusted politicians told them and did their best to make the right decision. However, we know that those most affected by Brexit voted against it. So we have a moral obligation to correct that injustice.”

Watch video04:36

The Brexit Big Band

COURTESY: DW

2017: A Year of Change… and No Change

Charles Shoebridge
Charles Shoebridge is an international politics graduate, lawyer, broadcaster and writer. He has formerly served as an army officer, Scotland Yard detective and counter terrorism intelligence officer.
2017: A Year of Change... and No Change
Charles Shoebridge takes a look at some of the last year’s security and foreign policy developments.

The Arrival of Trump

One year ago, expectations for 2017 were running high. Donald Trump was about to take office, and predictions ranged from a new era of US policy pursuing peace and international partnership, to the US becoming a puppet of Russia, and even World War III. Of course, none of these happened, and such forecasts now seem as fanciful as they probably should have at the time.

On the day of his inauguration, I suggested that Trump’s evident ignorance of foreign and security issues, combined with his lack of loyal allies within Washington’s political establishment, would make him vulnerable to the pressure and influence of the politicians, officials, think tanks, lobbyists, advisors and journalists representing the same special interest groups that had long driven US foreign policy. Within weeks, Trump confirmed senior officials with largely the same hostility for example towards Russia and/or Iran that might have been expected of Hillary Clinton.

Seeing him as a threat to the established order, elements within what might be called the Deep State targeted Trump in a relentless campaign to undermine his credibility and threaten his removal from office. Perhaps fearing international isolation if Trump delivered on his campaign promises to restore good relations with Russia and end US support for the war in Syria, the intelligence services of the UK appear to have been a key driverof this.

Regardless, UK PM Theresa May rushed to be the first leader to pay homage to the new US president, while Trump left no doubt as to US priorities by making Saudi Arabia and Israel his first overseas visits – coinciding with a massive Saudi arms deal and planned increase in US military aid to Israel.

For the Washington lobbyists and US foreign policy establishment, this was business as usual. Yet it was in respect of Syria a month earlier that Trump learned how he was expected to behave.

Syria, Iraq and the Middle East

In response to an alleged chemical attack at Khan Sheikhun in April, Trump without waiting for any investigation launched cruise missiles at Syrian forces – reversing his and the previous Obama administration’s stated policy of non-overt intervention in Syria. In doing so, he immediately gained the (albeit short lived) approval of the same US politicians and media who for months had remorselessly condemned him.

Trump’s missile attack was largely symbolic however, causing little damage to Syria’s military capability and having no impact upon the largely successful prosecution of the war against Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and other rebel groups that over the last year has arguably brought the country now closer to a restoration of peace than at any time since 2011. This was helped not only by the military support of Russia and Iran, by also by their cooperation with Turkey in attempting to forge a realistic peace process, with the long and destructive ‘Assad must go’ mantra of the US and its allies now rendered irrelevant.

2017 was particularly a year of relative tranquility for the people of Syria’s largest city Aleppo, which until its retaking by Syrian forces in December 2016 had for years been largely occupied by US UK backed, Islamist dominated rebels.

US UK politicians and media had for months daily warned that massacres would be perpetrated by the Syrian government “if Aleppo fell,” but these didn’t occur – just as they also hadn’t occurred in other recaptured cities, such as Homs. Meanwhile, throughout 2017 displaced civilians began returning in large numbers to their homes – suggesting that US UK claims that it had been Assad they’d been fleeing from, rather than war or the rebels the US and UK had backed, were likely wrong.

While perhaps forced to do so by the reality of the battlefield, Trump did honor his pledge to stop US funding and arming of Syria’s rebels. With it largely at an end, the massive scale of the arming program was at last publicly revealed, laying to rest the long US UK media-propagated myth of US UK policy in Syria having been one of non-intervention.

Not only did the arming of Syria’s rebels fuel and prolong a war that has killed some 400,000 people, but also many of the armssupplied by the US and its allies ended up in the “wrong hands” of the same Islamic State and Al-Qaeda terrorists the US and its allies were purporting to fight.

This of course was exactly as many had long predicted – and indeed was so predictable that some suggest so-called ‘moderate’ rebels were supplied with often sophisticated weapons in the knowledge they would be passed to extremists who, from the war’s outset, comprised the most effective fighting force against Assad.

Such a scenario would not be a surprise. After all, the US and its allies have long regarded Islamist forces as a useful foreign policy tool, regardless of their disdain of democracy, human rights or other claimed ‘US values.’

Even three years after its air campaign to “degrade” IS began, evidence continued to emerge over the last year to suggest the US and its allies still see IS as much as an asset as an enemy to be destroyed. In December 2016 for example, despite intensive US surveillance, IS forces were able to cross open desert to attack Palmyra, just at the time US backed rebels were under intense military pressure in Aleppo.

Similarly, the US reportedly facilitated the escape of IS fighters from Raqqa, and appeared to strike a deal with IS fighters to allow the US’ SDF proxies an unopposed advance in their race to seize Deir ez-Zor oilfields, thereby preventing their retaking by forces loyal to Assad. This illustrates how even now, the uninvited and hence unlawfulUS presence in Syria continues.

As in Syria, 2017 also saw IS largely defeated in Iraq. US-led airstrikes undoubtedly played a role in this – but at great civilian loss of life that barely featured in US UK media, unlike the daily coverage of alleged mass civilian casualties when Syria and Russia were, for example, carrying out operations in Aleppo. Indeed, only now is the extent of US-led killing of civilians in, for example, Raqqa and Mosul starting to receive prominent coverage in US UK media.

The same applies to the Saudi air campaign and blockade against Yemen which, using US and UK supplied weapons, continued throughout the year at catastrophic civilian cost, yet which receives only infrequent and mainly uncritical coverage in a US UK media that mostly would rather parrot US and Israeli claims that Iran is the source of the region’s instability.

Terrorism

Predictably, IS losing their physical ‘caliphate’ didn’t end terrorist attacks elsewhere. In April, an attack on the St. Petersburg Metro killed 15, and 8 died in Manhattan. Attacks in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Egypt and elsewhere killed very many more.

The UK suffered its worst incidents since 2005, including 22 killed in Manchester in what appears to be one of the clearest examples of blowback resulting from the policies of the UK government and its intelligence services in facilitating the destabilization of states such as Libya.

Russia, Russia, Russia

2017 was the year Russia was blamed by Western politicians and media for everything. Notably, this wasn’t only the usual ‘Russia threat’ stories of aircraft and ships that turn out to be entirely routine, in international waters and airspace, and which when the same activities are carried out by NATO forces are instead described as ‘a response’ or ‘reassurance.’

Russia was also blamed for cyber-attacks, despite little evidence being offered, and despite that in some cases the blame for the attack seemed to shift according to which ‘enemy’ state was most in need of vilification at the time. For example, a hacking of emails of UK parliamentarians was first blamed on Russia but later on Iran, whereas another attack was blamed first on Russia, then on North Korea.

In reality, accurate attribution in cyber-attacks is notoriously difficult – particularly given that the CIA and doubtless others have developed tools specifically designed to blame attacks on those innocent of them.

Throughout 2017, it was also repeatedly reported that Russia is interfering in other countries’ elections and referendums. These claims are often reported as fact yet, despite long running and intensive investigations, the hard evidence to support such allegations remains almost entirely absent – for example in GermanyFrance, the US and the UK.

US Decline?

The recent UN votes against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and for example the US position on climate change and Iran, show a US arguably more isolated from world opinion, including even its close allies, than at any time in recent history.

Yet rather than work to cultivate partnerships to deal with common issues such as Korea or terrorism, the US continues to publicly designate potential allies as enemies, as for example in its recent security strategy document – and to seek confrontation rather than cooperation, as arguably in its decision to send arms to Ukraine.

The US remains the world’s most powerful nation. But unless it can learn to carry its immense power more softly and responsibly, to act in the interests of peace, stability, of its own people and the wider world rather than in the narrow interests of those that often appear to be driving its policies, its influence in an increasingly multipolar world will likely decline. If 2017 is any guide, it seems perhaps even less likely now that Trump will prevent this than it did a year ago.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy: RT

Senior UK minister Damian Green resigns over pornography find

UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s most senior minister has resigned after an inquiry found he had made misleading comments about pornography found on his computer. It is a serious blow for an already isolated premier.

First Secretary of State Damian Green has resigned amid allegations pornographic material was found on his computer in the House of Commons in 2008.

“I regret that I’ve been asked to resign from the government following breaches of the Ministerial Code, for which I apologize,” Green said in a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.

Green’s cabinet post is nominally the second most important in the government, although several other positions, particularly control of the finance ministry and foreign ministry, are deemed more prestigious in practice.

May told her de facto deputy, and former EU Remain campaigner, that his conduct had breached the ministerial code of conduct and “fallen short” of the behavior expected of ministers. He is the third minister to resign in the past two months following now former Defense Minister Michael Fallonand International Development Secretary Priti Patel.

A review of the case by the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood found “inaccurate and misleading” statements made by Green in November in which he suggested he was not aware that indecent material had been found on the computers in his office.

However, May did have words for two former police officers who recently revealed details of what had been found on the computer in 2008. In her letter to Green, she wrote: “I shared the concerns raised from across the political spectrum when your Parliamentary office was raided in 2008 when you were a shadow home office minister holding the then Labour Government to account.” She expressed approval for the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police’s professional standards department, which is reviewing the comments made by the former officers.

Inappropriate behavior

Green has also been investigated for alleged inappropriate behavior towards a party activist, Kate Maltby. Maltby, who is 30 years younger than Green, told the Times newspaper that he had “fleetingly” touched her knee during a meeting in a London pub in 2015 and sent her a “suggestive” text message.

The 61-year-old Green described that allegation as “untrue and … hurtful.”

He admitted that his lawyers had discussed the pornography issue with police on two occasions.

“I accept that I should have been clear in my press statements that police lawyers talked to my lawyers in 2008 about the pornography on the computers, and that the police raised it with me in a subsequent phone call in 2013,” Green said in his letter of resignation.

May was not expected to immediately replace Green. He had been opposed to Britain leaving the EU prior to the 2016 referendum.

Watch video03:19

Road to Brexit: is Norway’s EU deal a model for the UK?

jm/sms (Reuters, AP)

COURTESY: DW

Donald Trump far-right Twitter posts spark outrage in UK

Donald Trump’s rebuke to British Prime Minister Theresa May after she criticized him for retweeting anti-Islam videos has prompted condemnation in the UK. London’s Mayor has called for Trump’s state visit to be canceled.

Watch video00:19

British PM: ‘Retweeting Britain First was wrong’

British Prime Minister Theresa May took time out of her trip to the Middle East on Thursday to respond to the US president’s sudden interest in the British fringe far-right group Britain First. In Jordan after visiting Iraq and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, May issued her first comments on Trump sharing Britain First tweets that didn’t go through a spokesperson.

“The fact that we work together does not mean that we’re afraid to say when we think the United States has got it wrong, and be very clear with them,” May told reporters in Amman. “And I’m very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do.”

May added, however, that ties with Washington were “enduring.”

Trump on Wednesday shared a string of videos from the deputy leader of Britain First Jayda Fransen, already convicted of a hate crime and soon to stand trial again.

Watch video03:37

@dwnews – Trump causes outrage for retweeting anti-Muslim videos

After Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said Trump’s decision to retweet the videos was “wrong,” the US president said May should focus instead on “radical Islamic terrorism” in the UK.

.@Theresa_May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!

May’s spokesman responded by saying that the prime minister was focused on tackling extremism.

“The overwhelming majority of Muslims in this country are law-abiding people who abhor extremism in all its forms. The prime minister has been clear … that where Islamist extremism does exist it should be tackled head on,” he told reporters.

Ripples in the Washington

The UK’s ambassador to the US formally conveyed the government’s concerns to the White House, reported British newspaper The Guardian.

Read moreDonald Trump shares anti-Muslim videos from far-right Britain First

The issue came up again at the White House press briefing, where press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters she didn’t believe Trump knew who Jayda Fransen was when he retweeted her anti-Muslim videos.

When asked if the president realized that sharing the content could potentially incite violence against Muslims, Sanders said Trump was merely seeking to “elevate the conversation to talk about a real issue and a real threat.”

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said in parliament on Thursday that “British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right.”

“I hope the prime minister’s comments will have some impact on the president,” she said.

Read moreGerman behind short-lived closure of @realDonaldTrump

Pressure to call off, downgrade or delay state visit

London’s Muslim Mayor Sadiq Khan, himself a repeated target of Trump’s on Twitter, called on May to cancel his pending state visit to Britain. Khan said Trump’s tweets promoted “a vile, extremist group” and that his official visit “would not be welcomed.”

President Trump has used Twitter to promote a vile, extremist group that exists solely to sow division and hatred in our country. It’s increasingly clear that any official visit from President Trump to Britain would not be welcomed.

Labour Party lawmaker Kevin Brennan said in Parliament that Queen Elizabeth II, who would host the state visit, has a good number of excuses to delay the trip with the upcoming birth of her next great-grandchild and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May.

“Don’t those facts alone justify the government announcing a postponement of the state visit by the president of the United States for at least, say, three years?” he asked.

Delaying or downgrading the state visit had long been under discussion in the UK, and no firm date has been set despite Trump receiving his invite immediately after his election.

Britain’s Secretary for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid, one of the more prominent Muslims in the Conservative party, was among the more outspoken critics of Trump’s actions.

“So POTUS has endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organization that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing,” he wrote.

So POTUS has endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organisation that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing

Brendan Cox, the husband of Labour Party lawmaker Jo Cox who was murdered last year by a far-right extremist, also weighed in.

“Spreading hatred has consequences and the President should be ashamed of himself,” Cox wrote on Twitter. He later noted that the US had a few outstanding issues of its own, including healthcare and gun control. “I would focus on that,” he said.

You have a mass shooting every single day in your country, your murder rate is many times that of the UK, your healthcare system is a disgrace, you can’t pass anything through a congress that you control. I would focus on that. https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/936037588372283392 

The three videos that Trump retweeted were first posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy head of Britain First, who has been convicted of a hate crime.

Watch video03:22

@dwnews – President Trump’s tweets, one year on

rs/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Courtesy: Fox News

‘Brute force’ hack of British MPs blamed on Iran amid nuclear deal tensions – report

‘Brute force’ hack of British MPs blamed on Iran amid nuclear deal tensions – report
A “brute force” attack on British MPs back in June has allegedly been traced to Iranian hackers, the Times reported citing intelligence sources. The article came as London urged Washington not to derail the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

An unsourced report by the Times claims that a “brute force” hack attack on the Parliament’s computers was attributed to Iranian hackers. The cyberattack that occurred on June 23 affected 9,000 email accounts, including those of UK Prime Minister Theresa May and other government members.

Citing “a secret intelligence assessment,” the Times wrote the June attack “is believed to be Iran’s first significant act of cyberwarfare on Britain and underlines its emergence as one of the world’s biggest cyberpowers.” 

The Times’ sources referred to alleged Iranian perpetrators as “highly capable actors in the cyberworld.” One source said: “It was not the most sophisticated attack but nor did it need to be. It is possible they were simply testing their capability.”

The timing of the publication is particularly noteworthy as it comes only a day after Prime Minister May issued a joint statement on Friday together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in support of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal signed by six world powers plus Iran.

“We stand committed to the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and its full implementation by all sides,” the three leaders said, adding that preserving the agreement “is in our shared national security interest.”

The UK, Germany, and France said that the nuclear deal “was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is not diverted for military purposes,” and that they will “take note” of the Trump’s administration intent not to certify the deal by the deadline set for October 15.

May, Merkel, and Macron urged the Trump administration and Congress “to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA,” including imposing renewed sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.

Downing Street did not comment on the Times’ article, though the newspaper said senior British officials acknowledged that “the revelation had complicated Mrs. May’s response to Mr. Trump.”

Middle East tensions: ‘‘s real objective is to make walk away from nuclear deal’ – Martin Jay to RT https://on.rt.com/8pre 

The hack attack in question targeted the private email accounts of up to 90 members of the UK Parliament, and was designed to access parliamentary user credentials by identifying weak email passwords.

Later, it was announced the attack was likely masterminded by amateur hackers rather than a state entity. Cybersecurity experts familiar with the investigation said the perpetrators were only able to break into the accounts of MPs who set up simple and easily deducible passwords.

READ MORE: ‘Iran deal not a bargaining chip’: Trump proved US can break agreements at any time, Moscow says

The revelation contradicted earlier claims that a foreign government was behind the hack, as many Western commentators immediately pointed the finger at Russia.

There is an ongoing investigation into the incident by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the National Crime Agency. An NCSC spokesperson told the Times: “It would be inappropriate to comment further while enquiries are on-going.”

Courtesy: RT

Brexit talks: EU, Britain say ball is in the other’s court

Six months of Brexit negotiations have passed with little progress. With British Prime Minister Theresa May due to address parliament, both sides have now said that the other is responsible for making the next move.

Union Jack flag next to exit sign

As the EU and Britain started the fifth round of Brexit talks on Monday, both sides quarreled over who was responsible for making the next move in the stalled negotiations over Britain’s departure from the bloc.

Theresa May told the British parliament on Monday that a new agreement “will require leadership and flexibility, not just from us but from our friends, the 27 nations of the EU,” adding that “the ball is in their court.”

Theresa May in the House of Commons

Key points from the speech:

– Britain will not be a member of EU institutions during the two-year “implementation” period after it leaves the union on March 29, 2019, but it will retain access to the EU single market until the implementation period is over.

– Both sides can only resolve the problem of how much Britain owes the EU if they consider the future EU-UK relationship after the implementation period.

– Britain will not revoke Article 50, which would stop the Brexit talks and keep Britain in the EU.

– Government ministries have been preparing “for every eventuality,” a hint that Britain could accept leaving the EU without a deal.

Margaritis Schina speaking in BrusselsMargaritis Schina refuted May’s claim that the EU would need to make the next move

But before May had given the speech, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas had told reporters in Brussels that “there has been so far no solution found on step one, which is the divorce proceedings.”

“So the ball is entirely in the UK court for the rest to happen,” he said.

Phase one troubles

The EU has repeatedly said that both sides can only discuss a new partnership agreement – which is expected to include a new EU-UK trade deal – after “sufficient progress” had been made on Britain’s exit from the union.

The first four rounds of negotiations have so far focused on three major exit issues:

– How much Britain owes the EU

– The status of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

– The rights of EU citizens in Britain and British citizens in the EU after Brexit

Watch video00:55

May: ‘Our most important duty is to get Brexit right’

British leaders have criticized the EU for demanding a strict division in the talks, saying agreements on specific exit issues depend on whether both sides can agree on the terms of the post-exit partnership. But EU leaders have so far resisted that call.

Initial plans to complete phase one by mid-October have looked increasingly unrealistic after talks during the summer failed to achieve much progress.

The will to compromise

Both sides have indicated they may compromise to avoid Britain exiting the EU without any final deal.

May said in a speech in Florence, Italy in September that Britain would agree to abide by EU rules and pay into the common budget for two years after Brexit in March 2019.

She also said London would pay any outstanding amount it owed to Brussels, but did not say how much she thought the bill should be. Both sides have clashed on how to calculate the final exit bill.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper on Monday, Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen called on Britain and the EU to be flexible, saying “this will never be a 100 percent win for one side or the other side. This will be a political compromise.”

Watch video02:09

European lawmakers vote against advancing Brexit

All eyes on Brussels

EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels for a summit on October 19-20 wherethey will formally decidewhether “sufficient progress” has been made to open up phase two negotiations.

With six months of the two-year negotiating period already up, officials and business leaders have become increasingly worried that both sides may not agree to a final deal in time.

May, however, struck a confident tone during her speech on Monday, telling MPs: “I believe we can prove the doomsayers wrong.”

amp/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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Trump, Syriza & Brexit prove voting is only small part of the battle

Neil Clark
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at http://www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
Trump, Syriza & Brexit prove voting is only small part of the battle
If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it. That might sound a bit glib but consider these recent events.

In January 2015, the Greek people, sick and tired of austerity and rapidly plummeting living standards, voted for Syriza, a radical anti-austerity party. The Coalition of the Left, which had only been formed eleven years earlier, won 36.3 percent of the vote and 149 out of the Hellenic Parliament‘s 300 seats. The Greek people had reasonable hopes their austerity nightmare would end. The victory of Syriza was hailed by progressives across Europe.

But what happened?

Pressure was applied on Greece by ‘The Troika’ to accept onerous terms for a new bailout. Syriza went to the people in June 2015 to ask them directly in a national referendum if they should accept the terms.

“On Sunday, we are not simply deciding to remain in Europe, we are deciding to live with dignity in Europe,” Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, declared. The Greek people duly gave Tsipras the mandate he asked for, and rejected the bailout terms with 61.3 percent voting ‘No.’

Yet, just over two weeks after the referendum, Syriza accepted a bailout package that contained larger cuts in pensions and higher tax increases than the one on offer earlier.
The Greek people may as well have stayed at home on 27th June for all the difference their vote made.

Many supporters of Donald Trump in the US are no doubt thinking the same.
Trump won the election by attracting working-class ‘rust belt’ voters away from the Democrats and for offering the prospect of an end to a ‘liberal interventionist’ foreign policy. Yet just nine months into his Presidency the belief that Trump would mark a ‘clean break’ with what had gone before is in tatters. National conservative members of his team have been purged, while Trump has proved himself as much of a war hawk as his predecessors. Rather than ‘draining the swamp,’ The Donald has waded right into it.

The events of 2017 plainly prove as I argued here that the US is a regime and not a genuine democracy, and that whoever gets to the White House – sooner or later – will be forced to toe the War Party/Wall Street/Deep State line, regardless of what they promise on the election trail.

Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.

Brits too have had a lesson in the way ‘democracy’ works when people don’t vote the way the most powerful people in the establishment want them to. On June 23, 2016, rightly or wrongly, 52 percent voted to leave the EU. But 15 months on, the view that Britain will either never leave the EU or stay in it in all but name is growing. The government only sent off Article 50 in March, after the courts held that Brexit had to be initiated by Parliament.

Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May asked the EU for a two-year ‘transition’ period after Britain is due to leave in 2019. It’s not hard to imagine the transition period will be indefinitely extended. “I’ve been voicing that fear since long before the prime minister’s dismal speech in Florence, and I see nothing to reassure me that the referendum result will be honored,”says Peter Hill, former editor of the Daily Express.

The odds of Britain still being in the EU in 2022 are now about 3-1. And they’re shortening all the time.

Calling it now: the Uber ban doesn’t happen, Brexit doesn’t happen, Debbie McGee wins Strictly and Palace stay up👍

Again, is that what the people who voted for Brexit in 2016 wanted to happen? The issue here is not whether we think leaving the EU is a good idea, but how the referendum vote has not led to the results that people expected.

These are not the only examples of people not getting what they thought they had voted for. In 2008, the citizens of Ireland voted to reject the EU’s Lisbon treaty. Was that the end of the matter? Not at all. They were asked to vote again – a year later – and this time the EU got the desired outcome.

In May 2012, the Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande won a decisive victory in France’s Presidential elections. Like Syriza, he pledged to end austerity.

“I’m sure in a lot of European countries there is relief, hope that at last austerity is no longer inevitable.” He declared. But guess what. Hollande didn’t end austerity. Just a year later he was pushing through a fresh round of cuts.

Proving once again the truth of the old adage: Plus les choses changent, plus elles restent les mêmes.

This wouldn’t have surprised French students of Hungarian politics as the same thing happened in Hungary in the mid-1990s. In the 1994 election Gyula Horn’s Socialist Party swept the right-wing Hungarian Democratic Forum from power, by promising to preserve the best elements of the old ’goulash communist’ system. Horn attacked energy privatization and pledged to put the interests of ordinary working Hungarians first. But the forces of Western capital had no intention of allowing any vestiges of socialism to survive in the former Eastern bloc country.

Under pressure from Western financial institutions, Horn did a spectacular U-turn, sacking genuinely progressive ministers- and appointing a neoliberal economic professor called Lajos Bokros to impose a brutal austerity program, which was far worse than anything the previous government had introduced. He also stepped up privatization.

See the pattern?

What the above examples illustrate is that regardless of how we vote, the people behind the scenes – the money men, the embedded bureaucrats, those who want to see no end to neoliberal globalization because they do so well out of it – won’t meekly accept the verdict of the people. If the ‘great unwashed’ vote the ‘wrong way,’ i.e., for Trump, for Syriza, for Brexit or for Hollande or Horn, then ways will be found to make sure that normal service is soon resumed.

There are important lessons I think here for the British Labour Party, who could be on the brink of power. Like many this week, I was hugely impressed by the speech to the conference made by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn pledged to develop “a new model of economic management to replace the failed dogmas of neo-liberalism,” and linked the rise in terrorism to neocon/liberal interventionist foreign policies.

This is heresy as far as the pro-war neoliberal elites are concerned.

Opinion polls show that Labour, which registered its biggest increase in vote share in any election since 1945 earlier this year, has a consistent lead. Establishment attack dogs have been snapping at Corbyn’s heels since day one, and its utterly naïve to think that it’ll all stop if he does get the keys to Number 10, Downing Street. In fact, the war against Jez and his closest comrades will only intensify. The good news is that Labour is already planning for capital flight and a run on the pound if it’s elected. Paul Mason, a pro-Labour commentator, has said the first six months of a Corbyn government would be like ‘Stalingrad.’

Of course, you could argue that the likes of Trump, Hollande, Horn, and Tsipras were never totally committed to the program they stood on, and they said the ‘right things’ to the people just to get elected. But even if politicians are 100 percent genuine as the veteran anti-war activist Jeremy Corbyn appears to be, the pressures on them to cave in to the powerful forces behind the curtain will be immense, especially if they are putting forward policies which the elites don’t favor.

It’s clear from recent history that in modern Western ‘democracies’ voting in itself doesn’t determine outcomes. It’s what comes afterward that’s the most important.

Follow Neil Clark @NeilClark66

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy, RT