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This Week in Brexit: The Conservatives weak negotiating hand

by John Brian Shannon

One of the reasons I’m a Theresa May fan is that she took a highly principled position by calling an election prior to Brexit, presumably to further legitimize her premiership with voters and thereby gain a stronger negotiating hand heading into Brexit negotiations.

Before becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May had been an MP for 20 years and served as Home Secretary for 6 years, and only then was she named PM by the Conservative Party when former PM David Cameron stepped down. Which is to say, Theresa May is as legitimate as any UK Prime Minister ever appointed (but not elected to) the PM’s chair.

Nevertheless, at the most important political moment since the end of WWII, Theresa May decided to further legitimize her premiership by calling a snap election with the intent of causing her party to rally ’round her in time for the upcoming Brexit negotiations, thereby empowering Britain in its dealings with the European Union.

By any definition it was an admirable plan.


It Worked! (Sorta)

Except for the Conservative MP’s that didn’t campaign hard for her and were only interested in maintaining their position as a Member of Parliament, and excepting the millions of former UKIP voters — only some of them supported the Conservatives on election day.

All in all, a surprising result.

Perhaps three terrorist incidents in the UK within 90 days of the election changed the mood of the electorate, or maybe when confronted with an actual Brexit complete with veiled threats emanating from some EU capitals it’s possible some British voters felt cowed into lowering their Brexit expectations.

If so, that would be a shameful indictment on the British people, the people who succeeded admirably even after suffering horribly in two world wars and are a people who carry-on through all manner of terror attacks, social upheavals, recessions, and Britain’s famously inclement weather.


Now with a ‘weaker hand’ Theresa May must pull-off a reasonable Brexit

How to do more, with less? That’s the job facing Prime Minister Theresa May over the next five years.

It’s an unenviable position for a veteran British MP with 6 years as Home Secretary to her credit and 1 year as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who deserved better from her party and from voters.

At least 42.4% of UK voters agree with Theresa May (see BBC election chart here) which was a gain of 5.5% for the Conservatives since the last election when David Cameron became Prime Minister. The business community likes the progress on the economy, and she is highly regarded by foreign leaders. But still, that got her (only) 318 seats, which isn’t enough for a majority government.

She deserves better than she’s gotten.


Methinks there are strings being pulled in places that we know not…

But just for the record, let’s look at a July 17 poll result from an internationally recognized polling firm.

One year on from the Brexit vote and business sentiment remains high

One year on from the Brexit vote and business sentiment remains high (Says it all, doesn’t it?) Click image to enlarge.


Another chart for the doubters

One thing that Britons have every right to be proud of is the National Healthcare Service (NHS) and in recent years it has begun to score well in the prestigious Commonwealth Fund rankings. In fact, the 2017 ranking puts the NHS in 1st place over 10 other wealthy nation healthcare systems. But you’d never think it because (according to some) the NHS is falling apart at the seams.

Just as former PM David Cameron was rightfully proud of the 2013 Commonwealth Fund ranking (1st place) so Prime Minister Theresa May should feel proud of the 2017 NHS ranking (1st place) even as some of the countries named in the study improved on their 2013 rankings.

UK and 10 other countries, Health Care System Performance Rankings

UK and 10 other countries, Health Care System Performance Rankings, courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund (2017) Click image to enlarge.

For comparison purposes, I’ve included the 2013 Commonwealth Fund ranking graphic below.

UK tag, The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries, courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund (2013)

The Commonwealth Fund 2013 International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries, courtesy of the Commonwealth Fund (2013) Click image to enlarge.


One more chart that uses actual facts to combat negative perceptions — shows how well the UK is faring

This chart shows GDP in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) which illustrates that purchasing power of both UK citizens and expats is increasing — even though (according to some) the sky is falling every day!

UK GDP per capita Purchasing Power Parity PPP

UK GDP per capita Purchasing Power Parity PPP. Source: tradingeconomics.com Click image to enlarge.

With all of that going for the UK in 2017 (and more positives that I haven’t included because I don’t want to drown you in charts) you’d think that Prime Minister Theresa May would get plenty of respect from her party, from certain media outlets and from voters.

But apparently in the United Kingdom, almost-perfect scores aren’t good enough to get the Prime Minister the majority she needed to allow the country to cruise through Brexit. And that’s a shame.

This Week in Brexit: What Scotland Lost

by John Brian Shannon

Congratulations to Prime Minister Theresa May for working out a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to allow the present minority Tory government to continue in office.

Theresa May strikes ‘confidence and supply’ deal with DUP

And congratulations to DUP leader Arlene Foster for negotiating so well on behalf of her jurisdiction, thereby gaining £1.5 billion in additional infrastructure and other funding.

That’s a ‘Win-Win’ for the Tories and for the Democratic Unionist Party — and more importantly (sorry, Theresa and Arlene!) it’s a ‘Win-Win’ for residents of Northern Ireland.

Theresa May signs ‘£1.5 billion’ deal with the DUP

Infrastructure in Northern Ireland is in bad shape and the funding appears at an opportune moment, as there comes a point when it becomes cheaper to tear down a bridge (for example) than to pay ever-increasing maintenance costs.

The same is true for all infrastructure. Whether roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, airports, or the underground infrastructure that carries water to homes and businesses, all of it has a ‘best before’ date where leaving vital infrastructure spending for too long can cost more than the savings of not doing the work.

The Conservative/DUP deal: what it says and what it means

Of course, £1.5 billion isn’t going to fix it all. But I wouldn’t be surprised if two years of successful DUP ‘confidence and supply’ support gets the residents of Northern Ireland additional infrastructure spending allocations, courtesy of DUP leader Arlene Foster and Prime Minister Theresa May.

And why not? Arlene Foster prevented a divisive and perhaps extended Parliamentary crisis — one that would’ve prevented much good from being done in the United Kingdom.

Speaking of which; See how infrastructure spending is increasing in Northern Ireland, and how it isn’t in Scotland? Not only additional spending, but PM May and DUP leader Foster also negotiated more devolved powers for Northern Ireland.

NOTE to Nicola: It’s great to have a particular ideology, but when it costs your jurisdiction £1.5 billion in the form of missed infrastructure funding, it’s time to review what you think you’re accomplishing!

Loss of opportunity is also a metric by which UK leaders must be measured — it certainly is for heads of government everywhere else — and not as much as it should be, but it’s still an important marker of successful leadership.

Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland’s SNP missed the boat. Arlene Foster of Northern Ireland’s DUP didn’t. And UK Prime Minister Theresa May begins to look like a bit of a deal-maker, which can only be viewed as a good thing as we head into Brexit. Well done, Theresa!


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Theresa May: ‘Now Let’s Get to Work’ speech – June 9, 2017

Full transcript and video of Theresa May’s
‘Now Let’s Get to Work’ speech
Delivered at 10 Downing Street, June 9, 2017

“I have just been to see Her Majesty the Queen and I will now form a government.

“A government that can provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country.

“This government will guide the country through the crucial Brexit talks that begin in just 10 days and deliver on the will of the British people by taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union.

“It will work to keep our nation safe and secure, by delivering the change that I set out following the appalling attacks in Manchester and London.

“Cracking down on the ideology of Islamist extremism and all those who support it, and giving the police and the authorities the powers they need to keep our country safe.

“The government I lead will put fairness and opportunity at the heart of everything we do, so that we will fulfil the promise of Brexit together and over the next five years build a country in which no one and no community is left behind.

“A country in which prosperity and opportunity are shared right across this United Kingdom.

“What the country needs more than ever is certainty and having secured the largest number of votes and the greatest number of seats in the General Election, it is clear that only the Conservative and Unionist Party has the legitimacy and ability to provide that certainty by commanding a majority in the House of Commons.

“As we do, we will continue to work with our friends and allies in the Democratic Unionist Party in particular.

“Our two parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years and this gives me the confidence to believe that we will be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.

“This will allow us to come together as a country and channel our energies towards a successful Brexit deal that works for everyone in this country, securing a new partnership with the EU which guarantees our long-term prosperity.

“That’s what people voted for last June, that’s what we will deliver.

“Now let’s get to work.”


Transcript courtesy of Sky News