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Theresa May’s Full Plate of Issues: November 2017

by John Brian Shannon

It’s always a busy time for a British Prime Minister, isn’t it? Poor Winston had WWII to deal with and faced some very tough weeks, several British PM’s had utterly sleepless weeks during the height of the Cold War, and Maggie endured a backsliding economy, the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, the Falkland Islands debacle, and destabilization in Zimbabwe — and sometimes all in the same week.

Theresa May on the other hand, has “only” Brexit to worry about — complete with an increasingly hostile EU Parliament, Donald Tusk demanding evermore unearned money ahead of any agreement with the EU, a Conservative Party that offers lukewarm support, Cabinet members either not communicating well or going off in various directions, and uncertainty in Zimbabwe an important Commonwealth partner.

Sheesh Theresa, anything else?


Where Do We Go Now?

There are only two outcomes here; Either Theresa May crumples under the strain of things imposed on her by others, or she tosses the lot of them aside and rises like the British lion with steely eyed determination, hunting down each challenge and owning it.

And that will determine the Theresa May premiership for future historians.

Frankly, she’s been too nice, too accommodating, too gentle and too PC, and these are wonderful attributes for normal folk but terrible liabilities for sitting PM’s.

Such niceties are detrimental to progress for Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings or Queens, Popes, and Generals and Admirals because at a certain point someone (anyone!) must stand up and make the tough decisions and be seen to be in charge by their own people and by the public.

And in Britain’s case it’s got to be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Full stop.


Don’t Hold Back Theresa, Tell Us How You Really Feel!

When the day finally arrives that Theresa May unloads on everyone trying to keep her ‘down’ is the day she will finally rise above the problems that surround her — most of which aren’t her fault BTW — although by being too nice, too docile, too accommodating, she may have allowed them to continue longer than is healthy for her and her government.


Theresa May’s To-Do List, November 20 – 27

  1. Fire the most problematic Cabinet minister (whomever that is)
  2. Tell Donald Tusk to take a hike! (Yes he’s a very nice man, but he’s NOT working for Britain’s best interest, is he?) See you sometime after January 1st, Donald.
  3. Inform the EU Parliament that a WTO Brexit is now Britain’s default option (but if they want to work something out, sure, we’ll consider it)
  4. Call the CEO’s of VW, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Seimens, and other notable EU companies to ask if they still want to export to the UK. (Just a friendly question, not one word more, not one word less) That will get them phoning their EU parliamentarians to ensure free and fair trade with Britain continues after Brexit!
  5. Invite Nigel Farage and other well-known Brexiteers to 10 Downing St. for a working lunch. (Why would she do this? Think about it. All she ever hears is the tired Project Fear / Professional Remoaner party line. A PM needs to hear both sides of every issue, every week, in order to make the best decisions for the country)
  6. She needs to inform her Conservative Party that lukewarm support just won’t cut it any longer and that party fortunes are falling due to the aforesaid lukewarm support. It’s time for the party to throw their entire weight behind Ms. May as the next 16 months are chock-a-block full and leadership contests are quite out of the question if anything of value is to be accomplished in that small-ish timeframe.
  7. Theresa May, more than anyone should be calling for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe to replace the possibly deposed but ailing 93-year old Robert Mugabe and offering as many UK and Commonwealth election observers as Zimbabwe requests. And she should dangle an amount equivalent to 1/10th the annual UK foreign aid budget in front of Zimbabwe in order to put some impetus behind the drive toward free and fair democratic elections there. Maybe Grace Mugabe will win one election which might smooth the transition to open democracy? You never know until you try.
  8. Ask the Foreign Office why the UK spends foreign aid money in any country that isn’t a Commonwealth member nation? It astonishing this has been allowed to happen. Keep the money in the family, Theresa! (No, it’s not her fault, it’s been going on for ages) Not one sterling in foreign aid should go to a non-Commonwealth nation. Ever. There are plenty of other countries to assist non-Commonwealth developing nations and it’s high time for them to step-up.
  9. Keep standing up loud and proud in the House of Commons. Some of Theresa May’s best days in office have been the recent PMQ’s where the PM dressed like the owner of the House of Commons and blasted anyone who tried to put one over on her. At the very least, give as good as you get Ms. Prime Minister.
  10. A lot less with the pleasantries Theresa, and a lot more banging your fist on the Cabinet table. If you don’t appear to be in charge, you’re not.

Don’t Let Brexit be ‘The Biggest Thing In The UK’ or the EU Will Own Your Narrative!

Sure, Brexit is important. But it’s only a means to an end.

What’s really important are the opportunities that come after Brexit, like the ability to trade with any nation in the world under rules decided through friendly bilateral talks.

It’s the ability to have a UK-only foreign policy. It’s the ability to allow only the people into the country that Britain wants and can afford to house and provide jobs — instead of being forced to accept millions of cast-offs from other nations, and to tailor Britain’s new infrastructure construction to actual, definable needs, instead of trying to provide enough appropriate housing during a time of staggeringly irregular refugee and economic migrant flows.

It’s the ability to create UK-only laws with the guidance of Britain’s best legal minds and with the approval of British citizens. (Although the European Court will continue to be an important source of guidance to UK courts, for a time)

And the UK won’t be sending (net) £8 billion annually to the EU just to be nice neighbours. ‘Oh Lovey, those nice Brits filled up the EU Parliament wine cellar again!’

Finally, ‘The Biggest Thing In The UK’ will again be the opportunity for it to become all that it can and should be — without restraint. And that should be Job Number One for every UK Prime Minister. Always.

Getting the Brexit that Britons Want: Theresa May’s Brexit Essentials

by John Brian Shannon

What results can Britons hope for during the next two-years of Brexit negotiations?

In the aftermath of the UK General Election 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May has her work cut out for her.

With the whole country and indeed the world looking on, Brexit negotiations are set to begin next week. One note that inspires some early confidence is the mild but useful cabinet shuffle announced by PM May at the weekend.


PM Theresa May must gain control of borders and the numbers of people allowed into the UK

It’s become clear over many months that immigration levels are seen by many citizens as too high and that far too much ‘catering’ to the needs of refugees and economic immigrants has been allowed to occur.

Of course it makes sense to take care of people new to the country and few would begrudge decent treatment for people looking for a better life free from persecution in the case of refugees, and in the case of economic migrants, having the ability to earn a living and have a shot at a real life.

However, when the migrants seem to be doing better than the 13 million Britons who make up the bottom economic quintile group it’s a sign that adjustments are in order.

NOTE: The UK’s bottom economic quintile group report average incomes of £6146 (original income) £13,841 (final income) and £11,883 (disposable income) — UK.gov stats

Either because of entry-level or part-time work for younger workers, or diminishing opportunities for mid-career workers, or poor opportunities for higher education during their younger years in the case of older workers — this quintile suffers from lower-income, poorer health, poorer housing, and lower life satisfaction index scores.

They also die younger, spend more time in hospitals, and as a quintile have more dealings with police and security agencies. Through no fault of their own (as offshoring of jobs isn’t their fault, nor is increased immigration where lower paying jobs are taken by cheaper labour immigrant workers) this group costs the UK economy billions of pounds sterling every year.

If there were jobs available for the people in the bottom quintile they would take them, and no longer find themselves in the bottom fifth with all the attendant costs to themselves, their families, and to UK society

But the simple fact is, in the UK there are many more people looking for work, than there are jobs available — and this is particularly true since the beginning of the influx of eastern European immigrants and refugees from other regions.

This means ‘hard’ borders with real border guards and guns. It means people must be turned away if they don’t meet all of the requirements to enter the country and it means that those non-UK-citizens presently in the country must register their status with the Home Office by January 1st of each year, with updated address, phone number, employment details, or if a student their university details, etc. and pay an annual fee of 100 pounds sterling to the Home Office.

It really isn’t much to ask when the positive is that they get to live in one of the best countries on the planet.


PM Theresa May must insure that all offshore areas presently under EU jurisdiction and formerly under the jurisdiction of Great Britain, must be returned to the UK

UK fishers, those in the undersea resource extraction field, and corporations that build wind turbine installations in the North Sea were under the nominal authority of the EU while the UK was a member of the European Union, however, now that the UK is leaving the EU, maritime borders must revert to their previous status.

Not only will jurisdiction revert to the United Kingdom, but the responsibility to patrol and protect those waterways will once again fall to the Royal Navy and the RAF.

The primary responsibility of every government on the planet is to protect its citizens, and that means spending significant time and resources to protect the land, sea, and air boundaries of the country. Real countries don’t ‘contract it out’ to other nations. If you want it done right, do it yourself.

I hope Theresa May won’t get shouted down by EU negotiators on this primary and important aspect of statehood.

Not only are the fishing zones rich, but so are the undersea resources, as are the wind resources for corporations that spend billions to build offshore wind farms.

In their entirety, UK marine zones represent almost uncountable riches, and the European Union can’t be happy about losing their claim on these abundant waters.


PM Theresa May must negotiate a reciprocal expat agreement that works for both UK and EU expats

At present, 1.3 million British citizens live in the EU, while 3.3 million EU citizens live in the United Kingdom.

But neither the European Union nor the United Kingdom has any particular obligation to host the others’ citizens after Brexit.

For example, EU citizens living in the UK have no special status and the UK isn’t obligated to allow them to continue to live or work in a post-Brexit Britain. The same is true for Britons presently living in the EU whether they are working on the continent, attending university there, or have retired in the European Union.

One would like to think a standardized agreement for reciprocal expat rights can be signed immediately between the two blocs.

But it’s a situation where the benefits to politicians are relatively small, as only tiny numbers of voters are involved out of Europe’s total population of 504 million.

In the (hypothetical) worst-case scenario, three times as many EU citizens would be required to return to the EU while only 1.3 million Britons would be required to leave the European Union following Brexit.

Wouldn’t it be great if politicians could agree on a standardized bill of rights for all European expats?

Instead of the usual tug-of-war where the only eventuality is a ‘Win-Lose’ outcome, all European leaders should broaden their worldview and seek a pan-European ‘Win-Win’ agreement that works for all expats.

Goodwill and a ‘Win-Win’ attitude will be everything in regards to successful Brexit negotiations

Without those two ingredients, leaders on both sides will buy themselves years of misery and bad polls: But by employing those ingredients in generous measure, European leaders on both sides of the Brexit negotiations will prove their world-class credentials and abilities to 7.4 billion onlookers.

Article 50 Invoked: Time to Make a List!

by John Brian Shannon

With Article 50 invoked, plans for successful Brexit negotiations that lead to successful outcomes for both parties are imperative

Now that UK Prime Minister Theresa May has officially triggered Brexit by notifying the European Commission President Donald Tusk of Britain’s intention to leave the European Union, it’s time to make a list.

So, what should be the nature of that list?

As any self-respecting diplomat knows, it should be a list of the Top Ten items most likely to be agreed. This is a tried and true tenet of diplomacy where diplomats set up a success-based paradigm for their negotiators to increase the opportunities for successful outcomes via the negotiation process.


We all know when things begin well they have a much better chance of ending well. Conversely, if things begin badly they tend to get worse over time and end in disaster. It’s a simple human nature equation.

It’s not true in all cases, but when negotiations begin with goodwill on both sides and work from a list of negotiating points, negotiators craft success after success, leading to a conclusion everyone can live with (and yes!) celebrate.


Listen to the Voice of Experience Upon Whose Shoulders We Stand

Experienced diplomats like Henry Kissinger and Andrei Gromyko would never have considered entering negotiations without a plan for success, nor a plan that didn’t feature a Top Ten (or Top Six, etc) list of items to be discussed and solved, in order to set up a successful track record to enhance future negotiations.

It directs negotiations toward intellectual honesty — because it instantly proves whether goodwill exists, or whether the person on the other side of the table appears there under duress or to bamboozle the other party. Neither of which will result in anything good.

  • Choosing the items to be negotiated by whim of individual government ministers (because each minister quite rightly represents their own constituents, and consequently see the negotiations only through the prism of their local agenda) is probably the worst way to enter negotiations.
  • Another contender for the worst way to enter negotiations is for the media and/or the court of public opinion to be the de facto deciders of the topics to be negotiated, for the media loves a good story (who doesn’t!) and fireworks between politicians sell a lot of newspapers. One can’t blame the media, in fact, more power to them! But negotiations led by the media acting in its own best interest will always result in the worst possible outcomes.

The only way to ‘win’ is via ‘Win-Win’

The wisest course of action for Theresa May and Donald Tusk is to sketch-out a list of items at which negotiators could succeed early, thereby giving the negotiations some much-needed early momentum. It’s important to announce those successes so that credibility is enhanced for both sides and it’s likewise important to share the accolades with negotiators.

In the absence of success stories, the media default mode is to declare the negotiations ‘a disaster’ and both leaders will be pilloried out of politics. And that’s as it should be.

It’s unimportant which matters are up for discussion first, what is important is that negotiators succeed early and often. Any success, whether large or small drives the media narrative and the international consciousness.

Gibraltar, that status of EU citizens in the UK, territorial fishing rights, a so-called ‘divorce’ bill, the colour of passports, etc. are all bandied about by the media (and that’s great, they do a great job of informing the public) but which of these should be placed or not placed on the initial Top Ten list for the earliest and best success?

Only the two governments know the answers to that question.

Or, maybe they don’t. And if they don’t, there is no better day than today to place a phone call to the other leader in order to ask; ‘What points could we find early agreement on?’ Which is a wonderful way to begin any day.

I respectfully urge UK Prime Minister Theresa May and EC President Donald Tusk to ask the other; What points could we find early agreement on?

In that way, instead of the narrative defaulting to what sells newspapers, the narrative will be controlled by the leadership. That’s Leadership with a capital ‘L’ please.

Leadership, respect for the other and working towards a track record of success is the way to Build a Better Britain and the way to create a more united European Union! Anything less, is unworthy of these two great statespersons.