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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.

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

Theresa May’s Weird Winning Strategy

by John Brian Shannon

As of this writing (5:00am BST, June 9, 2017) election results for the UK General Election are beginning to trickle-in and pundits are lining up to lambaste Prime Minister Theresa May for calling a snap election while in majority government, and then losing the majority just as the UK is poised to head into Brexit negotiations.

‘Oh yes. She fumbled it. Absolutely.’ Said every headline.

And on the surface, that’s what it looks like.

Surely, any majority government that calls an election they don’t need, becoming a minority government in the process, are losers. What else could it be?


But what if Theresa May is smarter than pundits realize?

Short-term pain, for long-term gain?

Maybe. She’s a shrewd operator. Although she can seem cold, standoffish, and even awkward in certain situations, it also seems she’s a patriot who was willing to ‘take a hit for the team’ in order to realize her dream of ‘Building a Better Britain’.

What if everything she’s done has been done with great purpose and resolve, balancing huge risk to her standing as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and to her party fortunes in order to accomplish some great goal that will eventually result in a better Britain?

What if Theresa May has been playing chess whilst everyone else has been playing checkers?


Viewing the UK through a Prime Minister’s lens

Holding a snap election vs. not holding a snap election.

What would be the point of staging a successful getaway from the European Union, and then with the SNP still powerful because it was holding 56 seats, the SNP decided to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom via (post-Brexit) Indyref after Indyref?

Wouldn’t it follow that either Northern Ireland or Wales might then consider staging their own independence referendums and possibly leave the United Kingdom?

What if both devolved territories followed Scotland out of the United Kingdom?

Suddenly, there would be no more ‘United’ in the name United Kingdom, only England remaining.

At that point, the European Union would probably prevail upon the newly independent territories to join the EU — and if successful at that, the EU would become emboldened to invite London into the EU family by promoting London referendum after London referendum.

Had Theresa May not called a snap election, she might have left the SNP in a powerful position, with Scotland leaving the UK (post-Brexit) and the SNP inviting both Northern Ireland and Wales to leave the UK with Scotland.

Such are the matters that keep Prime Ministers awake at night.


Trading a majority, for a Kingdom that remains United

It appears that Theresa May knew what she was doing all along — she chanced losing a majority in the House of Commons for a chance to stick it to the SNP.

Yes, it cost her. But because of the 2017 election results the SNP is now a weaker force, with much less momentum than it had pre-election. Momentum that could have been used in the immediate post-Brexit timeframe to break up the United Kingdom.

Such is the nature of strategy; In order to safeguard the ‘United’ part of the name ‘United Kingdom’ Theresa May used her tactical assets to accomplish those goals.

And that’s the difference between strategists and tacticians. Master strategists like Winston Churchill won WWII, but were forced to expend many of their tactical assets to do so.

(Read about the Battle of Britain to fully understand how this played out in WWII. Many times it may have looked like Britain was losing the war, or at least taking a severe beating, when in fact Winston was setting the Nazis up for later defeat. And he did it in broad daylight, right under everyone’s noses, including his own staff)

Is Theresa May that good? In broad daylight, quite under everyone’s noses, did May just save us from a SNP-led break up of the United Kingdom in the post-Brexit period?


Let the facts speak for themselves

Prime Minister Theresa May spent some of her chips in order to take down the SNP — the same SNP that represented the number one threat to the UK remaining united in a post-Brexit Europe.

Now that the SNP has lost a significant number of seats to Labour and Conservatives alike, the SNP is no longer the threat to UK continuity, harmony, and stability it once was.

In baseball parlance, this is known as a ‘force play‘ when the base runner is in a position to score a point and is forced by the playmaker to run towards home plate knowing full well they’ll be ‘tagged out’ in the process.

If that’s what Theresa May is up to, she’s playing the game of politics at a level far above the understanding of her critics, and it also means she’s a true British patriot, a citizen par excellence, of a permanently United Kingdom.

Having weakened the greatest potential threat to UK unity in decades, the noble Theresa May can now proceed with a safe Brexit — a Brexit where the United Kingdom doesn’t risk losing Scotland, or Northern Ireland, or Wales, in the process.

Well done, Theresa! Right… under… their… noses!