Elections in Britain may reserve a surprise for May’s Tories

British Prime Minister, Theresa May received the President of the European Union Council
President, Donald Tusk at 10 Downing Street. Crown Copyright. (Taken on April 6, 2017. Credit: Jay Allen, some rights reserved).

The easy ride for the 8 June election in Britain that Prime Minister Theresa May planned for the Tories seems to be turning sour. When same weeks ago she negatively surprised everybody in Europe by announcing early elections, public opinion polls allocated to her conservative party double ratings than Labour, 48% to 24% – not anymore. Jeremy Corbin, the leader of major opposition, despite strong Blairist neoliberal internal opposition in his party, made good progress and has reduced the differential to less than 10% and counting. To reverse this adverse development, last week PM May aired the ‘Tory Manifesto’.

In this 84 page pamphlet she took special care to include extensive and effective reassurances to the big newspaper groups (Daily Mail, Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, etc.), that they won’t be forced to pay indemnities or legal costs to citizens who are abused and molested by media. Obviously, May expects out of proportion backing from the English press in return. This inconceivable and flagrant horse-trading between the government and the press would have given rise to a huge negative public reaction tsunami in the rest of Europe. Not in Britain.

Caressing the Press

Not surprisingly then, that the likes of Rupert Murdoch have been supporting May so openly and totally, that no British PM has ever enjoyed such massive backing. According to them, Corbin is a bloody Marxist not even worthy mentioning. This is an apparent collusion between the moguls of the British press and that part of the Tories who regrouped around May, making her shine in the British political constellation and taking the UK out of the European Union.

From a European perspective, May’s manifesto had nothing new to add. She keeps threatening with a wild Brexit without agreement. According to the Tories’ pamphlet, Britain is to exit EU’s single market, but seek a “deep and special partnership”, including of course a wide- ranging free trade and customs agreement. May insists that the terms of the future partnership with the EU and more precisely the trade agreement, must be negotiated in parallel with the terms of the Brexit, during the next 2 years. This is the time limit foreseen by Article 50 of the EU Treaty, for a country to exit the Union, after it has submitted the relevant formal request, as Britain did on 29 March.

A provocative May

In short, the UK continues to completely disregard the unanimous decision of the 27 EU member states, which states that the Brexit terms and the trade agreement cannot be negotiated at the same time. There are many reasons for this EU stance. For one thing, Article 50 demands that the exit negotiations are being conducted and concluded within this 2 years deadline, but It doesn’t provide for any other kind of negotiations in that period. According to the same article, if on 28 March 2019 the Brexit terms are not decided, the UK is automatically ousted from the Union. An extension to this deadline can be decided only by a unanimous decision of the remaining 27 member states, an eventuality which seems quite implausible.

By the same token, it’s not humanly possible to conclude within the next two years, a full scale EU trade agreement with Britain, the fifth biggest economy of the world. Usually, an EU free trade agreement with a major economy takes many years to conclude. The last one with South Korea has not yet being fully applied and the first contacts between the two sides started in 1997. It’s out of question then that Brussels will ever accept to discuss a free trade agreement with the UK, in parallel with the Brexit negotiations.

An anti-EU Tory Manifesto

The fact that the Tory Manifesto insists on this, means that May wants to use this impossible demand in order to increase her acceptance in the hard anti-EU part of the public opinion. At the same time, she threatens Brussels with the prospect of a wild Brexit, an exit without agreement. In this way, she continues to pay no attention to the alarming financial side of a wild Brexit and the repercussions on London’s City. Reportedly, the EU is already preparing to create the technical infrastructures and prepare the rules and regulations of the EU Capital Market Union on mainland Europe, in order to replace the City.

According to Reuters, “Brexit has forced the European Union to rethink its flagship capital markets union (CMU) project and urgently look for ways to create an alternative financial market to London, according to a draft EU document seen by Reuters on Wednesday (May 17)”. Mainland Europe badly and urgently needs an effective, liquid and low cost capital market to succeed London.

Towards the same target, the giant banks, which make up what the City is today, are ready to emigrate across the English Channel, if given the right regulatory environment and infrastructures. If this prospect becomes real during the next few years, Britain runs the danger of losing a good part of her GDP, because that square mile of London’s soil, the City, produces more than 10% of it. Yet, May doesn’t seem to mind about the woes of the City. However, this is not the only risky passage for the UK economy, featuring in the Tory Manifesto.

Attacking immigration

Cutting down immigration to some tens of thousands yearly as the Manifesto promises for the coming years, has already created new headaches to a number of important business sectors in Britain. Construction, tourism, health care, manufacturing even agriculture and education will find it more difficult to find the personnel they need, from a diminishing offer. Unemployment rates have been dropping for years and the fast ageing population are two strong arguments, for a more relaxed immigration policy. That is the opposite of what May plans, just to please her more xenophobic, chauvinist and backward audiences. And seemingly there are a lot of them.

There is no doubt then that Theresa May has decided to represent the most jingoistic circles of her country and the Tories. This is a political group which by advertising the Brexit as the opening of Britain to the world, actually serve the most clear cut protectionist and inward looking ideology in Western Europe. If they count on the US for unconditional support, they will soon find that the Americans, at the weird exception of Trump, would have preferred Britain to have remained in the EU. Harlequin Donald will soon find out that there are colossal forces in the US, which do not play with their long term interests as he does.

Trump will soon be confronted with impeachment and May will have the fate of Tony Blaire, who narrowly escaped imprisonment, about his lies for the Iraqi war. Politics is a vengeful game…

 

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