May tops the poll
Theresa May clearly won the first round of the Conservative Leadership contest yesterday, with 165 votes. Sky News headlines “First blood to Theresa, but it’s far from over”. Andrea Leadsom came second with 66, Gove third with 48. Crabb got 34 and Fox 16. Fox is eliminated, and Crabb chose to withdraw, so the remaining contest is May, Leadsom and Gove. The Times headlines “May storms into lead as rivals battle for No. 10”.
The second ballot, which will establish which two will be put to the party membership, will take place tomorrow. I was sorry to see Liam Fox eliminated – he would have made an excellent PM. But I was equally sorry that as a Brexiteer he proceeded to throw his support behind May. This looks like a less-than-principled pitch for a job in May’s Cabinet.
‘Leadsom glossed her CV’
May may not yet be Prime Minister, but her campaign seems to have a dirty tricks department operational already. Certainly that seems to be the Mail’s view. It headlines. “Knives out for Leadsom: Tory grandees plot to stop her taking on Theresa”.
Leadsom had reportedly held senior jobs in the City, and managed large groups of people. But reports in the Times and the Mail suggest that her career achievements and responsibilities were rather more modest.
There’s nothing new in job applicants seeking to portray their past responsibilities and achievements in a positive light. Personally I am less concerned with what Andrea Leadsom did decades ago – and rather more concerned with what Theresa May signally failed to do much more recently: to deliver on the government’s manifesto pledge on immigration, or to take a credible rôle in the Referendum Campaign.
Angela Merkel plays Ringmaster
Over at the BBC, Katya Adler has written a thoughtful piece about Angela Merkel’s reaction to Brexit. While other EU leaders give vent to their emotional reactions, she seems to be appealing for calm – a period of reflection until September when a new British Prime Minister will be in place.
Meantime, she is moving the scenery in readiness. She already seems to have side-lined the Commission (indeed some reports suggests she is actively seeking the resignation of Juncker), and ensured that her nominee on behalf of the European Council – not the Commission – will handle the Brexit negotiations on behalf of the EU. She is also (says Adler) worried about rising euroscepticism in Germany, with demands for the return of powers from Brussels. Facing an election next year, she needs to placate a restless electorate if she is not to lose vote share to AfD.
Sometimes Brussels gets it right: With great reluctance, I have to admit that some of the continental response to the UK’s Brexit vote has been preferable to the dithering in Westminster. Merkel has said that the decision of the British people cannot be reversed and must be respected. A number of EU Leaders have called for immediate action, now that the Referendum is over. The British government should invoke Article 50 immediately. The period of uncertainty must be minimised.
I fear the Remainers are seeking to set up a Catch 22: they demand a clear economic plan before Article 50 is invoked. But we cannot start to negotiate a new relationship with the EU until after Article 50 is invoked. EU leaders have made this clear, and their position is not unreasonable. Cameron promised to invoke Article 50 immediate after a Brexit vote, but failed to deliver, and resigned instead. Andrea Leadsom has promised to invoke Article 50 immediately if she becomes PM. I believe she would keep her word.
The Prime Minister can invoke Article 50: The Remainians had hoped to show that the invocation of Article 50 would require agreement of parliament, which could have mired the process in controversy for an indefinite period. But now government lawyers have confirmed that the Prime Minister can act alone under the terms of the Royal Prerogative. This solves the problem, barring a legal challenge from the formidable law firm Mishcon de Reya.
‘Brexit vote plagues LSE merger deal’
This is the main headline in City AM. While we want to see the UK as an open economy which welcomes foreign investment, it is also possible to see the LSE/Deutsche Bourse merger (or take-over) as a move by Germany to control one of the “Crown Jewels” of the City of London. If the deal goes sour, there will be many who will not weep for it.
Sterling falls to 31-year low
The Telegraph reports that Sterling has fallen to a 31-year low, though the FTSE 100 remains remarkably buoyant. This is not purely a UK phenomenon. It seems that Asian markets are in turmoil as well. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, is responding in a responsible way, making support available to the banking sector and promising a further rate cut shortly.
The aggrieved Remainers will point to the value of Sterling as evidence that Project Fear was well-founded, that their dire predictions are coming true. But we need to remember that Brexit is about the medium and long-term.
We on the Leave side warned of volatility around the Brexit vote, and we can rightly pin the blame on the self-fulfilling doomsday prophecies of the Remain side. We should also recall that British exports and British agriculture stand to prosper from a lower pound. We need to keep in mind the lessons of history.
When the pound fell out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992, the pundits saw it as the sudden death of the British economy. In fact it ushered in a sustained period of economic growth and prosperity, and is now remembered not as Black Wednesday, but as Golden Wednesday.
Chilcot: ‘Blair braced for blistering attack’
Most papers preview the Chilcot report. The Mirror has Blair braced for “a blistering attack”. The Iraq war is scarcely an EU issue. But it may be worth recalling that Blair is the man who gave away a big chunk of Maggie’s EU rebate in exchange for vague promises on the CAP, which were never delivered. He is also the man hinting that perhaps as a “statesman” he should have a role in the up-coming EU negotiations. Some negotiator. Some statesman.
EU migrant numbers soar 60%
The EU’s migrant crisis has been less in the headlines recently, but today’s Express reports a 60% surge in migrants arriving by sea in the EU to 227,000 in the last six months. Let’s not forget that many of these migrants will receive EU citizenship in the next few years – and unless we complete the Brexit process, they will be free to come to Britain.
Merkel’s party calls for Schulz to step down
Angela Merkel’s CDU party has called on the (German) President of the European parliament to step down at the end of his current term (end 2016), and make way for a centre-right (EPP) president. They argue that his passionate advocacy for more EU integration is feeding growing euroscepticism across the EU. They could have a point – though I suspect that President Schulz was not a primary driver of the UK’s Brexit vote. There have also been calls in German media for Jean Claude Juncker to stand down as Commission president.