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Member since: Mon Sep 7, 2009, 12:57 AM
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Journal Archives

Brexit: UK can revoke Article 50 unilaterally, EU judges rule

The European Court of Justice has ruled that the UK can unilaterally stop Brexit by revoking its Article 50 notification.

Judges in Luxembourg decided that the UK can stay in the EU "under terms that are unchanged" if it decides to change its mind on Brexit "through a democratic process".

It comes on the eve of a crucial vote in the House of Commons on Theresa May's Brexit deal. Scottish politicians who brought the case said "a bright light has switched on above an 'EXIT' sign" that meant a second EU referendum was "closer than ever before".

Issuing its judgement, the EU’s top court said that “when a member state has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that member state is free to revoke unilaterally that notification.”


This is developing amid strong rumours that tomorrow's Commons vote may be delayed - three government statements will be made later this afternoon:

Laura Kuenssberg


Two cabinet sources tell me vote being pulled - not, repeat not, yet officially confirmed

There are also questions about whether May can do this without Parliament's agreement:

Laura Kuenssberg


Not trying to make your head explode, but there is a possibility that the govt might not actually be able to pull the vote - at least not without an enormous parliamentary row - (checks Erskine May)

Cracks begin to appear after far-right unites with Ukip for Brexit march

‘This turned into the Tommy Robinson show’: Cracks begin to appear after far-right unites with Ukip for Brexit march
'We can't be reasoned with, we don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and we absolutely will not stop, ever, until we get hard Brexit,' says one speaker, quoting ‘The Terminator’

Revolutions, it has been said, do not generally begin on Sundays. People have to be up for work the next morning.

Perhaps something similar applies to right-wing political rallies. It could explain why Sunday’s so-called Brexit betrayal march – a joint Ukip and Tommy Robinson demonstration, which claimed to speak for the 17.4 million people who voted leave in 2016 – attracted a crowd of little more than 2,000 people to Whitehall in central London.

Robinson – the English Defence League founder who was considered such a star turn he spoke twice at the event – called the gathering a “beautiful” sight.

But even he may have cringed at the lack of numbers because nearby, separated by a thick police presence, a 10,000-strong anti-Fascist rally dwarfed his own.


It seems to have been quite a colourful day.

"Robinson" tried to sign up as a UKIP member onstage using his mobile phone - and failed.

Another guy climbed on top of a bus stop and tried to set fire to a EU flag using lighter fluid - and failed (those dratted EU regs).

One Laukan Creasey brought a portable gallows, Theresa May for the use of.

There were three arrests at the anti-fascist rally, and none at the "betrayal march", among a very heavy police presence.

Here's a few of the signs from the anti-fascist rally (more here):

You know what's really tiresome?

People who fill threads on an OP about a tweet with endless complaints about the fact the OP has a tweet in it.

It's not as if the OP's content could have come as much of a surprise, given the title.

If your secondary gripe is that there's no commentary on the tweet, then that undercuts your dismissal of Twitter as a concept: "The food was terrible - and such small helpings!"

What a waste of everybody's time and energy.

If you're not interested or don't like it, why not do what any number of us do on any number of OPs we end up not being interested in and don't click on them if it's evident they're Twitter-based in the first place, or if you've clicked in and been disappointed, just click out and get on with your day and leave others who just might be interested in having a discussion about the content of the OP get on with theirs?

If you're finding it hard to follow in the US, it's not much easier for us in the UK!

I'll try to address your points without getting too long-winded (wish me luck!).

On how general elections are triggered, that changed when the Tories and Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government (there was no such thing as a fixed term of government before then), and this explains it better than I probably could:

Who decides to call a general election?

Under provisions in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, Parliament is dissolved automatically after 5 years. Prior to the Act, dissolution was a personal prerogative of the Queen. The Act has replaced the prerogative and now Parliament is dissolved automatically 25 working days before a general election.

The Act provides that parliamentary general elections take place every five years on the first Thursday in May. It also provides for early general elections if either the House of Commons votes for an early general election or following the failure of the House to agree a vote of confidence in a new government within 14 days of a vote of no confidence in the government holding office.


So there'll be too little time before Parliament's Christmas recess (20 December 2018-7 January 2019) for that schedule to play out this year.

A Tory leadership contest would be similarly long-winded. If May didn't resign but there were moves to depose her:

A no confidence vote is triggered if 15% of Tory MPs write a letter to the chairman of the party's so-called "1922 committee".

The Conservatives currently have 315 valid MPs so 48 of them would need to write such letters to challenge Mrs May.

Once that threshold has been reached, the chairman will announce a no confidence vote is being held probably in the next day.


If that vote went against her, she'd be forced to resign.

In either case (resignation of deposition), if only one candidate to replace her comes forward, then he or she would be elected by the party without a lot more rigmarole, but:

If several names are put forward to lead the party, then a vote is held among Conservative MPs to whittle the field down to two.

Votes are held among MPs each Tuesday and Thursday, and each time the candidate with the least support is eliminated.


Once there are two candidates, they are both put to the Tory membership - around 100,000 or so people - to choose the new leader.


The last time the Tories had a leadership election (when May was voted leader) was after David Cameron resigned. He did so on June 23, 2016 (when the Brexit referendum results were known), but remained in post till his successor was elected. There were multiple candidates, so the ballot process was initially planned to take from July 5 to September 9. Because of her strong showing in the first ballot and the rapid implosion of her rivals, May was elected party leader and therefore PM on July 11 - very quickly for such a contest - without party members having a vote, which could have taken a lot longer.

So if we're looking at a new Tory PM, it won't be till the New Year, even if one candidate emerges unopposed and it goes as quickly as last time.

There's a lot of noise from some politicians about a general election, but I'm not clear how much of that is bluff (nor whether it would get us a better government in terms of Brexit or anything else). Current opinion polls generally consistently put Labour at around 5% behind the Tories. In normal times (these aren't normal times), the way our electoral college works, Labour needs to be around 8-9% ahead to gain an overall majority of seats. Polls also show a very poor performance by Corbyn himself even against May.

For a general election to be held, there's that 14 days' wait after a vote of no confidence to see if another government can be cobbled together (there's talk of a cross-party alliance at the moment, but I can't see that happening), and if not, Parliament must be dissolved. Then the parties have to hold hustings to decide on each constituency's candidate, the campaign has to take place etc. etc. This usually takes around six weeks. Despite the shortness of time before Brexit happens in March 2019, shortening that by much would risk yet another set of uninformed decisions by the electorate. It would also be very rare to have an election in January-February at the best of times (these aren't the best of times), because of the weather apart from anything else.

As for Corbyn and Labour, probably best not to get me started (I'm in Scotland and in a general election I'd vote for the SNP, which has been entirely sane and adult about the whole Brexit issue right from the day of the referendum), but I'll try to restrain myself. Corbyn called for Article 50 to be triggered on the very morning of the result, and Labour's stance ever since can charitably be described as "confused/confusing". It's tried to have it all ways. It's run scared of UKIP "stealing" votes from it in seats which were once its heartland, but taken for granted those of its constituencies that voted Remain. Its membership (swelled, ironically, by the Corbyn wave, though that's dwindling somewhat) is overwhelmingly in favour of Remain. Labour shadow cabinet members contradict each other, sometimes on the same day, and I'd be hard put, even as someone who tries to pay attention to politics, to explain to you what their position is at any one time.

Here's Ken McCluskey (the main power behind Labour's throne) in today's Guardian:

Unite leader warns Labour against backing second EU referendum

The Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, has privately told Labour MPs the party should have severe reservations about backing a fresh Brexit referendum, saying voters could see it as a betrayal.

The deep scepticism from one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest and most powerful supporters is likely to unnerve MPs and campaigners hoping the party is warming to the idea of a fresh Brexit vote.

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, hit back at McCluskey’s warning, laying bare the tensions in the party.

“To suggest it represents a ‘betrayal’ grossly distorts Labour’s position and is deeply unhelpful to those seeking a solution to an an issue that is reaching crisis proportions,” he told the Guardian.


So plenty of coherence among the opposition there ...

The fear of "the right-wing" is something that pisses me right off.

What are they afraid of? You don't win elections by saying that your opponents are right, so don't vote for them. You set out clear, principled positions and you stick to them (as the SNP have done). There's enough confusion and enough votes up for grabs right now that a clear anti-Brexit stance (however it has to be dressed up to make it palatable - May's current deal is unpalatable enough that they might even be able to attract some former Leavers) would quite possibly be a vote-winner. Certainly, if the polls are to be believed, Labour's current stance isn't working.

If they're afraid of civil unrest, well, that didn't seem to be a decisive factor during the miners' strike or any other struggle that's taken to the streets, and I'd expect any violence to be dealt with swiftly and firmly. Or do people like me in the Remain camp have to threaten violence before the 48% of us and counting have our wishes taken seriously?

I know the idea of a Labour government seems attractive to a number of people in the USA, but I'm afraid I can't muster much enthusiasm for the sort of doctrinaire and terminally muddled or downright incompetent government it looks like Corbyn might form even if Labour won.

Sorry this was so long, You were warned. Thanks and commiserations if you made it this far!

Trump dismisses the economic impact of climate change - except at his golf course


As Politico detailed during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump International Golf Links sought to build a seawall to protect a golf course he owns in Ireland from “global warming and its effects.”

In a permit application for the wall, Trump International Golf Links cited scientific studies indicating that a rise in sea level could result in damaging erosion in a bay near the golf course.

“If the predictions of an increase in sea level rise as a result of global warming prove correct ... it is likely that there will be a corresponding increase in coastal erosion rates not just in Doughmore Bay but around much of the coastline of Ireland,” the application says. “In our view, it could reasonably be expected that the rate of sea level rise might become twice of that presently occurring. ... As a result, we would expect the rate of dune recession to increase.”

... Trump’s company even tried to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change in a brochure distributed to people living in the area around the course.

Trump’s company has warned not only the county council of the perils of climate change, but also local residents. An appendix to TIGL’s planning application includes a scan of a brochure that the company has distributed to residents to make the case for building the proposed coastal protection works. The heading of one page — emblazoned with a “Trump Doonbeg” logo — is “Need for Coastal Protection.” The page lists four bullet points, the last of which is, “Predicted sea level rise and more frequent storm events will increase the rate of erosion throughout the 21st century.”


well, you sort of have a valid point, but not quite.

Prime Minister at the time David "I'm outta here" Cameron forbade any civil servant from doing any forward planning for the possibility of a pro-Brexit vote. They could think about it, but they weren't allowed to write anything down.

But the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, George Osborne, did make some dire predictions about the possible aftermath. Many other experts and specialist bodies also carried out analyses (including the Scottish Government, which has been ahead of the game on Brexit all along, and still is), and many voices in the Remain camp saw what would result quite clearly (including not a few UK DUers).

During the campaign, they were dismissed as "Project Fear", the term "fake news" not having gained currency yet. Others in the hard-line Brexit camp felt that any economic downsides were irrelevant because what mattered was "taking our country back". Some went so far as to argue that the UK had gotten "too soft", and a period of economic pain and struggle would be good for the national soul.

Even after the vote, Theresa May's government failed to carry out any detailed analyses. Brexit secretary David Davis repeatedly claimed they had drawn up impact papers, but when parliament finally demanded to see them, it turned out they didn't exist:

David Davis told a committee of MPs on Wednesday that the UK government had produced no economic forecasts on the likely impact of Brexit on various sectors of the economy.

It seemed to stand in marked contrast to many of the things he had said before about analysis being carried out by his Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU).

See if you can identify where and when Davis has previously talked about the impact studies and analysis being carried out on a sectoral basis.


I've no idea what Davis did during his time in office, but he seems to have been positively Trumpian in his work ethic.

So the impact papers had to be hastily cobbled together with all the insight of a team of under-performing high-schoolers:

The threadbare state of government preparations for Brexit was exposed on Thursday as civil service reports once heralded for providing “excruciating detail” on the impact of leaving the EU were criticised for containing little more than padding, repetition and plagiarism.

Months of pressure for disclosure of the economic analysis culminated, several hours before the Christmas parliamentary recess, with the publication of most of the 850 pages recently provided to a Commons select committee by the Brexit secretary, David Davis.

Davis had previously claimed there was extensive Whitehall analysis of “about 50 cross-cutting sectors, [for] what is going to happen to them”. But when a Labour-led vote demanded these forecasts be released to MPs, the Brexit secretary said he had been misunderstood and told the committee no impact assessments existed, only analysis of each sector’s current dependency on the EU.

Nevertheless, the limited nature of the unredacted civil service reports that were finally made public on Thursday left many observers shocked. “There is little overarching analysis by the government, ” said Lord Jay, the former head of the Foreign Office who is now acting chair of the Lords Brexit committee. “No conclusions are drawn with regard to the UK’s future relationship with the EU.”


It's only in the last few months, as the deadline pressure has mounted, that the details have seriously been revealed and discussed. And none of it's comforting.

How will your MP vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal?

Between the opposition, the DUP and rebels from the pro and anti-EU wings of her party, May faces an uphill battle getting her deal through parliament

There are many more MPs who say they will vote down the deal than vote for it.

MPs may support or oppose the bill for a number of reasons: those on the government payroll, including cabinet ministers, must support the bill or resign. Those who have already resigned from government on this issue can be expected to vote against, as can those who have already submitted a letter of no confidence in the prime minister. Those of all parties who are campaigning for a “people’s vote” are also expected to vote against.


Current state of play:

409 against the final deal

11 unconfirmed
90 Conservative
255 Labour
11 Liberal Democrats
35 SNP
3 Independents
10 DUP
4 Plaid Cymru
1 Green

230 support the final deal

54 unconfirmed
226 Conservative
1 Labour
1 Liberal Democrat
2 Independents

There's a table at the link of probable votes, searchable by MP name and constituency.

Note: The list is a work in progress. There's some doubt about he status a few of the MPs listed, and some may change stance before the actual vote, so click through above for updates.

Louise Mensch self-owns on forest floor raking

An hour or so ago, Mensch got incensed that a Twitter account she for some reason labeled a "bot" tweeted innocuously (and accurately):


Aki Heikkinen @akihheikkinen

We don't rake our forests here in #Finland.
Contemptor @TheContemptor

Trump: "You gotta take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forest, very important... I was with the President of Finland... he called it a forest nation and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don't have any problem."

Mench exploded:


Louise Mensch


Yes, you literally do. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5726490/

this account's bio says "Mostly Russian RTs" and it got 8,000 likes for something provably false in a second's googling.


*Why* doesn't anybody *ever* check https://helda.helsinki.fi/bitstream/handle/10138/15177/17-No%203_Lindholm.pdf?sequence=1

She followed this up by repeatedly insisting vociferously to anyone who pointed out the idiocy of the idea of raking hundreds of thousands of acres of forest: "No. Jesus! forest raking is not done by a fucking hand rake! Ignorance is not bliss!", "they don't rake with garden rakes! 'raking' is done with an attachment to machines".

One person who seemingly doesn't *ever* check - at least her own links - is Mensch.

The two reports she cites refer to small-scale experiments in improving forest diversity by selective raking of restricted areas, and have absolutely nothing to do with fire control (in fact, might make the risks worse by stimulating undergrowth). And the first one took place in the Czech Republic ...

A UN inspector came to investigate poverty in Britain - here's what he found

Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, was scathing about the government’s cuts and welfare changes.

What does a 12-day trip around the UK looking into austerity, Universal Credit, child poverty and the impact of Brexit show you? That the “fabric of British society” is falling apart, and ministers are “in a state of denial”, according to Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

The human rights expert announced his findings at a press conference in London, after travelling all over the country – from assessing rural poverty in Bristol to visiting foodbanks in Newcastle, from speaking to schoolchildren in Scotland, discovering how devolution has to mitigate government policy in Wales, and hearing about hardship in Clacton, Belfast and Newham.

Alston took a dim view of what he saw, accusing the British government of breaking its human rights obligations, and finding austerity has inflicted “great misery” on UK citizens.


The article at the link quotes Alston's findings in detail. They are summarized under the following headings:

The UK is breaking human rights obligations

Government is ignoring how people will “suffer” from Brexit

Ex-Work & Pensions Secretary Esther McVey shrugged off Universal Credit domestic abuse risks

Universal Credit is “problematic”, “harsh”, “unnecessary” and “gratuitous”

Cuts and benefit changes are “ideological”

The DWP is misleading us on Universal Credit

…and on benefit sanctions, which are “counter-productive”

In fact, government ministers are “in a state of denial” about poverty

The state “does not have your back any longer”

Freezing benefits is hypocritical

The two-child benefit limit is like China’s one-child policy

British society is becoming “increasingly hostile” as its fabric is eroding

But other than that, everything's going swimmingly.

Black caucus members back Pelosi for speaker over [Fudge,] their former chair

Influential Democrats in the group aren’t willing to endorse Marcia Fudge.

Lawmakers in the Congressional Black Caucus back Nancy Pelosi for speaker over one of their own members, Rep. Marcia Fudge — a bad sign for the former CBC chair who’s considering a challenge to the California Democrat.

The CBC has been spoiling to elevate a group member into one of the top two positions in Democratic leadership for years, with current CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond writing as recently as two weeks ago that having a black speaker or majority leader was a top priority.

But in interviews with eight CBC members about Fudge's possible bid for speaker, all but two members said they would back Pelosi over Fudge. Other CBC members on Thursday tweeted or put out statements of support for Pelosi, including Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the most powerful African-American in the House and a close friend and ally of Fudge.

"She knows that, she knows that, she knows I'm for Pelosi," Clyburn said of Fudge in a brief interview in the Capitol.


All other arguments aside, if Fudge can't carry her own caucus, well ...
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