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The Diplomacy Brief : Labour’s New Brexit Stance, Trump and the Executive, Theresa May, and German Debates

Labour Embraces L’internationale

Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election last April, it was supposed to give her the largest majority the Tories had seen in decades, it was supposed to give her the free hand to silence her hardliner backbenchers allowing her to negotiate an exit from the EU, it was supposed to make her a new Thatcher. The conventional wisdom said many things were supposed to happen, but instead Jeremey Corybn, a hard leftist consigned by pundits, and members of his party, to electoral ruin, rode a wave of discontent to deny Ms. May both her victory and a majority in parliament.

Since then UK politics has been thrown into chaos. Ms. May has made a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of North Ireland to gain a majority in the House of Commons. For some financial kickbacks for development in North Ireland, the DUP agreed to vote along with the Tories in the house of commons. The move has upset many in North Ireland and Great Britain alike. Labour has been quick to criticize the move and has loudly questioned Ms. May’s mandate to govern, especially her mandate for Brexit.

Although quick to denounce Ms. May, Corbyn and his party often found themselves in a bind over Brexit. Mr. Corbyn campaigned to stay in the EU, but many believe he did so reluctantly and unconvincingly.  Mr. Corbyn and his circle of leftists have little love for the EU, an institution they believe serves capital far better than workers. In the run-up to the last election, Labour kept their Brexit plan vague, a reflection of the party’s internal disagreements on how to proceed on the issue.

But as of August 26th, that ambiguity has been put to rest. Keir Starmer the Labour Shadow Secretary for Brexit in an Op-ed for the Observer has committed Labour to remaining in the EU single market/customs union for a “transitionary period” after a deal to exit the EU has been struck, and leaves open the possibility of remaining indefinitely. This firmly places Labour in favouring a “Soft Brexit”.

Many Europhile Labour MPs and their allies have greeted this move with jubilation, finally there is a clear choice for those 48% who voted to remain. Others, however, are worried about what the impact may be on Labour’s electoral fortunes. The coalition that drove Corbyn’s electoral surge was driven by both working class Britons and young cosmopolitans, which hold contradictory views on Brexit, the former favouring a “Hard Brexit” and the latter a “Soft” one. Although Mr. Starmer was careful to mention that Labour’s stance wasn’t a way to reverse and delegitimize the Brexit vote for those who were Pro-Brexit, It does bear resemblance to what some Brexiteers said the “Elites” would do to attempt to thwart the “will of the people”. It remains to be seen if Mr. Corbyn, often described Prime Minister in waiting, can hold together his coalition of young cosmopolitans, hard leftists and working-class Britons.

This Week’s Diplomacy Brief draws from expert’s and politician’s views on how this significant policy change will drive both the UK’s internal politics as well as the contours of the UK’s exit from the EU.


Opinions on the Labour’s Brexit U-Turn

  • Seb Dance, A Member of European Parliament for the Labour Party, writing in the Guardian argues that Labour has to be bolder on Brexit. Mr. Dance is heartened by the Labour leaderships change in stance to a “soft Brexit” but believes that does not go far enough. Mr. Dance argues the only way fund Mr. Corbyn’s anti-austerity manifesto is to remain in the single-market indefinitely.
  • Mathew Goodwin, A politics Professor at the University of Kent, writes in the New York Times that Brexit has Sent Labour Back to Class, reinvigorating class dynamics In the British electorate. Mr. Goodwin argues that for Labour to remain competitive electorally, it must appeal to skilled and semi-skilled workers that backed a Brexit. According to Mr. Goodwin’s logic, Labour’s new Brexit stance may have been electorally destructive.
  • Adrian Wooldridge, writing for the Economist, makes the argument that Theresa May is now nothing more than an interim Prime Minister, claiming that “Whatever she may say, Theresa May won’t fight the next election.” Wooldridge claims that not just Ms. May but the almost entire  Tory leadership has been discredited by the twin debacles of the Brexit campaign and the recent snap election. Wooldridge implores Ms. May that is time to pass the torch to the next generation of leadership to save her party.
  • James Randerson, Writing for Politico Europe, sketches How Labour’s soft Brexit shift could change government’s course. Mr. Randerson provides a brief overview of the different ways that Labour’s change of course could affect the current minority government and perhaps, in the near future, a Corbyn led parliament.


What we are reading in IR

  • In Foreign Policy, Benjamin Wittes & Susan Hennessey of Lawfare, ask is Trump Changing the Executive Branch Forever? Mr. Wittes & Ms. Hennessey claim that Trump cabinet officials repeatedly contradicting and breaking ranks with President in public is greatly revising our understanding of the “unitary executive.”
  • Writing in The Atlantic, Graham Allison, who was recently invited to the Whitehouse to discuss the “Thucydides Trap” in Sino-US relations, explores The North Korean Threat Beyond ICBMs. Allison argues that beyond ICBMs, North Korea’s Nuclear stockpile itself could be a threat to the US should it fall into the wrong hands.
  • In Spiegel, the editors report on the upcoming German Election debate, and claim Merkel Challenger Schulz Hopes Debate Will Turn the Tide. Mr. Schulz burst onto the German chancellor election with an energy that caused polling to surge upwards, at one point his SPD was even with Chancellor Merkel’s CDU. Now that the so-called Schulz surge has subsided, the upcoming debate may be the last chance for Mr. Schulz to breakthrough in a political environment dominated by Chancellor.

Top IR Tweets of the Week

  • There’s an incredible lack of discussion in the US of the role American regime change wars played in undermining global nonproliferation.


  • N Korea’s 6th nuc test shows greater yield/smaller size. So much for efficacy of UN votes, eco sanctions, Chinese pressure, American bluster



Compiled by Dennis Meaney


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