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Month: March 2017

The Scottish and UK governments should beware the Ides of March

Written by Simon Toubeau and Jo Murkens.

Whispers of betrayal have been circulating since January, when the Prime Minister delivered her strident speech at Lancaster House. But the daggers were finally drawn a fortnight ago- poignantly timed and served with a Shakespearean twist. And, as it came to pass during the fall of Caesar, both camps feel betrayed.

Theresa May- soaring in popularity, victorious in driving the Brexit bill and on the cusp of triggering Article 50- was suddenly betrayed by nationalist grumbling in Scotland. Indyref 2.0. is on the table. The plot lead by the rebellious Tartan faction has grown in fervour with every broken promise. The promise of continued access to the Single Market and of working with the devolved administrations. 

Debating the British Empire’s ‘legacy’ is pointless – this is still an imperial world

Written by Ibtisam Ahmed.

As the march towards Brexit rekindles arguments over British nationalism and the strength and merits of the union between England and Scotland, the mass of conflicted feelings over the British Empire is naturally bubbling to the surface again.

In the UK itself, two main tendencies are in full flow. On the one hand is an unease with nostalgic nationalism and imperialism: notions like the much derided vision of “Empire 2.0” from the trade secretary, Liam Fox, come across as either shocking and distasteful or the natural progression of reclaiming a proud historical heritage. On the other is a more upbeat sort of post-colonialism: March 13 saw celebrations for the 40th Commonwealth Day, and the UK is preparing to host the 2018 Commonwealth heads of government meeting.

Jeremy Corbyn’s first 18 months: a damning report card for the Labour leader

Written by Tom Quinn.

It has been 18 months since Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as leader of the Labour party, promising “a new kind of politics”. In September 2015, he pledged to build on the enthusiasm generated among his supporters during a leadership contest that saw him start as rank outsider before sweeping to victory on a left-wing wave.

The intervening period has not been kind. Corbyn’s tenure has been marked by factional conflict, parliamentary revolts, frontbench resignations and electoral weakness. Hardly anyone now believes Labour can win the next election. Despite the early optimism of his supporters, Corbyn already looks like being one of the most ineffective and unpopular opposition leaders in the post-war era.

Brexit causes anguish on Gibraltar

Written by Andrew Canessa.

Gibraltar was the first to declare its vote in June’s EU Referendum, returning a 96% vote in favour of Remain. But rather than set a trend for the night, Gibraltarians watched with nothing short of horror as the UK voted to Leave.

Gibraltar joined the European Economic Area with the UK in 1973 and will leave the EU with it. At a little over six square miles, this small territory is utterly dependent on the flow of goods and people across the border with Spain, not only for its prosperity, but for its survival. So Brexit is causing no small amount of concern among residents of what is colloquially known as the Rock.

We have been collecting the life stories of people on both sides of the border for several years in order to trace how a Spanish speaking population with strong kinship and cultural ties to Spain became so identified with Britain and its culture.

The Commonwealth and Britain: the trouble with ‘Empire 2.0’

Written by Stan Neal.

As Britain prepares to leave the EU, its new international trade secretary is talking up the potential of trade with the 52 nations that make up the old British empire. Some have even dubbed Liam Fox’s meeting with Commonwealth leaders to discuss trade “Empire 2.0”.

There is an irony here. It comes at a time when populist critiques of the economic consequences of globalisation are frequently combined with nostalgia for Britain’s imperial past. But these views neglect the fact that the British Empire was itself a key agent for economic globalisation and the mass movement of migrant workers in the 19th century.

Trump, Clouds and Silver Linings

Written by Wyn Rees.

Watchers of transatlantic security relations are despondent. President Trump appears to want to undo 70 years of US-European cooperation that has kept the two sides of the Atlantic working together. It is as if the new incumbent in the Oval Office is taking a wrecking ball to the foundations of the trans-Atlantic relationship, instead of just plumping the cushions in the penthouse. Yet this assessment exaggerates the significance of ‘Trumpism’ as manifested during his first month in office. It is timely to note that the ideas of Trump are far from new and that his policies are likely to suffer considerable constraints. This article looks at three salient issues.

François Fillon’s coup de théâtre shocks and dismays

Written by Paul Smith.

For much of the morning of March 1, the French media was buzzing with the news that François Fillon might be about to drop out of the 2017 presidential race. The rumours started flying the moment it was revealed, a little before 8am, that Fillon was postponing his trip to the Salon de l’Agriculture event in Paris, and would instead be holding a press conference at his campaign HQ. The announcement could not have been more last minute. Members of Fillon’s own team, waiting outside the exhibition centre, only found out by phone.