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The British election outcome will not stop Brexit. Here’s why

The British general election has consolidated the ground for Brexit not weakened it, with the leaderships of both major parties now committed to it, and with the parties that oppose it in eclipse.

Alexander Mercouris

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The aftermath of the British election has inevitably led to discussion about its effect on Brexit.  Some people fear and others hope that it will either stop Brexit from taking place entirely or will so water Brexit down as to make it essentially meaningless.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and a good starting point to explain why is to look first at the two party leaders: Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Theresa May famously voted Remain in last year’s Brexit referendum, though since then she has become increasingly identified as the supporter of ‘hard Brexit’ ie. a Brexit that takes Britain wholly out of the single European market and the various European institutions in a way that would permit Britain to reimpose immigration controls.

Since the election a fringe theory has been doing the rounds that Theresa May intentionally engineered the election outcome in order to stop or water down Brexit.  This is based on the fact that Theresa May voted Remain in the Brexit referendum and that the election has supposedly increased the anti-Brexit majority in the British parliament, making it more difficult for the Conservative government to get its ‘hard Brexit’ policy through.

This theory is nonsense.  Theresa May is many things but she is no Kamikaze.  The idea that her loyalty to the EU project is so fanatical that she would deliberately destroy her political reputation and put in jeopardy her whole career so as to engineer an election outcome that would make ‘hard Brexit’ more difficult is beyond farfetched.

A far more valid point to make about Theresa May is that though she has voiced support for ‘hard Brexit’ in reality she has no Brexit plan at all, and has shown no interest or ability to form one

Thus she delayed for months invoking Article 50, never spelt out a negotiating policy, never undertook a review of what the implications of Brexit would be for British society and for the British economy, never came out with any plans or proposals of how to deal with them, and only edged towards saying she supported ‘hard Brexit’ when forced to do so by the Courts.

When Theresa May did eventually invoke Article 50 – on an arbitrarily chosen date in March, picked so far as I can tell at random – she still had no plan or proposal for Brexit to put forward, as became painfully obvious during her disastrous encounter with EU President Jean-Claude Juncker in Downing Street at the end of April.  Instead, in order to conceal her lack of a plan, she made the preposterous request to Juncker that Britain’s entire Brexit negotiation be conducted in secret.

Up against Merkel, Schauble, the European Commission, and the Germans, this total absence of preparation would have set up Britain for disaster.  The outcome would not have been a ‘hard Brexit’, and it would certainly not have been no deal at all, an option Theresa May has foolishly floated but which the British economy with its structural budget and trade deficits and its heavy dependence on foreign investment is in no condition to accept.  Rather it would have been a heavily lopsided Brexit deal, suiting the EU Commission and the Germans, and putting Britain at a permanent disadvantage.

If Theresa May is not the person who can be relied upon to deliver a ‘hard Brexit’, what can be said about Jeremy Corbyn?

Unlike Theresa May – who prior to becoming Prime Minister is never known to have expressed any concerns about the EU at all – Corbyn for much of his political life outright opposed it.  During the referendum on Britain’s EU membership in 1975 he is known to have voted to leave it.

Around 1990 Corbyn, together with most of the Labour Party, was won over by the promises of a ‘social Europe’ made by the then EU Commissioner Jacques Delors.  However he has never been a fulsome supporter of the EU, and as the EU has pursued a more integrationist and neoliberal agenda he has steadily become more critical.  Many of his closest political friends have remained staunch opponents.

By the time of the Brexit referendum last year Corbyn’s loyalty to the EU was doubted by most of his MPs, who blamed him – wrongly – for the referendum’s outcome, and who accused him – falsely and on no evidence – of voting Leave.

Since the Brexit referendum Corbyn has resisted intense pressure from the Labour Party’s Blairite establishment to take an openly anti-Brexit position.  Instead – to the intense anger of the Blairites in the Labour Party and their supporters in the media – he has repeatedly made clear that he accepts the referendum’s outcome, and treats the whole issue of Brexit as settled.  In Corbyn’s own words, uttered at the start of the election campaign

This election isn’t about Brexit itself. That issue has been settled. The question now is what sort of Brexit do we want – and what sort of country do we want Britain to be after Brexit?

These words show a far better understanding of what preparing for Brexit involves than anything Theresa May has ever said.

The coup that the Blairites launched against Corbyn last year, and which was intended to oust him from his leadership of the Labour Party, was launched precisely because Corbyn was blamed by the Blairites for Brexit, and was refusing to speak out against it.

The election outcome has wholly vindicated Corbyn’s stance.  By accepting Brexit he was able to win back the millions of left leaning working class voters in places like Hartlepool who had voted for Brexit.  Had Corbyn opposed Brexit, or appeared reluctant to support it, Theresa May’s strategy of appealing to these voters would have paid off, and the election would have resulted in the Conservative landslide and Labour wipe-out that many people before the election had been expecting.

The election in fact provides no comfort for opponents of Brexit.  The Liberal Democrats and the SNP – the two parties which oppose Brexit and which continue to support the EU – did very badly, with the Liberal Democrats picking up a few seats here and there but failing to increase their share of the vote over their disastrous result in the election in 2015, whilst the SNP in Scotland lost ground to both the Conservatives and Labour.  UKIP, Nigel Farage’s party – incompetently led in this election by Paul Nuttall with no clear programme or purpose – collapsed, with its voters transferring to the Conservatives and Labour, both of whose leaders accept Brexit.

The actual outcome of this election is that there is no significant political force left in Britain which now opposes Brexit.  Both the Conservative and Labour leaderships are committed to it, with both understanding that the future of their parties depends on their supporting it.  In Corbyn’s case leaving the EU is in line with his personal political beliefs, whilst in Theresa May’s case the issue does not arise because she doesn’t have any.  As for the parties that might still seek to oppose Brexit – the Liberal Democrats and the SNP – both are in eclipse.

The big question is not whether there will be Brexit.  It is – in Jeremy Corbyn’s words – “what sort of Brexit do we want – and what sort of country do we want Britain to be after Brexit?”

The mere fact that Jeremy Corbyn has the understanding of the issue to ask this question – something which Theresa May, hiding behind her inane slogan”Brexit means Brexit”, has never done – shows that he is almost certainly the better person to answer it, and to conduct Britain’s negotiations with the EU, than Theresa May is or can ever be.

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Converting Khashoggi into Cash

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The hazard of writing about the Saudis’ absurd gyrations as they seek to avoid blame for the murder of the late, not notably great journalist and Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi is that by the time a sentence is finished, the landscape may have changed again.

As though right on cue, the narrative has just taken another sharp turn.

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has ‘fessed up (sorta) and admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose:

Y’see, it was kinda’f an ‘accident.’

Oops…

Y’see the guys were arguing, and … uh … a fistfight broke out.

Yeah, that’s it … a ‘fistfight.’

And before you know it poor Jamal had gone all to pieces.

Y’see?

Must’ve been a helluva fistfight.

The figurative digital ink wasn’t even dry on that whopper before American politicos in both parties were calling it out:

  • “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation‘ as credible.”
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the new Saudi explanation is “not credible.” “If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him,” Schiff said. “The kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must think he’s already died and gone to his eternal recreation in the amorous embraces of the dark-eyed houris. The acid test for the viability of Riyadh’s newest transparent lie is whether the Turks actually have, as they claim, live recordings of Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture, murder, and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) – and if they do, when Erdogan decides it’s the right time to release them.

Erdogan has got the Saudis over a barrel and he’ll squeeze everything he can out of them.

From the beginning, the Khashoggi story wasn’t really about the fate of one man. The Saudis have been getting away with bloody murder, literally, for years. They’re daily slaughtering the civilian population of Yemen with American and British help, with barely a ho-hum from the sensitive consciences always ready to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Xinjiang, Rakhine, and so forth.

Where’s the responsibility not to help a crazed bunch of Wahhabist head-choppers kill people?

But now, just one guy meets a grisly end and suddenly it’s the most important homicide since the Lindbergh baby.

What gives?

Is it because Khashoggi was part of the MSM aristocracy, on account of his relationship with the Washington Post?

Was it because of his other, darker, connections? As related by Moon of Alabama: “Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A ‘journalist’ who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood.” This relationship, writes MoA, touches on the interests of pretty much everyone in the region:

“The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘democratic’ Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.”

With the noose tightening around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the risible fistfight cock-and-bull story is likely to be the best they can come up with. US President Donald Trump’s having offered his “rogue killers” opening suggests he’s willing to play along. Nobody will really be fooled, but MbS will hope he can persuade important people to pretend they are fooled.

That will mean spreading around a lot of cash. The new alchemy of converting Khashoggi dead into financial gain for the living is just one part of an obvious scheme to pull off what Libya’s Muammar Kaddafi managed after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing: offer up some underlings as the fall guys and let the top man evade responsibility. (KARMA ALERT: That didn’t do Kaddafi any good in the long run.)

In the Saudi case the Lockerbie dodge will be harder, as there are already pictures of men at the Istanbul Consulate General identified as close associates of MbS. But they’ll give it the old madrasa try anyway since it’s all they’ve got.Firings and arrests have started and one suspect has already died in a suspicious automobile “accident.” Heads will roll!

Saving MbS’s skin and his succession to the throne of his doddering father may depend on how many of the usual recipients of Saudi – let’s be honest – bribery and influence peddling will find sufficient pecuniary reason to go along. Saudi Arabia’s unofficial motto with respect to the US establishment might as well be: “The green poultice heals all wounds.”

Anyway, that’s been their experience up to now, but it also in part reflects the same arrogance that made MbS think he could continue to get away with anything. (It’s not shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but it’s close.) Whether spreading cash around will continue to have the same salubrious effect it always has had in the past remains to be seen.

To be sure, Trump may succeed in shaking the Saudi date palm for additional billions for arms sales. That won’t necessarily turn around an image problem that may not have a remedy. But still, count on more cash going to high-price lobbying and image-control shops eager to make obscene money working for their obscene client. Some big American names are dropping are dropping Riyadh in a sudden fit of fastidiousness, but you can bet others will be eager to step into their Guccis, both in the US and in the United Kingdom. (It should never be forgotten how closely linked the US and UK establishments are in the Middle East, and to the Saudis in particular.)

It still might not work though. No matter how much expensive PR lipstick the spinmeisters put on this pig, that won’t make it kissable. It’s still a pig.

Others benefitting from hanging Khashoggi’s death around MbS’s neck are:

  • Qatar (after last year’s invasion scare, there’s no doubt a bit of Schadenfreude and (figurative) champagne corks popping in Doha over MbS’s discomfiture. As one source close to the ruling al-Thani family relates, “The Qataris are stunned speechless at Saudi incompetence!” You just can’t get good help these days).

Among the losers one must count Israel and especially Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. MbS, with his contrived image as the reformer, was the Sunni “beard” he needed to get the US to assemble an “Arab NATO” (as though one NATO weren’t bad enough!) and eliminate Iran for him. It remains to be seen how far that agenda has been set back.

Whether or not MbS survives or is removed – perhaps with extreme prejudice – there’s no doubt Saudi Arabia is the big loser. Question are being asked that should have been asked years ago. As Srdja Trifkovic comments in Chronicles magazine:

“The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be ‘Saudi’ any longer. Saudia delenda est.”

The first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah, went belly up in 1818, with the death of head of the house of al-Saud, Abdullah bin Saud – actually, literally with his head hung on a gate in Constantinople by Erdogan’s Ottoman predecessor, Sultan Mahmud II.

The second Saudi state, Emirate of Nejd, likewise folded in 1891.

It’s long past time this third and current abomination joined its antecedents on the ash heap of history.

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