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Theresa May, Brexit and the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court Judgment, like the previous High Court Judgment, will not derail or even significantly slow down Britain’s exit from the EU. The court decisions have however forced Theresa May to say finally that Britain is heading for a “hard Brexit”: quitting the European Single Market so that it can reimpose border controls. They have also further exposed Theresa May as a weak and indecisive leader who does not know her own mind.

Alexander Mercouris

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The decision of Britain’s Supreme Court to refuse the British government’s appeal against the High Court Judgment, which said that the British government must consult the British Parliament before invoking Article 50, appears to have stirred fewer passions than the High Court Judgment did.

This is perhaps because of the general expectation that the British government would lose the appeal.  This meant that where the High Court Judgment came as a shock for many people, the Supreme Court Judgment did not.

I have discussed the High Court Judgment previously.  I said that though I am not a constitutional lawyer it appeared to me reasonable and well-considered, and though I did not think it was completely appeal proof I doubted the Supreme Court would set it aside

In my opinion this is a very well thought out and carefully considered Judgment delivered by three of the country’s top Judges.  Certainly I do not think this was a politicised Judgment intended to wreck the Brexit process. 

I do not have the constitutional law expertise to say whether this Judgment is right or wrong, or whether it will survive on appeal.  On balance I don’t agree with those who say this Judgment is appeal proof, but neither do I think that the Supreme Court will set it aside.

The Supreme Court’s 8-3 split when it decided to dismiss the government appeal, which suggests that this assessment of the High Court Judgment was roughly right.

More importantly, I also said – and I still say – that whatever the legal and constitutional importance of these court decisions, they will not derail or even significantly slow down the Brexit process as some people hope and some others fear.

What I doubt is that this Judgment will derail the Brexit process as some people think.

Though the British government will have to present legislation to the British Parliament in order to get the Article 50 process underway, I have no doubt it will be able to do this and to get this legislation passed when it does. 

Though it is true that most of the members of the British Parliament in the referendum supported Remain, the government has a majority in the House of Commons, and it would surely treat any refusal by Parliament to pass this legislation as a resigning matter. 

What that would mean is that it would threaten to call an election if the legislation were not passed, in which it would campaign as the government that was trying to carry out the will of the people as expressed in the referendum against a recalcitrant Labour opposition and any dissenting Conservatives intent on thwarting it.

With the government already far ahead in the opinion polls, that would create the conditions for a government victory by a landslide, resulting in a government and a Parliament even more committed to the ‘hard’ Brexit outcome than the one we have now.

I cannot imagine that even the most doctrinaire Remain supporters, whether in Parliament or outside it, would be unable to see this, and for that reason I expect the government to get its way.  Probably on especially contentious issues the Labour opposition will abstain after some sort of compromise is forged.

Since I wrote that in November shortly after the High Court Judgment it appears to have become the consensus view.  In fact most commentators have come to acknowledge that High Court and Supreme Court Judgments cause more political problems for the opposition Labour Party – which is far more split on the Brexit issue than the Conservatives – than it does for the government.

A more pertinent question is why these court Judgments were needed at all.  It beggars belief that the government’s lawyers didn’t warn it back in the summer and early autumn that it was running serious risks by trying to invoke Article 50 without consulting Parliament.  This is one occasion when I find myself in agreement with the Guardian’s editorial writer

It would be a major surprise if, following the leave vote last June, government lawyers had not privately offered the prime minister legal advice along broadly the lines that the supreme court upheld today. If so, Mrs May foolishly ignored the advice because she clearly wanted to keep her post-referendum strategy as secret as possible – and still does. This was the wrong way to respond to the challenges posed by the referendum result – and the Commons, which was cowed, did not challenge her with enough determination.

Indeed this episode points to what is the true heart of the whole problem: in Theresa May Britain has a weak and indecisive Prime Minister, who because she does not know her own mind is unable to give a clear lead, whether on Brexit or on any other issue.

As I wrote back in early December, her reluctance to go to Parliament was not based on any major constitutional principle or because she was seriously worried she might lose a vote there.  It was because she had no Brexit plan to put to Parliament.  To the extent that she did have one, it did not make sense

Unfortunately in the weeks which have followed it has become increasingly clear that Theresa May has no more idea of what to do on the subject of Brexit than anyone else.  For weeks she hid behind the easy but actually meaningless slogan “Brexit means Brexit”.  However she has never spelled out either what form she wants Brexit to take, or how she intends to achieve it. 

The best that could be said of her is that she seemed to want to preserve Britain’s membership of the European Single Market, whilst opting out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, and regaining control of Britain’s borders.

This is a completely illogical policy.  Firstly membership of the European Single Market actually requires Britain to accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.  It cannot be otherwise since it is the European Court of Justice which administers the acquis, the EU’s body of law which regulates the European Single Market.

Secondly, it is not at all obvious why the EU would agree to allow Britain continued access to the European Single Market whilst simultaneously permitting Britain to reimpose its own border controls.

What the High Court and Supreme Court Judgments have done is force Theresa May to come out and say – at last – what sort of Brexit she wants.  

Since it cannot be the ‘plan’ she was hinting at back in the autumn – which was in reality nothing more than an ill-thought-out wish-list – she has finally been forced to choose between the only two realistic options: remaining in the European Single Market and surrendering British border controls (“soft Brexit”), or withdrawing from the the European Single Market and re-establishing British border controls (“hard Brexit”).  

Unsurprisingly, in light of the known views of most British Conservative voters, she has taken the line of least resistance, and opted for the later ie. for “hard Brexit”.  

She has also now finally promised a White Paper on her Brexit plan (a White Paper is the document the British government uses to outline its legislative plans), something which she ought to have done at the latest in September or October.

If the British courts have finally smoked Theresa May out on the all-important Brexit issue, the problem remains that Britain is stuck with a weak and indecisive Prime Minister, who does not know her own mind, which at a time when the international situation is exceptionally fluid and the prospect of Scottish secession looms is or should be a matter of serious concern.

Theresa May has been very fortunate that the deeply divided state of Britain’s opposition Labour Party – which is facing an existential crisis in its northern heartlands – together with the British economy’s strong performance in recent months, has left her politically unchallenged.

On her present form, her future as Prime Minister depends on how long her present luck continues to hold.

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

RT

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The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“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,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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