How well do you remember Brexit? Take the ultimate quiz!

Test your knowledge of the last four years with our Ultimate Brexit Quiz. It is almost as difficult as the negotiation process.

Brexit transition period “nowhere near long enough”

A former member of the European Commission has claimed that the Brexit transition period will not be long enough for the government to complete negotiations and secure a trade deal with the EU.

Speaking to EN4 News, Emeritus Professor of European Law at the University of Groningen and former official of the European Commission, Laurence Gormley, says that with “difficult” talks on fisheries and regulatory issues, the limited time of the transition period is “nowhere near long enough” to conclude talks both on trade and the future relationship.

“[The progress of the talks] depends on the UK really. So far, they have been enormously dilettante in making known what they would like,” Mr. Gormley explained.
With an 11-month timetable to finalise an agreement on both trade and non-trade elements such as security cooperation and fisheries, both the EU and UK have signified they want to start talks as swiftly as possible.

One of the main promises from the leave camp during the 2016 referendum was to ‘take back control’ of UK fishing waters. However, with EU vessels catching 35% of their fish from UK waters, the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently suggested trading EU access to UK fishing waters for British financial service’s access to European markets.

On what he made of the Taoiseach’s comments stating that the EU had a “stronger team” in the negotiations, Mr. Gormley says: “The EU is infinitely better prepared, both in terms of experience and in terms of objectives.”

The EU’s first priority will be for the European Commission to produce a draft negotiating mandate in early February, setting out its goals for a free trade agreement. After consulting with the governments of the EU27 and gaining their approval, the commission will look to be ready by March.

Regarding the UK government’s readiness, Associate Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics, Stephen Woolcock, told EN4 news that Boris Johnson’s negotiating mandate is “likely to be not very clearly defined.”

Speaking about the pathway forward to talks, Mr. Woolcock said: “Officials might start fairly soon to scope an agreement, but the British government needs to have some kind of mandate from Parliament. There remains a question about the scrutiny that the House of Commons and the Devolved Authorities would have over the negotiations and there is still no Trade Bill that would define this.”

Once the talks begin in earnest, the EU is likely to prioritise safeguarding the stability of the Single Market and what European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen stressed as a continuation of the level playing field.

“The EU will want to ensure that the EU regulatory standards are not undercut by UK suppliers benefiting from lower costs due to changes in UK regulations,” Mr. Woolcock explained.

“The UK can do what it wants [on following EU regulations] but the trade off is less guaranteed access to the EU.”

With the clock ready to start ticking and Boris Johnson categorically ruling out an extension to the transition period, it is still unclear what our relationship with Europe will look like by the end of the year.

“It’s not over” – Scotland’s MEPs prepare for unemployment after Brexit

Scottish MEP Aileen McLeod says it will be “heartbreaking” to leave the European parliament. (Credit: SNP)

As of 11pm tonight, the 72 British members of the European Parliament will lose their jobs.

Goodbyes will be said and desks will be cleared following Britain’s official exit from the European Union. With the United Kingdom no longer requiring its MEPs, those who represented the country in Brussels and Strasbourg will be sent back home.

While Brexit is a huge change for the country, it will affect those who will no longer be employed in the European Parliament even more.

See more: Sturgeon calls for patience in delivering Indyref 2 after Brexit
See more: Brexit transition period “nowhere near long enough”
See more: How well do you remember Brexit? Take the ultimate quiz!

In a statement released to EN4 News, Aileen McLeod, a Scottish National Party politician – who was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for Scotland in the 2019 European Parliament election – shared her feelings ahead of Friday’s deadline.

“Being a member of Europe’s Parliament has been one of the greatest honours of my life, and we have friends and allies within the Parliament and across the EU. They are heartbroken we are leaving,” McLeod said.

However, she doesn’t think all is lost for those who want Scotland to be in the EU.

(Credit: EN4 News)

“It is not over,” McLeod said. “I have been doing everything I can to keep the channels of communication open for an independent Scotland’s entry into the EU, including organising the establishment of a European Friends of Scotland group of cross-party MEPs. Scotland is a strong European nation and will remain so.”

The idea of an independent Scotland re-joining the EU was highlighted clearly throughout her statement and it is hoped that the country would be welcomed back.

“When the moment comes for Scotland to re-join the EU then I hope the European Parliament will welcome us in that same spirit of European solidarity, and will leave a light on for Scotland in the meantime.

“I give you my word, Scotland will continue to protect the interests of EU citizens who have made Scotland their home. The UK may be leaving the EU, but Scotland is not abandoning you.”

Sheila Ritchie says she leaving the European parliament will be “devastating” (Credit: Scottish Liberal Democrats)

EN4News also spoke with Liberal Democrat MEP Sheila Ritchie to find out her plans for the future.

When asked how she felt about leaving her role in Brussels, Sheila Ritchie simply replied: “It is devastating.”

The former solicitor has said that she will be spending more time at home from now on but will continue in voluntary party politics.

“Farewell, not goodbye” – EN4 News’ Owen Garner with Friday’s headlines

Owen Garner gives us the lowdown on the headlines in todays major newspapers, as the day the United Kingdom officially begins the process of leaving the European Union has finally arrived.

Jeremy Corbyn lauches Labour General Election Plan

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn released his General Election campaign in Battersea this afternoon.

Corbyn has made some key promises to try and win over voters. EN4 News has listed his key campaign points:

  • Brexit will be done in six months

Corbyn has said six months into winning an election he will have the Brexit negotiations sorted with a people’s vote so the UK can “leave with a sensible deal or remain”. Which Corbyn says is not a complicated issue. Corbyn wants to deliver “real change” that he said Britain needs.

  • NHS is “not for sale”

Corbyn claims that Johnson has a “sell out” deal for the NHS that will copy an American corporation style health system, with big drug companies being in control of the healthcare and drug manufacturing. Corbyn said that the NHS is “not for sale” to Trump or to anyone else.

  • Public Ownership

Corbyn said he would put rail, mail and water in public ownership, taking it away from “Tory donors and shareholders in tax havens.”

Corbyn reiterated promises that he already made a few weeks ago when launched his campaign, promising a £10 an hour minimum wage for over 16s and free childcare for those with children aged 2-4 years.

Corbyn made jabs at his Tory counterpart, Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that they are going to “fight dirtier” during this general election.  Corbyn said that he going to take on the people the Conservative Party likes to protect by going after “tax dodgers”, “dodgy landlords” and “big polluters”.

The Labour leader finished his speech by saying its “time for a change,” leaving people wondering what Labour’s next point of action will be.

 

 

From Brexit to Trump: Laugh Your Way through Political Pains

 “It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times”

A Tale of Two Cities got the current political and comedy climate spot on. The Trump administration and the on-going conundrum that is Brexit may be the two biggest political travesties to face the UK and the US in recent years but they have also brought out the best political satire both countries have seen.

This week, the never-ending story of Brexit has caused some of the nation’s best-loved comedy duos to come back to the action and return to their Radio 4 roots. The creators of the sketch show ‘Little Britain’, Matt Lucas and David Walliams, have announced they will return for a one-off Brexit themed special, renaming their much-loved comedy ‘Little Brexit.’ The program will air this evening at 18:30, Thursday, October 31st, the day we were supposed to have left the European Union.

As well as forcing the hands of comedy legends, the poor state of political affairs has thrust new faces into the limelight. Since 2015 Trevor Noah has been serving up quality political satire that has not only made America laugh but sit up and pay attention. Speaking to the Tribeca TV Festival in 2017 Noah said: “Comedy is a tool we all use to process what’s happening to us.” Noah uses satire as a way to help people cope with as well as understand major political issues.

Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are two of the most powerful men in the world, yet are ridiculed constantly in stand-up routines up and down the US and UK. The more ridiculous the statement they say the funnier the comedic content gets and the more ammunition comedians have. Trump, in particular, has been an impressionist’s dream with Alec Baldwin’s Trump impressions on Saturday Night Live being one of the best.

Comical political impressions have spanned to the most unlikely corners of pop culture this week with contestants on the UK versions of the hit show Ru Paul’s drag race giving Trump and Margaret Thatcher their best shot.

 

 

 

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Let us know on social media what your favourite political gags are by clicking the links below.

Read more from Arts and Culture here.

Arts and Culture Quiz: Thursday October 31st

 

Images of Banksy Revealed

 

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ORDER! A look back at John Bercow’s career as he chairs his last parliamentary session.

After an impressive ten years on the job, it’s finally come time for House of Commons Speaker John Bercow to stand down, and it’s without doubt that his extreme volume and wit-filled turn of phrase will be a noticeable absence from the chamber.  Bercow will also resign from his position as MP for Buckingham, a seat that he has held for nearly 22 years.

Bercow in his throne. Photo: UK Parliament

Over his decade-long career, bold speaker Bercow has brought around substantial change within the chamber, despite a lasting ominous grey cloud of bullying and misconduct allegations against him hanging over the latter half of his term, as well as a number of expenses abuse claims.

Over his career, Bercow has been a force to be reckoned with in the chamber, often dishing out wonderfully phrased put-downs to unruly MPs in an effort to maintain his signature “ORDEERRR” in the house.  A New York Times reporter quoted him as saying “When the decibel level exceeds anything that Deep Purple would have even dreamed of in their heyday in the 1970s as the loudest band in the world, that is a negative” in reference to his constant efforts to keep often petulant parliamentary representatives under control.  After an analysis by the BBC, it was identified that he used his exclamatory catchphrase ‘Order’ over 14,000 times over his career as Speaker.

While Bercow’s career will be remembered for bringing parliamentary traditions into the 21st century (by slackening dress codes and doing away with wigs for Commons Clerks, as well as turning a popular bar in the Westminster house into a crèche for MP’s children), he has been subject to much debate regarding his conduct outside of the chamber, and to his overall impartiality that is required as Speaker.  Bercow has undergone several investigations into bullying and misconduct accusations, and has been described as “overly aggressive” and prone to “over-the-top anger” on occasions.  While he was criticised and has been spoken against, he has never formally been reprimanded for the claims.

Before his time as House Speaker, Bercow served the Conservative party as MP for Buckingham, as well as assuming several high profile positions in their Opposition from 2001 – 2004.  During his academic life and career in the Conservative party, he was known to hold fairly hard-right views, in-line with the views of the party at the time.  During his time as Speaker, however, his views have often been called into debate, and has been accused of impartiality over his actions in the chamber in regard to Brexit motions tabled by Boris Johnson, with some of his rulings allowing those opposed to Brexit to implement pieces of legislation and checks to block Johnson’s plans.  He’s also been accused of abandoning his neutrality in regard to comments on President Trump, saying he would be “strongly opposed” to his addressing of the Houses of Parliament during his state visit.

Bercow did however meet Obama in the Commons. Photo: UK Parliament

While his decade-long career has been marred with certain clouds and stains over its time, Bercow will be most remembered for his moves to modernise parliament, and his often spectacular rhetoric and crushing putdowns in the chamber.  After his last day on the job this afternoon, he is expected to get home, put the kettle on, and have a cuppa with his wife, Sally, as well as the family cat, named Order.  Yes, really.

Will there be an election soon?

The prime minister has said he will seek a snap general election if the EU decides to delay Brexit until January.

On Tuesday, MPs backed the prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill but rejected his plans to fast-track the legislation.

That defeat effectively ended any realistic prospect of the UK leaving the EU with a deal by the government’s 31 October deadline.

As a result, Johnson has demanded MPs who voted down his Brexit bill last night now back a general election to break the deadlock.

Will there be an election soon?

Not necessarily.

  1. As even if the PM does decide to press for an early election there is no guarantee he will succeed. There are three ways Johnson can call an election.
  2. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, the prime minister needs to have the backing of two-thirds of MPs to hold a snap poll. This is quite unlikely to pass as Labour would rather wait and see if Brexit can be sorted first.
  3. He could introduce a one-line Bill which could pass as you only need a majority in each vote. But this would allow changes to be added. For example, giving 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote.

The final way would be for the Conservatives to vote for a no-confidence motion in their own government – it would be hard for Labour to vote that they have confidence in the government. If it passes, the Commons have 14 days for another ‘unity’ government to be formed therefore the PM would be risking his own position in Downing Street.

Boris Johnson will hold a political cabinet at 3PM today where he and his senior ministers are expected to discuss the positives and negatives of holding a snap poll.

Updates to follow.

Brexit Weekly Briefing

It could be one of the biggest weeks in UK politics in decades.

Here’s a rundown on all that’s gone on these past few days.

Prefer a podcast? Listen below.

 

 

What did we learn from Tory Conference?

Andrew McDonald

 

The Conservatives descended on Manchester yesterday for their annual policy discussion and drunken get-together. With a no-deal Brexit looming and a general election possibly on the cards, what, if anything can be gleamed from the events that took place?

UK Prime Minster Boris Johnson

A predictably eventful Conservative Party Conference came to a close yesterday with what seemed like progress on Brexit. The PM, Boris Johnson, used his speech to announce his already leaked plans to solve the issue of the Irish border without the use of Theresa May’s backstop, which previously prevented hardline-brexiteers from backing her deal. But while Johnson’s language was one of conciliation and maintaining the Good Friday Agreement, as the Daily Telegraph’s Europe Editor detailed in a twitter thread, this will still involve a customs border and checks on goods in some form. As both Brussels and Ireland have ruled this out in the past, it seems unlikely that much headway has actually been made towards a Brexit deal.

Get Brexit Done

What the announcement of a new plan did for the Tories was reinforce their primary slogan of conference – Get Brexit Done. This characterises the attempt to satisfy a widespread public urge for closure after 3 years of Brexit deadlock. Pushing this idea of new plans and progress may help the government in their attempts to win over those who simply want Brexit to go away. Most of the conference united around the principle that whatever the outcome of negotiations, Brexit must happen and this government must be the ones to deliver it.

New Big Spenders?

Away from Brexit, Chancellor Sajid Javid announced a raft of new spending plans – a clear move away from the rhetoric of austerity. Promising ‘billions’ for a number of key areas of public sector policy – including hospitals, busses and road infrastructure – Javid signalled that the Conservatives have become less concerned with acting as the party of fiscal frugality.

His most eye catching pledge was his plan to raise the National Living Wage, from £8.21 an hour to £10.50 an hour by 2024. The plan also lowers the age limit at which people can receive the NLW, from 25 to 21. Some may see this as an attempt to push into Labour territory by promising spending in key, austerity hit areas but many of these proposals come with caveats and exaggerations.

Nonetheless, it shows a clear rhetoric shift, with inflated numbers in some cases only further showing that the discourse of the ‘magic money tree’ is long gone.

Elsewhere in Conference

Sexual harassment allegations in the Sunday Times from columnist Charlotte Edwards overshadowed the conference. Edwards recalled an episode at a Spectator dinner two decades ago while Johnson was editor, accusing the PM of touching her leg without consent. The story has dominated media coverage this week, along with further corruption allegations from Johnson’s time as Mayor of London. He has outright denied that any groping took place, while all of his key allies have rallied in support.

On the other side of almost left leaning spending proposals from the chancellor, is the response to these scandals that shows the current direction of the party. Johnson and Dominic Cummings, his comms chief, have calculated that by refusing to admit any wrongdoing in these cases they can keep many of their target voters on side. Theresa May was often said to be pushing for a high spending economic agenda, while also moving towards an illiberal social platform. She fell short, with her determination to pass a Brexit deal dominating her time in power.

These moves by Johnson and his team have shown that they certainly have a plan, possibly even on similar lines to May’s ill-fated grand ideas.

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