Allies rally to UK’s May amid leadership woes over Brexit
By JILL LAWLESS
Friday, November 16
LONDON (AP) — Supportive Cabinet ministers rallied around British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, trying to bolster her leadership after a barrage of resignations over Brexit, as rebel lawmakers pushed to force a leadership challenge.
May is battling to save her Brexit plan, and her job, after the draft withdrawal agreement between Britain and the EU sparked fierce opposition from politicians in her Conservative Party who want the U.K. out of the bloc. They say the agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the EU, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to rules it has no say in making.
A group of hard-core pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers is working to topple May by submitting letters saying they have lost confidence in her leadership. They are aiming for the magic number of 48 — the 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers needed to trigger a challenge to her leadership under party rules. If May lost her job as party leader, she would also lose her position as prime minister.
After a day of conflicting rumors about whether 48 letters had been sent, leading Brexiteer Steve Baker said, “I think we’re very close.”
He suggested the threshold might be reached “sometime next week.”
If May faces a leadership vote and wins, it could strengthen her position, because the rules say she can’t be challenged again for a year.
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, one of May’s chief allies, predicted that “if it does come to a challenge, the prime minister will win handsomely.”
“I’ve seen no plausible alternative plan from any of those criticizing her or wanting to challenge her position,” Lidington said.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, another Brexit-backing minister, threw May a lifeline by urging rebels to “take a rational and reasonable view of this.”
“Ultimately I hope that across Parliament we’ll recognize that a deal is better than no deal,” he said.
May got another piece of good news when Environment Secretary Michael Gove decided not to follow two Cabinet colleagues and quit over the divorce deal.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey quit Thursday, saying they could not support the agreement. Like them, Gove was a strong supporter of the “leave” campaign in Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum.
Gove said Friday that he “absolutely” had confidence in May, adding that he would work with government colleagues to achieve “the best future for Britain.” But he did not answer when asked if he supported May’s Brexit deal.
May has warned that abandoning her Brexit plan, with Britain’s exit just over four months away on March 29, would plunge the country into “deep and grave uncertainty.”
She appealed directly to voters by answering questions on a radio call-in show Friday. It was not an easy ride. One caller said May should resign and let a more staunchly pro-Brexit politician take over; another compared her to Neville Chamberlain, the 1930s prime minister who vainly tried to appease Nazi Germany to avoid war.
May stood by her plan.
“For a lot of people who voted ‘leave,’ what they wanted to do was make sure that decisions on things like who can come into this country would be taken by us here in the U.K., and not by Brussels, and that’s exactly what the deal I’ve negotiated delivers,” she said.
The week’s political turmoil prompted a big fall in the value of the pound. On Friday, it recouped some gains, trading 0.4 percent higher at $1.2821, partly on relief that Gove didn’t join the others in quitting the government.
But investors and businesses remain worried about the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU in March without a deal. That could see tariffs on British exports, border checks, restrictions on travelers and workers, and interruption to the supply of goods.
“The markets are looking for a deal,” said Michael Baker, a financial analyst at ETX Capital. “They’re looking for some sort of agreement, some sort of orderly withdrawal for the U.K. to come out of the European Union.”
Simon Kempton of the Police Federation, a union for police officers, said a “no-deal” Brexit could spark protests, and “it’s a real concern that those protests might escalate into disorder.”
“It’s 2018. It’s the year that people dial (emergency number) 999 because KFC ran out of chicken,” he told Sky News. “If that will happen, imagine what will happen if we start seeing food or medical supply shortages.”
EU leaders, who have called a Nov. 25 summit in Brussels to sign off on the draft agreement, were doing their best to refrain from commenting on Britain’s political chaos.
But French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called some British politicians “liars” who fooled voters into thinking that leaving the EU would be easy and in their interests.
“The truth is that Brexit could end with a nightmare,” he said at a conference in Paris on reforming the global trade system.
Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.
Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water – now what for Britain?
November 15, 2018
Head of Politics, Sheffield Hallam University
Andy Price does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Sheffield Hallam University provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
The contrast between what she said and the way she said it was stark. In a subdued, almost reticent way, Theresa May told the nation on the steps of 10 Downing Street on November 14 that she “believed with her head and her heart” in the draft withdrawal agreement she had negotiated with the EU. The cabinet also backed it, she told us.
As subsequent cabinet resignations have proven, there was no such agreement. The whole address looks increasingly like it could be the first part of a long and drawn out resignation letter.
It was also the culmination of May’s ultimate folly: the crumbling of her absurd red lines. These red lines – leaving the customs union and the single market, ending the jurisdiction of the ECJ – were never compatible with not having a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, nor with a smooth transition in general. More painfully, these red lines were almost totally unnecessary. These issues were not on the 2016 referendum ballot. History will be a harsh judge as to why May and her team – stand up, Nick Timothy – chose to go down this path.
It has been clear for a long time that there is little appetite for these red lines especially in light of the potential impacts (a border in Ireland and disruption to trade to name two). But the root of the problem is this: from the moment she became PM, May played to a particular gallery: the Hard Brexiteers within her own party. It was to these people, first and foremost, who May spoke. Despite appeals to the hallowed “will of the people”, it was the will of the Brexiteers that May appealed to from late 2016 onwards.
But now that approach has crumbled on contact with the reality of UK and EU politics. Not only does this deal achieve the remarkable feat of being both the product of her red lines and an immediate transgression of them, May’s appearance before parliament the day after the Withdrawal Agreement was published showed one thing clearly: her deal has not only divided her cabinet but has no support in the Commons.
The question now, then, is what happens next, and there are two areas to focus on. First, what happens to the government and the Conservative Party. With rumours that the 1922 Committee has the requisite number of letters (48) to trigger a leadership challenge circulating, and with rumours that even May and her team now realise that “no Brexit” is an option, one thing is clear: business as usual is not possible.
This could mean an eventual vote of no-confidence, ousting May, and even another general election (though the latter is unlikely given that it would require two thirds of the Commons to vote for it). It could also mean that May hangs on, and the deal is voted down, and the UK careers towards an exit from the EU with no deal. One thing is for sure: parliamentary gridlock and uncertainty is the new reality.
The second area to consider is what the Labour Party will now choose to do. Will Jeremy Corbyn make the same mistake as May has done, and elevate the immediate politics of his party – including the politics of which Labour constituencies voted Leave – above the national interest? Or will he do the one thing the UK has so badly lacked over the last two years: put all personal and party politics aside and face the reality of just how difficult the implementation of the result of the 2016 referendum was.
If the Labour Party was to choose the latter course, it has to address three key issues head on. First, just how flawed the idea of the 2016 referendum was in the first place – the binary Leave/Remain ballot paper on such a complex issue was asking for trouble. Second, how problematic the Leave campaign itself was. On top of the most egregious lies – the bus, the purported ascension of Turkey – we now know that there are criminal charges to be answered around the Leave campaigns, official and unofficial.
Finally, it must deal with a much more deep-seated and intractable issue in UK politics: the framing of the EU in the political community of the UK. Ever since joining in 1973, both sides of the political divide have misrepresented what the EU actually is and the idea that the UK is exceptional and worthy of special treatment. Worse, when politically expedient, they have blamed the EU for various domestic woes.
This litany of delusion on the part of the UK political establishment needs to be taken on by a party or a leader who has no ideological axe to grind, has no gallery to play to, has only the desire and the ability to lead in the greatest sense of the idea of leadership – taking many millions of people with you on a journey they may disagree with in the name of the national interest.
It remains to be seen whether Corbyn or Labour is up to this challenge. But there is no doubt that no matter what happens in the Commons in the next few days, in the long term, the emergence of a political figure or movement that can do exactly this is what the UK most desperately needs.
Opinion: Italy’s Threat to the Euro
By Desmond Lachman
Six years after the euro crisis was supposed to have ended, ill winds of political change are now blowing in Rome and Berlin. They are doing so at a time that Italy, the eurozone’s third-largest economy, is coming under increased market pressure fueled by doubts about the country’s economic outlook and the sustainability of its public finances. This has to once again raise questions as to whether the euro can survive in its present form.
In March of this year, in large measure in response to two decades of literally no increase in Italian living standards and growing opposition to Europe’s immigration policy, the Italian electorate abandoned the country’s established political parties. That election paved the way for the formation in June of a populist government comprising the strange bedfellows of the far-left Five-Star-Movement and the far-right Italian League.
A unifying characteristic of the new Italian coalition government is its open defiance of the eurozone’s rules, especially in the area of budget and immigration policy.
Whereas the European Commission is insisting that Italy’s excessively high public debt to GDP ratio and its shaky banking system require that it limit its 2019 budget deficit to 0.75 percent of GDP, the Italian government is proposing a budget deficit of 2.5 percent of GDP. It is doing so to make good both on the Five-Star-Movement’s campaign promise to introduce a basic income support program and on The League’s campaign promise to introduce a flat tax.
The Italian government’s confrontation with its European partners over its rule-busting budget as well as over European immigration policy seems to be playing well with the Italian electorate. This more than likely explains why the Italian government is showing no signs of backing down in its budget fight with Europe despite the explicit warnings from Brussels that the country might be fined for its wayward budget behavior. It also might explain why the Italian government so far seems to be unfazed by the increased yields that markets are requiring from the Italian government to buy its bonds.
If political developments in Rome are strengthening the Italian government’s resolve to stick with its budget proposal, political developments in Berlin are reducing the scope of the European Commission to turn a blind eye to Italy’s disregard for the eurozone’s budget rules.
Since the trouncing of both the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democrats in the recent Bavarian regional election, the days of Germany’s Grand Coalition government and of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship would appear to be numbered. It is also all too likely that the next German coalition government will be less European-friendly than the present one is and that the Christian Democratic Union will shift right to fend off a challenge from the far-right Alternative for Germany Party.
Especially at a time that the global liquidity cycle is becoming more restrictive, the Italian government would seem to be playing with fire in its budget standoff with Europe. This would seem to be underlined by the fact that since the March election, Italian government bond yields have already doubled to 3.5 percent while the Italian economy has ground to a halt.
There is the real danger that if the Italian government makes no effort to reduce its excessively high public debt level, markets could require yet higher Italian government bond yields. That would risk tipping the Italian economy into a downward spiral. It would do so by inducing yet another Italian economic recession, which would only further compromise its weak public finances and its shaky banking system. That in turn would most likely provoke yet another round of bond selling.
The changed German political landscape will also make it difficult for the European Central bank to once again ride to Italy’s rescue as it did in 2012 should Italy indeed experience a full-blown financial crisis. This would seem to be especially the case considering that Italy’s current headstrong populist government commands a parliamentary majority. That makes it difficult to dislodge in favor of a technocratic government that is prepared to play by Europe’s rules as occurred in 2011 with the Silvio Berlusconi government.
It is hoped U.S. policymakers are paying close attention to European political economic developments and will refrain from indulging in schadenfreude about Europe’s plight. This is especially the case since the unraveling of the euro, coupled with a European banking crisis that would almost certainly follow such an event, must be expected to have major spillover effects to the global economy and to the world financial system. It would do so in much the same as the U.S. Lehman Bros. bankruptcy did in 2008.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Desmond Lachman is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was formerly a deputy director in the International Monetary Fund’s Policy Development and Review Department and the Chief Emerging Market Economic Strategist at Salomon Smith Barney. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Google and Its Perplexing Principles for Artificial Intelligence
By Thomas A. Hemphill
In response to its growing list of public controversies over the previous two years, including congressional inquiries into consumer privacy violations, allegedly manipulating user search results, sexual harassment complaints, and employee issues with the company engaging in R&D projects with the Pentagon, in June 2018 Google’s management decided to institute its “Principles of Artificial Intelligence.” The “Principles” are a code of conduct that the firm touts as “our commitment to using and developing AI responsibly.”
Google’s Principles (which they will attempt to operationalize through “objectives”) address those AI technologies that they should pursue responsibly and those AI applications that they will not design or deploy. Those objectives that they will pursue include:
—Be socially beneficial.
—Avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias.
—Be built and tested for safety.
—Be accountable to people.
—Incorporate privacy design principles.
—Uphold high standards of scientific excellence.
—Be made available for uses that accord with these principles.
However, Google has also identified a list of AI applications that the company will not pursue:
—Technologies that cause or are likely to cause overall harm. Where there is a material risk of harm, we will proceed only where we believe that the benefits substantially outweigh the risks, and will incorporate safety constraints.
—Weapons or other technologies whose principle purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people.
—Technologies that gather or use information for surveillance violating internationally accepted norms.
—Technologies whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.
Google notes that “as our experience in this space deepens, this list may evolve.”
The objectives it will pursue include some insights into how it will evaluate “being socially beneficial.” “We will take into account a broad range of social and economic factors, and will proceed where we believe that the overall likely benefit substantially exceed the foreseeable risks and downsides,” Google said.
This language describes a benefit-cost analysis, yet with a still unresolved twist.
For example, specifically what “social and economic factors” will Google employ to operationalize a managerial decision to be “socially beneficial”? Will the word “substantially” be interpreted or defined as, for example, a ratio of 2:1 in favor of benefits before undertaking an AI project? Will there be transparency in this decision-making? If so, how will Google implement this transparency? In addition, to what level does Google consider to be adequate “safety constraints” when developing and deploying its AI technologies?
As to “avoid(ing) creating or reinforcing unfair bias,” what company guidelines will be instituted covering this range of bias? Who will be enforcing these guidelines? Will it involve any third-party audits? How often will bias assessments be undertaken? As to opportunities for AI systems “feedback, explanations and appeal,” which people (stakeholders inside or outside of the company) are to be responsible for “human direction and control”? As to privacy design principles, what is Google’s interpretation of “appropriate transparency and control over the use of data”?
Further, as to multiple uses of AI technologies developed by Google, how will the company restrict its products from being “dual-use”, i.e., adaptable to a harmful use? Does this mean that if any proposed product has the potential for such “dual use” application, i.e., the possibility of the technology being related to or adaptable to a harmful use, Google management will not consider it for commercialization?
The company states that it does not tolerate using Google AI technologies for surveillance purposes that violate “internationally accepted norms.” Nevertheless, this principle may have broad company latitude in interpretation. Google’s search engine left the People’s Republic of China in 2010 when the company decided that it would not work with the communist government’s demands that the search engine remove links that the government required. Fast forward to today and Google CEO Sundar Pichai continues to be supportive of a program called “Dragonfly” that could bring Google’s search engine roaring back into mainland China.
Web news outlet Intercept, in an article published in August 2018, outlined what PRC government censorship protocols were being designed into Dragonfly by Google as well as the program’s requirement that users submit identifying information, including telephone numbers, that would be available to government intelligence agencies to investigate dissidents. So how does this type of “exploratory” technology program comply with Google’s AI principle regarding not “contravening … human rights”?
In October 2018, Vice President Mike Pence said that Google “should immediately end development” of Dragonfly, as “the Dragonfly app … will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers.”
Bloomberg Businessweek, in an article published recently, reports that the company’s support of Dragonfly has resulted in several researchers resigning from Google. “I cannot work at a company that will not internally or publicly clarify its ethical red lines,” wrote one former employee in his resignation letter. If Dragonfly continues as an ongoing project, there will be further controversies played out in the media, in Congress, and among its employees.
What is next for Google? As the preceding questions and comments reveal, the company needs to develop its Principles of Artificial Intelligence to be operationally effective before implementing them organization-wide. Moreover, for Google, embracing their “social good” challenge is not a moment too soon.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Thomas A. Hemphill is the David M. French Distinguished Professor of Strategy, Innovation and Public Policy in the School of Management at the University of Michigan-Flint, and is contributing editor to Regulation: The Cato Review of Business and Government. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.