Stumbling bloc: How did Brexit become such a mess?
By JILL LAWLESS
Tuesday, December 11
LONDON (AP) — Tuesday was supposed to be the day that Britain’s battle over Brexit was resolved.
Parliament was supposed to approve a plan painstakingly worked out by Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Union for Britain’s orderly departure from the 28-nation bloc.
But the road out of the EU has been anything but smooth as Britain heads for the Brexit ramp.
Tuesday’s vote was postponed by May, who acknowledged that a “significant majority” of lawmakers would oppose it. Instead, she spent the day shuttling through European capitals, seeking changes to the deal to try to win over skeptical legislators before Britain leaves the EU on March 29.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Britain joined the European Economic Community — now the EU — in 1973, but has long been an ambivalent member. The U.K. never adopted the euro as its currency, and British politicians have been cool to the bloc’s calls for ever-closer political union.
In 2013, then-Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership “to settle this European question” once and for all.
He was confident voters would choose to remain, but on June 23, 2016, they voted by 52 percent to 48 percent to leave. Cameron resigned, leaving his successor, May, to carry out the monumental move. Last year, May triggered the two-year countdown to departure for March 29, 2019.
WHAT IS AT STAKE?
Every divorce involves paperwork. Britain can leave without a deal, but it won’t be pretty. Departure will tear up thousands of laws and rules stitched together over more than four decades, covering every aspect of British life and the economy.
If Britain and the EU can’t agree on what will replace them, there could be chaos. Planes would lose permission to fly, British motorists would find their driver’s licenses invalid on the continent, medicine supplies could run short. British officials have warned of gridlock at ports, the need to charter vessels to bring in essential goods and shortages of imported foodstuffs.
The Bank of England has warned that a worst-case “no deal” Brexit would plunge Britain into the worst recession for decades.
WHAT’S THE STICKING POINT?
With compromises on both sides, Britain and the EU managed to reach agreement on many contentious issues. But one has proved intractable: the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which will be the U.K.’s only land border with the EU after Brexit.
During Northern Ireland’s decades of violence, the border bristled with soldiers, customs posts, smugglers and paramilitaries. But since a 1998 peace accord, the border has become all but invisible. That’s helped by the fact that Britain and Ireland currently are both EU members, meaning goods and people can flow across the border with no need for customs checks.
Brexit could end all that, disrupting lives and businesses on both sides of the border and potentially undermining the peace process.
To avoid that, the withdrawal agreement includes a border guarantee, known as the “backstop.” It stipulates that if no other solution can be found, the U.K. will remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit to avoid a hard border. Both sides hope the backstop will never be needed: The agreement gives them until 2022 to reach a permanent new trade deal that could render it unnecessary.
But pro-Brexit British politicians hate the backstop, because Britain can’t get out of it unilaterally; it can only be ended by mutual agreement. So potentially it could endure indefinitely, binding the U.K. to EU customs regulations and unable to make new trade deals around the world.
Pro-EU lawmakers hate it too, because it leaves Britain subject to rules it has no say in making — an inferior position to remaining in the bloc, they say.
WILL THE EU BUDGE?
Not much. Britain is seeking “reassurances” that the backstop will be temporary. But the backstop is part of a legally binding, 585-page withdrawal agreement, and the EU insists it cannot be altered.
“There is no room whatsoever for renegotiation,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday.
But politics is also about theatrics, and the EU may well offer Britain some sort of wording — a note, an addendum or a codicil — that “clarifies” issues around the backstop.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The British government says it plans to bring the deal, with whatever changes May achieves, back to Parliament for a vote before Jan 21. If it passes, it still must be approved by the European Parliament, but that is not expected to be a problem.
If it fails, Britain is in uncharted waters. Possible outcomes include a no-deal Brexit, a postponed Brexit, a second referendum on Brexit, or a reversal of the decision to Brexit. All those options have supporters in Parliament, but it’s not clear whether there’s a majority for any of them.
And if May’s plan falls, it’s likely she will too — either at the hands of her own Conservative Party or with her government in a no-confidence vote that would trigger a national election. Then it would fall to her successor to try to sort out Britain’s Brexit mess.
See the AP’s Brexit coverage at: https://apnews.com/Brexit
UK PM May deploys ministers to sell Brexit deal to public
By DANICA KIRKA
Friday, December 7
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May sent 30 members of her government around the country Friday to rally popular support to pressure lawmakers to approve her Brexit agreement on leaving the European Union.
The Brexit deal is proving a tough sell, and May is coming under increasing pressure to delay a parliamentary vote scheduled for next week in hopes of wringing concessions out of the EU. With three days of British lawmakers’ five-day debate on the deal over, an analysis by Britain’s Press Association showed that just 27 of the 163 lawmakers who have spoken out indicated they would back the deal, compared with 122 who say they will vote against it. That latter number includes 29 members of May’s own Conservative Party.
The biggest sticking point is the so-called backstop, which could keep the U.K. in a customs union with the EU indefinitely if the two sides can’t agree on another way to prevent physical border controls between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU.
The proposal has sparked opposition from all sides because the U.K. would be unable to leave the backstop without approval from the EU. Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 lawmakers prop up May’s minority government, oppose the measure because it would treat Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
Boris Johnson, May’s former foreign secretary who is firmly against her Brexit deal, said the backstop “hands the EU the indefinite power to bully and blackmail this country to get whatever it wants” in negotiations over the future relationship between the two sides.
Terms of the deal “resemble the kind of diktat that might be imposed on a nation that has suffered a military defeat…” he wrote in a Facebook post. “The Spanish will make another push for Gibraltar. The Germans will almost certainly want concessions on EU migrants. And the French President Emmanuel Macron has made it clear that he will not let Britain out of jail until we have satisfied his demands for U.K. fish.”
The House of Commons is scheduled to vote on the plan Tuesday. May’s government has so far rejected calls to postpone the vote.
Instead, she has sent her most senior advisers, including Treasury chief Philip Hammond and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, to schools, hospitals and small businesses around the country to take her case to the British people.
May says most people “want us to get on with it,” and that it’s important for ministers speak with communities to explain how her Brexit deal “works for them.”
The prime minister argues that the agreement she spent the last 2 1/2 years negotiating is the best one Britain is going to get and the alternative is crashing out of the EU without a deal, which could have devastating effects on the economy. EU officials have warned that May’s Brexit deal is the only one on offer.
Alan Wager of the non-partisan research group UK in a Changing Europe said it is not so important whether May loses —but by how much. He argued that May must convince many of her own party’s lawmakers to take her side in order to make it plausible to go back to the EU and have another try.
“The scale of the defeat in Parliament is the most important thing here, not whether there’s a defeat or not,” he said. “She would need to lose by less than 50 MPs (lawmakers) to keep in office probably.”
Planning for a no-deal Brexit is continuing apace, however, both by the government and by British firms. A key desire is to make sure that crucial imports get into the country after March 29, when Britain is scheduled to leave the EU, even if there is some chaos at the ports.
Hancock said the government was buying refrigeration units to stockpile drugs. Planes could be used to fly in medicines, bypassing gridlocked ports.
“If there is serious disruption at the border we will have prioritization, and prioritization will include medicines and medical devices,” he told the BBC.
Jo Kearney in London contributed.
See the AP’s Brexit coverage at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
What happens after Brexit vote? Four possible scenarios explained
December 6, 2018
Author: Louise Thompson, Lecturer in British Politics, University of Manchester
Disclosure statement: Louise Thompson receives funding from the ESRC (research on small parties in parliament).
Partners: University of Manchester provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
MPs have started to debate the final Brexit withdrawal agreement ahead of a “meaningful vote” at the end of the day on December 11. That is about the only part of the current situation about which we can be sure. There are various possible scenarios that might play out after that vote, some of which are outlined below.
1. MPs vote in favour of the deal
This is possibly the easiest outcome in terms of pushing forward with Brexit, but the hardest to obtain, given the sheer number of Conservative MPs who have said they will vote against the deal. A vote in favour would give the prime minister the power to tell the EU that the deal has been ratified by parliament.
But the government would still need to pass a hefty amount of legislation as the Brexit process continues. This would begin with the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – a piece of legislation which the House of Commons Library thinks could happen before Christmas.
In the event that this first option doesn’t happen (which seems increasingly likely), the future is all a bid muddled. This is partly because it depends if MPs vote in favour of any amendments to the motion on December 11. Here, the possible outcomes would be:
2. MPs vote against the deal but in favour of an amendment
The House of Commons speaker, John Bercow, can select up to six amendments to a proposed bill to also be debated and voted on by the house. In this case, the proposed amendments include one by Labour MP Hilary Benn to reject both the Brexit deal and a no-deal scenario in an attempt to enhance the power for MPs to find an alternative. Labour and the SNP have said they will support the amendment. Other amendments include extending the Article 50 deadline to give more time to decide how to proceed.
If MPs vote against the main motion on the deal, the government would give a statement to the House of Commons within 21 days setting out how it plans to proceed, as specified in the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. This would bring us to January 1, 2019. Parliament would be given a week to debate the contents of this statement, before a further round of ministerial statements reporting on progress by January 21.
If MPs vote in favour of any amendments to the motion on December 11, they will be trying to tie the prime minister’s hands and push for her to agree to parliament’s demands. This could be in the form of a second referendum, for which there is now considerable support on the opposition benches.
The cross-party amendment led by Conservative MP Dominic Grieve which passed in the House of Commons on the Tuesday before debating began means that parliament will be able to amend any later motions put forward by the government after the 21-day period too, pushing for alternative options. In an interview on the Today programme a few days later, the prime minister hinted that MPs may have more of a say on the detail of the backstop agreement on the Northern Ireland border.
Parliament could be asked to vote again on the deal. This was confirmed by chief House of Commons clerk David Natzler in evidence to the Brexit select committee just over a month ago. At the time, he said it was a “hypothetical question” but confirmed that there were ways in which it could happen as the procedures of the House would not want to obstruct progress.
3. MPs trigger a vote of no confidence in the government
Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, has said the party would “inevitably” call a vote of no confidence if the prime minister loses the vote on December 11. MPs would have to vote on a specifically worded motion, in accordance with the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, saying “That this house has no confidence in HM government”.
If MPs voted in favour of the motion, it would trigger a two-week period in which a new government could be formed. Only if this failed would a general election be triggered. MPs may not be eager for a general election, particularly with the Brexit clock ticking. If the prime minister survived a no-confidence vote, there would be increasing pressure on Conservative backbenchers to support her on the Brexit deal.
There is also the outside option that the prime minister herself could ask the House of Commons for an early general election, but this would require a super majority of two thirds of MPs voting in favour.
What makes this even more complicated is that the formal parliamentary route to Brexit is sitting alongside a party political one. So alongside the various legal options, we also see the possibility that May could face a leadership challenge from her own party.
4. Theresa May resigns as party leader
If she loses the vote on the final deal, May might resign, triggering a leadership election within the Conservative Party. At the moment, it seems anything is possible, but given her emphatic statement last month that she believed with her head and her heart that “this is a decision which is in the best interests of our entire United Kingdom” it seems unlikely.
And while the party took just 17 days to decide on May as the next leader when David Cameron resigned, it generally takes a lot longer. A full contest would likely drag on through January. And with the latest survey of party members showing a clear lead for Boris Johnson as the favourite to take over as party leader, MPs may be forgiven for thinking that they are safer to stay with May for now.
How to Save Energy — And Stay Warm — This Winter
Tightening Up Your Home’s Shell and Taking Indoor Precautions Are Key To Efficient Heating
By Emily Folk December 3, 2018
Stay Warm. To warm you through the winter season, you depend on your home’s heating system. And while it’s there for that precise reason, an over-reliance might raise your monthly utility bill and leave you feeling cold toward your provider. More than that, the excess expenditure is detrimental to the environment.
There’s no reason to fret the freeze, however, and we’ve compiled some hot tips. Consider the suggestions below and determine which of them are ideal for your living space. Regardless of circumstances, you have options for reducing your costs and carbon footprint, and you’ll no doubt warm to these ideas.
1. Clear the Area Around Your Radiator
Take full advantage of the heat from your radiator, clearing the area around it of any furniture that could compromise its effectiveness. A hefty item positioned in front of a radiator will absorb its warmth, leaving less for your living space. In a cooler room with a blocked radiator, you’ll have to adjust the thermostat to compensate.
This change is straightforward and shouldn’t require too much time. Simply locate the radiators in your house or apartment unit, and make some slight rearrangements to the furniture in those rooms. It costs you no money at all, and you’ll likely notice an immediate difference in the temperature.
2. Install Thermal Curtains to Trap Heat
A thick pair of curtains, thermal or otherwise, will trap heat within your home. They’ll sustain the temperature of your space and keep it nice and cozy. On a sunny day when clouds and inclement weather don’t threaten your comfort, you can open your curtains to let the sunshine in and enjoy the natural light.
You can choose from a broad selection of different window coverings to improve your energy efficiency. Tightly installed cellular shades can reduce heat loss through your windows by an incredible 40 percent or more. These same shades serve the opposite purpose in spring and summer, protecting against solar heat.
3. Find and Seal Cracks to Fix Drafts
Even small, virtually unnoticeable cracks have the potential to steal heat from your home and let in cold air. Attending to these flaws is a simple process, however, and anyone with an amateur understanding of DIY can make the fixes themselves. All you need to manage a draft is caulk and weatherstripping.
With a stick of lit incense or a candle, survey your space, making a note of any place that draws the smoke or flame. Many leaks occur around entranceways and windows, so take care to inspect these areas a little more closely. When you find a draft, use the caulk and weatherstripping to seal it tight.
4. Use a Programmable Thermostat
Your thermostat is the control center of your heating system, and an investment in new technology will ultimately reduce your energy expenditure. With a programmable model, you can keep the temperature low while you’re at work or asleep and let it warm you when you’re present to enjoy the benefits.
Through careful management of your heating system, you’ll maximize your efficiency and see a significant cut in costs. With a set-and-forget thermostat, you’ll no longer have to make adjustments before you leave your home and after you return. It’s a small convenience, but one you’ll surely appreciate.
5. Wash Clothes at a Low Temperature
Most common laundry detergents are effective at lower temperatures, and for many articles of clothing, hot water isn’t necessary for a thorough wash. Consider changing the settings on your washing machine before you clean your next load to conserve energy. You’ll find no difference in the results.
Before you move your wet clothes to the dryer, make sure to wring them free of any excess water. This extra measure will lessen the time it takes for your load to dry. With the inexpensive addition of a few dryer balls, you can further accelerate the process, reducing drying time by up to 25 percent.
Saving the Planet on a Budget
You don’t have to compromise your comfort for the health of the planet or your wallet. Through the five techniques listed above, you’ll save on your energy expenditure and monthly utility bill, preserving the warmth in your home while managing your carbon footprint. A small change makes a big difference — and sustainability starts in the home.
Emily Folk is the editor of Conservation Folks. She writes on topics of sustainability, conservation and green technology.
Local gift giving
Columbus-based plus-size apparel brands, Lane Bryant and Cacique, will be partnering with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH) for the third year in a row to bring gifts and a whole lot of joy to the children in the hospital this holiday season. The brands have raised over 1.7 million dollars for NCH through multiple initiatives since 2016.
The Give.Love.Share. campaign offers Lane Bryant and Cacique employees and clients the opportunity to collect various donations and toys for the children who will be in the hospital over the holidays. The ‘Wish List Tree’ at ascena’s Columbus headquarters is decorated with gift tags noting in-demand gifts for various age groups, which employees can then purchase and place under the tree. On December 20th, ascena retail group employees will personally deliver the gifts to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital to help spread holiday cheer.
How customers can get involved:
· Lane Bryant and Cacique will offer register round up opportunities to clients who shop in locations nationwide
· Clients who donate $5 or more in store during the holiday season will receive a coupon with two exclusive offers
· Follow the Give.Love.Share campaign on social media using the hashtag #LaneBryant
How store associates and employees are helping:
•ascena retail group will offer snack carts at their headquarters in Dec. and Jan. with all proceeds going to NCH
•Employees will have an opportunity to attend a gift wrapping event ($1 per package) with proceeds going to NCH
· ascena retail group will host a holiday bake sale at their headquarters with proceeds going to NCH