Eu referendum

How No. 10 outsmarted Alastair Campbell

LBC broadcaster Iain Dale has moved his Edinburgh Festival ‘All Talk’ series to Zoom, and yesterday he spoke to Alastair Campbell – the two clashed from the start. The former spin-doctor was seated in a strange, beige-tinted room which looked like a sauna. Dale asked where Campbell was, doubtless knowing that he likes to spend the summer holidays in the south of France. I’m enjoying the last few months of the UK being part of [what is] probably the greatest peace-keeping institution on the planet. Dale facetiously responded to Campbell, ‘Oh. You’re in Nato’. Asking about his support for the People’s Vote campaign and attempts to thwart Brexit, Campbell said

Brexiteers, your enemy is the government

Twenty-nine years ago this month, the Vote Leave campaign got underway. Nigel Farage was still making his anti-establishment way as a City broker and a young Michael Gove was heading northwards to work on the Aberdeen Press and Journal. Instead, it was the founder of the movement who did the honours. Margaret Thatcher travelled to Bruges, to the College of Europe, the Europhile madrassa that has radicalised generations of youth to the cause of ever closer union. There in the belly of the beast she smartly explained why Britain was marvellous and wouldn’t it be better all round if the Continent was more like Blighty. The Bruges Speech was in

The Brexit betrayal bandwagon is growing

It may not be this week. It may not be Boris Johnson. But eventually a minister will break with this tottering government and establish himself (or herself, for it could be Andrea Leadsom) as the leader of the diehard right. Brexit is crying out for its Ludendorff; the scoundrel who can blame his failures on everyone but himself. The smart move for today’s right wing politicians who find their careers blocked is to break with the Tory leadership – whatever or whoever that may consist of – and resort to old  slogans. The referendum delivered a mandate to leave, Johnson, or whoever takes up the challenge of building a new

Are our pizzas really under threat from Brexit?

Last week it was Vince Cable trying to tell us that Brexit was depriving Wimbledon spectators of their strawberries – swiftly denied by the All England Club. This week it is the turn of pizza chain Franco Manca to try to scare us of the consequences of Brexit. Announcing the company’s results, chairman David Page said, in comments prominently reported in the pro-EU Financial Times: “The long-term Brexit impact is unknown. It is, however, already affecting the availability of skilled European restaurant staff”. In other words: your pizza is under threat from your silly vote to leave the EU. Brexit hasn’t appeared to hit the company’s bottom line, however. Revenue of

If Brexit doesn’t happen, then Britain isn’t a democracy

It’s the casualness with which they’re saying it that is truly disturbing. ‘I’m beginning to think that Brexit may never happen’, said Vince Cable on Sunday morning TV, with expert nonchalance, as if he were predicting rain. He echoed Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt, who a few days earlier informed viewers that there is talk in ‘some quarters’ that ‘Brexit may not actually happen’. Leaving the EU? ‘I think that is very much open to question now’, said Lord Heseltine last month, with imperious indifference. He could have been asking a minion to pass the butter. They say it matter-of-factly, sometimes a little gleefully. As if it wouldn’t be a disgrace, a

13 things we have learnt about Britain since the EU Referendum

Happy Independence Day everyone (groan). One year on from that momentous day, here are 13 things we’ve learnt from the Brexit vote. Most people will take any argument that suits them. They will swap ideological clothing if needs be – note how many on the Left suddenly care deeply about the pound and the City, while many on the Right seem keen on huge economic risks. Most voters are ignorant. This applies to both sides, although on average Remainers are better educated. But as Dominic Cummings has pointed out, the average Remainer didn’t know that much about how the EU actually works; they just looked at Nigel Farage and knew

Embracing liberal Christianity can lead the Lib Dems out of irrelevance

In a sense it was the Liberal Democrats who did worst in this odd election. For the point of this party is to attract progressives who find Labour too dogmatic. And in the past two years Labour has been taken over by old-fashioned socialist dogma. It was the perfect opportunity to create a huge base of homeless New Labour voters. And then came Brexit, doubling this golden opportunity, for the Liberal Democrats were the main party of Brexit-scepticism. Why was the chance missed? Maybe English voters can only really believe in the two main parties, when it comes to governing. In fact, most of us find one of these parties

What is Labour’s policy on Brexit? We’re still no closer to knowing

What is Labour’s policy on Brexit? No one has ever really known the answer to this question, and it doesn’t seem to be any closer to being resolved now that the election is out of the way, either. Sir Keir Starmer yesterday attacked the government for ‘simply sweeping options off the table before they even started with the negotiations’, including saying Britain will not seek to be a member of the Single Market. But Jeremy Corbyn has said in the past few days that Brexit ‘absolutely’ means leaving the single market – a stance echoed by John McDonnell. The party is now trying to work out how to unite after

Bias and the BBC: A discussion

Last week, Nick Robinson wrote an article in the Radio Times saying Radio 4’s Today programme no longer has an obligation to balance its coverage of Brexit. This led to criticism from Charles Moore that he was, in effect, admitting to BBC bias. The two met for a discussion in The Spectator offices. Nick Robinson: As you’re so fond of pointing out, Charles, most economists, business organisations, trade unions and FTSE 100 chief executives were Remainers. The BBC’s difficulty is that news tends to be about interviewing people in power: scrutinising them, asking tough questions. It’s right that we should go and look for other voices, look for critics. But

James Forsyth

Boris was right on sanctions

Boris Johnson has received a bit of a kicking this week. There have been no shortage of people wanting to say he has been humiliated by the G7’s refusal to back his call for further sanctions on Russia and Syria after the chemical weapons attack. But I argue in The Sun today, that the real story is the weakness of the EU members of the G7. To be sure, Boris got too far forward on his skis on sanctions. But the bigger issue, by far, is the weakness of those members of the G7 who wouldn’t back them: principally, Italy and Germany. Lenin used to say “Probe with a bayonet;

The Brexit battle is only just beginning

Nick Robinson, of the BBC, compares the Brexiteers and Remainers to ‘fighters who emerge after months of hiding in the bush, [and] seem not to accept that the war is over’. It is a false analogy because, unfortunately, the war is not over. Its most arduous phase has only just begun. This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes, which appears in this week’s magazine

Remainers must learn from the optimism of the Brexiteers

In an age when people pride themselves on their cynicism, it’s almost touching to remember that one of the most powerful forces in politics is still optimism. We may routinely dismiss politicians as self-serving vermin, but when the time comes, we generally choose the self-serving vermin who tell the best story of a brighter tomorrow. Better a smiling cockroach than a gloomy one. Optimism is one of the great fault-lines that run beneath the Brexit debate, one that helps explain why the Brexiteers are making the running and why those who still stand opposed to Brexit still have a lot to learn. Simply, the Brexiteers are setting the pace because

Theresa May’s Article 50 letter strikes the right tone

Theresa May is trying to play the role of the great conciliator today. She has avoided any hint of triumphalism or saying anything that the European Union would instantly reject. Instead, she has emphasised her desire for a ‘deep and special partnership’ with the European Union and that the UK wants to be the ‘best friend and neighbour’ to the EU. She has not repeated her Lancaster House message that she thinks ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ or threatened to change the UK economic model if no free trade agreement with the EU can be struck. The Article 50 letter that May has sent to Tusk also strikes

Theresa May’s full Article 50 speech: ‘A day of celebration for some and disappointment for others’

Mr Speaker, Today the Government acts on the democratic will of the British People. And it acts, too, on the clear and convincing position of this House. A few minutes ago in Brussels, the United Kingdom’s Permanent Representative to the EU handed a letter to the President of the European Council on my behalf, confirming the Government’s decision to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.   The Article 50 process is now underway. And in accordance with the wishes of the British People, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European

Brendan O’Neill

A great day for British democracy

Today is a great day for British democracy. One of the greatest ever, in fact. Tune out Project Fear, with its overblown claims that Brexit will cause economic collapse and possibly revive fascism, and just think about what is happening today. The largest democratic mandate in the history of this nation, the loudest, clearest, most populous democratic cry Britons have ever made, is finally being acted upon. The political class is starting the process of severing Britain’s ties with the EU not because it wants to — it desperately doesn’t want to — but because a great swarm of its people have told it that it must. This is amazing.

Ed West

History teaches us that Brexit will be okay in the end. Probably.

Happy Brexit Day everyone. I guess we’ll be okay in the long term. March 29th is the bloodiest day in English history, a day on which a London-dominated clique funded by the City defeated an army raised from the north and Midlands; history has since come to know it as the War of the Roses although it barely affected people who weren’t directly involved. (Historian John Gillingham even states that direct taxes went down and housebuilding continued, which is more than can be said for the past few years). On that date in 1461, in a snowstorm in Towton, north Yorkshire, the young usurper Edward IV – only 18 years

The Brexit bunch are the real referendum whiners

In an age of fanaticism, it was always unlikely that the urge to censor would be confined to the left. If you think that the insults conservatives have thrown at liberals will not boomerang back to injure them, consider the following examples of right-wing invective. Conservatives claim millennials are ‘special snowflakes,’ unable to handle criticism – a generalisation that crashes and breaks on the vast number of exceptions. To concentrate on specifics for once, it is a matter of fact that the world’s most special snowflake is Donald Trump. He and his supporters target judges, journalists and any other critic. No slight is forgotten or forgiven. Their skin is so

Barometer | 16 March 2017

Mary Queen of Golf? The vote by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers to admit women as members has reawakened speculation as to who was the first woman to play golf. —According to legend, Mary Queen of Scots played the game at St Andrews and coined the phrase ‘caddy’ when referring to the cadet who was carrying her clubs. Yet the evidence seems to relate to a charge made by her opponents that she played golf within days of the death of her husband, Lord Darnley. — A more realistic candidate appeared in the Caledonian Mercury, an Edinburgh newspaper, in 1738, which reported two women playing a game at Bruntsfield

The real reason Ukip are tearing each other apart

If the British establishment really wants to troll Ukip, then I suppose it ought to give Douglas Carswell a knighthood for blocking Nigel Farage’s knighthood. He says he didn’t, of course, and I don’t see how he could have done. Farage, though, clearly thinks he did, and his wrath about this is the most fun thing to have happened in British politics for ages. He’s furious. His little demons are furious. Too furious, really. ‘This must be about something else,’ I kept thinking. ‘Deep down, it must be. But what?’ According to the great smoked kipper himself, in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, Carswell has been a thorn in the

Brexit tantrums are one of the joys of modern life

Everyone in London seems to be fuming all the time — although, to be fair, fuming has become the default setting of our time. Historically, it’s the sexually repressed, swivel-eyed Daily Mail reader who fumes hardest, but ever since last June 23, when the glorious chaotic dawn of Brexit was revealed, liberals have been fuming up a storm with all the parasexual frustration of fat-fingered One Direction fans tweeting hatred about the paternity of Cheryl’s baby. Tempering, tantruming and thweatening to thwceam till they’re sick, it’s hard not to feel that what’s making them the most angry isn’t the alleged racism of Brexiteers or the alleged financial ruin waiting just