Eu referendum

Labour hold Stoke as Ukip and Nuttall fail to breakthrough

James Forsyth discusses the by-election results with Fraser Nelson and Isabel Hardman: Labour has avoided total electoral disaster and held the Stoke Central seat with a relatively comfortable majority of 2,620. The Labour vote share in the seat was only marginally down on the 2015 general election, which while not good for an opposition party does suggests that Brexit hasn’t taken as big a chunk out of Labour’s support in Leave voting seats as some are suggesting. Labour are trying to argue that their victory here marks a turning point in their attempt to see off the Ukip threat to them in Brexit voting seats in the Midlands and the

Brexit isn’t to blame for the Polish exodus

I guess the hate crime epidemic that gripped Britain after Brexit hasn’t put that many people off, with new figures showing net migration of 273,000 in the three months to September 2016. That represents a decline of 49,000, of which 12,000 is due to an increase in eastern Europeans heading home (39,000, as opposed to 27,000 the previous year), which I imagine is less to do with any hostile atmosphere in Britain than the booming economy in Poland. No doubt that’s the way it will be presented, though – ‘Poles fleeing the Brexit terror’. In my view, the Government is doing a lot of things wrong at the moment, chiefly

Can Brexit inspire Catalan independence?

The increasingly radical Catalonian independence project has been dealt its latest blow this week: on Tuesday, Spain’s constitutional court ruled that a projected September referendum on secession would be illegal. This means any plebiscite is effectively banned. But whether Catalonia’s pro-independence president Carles Puigdemont goes ahead anyway remains to be seen. A similarly defiant course of action was pursued by his predecessor Artur Mas, who held a vote in 2014 (in which eighty per cent of people backed independence), and is currently on trial. The latest setback in the quest for Catalonian secessionism is particularly ill-timed. Just last month, Puigdemont and his Vice President Oriol Junqueras addressed MEPs in Brussels in a bid to

The truth behind the Brexit hate crime ‘spike’

Britain is in the grip of an epidemic, apparently. An epidemic of hate. New figures, compiled by the Press Association, suggest that hate crimes soared to ‘record levels’ in the three months following the EU referendum. Only four police forces around the country recorded a decrease in hate crimes; the others saw a spike. And in the case of three forces – the Metropolitan, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire – the spike was significant: these forces recorded more than 1,000 hate crimes each post-referendum.  This is being held up as evidence that prejudices and madness were unleashed by Brexit. In truth, the hate-crime spike looks more like a classic crime panic,

What the papers say: The John Bercow row rumbles on

John Bercow has insisted that admitting he backed ‘Remain’ in the EU referendum doesn’t compromise his politically neutrality. Some MPs, like Tom Watson – who hailed Bercow as one of the ‘great Speakers’ – have stepped in to defend him. But after his intervention on Trump and his willingness to air his thoughts on Brexit, the Speaker is under mounting pressure. He faces a vote of no confidence tabled by Conservative MP James Duddridge. And the newspapers continue to voice their anger at Bercow in today’s editorials. ‘What an embarrassment’ Bercow has become, says the Daily Mail. The paper suggests the boast he made to students about backing ‘Remain’ is the final

My sadness at the friends I’ve lost over Brexit

Brexit has been as bad as any surge in washing away hitherto strong foundations. I am talking about friendships. I have never known the like. To be called a racist, a ‘little Englander’ and worse was bad enough, but to have people one has long known and liked say they could no longer be friends with ‘someone like you’ was very shocking. My father was a Mass-going Roman Catholic, a Labour voter and a union shop steward. My mother was a church-going Anglican and lifelong Conservative. They were married for 33 years and although their union was alarmingly fiery, they made a pact from the beginning that they would never

Charles Moore

It’s no surprise that many Brexiteers are feeling anxious

Although I started it, I apologise for prolonging an intercolumnar argument. Matthew Parris (4 February) is surely right that many Brexiteers in past months have been showing signs of anxiety. He attributes this to being ‘secretly, usually unconsciously, terrified that they’ve done the wrong thing’. This may be part of it — it would be a strange person, after making such a momentous decision, who felt no qualms — but I don’t think it is the chief explanation. Our real fear is that, having come so far, we might be cheated of what we thought we had achieved. After the vote on 23 June, many powerful Remain supporters questioned the

Why the Lords won’t block Brexit

The government has no majority in the House of Lords and a majority of peers were pro-Remain. But despite this, the Article 50 Bill will get through the Lords I argue in The Sun this morning. Why, because the reason that we still have an unelected chamber in the 21st century is that the House of Lords has a strong self-preservation instinct: it knows its limits. If the Lords were to try and block something that had been backed in a referendum and had passed the Commons with a majority of 372, then it would be endangering its very existence. Indeed, I understand that the Labour front bench have already

What the papers say: Jeremy Corbyn’s road to nowhere

Jeremy Corbyn has called reports of his departure ‘fake news’. This despite the Labour leader having a net approval rating of minus 40 per cent and polling suggesting that only 15 per cent of voters think Corbyn stands any chance at all of triumphing in 2020. It seems that, at any cost, the Labour leader is determined to stumble on. Yesterday, he announced a reshuffle – shaking up the cast of nobodies in his shadow cabinet. Whatever Corbyn does, though, if he stays put it’s clear that these next few years are going to be a ‘miserable experience’ for him, says the Daily Telegraph. It’s inevitable that whether the Labour leader has a

The House of Commons votes for Brexit

The drink will be flowing in the government whips’ office tonight. For the Brexit Bill has passed through the Commons unamended and with an absolutely thumping majority at third reading of 372. This means that a clean bill will go to the House of Lords. This will strengthen the government’s hand there as peers will be more reluctant to make changes to a clean bill and one that has passed the Commons with such a large majority. Despite all the talk of knife-edge votes, the government’s majorities tonight were pretty comfortable—30 or above on all the amendments. In part, this was because of the government conceding just enough—the ‘Dear Colleague’

What should we make of the Government’s ‘Deal or no Deal’ Brexit vote offer?

Given Theresa May’s largely meaningless ‘Brexit means Brexit’ refrain, any new pronouncement on Britain’s departure from the EU is treated like gold dust. But Keir Starmer fell into the trap of thinking Brexit minister David Jones’ opening remarks today had offered up a bigger morsel than they actually had. Jones confirmed, as Theresa May has already made clear, that Parliament will vote on the Brexit deal. He said, too, that the vote would cover the future trading relationship between Britain and the EU, which had not previously been known. And the Commons was also told some more details on the timing of the vote, which will come, Jones confirmed, before

Tonight’s Brexit debate: What happens and when

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that Parliament must have its say on Brexit, it seems MPs are determined to make the most of it. After last week’s mammoth debate, today’s session on amendments to the Government’s White Paper will drag on until the early hours of tomorrow morning. It’s expected to finish up at around 1am – keeping Brexit aficionados, as well as MPs from all sides and the Government busy. But what will they be discussing? Here’s the Spectator’s guide to tonight’s Brexit session: After Theresa May’s Commons statement on the European Council meeting, tonight’s Commons session will essentially split into two parts. The first, expected to

What the papers say: The verdict on the Government’s Brexit White Paper

What does the Government’s Brexit White Paper – which was unveiled yesterday – actually tell us? ‘Nothing and everything’, says the Guardian, which accuses ministers of dishing up a document stuffed with ‘platitudes and empty rhetoric’. But for all the lightness of detail, the White Paper reveals a bigger truth: a ‘troubling form of politics, where ministers can pursue their interest without compromise’. The Guardian says the published document offers ‘no scrutiny’ and nothing but ‘contempt’ for Parliament. What’s also obvious, the paper says, is that Theresa May is in ‘thrall to her own headbangers’ – something made clear in the passage in the White Paper which leaves open the

Is the government trying to avoid scrutiny of its Brexit policy?

Is the government trying to avoid scrutiny of its Brexit policy? That’s the charge that MPs on the Labour and SNP benches are levelling at ministers today as the White Paper on leaving the European Union is published. Keir Starmer told the Commons this afternoon that he and his colleagues were being hampered in their attempts to ask decent questions and properly scrutinise the government’s approach because they had been handed the document just minutes before David Davis gave his statement on the publication. The SNP’s Stephen Gethins complained that the whole situation was a ‘mess’ and that Parliament was being mistreated. These complaints were echoed from the benches behind

Jaipur Notebook

Did Winston Churchill, like Donald Trump, also like to ‘grab them by the pussy?’ Last week at the Jaipur Literary Festival, I was on a panel discussion entitled ‘Churchill: Hero or Villain?’, where the Indian biographer Shrabani Basu told a large crowd that at a suffragettes’ demonstration outside Parliament in November 1910, Churchill, then home secretary, had ‘given instructions for police that they can batter the women and assault the women and sexually assault them as well’. He allegedly told policemen to ‘put their hands up their thighs, they can grope them and press their breasts’. ‘Can I just point out that that is completely untrue?’ I intervened. ‘He at

Matthew Parris

Brexiteers need ladders to climb down

I am worried about the mental state of many Brexiteers. The author of The Spectator’s weekly Notes, Charles Moore, always a sharp observer of the passing scene, noticed my worry almost before I noticed it myself. He complained here a few weeks ago that I’m citing among my reasons for distrusting the Leave case the fact that so many of its adherents strike me as headbangers. He went on to suggest I’ve become psychologically incapable of even listening to their argument. Personality traits displayed by Brexit-eers do indeed worry me and help inform my response to their case. To help me weigh an argument, I’m in the habit of taking

Today’s Brexit debate is likely to be a tame affair

MPs are now debating the government’s European Union (notification of withdrawal) Bill, with a warning from Theresa May and Brexit Secretary David Davis that to try to block the legislation would be to thwart the will of the British people. The Prime Minister said last night that ‘I hope when people look at the Article 50 bill they will recognise that it is a very simple decision – do they support the will of the British people or not’, while Davis will ask MPs whether they ‘trust the people or not’ as he opens the Second Reading stage of the Bill. There is a funny symmetry here between the bill that

Brexit’s biggest political victims: Ukip

Perversity is a much undervalued British trait, much more redolent of our real psyche than queuing, drinking tea or being tolerant of foreigners and homosexuals — all things for which we are better renowned. Seeing Dunkirk as a victory was magnificently perverse. So, too, was electing a Labour government in 2005 shortly after we had invaded a sovereign country and created a civil war. For ‘perversity’ I suppose you could read ‘complexity’, although the two often amount to the same thing. Our reactions to stuff are never as straightforward as they should be — they are complex and therefore can seem perverse. And so it is right now. For three

An ‘Anglican Brexit’ is Britain’s best hope

One of the many admirable aspects of Japanese culture is that they have developed strong taboos against triumphalism in politics. When one person scores a clear political victory over another there is pressure for him to play down that win and to present the result as a compromise. It’s the natural response of an island nation to early modern political turbulence and division, which harbours a desire to never repeat the experience. Likewise with the British, who after the wars of the three kingdoms became adept at creating a political system that rewarded compromise and discouraged extremism. Like many of the good things we’ve come to grow up with, the downside

Trump Team preparing US / UK trade deal

Boris Johnson returned from the US this week boasting that the UK was now ‘first in line’ for a trade deal with the US. He said that the Trump team and the new Congress ‘want to do it fast’. But as I write in The Sun this morning, the situation is even more advanced than this. I understand that the Trump team is already working on the outlines of a US / UK trade deal. Interestingly, they want the deal to be pencilled in before the UK leaves the EU, though the UK could not formally sign it until it has left the bloc. The US’s keenness for a trade