Trump and May lose unnecessary gambles, as both US and UK now chart uncertain courses forward
Morning Brief: Catalonia has set an October 1 date for a new independence referendum, though the Spanish government says that the vote would be unconstitutional
As expected, Thursday was an extraordinary news day, what with the former FBI director’s testimony in the Senate, and the UK election. But it was might be more extraordinary is that the news yesterday merely is a prelude for what is to follow over the course of this summer and fall, as both the US and UK chart a difficult course forward.
Because the statement from James Comey was released on Wednesday afternoon, ahead of his Thursday morning testimony, much of the drama might have been lessened. Plus, the White House managed to take away the president’s phone yesterday so that the former FBI director’s testimony was not interrupted by tweets.
Despite this, Comey’s testimony was still dramatic as he relayed his story about the president’s attempt to get him to stop the FBI’s investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
There is no need to rehash the testimony, as millions of Americans stopped what they were doing Thursday to watch the testimony, and news organizations around the world led their websites with Comey for much of the afternoon.
Mr. Comey and All the President’s Lies
Weeks after being described by Donald Trump as a “nut job,” James Comey on Thursday deftly recast his confrontation with the president as a clash between the legal principles at the foundation of American democracy, and a venal, self-interested politician who does not recognize, let alone uphold, them…
…There is an aspect to public servants like Mr. Comey that Mr. Trump and his administration seem unable to comprehend, to their peril — a dedication to their roles that places service above any president’s glory.
You can’t trust both Jim Comey and the New York Times
Amid all the furious debate on the political impact of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony, one thing stands out: The biggest loser is the elite media.
Comey said outright what we asserted at the time: A New York Times story about alleged Trump team contacts with Russian officials was “in the main . . . not true.”
…But this leaves the paper with a big problem: If it believes Comey’s not telling the truth here, how can it consider him trustworthy on everything else?
Just before the polls closed in the UK, Steve Hawkes, deputy political editor at Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid, The Sun, tweeted what the prediction he was hearing of a massive Tory win in the snap election called by Prime Minister Theresa May:
Rumour Tories could be looking at 400 seats – we’ll find out in a min
— steve hawkes (@steve_hawkes) June 8, 2017
Minutes later the value of the pound shot down as the exit poll showed that the Conservatives could lose a huge number of seats, and with the possibility that there would be a hung parliament.
In the end, the Tories picked up a few more seats than the exit poll showed, but it still proved to be a disastrous night for the prime minister. Labour, which looked to be about to headed for a leadership battle, now seems to have rallied around Jeremy Corbyn as Labour won the most seats in an election since Tony Blair.
Still, May will be able to form a government, despite the Conservatives winning only 318 seats. The government will be formed thanks to ten seats it will gain through a partnership with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland.
But as dramatic as the election proved to be, it is what will now follow that will be equally newsworthy. The UK is weeks away from beginning Brexit negotiations, and the May’s decision to call a snap election in order to bluster her power has terribly backfired. Europe, on the other hand, has seen its power increased through the election win of Emmanuel Macron, and is in no mood to make life easier for the Brits.
The election has delivered political instability that is terrible for Brexit negotiations
Let’s not sugarcoat it. The election result could hardly be worse for Britain’s Brexit negotiation. The EU stands ready and waiting to start negotiating in 10 days’ time. Britain has plunged itself into political chaos.
Suddenly, everything seems to be on the table again. Membership of the single market, and therefore free movement, the authority of the EU courts, even the remote prospect of a second referendum was being discussed in the small hours.
Theresa May might be lucky to go down in history as the shortest serving prime minister since the Earl of Bute. In 1762. And the worst…
…As things stand, she has made herself a laughingstock here and in Europe. She had a working majority and Parliament passed Article 50, albeit grumpily. Brexit is now likely to be messier than it otherwise would be. She didn’t need to gamble, and she’s lost, and so will the country. Right now it is only a question of how big the losses and disappointments will be.
They lied and lied and lied: the Tories are the real party of chaos
Despite the destabilisation of people’s lives, strong and stable government was still the priority, we were told. No second referendum, and certainly no election. May was leader now, and would be until the end of the fixed-term parliament, in 2020. She confidently triggered article 50. And if we didn’t reach a deal with the rest of the EU before the two-year negotiating period was up? We’d be just fine, thank you very much.
And then: bam! U-turn. There would be an election. The opinion polls – how strange to stake your political life on them in this era – proved just too tempting. The British people seemed to approve of May’s uncompromising approach to Brexit (the 48% were fatally pushed to the edge of the strategists’ consciousness). A Conservative majority of 12 could be turbo-charged. People whispered about a landslide to rival Margaret Thatcher’s in 1983.
But here we are: a hung parliament, May’s future in doubt, Brexit negotiations set to start within two weeks, but now likely delayed. European leaders look on, utterly bewildered. How did the plodding but reliable UK end up in such turmoil, such a volatile partner? Britain is the new Italy, but without the meteorological and culinary advantages.
Incredibly, neither Comey nor May could be the big story this fall. Instead, it may be the vote on October 1 in Catalonia, where the region will again decide if it will break away from Spain — and the Spanish government will decide just how far it will go to preserve Spain as it is.
Photo: Catalonia Independence by Jordi Boixareu used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Catalonia to hold self-determination referendum on October 1, 2017
The Catalan independence referendum will be held on October 1, 2017, the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, said Friday. Citizens will be asked: “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent country in the form of a Republic?”
…”We have sought an agreement again and again,” Puigdemont explained, describing the initiatives of his government over the last year and a half: “We have actively participated in the National Pact for the Referendum. We have presented proposals to agree on a negotiation. We have adopted parliamentary and government resolutions urging the Spanish executive to talk and negotiate. We have directly expressed to the Spanish government our firm determination to sit down at the table and negotiate a solution. We have explained this around the world, in London, Brussels, Paris, Boston, Washington, New York, and Madrid.”
Catalan Bid for Independence
The announcement does not guarantee that the referendum can be held. In all likelihood it will be annulled by Spain’s Constitutional Court, which has already struck down regional resolutions fleshing out the secessionist road map that was approved by the Catalan assembly on November 9, 2015.
The central government has already stated that “the referendum will not take place” and that all necessary mechanisms will be activated to prevent it…
…Despite Friday’s announcement, the Catalan government is not completely closing the door on a negotiated way out. At his recent speech in Madrid, Puigdemont said he was willing to negotiate “up until the last minute of overtime.”