BREXIT: THE LAWYERS MOVE IN
It’s up to the Lawyers now!
Three months after Britain voted in an advisory referendum to leave the EU, we know a little more about what happens next, but not much. The new Prime Minister Teresa May’s circular pronouncement that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ tells us nothing. We do know that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty must be invoked by a member state wishing to withdraw from the EU, but we don’t know when. Rumours, together with their denials, suggest that Britain will start the process ‘early’ in 2017, but maybe not. After all, the UK was unprepared for the referendum result and had no plan, or negotiators in place to deal with the withdrawal process and its consequences. The EU has publicly ruled out informal negotiations to precede the Article 50 starting pistol, but still, talks about talks must be going on. After all, what are ambassadors for?
There is a new and potent tendency amongst ‘the usual suspects’ riding high on their referendum success, perhaps discouraged by realising the time involved due to the number and complexity of the legal and other hurdles needed to be crossed, before Brexit has taken on a concrete reality. The new trope eagerly seized upon by the tabloids, is to go for a ‘Hard Brexit’- the current UKIP line, together with that of some passed-over Tory MPs who got nothing out of Mrs May’s reshuffle. It now appears to be the slogan of “Leave means Leave,” the successor group from the referendum ‘Leave’ campaign. It was reported that the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has joined this group of his old comrades, which is extraordinary (if true), that from this high office of state, he could align himself with bypassing the diplomatic process, as set out by the Prime Minister.
However, the Hard Brexit concept has brought back into the fray, George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer precipitately dropped from the Chancellorship and the Cabinet, by Mrs May. The importance of his re-emergence, after three months silence, is that it gives the Remainers in the government party a significant leader of proven ability, around whom they can rally. It will be clear from the points that follow in this report, that it may be necessary for ‘Remain’ MPs from different parties, to work together on certain Brexit issues, across party lines.
Hard Brexit would abandon the estimated two year negotiating period which won’t start until Article Fifty is invoked (more on that below); which until completed, sets their entire project at risk, as UK remains a member until treaty provisions are complete. That could certainly mean two or more years of membership. The Hard Brexiters favour taking one giant step without counting the cost, tearing-up the rule book agreed to by the British government that signed up to the European Communities Act in 1972, 44 years ago – and then when ‘safely’ outside, seeing what might be salvageable by negotiation; all highly reminiscent of a gambler’s ‘last throw’. It is unlikely that Mrs May would go along with that. They talk of starting negotiations... [continues...]
The Syrian Civil War
The Divided Opposition and the
Impossibility of any Political Agreement that Excludes the Assad Regime
After five years of so-called civil war, nobody has proposed any realistic alternative to the Baath Party dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad. Unlike most civil wars, which in general last longer than the ‘uncivil’ ones–that is between states–the stakes, the ultimate goals and the actors are as unclear now as when the war began in 2011. There are simply too many factions each with their own agenda.
The government itself can count on a variety of disparate militias, which have emerged in the anarchy. This means that should a peace last long enough to bring the warring parties together to negotiate a truce–or even a peace accord, likely modeled along the Ta’if accords that ended the Lebanese conflict in 1989-the risks of failure are huge. There are simply too many internal and external interests to address equitably.
In order to imagine, let alone predict, the possible developments that could emerge in the event of an extended truce, it helps to clarify who is fighting and what the various warring factions demand. The number and unclear goals of so many armed groups make such a classification problematic. For the sake of analysis, it must be simplified first in accordance to the main rifts that divide the interested parties. It must also be recognized that the Syrian civil war shows no signs of ending. Despite the many offensives, despite the peace conferences and foreign interventions, ceasefires and alleged aid convoys, things have only gotten worse. [continues...]
Uzbekistan: A New Boss
On September 2nd 2016, Islam Karimov, the leader of Uzbekistan, after 25 years at the helm of this large, oil and gas rich central Asian state, died of a stroke. Known through the world as one of the strongmen of the post-Soviet sphere, he earned a fearsome reputation as a repressive leader, a preeminent example of Homo Sovieticus, who had risen through the ranks of the Communist party to lead a’de facto’ police state, where power was concentrated within the ranks of the National Security Service, the modern KGB. The regime gained infamy in 2002, when a British ambassador revealed that a political prisoner had been boiled alive - a story which has come to typify its retrograde brutality. Reports that, in 2013, he beat his glamorous and powerful daughter, Gulnara... [continues...]