Here we go again!
Making her way to the stage at Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this week, Britain’s PM danced again, this time to the notes of Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’. Back in August the PM showed off her moves at a secondary school in South Africa. And just two days later she was moved into action again this time during a visit to the UN campus in Nairobi.
In what has been referred to by many commentators as the best speech of her premiership, May set out a vision for Britain post-Brexit that would do away with austerity and ensure that the fiscal conservatism of the Cameron-Osborne era is no longer the core pillar of government economic policy moving forward. She also spoke of a friendlier, more outward-looking country and drew attention to the crucial role of EU citizens. Gone was the PM who tore into the “citizens of nowhere”.
Her identification of “Jeremy Corbyn’s party” as a sectarian offshoot from the mainstream Labour tradition, and a betrayal of it, will resonate with many moderates in the party who are increasingly being pushed out of key decision making along with traditional Labour supporters in the traditional party heartlands.
On Brexit, she made plain that it’s her way or the highway and contrasted those who stood up for the “national interest” (her) with those who are seeking to pursue a narrower political agenda (Boris). Astonishingly May ploughs on.
The food industry is not impressed
This week the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the trade association representing what is the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector, responded to a speech by Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU in which he dismissed fears over a no-Brexit deal as ‘scaremongering’. FDF Chief Executive Ian Wright CBE noted that during the summer Raab – who is due in Brussels next week with the aim of breaking the Brexit deadlock – was the one ‘raising the possibility of stockpiling food and calling in the squaddies to help.’
The FDF did not embrace the appointment of MP David Rutley as new Food Supply Minister either. The creation of this role indicates possible catastrophes to come in case of a no-deal Brexit scenario. As Wright reminds us, the last person to occupy such a position oversaw the end of rationing in 1954.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, replied to these comments by stating that Rutley is only taking on responsibilities already held by other ministers and no further meaning should be inferred from the appointment.
The food and drinks sector is likely to be significantly impacted by a hard Brexit. It is therefore no surprise that the industry has become more vocal about their concerns as we get ever closer to the March 2019 deadline.
Trick or deal?
As Halloween approaches, we at Whitehouse are getting in the mood for spooky stories. Products stuck at the borders, price increases, delays at ports. These are only some of the potential consequences of a hard Brexit.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. European Council President Donald Tusk has said that he is hopefully that the EU and the UK will strike a deal before the end of the year, maybe even this month – during the next round of talks scheduled on 17 and 18 October. It’s worth bearing in mind that Tusk has shown sympathy for Britain before, having in the past advocated a new partnership “as close and special as possible” between the UK and the rest of the club.
Tusk took office in 2014 replacing Belgian Herman Van Rompuy, who, was known for his love of haiku. Relevant because this week we celebrated National Poetry Day!
What do Britain and Brazil have in common?
In many respects very little. But while it’s extremely likely that, post-Brexit, the EU will continue to be the main trading partner of Britain (if only for geographical reasons!), it is firmly in the UK’s interests to continue the hunt for global allies. And the UK may want to look a little beyond the US and China.
Brazil is known mostly for its paradisiac beaches and its obsession for football, but what else could it offer to Britain? It is a large economy with an abundance of raw materials. Brazil is part of the BRICS (the grouping acronym referring to Brazil, Russia, India and China as emerging economies), but there is a general feeling that it has failed to live up to the expectations of economic growth, with its ambitions overshadowed by corruption scandals, an unstable economy, and exceedingly high crime rates.
Brazil will shortly elect a new president, and it looks very likely that this will be the far-right, pro-gun, candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who promises to make Brazil ‘great again’. Bolsonaro has been accused of misogyny and homophobia and there are deep concerns that his authoritarian approach will hinder democracy in the country. As for the economy, he is eager to fight corruption by privatising state companies, limiting foreign ownership of natural resources and lowering taxes. Will there be space in his programme for trade talks with Britain, and is Brazil the type of partner the UK should be looking for?
Macron strikes again
France’s President Emmanuel Macron this week invited to dinner the heads of a range of UK carmakers, in an attempt to attract them to France post-Brexit and position his country as a major manufacturing hub. Carmakers have long been vocal about their concerns stemming from Britain’s departure from the UK. Could Macron hold the solution?
Until recently France was not known to be particularly business friendly, but Macron has all the intentions to show Europe that the country is taking a new direction and has positioned himself as the promoter of a deep economic revolution. Earlier this year Paris won the battle to host the London-based European Banking Authority (EBA), which is due to move to the French capital before March 2019.
Is France on the right path to leaving behind almost a decade as the sick man of Europe and regaining its ‘grandeur’?
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