Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: UK

Brexit is so Intractable Because Most British People Overestimate the Strength of the British Position

It’s been more than a month since British Prime Minister Theresa May told the British people that her deal was the best they were likely to get, and they still don’t believe her. In theory, Brexit can end one of four different ways:

  1. No Deal Brexit, in which Britain is unceremoniously dumped out of the EU.
  2. May’s Deal (or something very similar to it), in which Britain retains a lot of economic access to the EU but at the cost of the bulk of its policy independence. The UK leaves the EU, but becomes a vassal, subject to EU decisions with little say in them.
  3. Second Referendum (or “People’s Vote”), in which Britain runs another referendum hoping to secure a majority to reverse the result of the previous referendum and remain in the EU.
  4. The Fantasy Brexit Deal, in which either:

4A: May extracts further concessions from the EU, increasing British policy independence while retaining economic access to Europe.

or

4B: A general election produces a Labour government, and then Jeremy Corbyn extracts further concessions from the EU, accomplishing the same result as in 4A.

The problem is that #4 is not possible in either its A or B form, but nearly everyone in British politics operates under the delusion that it is.

Read the rest of this entry »

Corbyn’s Brexit Predicament

It’s been a little while since we’ve talked about the situation in Britain. For Jeremy Corbyn, it’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s increasingly clear Theresa May does not have a Brexit deal that can pass the commons and is unlikely to get one. On the other hand, May is determined to delay a vote on this deal until there is no time for there to be a general election followed by further negotiations. These two conditions–combined with the fact that most Labour MPs, party members, and voters want a second referendum–put Corbyn in a very sticky situation. Let’s run through the logic of his position.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Critique of Sam Harris

Over at Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson and Eli Massey have written the critique of Sam Harris. Robinson offers a magisterial, detailed overview of the rhetorical sleights of hand Harris uses to give relatively weak, unoriginal positions the imprimatur of “science” and “reason”. I want to add something to this discussion–something Robinson touches on but which I want to stay with for a minute. There is a core problem with the way Harris thinks which necessarily generates bad takes on Islam and the Muslim world.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Kavanaugh Hearings Encapsulate the Rampant Emotionalism of American Politics

The British have a visceral hatred for Donald Trump. It’s not because of his positions on immigration or tax policy–there are plenty of European politicians who are at least as far right as Trump is, substantively. No, it’s because of the way Trump presents himself. He’s combative, he gets angry, he makes flippant, emotional remarks. When British politicians show emotion it exposes them as weak, out of control, and unstable. If a British politician shouts or cries in public–especially in a formal setting–it’s embarrassing. It’s not proper behaviour. Everyone in Britain knows, from an early age, that this is just not how politicians are supposed to behave. They like their leaders calm, stoic, controlled. This is less true than it used to be–for a time, Tony Blair got away with wearing his heart on his sleeve. But there were always those who made fun of it, who thought it “un-British”. Whenever a British politician makes an emotional display and gets away with it, there is a chunk of British people who write nervous columns about creeping Americanisation. Having spent some years in the UK, I can spot the kind of American politics they hate a mile off. And it has never been so blatant, so in-your-face, as this senate hearing for Brett Kavanaugh.

Read the rest of this entry »

Is the Labour Party Finally Ready to Fight Brexit?

I wanted to write, and had written, the post you are about to read. Then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that a People’s Vote on Brexit needn’t and shouldn’t include an option to remain, undermining Labour’s stance and throwing the party firmly back into chaos. Nevertheless, for a brief moment, it almost looked like Labour was figuring out how to take strategic advantage of Theresa May’s Salzburg debacle. If it had, here’s what we would have been able to say:

The Labour Party, which has long expressed a soft Brexit position, now appears ready to stealthily embrace a second referendum. Leader Jeremy Corbyn now says that Labour will take whichever position on a “People’s Vote” its members prefer. Labour Party members poll heavily in favour of People’s Vote–the latest YouGov poll has 86% in favour and 8% opposed–so it is strongly likely that this decision means Labour will back People’s Vote. At the same time, by hiding behind the members, Corbyn can avoid giving the appearance of having personally U-turned. Today I want to talk about this apparent change in Labour’s strategy and what it would mean for the Brexit endgame.

Read the rest of this entry »