Britain

Theresa May’s Brexit vision

At the UK Conservative party conference this week we got a clearer sense of Theresa May’s Brexit vision, with the prime minister announcing that the process for leaving the bloc will be formally set in motion early next year. So what are the implications at this stage for Britain – and for Europe? Gideon Rachman puts the question to Daniel Dombey, the FT’s Brexit editor, and Brussels bureau chief Alex Barker.

Theresa May, the UK prime minister, says that “Brexit means Brexit”. But when will it actually happen?

The whole question of the timing of Britain’s departure from the EU is now open to question. Britain has still not triggered Article 50, which gives formal notification that the UK intends to leave and fires the starting gun for negotiations. The Sunday Times claimed recently that Article 50 may not be triggered until late next year because of a mixture of administrative chaos in the UK and political uncertainty caused by elections in France and Germany in 2017.

Given that it will then probably take a minimum of two years to negotiate the divorce, that would mean that Britain’s exit from the EU would not happen until the end of 2019. Over at the Independent, however, Andrew Grice makes the case that delaying Brexit this long is not politically feasibleRead more

Chilcot report issues damning verdict on Iraq war

This week’s Chilcot report delivered a damning verdict on Britain’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003. The UK’s political, military and intelligence establishments were all implicated, but particular criticism was reserved for Tony Blair, the former prime minister. Daniel Dombey discusses the report’s findings with the FT’s James Blitz and Roula Khalaf

Broken-hearted by Brexit, thousands of Britons are applying, or thinking of applying, for citizenship in another EU country. All I can say is, unless you have recently won the BBC television quiz shows Mastermind or University Challenge, forget Denmark.

According to Inger Støjberg, Denmark’s integration minister, more than two-thirds of the first batch of foreign applicants who took a new Danish citizenship test in June have failed the exam. Only 31.2 per cent passed, she announced on Tuesday. Take a look at some of the questions, and you will see why most people have flunked the test. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

More than a decade ago, I had a curious conversation with Nigel Farage in a restaurant in Strasbourg. The outgoing leader of the UK Independence party told me that his hobby was leading tours of the battlefields of the first world war. He said he was sure that, if it came to it, Britain could again summon up the martial spirit that saw it through the Great War. Read more

“Now it’s our turn!” So said Geert Wilders (above), leader of the far-right PVV party in the Netherlands, after the UK electorate voted in last week’s referendum to leave the EU.

In practice, there is next to no chance of a Dutch referendum on EU membership — certainly not under Dutch law as it stands. However, to say this is not to underestimate the serious political challenges that lie ahead in the Netherlands. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

All good dramas involve the suspension of disbelief. So it was with Brexit. I went to bed at 4am on Friday depressed that Britain had voted to leave the EU. The following day my gloom only deepened. But then, belatedly, I realised that I have seen this film before. I know how it ends. And it does not end with the UK leaving Europe.

Just a few months ago the idea that Britons would vote to leave the EU seemed implausible. But to the shock of the world, that’s what they just did. A short while back the idea of Donald Trump as president seemed equally inconceivable. Does the Brexit vote tell us we should now upgrade the odds of him winning? Read more

With just a day to go before voting, the result of the British referendum on EU membership is anybody’s guess. The most recent FT poll-of-polls has Leave ahead by 45-44 – and there will be further polls released later today. Those hopeful Remainers who thought they had spotted a potentially decisive surge to their side late last week have been disappointed, as some recent polls have seen a swing back to Leave.

Both sides have an extra factor from which they take comfort. The Remain side point to the fact that the bookmakers still predict that Britain will vote to Remain inside the EU – Ladbrokes, my local turf accountants, are offering odds of 3-1 against Brexit. But the pro-Leave camp have a different source of encouragement. They are boosted by the extremely strong pro-Leave sentiment that many MPs are encountering on the doorsteps, as they campaign. One pro-Leave campaigner says that if that sentiment is genuinely reflected at the ballot box, he would not be surprised if his side wins by as much as 57-43. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

In the referendum campaign on Britain’s membership of the EU, each side has one trump card that they will play repeatedly until voting day on June 23. The Remain camp will talk about the economy. The Leavers will talk about immigration. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

Last week, as President Obama entertained the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner and Britain indulged in a bizarre debate about whether Hitler was a Zionist, more than 200 people were killed in a brutal bombardment of Aleppo. The breakdown of Syria’s fragile ceasefire promises yet more suffering in a five-year long war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and created millions of refugees.

By Gideon Rachman

When supporters of the Vote Leave campaign sketch out a future for Britain outside the EU, they often point to the Anglosphere of English-speaking nations — bequeathed by Britain’s imperial past. So Barack Obama’s intervention in Britain’s EU referendum last week was a potentially devastating moment for the Brexit campaign. Here was the president of the US — the most powerful member of the Anglosphere — arguing forcefully for Britain to stay inside the EU.

By Gideon Rachman

The British debate about Brexit, at the moment, reminds me of the discussions I heard in the US, late last year, about Donald Trump. Back then the opinion polls said that Mr Trump was well ahead in the race. But the conventional wisdom in Washington was that he would never win the Republican presidential nomination. Everybody told me that, once voters focused on the race, Mr Trump’s lead would crumble.

Britain’s referendum on the EU
David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, announced the details of Britain’s draft deal to renegotiate its relationship with the EU – but where does that leave the debate? Gideon Rachman discusses with George Parker, UK political editor and Alex Barker, Brussels Correspondent

David Cameron is a gifted politician. He has a knack for sounding both reasonable and reassuring that, in another life, would have made him an excellent second-hand car salesman.

But the prime minister will need all his political skills to persuade British voters that the draft deal he has struck represents the fundamental change in the relationship between Britain and the EU that he once promised. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
When judging forecasts about 2016, beware of the “continuity bias”. This is the temptation to assume that this year will be a bit like last year — only more so. In fact, recent political history suggests that the events that define a year tend to be the big surprises and sudden discontinuities (call them “black swans” or “unknown unknowns”, if you must).

Cameron’s message to the European Union
David Cameron has set out his demands for a new relationship with the European Union ahead of a referendum on Britain’s membership. Gideon Rachman discusses how the UK prime minister’s message is being received at home and in the rest of Europe with George Parker and Alex Barker

UK rolls out the red carpet for China

President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK has featured all the pomp and circumstance the UK can muster. Has it cemented the UK’s place as a prosperous best friend to China in the West or has Britain bowed too deeply to an authoritarian regime? Joshua Chaffin puts the question to Jamil Anderlini and Demetri Sevastopulo.

Satellite image of man-made islands in the South China Sea

This week I have had the pleasure of escaping from Europe’s obsession with the Greek crisis and travelling to Sydney for the Australia-UK Asia dialogue, which is taking place at the Lowy Institute – Australia’s leading foreign-policy think-tank. The idea is to bring together British and Australian experts to discuss trends in Asia – and, it is hoped, to form common views and approaches. But, after the first day of discussion, I was left wondering whether the “tyranny of distance” may ensure that the Brits and the Australians will struggle to form a common view.

It is not so much a difference of interpretation, between the two sides, as a gap in urgency. For the Australians, the rise of China overshadows all other issues and raises fundamental questions about the role and future of their country – as an outpost of the west in the southern Pacific, with a rising China to the north. For the moment, however, the British can still treat the rise of China as a second-order issue – while policymakers in London obsess about Europe and keep a wary eye on Russia and the Middle East. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Neither man would appreciate the comparison, but Alexis Tsipras and David Cameron are in remarkably similar situations.