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Brexit: The views from Queen Mary academics

The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union is one of the biggest political news stories of our time and Queen Mary’s academic experts have featured regularly in the media.

28 January 2019


15 February 2019

The Economist has reported that MPs in both main parties are running scared of deselection. A form of populism, in which the virtuous people rise up against a corrupt elite, has got into both parties, says Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London. 

The virtuous are the grassroots members. In the Conservatives, the role of the corrupt elite is played by those MPs seen to be betraying Brexit. In the Labour Party, it is those MPs who criticise the leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Hard-core Brexiteers in the Tories and Mr Corbyn’s keenest supporters in Labour merrily stoke these feelings. Read more.

13 February 2019

In an interview with the New York Times, Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations commented on the possiblity of a no-deal Brexit. Prime Minister Theresa May has been accused of stalling for time when it comes to presenting a revised deal to MPs.

Professor Bale said: "I suspect that there are enough government ministers who are sufficiently worried about the consequences that, at the end of February, they will put their foot down and threaten to walk.

"But it will have to be some pretty high profile people," he added, noting that it was not in the DNA of the pro-Europeans to play hardball. "They are in some senses still seemingly happy to take a knife to a gunfight. They do have to start packing some heat instead of talking a good game."

On Tuesday Theresa May hinted strongly that were she to win a vote for a revised version of her deal, she would cut legislative corners to rush it through Parliament. It could potentially mean a vote just days before Brexit.

"It seems utterly preposterous that we get to a few days to go and no one knows what’s happening, but I do think in some ways that’s Theresa May’s ideal scenario because a lot of members of Parliament would then go for her deal," Professor Bale added.

11 February 2019

Following Donald Tusk’s declaration of a ‘special place in hell’ for Brexiteers without a plan, nearly two thirds of Brits think that the EU has been a harsh negotiator over Brexit, according to a survey from the Centre for European Research at Queen Mary University of London.

Key findings:

  • Overall, 58 per cent of the UK public believe the EU has been harsh towards the UK during Brexit negotiations
  • The survey reveals a large generational divide though. 78 per cent of over 65s believe the EU has been harsh but only 37 per cent of 18-24 year olds and 48 per cent of 25-49 year olds agreed.
  • That generational divide is also obvious when it comes to people’s feelings about the loss of the automatic right to live, work and study in EU countries: 63 per cent of 18-24 think that loss is serious but only 34 per cent of over-65s agree.
  • Nearly two thirds of Brits (62 per cent) believe that people from other European countries now view the UK negatively in the light of Brexit
  • A majority (55 per cent) of the public believe the citizens of other European countries will be pleased to see the UK leave the EU.

Commenting on the survey findings, Dr Sarah Wolff, Director of the Centre for European Research, said: “The Brexit negotiations don’t seem to have done either side any favours, with many British people feeling the EU side has been unduly harsh. But views on the process vary depending on age and, of course, on whether people are Leavers or Remainers. 

“Interestingly, though, even a majority of the latter think the EU will be weakened by the UK’s departure.  That said, only a minority of Brits think Europeans will be sorry to see us go.” Read more.

6 February 2019

Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott from Queen Mary's School of Law has written an opinion piece for Prospect Magazine in which she assess the UK's government's approach to the Brexit negotiations. Is the lesson only to be learned once it is too late? Read more.

5 February 2019

The Centre for European Research at Queen Mary is hosting an event on the challenge of populism in the EU; Why the Centre-right Might be Wrong on the eve of the 2019 European Elections: How do Mainstream Conservatives Handle Europe's Populist Challenge?

Discussions concerning the rise of populist political forces across Europe continue to intensify in the run-up to the European Parliament election which is to take place in May 2019. While populist parties are increasingly gaining momentum throughout the EU, many assert that the centre-right has yet to come up with viable strategies to tackle this challenge. The speakers at the event will aim to answer this and many more questions in what is expected to be a very vibrant debate involving the audience as well.

The event will take place on Monday 11 February 2019. For more details, and to book your place, visit the website.

31 January 2019

Responding to a thread on Twitter from BBC reporter Dan Snow about Brexit, Dr Chris Phillips from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations tweeted: "Spot on. Can people PLEASE stop bringing WWII into the Brexit debate and if they must do, make sure you know your history...."

The original thread was started in response to a contributor on Newsnight who, during a debate on Brexit, stated that the UK liberated France and Belgium during World War II. Dan Snow responded by arguing that Britain did not fight alone.

Dr Georg von Graevenitz, a Lecturer in Quantitative Methods at Queen Mary's School of Business and Management has written a blog asking if the government's Industrial Strategy will deliver in the light of Brexit.

Dr von Graevenitz argues that the government target to increase overall UK investment in R&D from 1.67% of GDP to 2.4% by 2027 is not very ambitious when measured against other comparable countries. He argues that this lack of ambition is likely to affect the future prosperity of people living in the UK. Read more.

29 January 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations posed an open question on Twitter following the announcement that Theresa May was to ask the EU to re-open negotiations concerning the so-called backstop.

Professor Bale tweeted: "Can anyone explain to me why a collective entity like the EU, knowing it still has at 2 years + of negotiations still to come with the UK, is going to fold on the Backstop, thereby confirming that it will always fold under pressure and sell out a member state at the last gasp?"

25 January 2019

Professor Philip Cowley from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has written a letter to The Times on the issue of the franchise in any fresh Brexit referendum. He wrote: "It pains me to disagree with such a distinguished former chairman of Queen Mary’s Council as Sir Nicholas Montagu (letter, Jan 24) but on the issue of the franchise in any fresh Brexit referendum he could not be more wrong.

"There may well be valid arguments for holding such a referendum. There may even be a general case for enfranchising 16 and 17-year-olds. Neither case especially convinces me, but the arguments are not without some merit. What there is not, however, is any case for fighting a second referendum using a different franchise from that of the first. As it is, in the event of any new vote, many of those who voted Leave in 2016 will understandably feel the political establishment are ignoring them. There cannot, in addition, be any suspicion that the establishment has put its thumb on the scales."

Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott from Queen Mary's School of Law published an article for Prospect Magazine in which she argues that a Sovereignty Act would reaffirm the power of the UK parliament. She writes: “Such legislation [Sovereignty Act] could enable citizens to bring an action in UK courts on the basis that EU law undermined UK constitutional rights. UK courts could refer the matter to the European Court of Justice, but the UK parliament could have the final say in determining if UK or EU law should be applied, thus counterbalancing any claims of an unelected judiciary having too much power.” Read more.

24 January 2019

On 22 January 2019, Dr Davor Jancic, Lecturer in the Law Department, took part in the expert roundtable in the House of Lords EU Select Committee. His contribution was invited within the framework of the Committee’s examination of the post-Brexit UK-EU interinstitutional relations.

Dr Jancic advised committee members on the challenges and avenues for Westminster’s future influence on EU institutions and the joint bodies likely to be set up after Brexit. He also spoke on the interparliamentary mechanisms for dialogue and scrutiny that should underpin UK-EU relations after Brexit.

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has written a blog for Involve, a UK-based public participation charity, in which he discussed political party membership.

He writes: "Survey after survey has demonstrated that Labour members want to remain in Europe and, more recently, are overwhelmingly in favour of a referendum to help bring an end to Brexit.  If Labour’s leadership, in its anxiety not to upset Leave voters, continues to maintain its studied ambivalence on the issue, then it risks effectively proving the cynics correct, thereby ensuring that what many have hailed as a renaissance of grassroots participation party politics ends up as a nail in its coffin." Read more. 

22 January 2019

The UK is increasingly polarized by Brexit identities and they seem to have become stronger than party identities, according to a new academic report in which several academics from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations contributed to.

The report, Brexit and public opinion 2019, by The UK in a Changing Europe, provides an authoritative, comprehensive and up-to-date guide to public opinion on each of the key issues around Brexit.

Only one in 16 people did not have a Brexit identity, while more than one in five said they had no party identity. Sir John Curtice’s latest analysis of public opinion on a further referendum finds there has been no decisive shift in favour of another referendum.

Professor Philip Cowley's work focused on the views of MPs. According to his research MPs who voted leave are overwhelmingly likely to think the process of Brexit has highlighted divisions that were already present in society. 78 per cent of Leave-voting MPs subscribed to this view.

Those who voted Remain, on the other hand, have a far more mixed perspective: 52 per cent think the principal effect of Brexit was that existing divisions were exposed, but 39 per cent think that the creation of new division has been the more important outcome.

Professor Tim Bale, Professor Paul Webb (University of Sussex) and Dr Monica Poletti contributed to a chapter on the views of political party members. They found that 82 per cent of Conservative Party members were opposed to holding another referendum if Mrs May’s deal couldn’t get parliamentary approval, while 79 per cent of Labour members wanted to see another vote held.

They argue that the current situation could profoundly shake up the existing party system. If Brexit isn’t delivered to the satisfaction of Conservatives, then there may soon be a lot of very unhappy Conservative Party members looking for a new home. Yet if it is, and Jeremy Corbyn is seen by his rank and file to have enabled it, then the same might be true for Labour party members too. 

Valsamis Mitsilegas, Professor of European Criminal Law and Global Security at Queen Mary, was interviewed on Estonian television about Brexit. He said: “Different MP’s have different preferences. Some of them have a preference for what is called a Norway plus agreement which means that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union but will remain part of the customs union and the single market. Some of them of them have preference for a second referendum but of course the issue with the second referendum is that we have a second stage of discussions to see what the questions on the ballot paper will be.”

20 January 2019

Dr Robert Saunders, Senior Lecturer in Modern British History looks back at the 1975 referendum on the UK's membership of the European Economic Community in a piece for BBC History Magazine. He considers what can be learned from that first referendum. Read more.

19 January 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has written an opinion piece in the Evening Standard in which he argues that Theresa May should reflect on history when it comes handling rebellions from her MPs. He wrote: "Mrs May opened this week’s debate on the meaningful vote by begging MPs to think about “when the history books are written”. She should do so, too.

"By reaching out beyond her party she can secure an agreement that makes far more sense for the future of the country than the deal Parliament has so resoundingly rejected. If some Tory MPs, blinded by ideology and imperial nostalgia, cannot see that, then the PM should let them go. A truly 21st-century Conservative Party could very well be better off without them. Read more

18 January 2019

Dr Sarah Wolff, Director of the Centre for European Research was interviews by Radio Canada on 15 January. In her view the defeat of Theresa May's Brexit deal in Parliament marks the beginning of the end of Brexit. She argued that the most possible scenario is that Theresa May requests more time to the EU to find a domestic solution. She explained that the options left were becoming increasingly limited but that from the perspective of Europeans, while they might agree to give more time to the UK, their objective would be to pressure the UK government to find a solution before the European elections. 

Dr Wolff believe that Europeans will continue to remain united and will not re-open the divorce deal. "This is an existential issue for European integration. The EU cannot facilitate the departure of one of its members," she said. Regarding the personal responsibility of Theresa May in this vote, she asserts that it was a collective responsibility. "British politicians, including Jeremy Corbyn, decided to impose incompatible red lines for themselves in their negotiations with Brussels," added Dr Wolff. She explained that it is not possible to claim to 'regain control' and to send polish immigrants back home while continuing to trade with Europe and to have peace in Northern Ireland. Listen to the interview here.

17 January 2019

Following the defeat of Theresa May's Brexit deal by 432 votes to 202, Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations was interviewed by the Chicago Tribute. He believes that May is unlikely to get changes to her deal that could "placate her Brexiteers." An alternative could be that she turns to the opposition and "reaches out to Labour and goes for a softer Brexit thanmost Brexiteers would contemplate."

Speaking to the Associated Press Professor Bale said that most leaders who had suffered a defeat on this scale would be “either resigning or looking to trash the deal that they’d got and do something utterly different.” May, however, has proven stubbornly resistant to changing her Brexit “red lines.” “It looks as if we’re just going to get more of the same and that she’ll come back in a week or so’s time with nothing substantially different from what we’ve got now,” Bale said.

In an interview with The New York Times, Professor Bale also discussed the dilemma facing centre-left parties in Europe more generally, as well as the UK Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn is loath to reverse Brexit and anger working-class Labour voters who opted to leave. But the Labour activists who powered his unlikely leadership bid are putting enormous pressure on him to do just that. Professor Bale said: "If you look around Europe, center-left parties are facing a dilemma. How do they maintain or even get back an electoral coalition of workers and middle-class, more educated voters?”

Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott from Queen Mary's School of Law published an article for Prospect magazine on what happens next after the Government's defeat after the vote on the Brexit deal. She writes: “Even the constitutional position is unclear, given that the British Constitution is not codified, but made up in part of a host of constitutional conventions, procedures and practices, very often arcane, recondite and difficult to track down—and then, so often not legally enforceable but malleable, allowing for flexibility and manoeuvre. This is why there has been so much argument and debate over recent decisions taken by the speaker John Bercow, as to whether certain amendments should be allowed.”

16 January 2019

Drawing on the latest polling data, Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has written an opinion piece for The Conversation exploring whether a so-called 'Norway option' would break the Brexit stalemate.

Professor Bale writes: "It looks as if possibly nearly two-thirds of voters, and almost certainly a majority of them, could probably live with Norway-plus. But before its advocates get too excited, they need to heed what may be one enormous, crucial caveat.

"Our survey noted that Norway-plus involved staying in the customs union and the single market. However, it did not remind voters that the latter would mean continuing to allow EU citizens the unfettered right to live and work in the UK. Were it to be made clear to the public that Norway-plus did not mean they could “take back control” of Britain’s borders, their reaction might well be very, very different." Read more.

Dr Sarah Wolff, Director of the Centre for European Research at Queen Mary provided her own analysis. She tweeted: "This is the beginning of the end of #Brexit, May is likely to survive the motion of no confidence and the Europeans won't renegotiate anything."

In an opinion piece for The Times, Professor Philip Cowley from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations argues that proportionally the Brexit rebellion beats the previous vote on the Iraq war.

Professor Cowley wrote: "This wasn’t a minor piece of policy either. This was the central piece of government policy; if not quite the only thing the government is currently doing, it is not far off. And it went down like the Hindenburg.

"It is a somewhat banal observation to make that, under normal circumstances, the prime minister would have resigned following such a defeat. But under normal circumstances, no party leader, knowing that such a stonking defeat was likely, would have pushed the issue to a vote.

"This is all – to borrow a phrase used here occasionally – not normal." Read more.

15 January 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations explores the reasons why people support and oppose Theresa May's Brexit deal in a joint piece for YouGov. Those who oppose the deal say they do so mainly because they either never wanted Brexit in the first place or because they’re convinced it’s a bad deal, often because they feel it doesn’t deliver the hard Brexit they’d ideally like. 

As for those who support it, few actually think it’s a good deal. The rest are prepared to live with it because at least it means we’re leaving or because it’s the best deal on offer – or because, ultimately, it’s better than no deal. Read more.

14 January 2019

Theresa May is reported to be facing defeat in parliament over her Brexit deal. If this is the case, where does it rank in terms of all-time parliamentary flops? Professor Philip Cowley from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations provided a historical analysis in The Economist. His list measures the number of votes against the government by its own MPs, rather than the size of the overall defeat (indeed, in four of his top five revolts, the government won with support from the opposition). Read more.  

13 January 2019

Writing in The Sunday Times, Professor Phillip Cowley commented on John Bercow's performance as Speaker in the House of Commons. According to Professor Cowley: "Soon after he became Speaker in 2009, John Bercow asked his key advisers to identify ways in which he could use his position to strengthen the House of Commons and make life more difficult for the government.

"One reform identified was to allow more urgent questions, dragging ministers to the chamber in a way his predecessors had never done. Many ministers hated it, but Bercow saw this as the greatest impact made by his speakership.

"His actions last week and in the days ahead may turn out to mark an even more important shift in the relationship between the executive and the legislature." Read more.

11 January 2019

More than 100 Tory MPs spoke out against Theresa May's Brexit deal before Christmas, and since then only two have publicly changed tack. Commenting in the Daily Mirror ahead of the parliamentary vote, Professor Phillip Cowley from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations said that the biggest post-war defeat for a prime minister was by 89 votes in 1979. Before that Mrs May must look back to 1924, which is one of only three examples of a government losing by more than 100 votes.

10 January 2019

Seventy per cent of MPs think Theresa May has done a poor job of negotiating Brexit – and more Conservative MPs think she has done a bad (47%) than a good job (34%), a new survey of MPs has found.

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations said: “None of this will make easy reading for the PM: the attitudes of Leave-voting Tories appear to be hardening rather than softening and they seem amazingly unfazed by the difficulties presented by both the Irish border issue and a No-Deal Brexit.”

9 January 2019

Nearly three quarters of MPs think Theresa May has done a poor job of negotiating Brexit according to a survey from The UK in a Changing Europe and the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London. Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary: "None of this will make easy reading for the Prime Minister. The attitudes of Leave-voting Tories appear to be hardening rather than softening and they seem amazingly unfazed by the difficulties presented by both the Irish border issue and a No-Deal Brexit." Read more.  

Dr Robert Saunders published an opinion piece for The Guardian where he argues that ‘with a disorderly Brexit on the horizon, a timely lesson in humility may be fast approaching’. He writes: “The liberation that Britain so urgently needs is not from Brussels, but from its own illusions. A lesson in humility may be fast approaching – but a disorderly Brexit would be a cruel teacher. As so often, it will not be the worst delinquents who pay the highest price.” Read more.

Dr Lee Jones, Reader in International Politics at Queen Mary, was amongst 15 academics to write to The Guardian letters arguing that universities do not need to fear a no-deal Brexit. The letter reads: “The idea that whole countries should be forced into political servitude in order to qualify for academic or scientific mutual exchange is ridiculous, illogical and completely without evidence. No country has ever had to accept this from the EU before. The first major act of the May government was to pledge to support a Swiss-style payment into mutual academic research programmes, which answers the Russell Group’s funding complaints.” Read more.

4 January 2019

More than half of Conservative party members want Theresa May’s Brexit deal to be rejected in favour of leaving the EU with no deal, according to further polling released from Queen Mary's ESRC-sponsored Party Members Project

If a new referendum were called with the options of leaving without a deal, staying in the EU or leaving with May’s deal, 57 per cent of Conservative Party members preferred leaving without a deal. Only 23 per cent of members said they would vote for May’s deal in a three-way referendum.

If there was a two-option referendum with no deal or May’s deal, just 29 per cent of members would vote for May’s deal, compared with 64 per cent who would vote to leave the EU without a deal.

“If Theresa May is hoping that her MPs will return to Westminster having been persuaded by their constituency associations to back her Brexit deal, she’s going to be disappointed.

“It appears that those members are in no mood for compromise. Moreover, the Tory rank and file, it seems, are convinced that no deal is better than May’s deal,” said Professor Tim Bale, from Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations. Read more.

2 January 2019

Labour members want Jeremy Corbyn to back a second referendum according to latest figures from Queen Mary's ESRC-sponsored Party Members Project. The survey of Labour’s grassroots clearly shows that Corbyn’s apparent willingness to see the UK leave the EU – a stance he has recently reiterated – is seriously at odds with what the overwhelming majority of Labour’s members want, and it doesn’t reflect the views of most Labour voters either. Read more.

18 December 2018

In a letter to the editor of the Evening Standard Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations argues that so-called 'Snowflake Brexiteers' should expect "a bit of name-calling." The full letter, listed below, can also be viewed here, along with the editor's response.

"STICKS and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." How many times did we hear that from our parents when we were children? Yet strangely, that sage advice seems to have passed some Europhobic Tories by. They are apparently outraged at being called nasty names by some of the bigger boys in the Westminster playground, including the Chancellor himself [“Tory party ‘risks splitting’ as storm rages over Hammond’s extremist Brexiteers jibe”, December 14].

It is surely pretty rich of them to complain, given their constant sniping at colleagues who, instead of flouncing off in a huff as soon as things don’t go their way, have been doing their damnedest to pull off the near-impossible trick of delivering a Brexit that will “take back control” of the UK’s borders without trashing the economy or re-establishing a hard border in Ireland.

Anyway, this sort of rough and tumble is hardly without precedent in Conservative Party history. One only has to go back to the Nineties to recall some of the invective heaped on Tory PM John Major by those opposed to the Maastricht Treaty, many of whom had never forgiven him for replacing their political pin-up, Margaret Thatcher. No wonder the normally mild-mannered Mr Major got caught calling them “bastards”.

But “bastards” was a badge sceptics wore with honour. Their successors should stop being so sensitive.

17 December 2018

After two years of bickering, confusion and uncivil war over what Brexit should look like, and as it has become clear that the version approved by the EU and May’s cabinet has little chance of passing Parliament, more and more Brits are wondering whether a second “people’s vote” might be the only thing to break the impasse.

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations gave an interview to The New York Times where he discussed the prospect of a second referendum. He said: "I didn’t think it very likely, but now I’m beginning to wonder if it’s the only exit out of a burning building."

Dr Lee Jones, a Reader in International Politics at Queen Mary made an appearance on TRT World where he discussed the various options that Theresa May might choose. "At this late stage you really have three choices," he said. "You either endorse the deal that she put on the table, which I think is highly problematic, or you stay in the European Union and cancel Brexit altogether, which I think would be disastrous democratically, or you prepare for an exit without a withdrawal agreement. Those are the choices, there is no more time left to go back to Europe to renegotiate." Watch the full interview here.

Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott from Queen Mary's School of Law wrote an opinion piece for Prospect Magazine in which she wrote about the UK Supreme Court decision on the legality of the Scottish Continuity Bill adopted by the Scottish parliament back in March, and its compatibility with the UK EU Withdrawal Act (EUWA) which became law in June 2018. 

Professor Douglas-Scott argues that devolved authorities feel their interests have not been taken seriously. In the EU referendum, the UK as whole voted Leave. However, the vote was split by many things, including geographical location and cultural background. Sixty-two per cent of Scotland’s voting electorate voted Remain, and the Scottish government remains opposed to Brexit. Yet, unlike federal states, devolved nations have no legal means of ensuring their different perspectives and needs are taken into account. The United Kingdom is a 'disunited kingdom' and Brexit illustrates this very clearly according to Professor Douglas-Scott.

10 December 2018

In an opinion piece for The Times, Professor Philip Cowley from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations explores what could happen should Theresa May’s government face defeat in the forthcoming Brexit vote in the House of Commons. He argues that the government could suffer the largest backbench rebellion in modern British politics tomorrow — and the largest Commons defeat for at least a century. 

Theresa May enjoys no majority and has next to no support from across the floor of the House, and so if — as everyone expects — the government is defeated tomorrow, the next useful comparison is the scale of that defeat.

Professor Cowley argues that while governments are occasionally defeated in the Commons, they are rarely heavily defeated. If, as is widely believed, the government is looking at a defeat by more than a hundred votes, that will be something that has only happened three times in the last hundred years.

In another opinion piece, Dr Davor Jancic from Queen Mary's School of Law argues that changes to the EU withdrawal bill represent a mini victory for the UK but one which is fragile due to its uncertain compatibility with EU law.

From February to November 2018, the draft withdrawal agreement saw a number of important changes. One of the most striking ones concerns dispute resolution. Throughout Brexit negotiations, the EU was adamant to maintain the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), while the UK insisted on ending it. The latest version replaces the ECJ with arbitration under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

According to Dr Jancic, this is a significant concession by Michel Barnier, and an important diplomatic triumph for Theresa May, who has repeatedly argued that disputes cannot be resolved by the court of either party, and for Boris Johnson, who has vocally advocated the option of arbitration.

3 December 2018

Speaking on the BBC's The Week in Parliament programme, Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations discussed the upcoming parliamentary vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill. Professor Bale said: "I think its [the vote] is a measure of strength from the various factions in the House of Commons. The eventual result does matter in the sense that it will give us all a clue as to how possible it will be for Theresa May to pass the Withdrawal Bill on the second attempt. I think we are already assuming that this first attempt won't make any difference.  

"For the government it gives her another chance to tell to the country the Withdrawal Bill. After all it will feature in the news headlines every night for five days. If she can make some good arguments, and get her colleagues to make some good arguments for the Withdrawal Bill, perhaps that will help her in what is effectively a long-term war of attrition. It's not about just the run-up to December 11th, it's what happens after that and possibly going into January," he added.

23 November 2018

In an opinion piece written for The Guardian, Tim Bale, Professor of Politics in Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations, asserts that the power of hard-line Brexiteers should not be underestimated.

Professor Bale said: “No one should allow the recent failures of Messrs Rees-Mogg and Baker to muster the famous 48 letters required to trigger a no-confidence vote in May to fool them into thinking that Conservative Euro-fanatics are and always have been merely a phantom army.

“Maybe once upon a time that was the case, and maybe they’ve never been quite as numerous as they, and their equally obsessive media cheerleaders, have liked to suggest. But, with the Tory press on their side, with Ukip waiting in the wings, with constituency associations and even their less fanatical parliamentary colleagues growing ever more hostile to the EU, and – most importantly – with the maths as tight as it’s often been, they haven’t really needed to be. And that remains as true right now as it has been in the past.”

In an interview with The New York Times, Professor Bale also commented on Rees-Mogg’s decision to make public his letter of no-confidence in Theresa May’s leadership, describing it as ‘highly unusual’. Professor Bale said: “You used to be able to rely on Tory MPs to be broadly loyal. I think now you have a bunch of people who are actually prepared to die in a ditch for an idea or a principle, and that is a big, big change.”

Deal or no deal?

Dr Stijn van Kessel, Lecturer in European Politics in Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations was interviewed on BBC Radio London about the EU’s perspective on a future Brexit agreement. Dr van Kessel said: “There’s no general mood that the UK should be punished. It’s actually a widespread mood of regret that Brexit is happening and a realisation that it’s no good for any side really – that’s the dominant attitude at least.

“Radical right parties that are generally very Eurosceptic do not really make this a big issue and Brexit is not seen as a means to fuel their own Euroscepticism. There’s a widespread desire that it is best if we just move on with it and make the divorce as orderly as possible,” he added.

The effects of Brexit on mental and physical health

Commenting on a recent study for CNN which reported a rise in the number of antidepressants prescribed in England after the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, Kamaldeep Bhui CBE, Professor of Cultural Psychiatry & Epidemiology at Queen Mary said: “The study mainly looked at antidepressant prescriptions, which is not a perfect method to measure mental health. Antidepressant monitoring data is not very accurate, and there are many reasons people may take such drugs.

“But the study is an important signal and politicians need to be more careful about decision-making, and how it affects people’s health. There is a link between Brexit and health and it’s worth thinking about.

“A fragmenting society brings health problems which affect everybody, because people feel less supported when communities break down. The acrimony sparked by Brexit risks increased rates of distress, anxiety, depression and related issues, leading to excessive use of alcohol and perhaps even unhealthy eating behaviours and obesity.

“The vote to leave the EU was, in part, an expression of growing right-wing extremism and discrimination in the UK. This causes higher levels of fear, anxiety and depression among ethnic minorities at the receiving end of racism and intolerance.

“People who experience racism and discrimination have higher levels of poor mental health. They also have high blood pressure, more physical health problems and the stress produces all sorts of changes in the body, including triggering immune responses that may explain poorer mental and physical health.

“The extremists themselves are also at risk of suffering mental health problems, as they are dealing with a lot of anger, frustration and conflict, all contributing to dissatisfaction and poor mental health,” he added.

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