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zompist bboard • View topic - A Very Brief Explanation of the British Election

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:16 am 
Avisaru
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I'd still suggest to make all the major purchases you are thinking of doing from Britain before the deadline comes, unless you are up for paying import duties. The way things are going I can't be too hopeful that we'll have a sensible trade agreement by April 2019.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:18 am 
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Speaking of Brejoinxit, here's a word that shows that May is in some trouble: Mayite.

The problem is, it's not a word.

Thatcher, you see, spawned the ideology of Thacherism and a generation of Thatcherites. Blair had his Blairites (in an uneasy coalition with Brown's Brownites). "Cameronite" was rarely used, and only early on, and "Osbornite" only now and then reared its head; and yet there was a general sense that the "Cameroons" (the "Etonians", the "Old Boy's Club", the "Bullingdons") were A Thing. They were often described, sometimes in alliance with their progenitors, the Portillistas*, as simply "the modernisers". The fact that Cameron was unable to stamp his own -ism onto the modernisers was always an indication of his weakness, both politically and personally - intellectually overshadowed by fellow travellers like Osborne and Letwin, and quickly abandoning his own signature policies (like the vague, never-understood "Big Society"), he always felt like a temporary leader, to the extent that it's actually a big hard to remember that he ruled the country for a decade.

But May doesn't even have that: she's not just unable to stamp her brand onto her movement, she doesn't have a movement. It's not because she doesn't have an ideology. In fact, she has an ideology that represent a radical change in Tory policy, a repudiation of every Tory ideologue since, and including, Thatcher (her manifesto was littered with lines about not trusting the market and how government was the solution, which Thatcher would have vomited at). It's an ideology that probably could be very electorally succesful right now.

But it has no adherents - not even really May herself. Electoral defeat, and the shadow of Brexit, give her no room to carve an ideological path, and in any case she has few if any personal supporters. It's just her. The parallel here is with John Major - similarly, there were never any Majorites. Now, Major survived an entire term in office and came out of it with high personal popularity. But that inability to impose any clear sense of ideological purpose, or even factional loyalty, crippled his government and put the Tories out of office for more than a decade. [In the last 30 years, the Tories have now won majorities in only two elections... their period out of power after Major was their longest spell without power since 1760]


Of course, it's also worth noting that there are no Hammondites or Johnsonites either. Johnson because he has no ideology, just a personal brand - he has fans, but not a movement. Hammond because he's considered "so dull he could put a wooden leg to sleep" (to quote an MP), and is known to his 'fans' (pragmatic, reluctant supporters) as "Spreadsheet Phil". This is also in a way a problem for the PM: because she's not fighting against two politicians, she's fighting against two organic halfs of the party. If she does sack Johnson, for instance, there'll be another Hard Brexit guy along to take his place.


*the Portillistas were a thing between about 1995 and 2005. They emerged out of the far right of the party, but demanded the 'modernisation' of the party. Essentially, Portillo and his followers were a sort of soft libertarian: they wanted the party to drop the old 'dinosaur' attitudes that made the party seem like (to quote the current PM) "the nasty party" (in the 1990s, for instance, the party was passionately opposed to homosexuality and single mothers), become more socially liberal, become more modern and friendly and young in style, and embrace neoliberal policies more fully. This "detoxification" project was largely fulfilled by Cameron. It was never entirely convincing though, as explained in The Thick Of It:

Portillo also gave the old political phrase "up for Portillo" - but not with the meaning you might think. In the 1997 election, the hated Conservatives were swept from office in a landslide, so great that even many of their senior MPs (who normally have relatively safe seats) lost their jobs. (it was the worst Tory defeat in terms of seats since 1906, and the worst in terms of electoral share since 1832). 33 ministers lost their jobs, including the Foreign Secretary. It made for a night of compelling viewing, in which the joy of watching slimy bastards everyone hated get sacked vied with the need to go to bed (because our election result happen in the middle of the night). For weeks to come, office conversations inevitably turned to asking how late into the night everyone had stayed up, and in particular whether they had been "up for Portillo". The "Portillo Moment" (it has its own wikipedia page!) occured at 3:10 in the morning, when Michael Denzil Xavier Portillo, Secretary of State for Defence, favourite to become the next leader of the conservative party, was defending his constituency, which he had held for 13 years, with a majority of nearly 16,000 (out of around 45,000 votes in total)... and lost, to an openly gay young man nobody had ever heard of. As Portillo commented in hindsight years later: "My name is now synonymous with eating a bucketload of shit in public."

[see, here, our election results involve the candidates, including the mad ones, standing on stage together while someone slowly reads out the results live, and then the camera fixating on the despairing smiles plastered onto the faces of the losers. If they're important losers, the cameras will even stick around for their attempt to make a 'gracious' speech about having been publically humiliated in this way. Then it's off for the humiliating interviews (Portillo was asked whether he was going to miss the ministerial limo). We like our politics to be a bloodsport...]

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 6:05 pm 
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So it seems a scheduled meeting about the UK's progress toward initial negotiations took all of 90 seconds. And the timeline is not a year and a half from now, but if anybody wants a transition period. The clock is ticking.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2017 2:37 pm 
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So, I voted to remain during the referendum last year, and a tad annoyed at the result, but I'm still not sure where I stand on it. On the one hand (despite poor to non-existent attempts to make it clear) the referendum was non-binding. On the other hand, the failure of MPs to agree with the views of their constituents on the matter could be viewed as "undemocratic" if not plain "unrepresentative". Some people feel they voted the wrong way, but having a "do over" every time we feel like we messed up could cost the country both money and time.

Personally, I think the UK as a whole should accept that Brexit is going to happen. In the end, it's what the majority of people who were bothered or interested enough voted for, but that doesn't mean individuals shouldn't be able to voice opposition to that decision. They still need to be heard, so they should still speak.

What's really gotten to me is what the referendum and the following election have shown about the way we vote in the UK. For example, England, even excluding London, vastly outnumbers the other constituent countries of the UK to the point where even a slight English majority in favour of one action can negate any opposition from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and that really needs to be addressed. FPTP, despite the failure of the electoral reform referendum to gain support in favour of switching to AV, doesn't seem to be popular either, with Parliament still being quite unrepresentative (IIRC, in the most recent election, if you take a simplistic Left vs. Right view of the parties, the majority of votes were given to "Left wing" parties, but we've ended up with a "Right wing" minority government propped up by an even more "Right wing" party).

Brexit is an issue that, thanks to the way the public voted, we have to deal with now, but it's not the only issue in the UK in terms of how are political system works, and it bugs me sometimes that it gets overlooked. I'm not saying things need to change right away, but why the hell it's not being talked about more widely I don't know.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 01, 2017 6:07 pm 
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Something interesting just happened.

Parliament just passed a motion to present a humble address to Her Majesty requesting that government reports into the likely impact of Brexit be laid before the House. Driven by Labour, it gained the support of some Tories, including Rees-Mogg, and passed unanimously, as the government didn't bother to protest it, probably because it assumed it was just a general symbolic gesture.

However, it seems pretty clear that it's actually legally binding. Parliament as a whole doesn't normally demand documents, hasn't done for hundreds of years, but Select Committees do have the power to demand documents (and subpoena people), and in principle this power must be delegated to them by (and hence still be in the hands of) Parliament itself. Moreover, while it may be an unusual thing to do, Parliament is sovereign - legally speaking, a vote in Parliament can accomplish absolutely anything. [restrictions on congress built into the US constitution, like the prohibition on acts of attainder, are there precisely out of fear of the supreme power of the UK parliament]

This - the idea of MPs making demands - may not be surprising to Americans, but Parliament is traditionally much weaker (in practice, if stronger in theory) than Congress, and this is kind of a surprising thing.

It may not matter anyway, as the government has indicated they may not care to actually obey parliament this time, even if it is legally required to - there isn't really any sort of mechanism that would feasibly compel it if it chose not to. Indeed, part of the wider debate is the Tory attempt to force through 'Henry VIII powers', that would take legislative power away from Parliament altogether and give it to the Prime Minister.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 5:54 am 
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"Britain-hating Labour forces Government to show all its cards in Brexit negotiations".


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 7:43 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 9:46 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 8:28 pm 
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Er... well. Let's take a step back.

Parliament makes laws. This is called primary legislation.

But lots of laws need to be passed, including a lot of really boring, technical ones. So, starting largely in the 19th century, Parliament started allowing the Government to fill in some of the fiddly bits themselves. This is called secondary legislation. By now, there are hundreds of pieces of secondary legislation (called 'statutory implements') made every year.

Typically, Parliament passes a law, which includes some clauses in the small print allowing the relevent government minister to work out and over time change some of the technical details as the conditions require. For instance, in 2016 the government enacted the 338th statutory implement of the year, the "The A5 and A483 Trunk Roads (Halton Roundabout, near Chirk, Wrexham County Borough) (Temporary Traffic Restrictions & Prohibitions) Order 2016." Shortly after that they passed the "The A479 Trunk Road (Lower Genffordd Bends & Pengenffordd, South of Talgarth, Powys) (Temporary Prohibition of Vehicles) Order 2016", and, in a change of topic, the "The Income Tax (Travel Expenses of Members of Local Authorities etc.) Regulations 2016", befoe heading back to the "The A55 Trunk Road (Junction 24 (Faenol Interchange), Conwy to Junction 27 (Talardy Interchange), Denbighshire) (Temporary Prohibition of Vehicles, Cyclists & Pedestrians) Order 2016".

The point is, Parliament doesn't want to have to pass a bill every time the government wants to close a road for traffic works, or wants to reword some phrasing in the regulations for the submission of travel expense claims by local authority members.


But! Remember the basic principle of Parliament: Parliament is sovereign. It can pass any law it wants. And that means that it's possible for Parliament to pass primary legislation that includes clauses that allow the Government to pass secondary legislation that has the same status as primary legislation (and that therefore is likewise sovereign and able to overrule any act of Parliament, including the act that gives them that power).

For the last century, these have been termed Henry VIII clauses (the name's from David Lloyd George). This is because Henry VIII persuaded Parliament to pass an act that gave the king's proclamations the weight of law - an unprecedented and soon-reversed concession of power to the monarchy. [although Henry's powers were haggled down in Parliament, and ended up largely limited to religious matters.] As the Prime Minister is the representative of the Queen, this is essentially what modern HVIII clauses do. When it happens in other countries (like Weimar Germany) we call it an "Enabling Act".

-----

Now, Brexit. EU laws have become British laws. When Brexit happens, this will be a problem. A whole bunch of these laws will directly contradict Brexit, while others will be nonsensical after Brexit. Brexiteers will not tolerate a "Brexit" that leaves us with laws saying that we have to defer to various EU institutions, for instance! But the number of laws concerned is huge, and time is limited. On the other hand, we can't just ignore all the EU laws, since lots of other laws now rely on them.

So, the "Great Repeal Bill" will simply make all EU laws into ordinary British laws now, so that nothing immediately breaks with Brexit, and then use Henry VIII clauses to allow the Government to gradually edit all the hundreds of affected laws to Brexitise them, without Parliament having to have an entire debate and legislation process for each change, which would take forever.

---------

Of course, HVIII clauses have been used before. New Labour repeatedly attempted to introduce sweeping enabling acts, most notably the so-called (not officially!) 'abolition of parliament act' of 2006. But these provoked considerable opposition and eventually their powers were limited. The 2006 act introduced safeguard procedures and limited what the powers could be used for (regulatory simplification).
Most relevently, when we joined the EU there was an HVIIIC passed to allow ministers to change any law to bring it into harmony with EU law.

The difference is, that HVIIIC specified a clear limit and purpose to the power, and that was making laws compatible with democratically-enacted EU laws. The Repeal HVIIIC will be different, because there's no inherent limit.

This is because the goal is "make Brexiteers happy". That's not something with an objective definition. When an existing law is edited by the government to remove mention of the EU and if necessary add in mention of other institutions - which other institutions? When is it necessary? Effectively the standard is "make the new laws do what the old laws did, but without all the EU-ness". But both "what the old laws did" and "EU-ness" are subjective terms. So the clause will give the Government virtually unlimited powers.

[For instance, what about human rights legislation? In a narrow sense, Brexiting this just means taking the Human Rights Act and removing mentions of the EU and the European Court of Human Rights. But Brexiteers will say that the HRA was forced onto us by the EU, was essentially written by the EU, and hence must be removed if we are to be really free of the EU. So the HVIII clause will allow May to decide which, if any, human rights to retain. Similarly, say, fish quotas. Remainers will say we should keep the same quotas, just don't explicitly say that they're set by the EU. Leavers will say that the idea of fishing quotas is an evil EU imposition onto our sovereignty, and we can't be free until they've been removed and our fishermen are free to catch any fish they want anywhere. May will get to chose between those interpretations - or anywhere in between. Essentially, every single thing enacted into law since 1972 can be claimed to be at least in part forced upon us by the EU, and hence at least potentially a valid target of the Brexiting, de-EU-ising process. ]

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But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
as though her heart was brook: Why, why, why! Weh, O weh
I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:34 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:46 am 
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jmcd: yes and no. Like most of my classmates, I watched it religiously in the Deayton years, but less and less since then. I was irritated by the way Merton and Hislop stabbed Deayton in the back, and found them increasingly smug and lazy - likewise, the guest presenters were hit-and-miss, and the writing for them had clearly declined. In general, it became a much softer, more comfortable show, which I didn't like so much (to be fair, this started years before Deayton went, but that was kind of an obvious landmark). [and then the ignominy of effectively being replaced by Mock the Week, which was both funnier and more controversial - like if someone at the BBC actually said "we need something like HIGNFY, but actually funny again".]. I've watched it occasionally since when I've heard there's a good guest presenter on. However, this last season I've actually watched most of it, for some reason, albeit only on the iplayer when I have a blank half hour - it's not as good as it was, but it's still entertaining.


----------------------
--------------------------------

As it's been demanded of me in the 'nag Salmoneus' thread, an explanation of why the border issue is an issue:

As you know, four entities exist: Britain; Northern Ireland; Ireland; and Europe.

After Brexit, Britain and Europe will, it is assumed, no longer share a common market. Customs will be imposed on imports and exports. Things will be legal to sell in one country but not in another (due to differences in regulations). Likewise, there will be people with a right to be in one place, but no right to cross into another. The Brexiteers claim - and, let's be honest, on this they are quite right, that restricting the flow of goods and people between Europe and Britain is probably the single most important part of "what people voted for" in the referendum. Therefore, we know one thing: 1. there must be a hard border somewhere between Britain and Europe. Not just on a map, but, you know, with guards and customs inspectors and things.

Now, the Channel makes for an easy border. Everything crossing the Channel already does so on a boat or on a train or on a plane, and ports and stations and airports all have their own security systems in place already, so it's just a matter of slightly stepping up those systems.

But the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland is a different matter. There currently is no 'hard border', so it can't currently do that necessary job. So how can this be dealt with? Let's rule out some possibilities...

2. there cannot be a hard border between Ireland and Europe.
This is fundamental to the idea of the EU. Unless Ireland leaves the EU - which it absolutely does not want to do - it cannot prevents the flow of goods and people between it and the EU. Many people in Britain think it's their duty to, to make things easier for us, but they won't. Legalities aside, it would ruin their economy.

3. there cannot be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
There are basically five reasons for this: economic; social; ideological; and criminal; all of which add up to a problem political:
- economically, we need to understand we're not talking about one road between two civilisations here. The Irish/Northern Irish border is a populated area with hundreds of roads crossing the border. Some roads cross repeatedly - the main A3 road crosses the border 4 times in only 6 miles. Some parts of Donegal are most easily accessed from the rest of Ireland via Northern Ireland. There are many towns and villages within a few miles either side of the border. Derry, in particular, is very near the border. 30,000 people cross the border to work every day; two million cars and nearly half a million lorries and vans cross the border every month. Even just slowing down the crossing will have a major economic impact on the (almost all Catholic) population near the border, as well as the entire NI population (many things are cheaper to drive up from Ireland than to ship over from Britain, so prices of consumer goods will increase). Worse: in practice it is unlikely to be economically possible to meaningfully man 300 border crossings, so it is likely most would have to be closed (as they were in the Troubles), with an even greater impact on the economy.
- socially, likewise, the Catholic lands on both sides of the border do not feel like they are separate nations. They are deeply culturally entwined, and in the last twenty years have returned to being practically intertwined too. Put up a hard border and you're going to be splitting up families and stopping granny from coming to the family sunday lunch. And on a larger level, people in NI enjoy the fact that they can nip down to Dublin whenever they want in a few hours, and vice versa - put an hour-long queue at the border and you're putting a serious dent in how people live their daily lives.*
- ideologically, putting up a hard border is saying for definite, "Ireland is not united". A lot of people won't like that. They know it's currently not, in practice, unified, but the fact that for all intents and purposes the Catholic community can live as though united, socioeconomically if not politically, has been a huge salve to the concerns of nationalists. It must be remembered that the Catholic community has very long-running grievances against the British government, including about how the previous hard border was managed; to some extent, putting a wall around Northern Ireland feels to them less like keeping out foreigners, and more like imprisonment in their own country.
- criminally, hard borders mean attempts to evade hard borders. That means smuggling. That means crime. That means criminal gangs. And criminal Catholic gangs smuggling goods over the border, who inherently see the government and law enforcement as their enemy, means a resurgeance of nationalist paramilities. That probably means a resurgeance of loyalist paramilities as well. And the creation of a smuggling trade gives those paramilitaries a source of income. And if the gangs become political paramilitaries, it becomes far harder to combat them with the police alone - they become a political issue, rather than a law-enforcement one. Historically, paramilities on both sides were closely associated with criminality, rooted in smuggling and trafficking (though the pIRA itself tried to steer clear of drug dealing, at least). You might say, "well just make sure there's no smuggling". But there are 300 crossings. See above re: number of vehicles doing the journey. The more you protect the economy by not interfering, the more you allow the smuggling. And it's not just the roads. It's a 500km border, and most of it is very permeable terrain - we're not talking deserts and mountains. And two large naval estuaries. And half a dozen lakes! It'd be hell to actually prevent smuggling there - as we know, because the British Army was camped on the border for decades in the Troubles, and couldn't stop the trafficking of drugs and guns across the border. Their hopes of preventing illegal immigrants and cheap cigarettes are close to zero.
- politically, what all this means is that a) the population of Northern Ireland will absolutely hate a hard border and vote against anyone who tries to impose one; and b) Catholics in particular will be driven toward extremist nationalists, threatening a return to violence and at the very least making NI politics even more unworkable and polarised than it already is. A hard border would essentially be asking NI to make huge sacrifices so that people in Wiltshire don't have to worry about ever seeing a Polish person. And that wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that NI is already the poorest part of the UK!

So, no border between Ireland and the EU. No border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. That leaves:

4. There cannot be a hard border inside Northern Ireland.
This is an absolute. Loyalists would say that this is in practice giving away half of Northern Ireland. Nationalists would worry that this was effectively surrendering their claim to the other half of Northern Ireland. It's not going to happen.

5. There cannot be a hard border between Northern Ireland and Britain
As we've seen, Loyalists are outraged by the idea of this. Economically, it might be a bit better than a border with Ireland, but it's still going to hurt imports into an area dependent on imports. It effectively gives Northern Ireland citizens second-class status - in how many countries on earth does a citizen from a certain proscribed class have to produce a passport to travel inside their own country? Northern Irish with family or second homes on the mainland would be restricted from taking their own possessions across the sea (or else forced to "prove" where they got the goods). How would a Northern Irish merchant export from NI to Britain, if there were a customs border in the way - are you going to charge a guy a tax to move goods from one warehouse to another inside the same country? A tax that English, Welsh and Scottish tradesmen wouldn't have to pay? And ideologically/symbolically, it's basically saying that Northern Ireland is a separate country - that the United Kingdom isn't actually United, but is just Britain, plus a colony in Northern Ireland whom we impose taxes on but feel free to withhold basic rights from. And splitting NI off from Britain in order to let it enjoy continued union with Ireland!? With no border with Ireland, but a border with Britain, and by extension trade and customs regulations and employment and services regulation all decided in Brussels, in part by the Irish government, enforced by a half-Catholic (much of which half is explicitly pro-reunification) local assembly in Northern Ireland... you're basically handing Northern Ireland back to Ireland in all but name! This is a cause that Loyalists have fought and died over for generations, and the ghost of Paisley will not just spin in his grave but rise up and stalk abroad the land!

But:
6. There cannot be a hard border within Britain
Obviously, because this would be silly. Although admittedly, a fair few of us wouldn't object to keeping London, Northern Ireland, Scotland and various other parts of the UK within the customs union, and erecting a hard border with the rest of the country...


So to recap:
There must be a hard border somewhere between Britain and Europe
... it cannot be between Europe and Ireland
... it cannot be between Ireland and Northern Ireland
... it cannot be inside Northern Ireland
...and it cannot be between Northern Ireland and Britain.

Once this minor problem has been resolved - presumably in just a day or two now - we can all move on to the more difficult issues of Brexit.


*of course, such a fear of hour-long queues doesn't lead the government to do anything about the dartmouth crossing, does it? I can get to bloody France more easily than I can get to bloody Essex. Admittedly, I don't want to go to Essex, so it's not really much of a hardship, but it's the principle of the thing...

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:39 am 
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:45 am 
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 2:34 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 7:18 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:03 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:57 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 6:42 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 1:32 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:28 am 
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So Hammond just got fired? And this is apparently the first time May was unable to ensure support from her own party on a vote in Parliament, if the news is to be believed. And now Parliament gets a final say in whatever deal the government (fails utterly to) hammer out with Brussels. Am I missing something, or is this kind of a big deal?

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:07 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:49 am 
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Awww shit. That was some clickbait nonsense making me think the Hammond was the sacrificial goat.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:31 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 4:55 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:48 pm 
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