UK Prime Minister Theresa May says she'll only do Brexit her way, and the UK's master of loose talk is back in the news. Meanwhile, Labour could have a last shot at a second referendum and London finance is taking a hit.
It's my deal or no deal — that is essentially what Theresa May said when asked about the prospects of Brexit. You almost expected her to break out in song. In fact, the prime minister stayed in her usual Maybot mode: "I believe we will get a good deal. We will bring that back from the EU negotiations and put that to Parliament. I think that the alternative to that is not having a deal."
May is off to meet her European Union counterparts in Salzburg and the British side had raised expectations. She would personally sell her Chequers proposal and they would surely buy into some cherry picking for the United Kingdom. The prime minister of course had hoped for some tangible results in order to calm her fractious Conservatives. The party conference in early October is likely to be a near-death experience for May. Everyone in the EU knows that and they're waiting to see what happens next. Politics is quite Darwinian in that sense.
Salzburg will therefore be a wasted trip for May. She will get her usual 10 minutes over dinner to talk about Brexit and that's it. The EU in the meantime has laid out the timetable for further proceedings. It wants to create an arc of increasingly unbearable suspense. "Anything but Brexit" will be on the agenda at the regular summit in October. The showdown is scheduled for November, when a divorce agreement and some hazy assurances for the future EU-UK relationship will be offered. "The Brits need to look into the abyss," some EU diplomats were quoted as saying in Brussels. There will be maximum drama, pressured talks, night sessions and the perfect media frenzy. This all sounds like great fun.
The master of loose talk
Boris Johnson is noticeably sharpening his knives for the Tory meeting in Birmingham. And he is aiming to prove his suitability for high office through a steady escalation of loose talk. In his latest epistle in The Telegraph newspaper he calls the Irish backstop (an EU solution to avoid a hard border) a "constitutional abomination." Giving in to Brussels' demands would bring "the first foreign rule since the battle of Hastings in 1066," when the Normans conquered the Anglo-Saxons. The UK would become a "vassal state" and May's Brexit proposals would result in a "political car crash." The high point was Boris calling them "a suicide vest," which earned him some backlash for bad taste.
Read more: Northern Ireland: Anyone running the region?
Here is a man with his eyes firmly on the doors of 10 Downing Street. Neither friends nor foes can wait for the special Boris show during the Tory party conference. There will be Brexit fireworks with a guaranteed lack of connection to reality. Even the fact that his wife is now divorcing him after decades of affairs doesn't seem to rattle Boris. But it does affect some citizens. "If his wife doesn't trust him, how can we?" asked one reader in The Guardian. Good question.
Last chance for a second referendum
Next weekend the Labour party, also known as her Majesty's chaotic opposition, will meet for its annual conference in Liverpool. So far the party leadership has been resolutely sitting on the fence concerning Brexit. Even the 130 Labour districts clamoring for a policy change haven't challenged Labour boss Jeremy Corbyn.
But London Mayor Sadiq Khan is now breaking ranks and demanding a second referendum. Londoners voted against Brexit and many believe it will weaken the capital. With polls showing a shift in public opinion and young voters unanimously against Brexit, Khan believes he can win this fight. He has support from trade union leaders, who fear they could lose thousands of members when car factories close and industry shrinks after Brexit.
But can Khan convince his party's leadership that it's time to change tack? For Labour, it's all a question of strategy because what the party really wants is to force new elections. But this is pretty much the last and only chance for a second referendum. Only Labour can mobilize enough votes and has enough political clout to force this through. And wouldn't it be a delightful historical irony if Corbyn, anti-European par excellence, would in the end save Britain from Brexit?
Autumn is the time for moving vans
Deutsche Bank is in the process of pulling between €300 and €450 billion ($350 and $525 billion) out of its London business and moving it to Frankfurt over the next few years. It will also shift the core of its investment activities away from London because there is still no clarity about what happens after Brexit. This is a blow to the City because Deutsche Bank could move about half of the assets held by EU lenders in the UK.
"The financial system is already operating on the assumption that there is no agreement," said Sergio Ermotti, the CEO of Swiss bank UBS, in an interview with Bloomberg about the diminishing chances for a Brexit deal. Ermotti has also chosen Frankfurt as his new European hub. EU regulators are demanding all banks establish independent European branches if they want to continue business in the eurozone after Brexit. And banks are following suit, which leads to a slow but steady trickle of financial business moving people and assets from the City of London.
Nothing but scaremongering
Brexiteer MP Bernard Jenkin has been making the media rounds once again. He did not believe in warnings from industry leaders such as Jaguar boss Ralph Speth about huge job losses: "I'm afraid he's making it up," Jenkin told the BBC. He is a steadfast believer in the greatness of Brexit. A few hours later, however, Jaguar Land Rover announced that workers at the Castle Bromwich plant would have to go on a three-day week until Christmas. "Headwinds affecting the car industry" were given as the reason. Management explained that the government's bad handling of the transition from diesel and Brexit had led to this decision.