Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane is the former British minister for Europe and first used the word Brexit in 2012. He writes on European policy and politics. 

Recent Articles

The Brexit Leninists Are Tearing Up Britain’s Political Rulebook

Boris Johnson is shredding Britain’s unwritten conventions of parliamentary democracy—and he faces no real challenge.

The price of populism is high. In Italy a new coalition government of the center-left Partido Democratica and the populist radicals of the Five Star Movement has squeezed out the hard-right Matteo Salvini, a racist deeply ensconced with Steve Bannon. In Germany the racist nationalists Alternative für Deutschland failed in their bid to win two key elections Sunday in east German regional governments, with voters opting for the established Christian and Social Democrats. But across the English Channel, Britain is edging towards a full-scale political, constitutional and economic crisis under Donald Trump’s best friend in global politics, Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson entered Downing Street five weeks ago after easily winning the support of 90,000 mainly elderly Tory Party members who dislike Europe and dislike Muslims. A third of Johnson supporters want to restore hanging. Johnson spent the summer holiday in a Trump-like Twitter spree of excited announcements about...

Britain’s New Prime Minister Remains a Mystery—Even to Himself

Boris Johnson will have to choose between Brexit revolutionary zeal and political expediency.

The problem with Boris Johnson, the 20th Old Etonian to run Britain, is that we know everything about the man and yet nothing. Donald Trump called him a “Britain Trump” as he hailed the win for a fellow traveller of Trumpism across the Atlantic. Trump told a right-wing Turning Point USA rally in Washington on Tuesday that Johnson was a “good man. ... They like me over there. That’s what they wanted. That’s what they need.” In 2016, Brexit and Trump arrived together. Brexit was the consummation of a 25-year campaign against Europe in which Johnson was the main propagandist since he became The Daily Telegraph ’s first fiction-writing resident correspondent in Brussels. Trump, as he burbled his congratulations to Johnson, kept mentioning Nigel Farage, the loudmouth anti-European British politician who Trump seemed to think was in the hall. Farage is a curious phenomenon and a major contributor to Johnson’s arrival in Downing Street. Farage...

In Spain, the Pro-European Left Fights Back

The rejection of the populist right is the most important outcome of the Spanish election.

Legan P. Mace/SOPA Images/Sipa USA
Spain is defying the gravediggers of progressive European politics. The re-election to the Cortes yesterday of the young socialist Pedro Sánchez, who has brought back the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) from the wilderness, was far from the right sweep that was expected. Sánchez’s party won the biggest number of seats and looks set to govern with the more left-wing Podemos party. Its leader, Pablo Iglesias, once a Jeremy Corbyn–style firebrand with close links to Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela is now a calm symbol of Spanish bourgeois normality as a young father of two with a handsome villa in the posh suburbs of Madrid. He has re-centered his party to make it more electable at the cost of some seats which seem to have returned to the 120-year-old Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. The big loser was the Partido Popular (PP), once the proud conservative masters of Spain with intimate links to American Republicans and British Tories. The...

What You Need to Know about Brexit

Can Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn find their way to a solution?

Jack Taylor/Pool Photo via AP
Q. Why Can’t the House of Commons Agree on a Brexit Policy? A. In the House of Commons there is always a majority against any proposal on Brexit, but never a majority for a solution. The British political system is binary and adversarial with no tradition of coalition, power-sharing or good relations between the governing party and the opposition, except during the two World Wars. Thus party loyalty tends to have primacy. If May proposes something, Labour and Liberal vote against. If Labour proposes something, Conservatives vote against. Q. Is there a chance to avoid a No-Deal Brexit on April 12? A. Only if May is willing to compromise. So far she has refused to move one millimeter towards other parties in the House of Commons – Labour, Liberal-Democrats, or Scottish Nationalists. She insists her proposals, which have been rejected three times in the Commons by big majorities, cannot be changed. There have been talks between Labour and the Government and May and Corbyn...

The Brexit Revolution Devours Its Children

Theresa May is only the latest career politician to be consumed by the Brexit disaster. 

If ever the statement that "Revolutions devour their children" applied to British politics it does so now. Brexit has devoured its father—David Cameron—and now its daughter Theresa May—as both prime ministers retreat from public life and office destroyed by their own party’s pathological hate of European partnership. In 1948 Winston Churchill declared: “We hope to see a Europe where men of every country will think as much of being a European as of belonging to their own native land, and that without losing any of their love and loyalty of their birthplace. We hope wherever they go they will truly feel ‘Here I am at home. I am a citizen of this country too.’” A decade earlier in the London mass-selling News of the World in 1938, Churchill said Britain should promote “every practical step which the nations of Europe may take to reduce the barriers which divide them and to nourish their common interests and their common welfare...

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