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

Labour’s Turn to Come Apart

As the acid of Brexit dissolves politics, Theresa May’s hopes of winning a majority for her deal gets much harder. 

As the questions of Ireland and free trade divided British political parties in the 19th century, in the last 50 years the great source of division has been Europe, Europe, Europe. The announcement by seven Labour MPs opposed to leaving the European Union they would form an independent group in the House of Commons is the latest sign of the inability of the political class to address the Europe conundrum. Their decision all but destroys Prime Minister May’s hopes of getting Labour MPs to cross the floor to back her unworkable deal, which only plunges the U.K. into years of “Brexeternity” trying to negotiate a new relationship with endless divisions in the Commons going into the 2020s. Labour MPs who might wish to back May will not want to face the accusation of aiding and abetting the Tories as the tsunami of hate and insults starts to fall upon their seven colleagues whose departure seriously damages Labour. For Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, it is all déja vu...

Theresa May Is No Closer to a Brexit Deal

But the odds of Britain crashing out of the EU are ominously increasing.

Theresa May has hauled up the white flag to the hardline anti-Europeans in her party. She has bought a temporary truce in internal Tory turmoil by giving in to Jacob Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson, and other anti-Europeans. This morning the Tory anti-Europeans were exultant on the BBC. One of them, the former Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, even resurrected their favorite myth that there are no border checks on the borders between Switzerland and its EU neighbors. In the last two months I have crossed into Switzerland eight times and trust me the Swiss take border controls and customs checks very seriously! Not noticed in this morning’s reporting is another Tory victory—namely that an amendment calling for a second referendum was defeated. The decision of seven Labour MPs to vote with the Conservatives also removes the already faint chance of a a new general election taking place as Jeremy Corbyn has been regularly demanding since last summer. This may stabilise the Conservative...

Confidence Game

Despite House of Commons drama, Britain is no closer to finding the answer to Brexit. 

As the dust settles on one of the House of Commons' un-finest hours, the future of Britain as a European power-player is as unclear as ever. On Tuesday, the Commons voted to humiliate Prime Minister Theresa May. On Wednesday, the Commons voted to enshrine her prime minster for as long as choses to stay. The UK Parliament came close to making itself a laughingstock as MPs pirouetted to both condemn and console the Prime Minister in the space of 24 hours. One can only feel sorry for the poor leaders of European nations as they try and decipher what on earth is the message British MPs are trying to send. The problem is that Britain’s political class is locked in three separate contests. The first one is between plebiscite and parliamentary democracy. For three centuries the way of governing Britain was by means of representative parliamentary democracy—decisions taken in the House of Commons by elected MPs. Beginning in 1973, British leaders opted for referendums in some...

British Labour’s Self-Inflicted Marginalization

Why Her Majesty’s Opposition is failing to demolish the feeble Theresa May

This article appears in the Winter 2019 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Never in postwar British history has there been such a weak, divided, and poorly run Conservative government. Prime Minister Theresa May inherited the disaster of her predecessor David Cameron’s 2016 referendum to have Britain exit the European Union, whose results she embraced with unseemly haste. But she has been utterly unable to find a Brexit path that will not devastate the British economy. Since U.K. voters opted, by a 52–48 margin, to leave the European Union, the result has been agonizing interregnum, in which the terms of a post-EU British economy are in limbo, retarding confidence and investment. May has presided over the lowest growth in the G7, with Britain enduring austerity cuts that have seen cuts in police, teachers, health care, and local government services. Britain’s role in the world has also suffered. While leaders of Germany, France, Turkey, and...

The Brexit Mess Will Go On for Years

Prime Minister Theresa May’s long-awaited deal is likely to be voted down in the House of Commons. If it somehow survives, it is only the beginning of a long, painful, and needless slog.

It’s long been clear that British Prime Minister Theresa May would have to vacate 10 Downing Street sooner rather than later. On Wednesday, she finally agreed to step aside and let a new leader do the heavy lifting during the next phase of the Brexit train wreck —but only if Parliament agrees to her Brexit plan, one they have already rejected. Twice. Denis MacShane offers some important context on the mammoth catastrophe that has proved to be May’s undoing. The deal agreed to between the United Kingdom and the European Union has detonated the biggest political dispute in British politics since Neville Chamberlain came back from Munich in 1938 waving a leaf of paper and proclaiming he had won “peace in our time.” Far from uniting Britain after the bitterly divisive Brexit referendum vote when just 37 percent of the total British electorate voted to leave the European Union, the Withdrawal Agreement and linked declaration on future areas to be negotiated...