Sunday, November 16, 2014

London, England, Britain and Europe: Places Apart?

A short piece about the position of London in English, UK and EU politics. Written for the blog of the APSA British Politics Group.

Academics are often as guilty as many others for lazily using ‘London’ as a catch-all term to describe the UK, UK Government, the financial institutions of ‘the City of London’, England, or ‘the South’ or South East of England. Of course, as the UK’s capital city this usage can often seem logical enough. But London is a place in itself, a city of millions with a distinct population, an economic and social system with its own needs and interests, a place with an identity and politics of its own.

At a time when attention is fixed on Scotland it is worth remembering that it is not just Scotland or areas such as Wales or Northern Ireland that are distinct political spaces. London, an area with a larger and faster growing population and economy than anywhere else in the UK, and the UK’s most powerful cultural and political centre, deserves more attention. And, for this author and others, it deserves its own fully devolved government. The ‘London question’ – how the rest of the UK relates to its capital city that is fast becoming another place – is one of the most pressing questions in British politics.

To continue reading please visit the blog of the APSA British Politics Group.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Piece for E!Sharp: 10 questions for the EU about a Brexit

Every week seems to bring a new row between Britain and the rest of the EU. UK-EU relations have never been what could be called stable or easy-going. But relations today seem to have reached new lows. Britain comes across as a wrecker or blackmailer that is ‘lighting a fire under the EU’, to quote Philip Hammond MP, Britain’s Foreign Secretary. Things are so bad that few doubt leaked reports that Angela Merkel is prepared to see Britain leave rather than agree to British demands to restrict freedom of movement within the EU.
If UK-EU differences cannot be reconciled and a British exit becomes highly likely - admittedly very big ifs in themselves - then the EU needs to give careful thought to ten questions about where this could lead it. Britain too will need to think about the EU’s likely answers. How UK-EU relations develop in the face of a Brexit will depend less on what London demands and more on how the rest of the EU - the much larger partner in this - responds.