The Great Debate UK

from Breakingviews:

Boris Johnson intervention reduces Brexit chances

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By Hugo Dixon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own

Boris Johnson's intervention in the European debate reduces the chance of a British exit from the European Union - or Brexit. The Mayor of London, a popular Conservative politician, says he will campaign to keep Britain in the EU provided it can negotiate a pared-down relationship based on the single market.

Johnson, who is a darling of the UK's largely eurosceptic Tory press, has not previously pinned his colours to the mast. Indeed, some thought he would be in favour of pulling Britain out of the EU. But he is concerned that London and the UK would lose out if Britain left the EU and, as such, had no say in setting the rules of the single market.

So the mayor wants to negotiate a new arrangement which would involve, among other things, scrapping social chapter provisions and the common fisheries policy. The result would then be put to a referendum, in which the question would be: "Do you want to stay in the EU single market: yes or no?" Johnson would advocate "yes", he told a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event on Dec. 4, which I moderated.

from Breakingviews:

Euro-recession, not rebellion, is what boxes UK in

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By Ian Campbell. The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

An E.U. protest vote by members of his own party has knocked the UK prime minister. For the moment, the Conservative party rebellion is largely symbolic.

from MacroScope:

Give me liberty and give me cash!

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Come back Mr Fukuyama, all is forgiven.

In his 1992 book "The End of History and the Last Man", American political scientist Francis Fukuyama famously argued that all states were moving inexorably towards liberal democracy. His thesis that democracy is the pinnacle of political evolution has since been challenged by the violent eruption of radical Islam as well as the economic success of authoritarian countries such as China and Russia.

Now a study by Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital into the link between economic wealth and democracy seems to back Fukuyama.

Aid: In favour of zero-tolerance

By Laurance Copeland

After one year, the progress report on the Coalition reads “Moving in the right direction, but with a lot more to do”.

Nonetheless, it is a prisoner of its commitment at the outset to leave two departmental budgets untouched: the NHS and international aid. It is not simply the amounts of money involved (colossal in the case of the NHS, relatively small for aid). It is also the signal it sends that there is such a status as sacrosanct, which immediately begs the question from policemen, firemen, teachers, the legal system, the armed forces: why isn’t our budget sacrosanct too?

The budget must help SMEs to survive and grow

Bobby Lane 4By Bobby Lane, Partner at Shelley Stock Hutter LLP. The opinions expressed are his own.

Everyone in my practice, and no doubt anyone advising the five million UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), welcomed the Prime Minister’s latest show of support for them at the recent Conservative Party conference.

A budget for Growth?

Thomas Story_NSP8121By Thomas Story, Tax Director, BDO LLP. The opinions expressed are his own.

George Osborne has promised that measures to boost sustainable growth will be central to this week’s Budget. To meet this objective, the Chancellor faces the challenge of accelerating the reform of business taxation within the severe constraints imposed by the overall fiscal position and the political imperatives of the coalition government.

Many previous reforming Chancellors have benefited from a more benign fiscal outlook to facilitate fundamental fiscal reform (Nigel Lawson and Gordon Brown spring to mind). The daunting fiscal deficit means that any tax reforms must be achieved within a tax neutral framework; Geoffrey Howe’s Budgets in the early 1980s are a closer precedent but the need to accommodate both parties to the coalition agreement provides additional dilemmas in 2011.

Budget will force ‘squeezed middle’ to muddle through

By John Evans, CEO of Incahoot.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

It’s a cold November morning last year, and in the Today programme studio Ed Miliband sits across the desk from John Humphrys.

John: “So Mr Miliband, can you tell us exactly what you mean by the ‘squeezed middle’?”

Permanent revolution trains kids for unemployment

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BRITAIN-ELECTION/By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.

I am unsure about Britain’s education system. Most of the time, I think it is a matter of one step forward, two steps back – but then there are times when I wonder about the forward step.

This morning I heard the glad tidings about the latest ideas for grabbing a much-prized relegation slot in the world’s education league table (predictably enough, the Americans can be relied on to provide stiff competition).

from FaithWorld:

Muslim Brotherhood treads cautiously in the new Egypt

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cairo sunset

(A girl waves an Egyptian flag at sunset in Cairo February 14, 2011 /Suhaib Salem)

The Muslim Brotherhood is treading cautiously in the new Egypt, assuring the military government and fellow Egyptians that it does not want power and trying to dispel fears about its political strength. The target of decades of state oppression, the Brotherhood wants to preserve the freedoms it is enjoying under the new military-led administration that took power from Hosni Mubarak.

from The Great Debate:

Digital media and the Arab spring

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By Philip N. Howard, author of "The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam," and director of the Project on Information Technology and Political Islam at the University of Washington. The opinions expressed are his own.

President Obama identified technology as one of the key variables that enabled and encouraged average Egyptians to protest. Digital media didn’t oust Mubarak, but it did provide the medium by which soulful calls for freedom have cascaded across North Africa and the Middle East. It is difficult to know when the Arab Spring will end, but we can already say something about the political casualties, long-term regional consequences and the modern recipe for democratization.

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