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

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...

Another Ominous Transition in Europe

With the impending departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the continent’s fragmentation intensifies.

(Kay Nietfeld/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
The most famous geopolitical cartoon the London weekly Punch ever published was called “Dropping the pilot,” showing a weary Otto von Bismarck coming down the gangplank of a ship called Germany in 1890 after 28 years as chancellor. Angela Merkel has done only 13 years as her nation’s leader, though see seems like an institution. Now she is stepping down as leader of her Christian Democratic Party. Her departure marks a turning point in German and European history. She stays on as chancellor until the end of her term in 2021, and there has been talk in Brussels and Berlin of her moving to be president of the European Commission—the executive bureaucracy of the European Union, or the European Council on which sit all the heads of Europe’s government, soon to be minus Britain. The German horse cannot be ridden by two masters, and once her successor is installed in December, Merkel’s influence and authority will seep away. Her departure leaves Emmanuel...

Brexit Panic as Brits Run Out of Toilet Paper

As Brexit nears, Economic Britain moans but does not mobilize, complains but does not campaign.

(Press Association via AP Images)
There is palpable sense of panic slowly developing in London. Each Brit consumes 110 toilet rolls a year—two and half time the European average. The United Kingdom is Europe’s biggest importer of loo paper and it is said that only one day’s supply of toilet paper exists in stock. If Britain leaves the EU Customs Union and Single Market in five months’ time and the trucks transporting toilet paper are held up at Calais or Dover, British bottoms will have to be wiped with torn-up newspapers as in bygone days. Some 1,300 trucks carrying goods from the continent arrive every day just for the giant German-owned low-cost supermarket chain Lidl. Airbus imports a million components on a just-in-time basis, as do all U.K. automobile manufacturers. Britain’s economy is now completely integrated in terms of supply and transport into the rest of Europe. There are no more checks and controls on goods, people, toilet rolls, or components going between the continent and...

German Lessons for Great Britain on European Workers

It is not too late for the United Kingdom to learn from other EU member-states that with stricter labor market rules and better job training, there is nothing to fear from immigration.

(zz/KGC-375/STAR MAX/IPx via AP Images)
One of the knottiest problems for British politicians struggling with Brexit is their insistence, as much by Labour as by the Conservatives, that Britain has to set up a giant new immigration bureaucracy to issue work and residence permits for any European citizen who is offered a job in Britain. Undoubtedly, the main factor in swinging the Brexit vote was that it gave white English men and women their chance to vote against immigrants. Fifty years ago, a racist but very senior Tory politician, Enoch Powell, said Britain was “mad, literally mad, as a nation” to allow immigrants into the country. Powellism sunk deep roots very fast, even if it was repudiated by the party leaders of the day. Powell was also hostile to Britain joining the European Community. That fusion of two English phobias—against immigration and against Europe—never went away. After 2000, as the Conservatives sought to undermine the pro-European Tony Blair, they unleashed, with the help of...

Pages