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Answering CJ Smellie: “neither tradition nor religion could form the ‘rational basis for a law’”

Answering CJ Smellie: “neither tradition nor religion could form the ‘rational basis for a law’”

Is our God-fearing, Christian “tradition” outdated,  oppressive and irrational?

BRADES, Montserrat, April 6, 2019 –  In trying to establish what has been called “same-sex marriage”[1]  Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, QC reportedly held[2] that  many inequities have existed in the name of tradition but neither tradition nor religion could form the “rational basis for a law.”  That is but an inch away from implying that the God-fearing, Christian faith that is the Caribbean’s dominant tradition is inevitably oppressive, outdated, ill-founded and/or irrational. Likewise, the historic legacy of Parliamentary Democracy in the Westminster system[3] with separation of the powers of government – the legislative, the executive and the judiciary – may also seem to be just as outdated. 

Such perceptions will not be left unanswered, even though this requires some fairly challenging steps of thought. Justice Smellie and others have forced the matter.

First, we must answer the attitude that one can tell the truth by the clock: what is old (or old-fashioned) is at best suspect. However, truth is not told by the clock, but by what is sound. Where,  well documented experience – history – is a key means to access what is sound.  Yes, slavery, racism, exploitation, oppression and other age-long painful evils and errors are in our past, but so are the conscience-guided reformation principles and movements that created a legacy of liberty and established constitutional democracy in our region. Where too, the Common Law and the linked Westminster system of Parliamentary Democracy under rule of law are historically anchored, time-tested traditions that build in many centuries of hard-bought experience and sound lessons in liberty and self-government. Failure to recognise, appreciate, acknowledge and respect that is not a credible context for sound reform.

Similarly, the foot of the cliff we fell over because we acted unwisely is not the best foundation for building a better future. For example, if we could go back to 1986 – 88, would we treat the Wadge-Isaacs report on volcano hazards in Montserrat in the same way? What should we have done differently between 1995 and 2003? What are we hearing today that we would be well-advised to heed (but may not take seriously)?

Likewise, it is often fashionable nowadays to denigrate the Christian religion and faith in God, the gospel and scripture. All of these are commonly dismissed as irrelevant, outdated, irrational emotional crutches or even as “fairy tales.” More broadly, “faith” and “reason” are often seen as opposites, so only what is “secular” and “modern” is responsible, sound, scientific, progressive and rational.  However, if we probe almost anything we accept as truth or knowledge (say, A), we will see that it has some sort of basis (say, B). But, why accept B? C, then D etc. We thus come to Agrippa’s three unwelcome alternatives:

[i] an endless (= “infinite”) chain of warrant we cannot complete, vs.

[ii] question-begging circularity, vs.

[iii] accepting a finitely remote, but unprovable start point (= a point of faith). 

Of these the first two fail immediately, forcing us to the third approach. The question we face, then, is not whether we have “a point of faith,” but in what/who and why.

Worse, we have seen many scientific revolutions that overturn older schools of thought – often, one funeral at a time. History has to be regularly updated or even revised. After Kurt Godel,[4] we know that the major axiomatic systems of Mathematics are not utterly certain; even while it is obviously self-evident that 2 + 2 = 4 etc.

Do we then throw up our hands and say, we cannot know anything for sure so we know nothing at all? No, even that is a (self-refuting) knowledge claim: we know that we know nothing. Oops.

Instead, we turn to reasonable, responsible faith. That is, we unavoidably have a “faith-point,” first things that we are willing to trust as credibly true but cannot prove – the “first principles” and “first plausibles” through which our proofs, arguments, knowledge and decisions are built. We may then compare alternative faith-points (“worldviews” is the technical name[5]) on [i] reliably covering the facts, [ii] logical coherence and [iii] explanatory power; towards the “best.”

Where also, there are a few plumb-line, self-evident truths we can use to test our thinking. For instance, it is undeniably true that error exists, which is thus certainly known, though humbling (as, we may err). So, worldviews that suggest that we cannot cross the ugly gap between our inner world of thoughts and how things seem to us and the outer one of how things actually are in themselves, fail.  Similarly,  we can be confident: truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not.  

Likewise, St Paul astutely asked: “even . . . [for a] pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?” [1 Cor 14:7, KJV.] That is, without clear distinct identity we can neither think nor communicate. A first, inescapably true law of thought: A is A. Where: if A is confounded with what is not-A, there is only needless confusion and chaos.  (Which, should already ring a few warning-bells.)

Of the live worldview options before us, millions can testify that it is not at all unreasonable or irresponsible to trust the inherently good and utterly wise creator God, the veracity of the gospel of Jesus and the life-transforming insights of scripture.

Turning to the scriptures,[6] we meet there the voice of the Creator God, proclaiming the end from the beginning, establishing a covenant people, accurately prophesying the messiah to come hundreds of years ahead of time. A messiah who would be a despised, rejected wounded healer unjustly put to death but rising in triumph and bringing many souls to salvation. In the gospels, we see just such a Messiah,[7] one who was despised and unjustly crucified but rose from the dead with five hundred witnesses who could not be silenced, and now with millions across the Caribbean and world whose lives have been touched for the good by that risen Christ.

It is this same Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who taught us:

“Have you never read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined inseparably to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Matt 19:4 – 6, AMP.]

Here, we see “tradition,” “religion,” “history” and the obvious complementarity of the two sexes jointly testifying to what marriage is at root, a law of our morally governed nature that is prior to any human government and its decrees. Therefore, as government did not invent marriage, its officers cannot use the magic of words to “modify” or “update” or “add to” it as they please under colour of law. Government is not God.

Until very recently, this was generally recognised and respected by legislatures and judges alike.  So, given the contrast between an ages old law anchored on the naturally evident creation order that founds stable human society and radical judicial novelties, which should we see as “reasonable,” why?

Now, too, is what is old inevitably suspect, likely to be oppressive, discriminatory, violating of “rights”?  To ask is already to answer: no, we also do not tell good/evil by the clock but by what is right. Marriage, as that which recognises and honourably binds men and women through natural and complementary differences vital to nurturing the next generation is clearly not “discriminatory.”   So, that our laws have hitherto recognised the law of our nature that is literally written into our maleness and femaleness is a reflection of reality, not “oppression.”

To suggest otherwise is blatantly morally unsound and chaotic. As, we are now beginning to see. E

[1] See, TMR


[3] See

[4] See

[5] See

[6] See

[7] See

Posted in Columns, Court, De Ole Dawg, Legal, News, Opinions, Regional1 Comment

Gerald elucidates on Redhead

Gerald elucidates on Redhead

Adapted from Radio Montserrat

A local social commentator continued to give a different view following the officially led public celebration of the life of the recently deceased Justice Albert Readhead, who was afforded a ceremonial burial in Antigua and followed up by being further honoured in Montserrat.

Justice Redhead, a long-standing jurist, who has served with the sub-region including Montserrat for over thirty-five years, died in Antigua in March after a period of illness. Claude Gerald, a keen follower of the workings of the law, told ZJBNews that when one becomes a Judge, one has to be prepared, to make social sacrifices.

“You cannot be fraternizing with Tom, Dick and Harry, because you will lose credibility, and you will compromise the judiciary. A judge does not have buddies or partners, except perhaps for his colleagues and maybe his family. Because judgeship is a very hallowed undertaking. So, it’s not about being popular and being in the center of the red of the egg. A judge becomes a hermit and a recluse once he accepts judgeship.

“I want to argue here, that it’s only in that light, that a judge can have the moral courage to do what the law says and make interpretations that are wholesome and to advance the law. That is what is essential.”

Mr. Redhead was given an official funeral by the government of Antigua, which was popularly broadcasted in the region. The government of Monserrat and the local bar joined also. But, Mr. Gerald says that despite all the words spoken at his death, “no one has uttered a word as to just how his Redhead’s actions helped to grow the law.

“How his decisions have made the law stronger. No one spoke of his integrity and his moral courage. It’s all empty talk about how he was a nice man, how he was my friend and how we got along very well,” he said.

“And, let me tell you this,” he concluded, “in our culture, when a man becomes the friend of an official, that official is expected to do the friends bidding. Justice Albert Redhead lived controversially, and died similarly because of his approach of matters before him.”

Justice Redhead was born in Grenada and studied in London, but, after returning to Grenada, moved on and worked in St. Kitts, St. Lucia and Montserrat for over 30 years. He first served in Montserrat in 1985.

Claude Gerald is a social commentator on Montserrat.

Posted in Columns, Court, Features, Legal, Local, News, Obituaries, Opinions, Regional0 Comments

Mueller, wearing a baseball cap and looking pensive, is pictured behind the driver

In search for the ‘real’ truth, and ‘nothing’ but the truth!

The Slatest

Hope May Be for Dummies, but I Still Hope the Mueller Report Solves Russiagate’s Original Mystery

By Ben Mathis-Lilley April 16, 2019

Mueller, wearing a baseball cap and looking pensive, is pictured behind the driver's side window of a car.
Robert Mueller arrives at his office in D.C. on March 21. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Let’s travel back to the distant, foggy past to think about what the Russia-Trump story was all about in 2016 and early 2017. Before James Comey got fired, before Robert Mueller was even a twinkle in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s bewitching hazel-green eyes. Before the obstruction question, before offshoots like the Michael Cohen campaign finance case and Trump Tower Moscow and the inaugural fund. At that point, the public knew two things: one, that Russia had likely orchestrated a hacking and propaganda campaign against Hillary Clinton, and two, that Donald Trump’s advisers had made squirrelly efforts, both during the Republican National Convention and the presidential transition period, to advance Russia-friendly positions regarding economic sanctions and the war in Ukraine.

And, to badly paraphrase David Mamet, if there’s a quid and there’s a quo, there is probably a pro. Had Trump been trying to do favors for Russia’s ruling oligarch-gangsters to reward them for sabotaging his opponent? And did they sabotage his opponent because they knew he’d in turn make it easier to launder money into the U.S. by eliminating sanctions against them?

That possibility became the central mystery of Mueller’s investigation into “collusion”: In Rosenstein’s words, the special counsel was tasked with investigating “links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” And when Attorney General William Barr released his March letter summarizing Mueller’s conclusions, he quoted the special counsel as having written that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” But Barr didn’t explain how that conclusion had been arrived at, and given that Mueller’s report is defined by a law as a summary of “prosecution and declination” decisions, the most long-gestating question it might be able to resolve when it’s (partially) released on Thursday is why the special counsel decided that a number of publicly known links between Russia and the Trump campaign did not constitute a chargeable conspiracy. Those include:

• The June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in New York City between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and several Russian government–connected individuals who brought up the subject of Magnitsky Act sanctions.

• The Trump campaign’s elimination of a line in the Republican National Convention platform that called for the U.S. to provide weapons to anti-Russian forces in Ukraine.

• Then–Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s Aug. 2, 2016, meeting in New York City with Konstantin Kilimnik, an individual who the special counsel’s office says is believed to have “a relationship with Russian intelligence,” at which Manafort gave Kilimnik campaign polling data and discussed a potential resolution to the war in Ukraine. (Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict was another reason the U.S. imposed sanctions against Russia.)

• Incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn’s Dec. 29, 2016, phone call with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak—which Flynn later lied about to federal investigators in an apparent attempt to keep them from finding out that he and Kislyak had discussed sanctions.

On June 14, 2016, just after the Trump Tower meeting, the Washington Post revealed that Russian government hackers were believed to have illegally accessed the Democratic National Committee’s servers . Which is to say that Trump and his advisers knew from mid-June 2016 onward that Russia was 1) seeking sanctions-related policy changes and 2) possibly attempting to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The Trump crew nonetheless continued to communicate with Russia-connected individuals about sanctions, and you could conceivably argue that those conversations amounted to implicit participation in Russia’s illegal election-sabotage plan.

Thanks to Barr’s letter, though, we know that either 1) Mueller decided that no such conspiracy could be proven in court or that 2) Barr used carefully hedged language to make it seem like that’s what Mueller concluded. And, to the extent that any single document could possibly resolve our modern information war or allow us even the smallest moment of satisfaction and closure, the (partial) version of Mueller’s report that’s being released Thursday will ideally explain which of those things happened, and what Mueller himself actually thinks about Russiagate’s original animating question.

Also interesting:

What’s Been Saved and What’s Been Lost in the Notre Dame Fire Donald Trump’s Ilhan Omar Tweet Might Be the Worst Tweet in History What Happened While We Were Waiting for the Mueller Report Why Nancy Pelosi Is So Comfortable Dismissing the Influence of AOC and Her Fellow Lefties

The Seven Things to Look for When Reading the Redacted Mueller Report

By Richard L. Hasen April 15, 2019

Donald Trump Jr.
Why wasn’t Donald Trump Jr. charged? Above, Trump Jr. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on March 28. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Attorney General William Barr has indicated that a redacted version of the Mueller report is likely to be sent to Congress this week and made public. It could come any day now, though a Good Friday release, coinciding with the beginning of Passover, would be the news dump to end all news dumps. (Update, April 15, 2019, at 12:10 p.m.: On Monday, the Department of Justice announced that it expected to release the report on Thursday morning.)

Whenever the report comes, how will we know what to look for? From Barr’s summary released a few weeks ago, we expect the report to focus on both the question of possible “collusion” between Russian agents and Americans as well as whether the president obstructed justice in seeking to prevent a full and fair investigation of possible collusion.

Passover begins with asking four questions, and in that spirit, I begin with four questions about possible collusion that I have been anticipating since the Barr summary that I hope we will be able to answer once we get to dig into the report itself.

On collusion:

1. To what extent did Americans assist or cooperate with Russians or other foreign agents in hacking Democratic National Committee emails, in trying to break into American voter registration databases, or in efforts to spread “dirt” on President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election opponent, Hillary Clinton? We know from earlier government reports that Russian agents did all three of these things, but we do not know whether any Americans were involved or might have known at the time of the interference. Barr’s summary of Robert Mueller’s report, meanwhile, stated that Mueller’s investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Did members—or affiliates—of the campaign, though, coordinate with any Russian cutouts, such as Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks?

2. Were any of the people involved in this collusion investigation somehow connected to the Trump campaign or the Trump family? Alternatively, to what extent were campaign or family members duped by foreign agents? The Barr summary is very careful to say that there was no finding in Mueller’s report of “coordination,” which it defined in a particular legal way as an “agreement—tacit or express—between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.” As Ben Steinberg suggests, there’s plenty of room for cooperation short of this legal standard that could be described in the report. For example, Mueller might believe that winks and nods suggested both sides were cooperating but doing so in a subtle enough way to prevent prosecutors from proving an illegal conspiracy.

3. How successful were the hacks into American voter registration databases and other election-connected computers? We have seen conflicting reports of the extent of Russian success in these endeavors, but the details have not been confirmed in an official government report. More importantly, what can be done to prevent such hacking efforts again?

4. If Americans cooperated with Russians in procuring or spreading opposition research, why did Mueller not charge any Americans with any crime in this area? As I explained in an earlier Slate piece, we must learn why Mueller declined to prosecute former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort or Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. for apparently violating laws prohibiting the solicitation of foreign contributions to American campaigns, based on those campaign surrogates’ June 2016 meeting with Russian agents at Trump Tower. As I wrote, “How Mueller answered this question could have profound ramifications for what federal law enforcement will do to stop foreign involvement in the upcoming 2020 elections.”

Does Mueller point to new specific evidence Congress might consider in pursuing possible impeachment charges against Trump based upon obstruction?

I have two additional—and similarly important—questions on how Mueller judged the issue of potential presidential obstruction of justice:

1. Does Mueller’s report use any language suggesting that a reasonable prosecutor acting in her discretion could have charged Trump with obstruction but for Department of Justice policy against indicting a sitting president? We know Mueller refused to make the call on whether Trump obstructed justice, but we do not know why he made that decision and whether it had to do with the strength of the evidence. All we know is that Mueller’s report says, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” and Barr took the subsequent step of exonerating his boss.

2. Does Mueller point to new specific evidence Congress might consider in pursuing possible impeachment charges against Trump based upon obstruction? If Mueller left the issue for Congress, does he do so laying out clear not previously public evidence for possible impeachment, or is there not much more than a judgment call about whether Trump’s publicly known actions rise to the level of impeachable offenses?

Finally, there is a remaining question that encompasses the entire probe and how it was ultimately dealt with:

To what extent does it look like Barr is trying to protect Trump and Trump’s family, such as Donald Trump Jr.? Despite his expected redactions, has Barr made it possible to evaluate Mueller’s reasoning or the evidence collected?

This is a key question. Already Barr has given Trump a great gift by releasing a summary that has allowed Trump to claim his “exoneration” for weeks without anyone being able to raise a counterargument based on the actual evidence collected and analyzed by Mueller. We all are waiting to see if the redaction leaves a credible report, or more reason to be suspicious of Barr and a longer list of questions. We should at least know the answer to this question in a matter of days.

What Happened While We Were Waiting for the Mueller Report

The focus on the report has distracted us from the reality in plain sight.

By Dahlia Lithwick April 15,

Donald Trump with his eyes lowered.
Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on Friday. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Last week, Donald Trump allegedly instructed Kevin McAleenan, the border enforcement official he was about to tap as the new head of the Department of Homeland Security, to close the Southwestern border to migrants. This directive came with the promise that Trump would pardon McAleenan if there was legal fallout from that action. The comments, which CNN characterized as a possible joke, alarmed DHS officials, though the White House later denied that the statements were made. But we are waiting to hear Robert Mueller’s assessment about whether Donald Trump has obstructed justice.

Last week, Donald Trump said, “I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing.” And yet, throughout the end of the 2016 campaign, he praised the operation as something he “loved,” despite having been warned not to trust information coming from an entity that was known to be willfully assisting attempts to steal the U.S. election. But we are waiting to hear from Robert Mueller about whether Donald Trump has “colluded” with foreign powers in the 2016 election.

Last week, we learned Donald Trump’s sister Judge Maryanne Trump Barry apparently left her seat on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, thus permanently ending a judicial ethics investigation into whether she was involved in a massive tax evasion scheme reported last year by the New York Times. A complaint seeking to determine whether the scheme was a tax dodge—from which both Barry and Donald Trump benefited—was filed last October. (There is a statute of limitations on the tax evasion claims, but there is no statute of limitations on judicial wrongdoing.) On Feb. 1, the courts indicated that the complaint was “receiving the full attention” of investigators. Ten days later, Barry filed her paperwork to step down. The investigation dies with that action. But we are waiting to hear Robert Mueller’s conclusions on whether the president has misbehaved. There is no crime called collusion.

There has never been a crime called collusion.

Last week, as professor David Rothkopf ably summarized here, Attorney General William Barr testified that he was able to be the arbiter of whether the president obstructed justice, which is actually not the case. He also reversed a long-standing Department of Justice policy to defend statutes because the president told him to. The treasury secretary has refused to abide by a law that on its face demands that the president’s tax returns be turned over to the House Ways and Means Committee, again at the president’s request. In other words, in many departments, we are seeing Trump appointees willing to put the president above the law. We saw a mass purge at the Department of Homeland Security ostensibly because no senior officials are willing to break the law hard enough and fast enough to mollify the president. We heard the president invoke the word treason explicitly to describe his critics. But we are waiting for William Barr to summarize for us whether Robert Mueller concluded that the president has violated the law.

Last week, it was also rumored that the president had threatened to send undocumented immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities to punish political opponents. The White House initially indicated that the proposal was not seriously considered, until the president said it was still being considered, and by Sunday, it was back in play. On Friday, the president tweeted a video incorrectly suggesting that Muslim American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar doesn’t think 9/11 was a big deal, the contents of which were so offensive that Fox News would only play 5 seconds of it. On Sunday night, it was reported that the threats against her life had increased to the point that she needed additional security. Still, we are waiting for the Mueller report to help us determine whether the president is fit for office.

There is no crime called collusion. There has never been a crime called collusion, but that is the crime from which Donald Trump—never having seen the Mueller report—says he has received “complete and total exoneration.” Very few people have actually seen the Mueller report, but we do know that there was no explicit finding by Mueller on the question of whether Trump obstructed justice. And yet, when it comes to that very question, much of what we saw happen before our very eyes—Trump’s treatment of James Comey, his complaints about Jeff Sessions, multiple efforts to stymie the investigations—could certainly be understood to be elements of obstruction of justice. So acute is the sense of national shock and trauma at Trump’s open and flagrant misconduct that we are waiting patiently for a Mueller report to confirm that we have all been seeing what we’ve all been seeing for the past two years. We are standing next to a burning building and waiting for Robert Mueller to let us know if he smells smoke.

We have allowed Donald Trump’s narrow legal aperture to define the scope of wrongdoing for the rest of us.

Senate Republicans, bearing witness to all this, are extremely upset with … the president’s choices for the Fed. Beyond that, they will tolerate quite literally anything, including multiple agencies without Senate-confirmed Cabinet officials and agency heads. High-level collaborators will write memos to the file and count on history to exculpate them for doing their best in the face of an out-of-control autocrat. No matter what facts Mueller assembles, they will discredit it as the lawless work of deep state spies.

Robert Mueller was not charged with saving America from Donald Trump. Robert Mueller was not asked to define the scope of his own mandate in order to fit the precise contours of Donald Trump’s misdeeds. The persistent and perilous belief that whatever it is Robert Mueller has unearthed in secret is more relevant or compelling than what Donald Trump does openly every single day has produced a national myopia that has everyone so obsessed with the fruits of the Tree of Collusion and the Tree of Obstruction that we may have missed the forest altogether. We don’t get to outsource all the crime fighting and unfitness determinations to Robert Mueller and Adam Schiff. This is not the sharing economy; they aren’t Uber.

We have allowed Donald Trump’s narrow legal aperture—which allows only the noncrime of collusion to be the issue—to define the scope of wrongdoing for the rest of us. We have allowed the president to determine and define what we should consider illegal and improper and unfit, and we have allowed the confines of Mueller’s directive to define what we can hold Trump accountable for. But we should know what is wrong.

The issue before us is not just whether Barr eventually lets us know whether Mueller ultimately determined that the president unlawfully conspired with Russian agents to sway the 2016 election, or whether he attempted to obstruct inquiries into related investigations. The issue before us is (or at least, includes): whether Donald Trump has dangled pardons to obtain illegal outcomes, removed officials for their refusal to break the law, rewarded or pardoned others for breaking the law, threatened judges for legal conclusions they have made, violated campaign finance laws, violated tax laws, punished and threatened the free press, incited violence against Muslims, misused his charitable foundation, incited violence against political opponents, violated the Emoluments Clause, directed others to make illegal campaign payments, declined to seek redress for the brutal murder of a journalist by a foreign power, forced family separations at the border, attempted to change the asylum law at the border, banned trans service members, attempted to revoke Dreamers’ status, had conflicts of interest with Russia and other oligarchs worldwide, persistently lied about his conflicts of interest during the campaign and thereafter, used his twitter feed to incite retributive acts against critics … this list could go on and on. And on.

There will be a public reckoning about what the Mueller report contains and who can see it, possibly as soon as this Thursday, when the redacted version will be released. We can wait for that and have it, but we also need to acknowledge that it is not a substitute for a systematic public reckoning about everything else. Being so stunned by what’s happening every day that you put all hope in what someone else might uncover tomorrow is a rational way to cope in a time of numbing disintegration of government, rules, and trust. But it’s not enough. It’s not a substitute. It’s barely even a start.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Elections, International, Local, News, Politics0 Comments


The Mueller Report Is Much Worse for Trump Than Barr Let On

JIM WATSON/Getty Images

If president Donald Trump isn’t guilty of obstruction of justice, who ever could be? Special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report, made public Thursday in redacted form, outlined over nearly half of those pages how the president reacted to and fumed over the Russia probe, seeking to undermine it, curtail it, and even fire the special counsel himself.

AG Barr, President D**** Trump, SC Mueller

The first section of the Mueller report details Russia’s efforts to upend the 2016 presidential campaign, and scrutinizes the many interactions between Trump associates and Russia. But it’s in the second half, which provides a litany of instances in which Trump may have obstructed justice, that the real bombshells await.

‘I’m F***ed’

According to the report, Trump’s reacted to Mueller’s appointment as special counsel in May 2017 as follows: “Oh my god, this is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”

And then, as Mueller lays out in sometimes lurid detail, in at least 10 episodes over the ensuing months Trump sought to block or stop that very investigation. He did so even as Mueller doggedly made public the “sweeping and systematic fashion” in which the Russian government attacked the 2016 presidential election, and brought serious criminal charges—and won guilty pleas—from a half-dozen of the president’s top campaign aides.

Little if any of those revelations had made their way into attorney general William Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report last month. Even as he correctly summarized that Mueller did not find that Trump’s campaign conspired—distinct from colluding, which the report makes clear—with the Russian government, Barr appears to have misled the public about the severity of the evidence on obstruction of justice. He also misrepresented Mueller’s reasoning for not making a “traditional prosecutorial decision” on the obstruction half of his investigation.

The attorney general has implied that Mueller left that choice to Barr. In truth, the report makes clear that Mueller felt constrained by the Justice Department policy that a sitting president could not be indicted. Don’t mistake lack of prosecution, in other words, for absence of wrongdoing. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president did not obstruct justice, we would so state,” Mueller’s report says. “Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Mueller then points to Congress, not the attorney general, as the body appropriate to answer the question of obstruction. As Mueller wrote in what seems to be all but a referral for impeachment proceedings, “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balanced and the principle that no person is above the law.”

Low Barr

That the contents of the Mueller report diverges so sharply from Barr’s portrayal has long seemed possible, based on his initial summary and subsequent appearance before Congress. Barr was appointed, after all, after writing a memo casting the Mueller investigation as illegitimate. In the hours leading up to the report’s release, that suspicion increased sharply.

Ninety minutes before the public had a chance to read the report, Barr held an odd and at times curt 22-minute press conference in which he re-summarized his views, presenting an argument that made him sound more like the president’s personal defense attorney rather than the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. “The special counsel found no collusion,” said Barr. “That’s the bottom line.” Barr went on to stress how frustrating the Russia probe was to the president, asking reporters to consider Donald Trump’s emotions and mental state.

Barr further praised Donald Trump for “fully cooperating,” ignoring the president’s refusal to sit for an interview with Mueller’s investigators, along with the fact that Trump tried at least once to fire the special counsel, consistently attacked the legitimacy of the investigation in public, and openly encouraged witnesses not to cooperate. Barr also never mentioned that a half-dozen of the president’s top campaign aides—including the former campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, national security advisor, and personal lawyer—have all pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from the probe.

The true scope and implications of Mueller’s work didn’t sink in until over an hour later, when the report itself was posted to the Justice Department’s website. It quickly became clear that the report didn’t line up with the rose-colored glasses with which Barr had presented it over the preceding month.

The contrast was especially stark in the matter of obstruction. The 10 episodes the report details include a Trump lawyer’s attempt attempt to keep national security advisor Michael Flynn from implicating the president, and Trump’s attempts to pressure White House counsel to cover up or stall the investigation of national security advisor Michael Flynn in the opening days of the presidency, and Trump instructing White House counsel Don McGahn to deny that Trump had ever ordered him to fire Mueller. Trump also, the report says, complained that McGahn kept notes of their meetings.

There was, Mueller also concludes, good reason for the president to attempt to obstruct the ongoing FBI probe. “The evidence does suggest indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal or political concerns,” Mueller wrote.

After reading through the numerous episodes, it seems almost nothing short of a miracle that Mueller’s probe appears to have wrapped up on his own terms, though not for lack of effort on Trump’s part to derail it. Instead, Mueller paints a picture of a commander-in-chief who fought back in private and public against the probe, but was ultimately saved from his worst instincts by aides like McGahn, who cooperated extensively with Mueller’s probe and testified for some 30 hours before his team. “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful,” the report reads, “but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

The Russia Probe

The question of obstruction will rightly take much of the spotlight Thursday. But the Mueller report also clarifies some questions about the Trump campaign and Russia—again offering a corrective to Barr’s enthusiastic exoneration of Trump.

The report’s first volume is a highly detailed and deeply informed investigation of the two-pronged attack by Russia on the 2016 campaign. It encompasses both the information influence operations of the Internet Research Agency and the active cyberthefts and document dumps of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, funneled through WikiLeaks using the thinly veiled online personalities of DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0. As Mueller wrote, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”

In the report’s first 200 pages, Mueller walks through Moscow’s efforts, as well as the various odd instances where Trump campaign officials or Trump aides met with Russian-linked individuals. While none of the interactions between Trump associates and Russians apparently rose to the level of a prosecutable conspiracy, Mueller himself set a high bar for such charges—defining such applicable charges as only arising out of an agreement, tacit or explicit, with the Russian government itself. Mueller was careful to say, though, that the Trump campaign apparently “expected” to benefit from Russia’s help.

Barr had previously quoted in his summary the second half of a single sentence on the first page of Volume I, telling Congress that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference efforts.” The full sentence is decidedly more troubling. As Mueller actually wrote: “Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference efforts.”

Moreover, Mueller makes clear that part of the reason he couldn’t find a prosecutable conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia was because he was stymied by lies, obstruction, and evidence deleted by his investigative targets. “The Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report,” Mueller wrote. In one specific example, Mueller says he was unable to reconcile the purpose of a long-mysterious meeting in the Seychelles because two key figures, campaign chair Paul Manafort and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, had deleted their exchanges about the meeting.

What Happens Next

There were countless moments—some accounted in great detail in the Mueller report—where it seemed that Mueller himself might be axed or his investigation hamstrung, including threats from the president and the still-inexplicable appointment of Matthew Whitaker as the acting attorney general. Yet, in the end, despite all the breathless cable coverage and breaking news headlines, both Mueller and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein endured through to the completion of the investigation on Mueller’s own terms. In Barr’s first letter to Congress announcing the end of the probe, he—as legally required to do—explained that there were no significant areas where he or Rosenstein blocked Mueller.

Given the nearly 200 pages of obstruction-related episodes and evidence that Mueller amassed, including confirmation that Trump tried to remove Mueller and gain control of the probe himself, that fact alone seems like a testament to the resiliency of the country’s democratic institutions.

But the report’s release also made clear just how much more investigation there may be still to unfold, even as Mueller himself prepares to wrap up work in the days ahead and return to private life. Mueller has evidently referred at least 14 ongoing investigations onto other prosecutors, including 12 that are redacted in the report to prevent harm to ongoing cases. The other two, which focus on Michael Cohen and former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, have been publicly known for some time.

And beyond those, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler has already requested that Robert Mueller testify before Congress no later than May 23. Nadler has also said he plans to subpoena for the full, unredacted report, as well as any underlying materials. Which is to say: This is far from over. The long-awaited “Mueller Time” may have come Thursday, but Mueller’s impact will reverberate for some time to come.

More Great WIRED Stories

Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) is a contributing editor for WIRED and the author, among other works, of Mueller’s War, available on Scribd. He can be reached at

Posted in Crime, Featured, International, Legal, Local, News, Opinions, Politics, Regional0 Comments


How this overdone ‘laudation’

by Claude Gerald

This is ridiculous. It’s been overdone. It should never ever been conceived. Redhead is a tiny dot on the map in terms of contribution to growth of the law in this region…

We do not value what is valuable! That is our problem. And our institutions in government behave just like him in acknowledging him.  This hopefully is the last mention of his name in a public fora on Montserrat!

Justice Morley presides over special sitting

To honour Redhead is to dishonor what is moral, decent and proper. The man made a mockery of his role as an impartial adjudicator, imposing his personal views as the law itself, rather than be guided by it. He corrupted the process and sided ahead of time despite evidence.

This man has got a history of impropriety on the bench. Is that what we are celebrating? Notice how politicians in neighbouring Antigua worshiped him? Why you have to ask? What about the deceased ‘Justice’ that attracts such glamour and celebration and praise and adulation?

John Stanley Weeks, Warren Cassell and many others where he injected himself to determine their matters. Questions still persist on his handling of the missing ballots in the 1987 election on Montserrat and the Montserrat Printery where he sided with John Osborn and his lot. His pattern stunk.

We are lauding who is NOT laudable. Anything said about REDHEAD that is worthy is a big stretch of the mind. Notice no other judge who has left this world, not even an officer of the court at the level of a practitioner, anywhere in the Caribbean ever attracted such verbal glow. It is a big laugh but it is not funny at all.

To conceive of this sends the wrong signals to the society on a whole. We should all be thankful that he is not in our lives as a Justice. We should be breathing relief instead. This is all so hypocritical. It is nauseating.

Life is fulfilling without Redhead in our midst. And I wish that his adherents, the Redheadites   of this world could tell him (he lives in their soul) that I was never impressed with his demeanour on the bench, his value system and he devalued and discredited the philosophical virtues and standing of the practice of law. In fact he was a disgrace to decency…. he did what certain interest groups wanted despite what was before him….

Nature rids itself of the no good and the good and accepts their physical bodies in a recycling process for our good.  I wonder if Nature in its perfection could not have pressed the selective button and determine the quality of organisms that returns to its compost heaps. Certain remains need to be screened.  But then Nature is not discriminating in its overall judgments of issues before its courts!

Claude Gerald is a social commentator on Montserrat.

Posted in CARICOM, Court, International, Legal, Local, News, OECS, Opinions, Police1 Comment

Jus Wonderin...

Jus Wonderin…

Jus wonderin why de magistrate charge $2500 forthwith for some individual and why de Custum Officers jus search out the gel dem panties who come here for St. Patricks festival.

Jus wonderin if these things should no stap and wonder what the Premier goin do bout it and if dey not going decriminalise de marijuana and free up the people  dem.

Jus wonderin when de people in Davy Hill for de spanikin house dem a go get dem key.

Jus wonderin if Gregory is a follower or a leader.

Jus wonderin if dem nar do discipline de honourable doc.

Jus wonderin if de honorable opposition was there when dey outsource the cleaning services and now a pretend he don’t know nothing. I callin on him to stap fool de people dem and buy vote carze Montserrat people dem no foolish.

 Jus wonderin why de hon minista o agriculture and he acting PS demolish de nursery at Brades and move it to where Sankofa was above Public Works.

Jus why de premier and de FS late wid de budget for three years in a row, if dem no need fu come to d people and explain why three years in a row de budget late.

Jus wonderin why de PDM govment so incompetent and also de opposition members also so incompetent.

Jus wonderin if disunity carze dat fu de P D M and de others dem jus ignorunt o stupid.

Jus wonderin why Montserrat people dem no come together and save this country f deterioration.

Jus wonderin if nobady a go say anything bout de Customs offica dem behavia tumbling out de gei dem underwear and brazier dem and spreading dem out in front o everybady.

Jus really wonder if dat a true and why we hear bout marijuana and no bady hear bout de people dem rites and de marginalisation. 

Jus wonderin if dat will continue when Kristmus come.

Jus wonderin wha a happen bout de new hospital if awe a go get wan u not.

Jus wonderin if a new Attorney General appointed yet.

Jus wonderin if now awe get a PMO if the rest of the Premier’s important office is staffed.

Jus wonderin if Saga Gregory mi a fire shots at de FS who really ha the responsibility fu de budget preparation.

Jus wonderin whu much trouble de siam FS carse Montserrat and if he an de Career Govna who appoint him an give him big bonus.

Jus wonderin if dem shudn’t do im de same lek de PMO but definitely fu carse.

Posted in Entertainment, Joke Corner, Jus Wonderin, Local, News, OECS, Police, Politics, Regional0 Comments

Workmen look at the clockface on the Queen Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben on April 2, 2019 in London, England.

Today in Brexit: Give Us Just a Little More Time—Seriously, Please?

The Slatest

By Elliot Hannon – April 05, 2019 The Slatest

Workmen look at the clockface on the Queen Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben on April 2, 2019 in London, England.
Workmen look at the clockface on the Queen Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben on April 2, 2019 in London, England. Animation by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Today in Brexit is a daily feature that will attempt to keep track of the chaotic mess playing out in the U.K. If you’re just tuning in, here’s a brief explainer on what you’ve been missing. 

Welcome to Brexit purgatory, which on Friday started to look like it might last even longer than previously thought possible. With the U.K. set to depart the EU in exactly one week and no agreement in Parliament on what the relationship between the two should look like after the breakup, Prime Minister Theresa May formally requested from Brussels another extension to the Brexit deadline, proposing a new drop dead date of June 30.

Today in Desperation: Will Brussels agree to the 11-week extension for the U.K. to try again to reach consensus on a deal? It looks increasingly like not. The British prime minister requested the very same June 30 extension the first time around, and the EU shot it down, opting for a shorter reprieve. It appears likely to say no again, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be an extension of some kind. European Council President Donald Tusk is pushing a full-year extension! He’s pitching it as a “flextension,” meaning that the U.K. would have the full year to come to some sort of decision but could pull out earlier if it got its act together. In this scenario, the U.K. is a harried student begging a teacher (the EU) for one more day after pulling an all-nighter to finish an essay—and failing. And the teacher, after taking a look at the state of the paper, replies: “How about you take a week. Trust me, you’ll need it.”

Today’s Emergency: What now? EU and U.K. leaders are scheduled to meet for an emergency summit Wednesday that will almost certainly revolve around the terms of an extension, rather than the nature of Britain’s exit. It is not a certainty, however, that the EU will grant an extension at all. There are rumblings from within the European member states, the loudest coming from France, that granting another extension won’t do anything other than kick the can down the road—yet again. It’s a hard argument to counter considering the lethargic pace of the Brexit negotiations until a deadline focused the mind. Those deadlines haven’t yet produced any new results, but they have sufficiently motivated British parliamentarians to engage on the issue.

Today’s Reminder This Is Still a Negosh: It’s important to remember that Brexit is a negotiation, and rumblings from France, for instance, could be a “bad cop” routine, serving as a stick to keep the U.K. moving. The European Union’s line has generally been that it would like the U.K. to stay as closely aligned with the bloc as possible, and as the deadline nears, British parliamentarians have been drifting toward a more centrist compromise that would see the country more closely aligned than even under May’s negotiated withdrawal. Would the EU want to halt this momentum just to prove a point about deadlines? Seems unlikely.

The brinkmanship of sticking to the current April 12 deadline or bust, without the ability to grant some sort of extension, might help keep British leaders on task. But it also makes very real the as possible the U.K. would be unable to come to an internal agreement about its future relationship with the EU and would leave the bloc with no deal at all. A no-deal Brexit, which would see the country revert to WTO trade rules, is favored by a sizable and vocal portion of the right wing of British politics. This non-negotiated style of Brexit, however, is seen as carrying substantial economic risks, as it would essentially rip the U.K. economy from the European economy in one week’s time, requiring new customs arrangements, trade deals, and on and on. The operating assumption is that the EU will do what it takes to avoid that scenario, even grant an extension that perhaps wasn’t exactly earned.

Today’s Lame Duck: Complicating matters on Friday’s extension request is the fact that European parliamentary elections are set to be held on May 23. That puts the U.K. in the potentially awkward position of going to the polls to elect representatives to a government they don’t plan participating in, long-term. May has assured Brussels the country will go through the steps to hold the election, a move that has laid the groundwork for a longer extension. From the EU’s point of view, having lame duck British MEPs isn’t all that appealing for the obvious reason that they may have different long- and short-term interests on matters before the European Parliament. This may seem like a far-fetched threat of internal sabotage by British MEPs should Brexit negotiations stretch on through another session of parliament in Europe, but it’s one that right-wing pro-Brexit MP Jacob Rees-Mogg made explicitly on Friday.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Elections, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, Scriptures, UK - Brexit0 Comments

Cayman Islands Chief Justice Smellie tries to redefine marriage, fails

Cayman Islands Chief Justice Smellie tries to redefine marriage, fails

A Special: Part 5

Does a judge have a just power to overturn the specific provisions of a Constitution?

BRADES, Montserrat, March 30, 2019 –  On Friday, March 29, 2019, Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, QC reportedly ruled[1] that “marriage means the union between two people as one another’s spouses.” In doing so, he tried to establish what has been called “same-sex marriage”[2]; but, at the cost of precipitating[3] a needless, Caribbean-wide – arguably, Commonwealth-wide – constitutional crisis. That’s why the Cayman Government has protested:  “we believe that introducing the entirely new concept of same-sex marriage into the existing Marriage Law goes way beyond any reasonable interpretation of modification or adaptation.” It adds: “[t]his, we believe, might be inconsistent with the separation of powers by trespassing on the constitutional remit of this Legislative Assembly,” and it is appealing the judgement.

This is because Justice Smellie claimed to act under colour of “rights” that have been violated, then dismissed historic or traditional views as prone to “inequities,” further holding that “neither tradition nor religion could form the ‘rational basis for a law’.”  He also (tellingly) asserted that “it was settled case law that the court has the power to make legislation which breaches the constitution.”

Yes, Justice Smellie did plainly say or imply that “the court has the power to make legislation” and – even worse – that such new laws (issued by unelected judges!) can breach provisions of a Constitution. Nor does the claim[4] that “[i]t doesn’t say you can’t add the right of other people to enjoy those rights [of marriage]” change the pivotal fact that one is – by the obvious implications of “add” – amending a Constitution from the judge’s bench. Such, in the teeth of the known democratic intent of both the Legislature and the people of Cayman.

This is dangerous judicial over-reach and must not stand unchallenged. (Indeed, if it is so that “settled case law” backs the judge, it only implies that the danger is even more urgent, more clear and present.)

For, such an imposition threatens the general legitimacy of constitutional democratic government under the rule of law. Indeed, a claim that courts have Constitution-breaching, law-making power is manifestly a serious, anti-democratic judicial over-reach. One, that is obviously in contempt of Parliament, people and Constitution alike. (Indeed, this case may be grounds for establishing that our judges must now be subject to impeachment for contempt of Parliament, people and Constitution.)

But, but, but . . . shouldn’t the judiciary be independent?

Yes, judges are indeed independent. But, not so independent that they – being unelected and not accountable to voters – can strike down and replace actual specific Constitutional provisions as they wish, rather than soundly interpreting and applying the duly established Constitutional law.  In a Constitutional Democracy, for very good reasons, the Constitution is democratically established as the supreme law of the land and it should only be amended or replaced through a proper democratic process. Therefore, judges simply cannot have a legitimate power to unilaterally amend a constitution.

Now, the Cayman Constitution’s Section 14 has already specifically recognised the historic, Creation order based, naturally evident definition of marriage:  “Government shall respect the right of every unmarried man and woman of marriageable age (as determined by law) freely to marry a person of the opposite sex and found a family.”  Where, no, this historic understanding that marriage is based on the naturally evident, creation order based complementarity of the two sexes is not mere bigotry or rights-violating oppression and discrimination comparable to slavery or racism or other age-long abuses. Such a suggestion[5] in the ruling is outrageous. Frankly, it reflects nothing less than utter contempt for the people of the Caribbean. People who historically suffered enslavement, oppression and racism.

Thus, fail.

For, we must have the rule of law (especially, through Constitutions), not rule of men. Therefore, judges simply cannot be allowed to dismiss inconvenient Constitutional provisions through dictating from the judicial bench by decree under colour of law.

Not even, under colour of “rights.”

Rights are an underlying issue: what is a right?  Let us therefore recall what was already noted[6] in this special series here at TMR:

“A right is a binding, moral claim that one must be respected and protected due to his or her inherent dignity and worth as a human being. Such worth can only come from our being made in God’s image and “endowed with certain unalienable rights.” Rights, that start with “life.” We are morally governed, conscience-guided creatures who have responsible, rational freedom. Clearly, then, to properly claim a right one must first manifestly be in the right.  Indeed, in order to persuade us the FAC expects us to know that we have duties to truth, right reason, prudence, fairness etc. That is, they too understand that we are morally governed creatures. But, such conscience-guided moral government, in the end, has just one credible source: the inherently good, wise, loving creator God.”

Therefore, it is fair comment to point out that those who applauded Justice Smellie’s ruling were inadvertently applauding the destructive subversion, usurpation and undermining of the rule of law through constitutional democracy in the Caribbean and the wider Commonwealth.

The Chinese speak of how a government has a mandate from heaven, which can be lost through folly and failure. That is because governments must be legitimate,[7] they must have what the American founders spoke of as “the consent of the governed.”  A government system that undermines and forfeits such legitimacy loses its “just powers” and so faces growing disaffection and the fatal, spreading contempt of ordinary law abiding people.

That is why it is a lesson of history (paid for with blood again and again), that governments that lose legitimacy become tyrannical as they try to impose increasingly unjust power. Such tyrannies will ultimately fail, but that usually costs rivers of blood.  Also, as certain neighbouring Caribbean countries show, there is no guarantee that a replacement will be an improvement.

Instead, let us carefully ponder how Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Washington and the other American founders warned us all, on July 4, 1776:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, fail.  Fail, through judicial over-reach. Fail, through not understanding that to properly claim a right, one must manifestly be in the right; on pain of trying to compel others to taint conscience, ignore sound moral principle and support one in evil. Fail, through not recognising that reason itself is inescapably morally governed and that moral government therefore traces to the inherently good and wise Moral Governor of the universe, our Creator. We must do better as a region.


[2] See, TMR

[3] See KY Gov’t

[4] See

[5] See,

[6] See, TMR:

[7] See, SEP

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Columns, Court, De Ole Dawg, Education, Legal, OECS, Opinions, Regional, UK - Brexit1 Comment



Prime Minister Theresa May leaves from the rear of 10 Downing Street on Monday. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

Parliament rejects soft Brexit, second referendum

Now for a Brexit update: Things are still a mess! On Monday, UK members of Parliament ended up rejecting four different alternative options to Prime Minister Theresa May’s unpopular Brexit plan. The options included two proposals to keep Britain in a customs union with the European Union that narrowly missed out on a majority.

Today, May will hold a mammoth five-hour meeting of her Cabinet to try to bust the deadlock and possibly get her Withdrawal Agreement back into consideration. Rumors have also swirled that the Prime Minister is considering a snap election as one way of getting more clarity on the whole situation.

The UK government has denied that this could be an option, but hey, they’re approaching serious crunch time. If no deal or agreement is reached, the UK will crash out of the European Union on April 12th. 

Posted in Elections, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, UK - Brexit0 Comments

PM's deal will 'damage the union'

Brexit mess: Montserrat LegAss mess

Brexit mess How did we get here and what could come next?

And Montserrat Assembly, we know how it got there, but what will happen next?


by Bennette Roach

In his analysis of the future for Brexit, Mark Stone says a deal is still possible but it won’t be easy.

By Mark Stone, Europe correspondent in Brussels

Image: Is there still hope for a Brexit deal with the European Union?

Let’s take a step back.

There are two documents at the heart of the Brexit debacle: One is 585 pages, dense and legally binding.

The other is 26 pages, aspirational and not legally binding.

The long one is the withdrawal agreement and it is the divorce deal. It tackles three key areas – citizens (what happens to them after Brexit?), money (how much does the UK owe the club it’s leaving?) and the Irish border (what happens to that after Brexit, given that it becomes an EU border?).

The short one is the political declaration and it deals with the future relationship the UK wants with the EU after Brexit.

For simplicity here, I’ll call them “the long one” and “the short one”.

Brexit supporters march through London

The long one is, as I said, legally binding. It’s the EU’s method of legally tying up loose ends created by Brexit.

It was negotiated by both sides over two years and agreed by the 27 remaining EU countries and by the UK.

It contains the “demon” known as the backstop. “Remind me what that is again?”, I hear you ask.

It’s an insurance clause designed to ensure that the border between Ireland (in the EU) and Northern Ireland (exiting the EU) remains open and free of infrastructure in all circumstances. This is to ensure the integrity of the EU’s single market while also honouring the principles of the Good Friday peace agreement.

To achieve its aim, the backstop, if activated (in the absence of UK/EU free trade deal), locks the UK in a customs union with the EU until alternative arrangements, which meet the same ends as the backstop (no border) are found.

Brexiteers hate the backstop because, far from allowing the UK to “take back control”, it locks the UK to the EU until alternative arrangements (which they say are available now) are realised.

We’re reaching the limits of this process’

The short document is not legally binding. It is a set of aspirations for the sort of relationship the UK and the EU want to have post-Brexit.

At the moment the short document is styled towards Theresa May’s form of Brexit. It doesn’t aspire to a so-called soft Brexit which would see the UK in a form of customs union and/or single market.

It is in keeping with Mrs May’s pledge to stop free movement of people and allow the UK to pursue its own trade deals.

The short and long document together – the deal – have been voted on twice in so-called meaningful votes. They were voted down both times.

Mrs May has allowed the clock to tick down and been able to present the choice as her deal versus no Brexit or a very delayed Brexit (after a majority of MPs rejected allowing no deal to happen – though legally it still could).

In her latest attempt to get the deal through, Mrs May asked MPs to vote only on the big document. Only that document needs a positive vote in order to secure Brexit.

It still didn’t go through. Some Brexiteers held their nose and voted for it but some didn’t and Labour decided it was a “blind Brexit” because it didn’t contain the short document on the future (even though they didn’t like the current contents of that document).

So what now?

Well – firstly – it’s really very very hard to accurately predict anything at the moment.

The two new key dates are 10 April (when the EU has called all leaders to Brussels for an emergency summit) and 12 April which is, ostensibly, the new 29 March – no-deal Brexit day.

Between now and 10 April, the UK has to come up with a plan B.

The central question is: “Will the UK take part in the European Parliament elections?”

If the UK wants a longer extension – which is now almost the only alternative to a no deal rupture – then it must commit to taking part in the elections which are on 24 May.

Why? Because if the UK continues to be a member of the EU after those elections then, legally and democratically, it must have MEPs in the European Parliament.

If the UK commits to those elections (a hard/impossible pill to swallow for Britons who voted leave) then the EU will probably grant a long extension at that 10 April summit.

But there is a view gaining traction among some in governments across the EU that the time is fast approaching to cut the UK loose.

No breakthrough: Brexit vote results in full

The pendulum on the risk/benefit analysis of no deal (very damaging) versus long extension (continued paralysis) is moving.

If the UK committed to the European Parliament elections but had no plan B for sealing an exit deal then it might not be enough to secure the extension.

The EU doesn’t want to prolong the uncertainty. They want a credible, deliverable alternative path from Westminster.

Back to the documents. Remember that while the long document is closed and can’t be changed, the short one can be rewritten in a matter of days.

Therefore, if as a consequence of the indicative votes process where MPs are whittling down the future relationship options they are prepared to countenance an option which gets the thumbs-up from a majority of MPs, then we could be back in business for a deal or a guaranteed extension.

PM’s deal will ‘damage the union’

The next indicative vote round is on Monday. At the last one, both a second referendum and membership of a customs union came close to a majority.

If either one secured a majority next week then the short document could be rewritten by UK and EU negotiators to reflect that.

The short document and the long one could then be married together again and voted on late next week.

That could result in the deal passing.

Many Brexiteers, who held their noses and voted for the long document at this last vote, would probably not do so again (they hate both a customs union and a second referendum) but many on the opposition benches who didn’t vote for the long document this time probably would vote for it.

If the customs union option formed the basis of the new short document then there is still the prospect that Brexit could happen on 22 May – the original extension granted by the EU.

That scenario would mean the UK doesn’t need to take part in the European Parliament elections because they don’t take place until 23 May.

If the confirmatory referendum option was chosen then a longer extension would be required and so too would participation in the European elections.

There is, of course, a snag. Now that Mrs May has committed to stepping down if her deal goes through, many pro-EU MPs will fear that a harder line Brexiteer replaces her and then, down the line, rips up the reworked shorter document.

In that scenario, the future relationship negotiations would break down and the backstop would come into effect – which would be that future Brexiteer prime minister’s nightmare.

Honestly, though by the time you read this, anything could have happened. I haven’t even mentioned a general election.

The Brexit and Legislative Assembly mess cumulating same day
The Brexit and Legislative Assembly mess cumulating same day

See for Legislative Assembly mess:

Posted in Featured, International, Local, News, Politics, UK - Brexit0 Comments

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