The House of Commons voted on Palestine's status. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

MPs overwhelmingly back Palestinian statehood in a historic vote

MPs have voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state alongside Israel in a symbolic vote.

Yesterday evening, the House of Commons voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a state alongside Israel, in a symbolic motion serving as “a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”.

Rarely do our politicians have the opportunity to vote on Israel/Palestine’s status, making the result of this vote – 274 to 12 – a historic moment.

However, less than half of our MPs took part in the vote, and government ministers – including the Prime Minister – abstained on the vote, showing the enduring controversy of the subject.

The motion, calling on the government to “recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel”, was put forward by the Labour MP Grahame Morris and amended by the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Following the result, Morris commented that this was a “small but symbolically important” step towards recognising Palestinian statehood.

However, not all MPs were happy with the situation. There were worries among the Labour whips about a rebellion, with one shadow minister telling the Telegraph that there had been a “cock-up” in party management. This was regarding the anger of some in the party that they were going to be compelled by their leadership to publicly back Palestine. In the end, Labour only enforced a one-line whip, meaning MPs in attendance were encouraged to vote in favour of the motion.

Here are the 12 MPs who voted against the motion:

Matthew Offord, Conservative MP for Hendon

Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for Harrow East

Jonathan Djanogly, Conservative MP for Huntingdon

Mike Freer, Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green

Nigel Mills, Conservative MP for Amber Valley

Robert Syms, Conservative MP for Poole

Nigel Dodds, DUP MP for North Belfast

William McCrea, DUP MP for South Antrim

Ian Paisley, DUP MP for North Antrim

Jim Shannon, DUP MP for Strangford

David Simpson, DUP MP for Upper Bann

Sir Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Brexit has opened up big rifts among the remaining EU countries

Other non-Euro countries will miss Britain's lobbying - and Germany and France won't be too keen to make up for our lost budget contributions.

Untangling 40 years of Britain at the core of the EU has been compared to putting scrambled eggs back into their shells. On the UK side, political, legal, economic, and, not least, administrative difficulties are piling up, ranging from the Great Repeal Bill to how to process lorries at customs. But what is less appreciated is that Brexit has opened some big rifts in the EU.

This is most visible in relations between euro and non-euro countries. The UK is the EU’s second biggest economy, and after its exit the combined GDP of the non-euro member states falls from 38% of the eurozone GDP to barely 16%, or 11% of EU’s total. Unsurprisingly then, non-euro countries in Eastern Europe are worried that future integration might focus exclusively on the "euro core", leaving others in a loose periphery. This is at the core of recent discussions about a multi-speed Europe.

Previously, Britain has been central to the balance between ‘ins’ and ‘outs’, often leading opposition to centralising eurozone impulses. Most recently, this was demonstrated by David Cameron’s renegotiation, in which he secured provisional guarantees for non-euro countries. British concerns were also among the reasons why the design of the European Banking Union was calibrated with the interests of the ‘outs’ in mind. Finally, the UK insisted that the euro crisis must not detract from the development of the Single Market through initiatives such as the capital markets union. With Britain gone, this relationship becomes increasingly lop-sided.

Another context in which Brexit opens a can of worms is discussions over the EU budget. For 2015, the UK’s net contribution to the EU budget, after its rebate and EU investments, accounted for about 10% of the total. Filling in this gap will require either higher contributions by other major states or cutting the benefits of recipient states. In the former scenario, this means increasing German and French contributions by roughly 2.8 and 2 billion euros respectively. In the latter, it means lower payments to net beneficiaries of EU cohesion funds - a country like Bulgaria, for example, might take a hit of up to 0.8% of GDP.

Beyond the financial impact, Brexit poses awkward questions about the strategy for EU spending in the future. The Union’s budgets are planned over seven-year timeframes, with the next cycle due to begin in 2020. This means discussions about how to compensate for the hole left by Britain will coincide with the initial discussions on the future budget framework that will start in 2018. Once again, this is particularly worrying for those receiving EU funds, which are now likely to either be cut or made conditional on what are likely to be more political requirements.

Brexit also upends the delicate institutional balance within EU structures. A lot of the most important EU decisions are taken by qualified majority voting, even if in practice unanimity is sought most of the time. Since November 2014, this has meant the support of 55% of member states representing at least 65% of the population is required to pass decisions in the Council of the EU. Britain’s exit will destroy the blocking minority of a northern liberal German-led coalition of states, and increase the potential for blocking minorities of southern Mediterranean countries. There is also the question of what to do with the 73 British MEP mandates, which currently form almost 10% of all European Parliament seats.

Finally, there is the ‘small’ matter of foreign and defence policy. Perhaps here there are more grounds for continuity given the history of ‘outsourcing’ key decisions to NATO, whose membership remains unchanged. Furthermore, Theresa May appears to have realised that turning defence cooperation into a bargaining chip to attract Eastern European countries would backfire. Yet, with Britain gone, the EU is currently abuzz with discussions about greater military cooperation, particularly in procurement and research, suggesting that Brexit can also offer opportunities for the EU.

So, whether it is the balance between euro ‘ins’ and ‘outs’, multi-speed Europe, the EU budget, voting blocs or foreign policy, Brexit is forcing EU leaders into a load of discussions that many of them would rather avoid. This helps explain why there is clear regret among countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, at seeing such a key partner leave. It also explains why the EU has turned inwards to deal with the consequences of Brexit and why, although they need to be managed, the actual negotiations with London rank fairly low on the list of priorities in Brussels. British politicians, negotiators, and the general public would do well to take note of this.

Ivaylo Iaydjiev is a former adviser to the Bulgarian government. He is currently a DPhil student at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford

0800 7318496