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

Theresa May Is No Closer to a Brexit Deal

But the odds of Britain crashing out of the EU are ominously increasing.

Theresa May has hauled up the white flag to the hardline anti-Europeans in her party. She has bought a temporary truce in internal Tory turmoil by giving in to Jacob Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson, and other anti-Europeans. This morning the Tory anti-Europeans were exultant on the BBC. One of them, the former Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, even resurrected their favorite myth that there are no border checks on the borders between Switzerland and its EU neighbors. In the last two months I have crossed into Switzerland eight times and trust me the Swiss take border controls and customs checks very seriously! Not noticed in this morning’s reporting is another Tory victory—namely that an amendment calling for a second referendum was defeated. The decision of seven Labour MPs to vote with the Conservatives also removes the already faint chance of a a new general election taking place as Jeremy Corbyn has been regularly demanding since last summer. This may stabilise the Conservative...

Confidence Game

Despite House of Commons drama, Britain is no closer to finding the answer to Brexit. 

As the dust settles on one of the House of Commons' un-finest hours, the future of Britain as a European power-player is as unclear as ever. On Tuesday, the Commons voted to humiliate Prime Minister Theresa May. On Wednesday, the Commons voted to enshrine her prime minster for as long as choses to stay. The UK Parliament came close to making itself a laughingstock as MPs pirouetted to both condemn and console the Prime Minister in the space of 24 hours. One can only feel sorry for the poor leaders of European nations as they try and decipher what on earth is the message British MPs are trying to send. The problem is that Britain’s political class is locked in three separate contests. The first one is between plebiscite and parliamentary democracy. For three centuries the way of governing Britain was by means of representative parliamentary democracy—decisions taken in the House of Commons by elected MPs. Beginning in 1973, British leaders opted for referendums in some...

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...