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

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...

The British Political Crisis Deepens

What happens next, as neither major political party can find a Brexit position that reflects what most Britons want?

(Press Association via AP Images)
British politics from 1850 to 1920 was devoured by the Irish question. It split parties. Destroyed careers. Lost Britain support in America. Diverted political energy from reform and modernisation to political identity and culture wars. Historians will record that British politics of 1950 to 2020 was increasingly consumed by the Europe question. It is reaching some kind of climax with the resignation of two senior Conservative ministers, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, and David Davis, the Brexit minister. Other ministers have resigned. Others are likely to follow. The prime minister, Theresa May, was jeered in the House of Commons when she made a statement on the resignations. She is losing authority by the day. She faces a leader of the Labour opposition who is utterly lost on Europe, unable to take advantage of the governing party’s disarray. Both parties are divided. MPs despise and hold in open contempt their leaders. Anti-European MPs in the Conservative Party pour...

From Here to Brexiternity: The Crisis in British Politics

British politics in early March has been a tale of four prime ministers—two former ones, the present holder of the office, and one who would like to take over. Never in British history has there been such discordance between the past, present, and possibly future occupants of Downing Street. Last Friday, Theresa May made her long awaited speech to define once and for all Britain’s relationship with Europe, with Ireland and her own relationship with an uncompromising anti-European isolationist right-wing. She said very little. Her speech was an mainly outreach to the English who voted “No” to Europe, not an effort to find common ground with a European Union that longs for some sign the U.K. might turn its back on the politics of close to amputational rupture. May did not explain that the EU is what the Germans call a Rechtsgemeinschaft —a community of laws—and you cannot pick and chose the laws you obey. On the contrary, she offered proposals that...

Brexit Hate Propaganda

The Daily Telegraph’s attack on George Soros crosses a new line

(AP Photo/Pablo Gorondi)
Has Viktor Orban, the populist, Jew-baiting prime minister of Hungary, been invited by the proprietors of London isolationist anti-European press to be their guest editor? In Poland, the ultra-Catholic rightist nationalist leader, Jarosław Kaczynski, is pushing through a law which will make it a crime, including fines and imprisonment, to state the historical truth that during the Nazi occupation of Poland, there were some Poles who committed anti-Semitic acts, denounced Polish Jews to the Gestapo, and in the village of Jedwabne, herded Jews into a building and set it alight. These are well-documented facts and Princeton Professor Jan Gross, himself a victim of the last purge of Jews in Poland in 1968, when the communist regime expelled thousands of mainly young Jewish students as trouble-makers and subversives, has written magisterial books on this dark side of Polish history. In Hungary, Viktor Orban has launched an extraordinary attacks on George Soros, the 87-year-old...

Pages