- 2017: The Year Ahead In Politics (Part One of Two)
- 2017: The Year Ahead in Politics (Part Two of Two)
From Brexit and the rise of Theresa May to the failed Labour leadership challenge, 2016 was undoubtedly a huge year for UK politics. The ramifications of some of these events will continue to be felt into 2017. In the first of our two part instalment, we consider what to expect in politics as the year goes by:
Supreme Court verdict on Article 50
In early January, the Supreme Court is set to deliver its verdict on the government’s appeal against the High Court decision that Parliament should not have the final say on any Brexit deal. If the original High Court decision that a vote in parliament will be required is not reversed this will be a significant blow to the government’s intended timetable for the exit process, as detailed proposals will have to be presented to parliament at each stage and an ‘Article 50 bill’ will have to pass through both houses.
After the resignation of Jamie Reed MP, a fierce critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, 2016’s first by-election is likely to take place in the Copeland constituency in Cumbria. Although a date has not yet been confirmed, Mr Reed has publicly stated that he is likely to cease being an MP ‘at the end of January 2017’, meaning that a date in February or possibly early March is most likely.
Triggering of Article 50
Theresa May previously expressed her desire to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017. After this declaration, the UK will have two years to agree on a new trade deal with the European Union before trading reverts to the default international tariffs agreed under World Trade Organisation rules. A period of prolonged negotiation is likely to follow this announcement in the hope of reaching a new agreement over our relationship with Brussels, although any new deal will only come into effect if it has the approval of all 27 member states.
As EU states have stated their refusal to open negotiations until Article 50 has been triggered, we know very little about what the European Commission and EU member states are seeking from the negotiations. Although both sides will have to draw up detailed negotiating plans, Theresa May will have to strike a balance which will satisfy leave voters while encouraging further investment in the UK economy and avoiding a market collapse.
Philip Hammond’s first budget
On 8th March 2017, Philip Hammond will deliver his first budget as Chancellor and provide an insight into the government’s fiscal policy with May at the helm. In the Autumn Statement last year, he cut taxes for big businesses but did not increase the financial support available for social care. Is more of the same on the cards?
Green Party Spring Conference
On 31st March, the Green Party will gather for their spring Political Conference. After Caroline Lucas retained her Brighton seat in 2016 and became joint party leader with Jonathan Bartley when Natalie Bennett decided to step down, the party will face an uphill struggle to expand its popularity outside of Brighton and local councils. Could we see a plan for increasing popularity?
2017 Local Elections
On the 4th May, voters will once again go to the polls to select their local mayors and councillors. 2017 will also mark the election of England’s first Regional Mayors, who will be in charge of local authorities with significantly more devolved powers than the rest of the UK.
The six regions that have agreed to establish a directly elected mayoral office in time for the 2017 elections are Greater Manchester, the Sheffield and Liverpool City Regions, the West Midlands, the North East and the Tees Valley. If other devolved regions agree to establish a directly elected mayoral office then more seats may be up for election. In some regions, such as Greater Manchester, it is expected that this post will be merged with that of Police and Crime Commissioner.
With the European Parliament Elections ahead in 2019 and the UK’s next General Election in 2020, expect the local results to indicate the political mood of the country and who may be the next occupant of 10 Downing Street.
Trump’s first G7 meeting
May 26th will mark the first meeting between newly inaugurated President Trump and the leaders of the other G7 powers (including Angela Merkel and Theresa May).
As well as meeting with the group of world leaders for the first time, we will also see how the newly elected president combines his bombastic nature with the tact required for diplomacy. We may also get a glimpse of how the UK’s special relationship with the US will be shaped by Brexit.
A Snap General Election?
Although Theresa May has repeatedly insisted that she will not call for an election until next legally mandated in 2020, an early election could be on the cards if her majority dwindles and she begins to lose the support of her own party or if she wants to cement her position as Prime Minister.
Although she has clearly stated that a snap vote could pose the risk of ‘instability’, polls have suggested that such a move could increase her majority and provide a more pro-Brexit House of Commons (the majority of MPs are still in favour of remain). The PM’s power to dissolve parliament is also now limited by the Fixed Term Parliament Act of 2011, which sets the date of the next poll as 2020 unless two-thirds of MPs vote otherwise or a vote of no confidence in the government is successful.