This Week in British Politics: 8th-14th October

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The European Commission, Trump and the DUP all caused issues at Number 10 last week. How did they deal with it?

European Commission denies Juncker was mocking May’s dance moves

On Monday last week, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker ‘risked fuelling Brexit tensions’ according to the Mail Online, after appearing to mock Theresa May. As the ex-prime minister of Luxembourg walked on stage to deliver a speech in Brussels, and after looking up in apparent confusion at the quiet theme song playing, he began to move his arms and smirk in an apparent parodying of Prime Minister Theresa May. Her theatrical entrance to her party conference last week, during which she danced to ABBA’s hit, ‘Dancing Queen’, is likely to be another thing that haunts May’s reputability and career.

What was billed to be an uneventful speech after last year’s comedy of errors, May has come under persistent ridicule for her performance, including becoming the brunt of countless internet memes, with some on the Labour benches suggesting that it was inappropriate for the Prime Minister to precede her serious speech with such light-hearted humour.

However, her friends in Europe clearly saw the funny side, with Juncker, who’s previously been accused of alcohol-induced faux-pas himself, breaking out some uncannily similar dance gestures. May might find this a source of humiliation, but political observers will certainly find the disco fever among Europe’s politicians a welcome break from the heavy, divisive topic of Brexit.

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DUP threaten to block Hammond’s budget over Brexit 

Since the Conservatives lost their majority in the snap general election of 2017, Theresa May has relied on votes from members of the Northern Irish, right-leaning Democratic Unionist Party to pass legislation.

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster made it very clear last week that Northern Ireland cannot be ‘treated differently’ to the rest of the UK after any Brexit deal that comes back from Brussels this month.

The Northern Irish border remains a sticking point for both negotiating teams, with the two sides agreeing it’s crucial that there’s no hard border on the island of Ireland. Despite this however, the UK’s red lines of no customs union or single market are proving to make this very difficult for the two parties to strike an agreement, whether in the form of a ‘backstop’, a technological border, or a continuation of the current political consensus.

Arlene Foster is determined to ensure that Northern Ireland remains just as much a part of the UK as Scotland, Wales, or England. If going back on her promise to prop up Theresa May’s government is the price she has to pay, it certainly seems she’s willing to do it.

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‘Gay cake’ row comes to an end

Back in 2014, the Christian owners of Ashers Bakery in Belfast, Daniel and Amy McArthur, refused to bake a cake with the words ‘Support Gay Marriage’ on it, citing their religious freedom. Not willing to let the issue die, customer and gay rights activist Gareth Lee decided to sue the couple on the grounds that he was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation. The Ashers lost the case, and damages of £500 were agreed by the legal teams.

However, last Wednesday, the row over what has been dubbed “the most expensive cake in the UK” after racking up legal fees of nearly half a million pounds, came to an end after the Ashers won their appeal against the ruling in the Supreme Court.

According to the BBC, the couple only ever had an issue with the message and not the customer, and this argument won the justices’ support. However, Mr Lee, who’s been financially supported throughout the case by the Equality Commission, said that the ruling made him feel like a ‘second-class citizen’.

The case about a cake which sparked a national debate about gay marriage in Northern Ireland, religious freedom, and discrimination, has come to an end, but the issues that it brought into the public consciousness have not.

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Trump visit cost the UK £18m 

Last Thursday, Sara Thornton, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, announced that US President Donald Trump’s July visit to the UK cost the police almost £18 million.

Over the 4 day trip, according to The Guardian, the president ‘attended a gala dinner at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, held talks with Theresa May at her Chequers country retreat in Buckinghamshire, and met the Queen at Windsor Castle before heading to Scotland for a weekend of golf’. During this time, demonstrations were held across the country, the largest of which in London saw a giant blow-up Trump baby paraded through the streets, after being approved by the city’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan.

According to Thornton, police officer rest days had to be cancelled and shifts were extended for officers from forces all around the country. Many, including Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, were critical of the Prime Minister’s invitation to the UK of President Trump for what was initially billed to be a state visit, but later downgraded to a working visit after public disapproval. The announcement of the visit’s cost will certainly come as an unwelcome source of irritation for May, who already has tense relations with the police after her six-year tenure as Home Secretary.

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Davis launches attack on May’s Brexit

On Saturday, ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis called on his ex-colleagues in the Cabinet to ‘exert their collective authority’ and rebel against the Prime Minister’s ‘flawed’ blueprint for leaving the EU.

Former Conservative leadership candidate and long-time Brexiteer Davis resigned from the Cabinet in July this year because of his rejection of the Prime Minister’s so-called Chequers Plan. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also resigned a day later, and both have been vocal critics of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating strategy ever since.

Davis’ call for political rebellion came as Sky News reported ‘that four more letters demanding a vote of no confidence in the PM were submitted’. As the deadline for a deal looms closer, May looks set to potentially be ever more frustrated by the critics in her own party all seeking their own version of Brexit.

More articles in This Week in British Politics
  1. This Week in British Politics: 8th-14th October
  2. This Week in British Politics: 17th-23rd September
  3. This Week In British Politics: 8th-15th July
  4. This Week in British Politics: 5 March – 11 March 2018
  5. This Week in British Politics 19-25 February 2018
  6. This Week in British Politics: 1-7 January 2018
  7. This Week in British Politics: 15-21 January 2018
  8. The Week in British Politics: 12 March – 18 March 2018
  9. This Week in British Politics: 2nd – 9th September 2018
  10. This Week in British Politics: 10th – 16th September
  11. This Week in British Politics: 1st – 7th October
  12. This Week in British Politics: 15th-21st October
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Traveller, theatre-goer, student blogger.

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