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Ireland prepared to listen to backstop alternatives to avoid no-deal Brexit, says finance minister

Ireland’s finance minister says his government is prepared to listen to any alternative solutions the United Kingdom may have to the question of the backstop, but stressed that so far Prime Minister Boris Johnson had failed to put any forward despite the fast-approaching deadline for Britain to leave the European Union.

Minister of State at Ireland’s Department of Finance, Michael D’Arcy, at the FCC on September 2. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Minister of State at Ireland’s Department of Finance, Michael D’Arcy, at the FCC on September 2. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Speaking at the September 2 club lunch, Michael D’Arcy reiterated that the withdrawal agreement thrashed out between the European Union and former British prime minister Theresa May was now non-negotiable but said he personally felt a deal on the issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland could be done after the October 31 deadline passes. He said Ireland was committed to exploring alternative agreements with the EU to avoid the return of a hard border which he said put the island’s prosperity at risk. D’Arcy added that avoiding a hard border was not just about economics, but about protecting the Good Friday Peace Agreement.

Referring to his controversial tweet last week in which he compared Prime Minister Johnson’s “anti-democratic” move to prorogue UK Parliament to Oliver Cromwell’s establishment of the Protectorate government, D’Arcy conceded he “shouldn’t interfere with UK Parliament” but added that he felt the current direction of discourse in politics internationally was “disappointing”.

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Brexit: Why, despite the European election results, nothing has changed since the 2016 referendum

The recent European election results actually show nothing has changed regarding Brexit in terms of how many voters want to leave the EU and how many wish to remain, says a leading British political scientist.

British political scientist, Philip Cowley, brought some clarity to the topic of Brexit when he appeared at the FCC on May 29. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC British political scientist, Philip Cowley, brought some clarity to the topic of Brexit when he appeared at the FCC on May 29. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Despite the newly-formed Brexit Party making huge gains in the poll, taking more than 30% of the total UK votes, the country is still almost evenly split on the issue and the results mirror those of the 2016 referendum.

“It’s British politics as it has been played out since 2014, just in its latest manifestation,” said Philip Cowley, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London.

But what the results of last week’s elections did show was that voters want simple and powerful messages, as was seen from the two parties to gain the most: the Brexit Party’s push to simply leave Europe, and the Liberal Democrats’ adoption of the slogan, Bollocks To Brexit., said Cowley, author of a series of books on British general elections. The parties with the biggest losses – the Conservatives and Labour – campaigned on messages that were too nuanced, he suggested.

As a Conservative leadership contest kicked off with 11 names in the ring so far – “we’ve already hit a football team and I think we’ve got more to come” – Cowley said that although Boris Johnson was the bookies favourite to win, in every Tory leadership contest since 1965, the favourite has failed to be elected.

Watch the full video here

Britain leaving the EU is a tragedy, says Ireland’s deputy prime minister

Ireland will not be following Britain’s lead and leaving the European Union next year, said its deputy prime minister, who described the United Kingdom’s decision to leave as a ‘tragedy’.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney spoke passionately about Ireland's position on Brexit. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Tánaiste Simon Coveney spoke passionately about Ireland’s position on Brexit. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

The threat to the Good Friday Peace Agreement, coupled with the economic chaos that leaving the EU would bring, were the two biggest reasons for Ireland to stand firm on the difficult Brexit negotiations currently being undertaken by the British government, Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who also has special responsibility for the Brexit negotiations, told FCC members at the March 12 club lunch.

A month ahead of the 20th anniversary of the historic peace agreement, which brought about an end to decades of violence between Catholic and Protestant groups by introducing a devolved government of eight political parties and cross-border co-operation between the governments of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Coveney said the most clear manifestation of that peace process in terms of success “has been the fact that the border on the island of Ireland has become invisible: there is no physical infrastructure any more on that border”.

Leaving the European Union could mean the return of a hard border. Although the British government is trying to strike a divorce deal that would avoid a hard border, a solution agreed by all parties is yet to materialise.

“The British government has agreed to facilitate that but they just don’t know how yet. And I don’t mean that in any kind of a facetious or patronising way. It’s very difficult to come up with an agreed political solution to prevent border infrastructure re-emerging in the island of Ireland if the British government strategy remains as it is today which is that Britain is not only going to leave the European Union and its institutions but is also determined to leave the single market and the customs union as well,” he said.

Coveney said that having lived in Britain for four years, he understood why people voted for Brexit in 2016. “There are many people in England in particular who feel that the European Union was compromising British sovereignty, and their view was and is that Britain can be stronger and more effective and more successful without being part of the European Union institution. And let’s wait and see how that works out,” he said.

But he added that the decision has huge implications for the island of Ireland. “We have a €65billion trade relationship east/west between Britain and Ireland; 38,000 companies in Ireland trade with Britain every month – that’s 200,000 jobs, it’s 10% of the Irish workforce. And the numbers are the same on the other side of the Irish sea in Britain.”

Set against the backdrop of growing political instability within Ireland due to rising frictions between Unionists and Nationalists, an exit from Europe would also threaten the communities and businesses that have built trust since the peace agreement which has allowed the economy to flourish.

He said: “And this is the core problem of Brexit: it fundamentally raises identity issues in Northern Ireland between Nationalists and Unionists and we have spent the last 20 years trying to break down those identity barriers successfully – part of which was the removal of any type of border infrastructure.

“But let me be very clear on this: Ireland is not following the lead of Britain here. We will not be leaving the European Union. We do not think it’s a good idea to go it alone.

“We believe that in the modern world, the way to get things done is in a multi-lateral setting…. For me that is why the British decision is such a tragedy because Britain is one of the great countries of the world and it is deciding to go it alone when actually most of the great problems that we face globally right now can only be solved together through alliances rather than countries in a nationalist way looking to go it alone,” Coveney added.

Coveney was in Hong Kong on his way to China. He talked about Ireland’s long-standing relationship with Hong Kong, noting that nine of its 28 governors had Irish connections. Coveney also praised the introduction of the first direct flight between Dublin and Hong Kong – a first for Asia – which Cathay Pacific launches in June this year. Coveney said he hoped it would mean an additional 60,000 visitors per year to Ireland which would have a strong impact on the economy.

On China, Coveney said that, 40 years since the opening of diplomatic relations, the two countries’ economic ties had never been better. In 2016 total trade between China and Ireland was €13 billion, and is expected to be well above €14 billion in 2017.

“I believe that our people share many characteristics,” Coveney said of the Irish and Chinese, “not least strong attachment to family, unique cultural heritage, and some difficult historical experiences. Our economies have undergone rapid transition.”

Coveney also pledge support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying he admired its ambition and openness.

Britain should offer right of abode to BNO passport holders, says Lord Ashdown as he sets up Hong Kong Watch

Britain should offer Hong Kong’s BNO passport holders right of abode in the UK if in the future conditions deteriorate in the SAR as it reintegrates with China, says former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown.

Lord Ashdown spoke about China's rise and its effect on world peace. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Lord Ashdown spoke about China’s rise and its effect on world peace. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

The former Royal Marine, in Hong Kong on a fact-finding exercise, said he would “favour very strongly the BNO being extended to the right of abode if it is the case that the conditions in Hong Kong are created by whatever force that enables those who hold the BNO passport to feel so vulnerable that they can’t live here any longer”.

However, the SAR passport “is probably a better travel document than the BNO”, he added.

The BNO (British Nationals Overseas) passport was created in 1987 and is issued to permanent residents of Hong Kong. Holders can visit the UK for up to six months.

Lord Ashdown revealed that he was in Hong Kong to set up a parliamentary system called Hong Kong Watch. He said: “It’s not just directed at one side of the joint agreement, it’s there to act as a prod for the British Government too. The British Government is now obsessed with Brexit (and) trying to build trade deals – it’s a huge plum for the British to have a trade deal with China.

“We must ensure that Britain fulfils its legal and duty of honour to Hong Kong and we’ll be doing that. It will look at the actions of both sides and it will act as a whistleblower.”

Lord Ashdown criticised Britain’s handling of Hong Kong’s handover to China, saying there was a degree of hypocrisy beneath its calls for democracy.

“British rule in Hong Kong was economically successful. But politically it was shameful,” he said, adding that a promise that the city “would never have to walk alone” is not a promise that “can be broken because it proves inconvenient to a British government obsessed with finding trade deals because it wishes to be outside Europe”.

“What happens next here in Hong Kong will be judged by a watching world,” he said.

Opening his speech at the sold-out November 28 club lunch, Lord Ashdown discussed China’s rise as a super-power and its effect on world peace. He said Hong Kong would be the testing ground for President Xi Jinping’s vision of “socialism with a Chinese face”.

“We live in one of those periods of history where the structures of power in the world shift,” he said. “How new powers rise and old powers fall is one of the prime determinants of peace in times like this. The Pacific basin is to be the cockpit in which this drama is about to be played out.”

Lord Ashdown said on many levels China appeared to be moving in the right direction: intent on building its reputation as a good world citizen, seeking to consolidate its trading strength and fill the “vacuum of leadership in regional and global multilateral institutions left by President Trump’s retreat from this space”.

“I do not think China’s true long term interest lies in responding to Donald Trump’s invitation to a dog fight, albeit one which appears to have been postponed after Mr Trump’s effusive glad handling with Chairman Xi,” he added.

However, he said China’s curbs on freedom of speech could not be sustainable: “It is just not in human nature, whether Chinese or otherwise, to be content for long with glorious freedom in one aspect of your life and permanent voicelessness in the other.”

During the question and answer session at the end of the talk Lord Ashdown said he felt the United States was a greater threat to world peace than China, citing the unpredictability of President Trump.

When asked about Brexit, Lord Ashdown predicted that it would not happen: “My view is that on balance, narrowly, I now think Brexit will not happen – not because it could not be done but because the government is too incapable to deliver it. The House of Commons will not vote for a hard Brexit, they will not vote for a throw-ourselves-over-the-cliff Brexit. They could vote for a soft Brexit but the government is too incompetent and too divided to be able to deliver any kind of soft Brexit that I think will make sense.”

He predicted an election next year that would see a new government, and that the process would “collapse in on itself”.

Brexit: Triumph or Trainwreck? Watch the FCC debate here

Will Brexit be a triumph or train wreck for Britain? Two panelists went head to head to lay their cases over the divisive issue.

Left to right: Experts Anatole Kaletsky and Timothy Beardson debate the pros and cons of Brexit at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Left to right: Experts Anatole Kaletsky and Timothy Beardson debate the pros and cons of Brexit at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

The question over the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union was the subject of a debate at the November 8 club lunch, which kicked off after a show of hands in the room revealed there were more Remainers than Leavers.

Anatole Katelsky, co-chairman and chief economist of Gavekal Dragonomics, the consulting and asset management company based in Hong Kong and Beijing, argued that Brexit would be an economic disaster for Britain; while Timothy Beardson, chairman of Bixmoor, suggested that the country could thrive once it left the EU.

Beardson, first to take the stage during the debate, argued that the EU was shrinking, and with it economic opportunities: “In 1950, 16% of the world lived in countries that now comprise the European Union. Now it’s 6% of the world. By the end of this century it’s going to be 3% in the world. That’s a narrow sample for Britain to make as its economic home.”

He added that Britain had three choices when it comes to trade post-Brexit: that the country trades on World Trade Organisation rules which means accepting tariffs – “that doesn’t seem to stop trade going on”; or we can be part of a series of trade blocks; “or we could say we’re going to have no tariffs. That would be aligning our trade policy with the consumers, not the producers – an interesting idea that might go down well with the voters”.

Beardson added: “The European Union is very committed to protectionist measures. It abhors the primacy of U.S. and British financiers in global finance. It would like to tilt the playing field to prevent that.”

And Brexit was “ultimately not an economic question, it’s a political question, it’s a cultural question. Does Britain want to be part of an ever closer political union with Europe? And the answer is most people don’t want that. European advocates like to say it’s all about economics but it’s not. Economists can have all sorts of different opinions about Britain’s move from Europe to a wider world, however, ultimately it’s a political decision. Economic issues don’t matter very much.”

Katelsky began his pitch by agreeing with the point made by Beardson: that Brexit was not just an economic issue, it was a cultural and political issue too. “Politically, I think Brexit is a very dangerous phenomenon because it was a protest vote – perhaps a justifiable protest vote – but about all kinds of issues, many of which had no direct connection with world trade, protectionism, the relationship to Europe or to the rest of the world,” Katelsky said. “They had to do with the health service, education, with housing, with regional policy – none of which have any connection with European policy.”

He added “the great danger and near certainty of Brexit” was that it would not deliver any solutions to the disquiets felt by the British population, and that subsequently “at the end of the process even if it does go well it will leave more anger and more dissatisfaction than less”.

And the country would ultimately not “take back control” – one of the slogans used by the Leave campaign – because reduced tariffs would lead to more competition and less regulation, he said.

Socially and culturally, Katelsky said Britain, “which has been throughout my lifetime, the most successful multicultural society in the world” was now somewhere many who, like himself had not been born there, now felt unwelcome. Katelsky said that as a result he had applied for a Polish passport. He said this sentiment was felt across the country and was partly fuelled by Theresa May’s citizens of nowhere speech where the British Prime Minister said: “…if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere”.

Economically, he said that since 1992 Britain has had the best performing economy – of the G7 economies – in the world in terms of GDP. He said this was due to two factors: the completion of the single market program; and Black Wednesday, when Britain decided to detach its monetary policy from that of Europe – meaning it got the full benefit of trading in the single market in Europe, causing “enormous growth in the service industries”.

So for the last 25 years, Britain has been able to have its cake and eat it, Katelsky added.

The only two realistic options now would be for Britain to reverse the decision of the 2016 referendum result, which was unlikely; or that it would remain in a “permanent limbo” during the so-called transition phase where it would still enjoy the benefits of single market access but would also still be subject to free movement of people, he said.

British government needs to be robust over Sino-British Joint Declaration, says Jonathan Dimbleby

BBC presenter and historian, Jonathan Dimbleby, left, talked about the state of world politics when he appeared at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC BBC presenter and historian, Jonathan Dimbleby, left, talked about the state of world politics when he appeared at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

The British government should be “very robust” over whether it believes the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong’s handover has been violated, veteran broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby said, the week after China’s foreign ministry dismissed the treaty as a “historical document that no longer has any realistic meaning”.

The BBC Question Time host and historian said that while the U.K. government had last week reiterated that the 1984 treaty was binding, the overall criticism had been “muted”.

He said that if it was agreed that a violation had taken place, then it would “call into question whether you could trust China’s word when it came to signing documents”.

“I think that the British government should be very robust in saying whether or not this agreement has or has not… been violated,” he said

He added that he believed that independent trading relations, post-Brexit, could “overshadow concern for the evolution of democracy here [in Hong Kong]”.

Dimbleby revealed that as a journalist in the 1990s he came across minutes of meetings conducted in the late 1980s between the British government and Beijing that showed the U.K. government of the time had little intention to push for democracy in Hong Kong after the handover. In public, he said, the Conservative government was assuring Hongkongers that they would achieve democracy as part of the agreement.

Watch Jonathan Dimbleby’s Q&A session

“In the way that one does as a writer or journalist… I came across minutes of meetings conducted in late 80s between the British government and the Beijing government. In public, if you look back… the British government were saying to the people of Hong Kong yes, you will have democracy and we want you to have more of it, we will fight for that.

“Simultaneously the British government was reassuring Beijing they had no intention of rocking the prevailing apple cart and central government need have no fear that democracy would be taken forward in the way that a lot of people, as the polls showed here, wanted it to be.

“I came away from that experience and wrote about it without great faith in how my government would deal with Beijing,” Dimbleby told the packed July 5 club lunch.

The night before, Dimbleby had taken part in a BBC World Questions debate alongside Joshua Wong, one of the student leaders of Occupy Central and the founder of the pro-democracy Demosisto party. He praised the 20-year-old, saying: “Joshua Wong is a remarkable illustration of the intelligent young of this generation.”

In a change to the usual club lunch formula, the floor was opened up to questions from the outset. Dimbleby was asked what he thought of Brexit, the U.K. General Election outcome, and Donald Trump as president.

He said: “I woke up like many people after my country voted for Brexit in a state of shock and astonishment. Those who supported Brexit were equally astonished because they never expected to win.”

On the U.S. question, he continued: “Like many people I believed that Donald Trump would never emerge as President of the United States. I thought it would be catastrophic if he did and that most people in the United States would recognise that to be the case.

“Latterly in my own country I did not imagine the Prime Minister, who was a vicar’s daughter, who said there were no circumstances in which she would call a snap election, deciding to do so. The Conservatives are in office, but they’re hardly in power. And the rest of the world is on tenterhooks.

“I think we’re in very uncertain times, I think we are in quite alarming times with the unpredictability of the American President.

“The one thing about the leaders of Russia and China is that they may behave in unpredictable ways but we are quite clear about what their broad intentions are in the West and that is hugely unsettling… for all people in a way that I never imagined.”

Dimbleby added: “If you’re a journalist you have to be glass half full and I’m generally half glass full, but I’ve never felt closer to being glass half empty.”

Globalisation is coming to an end – but communism unlikely to rule, says top economist

Economist Stephen King explained how globalisation was soon to be a thing of the past. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Economist Stephen King explained how globalisation was soon to be a thing of the past. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Globalisation is on its deathbed as people see inequality in wealth and some of the world’s richest countries seek to withdraw from cross-border partnerships, according to HSBC economist and author, Stephen King.

Speaking at a club lunch on June 20, King said that in the West we’re seeing a rejection of the values of globalisation amid a growing belief that institutions such as NATO and the European Union are less effective and, in some cases, no longer fit for purpose. He gave U.S. President Donald Trump pulling out of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), and China creating the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) as examples of how some countries are becoming more isolationist as they focus on their domestic interests over global relationships.

King said we reached peak enthusiasm for globalisation in 1989, when Berlin Wall came down.

The author of Grave New World: The End of Globalisation, the Return of History, conceded that in some cases it appears that there is a swing back to Liberalism, citing the recent French election victory of Emmanuel Macron and the drubbing of the Conservative Party in the U.K. election. But King said generally there appeared to be a new global narrative: them and us. For example, Greece and Germany: who is to blame for the financial collapse of the Mediterranean country? Greece, for years of financial mismanagement, or Germany for giving the Greeks over-generous loans?

“Once you get into blame and counter blame, you can see how globalisation ends up in trouble,” he said.

He discussed technology as a tool that, until now, has boosted globalisation. But he warned that although technology had enabled living standards to rise rapidly, globalisation instead depends on ideas and institutions.

When asked to give his thoughts on the likelihood of a global revival of communism, he was a little more upbeat. King said it would be difficult for any country to deliver fully-fledged communism when other systems where it has existed are in retreat.

Chris Patten on Trump, Brexit, Article 23 and India

Chris Patten arrives at the FCC Chris Patten arrives at the FCC

Here’s a round-up of the Q&A with Chris Patten following his talk at the FCC on November 25.

PATTEN ON INDIA

Look, I don’t mean any disrespect to my own country or to France, speaking as a member of the Legion d’honneur, or to China or to Hong Kong, but I happen to think India is the most interesting country in the world. And I don’t just say that because you asked the question. I don’t mean by that that I think that India is poised to become a superpower. Actually I’m not sure it is. I think that’s partly because I think thats partly to India’s benefit and I think it’s partly because Indians don’t want it to be. But India is an extraordinary democracy and democracy and the system of government in India have held together an astonishingly diverse society, ethnicities, religions, languages, in a way that simply wouldn’t have worked without that safety valve. I think other communities could have blown apart or could have seen the development of a bamboo gulag. India hasn’t done that.

India’s constitution had at its heart seculism (sic), socialism, and I’m afraid the socialism wasn’t a great success. It’s joined the world economy, it has very, very effective multinationals which on the whole follow pretty clean internationally recognised corporal governance guidelines. There is now a lot more Indian investment in the UK than there is UK investment in India and I hope that the present government will avoid the temptation we’ve seen in other countries to become more nationalist if the economic climate becomes a bit more difficult. India I think is concerned about its relationship with China but because of that it would be a mistake I think for others in the United States or Europe to try to use India as a sort of democratic pawn in a geo-strategic argument with China, I think that would be a huge huge error.

I think that India’s development is something which matters to the whole world and I think part of India’s success is Indian soft power: Indian literature. The best novels these days are written by – there are some good ones written by Americans – but the best novels are on the whole written by Indians. The Indian cinema which, I know the Chinese cinema has been very good but perhaps more restricted, Bollywood has been a fantastic success, though it may not matter so much to members of the audience who are Chinese, Indian cricket has alas been all too successful as an export of Indian soft power. So I think India is an extraordinary story, it’s not going to simply move up a straight line up the graph paper but by 2040 the largest population in the world will be Indian with the largest economically active population outstripping China which will have, I’m sure, problems it can overcome in moving from having a huge labour surplus to a labour deficit and to having the second largest group of people in the world who will be Chinese pensioners. So India faces some big responsibilities and big challenges, and I think it’s going to be a very exciting story.

ON FREE TRADE AND BREXIT

I totally agree with you that we have to engage in the argument just as we have to engage in the argument with tabloids and social media about whether or not it is important to tell the truth in election campaigns. I think those are issues which really demand international and strong leadership and I think one of the lessons from Brexit in Britain was that political leaders hadn’t been sufficiently bold and vigorous in taking on some of the criticisms of the European Union.

On free trade I just make two very swift points. First of all, we all know, I mean there’s a wealth of statistical evidence that those who do worst from protectionism are the poor. If you’re well off you cope. If you’re poor you find the cost of the everyday items you buy goes up and you don’t find yourself working in a job where productivity is being raised because of greater competitiveness. In Britain we made the terrible mistake… we’re so centralised as an economy that we didn’t do what the Danes have done for example which is to ensure that public spending programmes are adjusted to take much greater account of the areas where there are real difficulties with declining industries and workforces which are undertrained and underprepared for industrial generational change. And I think we’ve also failed with basic education in some parts of Britain.

In America I mentioned earlier that the Americans spend 0.1% of GDP on labour market issues like retraining. The average for the OECD countries as a whole is six times that. So when I said to some of my Republican friends ‘of course the answer to problems in Michigan or Indiana or the Rust Belt is to spend more on retraining, to do more for education, to look at tax and spend policies and the role they can play in reducing social inequity’, they look at me as though I’m a sort of Keynesian communist. But it’s true. There is an important role for those government policies in addressing the problems which free trade can bring to people who work in declining industries.

Look, I go occasionally to Indiana to Notre Dame University, as the French would call it, a very very good Catholic university in the middle of Indiana, and you go through a lot of Rust Belt to get there. Could you have saved those industries? Maybe. Could we have saved the horse and cart as the principle means of getting from A to B. I suppose so. But we’d have all been much poorer had we done so. I think that unfortunately the people who are most likely to suffer from Trumpian protectionism if it happens are the people who voted for Mr Trump, just as in Britain the people who are most likely to suffer from the consequences of Brexit are the people in some of the disadvantaged parts of the country which voted for it. I think that’s a real tragedy and will actually put our democracies under some pressure in the future.

ON ARTICLE 23 AND ARTICLE 158

Well, maybe it was a good thing that I wasn’t around when they (articles 23 and 158) were accepted, though they weren’t a matter for negotiation between the then colonial power and China. But we did have strong views about Article 23 and we managed to avoid any suggestion that Article 23 should lead to legislation while I was governor and one reason why I didn’t think we needed to do anything about Article 23 was that I thought that subversion was something which I was unlikely to encounter as governor of Hong kong. It has a sort of rather quaint Leninist tone to it and pretty well since the 17th century – Guy Fawkes and all that – subversion hasn’t been a big issue in British politics.

More seriously, I think there is a different sort of relationship which if I was in government in Hong Kong would concern me, and that is the relationship between social and economic issues and political issues. I think that there are some serious issues which young people and other people raise about their futures, about the competitiveness of Hong Kong in the future, about the extent to which their employment opportunities are more narrowed than would have been the case with their parents. So I think there are some social issues – housing another one, and competition from the north for jobs. I think there are some serious issues there and perhaps play into the debate about political issues and those need to be addressed.

And it won’t be to Hong Kong’s benefit if over the next few years there is a sort of traffic jam in the relationship between the Legislative Council and the Executive, if things can’t get done because of an argument or a log jam there. Hong Kong has a reputation for getting things done rather more rapidly than other places and I would hate to see that ended.

ON WHAT HE WOULD PRIORITISE IF HE WERE HONG KONG’S CHIEF EXECUTIVE

The first election campaign that I took part in was in New York in 19 – I’m very old now – 1965 and one of the candidates, when he was asked what the first thing he would do if he won the election was, replied ‘demand a recount’. The first thing I would do is go to mass and say a prayer, and after that I would try I think, whoever I was, to establish a dialogue with people on whichever side of the argument didn’t agree with me. I think it’s corrosive of government when disagreements turn into quarrels.

ON DONALD TRUMP AND THE RIGHT WING

I think that it’s not just America that this is an issue, that a greater emphasis on nationalism and national identity, on nativism, can easily turn into an effort to define oneself against the other. It can easily seem to be ungenerous, it can easily seem to want to lock out minorities, it can easily seem racist. I think the most wonderful words in America are the ones on the seal: E pluribus unum, which has been a fantastic message to the rest of humanity, bringing together people from every conceivable language and background and shaping a great country. City on a hill.

You sit as I did recently in a deli on Maddison Avenue and you watch every sort of identity and humanity walking past the window. And how do those people define themselves? Are they Afro-American New Yorkers? Are they Catholic Polish Americans? Are they Vietnamese Americans? Are they Chinese Americans? The one thing they all are is Americans. And I think that it would be a terrible error if Mr Trump was seen to be celebrating the whiteness of American society without recognising all the other colours which go to make up that extraordinary American flag.

So that’s what I think I would want to say to Mr Trump and since that was what I would say to him, I think I’d probably cancel the appointment of the chairman of Breitbart as his main strategic adviser. Anybody whose appointment is so enthusiastically welcomed by the great Wizard of whatever he is of the Ku Klux Klan is not somebody I’d like to spend an evening with.

Chris Patten: Pro-independence antics are making a mockery of Hong Kong’s democracy campaign

Chris Patten talking at the FCC about Trump, Brexit and Hong Kong democracy Chris Patten talking at the FCC about Trump, Brexit and Hong Kong democracy

Former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten today blasted those who ‘make a mockery’ of Hong Kong’s democracy movement and said it would be a tragedy if democracy campaigners lost the moral high ground because of the antics of some of those seeking independence for the city.

Speaking at a sold-out lunch at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Lord Patten castigated the young pro-independence lawmakers who refused to swear allegiance to China after being elected to the the Legislative Council, stating “taking an oath is a serious business”.

“I think two years ago many brave young people in Hong Kong established moral high ground about democracy in governance and I think it would be a tragedy if that high ground was lost because of the antics about so-called independence for Hong Kong,” he said.

“Taking an oath is a serious business… Taking oaths isn’t something of a lark.

“Paragraph 3 sub section 1 (of the Joint Declaration) talks about the territorial integrity of China and national unity including the SAR and the rest of the country, so in my view it would be dishonest, dishonourable and reckless of somebody like me to pretend that the case for democracy could be mixed up with an argument about the independence of Hong Kong – something which is not going to happen, something which dilutes support for democracy and something which has led to all sorts of antics which should not take place in a mature society aiming to be a full democracy.”

Lord Patten was at the FCC to talk about the world after Trump and Brexit, but well aware that the huge number of press attending the event would be keen to bring up Hong Kong, he headed off their questions by issuing his very direct statement.

The latest chapter in Hong Kong’s volatile politics began with the September election to the city’s Legislative Council of pro-independence ‘Youngspiration’ candidates Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching.

The pair made headlines around the world when, during their oath-taking ceremony, they refused to swear allegiance to China, used bad language and sported banners that read “Hong Kong is Not China”. Their behaviour led Beijing to make an “interpretation” of Hong Kong’s Basic Lawthe city’s mini-constitution that was adopted after the handover from Britain to China in 1997 – which saw the newly-elected legislators barred from holding office.

Beijing’s actions, seen by many as interference in the city’s affairs, led thousands to take to the streets in protest, sparking clashes with police.

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