UK election – options by Denis MacShane

Election Note 25 November 2019
By Denis MacShane

    1. It remains hard to predict with certainty the election outcome.  The opinion polls give Johnson a clear lead but they gave Theresa May a similar clear lead at the same stage in the 2017 election. When Boris Johnson became prime minister in July opinion polls gave the Brexit Party on 20 per cent of the vote. But there are no Brexit Party candidates in any Tory seat so that vote now supports Johnson which gives him a flattering (to decive)  lead in polls today. But all he is doing is increasing vote share in seats that are already Tory. Tonight’s 25 November poll shows Labour up 2 points.
    2.  I was canvassing Saturday in Watford, a Tory seat north of London with a 2000 majority, and on Sunday Canterbury, a Labour seat won in 2017 with a tiny majority of just 187.
    3.  In neither seat – one a morning street stall on the High Street talking to voters and in Kent intensive door-to-door knocking did I sense any enthusiasm for the Conservatives. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson are disliked and neither is seen as a worthy prime minister.
    4. The Johnson mantra, “Get Brexit Done”, reflects the clear Brexit fatigue but it is not clear that Brexit fatigue extends to voting for the Johnson version of Brexit which as one of our best commentators wrote this morning “means the end of British manufacturing as we know it.”
    5. I was surprised in Kent which voted 59-41 to Leave in 2016 at how little enthusiasm there was for Brexit. More than one voter said it would be damaging for the next generation of younger people.
    6. Nigel Farage has all but disappeared as an important figure in the campaign. The Liberal Democratic leader, Jo Swinson, did not impress in the Friday evening BBC TV interviews with Johnson, Corbyn, the SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon and Jo Swinson. Ms Swinson was repeatedly attacked by members of the audience for her statement she would simply ignore the 2016 referendum result and  revoke Article 50 to stay in EU. Several said this was simply undemocratic with much support in the audience. Others attacked her record as an MP and minister in the David Cameron government where she voted for harsh cuts to social welfare for disabled people and women pensioners. She stuttered and never got back any composure. I would judge the hopes of a major LibDem breakthrough based on their success in the European Parliament election are now dead.
    7. In fact, it is hard to see where lots of seats will change hands. I don’t see many Labour seats falling to Johnson. I don’t see Corbyn’s leftwing manifesto winning Tory seats. But in terms of numbers out canvassing and reach-out to young people, Corbyn and Labour are making the running. The Tories and LibDems try and depict him only as an anti-semite. Labour has got major problems with anti-semitism and few of the UK’s 260,000 Jews will vote Tory. (I wrote about this here:  But Johnson has problems with the regular surfacing of disgusting anti-Muslim prejudice by Tory Party members, some holding local office. Not many of the 3.3 million British Muslims will vote for Johnson.
    8. Other factors should be remembered. 26 per cent of voters say they have not yet decided how to vote. Nearly 1.5 million young voters (18-34 years) have put themselves on the electoral register since October. They do not share the anti-Europeanism of older Tories. Of 30-49 year olds now with families, worried about schools, housing, the Johnson-Tory monomaniacal obsession with Brexit seems silly. It is not they are ardent Europhiles. They regard the way Theresa May (up to July) , Boris Johnson and other Tories who can or could only talk about leaving Europe as single issue militants who ignore Britain’s real time problems. Only three out of ten of this group say they will vote Conservative. How many Tory seats will the SNP win in Scotland? Will the DUP lose 3 seats to modern pro-EU Ulster unionists and the SDLP? Johnson only knows southern England. This election may turn on the votes of the other nations in the UK.
    9. I talk to Labour MPs most days and all report an electorate that is not moving, that dislikes  Corbyn but holds Johnson in contempt, that just wants Brexit to go away and knows Johnson’s proposals mean Brexit dominating Britain for years to come. The fact Nigel Farage is standing Brexit Party candidates in Labour seats is helpful to Labour as it divides the anti-EU vote between Johnson and Farage.
    10. Perhaps it will become clear. It was assumed a week ago that the television debates between potential party leaders followed by the publication of party manifestos would bring some clarity. This has not happened. No-one really knows. My best guess is that as elsewhere in Europe voters will not give a single party a clear majority of seats and full authority to govern. The House of Commons may become a Parliament of No Majority.

ENTRUSTED: Stewardship for Responsible Wealth Creation

By Ong Boon Hwee and Mark Goyder

This review is reproduced from an original review published by The Financial Times, compiled by  and . Here is the original article

According to Goyder and Ong, stewardship is the middle way between shareholder primacy and stakeholder theory. An overstrict shareholder focus can lead to manipulation of profit and share price; stakeholder capitalism, where companies must balance the interests of multiple parties, from customers to community, is fraught with lack of accountability and potential confusion. Stewardship, by contrast, “offers the best of both worlds” insisting that directors have a duty to encourage the long-term success of the company.

They “act today, with tomorrow in mind”, in the words of Entrusted. Goyder, a founder of Tomorrow’s Company, a think-tank, has spent a career explaining and promoting the idea; while Ong is chief executive of Singapore’s Stewardship Asia Centre.

Entrusted offers plenty of examples of companies that follow a successful long-term stewardship model. For instance, it compares the fate of Cadbury, whose dispersed shareholders delivered the UK confectioner into the arms of a bid from Kraft in 2010, with that of Olam, the Nigerian agribusiness, which staved off the threat of hostile takeover with the support of its long-term anchor investor, Temasek. (The endowments of the Singapore state investment fund are overseen by the Temasek Trust, which also supports the Sac.)

The authors walk readers through the stewardship “value chain” and lay out the stewardship responsibilities of board, investors and the state. They may overstate their case a little — suggesting “stewardship spirit” can save us from extreme populism or socialism — but this is a timely call to rediscover the path to more sustainable capitalism.



100 year commemoration – British Chamber of Commerce in Germany 1919-2019

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I get by with a little help from my friends 

100 year commemoration 1919-2019, Berlin, 12 September 2019 

by David Marsh, Chairman, OMFIF 


David Marsh, Chairman, OMFIF

It is a great privilege for me to speak to you today. Before doing so I would like to pay tribute to Norbert Strohschen who has been mentioned already by Michael Schmidt as our previous chairman, a man who did much to put the Chamber on to a new footing over the past decade. He and Andreas Meyer-Schwickerath, to whom I would also like to pay tribute, formed a very strong team. 

It’s difficult to sum up 100 years of British German history in one 20 minute speech. I’m going to get by with a little help from my friends. There are three that I will call upon: the first is Marlene Dietrich since she has had an iconic relationship with the British for many reasons.. The second is the Beatles, for their popular music says much about the world of British-German relations ways that are highly prescient. And third is the city of Hamburg which has been closely tied up with the UK and Germany throughout history – both good reasons and bad – and has particularly strong links with the British Chamber of Commerce in Germany. 

My main point is that the British and Germans are becoming more like each other; just at the time when the Britons are leaving the European Union, we are becoming more convergent. Or perhaps we are swapping characteristics in that confused and generalised way in which we speak about different countries’ national traits. These are psychological, psycho-social processes. You could call it ein gegenseitiger Selbstwiderspieglungsprocess or eine selbstbefruchtende Osmose durch wiederholte Wechselwirkungen . The Germans are becoming more rational, the British are becoming more hysterical. 

In my speech I am not going to say anything about the current confusion over Brexit, I will leave that to the erudite panellists later. I am not going to mention the parallels between 1919 with the birth of the Weimar republic and the period of Weimarisation that some commentators and historians say is now dawning in the UK. I will not say anything about the extraordinary suspension of parliament for five weeks which is being contested in the courts. I would like to say, though, thank Heavens for Mr John Bercow. I do hope that the BCCG will invite him for next year’s annual meeting, and give him a medal of honour, for he has upheld the rights of parliament and parliamentarians at a critical time. 

Stellen Sie sich mal vor, was geschehen wäre wenn z.B. mitten in der Einführung des Euro in Deutschland der Bundestag ausgesetzt worden wäre und der Bundestagspräsident – ein Mann von der Format eines Wolfgang Schäubles – gesagt hätte, diese sei ein Verstoß gegen die Verfassung gewesen. Was für ein Aufruhr in den englischen Zeitungen dies verursacht hätte! Imagine what would have happened had the German parliament been suspended, for example in the middle of the process of introducing the euro, and the Bundestag president, a man of the format of Wolfgang Schäuble, had called it a constitutional outrage. What a fuss this would have caused in the English newspapers.

Some of the former Tory MPs now expelled from the party, such as Dominic Grieve, Philip Hammond, Ken Clarke, Christopher Soames, will go down in history as statesmanlike figures, which is not what we can say about the present Prime Minister. 

My talk today is on ‘Die Zehn Vorsätze / Gebote für die deutsch-britische Zusammenarbeit’ – 10 resolutions or commandments for German-British co-operation – as seen from a particular vantage point of popular music. I wanted to start in 1918 which was the year, more or less, when Marlene Dietrich started her career. She was born in Berlin Schöneberg but went to school in Wilmersdorf, as her photo from 1918 shows.

Marlene Dietrich & The Beatles, 1963

Later she was to meet the most famous of all pop bands, The Beatles, who need no introduction, not least because of their music break in Hamburg. This is how they met Marlene in London at the Royal Variety Performance in 1963.

The Beatles’ stay in Hamburg in the early 1960s helped turn them into the phenomenon they quickly became. John Lennon later said, ‘I might have been born in Liverpool – but I grew up in Hamburg.’ It is worthwhile noting some features of the long and dangerous minibus trip to Hamburg on 17 August 1960, before the UK was part of the European Community. The 10 passengers – the then five Beatles plus five others – had not obtained German work permits, so they were incarcerated at Harwich for five hours on the way over – before convincing immigration officials they were students on holiday – guidelines for us all on how to behave in the event of a no deal Brexit. PHOTOS BEATLES HAMBURG GIGS 

I should also like to mention another great example of British-German co-operation: the relationship with Astrid Kirchherr, the star Hamburg photographer – still living in Hamburg today, in her 80s – who gave the group their mop haircuts. PHOTO ASTRID KIRCHNER PLUS BEATLES 

So let’s get on to these 10 Vorsätze. The first one is Learn the lessons of history. There are those who believe the British live in the past. George Bernard Shaw described why the English, not being a very spiritual people, invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity. Heinrich Heine in 1828 called the Germans ‘ein spekulatives Volk, Ideologen, Vor- und Nachdenker, Träumer, die nur in der Vergangenheit und in der Zukunft leben und keine Gegenwart haben.‘ – ‘A speculative race, ideologists with fore- and aftersight, dreamers who live only in the past and future and have no present.’ He could have been speaking about the English today. The Beatles were very prescient: ‘Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away: Now it looks as though they’re here to stay, Oh, I believe in yesterday.’ 

No 2 – Keep your keep on the ground, do not over-dramatise , stick to reality, auf dem Boden der Tatsachen bleiben, Let it Be. In other words: ‘Lass die Kirche im Dorf.’ Sometimes plain speaking can be helpful and admirable (if controversial, as with your President Heinrich Lübke in 1966 who famously said, regarding the third goal in the England v West Germany World Cup final: ‘Der Ball war drin.’ The ball was in! The Beatles were right: ‘Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be, Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.’ 

No 3 – Practise reciprocity. Do as you would be done by. ‘Was du nicht willst, dass man dir tut, das füg auch keinem andren zu.’ Remember that we are all seen through a two-way looking glass. When we look at our own reflection, others are looking at it too. The Spiegelbild is seen and regarded by others in a different way to the one we view ourselves. The British should take care here. We must guard against double standards, I recall the minister from the foreign office – I will not say which one – who said in 1990, around the time of reunification: ‘I want the Germans to become more assertive – as long as they always agree with us.’ Trying to achieve standards of behaviour where each side treats each other fairly and equally is what diplomats try to do every day: ‘Please please me, whoa yeah, like I please you.’ 

Precept No. 4 is Honour diversity. Support tolerance. We can learn a lot from our Gegensätze . The song Get Back Was written partly as an ironic way of castigating racism on British society and politics in the 1960s. ‘Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona , for some California grass … Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged.’ The slogan has been taken up again, in a non-tolerant way, by Donald Trump: ‘Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.’ 

Sometimes manifestations of tolerance can go too far and can bring counterproductive effects. The Willkommenskultur policy of Chancellor Merkel in 2015 – ‘Wir schaffen das’ – although I respect the reasons why she did it – was the verhängnisvollster Satz – the most fateful sentence – in her 14 years as chancellor. And, indirectly, it helped fuel some of the hotly debated discussions leading to the British referendum decision in 2016. 

No. 5 Seek complementarity. ‘Michelle’ from the Lennon-McCartney song: this applies to der Deutsche Michel and the English John Ball: they seem to be komplementär , ergänzend in many ways. When Stalin said in 1942: ‘Hitlers come and go, but Germany and the German people remain,’ he epitomised the timelessness of some of these self-fulfilling German character traits. Yet it is not only the Germans who can be contradictory and confusing. Just look at the British. They also have competing sets of principles and feelings: ‘Es schlagen nicht nur in Deutschland die zwei Seelen in der eigenen Brust. Bei der Referendumsentscheidung am 23. Juni 2016 haben wir die beiden Seiten zur Schau gestellt: der rationale, kühl kalkulierende, ökonomisch denkende Teil der britischen Psychologie sowie das romantische, abenteuerlustige Segment des nationalen Gehirns.‘ (‘Not just the Germans have the two souls beating in one breast. In the referendum decision on 23 June 2016 we have demonstrated the two sides: the rational, cooly calculating, economic-thinking part of British psychology, and the romantic, adventurous segment of the national brain.’ That was something I said three years ago before the referendum – I thought it sounded more intelligent in German than in English).

BCCG Conference 100 year commemoration 1919 – 2019

‘Michelle, ma belle, These are words that go together well, I need to, I need to, I need to, I need to make you see, Oh, what you mean to me, Until I do, I’m hoping you will know what I mean.’ These words have great resonance. During the time of German reunification, and also more recently during the negotiations over reforming the European union and now over the withdrawal treaty , British ministers and diplomats have had great difficulty in understanding what the Germans really mean. 

No 6: Tackle misgivings. – There are prejudices, preconceptions everywhere, they need to be tested and questioned. Where they are unfounded, or exaggerated, we should make efforts to overcome them. International relations are a good place to apply this rule. No one knew this better than Helmut Kohl in 1990, after the fall of the Berlin wall, where he had to confront a wave of mistrust across Europe about the intentions of soon-to-be-reunited Germany. His words in his memoirs mark Germany’s attempts to forge a united Europe to disarm fears about German dominance. – ‘ Je mehr Rechte Deutschland an die EG überträgt, desto weniger wirklich erscheint das Gespenst eines Vierten Reiches’ – ‘The more powers Germany transfers to the European Community, the less real will be the phantom of a Fourth Reich.’ 

There were doubts about whether the German would stay true. Some Germans themselves worried about what would happen if they became unhinged, untamed or unanchored from the West. ‘If I fell in love with you, would you promise to be true, and help me understand. ‘Cause I’ve been in love before, and I found that love was more than just holding hands.’ 

Anxieties about German hand-holding were on show in Margaret Thatcher’s Chequers seminar on 24 March 1990 which unflatteringly (and neatly, in alphabetical order) summed up some allegedly abiding parts of the German character – ‘Angst, aggressiveness, assertiveness, bullying, egotisim, inferiority complex, sentimentality.’ As the record of gathering stated: ‘It still had to be asked how a cultured and cultivated nation had allowed itself to be brainwashed into barbarism. If it had happened once, could it not happen again?… all their institutions had not yet been seriously tested by adversity such as a major economic calamity. No one had serious misgivings about present leaders… but what about 10, 15 or 20 years from now? Could some pf the unhappy characteristics of the past re-emerge?’ We must recall, too, General Hastings Lionel Ismay, Churchill’s chief military assistant during the second world war, first Nato secretary general 1952-57: he stated the purpose of the alliance was ‘to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.’ 

Precept No 7: Be patient, then expect things to happen quickly . ‘The crisis takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you would have thought.’ This was the striking phrase of the German-American economist Rüdiger Dornbusch (who died in 2002) – applicable not just to unification, but also for the financial crisis that occurred seven years after his death. Walter Ulbricht – who said no one had any intention of building a wall – and Erich Honecker – who said the wall might last for 50 – 100 years – did not appear to have (at least on the surface) a sense of how things would turn out . ‘Die Mauer wird in 50 und auch in 100 Jahren noch bestehen bleiben, wenn die dazu vorhandenen Gründe nicht beseitigt werden.‘ 

Did they not realise the fateful path leading to German reunification? Perhaps they did. ‘The long and winding road that leads to your door will never disappear; I’ve seen that road before. It always leads me here, lead me to your door.’ Perhaps there is this sense of Schicksalsgemeinschaft in the German-British relationship. 

No 8 – Show sensitivity to the thoughts, the yearnings of others. Bruised feelings, miscommunication, but also the temptation of departure – Fernweh.- all of this is in the Lennon-McCartney lyrics: ‘Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins, silently closing her bedroom door, leaving the note that she hoped would say more, she goes downstairs to the kitchen, clutching her handkerchief, quietly turning the backdoor key, stepping outside, she is free … … Daddy, our baby’s gone. Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly? How could she do this to me?’ 

David Davis, Britain’s first secretary for leaving the EU, appointed in 2016 after the referendum, did not appear to have antennae for understanding German sensitivities. An over-simplifier who failed to consider the complexity of feelings on the other side. In 2016 everything looked deliciously straightforward: ‘Post Brexit a UK-German deal would include free access for their cars and industrial goods, in exchange for a deal on everything else.’ 

Charles Powell, Thatcher’s foreign policy adviser, realised post-reunification the PM’s monumental blind spot: the episode underlined her inability to understand what was driving the Germans. ‘She underestimated the strength of German national feeling. Helmut Kohl surfed the wave of German nationalism with great skill, and Margaret Thatcher got left behind.’ 

No 9 Seek long term solutions. ‘We can work it out.’ Churchill, when he expressed in 1934 the need for longer-term considerations on Germany and Europe was surely not prescient of the full horror of the coming war , but he did realise that there would be a time beyond the Nazis: ‘This is not the only Germany that we shall live to see – but we have to consider that at present two or three men have that wonderful, scientific, intelligent, docile, valiant people in their grip.’ (The words could, with a stretch of the imagination, be applied to the UK today). 

‘We can work it out’ – France and Germany had to come to an accord based on each other’s strengths and weaknesses – that must have been in de Gaulle’s mind when he told Chancellor Kiesinger in 1969 (shortly before the French president’s resignation and his death the following year): ‘France has a certain hesitancy and caution regarding Germany’s economic strength, as it does not wish to be inundated by German industry. That is the nature of Germany, that is the German reality.’ 

These statesmen had to wrestle with the conundrum in the Beatles’ song: ‘Try to see it my way, Do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on?, While you see it your way, Run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone.’ – the task of diplomacy throughout the ages. 

No 10 – Know where your interests lie. Palmerston famously declaimed in 1848 that Britain had no eternal allies, and no permanent enemies. ‘Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.’ Kohl told me in 1989 that Germany had no interests of its own – they were all European. Palmerston and Kohl both exaggerated. The truth is somewhere between the two. 

These political leaders were scrambling to find a way of defining their countries’ long-term interests and adapting their policies accordingly. One precondition is to recognise which countries are vital to each other: Germany and the UK are such a pair. ‘You treat me badly, I love you madly – You’ve really got a hold on me.’ That sums it up. 

We can work it out. German and the UK have got a hold on each other. A state of Aufeinander-Angewiesen-Sein. There are many areas where the two countries can work together beyond Brexit. OMFIF has described these in the report that we produced for the British Embassy in Berlin at the end of March: Banking and financial services, infrastructure and development finance, services, climate change and sustainability, cybersecurity, digitalisation and artificial intelligence, education and research, specialised manufacturing, pensions, savings and stock markets. We shouldn‘t overdramatise, either on the positive or negative side. Remember: ‘Es wird nichts so heiß gegessen, wie es gekocht wird. ’ Or as Mr Schäuble famously said: ‘Things are rarely eaten as hot as they are cooked.’ The BCCG will be playing its full role in the future ‘Es gibt viel zu tun – packen wir es an!’ There’s a lot to do – let’s get on with it. 

BCCG Conference, 100 year commemoration 1919-2019

“Brexit: What next?” Part 3

Bob Bischof, chairman GBF; Dr Peter Wittig, the German Ambassador; Dr Steffen Hoffmann, Robert Bosch Ltd and David Smith, The Sunday Times

The German British Forum is hosting a series of meetings with board members and distinguished guests to debate “Brexit: What next?”


The third instalment of the series was hosted at The Reform Club in London on 11th September. The GBF board was delighted to be joined by Germany’s Ambassador to the Court of St James Dr Peter Wittig, Lord Chris Fox, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Business and Industrial Strategy in the House of Lords, Lady Elizabeth Stheeman, Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee, John Allan CBE, chairman of Tesco and Barratt Developments, David Smith, columnist at The Sunday Times and Anthony Simon, former president of marketing at Unilever (retired).

(Photography courtesy of Oliver Lawson, GBF board member and Augusta Ventures)



Gillian Karan-Cumberlege, John Allan CBE and Lord Chris Fox, Lib Dem House of Lords spokesperson for BEIS
Dr Peter Wittig, Germany’s Ambassador to the UK; Dr Ulrich Hoppe, German-British Chamber; Dr Steffen Hoffmann, Bosch and Dr Denis MacShane, Avisa Partners
GBF board members and guests discuss Brexit: What next? following the vote by the UK parliament on 10 September that Boris Johnson’s extended prorogation of parliament has a legal case to answer
Steffen Hoffmann president of Bosch, Lady Elizabeth Stheeman, Bank of England and Aareal Bank, and Bob Bischof, chairman of GBF
Steffen Hoffmann, Ambassador Peter Wittig, Anthony Simon, Dr Denis MacShane, John Hammond of CMS and Johannes Haas, DZ Bank
Lord Chris Fox and Lady Elizabeth Stheeman



The Five Extension Options for Johnson and Corbyn

By Denis MacShane


There is a faux debate about whether an extension after 1 November can, should or will be offered. The EU27 is as bored and irritated with Brexit as we are but will not seek the blame for finally kicking the UK over the Brexit cliff. If we want to jump and crash that will be our decision made here in our country.


So here are five ways the extension can happen.


  • One Mr Johnson has agreed a deal that meets EU conditions which so far he has rejected;
  • Two The House of Commons agrees to at least the core Withdrawal Agreement with its 3 pillars of money owed,  fair treatment of EU citizens in UK, and the  Ireland backstop. It may be that the Irish backstop can be dressed up in a different manner such as the entire island of Ireland staying in the EU Customs Union and the Single Market. Most  voters in mainland Britain would not care one way or another and nor would Northern Irish nationalist voters and moderate Unionists. But this is a clear economic separation of the province of Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. The paradox is that there has always been political and legal separation of Northern Ireland from Britain as key British laws and values on women and gay rights are rejected by both protestant and catholic politicians in Northern Ireland. It seems odd therefore to reject slightly different economic rules and legal obligations. Most MPs are fed up with the DUP chokehold over the Brexit process. The DUP and even the pro-DUP English Tory MPs would would be in a minority if Mr Johnson called their bluff.

But this does not guarantee a Commons majority for even an amended Withdrawal Agreement. There is so much distrust by all opposition MPs for the Prime Minister the chance of Labour, LibDem, SNP and other opposition MPs voting for anything that Mr  Johnson can present as a triumph is zero.

  • Three Something happens in UK either via the Supreme Court or when the Commons returns 14th October that means a crash out No Deal should be put off;
  • Four The Prime Minister decides as many senior Tory ex ministers are now saying that the only way to cut the Gordian knot of Brexit is a new referendum. It may well confirm  the June 2016 vote but at least there would be finality;
  • Five Opposition parties agree to a dissolution so a general election is held in November. The EU27 would not seek to expel UK if there was a clear decision to hold a general election


But having twice shown they can prevent Mr Johnson calling an election, opposition parties will have to weigh carefully who benefits from a general election?  Polling is all over the place but clearly the Conservatives believe that an election that happens before a referendum will be a Brexit election and a re-run of June 2016. Mr Johnson will be the champion of the people against the old stuck-in-the-mud Westminster gang who have refused to implement the decision taken by the people in June 2016.

Yet it is far from clear that a General Election will produce a majority for any single party especially with Scotland likely to elect many SNP MPs. Even if there was a majority for Mr Johnson, for Mr Corbyn or maybe a majority for a Labour-LibDem post-election alliance created just to organize a referendum that does not alter the terms of trade for the EU27.  Government  leaders across the Channel will be unfazed by a re-elected Mr Johnson since they do not trust him nor can they change the legal and treaty obligations that they have to defend as part of the Brexit process.

Therefore as one eliminates all the possibilities as Sherlock Holmes might say, there is one option left. That is to hold a referendum before not after a general election. The country would take a final decision. If it maintains the Brexit vote of more than three years ago, well and good. Britain would know where it stood and have to make arrangements to be a very different country. An election after that existential decision was made could be fought on opposing visions of Britain from the main parties or even from  new formations that might emerge.

But to hold an election first is to put the cart before the horse and solves nothing. If Johnson was smart he would dust down the old Tory slogan “Trust the People” and make a Conservative virtue of the political and constitutional necessity of solving Brexit once and for all.


Denis MacShane is the UK’s former Minister of Europe.

His new book Brexiternity. The Uncertain Future of Britain will be published by IB Tauris next month


Dr Denis Macshane

Former Europe Minister

Senior Advisor Avisa Partners Brussels

10 Westmoreland Terrace, London SW1V4AF

+44 7958308213


Please buy Brexeternity. The Uncertain Future of Britain


Bernard Molloy: a celebration and trust launch in Liverpool

A celebration of Bernard Molloy’s life will be held in Liverpool Town Hall on 10th October

Bernard Molloy sadly passed away in May this year. Bernard was a former board member of the German British Forum and the North West representative of the German-British Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

Liverpool City Region LEP Celebration Event, 10 October

Liverpool City Region LEP invites the business community to remember and celebrate Bernard’s great work in global logistics, his energy and passion for apprenticeships and the City Region, and of course his ‘life & soul’ character.

Date: 10th October 2019

Venue: Liverpool Town Hall, Liverpool L2 3SW

Time: 4pm-6pm (including refreshments)

Please RSVP to

Bernard Molloy Trust

Industry colleagues and family are currently working to continue Bernard’s passion for developing young people in the sector. Fundraising has begun below:

Please leave a message there if you want to be kept informed of this initiative.




All that matters in this un-British coup is: has Boris got the numbers?

Dr Denis MacShane writes in The Article on 28 August 2019

Forget the predictable hyperbole, the coup vocabulary, the comparisons with 1642, the lists of previous prorogations, the calls by David Lammy to descend into the street and march on Parliament. In the end the only aspect of Boris Johnsons remarkable announcement that matters are the numbers.

Does he have a majority? How many members of the Cabinet were consulted and, indeed, did the Cabinet meet between Johnsons return from the G7 summit and todays extraordinary brushing to one side of the Britains parliamentary democracy?

One can assume Priti Patel and Dominic Raab are gung ho, but are Matt Hancock, George Freeman, Amber Rudd and indeed, the Prime Minister’s Remain-voting brother, Jo Johnson? (since this post, Jo has left the Conservative party)

Already Justine Greening, the level-headed Rotherham-born and -schooled former Education Secretary has said that what the Prime Minister is proposing is unacceptable. She represents Putney, a swing Waitrose seat, middle class to the point of parody. How many of the Tory MPs with majorities of under 2,000 can be at ease as their leader throws centuries of parliamentary constitutionalism under the bus?

The neatly nicknamed Gaukeward squad, the Rory Stewarts, the Philip Hammonds, and other ex-ministers from the Theresa May governments now have a cause and a case to make.

They, not Jeremy Corbyn, will be in the driving seat. Perhaps Kate Hoey will back this Faragiste Prime Minister, but will Frank Field, who is no fan of Europe but is a serious parliamentarian?

How many others of Labours pro-Brexit MPs will want to go all the way to back a Prime Minister who has no mandate, will not submit his policy to the people in an election, and seems to be treating Parliament asTrotskyists, Stalinists and Islamists treat the annual conference of the National Union of Students? The House of Commons is not Boris Johnson’s private ideological playground.

Keep counting and the numbers for Johnson do not add up — rather like the famous £350 million a week for the NHS or the imminent arrival of 79 million Turks. A quick look at the figures and one wonders if the Prime Minister, never a man for detail, has been gulled into this adventure by men, or a man, who have never faced the voters and never run an election campaign, which is not the same as a single issue plebiscite. Step forward, Dominic Cummings.

Wisely, Jeremy Corbyn was not on the platform yesterday of opposition leaders calling for Parliament to have a say. Like Johnson, Corbyn is not much loved, indeed loathed by many. Like Johnson he does not represent all his party, but now all he has to do is be statesmanlike, mouth mournful reproaches about democracy, and leave politics and number counting to Nicola Sturgeon and Jo Swinson.

Both the SNP and the Lib Dems have had an early Christmas with Johnsons announcement. Forget about Lib Dem behaviour in coalition or the incompetent governance of Scotland — now these two parties will speak for democracy in Scotland and England and Wales and scoop up votes.

The final count has to be of the deep state — the senior civil service, the ambassadors who will be stunned at todays news and shake their head as their country looks like a third world golpista state, the army officers, the big businesses and bank, and the custodians of the monarchy.

Has Johnson done his sums and are enough of Britains deciders going to be on his side in this very unBritish Coup? Nothing else matters.


Dann ist das Europaparlament eine Lachnummer

This article was published in Die Welt on 14 July 2019 and is reproduced with the permission of the author Denis MacShane.

The original article is here: onsitesearch

Dann ist das Europaparlament eine Lachnummer

Denis MacShane

Der frühere britische Europaminister Denis MacShane warnt die SPD-Fraktion davor, mit ihrer Ablehnungskampagne gegen von der Leyen ein Eigentor zu schießen. Sollte sie nicht gewählt werden, hätte das einschneidende Folgen für Brüssel. Ein Gastkommentar.

Die 16 Europaabgeordneten der SPD tun sich selbst und der demokratischen Linken in Europa keinen Gefallen, wenn sie es mit allen Mitteln bis hin zur Diffamierung versuchen, Ursula von der Leyen als erste Präsidentin der Europäischen Kommission zu verhindern. Es gab undemokratische Zeiten, da konnte jeder nationale Regierungschef ein Veto gegen einen Kandidaten für die Kommissionsspitze einlegen, wie dies etwa John Major und Tony Blair 1994 beziehungsweise 2004 taten. In den Augen von Downing Street wurden beide damaligen Kandidaten als zu europafreundlich angesehen.

Das Nettoresultat dieses „Wegschießens“ war beide Male ein Eigentor: Die EU musste sich mit Jacques Santer und José Manuel Barroso abfinden, zwei relativ schwachen, unterdurchschnittlich talentierten Kommissionspräsidenten. Santer musste sogar mitsamt seiner gesamten Kommission seinen Rücktritt einreichen.

Eine fundamentale Fehleinschätzung der Linken

Der simple Fakt ist, und ich sage das als ehemaliger Labour-Minister, dass deutsche SPD-Abgeordnete Ursula von der Leyen nicht mögen, weil sie nicht in ihrer Partei ist. Aber kein Kommissionspräsident „gehört“ einer nationalen oder politischen Delegation an oder sollte zumindest nicht als Eigentum irgendeiner Partei, Fraktion oder Nation angesehen werden, sobald er oder sie gewählt wurde.

Vor allem sollte die SPD-Störerfraktion an die Ära von Jacques Delors als Kommissionspräsident von 1985 bis 1995 zurückdenken. Er wird heute als der beste Präsident der Europäischen Kommission aller Zeiten betrachtet.

Aber die französische Linke war Jacques Delors gegenüber sehr feindlich eingestellt, als er 1984 als Kandidat vorgeschlagen wurde. In Frankreich wurde Delors zu dieser Zeit von der Linken als ultrakatholischer, unzulässig zwischen den sozialen Klassen kollaborierender, wirtschaftlich orthodoxer Finanzminister angesehen.

In letzterer Eigenschaft hatte Delors die Kampagne zur Aufhebung der protektionistischen Maßnahmen angeführt, die die Frühperiode der 1981 gewählten sozialistischen Regierung von François Mitterrand prägten. Die französische Linke sah Delors daher als ihren Hauptgegner an, obwohl er der eigenen Partei angehörte. Die französischen Sozialisten glaubten damals ernsthaft daran, dass mit genügend Willen und Entschlossenheit der Sozialismus in einem Land (Frankreich) erreicht werden könnte.


Warum eigentlich nicht von der Leyen?

Im Zusammenhang mit der bevorstehenden Abstimmung über Frau von der Leyen sollten wir uns an just diese Episode einer fundamentalen Fehleinschätzung erinnern. Heutzutage wird Jacques Delors im Rückblick von den europäischen Sozialdemokraten als erfolgreichster Präsident der Europäischen Kommission aller Zeiten geradezu kanonisiert. Aber das war definitiv nicht die Art und Weise, wie ihn die Linke damals sah, als er zum Kandidaten gekürt wurde.

Die deutschen Europaabgeordneten sind dabei, den gleichen Fehler in Bezug auf von der Leyen zu machen. Sie ist keine Superstar-Ministerin (wer ist das schon?), hat aber eine beeindruckende analytische Auffassungsgabe und kann komplexe Themen nicht nur erfassen und managen, sondern auch kommunizieren. Sie war zum Beispiel eine sehr effektive, unideologische (und damals von der SPD sehr geschätzte) Arbeitsministerin.

Ein hoch personalisiertes Angriffsdossier

Die SPD-Abgeordneten haben sich sogar dazu verstiegen, ein hoch personalisiertes Angriffsdossier gegen Frau von der Leyen in Umlauf zu bringen. Es enthält Aufgüsse alter Anfeindungen bis hin zur Infragestellung ihrer Qualifikation als Ärztin.

Die SPD sollte auf diesem Feld schon aus Eigeninteresse sehr vorsichtig agieren. Denn es gibt manch einen bedeutenden sozialistischen Politiker in Europa, zum Teil in höchsten Ämtern, der sich ernsthaften – und nicht nur wie bei von der Leyen leichtfertig dahergesagten – Beschuldigungen mit Blick auf die Erlangung akademischer Grade ausgesetzt sieht.

Eine weitere merkwürdige Behauptung ist, von der Leyen als Kandidatin von Viktor Orbán zu präsentieren. Natürlich freute sich Orbán, als er den sozialdemokratischen Spitzenkandidaten, den Niederländer Frans Timmermans, als Kommissionspräsidenten verhindern konnte. Aber Orbáns Prahlerei, dass er nicht nur Timmermans verhindert hat, sondern auch eine Kernfigur im Findungsprozess von von der Leyen war, ist einfach nur bombastisch.

Vor allem aber bleibt eine Tatsache unumstößlich: Es gibt nur wenige deutsche Politiker mit einem so starken europäischen Profil und einer so klaren persönlichen Identifikation mit europäischen Werten wie Ursula von der Leyen. Das gilt unabhängig davon, was Experten der deutschen Politik gleich welcher Provenienz und Qualität von ihrer innenpolitischen Bilanz halten.

Wenn von der Leyen mithilfe der SPD-Abgeordneten nicht gewählt wird, dann wird das Europäische Parlament global als Lachnummer erscheinen. Donald Trump wird natürlich enorm erfreut sein und all jene beglückwünschen, die von der Leyen besiegt haben. Zu den Profiteuren zählen auch Nigel Farage und alle anderen Europahasser.

Die SPD und andere proeuropäische EP-Abgeordnete links der politischen Mitte Europas haben die Wahl. Frau von der Leyen ist nicht die perfekte Kandidatin. Wer ist das schon? Aber man sollte das irreale Streben nach dem vermeintlich „Besten“ nicht zum Feind des Guten machen. Die erste Frau, die vorgeschlagen wurde, Europa zu leiten, kann in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Parlament gewiss einen guten Job machen. Dies ist kein Moment für nachtretenssüchtige politische Kleingeister.

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Bernard Molloy 1948 – 2019

Bernard Molloy, a board member of the German British Forum for more than 10 years and a UK logistics industry veteran, passed away peacefully on 19th May after a brave battle recovering from a serious operation. Bob Bischof, chairman of the German British Forum and friend of Bernard’s for many years, pays this tribute to a legend of the logistics industry.

Bernard Molloy 1948 – 2019

Bernard has been a member of the German British Forum Board since 1999.

His untimely death means not only a great loss to the GBF but also for my colleagues and I on the board it means that we have lost a true friend.

He was in more ways than one – to use one of his phrases – “a proper chap”. His role in the organisation of our last conference in his beloved Liverpool was key in making it a great success. But beyond his work he was a warm, helpful and giving person all round. In the last few years he made a substantial contribution to getting young people into proper apprenticeships. He was proud of his humble background and the fact that he made it “from the shop floor to the top floor” – from an engineering apprenticeship and fork lift truck service engineer to Managing Director of first Hako Cleaning Machines to CEO of Lansing Linde, Britain’s largest lift truck maker.

On a personal note I have known Bernard for more than forty years, skied with him in the Alps and water-skied with him in Barbados. We worked in the same industries together as competitors and later colleagues and remained true friends. He will be sorely missed by all who truly knew him.


Bob Bischof
Chairman, German British Forum
3 June, 2019

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Chair of German-British Chamber Patricia Godfrey retires from CMS

Patricia Godfrey, board chairman of the German British Chamber of Commerce and vice-president of the German British Forum, hosted a party to celebrate her retirement at CMS in London on 30 April.

More than 120 friends and colleagues, with both a large German and Irish contingent, joined Patricia to see her career “highlights reel” featuring photos of colleagues and clients down the years, and her first boss’s shopping list for How to be Good Associate, at CMS offices on Cannon Place.

After a career spanning more than 35-years in law, specialising in complex restructures and insolvencies, Patricia retired from the legal firm, where she had been a partner at first Nabarro LLP and then merged firm CMS since 1991, to pursue other business interests. She is developing new business interests and advising companies, especially those in craft industries, on strategy, growth and exports.

Patricia thanked colleagues old and new for supporting her through her career, mentioning several individuals at her first firm, Nabarro and CMS, as well as friends at the German British Chamber and clients.

A colleague and professional poet read a poem about her career full of warm anecdote and praise for her career and expertise. Senior partner at CMS Andrew Inkester made a tribute to her career, noting her “patrician” qualities of nobility, good education and application.

She remains a visiting lecturer at Kings College London on the International LLM programme and is on the Risk & Advisory Committee of Cockpit Arts – an award winning Social Enterprise based in Holborn & Deptford and the UK’s only business incubator for crafts people.

In the next phase of her life, Patricia wants to share the skills and experience gathered over the years with those in the early stages of their careers. She is developing her business network and is looking for opportunities to help companies grow.