Denis MacShane

Denis MacShane is the former British minister for Europe and first used the word Brexit in 2012. He writes on European policy and politics. 

Recent Articles

From Here to Brexiternity: The Crisis in British Politics

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

Brexit Hate Propaganda

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

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

Will Oscars Go to Britain’s Fake History Films?

TAP Goes to the Oscars: Sidestepping history, Dunkirk and Darkest Hour are custom-made for Brexit-era Britain.  

Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP
The Oscars take place early March and two movies about Britain in 1940— Dunkirk and Darkest Hour —have plenty of nominations, notably for Gary Oldman’s imitation of Winston Churchill and the remarkable cinematography of Dunkirk. Yet both are full of historical nonsense and are actually Brexit films—made to allow movie-goers in Brexit Britain to wallow in the warm bath of nostalgia for English superiority when Britain was utterly cut off from Europe and everyone felt united and closer to the English-speaking Empire and the United States rather than beastly Nazis or cowardly, capitulationist French. Oldman joins a long list of actors who have tried to portray Churchill. But he actually portrays other actors’ Churchill take. There are very few radio or TV recordings of Churchill speaking and the voice is slow and pedantic as he reads a text carefully written out beforehand. Churchill never claimed to be an orator and praised other natural speakers in his...

Not Britain’s Finest Hour

If Brexit actually happens, those most harmed will be the people who voted for it. How did Britain get into such a mess, and how might she yet muddle out of it?

(Rex Features via AP Images)
This article appears in the Fall 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . It is not often that a great, historic nation decides the game is over and relegates itself out of the top rank of economic and geopolitical players. But future historians may decide that is exactly what Britain has done in its convulsions over Brexit. A personal confession. I coined the term Brexit in 2012 when modish headlines were full of Grexit—Greece exiting the euro single currency and possibly even the European Union itself. Today, Greece under its left-populist Syriza government is the EU’s poster boy as the Greeks swallow every dose of bitter medicine the EU and the International Monetary Fund prescribe. No one talks of Grexit anymore—but Brexit is the biggest thing to hit Europe since the collapse of Soviet communism. In the Queen’s tenth decade, she does not know if her successor will reign over a truly united kingdom, as Scotland, Wales, and Northern...

The Powerlessness of Power: Politics in Britain Today

In the aftermath of an inconclusive election, the United Kingdom faces a prolonged political stalemate and lost confidence in government.

(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Twelve months after the Brexit plebiscite, and two weeks after the general election, British politics has no direction, no sense of purpose, and no commanding personalities. The classic institutions of the state—the civil service, big business, the media, the professions, the intellectuals, the trade unions, the churches, the very people themselves—feel powerless and unable to control what is happening and where Britain should go. Normally in a democracy, a national election such as produced a President Trump or a President Macron would answer the question. But Britain has had four major elections in under four years—two referendums on Scotland and on Europe, and two general elections—and no one in the nation knows what the people want. It does mean, however, that there will be no early rush to a new election. I have met with Tory peers and members of parliament, and they are quite clear that they will not support any early election. The Conservatives have a...

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