Who will be at the heart of the storm this year as Brexit resumes its place as the British family argument that will not die?
This year’s New European Brexit Power List, our highly unscientific and unapologetically subjective take on those – from both sides – who will most influence the debate, provides a clue.
Who did we miss out? With just 17 women and marginal ethnic representation in our list, does Brexit have a diversity issue? Who have we over-promoted, or unfairly reduced in the ranks?
1. LEN McCLUSKEY UNITE LEADER
It was The Big Speech on the Big Referendum that Len McCluskey never got to give. His keynote just three days before the June 23 vote was cancelled as politicians paid tribute to murdered MP Jo Cox. But the text was released on the website of the union McCluskey heads, Unite, and it leaves no doubt about his strength of feeling for remaining within the EU. On immigration, workers’ rights and fair pay, McCluskey believes we are better off within the EU than without. ‘Brexit will immediately cast a long shadow over factories across the country. Brexit is playing Russian roulette with our industrial base,’ he wrote back in June 2016. Now, in 2018, McCluskey stands first among equals of a small cabal of powerful union leaders at the sharp edge of the economic calamity Britain faces. As Alastair Campbell writes in pages 4 and 5 of this newspaper, if McCluskey decides the Westminster game-playing is damaging the lives of the people who pay his wages through their union dues, then he – and perhaps he alone – is the man who has the power to finally force Corbyn’s wobbly hand against Brexit. Ultimately, it will be the man who represents workers who voted for Brexit, whose livelihoods are now imperilled by Brexit, who could intervene to stop Brexit. Not through a big speech, but a quiet chat, one to one, with the current leader of the Labour Party.
2. THERESA MAY PRIME MINISTER
She is a significantly diminished figure since we last compiled our Brexit Power 100, but for all that she is still Prime Minister. And yet despite the multiple setbacks she suffered in 2017, she is also still clinging to her original Hard Brexit strategy. Has ever a PM been less moved by the signals sent to her from the electorate? If Theresa May thought 2017 was a bad year, 2018 will be worse as she struggles to hold together the fraying ends of a deeply divided Tory party. In our 2017 Power List, we noted how she was having to become increasingly autocratic to stay in control. That is no longer an option for her. She – like the Brexit process itself – is deeply vulnerable.
3. ANGELA MERKEL AND EMMANUEL MACRON GERMAN CHANCELLOR AND FRENCH PRESIDENT
Ultimately the fate of Brexit will rest on a phone call between Berlin and Paris, hence our grouping together of the two key players. Merkel topped our last list. Since then, she – like Theresa May – has been weakened electorally. Macron, by contrast, did not even appear in the 100, yet in 2017 he made considerable noises about the consequences to Britain of Brexit – and the potential to reverse it. Macron in particular is driven by the European project and will strive to see the bloc survive Britain’s exit. It’s possible he will single-handedly veto any special deal for the UK, and may even reach out to the British public on the purpose of the EU in a way that both May and Corbyn have failed to do. Oh the irony: Remain’s greatest vocal support could come with a French accent.
4. FACEBOOK SOCIAL MEDIA GIANT
Facebook continues to influence our national conversation in a way Paul Dacre can only dream about. Much debate is currently focused on how that influence can be monitored and managed, and how so-called ‘fake news’ can be screened out and the site is looking at ways to promote reputable news to its users. But beyond that, any Brexit fightback will have to grow from social media – and Facebook’s reach could make it a hugely powerful tool for campaigners. As the arguments intensify, it will be this platform, rather than the legacy media, that shifts public opinion, for better or worse.
5. JEREMY CORBYN LABOUR LEADER
The Labour leader scraped in at number 40 in our last list, a decision we put down to his ‘abject failure to provide a robust opposition’ to Brexit. In the 12 months since, he has done little to demonstrate that his position has changed. However, an impressive showing in the General Election has transformed British politics and given him a golden opportunity to intervene meaningfully on the Brexit process. His lukewarm attitude to the EU and to Brexit remains a stain on his leadership. Corbyn has a long-held, deep scepticism about the EU. But if he, and those close to him – notably Len McCluskey (#1) and Seumas Milne (#15) – see political advantage in coming out against Brexit they will take it. That pressure will only come from the grassroots – not the green Opposition benches who are now, with few exceptions, on message with Corbyn.
6. THE POLITICIANS OF IRELAND
Far be it for us to unite the north and south of Ireland, but when it comes to Brexit, they represent a combined and, as yet, insoluble obstacle to Brexit. The issue may have been helpfully kicked further down the road to allow progress from ‘Phase One’ of the talks, but there is no suggestion at all that it has been meaningfully settled. Both the Republic, led by Leo Varadkar, and Northern Ireland (or, at least, the DUP – as they dramatically showed, last month) have an effective veto on Brexit and both hold diametrically opposed views. In the words of WB Yeats, the centre cannot hold.
7. JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
Juncker’s role remains pivotal. He is, in many ways, the Brexiteers’ best friend, with some of his most outspoken and mischievous interventions on the issue making it easier for Leavers to present him – and the EU – as the sneering pantomime villain: unhelpful, unkind and unyielding. His remarks, for instance, that the UK will ‘soon regret’ leaving the EU may be spot-on. But coming from him, they can help to shore up support for Brexit. In fact, he is fond of Theresa May and sympathetic to her plight. Relations between the two are critical to the progress of Brexit.
8. LIONEL BARBER EDITOR, FINANCIAL TIMES
On media coverage of Brexit, as on other matters, there can be a tendency towards hysteria – something we are perhaps not immune from at The New European. But not the FT. The business bible is not alone in believing Brexit a bad thing, but this newspaper is singular as its reach is global and of the highest influence. Barber’s personal mission to not to give in to the establishment bullies who detest the FT’s fact-based coverage of Brexit, has won him many enemies in Westminster, which he wears as a badge of honour, alongside the Legion d’Honneur insignia he was awarded by the French for his ‘positive role in the European debate.’ Bravo!
9. THE 1922 COMMITTEE
This Tory backbenchers’ union holds Theresa May’s fate, in its hands, and with the backbenches deeply divided over the issue, it is a volatile mix. Its newly-knighted chairman Graham Brady propped May up after her almighty wobble at party conference by ensuring the Committee remained behind her. But the ’22 has a well-earned reputation for brutality in the face of a wobbly leader. If Theresa May’s current ‘weak and stable’ government shows signs of renewed instability, it will be these men in grey suits who come calling.
10. BORIS JOHNSON
While the 1922 Committee may deliver the final blow, the most likely culprit to bring about such an eventuality is our esteemed foreign secretary. He was a lowly 35 in our last Brexit Power 100, since, as we wrote, Theresa May had him ‘on a very tight leash’. He remains the most pervasive, malevolent force behind Brexit and, alas, has seen his influence grow over the last year. His ambition has also grown and he still sees himself as a Churchillesque figure, waiting for destiny to arrive and to sweep to power to save the nation. It remains distinctly possible that he might create that moment himself, by resigning and challenging Theresa May for the leadership, perhaps if she were to try to move him from the Foreign Office, or if he were to find a point of principle (ha!) on which to defy her over Brexit.
11. SIR KEIR STARMER SHADOW SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EXITING THE EUROPEAN UNION
Number 5 in 2017’s Power List (35 places ahead of his party leader), Starmer has marshalled some serious parliamentary challenges to Brexit. His lawyerlerly delivery at the Despatch Box adds a much-needed sense of gravitas and reason to what has at times been a frantic, hysterical debate. And yet… he has failed in one key challenge, to get his Labour front bench to present a unified opposition to a Tory Brexit. Fog clings to Labour’s position. Starmer may be clear that there is a route to retaining Single Market membership (or its exact equivalent) but the rest of us can only hope. His goal for 2018 – get Jeremy to say just five words, clearly, without caveat and prevarication: ‘Brexit is bad for Britain’.
12. MARK CARNEY GOVERNOR OF THE BANK OF ENGLAND
The Brexit hardliners’ bête noire; they despise his relentless objectivity and fact-based assessments on the likely effects of Brexit. Who does he think he is? The Governor of the Bank Of England? Oh.. wait.. A prime example was his observation, in November, that the UK’s economy would be ‘booming’ were it not for Brexit. Carney will continue, undeflected. His independence (a legacy of New Labour) in the face of Brextremist hostility is to be welcomed.
13. MICHEL BARNIER EUROPEAN UNION CHIEF BREXIT NEGOTIATOR
As the EU commissioner for the single market (2010-14) Barnier was dubbed ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’ by some in the City over a clash with London on bankers’ bonuses. So when Juncker asked him to lead the Brexit negotiations there was a collective look skywards. From the EU’s perspective he has been a solid negotiator. Brussels has barely given an inch, while the UK has backed down repeatedly. The final Brexit deal, of course, will not be signed and sealed by Barnier. But he will package it. A wry one-liner from him (‘I hear no whistle. Just a clock ticking’) can puncture any over-inflated Brext balloon.
14. NICOLA STURGEON FIRST MINISTER OF SCOTLAND
Number three in the 2017 Power List though – like the two women ahead of her back then, Merkel and May – the voters have not been kind to her in the intervening 12 months. But while the SNP are no longer the Westminster force that they were a year ago, and while it does not represent the same existential threat to Theresa May’s government as the DUP, Sturgeon is still a formidable obstacle to Brexit. Any economic calamity that Brexit might bring will be hard felt in Scotland – which voted 68% Remain – and likely to fan nationalist flames once more. The state of the Union is far from strong.
15. SEUMAS MILNE LABOUR’S DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS AND STRATEGY
Described by politics.co.uk as Corbyn’s Stalinist henchman, the former Guardian journalist holds huge sway within Labour. He is, effectively, the leader’s gatekeeper, and – like Len McCluskey, who tops our list – one of the few people who might be able to convince Corbyn that it is in the interests of Labour voters (and therefore the party’s electoral prospects) to start saying something meaningful, and discernible, about Brexit. Brexit secretary David Davis
16. DAVID DAVIS SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EXITING THE EUROPEAN UNION
While his sparring partner Michel Barnier has been impressive in negotiations (and has climbed in our Power List as a result), Davis has fared less well. He had a shoddy 2017 and 2018 looks even less promising. His breezy, relaxed style has been seriously undermined by the scandal of the nonexistent impact assessments, and a succession of retreats at the negotiating table. Scorned in Brussels and having suffered the ignominy of his boss, the PM, intervening on several occasions to get talks back on track, all indicators suggest Davis is experiencing a gentle relocation to the sidelines.
17. SIR JEREMY JOHN HEYWOOD CABINET SECRETARY
Dubbed the ‘most potent, permanent and elusive figure in British politics’ the Cabinet Secretary’s job is to ensure the Government delivers on policy promises. When Theresa May’s former joint chiefs of staff Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill presided over Number 10 Sir Jeremy’s influence was stunted. But he has filled the vacuum they left and is now by May’s side almost constantly. Heywood is in the unique position of being present in Cabinet as well as the meeting many in Whitehall call ‘the real cabinet’, the WMC or Wednesday meeting of colleagues. Here the top civil servants meet – and it is no holds barred. Sir Jeremy has served four Prime Ministers proving that while politicians come and go civil servants take their knowledge and skills forward. When faced with the insoluble (Ireland anyone?) it will be Heywood who calls bullshit on any far-fetched fudge.
18. NICKY MORGAN TORY BACKBENCHER AND CHAIRMAN OF TREASURY SELECT COMMITTEE
The former education minister was a prominent Remain voice in the referendum but, after an initial burst of anti-Brexit activity after the vote, she has since taken on a more thoughtful approach – and managed to secure herself the chairmanship of perhaps the most influential Commons select committee. As well as this coup, Morgan has begun to gather like-minded Tories behind her cause. Her letter – signed by 19 colleagues – to the Prime Minister outlining concern with the influence of Brexiteers in the Cabinet spooked Number 10 and there is no love lost between May and Morgan, who led an embarrassing attack over the Prime Minister’s £995 brown, leather trousers. If backbench, anti-Brexit resistance is to come to anything, expect Morgan to play a leading role.
19. JOHN McDONNELL SHADOW CHANCELLOR
Yin to Keir Starmer’s Yang… he wants Labour to be more positive about Brexit, a view that has lead to clashes with the Shadow Brexit Secretary, who is concerned about splits within Labour widening. In November he voted with the Tories to block a Labour backbench amendment to protect the customs union. His position, although it might not be the official party position, is clear: Brexit, and freedom from EU labour regulations and nationalisation rules, could allow him to shift the country far left.
20. SIR VINCE CABLE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT LEADER
2018 is a make or break year for the LibDems. Brexit is the ground on which they seek relevance. Failure to achieve that will be a long-term disaster. Cable was not even an MP when our last list was compiled, yet now leads the largest unequivocally anti-Brexit national party. He had flip-flopped somewhat on party policy to back a second referendum so it is to his credit that he did not ditch the promise when he took over the top job. As yet he has not managed to move the debate on any further than his predecessor Tim Farron. The Lib Dems have all the right ideas and could still become the Brexit voice of reason – but they need a different strategy from the one that failed them at the general election. His line of seeking an ‘exit from Brexit’ is starting to cut through, though.
21. THE EU27
Yes, Macron and Merkel are the most powerful voices, and Ireland is the most obvious sticking point, but all 27 European members have a say on Brexit, and all have the power to derail the whole process. Each nation holds the power to veto any potential deal, and while the EU is working on a co-ordinated response, the vagaries of national governments – and their often volatile electorates – mean nothing can be ruled out.
22. OLLY ROBBINS PRIME MINISTER’S EUROPE ADVISER
On the morning the deal to move on to Phase two was finally agreed, a bleary-eyed Theresa May and David Davis sat grinning over the breakfast table with their EU counterparts. But there was another figure at the table: a man who had arguably done more than anyone else on the UK side to drag the negotiations towards an agreement. Robbins moved from the Brexit department across to Number 10 in September last year in a move that was seen as a blow to David Davis. From that moment Downing Street began to take a firmer grasp of the negotiations. Robbins, just 42, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the civil service. He has become more trusted than Davis and his team in both London and Brussels. 23. DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
He claims to be a big fan of Brexit and tweeted in July: ‘Working on a major trade deal with the United Kingdom. Could be very big & exciting. JOBS! The EU is very protectionist with the US, STOP!’ But the truth is that this proponent of America First has no interest in Brexit whatsoever, which makes Theresa May’s desperate attempts to ingratiate herself with him all the more tragic for the UK. A tilt towards to US to compensate for our pivot away from Europe is not viable, even with Trump in the White House. On the specific issue of boosting trade links to the US, the toxic consequences – of allowing imports of chlorine-washed chicken, hormone-treated beef and genetically modified food – are already becoming apparent.
24. JACOB REES-MOGG CONSERVATIVE MP
His rise to next-leader status during political silly season astonished most commentators in the same way that Jeremy Corbyn’s ascent once did. Indeed, there are other parallels. While Rees-Mogg is a buffoon and a caricature, he undeniably represents views which are deeply and widely held among the Conservative rank-and-file. His ‘Moggmentum’ group is almost the equivalent of Momentum. With no ministerial post to lose, supreme self confidence and his own grassroots movement, should he feel Brexit is going soft, Rees-Mogg could lead a backbench rebellion.
25. PHILIP HAMMOND CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Perhaps the softest on Brexit in the Cabinet, Hammond has not hidden his belief that leaving the EU is a very bad move. Johnson and Gove would love to see the back of him but Hammond has hung on – mainly because the Prime Minister has no power. But along with Amber Rudd he is the most sensible Cabinet member when it comes to Brexit and if he can cling on to his seat around the table in the face of a Gove-led Treasury coup he will remain an important voice. If he cannot cling on, then open warfare in the party is likely to ensue.
26. ALASTAIR CAMPBELL EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE NEW EUROPEAN
Campbell continues to throw everything he has at Brexit from the pages of this paper and beyond. Outside of Parliament, he is perhaps the most consistent, and loudest, voice against the tragedy that is Brexit. He still has, from his days at Number 10, a remarkable capacity to come up with arguments which touch a public nerve. He remains the great phrase-maker of the modern political era and, in contrast to Tony Blair, has shed any toxicity from his time in Downing Street.
27. DONALD TUSK PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL
Juncker gets the limelight, and does more to rile the Brexit press, but Tusk’s role thus far has been important as part of a co-ordinated European approach – for instance, with his quietly insistent comments which helped to usher the seemingly-stalled ‘phase one’ talks to their December denouement. His relationship with both Theresa May and David Davis will be key to negotiations once trade talks begin.
28. NICK ROBINSON BBC BROADCASTER
2018 will be the year of very hard questions and Nick Robinson will be the main man for asking them. Responding to allegations of anti-Brexit bias by the BBC last year, Robinson said the Corporation had no duty to be balanced. The subsequent row was entertaining, but ultimately irrelevant. The crucial point is that his platform on Today, Britain’s most influential radio show, means he has the chance to grill the ministers involved in Brexit and therefore the opportunity to shine a light on some of the outlandish claims of the Brexiteers. It is his and the BBC’s duty to keep on digging for the truth.
29. MARTIN SELMAYR HEAD OF CABINET TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
Not only his boss Juncker’s right-hand but also his fist. Nicknamed ‘Monster’ by Juncker, Selmayr is widely despised among UK negotiators and the Brexit press, who believe he is a hardliner desperate to make the UK pay for leaving the EU. Although he denies it, Selmayr is believed to have been behind several damaging leaks for the UK team.
30. HILARY BENN HEAD OF THE BREXIT COMMONS COMMITTEE
With Starmer playing a longer game and others on the Labour front bench seemingly uninterested in Brexit, Benn provides a more traditional parliamentary opposition. His victory over arch-Leaver Kate Hoey to become chairman of the powerful select committee designated to scrutinise the Brexit process was a massive fillip for the Remain side. His failure to unseat Jeremy Corbyn in the wake of the referendum stung the former Cabinet minister but his chairmanship could prove a perfect opportunity for the Government to be properly held to account.
31. THE NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE
Warnings over the dire consequences of Brexit to the NHS were not heeded during the referendum campaign – drowned out largely by the fanciful claim that an extra £350 million a week could be given straight to health care if we quit the EU. But, as the effects of Brexit on the NHS become clearer – staff shortages, smaller tax revenues – the parlous state of the health service will move centre stage. And as those dangers dawn on the public, it could transform the political landscape. As Charles House, medical director at University College Hospital, wrote recently in these pages, ‘we can have Brexit or the NHS but we can’t have both’.
32. MICHAEL GOVE ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY
Scraped in at number 99 to the 2017 Power List. A return to the cabinet, and influential role, with particular pertinence towards Brexit, sees him climb the rankings. But Gove remains, after Johnson, the Tories’ most tainted Brexiteer. His botched attempt at back-stabbing mean he can never shake off a reputation for untrustworthiness.
33. GUY VERHOFSTADT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT BREXIT COORDINATOR
Outspoken and at times irreverent towards the UK’s Brexit team, Verhofstadt is the European Parliament’s point man on the talks. And even though he does not hold the influence of Donald Tusk or Jean-Claude Juncker his recommendations to MEPs will be taken seriously, particularly since parliament has a veto. Like Juncker, some of his interventions seemed designed to wind up the Brexiteers – most recently his tweet that the EU would happily have changed its passports to blue covers, ‘if we had known in advance that blue was so important to the UK’.
34. ELECTORAL COMMISSION
The watchdog is currently investigating whether its rules were breached by the Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum. If it finds that to be the case, pressure for a second referendum will grow. Home secretary Amber Rudd
35. AMBER RUDD HOME SECRETARY
Perhaps mortally wounded by Theresa May’s general election hubris, which left her a fragile majority of just 346, she is nevertheless still the Home Secretary and a member of the Brexit War Cabinet. Remain by tendency, Amber Rudd will surely play a leading role when the Tory cracks become chasms. With form for putting colleagues straight – remember how she slapped down David Davis’s idea of No Deal? – she has little to lose and much to gain by presenting herself as the credible opposition to the opportunists Johnson and Gove.
36. VLADIMIR PUTIN RUSSIAN PRESIDENT
His precise involvement in Brexit remains the focus of conspiracy theories, although his views on it do not seem in much doubt: anything that weakens Europe aids Russia, in the Kremlin’s zero sum game. Russia has certainly shown its willingness to intervene in other nation’s affairs to further its own interests – something Theresa May herself made quite clear in an extraordinary attack, accusing the country of ‘threatening the international order’. There seems no hope that Putin will put a stop to such a strategy. What may change is how other countries attempt to counter his efforts.
37. RUTH DAVIDSON SCOTTISH CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER
While some Conservatives alarmed at the party’s prospects dream of Jacob Rees-Mogg taking over, for others – on the Soft Brexit wing – Davidson is the ‘queen over the water’. Almost uniquely among Tories, she had a stellar 2017, but she lacks a Westminster seat. She has said she would campaign to Remain again if a second referendum were to be held and has vowed she will never ‘fly the flag for Brexit’. If she was to become an MP, Davidson would have a real chance against the likes of Boris Johnson and Andrea Leadsom – and might be the best option to prevent a Hard Brexit.
38. JON LANSMAN MOMENTUM FOUNDER
The rhetoric from many Momentum comrades at Labour party conference in Brighton last autumn was clear: ‘We don’t really care about Brexit.’ And if, as he is expected to do, Lansman wins a seat on the influential NEC in the new year don’t expect a warm reception from Labour Remainers. Lansman has already masterminded the growth of a hugely powerful grassroots movement and now he has the whole party in his sights. As with the Labour leadership, for Lansman’s movement, the main interest in Brexit seems to be the power it has to damage the Conservatives, rather than the damage it will do to the country.
39. ANDY BURNHAM MAYOR OF MANCHESTER
Burnham was favourite to be the next Labour leader after Ed Miliband – then Jeremy Corbyn happened. But he can still exert influence as the mayor of the North’s biggest city. His calls for the English regions to be better represented in negotiations is a fair one – the City currently commands the most attention. He knows that his city stands to be hit hard by Brexit and is determined to cushion the impact.
40. LIAM FOX INTERNATIONAL TRADE SECRETARY
Largely invisible thus far, Fox’s moment in the sun is at hand as negotiations move on to phase two, with the focus on trade. No doubt, he has spent his time up until now laying important groundwork for this crucial stage – just as David Davis spent vital time preparing those much-needed economic impact assessments. In his effort to fulfil May’s promise of a ‘truly global’ post-Brexit Britain, he has clocked up 219,000 air miles in the last 18 months, visiting 27 countries and every continent except Antarctica (perhaps the one continent we have a realistic chance of completing a trade deal anytime soon) but there remains an alarming lack of detail about
what it might all lead to. His Atlanticist leanings are well-known, but he can expect short change from ‘America First’ Donald Trump. And a clash with Michael ‘no chlorinated chicken here’ Gove is something to look forward to.
41. SABINE WEYAND EUROPEAN COMMISSION’S DEPUTY CHIEF BREXIT NEGOTIATOR
The German national goes head-to-head with UK counterpart Olly Robbins in negotiations. Although an Anglophile who studied at Oxford, she has fought hard for the best deal for the EU and has been unbending on freedom of movement, making it clear that Britain will not be permitted a ‘pick and mix’ Brexit. Will make life hard for Britain. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
42. SADIQ KHAN MAYOR OF LONDON
If Labour’s stance on Brexit is, at best, muddled, Khan’s is certainly not. The London Mayor called for the capital to get an opt-out to be able to stay in the single market and customs union and backs a second national vote. He strongly believes Brexit can be stopped and thinks if parliament does not back the deal the whole process will have to be put back to the country. As the next round of negotiations looks more closely at what arrangements can be made to accommodate the City, he will become an increasingly strong voice of opposition.
43. CAROLYN FAIRBAIRN DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE CBI
The head of arguably the UK’s most influential business lobby group, Fairbairn’s warnings over Brexit carry real power. And, as with Khan, her role will become more influential, as trade talks progress. Businesses have two great concerns at the moment: Brexit and a Corbyn government. However, it would be wrong to think that fear of the latter gives Theresa May carte blanche on the former. The Government is worried about losing the confidence of business and Fairbairn’s demands for ‘unity, clarity and certainty’ will be taken very seriously in Downing Street.
44. TONY BLAIR FORMER PRIME MINISTER
Does anyone speak more sense, yet provoke more hostility in people than Tony Blair? Blair’s desire to play a meaningful role in Brexit is hampered by the anger directed towards him over Iraq. His criticism of Labour’s position, expressed in his latest article in The New European today, is surely correct: the party risks being the handmaiden of Brexit. Corbyn may not want to listen to this message, but the hope is that others in the party – and in other parties – will.
45. JULIAN SMITH MP CONSERVATIVE CHIEF WHIP
While former Chief Whip Gavin Williamson employed a theatrical menace – and a tarantula – to keep the troops in line, Smith is a more straightforward operator. But he has already suffered one damaging rebellion in the Chamber and more close battles loom. His ability to keep order could change the face of the Brexit bill for better or worse.
46. ANDREW ADONIS LABOUR PEER
Adonis’ recent resignation has seen him transformed from mild-mannered policy wonk into a sabre-rattling Remainer. Of course, critics have sneered and made much of the fact he was in church in the Alps when he decided to quit. But he has injected passion back into the anti-Brexit cause just at a time when it seemed Britain was ready to normalise crap Government and Hard Brexit dogma. He will terrorise the Tories in the Lords.
47. CRAWFORD FALCONER CHIEF TRADE NEGOTIATION ADVISER
Falconer will become one of the biggest players in the Brexit process this year when the trade talks begin. Since taking on the role last summer he has won over the Brexiteers with several positive statements regarding the UK’s place in the world post-Brexit. The Kiwi believes Brexit could actually make the world safer if the UK can forge new global relationships.
48. GAVIN BARWELL NUMBER 10 CHIEF OF STAFF
After losing his Croydon Central seat the much-liked Barwell was swiftly appointed as the new Chief of Staff which has proved to be a popular move. An ally of May – and she doesn’t have many – he has created a calmer atmosphere in Number 10 but has failed to inject a real fighting spirit. Instead staffers talk of ‘coping better’ these days. However he is a confidant that is respected and heeded by the PM.
49. SIR TIM BARROW BRITAIN’S AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION
A smooth Brexit – if that is even possible – will require a great deal of very skilful diplomacy. Sir Tim certainly has the ability (former posts have included Moscow) and his pragmatism and phlegmatic character could prove invaluable. Brexiteers were outraged on his appointment that a Leaver was not handed the role. But in Sir Tim Theresa May has struck the right balance – he will report back with political impunity.
50. PAUL DACRE DAILY MAIL AND MAIL ONLINE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
A big faller since the 2017 Power List, the inability of the Daily Mail to deliver the Conservatives a majority in the General Election shows that its increasingly hysterical bombast is playing thin with the British public. To be fair to Alastair Campbell, he warned us we had over promoted the editor-in-chief of the Mail last year, and he was right. He might get the Prime Minister along to celebrate his work anniversaries, but there is no doubt the Daily Mail is a pale shadow of the paper that was once Middle England’s bible. His consolation is the comparison with the Daily Weather Forecast that is the Express.
51. DOMINIC GRIEVE TORY REBEL LEADER
When someone needed to lead a Tory rebellion to get much-needed amendments on the Brexit bill passed, the former Attorney General led the charge. Grieve and his fellow rebels were labelled ‘traitors’ by some (and ‘self-consumed malcontents’ by the Daily Mail). But he said he did not care that the ‘knives were out’. Empowered by his victory, Grieve will need that thick skin in the battles yet to come. A man of visible brain and clear courage, with capacity to coagulate Tory resistance around him.
52. DIDIER SEEUWS HEAD OF EU’S INTERNAL BREXIT TASKFORCE
In layman’s terms, Seeuws is tasked with keeping the EU27 happy and supportive of the negotiating team’s progress. As a go-between of the nations and Brussels, Seeuws has the power to shape where the EU can compromise and where is must stand firm. A leading, if vaguely unpronounceable, name in the Brexit negotiations.
53. JAMES O’BRIEN LBC PRESENTER
Although Radio 4’s Today programme is still essential listening, it’s LBC that has been consistently brilliant in presenting the spectrum of Brexit’s raging arguments. Two shine out – and we give the irritatingly clever O’Brien top spot over Iain Dale (one place below) purely because he’s on our side. O’Brien’s dissembling of Brexit doublethink is something to behold – and his tweets are in a sarcasm league of their own.
54. IAIN DALE LBC PRESENTER AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR
Dale’s LBC show is consistently must-listen radio. Here is a man who has honed the art of the simple question. ‘How would you vote in the Referendum today’ was a direct hit on Theresa May’s weaknesses – both as a Remain-at-heart politician, but also someone with a rare inability to think on her feet. Dale, a committed Leave supporter, did not let her off the hook. Gentle, courteous… and ruthless behind a microphone.
55. DOMINIC CUMMINGS VOTE LEAVE CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR
The strategist behind Leave’s unlikely victory is not as visible as he once was – but even from the shadows he is pulling strings. Cummings, who has hit out at the Government’s handling of Brexit, still has the ear of Johnson. If the Brexit Brothers, Gove and Johnson, do seize power expect a return to the top table for Cummings – and the hardest Brexit possible.
56. ZANNY MINTON BEDDOES EDITOR, THE ECONOMIST
There is no more heavyweight chronicler of the Brexit disaster than The Economist. Well, okay .. there is The New European. But apart from us, The Economist has been consistently sensible about the economic jeopardy the Brexit vote has created. Like the FT, and unlike, say, The Daily Mail, it is a title taken seriously the world over and sits on the desks of CEOs and opinion-formers the world over.
57. DANIEL HANNAN
MEP FOR SOUTH EAST ENGLAND
Only a few short years ago the likes of Hannan and Douglas Carswell were seen as interesting thinkers whose views were the outliers. But now many of those views and visions are at the centre of the battle over what type of Brexit is best for the UK. Hannan will continue to push for Britain to move away from any EU regulatory framework and now has Cabinet members with similar views. Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones
58. CARWYN JONES WELSH FIRST MINISTER
Jones has been vocal on Brexit from the get-go: EU aid should not be replaced by a Westminster-run system, if Northern Ireland is staying in the customs union then Wales should be allowed to as well, the Assembly must not lose powers post-Brexit. Number 10 does not want to go to war with the devolved nations and Jones’ rhetoric will not be ignored.
59. SUELLA FERNANDES MP CHAIRMAN, EUROPEAN RESEARCH GROUP OF MPS
Fernandes and her rabble of Brexiteer backbenchers will cause trouble for Theresa May unless she steers the UK out of the customs union and single market. If May pushes for a softer Brexit Fernandes has the numbers to seriously worry the PM.
60. TOM WATSON LABOUR DEPUTY LEADER
Watson claims it is ‘highly unlikely’ there will be a second referendum. But he won’t rule it out. The truth is that he would love a second crack at stopping Brexit but has had to fall into line now Jeremy Corbyn has so much power within the party. However, he is more friendly now than ever with his boss and Corbyn takes his counsel seriously. In the upper echelons of Labour, Watson’s is a vital Remain voice.
61. ANDREA LEADSOM LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Seemingly hopeless and yet blindly ambitious, Leadsom still believes she can one day be leader. And that ambition could impact the Brexit process in 2018. It would not take much to convince her to mount another challenge (although she would be unlikely to win) and that threat could force May’s hand when it comes to some of the issues closest to the hearts of the Leave camp.
62. MINA ANDREEVA EUROPEAN COMMISSION SPOKESMAN
It is Andreeva’s job to sell and translate Jean-Claude Juncker’s vision – especially in Germany, which will be vital if the EU is to get Angela Merkel onside. The perception of the talks in Germany is vital to their success, especially with Merkel’s diminished domestic clout after the election.
63. ADAM MARSHALL DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE BRITISH CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE
Marshall has significant influence because of the reach of the Chamber. Only last month, the organisation surveyed 1,300 British businesses who pleaded with the Government to minimise trading barriers with the EU. This kind of powerful lobbying has a deep impact and could spike the guns of the Hard Brexiteers.
64. JOHN MILLS CHAIRMAN, BUSINESS FOR BRITAIN
The home-shopping magnate and prominent Labour donor ran the Labour Leave campaign. It is highly likely that donations from him to the party would dry up if it toughened its opposition to Brexit or went as far as backing a second vote.
65. MIKE THOMPSON CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY
Brexit’s impact on Britain’s ability to respond to any future medical crisis is a serious issue and Thompson is leading the fight to ensure the country gets the right trade deal on medicines.
66. NIGEL DODDS DUP DEPUTY LEADER
The DUP’s Parliamentary spokesman is Arlene Foster’s eyes and ears on the ground in Westminster. If Number 10 lose his confidence Theresa May faces her tiny majority evaporating. Dodds is a quiet, intensely private and serious man who will keep his, and the DUP’s cards close to his chest. But he will have no concerns making the party’s Brexit red lines known loud and clear if, as happened over the border issue, circumstance requires it.
67. MICHAEL O’LEARY RYANAIR CHIEF EXECUTIVE
The most vocal of the airline bosses had a nightmare 2017 after a holiday rota error led to the cancellation of around 20,000 flights. Now outspoken O’Leary will want to get back to business as usual and will be pushing for the aviation deal he wants Britain to secure with the EU. He has warned that if the country crashes out of the EU there could be a hold up of flights between Britain and the EU, even warning that summer holidays could be cancelled. No Prime Minister wants to be remembered as the one that cancelled summer, so expect O’Leary’s playful yet robust stance to carry some clout in Downing Street.
68. JOHN FLINT INCOMING CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF HSBC
Flint takes the reins of Europe’s biggest bank in February. The bank wants to see transition arrangements in place and has said it will wait as long as possible before moving jobs out of the UK. But the new chief executive may have a different approach with the potential to rock Britain’s banking sector to its core. A visible lack of faith in Brexit from HSBC could be devastating to the Conservatives’ promise of Global Britain.
69. NIGEL FARAGE FORMER UKIP LEADER
Last year Farage was in the top 10, this year his placing reflects the fact that any influence he might have had is dwindling. Although still regularly offered a media platform, claims of influence at the White House appear to be little more than bluster. The truth is Farage these days cuts a rather sad and bitter figure on the sidelines, a half-cut King Lear stumbling around off stage, or tweeting daft photos of himself watching the Queen’s speech on a telly on top of a microwave. What next for Trump’s gold lift pal? We feel a change of scene is needed for Mr Brexit.
70. TOM BRAKE LIB DEM BREXIT SPOKESMAN
The Liberal Democrats have the clearest Brexit policy of any of the major parties. But their calls for a second referendum are too often drowned out by other Brexit noise. Brake and his team will be working hard to achieve better cut-through in 2018. It’s now or never for them.
71. MICHELLE O’NEILL LEADER OF SINN FÉIN IN THE NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY
O’Neill is clear: Special status for Northern Ireland to avoid a hard border after Brexit is common sense. She continues to agitate the people of Northern Ireland, pointing to the Government’s pact with the DUP and the fact they voted to remain in the EU. She will prove a vocal obstacle when the border issue returns to the table.
72. LORD ASHCROFT TORY DONOR AND POLLSTER
Lord Ashcroft wanted Britain to leave the EU but he was openly critical of the way the Leave campaign behaved. After a spectacular falling out with David Cameron, Lord Ashcroft is now back in the Tory fold. His money and his polling remains very influential and both wings of the Brexit argument within the Tory party will want to keep him sweet. He could be one of the key power brokers if (when) the battle to replace Theresa May kicks off.
73. NICK CLEGG SOON-TO-BE KNIGHTED FORMER DEPUTY PM
Last year was one to forget for Clegg after he was embarrassingly defeated in Sheffield Hallam, losing his seat to Labour. He will be missed in parliament but his voice remains relevant. Alongside other prominent figures Clegg’s warnings over Brexit could start to gain real traction as fears grow about the future in 2018. Has he got the ambition, and the stamina, to stick around for a comeback? Clegg is the man who could give Centrism a good name.
74. PROFESSOR BRIAN COX PHYSICIST
The former pop star (Things Can Only Get Better… sound familiar?) has become Britain’s favourite scientist. And his rally against Brexit, especially to his impressive 2.8million Twitter followers, has gained momentum. He has warned that the Brexit policy is being driven by a ‘small number of special interest groups’ and that ‘being anti-expert is the way back to the cave’. People like Brian Cox. Take a scan up this list above him and ask how many that applies to.
75. LLOYD BLANKFEIN GOLDMAN SACHS CHIEF EXECUTIVE
Both Leavers and Remainers are beginning to get a bit tired of his heavy hints that he will move operations to Frankfurt. But if he was to finally put his money where his mouth is it would be a huge blow for the Government and a potential wake-up call for the country.
76. ARRON BANKS CO-FOUNDER OF LEAVE.EU
One of the Brexit’s biggest mouths, Banks is not afraid who he upsets in the pursuit of the hardest possible exit form the EU. He has the cash and the ear of Nigel Farage which means he has the power to get his views out. And the support he gets on Twitter – although often from the extremes of the social media platform – prove many agree with his hugely-extreme form of Brexit.
77. JAMES MCGRORY DIRECTOR, OPEN BRITAIN
Under McGrory, Open Britain has grown to become a real force from the ashes of the Stronger In campaign group. Its press operation is unrelenting as the group attempts to debunk the rhetoric of the Brexiteer camp. Open Britain will grow in 2018 to become the major force behind pushing for the least destructive Brexit possible.
78. HENRY NEWMAN DIRECTOR, OPEN EUROPE
When Newman took over the reins at Open Europe a year ago the policy think tank had somewhat lost its way. But under the stewardship of Newman it has renewed its liberal vision for a free market Brexit.
79. AC GRAYLING PHILOSOPHER
The high priest of remaining in the EU commands huge respect. He has been the most vocal anti-Brexit thinker from the beginning and continues to rally the troops with his tubthumping, bombastic calls to arms.
80. RICHARD ANGELL DIRECTOR, PROGRESS
Momentum is winning many battles, but the war for Labour’s heart and soul is far from over. The Blairite pressure group, headed by Angell, remains a sensible and insightful voice and will lead any fight back from the centre ground.
81. MATTHEW ELLIOTT FORMER VOTE LEAVE CHIEF
Elliott is now an adviser at Shore Capital but calls for him to be brought into politics in a senior campaign role continue. Many Tories believe his background as the founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance and his role at Vote Leave mean he can bolster their chances against Labour. And it would be an appointment the Brexiteers would applaud.
82. GEORGE SOROS BILLIONAIRE FINANCIER
The 86-year-old Hungarian-American investor is convinced Brexit will hit the UK hard. His influence is clear by the number of right-wing conspiracy theories written about him online. When he speaks Governments and business listen. Best For Britain founder Gina Miller
83. GINA MILLER FOUNDER, BEST FOR BRITAIN
In 2016 when the campaign to halt a Hard Brexit seemed rudderless, Miller’s legal challenge offered some hope, and a morale-boosting victory. Her plan to promote tactical voting at the General Election failed to gain enough plaudits, but her voice remains important and Best for Britain now has an impressive array of MP-backers from the Greens, Lib Dems and Labour.
84. IAIN DUNCAN SMITH BACKBENCH MP
The quiet man has certainly got louder on Brexit – late last year he warned the EU to ‘back off’ or risk the UK quitting negotiations without a deal. Although he no longer enjoys the status he once did he is listened to and trusted by fellow backbench MPs and could cause the Government trouble if it is seen to be faltering on Brexit.
85. NICK TIMOTHY FORMER NUMBER 10 JOINT CHIEF OF STAFF
He may have been the author of the worst manifesto in British political history but Timothy remains influential from the sidelines. The Prime Minister misses her trusted duo of former joint chiefs of staff, Timothy and Fiona Hill, and is known to seek his counsel still. His newspaper columns are widely read in Westminster circles.
86. DIANE ABBOTT SHADOW HOME SECRETARY
A figure of ridicule to many, but Abbott – Britain’s first black female MP – is very highly regarded by Jeremy Corbyn. Although her Brexit interventions have been few and far between, she did convince the Labour leader to dump a pre-briefed speech where he was to hint at backing curbs on free movement.
87. ANDREW FISHER SENIOR POLICY ADVISER TO JEREMY CORBYN
Controversial Labour figure Fisher – he was once suspended for urging voters to back a rival candidate – has played a major role in keeping Corbyn away from Brexit. Along with Seumas Milne he believes Labour’s best chance of electoral success lies in attacking the Government over austerity, not Brexit.
88. TONY GALLAGHER EDITOR, THE SUN
Gallagher knows his paper is at its best when it is in a fight. The Sun will continue to cheer on the Brexiteers and could well back a Boris Johnson-led coup if trade talks do not go in the direction Gallagher believes his readers want. Tottenham Hotspur and England striker Harry Kane
89. HARRY KANE ENGLAND STRIKER
When England succumbed to Iceland in Euro 2016, less than a week after the referendum, it seemed to sum up perfectly the Brexit summer. A strong showing by the team in the World Cup in Russia this summer would certainly go some way to improving the nation’s mood and self confidence – and ironically take the pressure off the Government. Would a Golden Boot for Kane boost Brexit? There’s a quandary to make any Remain-voting English football fan as sick as a parrot. But it’s probably academic… and anyway, Brexit is definitely a game of two halves.
90. MATTHEW PARRIS COLUMNIST
The voice of the Conservative conscience, Parris remains unremittingly morose about Brexit, pessimistic about its current progress (towards ‘a dead end’) and gleefully celebrating anything that gets in its way (‘At last! The subversion of Brexit has begun’). He is among the most widely-read columnists by Tory MPs, an influential voice of reason on the right and – we hope – a sobering influence on some Brexiteers.
91. JONATHAN FREEDLAND COLUMNIST
The intellectual conscience of the Guardian. As The Times’ Parris dissects the lunacy of Brexit from the right, Freedland does the job from the left. His timely and thoughtful essays on Brexit are consistently poised and irrefutably rational; Freedland is the polished diamond of progressive political commentary.
92. MIKE GALSWORTHY SCIENTISTS FOR EU, FOUNDER
A health researcher by profession, Galsworthy set up Scientists for EU the day after the Tory victory in the 2015 election ensured there would be a referendum. Since then, he has been a remorseless and effective voice against Brexit, most active on Twitter. As an actual expert, he will naturally find scorn from Brextremists.
93. CAROLE CADWALLADR JOURNALIST
Cadwalladr’s ongoing Observer investigations into the way our democratic processes can be influenced by ‘big data’ have raised many questions about the validity of the referendum result. The complete picture is still to emerge but Cadwalladr’s dogged campaigning work may yet unturn a blockbuster fact in the war on fake news.
94. GARY LINEKER FORMER ENGLAND FOOTBALLER AND BROADCASTER
Match of the Day presenter continues to rile Brexiteers, pointing out the gaping flaws in their plans on Twitter, where he has more followers than the combined readership of the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express. As he put it himself, ‘as the picture becomes clearer it’s hard to see a single positive’ from Brexit. Hated by the Daily Mail; surely a good sign.
95. GEORGE OSBORNE EVENING STANDARD, EDITOR
The former chancellor appears to be relishing his remarkable career change. For some, his negative coverage of Theresa May has occasionally veered into the personal – after all, she did unceremoniously sack him when she became prime minister – but running through it all has been a consistent theme: that Brexit is a disaster for London and beyond.
96. ED MILIBAND FORMER LABOUR LEADER
Appearances on late-night comedy shows and even a stint hosting a Radio 2 show have shed a new light on the failed Labour boss. And his quick wit on social media and biting criticism of the Government have left many asking ‘why couldn’t he put up this kind of fight when he was opposition leader?’ A meaningful intervention – delivered both inside the chamber and in the television studios – could provide cut-through.
97. TIM MARTIN JD WETHERSPOON CHAIRMAN
The most vocal business figure speaking up for Brexit – though he is alarmingly light on details when he does speak up. He has filled his pubs with beer mats featuring the ‘Wetherspoon manifesto’ – a list of simplistic and unrealistic demands. Martin exemplifies the breezy ‘it’ll be alright, we can do what we like’ attitude that infects the entire Brexit project, right up to the negotiating table.
98. ROBERT MUELLER SPECIAL COUNSEL
2018’s wild card. His investigation (should he be allowed to complete it) into interference in the US Election has the potential to throw up a political earthquake on either side of the Atlantic.
99. RICHARD BRANSON FOUNDER OF THE VIRGIN GROUP
An aggressive backer of the Remain campaign in the referendum, he is still vocal on the issue and has the potential to play a larger role. His view is that Britain will ultimately hold a second referendum, and that it will result in the UK staying in the EU. Branson’s profile (and finances) would certainly cut through and influence.
100. THE NEW EUROPEAN
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