Leo Varadkar has done Britain a favour. He’s shown that the voices shaping Britain’s future need not be only Farage’s and Rees Mogg’s

by Jonathan Todd

There’s much to admire among the world’s new generation of leaders. The election of Justin Trudeau (now aged 45) as prime minister in 2015 on a pro-immigration, pro-investment platform made him Uncut’s overseas inspiration of 2015. Since then Jacinda Ardern (aged 37), Emmanuel Macron (aged 39), and of course Leo Varadkar (aged 38) have been elected to the leaderships of New Zealand, France and Ireland, giving hope that centrism might not be quite dead.

Over the past 48 hours, the last member of this group may have had the most significant impact on the future of the UK. By insisting on de facto all-Ireland participation in the single market and customs union, he has shown that the voices shaping what comes next for Britain, need not be only Farage’s and Rees Mogg’s.

“Brexit and the election of President Trump were inextricably linked,” recently observed Raheem Kassam, the Breitbart London editor and former chief of staff to Nigel Farage, leaving the prospects of centrism bleaker in the UK and the US.

In the past week, Trump has retweeted three inflammatory and unverified anti-Muslim videos shared by the deputy leader of Britain First, secured wide-ranging legislation on taxation that Bernie Sanders decries as the “looting” of the American treasury, and witnessed his ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn become his administration’s most senior member to be charged in the investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

In the age of Trump, Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian, it’s time to ditch the special relationship. Bold moves are easier executed from positions of strength. Which is hardly what UK, teetering on the brink of exit from our most important alliance, now enjoys.

The prime minister’s main focus is to resist every EU demand, before capitulating, having realised – contrary to her earlier insistence – that any deal is better than no deal. This pattern emerges across each of the divorce issues: the EU budget, the Irish border, EU citizens rights. This strategy will deliver Brexit. At any cost. Leaving an isolated UK looking for new friends. Which, particularly after the past week, only the foolish would think are to be found in Trump.

Britain’s red lines on Brexit, claims Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, have the UK headed towards Canada. Not in the sense of mixing that economically helpful cocktail of being pro-immigration and pro-investment. Not geographically – our proximity to the continent, inevitably, makes us more dependent upon trade with our neighbours than with north America. But in the sense of arrangements equivalent to the EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The EU-Canada FTA removes tariffs on goods and opens up public procurement, telecoms and maritime transport. It does little or nothing, however, in markets crucial to the UK such as aviation, electricity, audio-visual, and financial services. If the UK wants to move to something closer to the single market in these areas, there will be an expectation that the UK contribute more to the EU budget, adopt EU laws, and have a greater acceptance of free movement – in other words, fold on the issues that Barnier sees as pushing the UK toward Canada.

We have not yet exited the EU but this process is being associated with such economically damaging phenomena as:

  • Brexodus – Net migration to the UK fell by more than 100,000 in the year following the referendum, the largest annual decrease recorded. Which explains the NFU bemoaning food rotting in fields.
  • Shrinkflation – Food items are getting more expensive and smaller. It is reported that this, “is widely considered to be a direct result of the post-Brexit economy. Manufacturers are facing higher costs for energy, ingredients, transport and packaging.”
  • Bickering between businesspeople and ministers – A leading entrepreneur has said that Liam Fox is “utterly unfit” to be in office, after the International Trade Secretary accused British business of not putting in enough effort into exporting.
  • British universities experiencing a fall in their share of EU funding. Any reduction in economic growth produced by Brexit will lower tax collection and put further pressure on other public services – many of which, not least the armed forces, police and the NHS, already seem worryingly stretched.
  • No UK cities following Glasgow and Liverpool in enjoying the regeneration boost associated with being the European Capital of Culture.

These events may explain why over half of Britons, according to a new Survation poll, “support holding a referendum asking the public if they will accept or reject the deal”. The call for a second referendum has also been made by Goldman Sachs – one of many businesses likely to divert investment away from a UK outside the EU.

It was ‘the will of the people’ that set the UK on the road to Canada and there is a logic to ‘the will of the people’ – aka another referendum – setting the UK on a different trajectory.

Jeremy Corbyn has been quicker to pose as a threat to the likes of Goldman Sachs than to join them in seeking a second referendum. Beyond the obligations of EU membership, the latitude that PM Corbyn would hold to threaten businesses would be enhanced. Such a ‘socialism in one country’ strategy would end painfully.

Hopefully, Corbyn appreciates this. If he envisages keeping the UK in the EU via a second referendum, he needs to act quickly. David Allen Green explains why the window on that scenario will close sooner than we might think.

“The engagement,” reports the Financial Times of Harry and Meghan, “has already helped to distract Britain from the divisions of the Brexit vote.” Corbyn advised viewing Russia Today to avoid the last Royal wedding. Now, questions are being asked not only about Russian influence on the US presidential election but the UK-EU referendum.

Urgently, and well in advance of the temporary palliative of next Royal wedding, Corbyn should reflect on who our friends really are. Allusion (which is French for hint): They are not as distant as Canada or Russia, and much more in sympathy with social democratic values than Trump. L’Europe d’abord.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut

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6 Responses to “Leo Varadkar has done Britain a favour. He’s shown that the voices shaping Britain’s future need not be only Farage’s and Rees Mogg’s”

  1. Anne says:

    I think that public opinion is starting to change regarding Brexit – surely we should be allowed to change our mind, especially as the consequences of leaving are becoming clearer. Barry Gardiner has said a second referendum is not off the table.
    With the Irish boarder issue we are coming closer to a general election – we should have a clear position on Brexit.

  2. buttley says:

    Anne says: we should have a clear position on Brexit.

    Anne, that is unlike you to criticise Sir Keir Starmer.

    For the last 10 Months you has been saying how brilliant he is, admittedly without any justification.

    Yet now you say, you don’t understand his position?

    To be fair, he did declare it unilaterally, & that puzzled me too.

    As, it is a bit odd, for a supposed democratic party.

  3. Tafia says:

    Anne, latest opinion polls (from just a coule of days ago) regarding the Brerxit negotiations show 40% favour leaving with no deal, a further 17% leaving with paying no more than 10bn, etc etc. By the time you reach 30Bn, nearly 90% favour paying less or leaving with no deal.

    The ‘public opinion’ thats changing is more and more people favour a referendum on the exit deal – and if its too much rejecting it and leaving with no deal.

  4. Tafia says:

    Brexodus – Net migration to the UK fell by more than 100,000 in the year following the referendum, the largest annual decrease recorded. Which explains the NFU bemoaning food rotting in fields

    Jesus wept. Are you people actually retarded in some way? You KNOW the food rotting thing was later proved to be false. Yet you repeat it like a moron.

    Decrease in net migration means we our population s still rising just more slowly – but you deliberatey do not tell the truth, that it’s mainly low-skill no-skill that’s fallen, that for highly skilled workers it’s actually increasing and that this is now the number 1 country for skilled migrants, and not only that but the amount of investment attracted to the UK in technology is higher than France and Germany combined, is increasing, and the gap between us and those two is also increasing.

    So why are you not telling the truth?

  5. Tafia says:

    No UK cities following Glasgow and Liverpool in enjoying the regeneration boost associated with being the European Capital of Culture.

    There is no reason why a UK city can’t be the European Capital of Culture. In the last ten years one city has been in Eurpe but not the EU and another was in Asia Minor – Istanbul.

    It is not the EU capital of culture and it is criminal that they are attempting to hijack it in this way and shows how gutless and spineless you are for not condemning them for doing so.

    I could rip the rest of your post apart as well quite easily – even with Labour’s published positions being at 180 degrees from those you believe.

    But it’s not good manners to humiliate the afflicted.

  6. Anne says:

    Professor John Curtice (polling expert) suggests, in his published report, that the UK public, including those who voted Leave in the EU referendum, has become more critical of the way negotiations are being handled and more pessimistic about the consequences of Brexit. This pessimism is not alleviated by David Davis when he tells us that there is no economic impact study on eventuality of a no deal brexit. This is staggering – what on earth have these 800 civil servants appointed to deal with Brexit been doing.

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