Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

Ten political thoughts for August 2017

09/08/2017, 09:38:19 AM

by Jonathan Todd

August is a time to take stock. Particularly so after a wild twelve months in politics. Here with ten thoughts.

1.) There will be no early general election

Tories can’t agree on much. But they are united in not wanting Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister and will do whatever they can to avoid an early general election that might bring this about.

Labour are powerful enough to subject the Tories to gruelling, parliamentary war but too weak for this to end in an early general election.

2.) Theresa May probably isn’t going anywhere fast

The Tories can’t agree on what form of Brexit should take and, as candidates reflect different Brexit flavours, a successor to Theresa May.

More chairperson than chief executive, she is condemned to try to navigate a peace between the tribes. Which may just hold if, before the election, she both delivers some form of Brexit and stands aside to enable a leadership election in which the post-Brexit Tory future will be personified.

3.) Cliff-edge Brexit is still possible

When Nick Timothy reappeared, the beard was gone. But the cant that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ wasn’t. It would be funny if it wasn’t tragic.

Lord Macpherson, until last year the top official at the Treasury , is quoted (£) as saying the “absence of realism in the government’s approach makes ‘no deal’ an evens chance.”

The magnitude of the calamity that ‘no deal’ portends cannot be understated and no responsible British politician would do anything to encourage this.

4.) But de jure Brexit, de facto Remain may now be the most likely outcome

Uncut does not know the government’s position on free movement. But the contours emerging amount to:

Free movement ends in March 2019 when the UK exits the EU but beyond that date, the government will support whatever arrangements British business tells us are necessary.

The de jure situation would change (free movement would be a prerogative of the UK government) but the de facto one wouldn’t much (our economy will still need and allow comparable numbers of immigrants to arrive from the continent).

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When it comes to Brexit, Farage is in charge of both Labour and the Tories

31/07/2017, 10:09:31 PM

by Trevor Fisher

Jonathan Todd’s Remain piece (17th July) ended with him asking for a speech by the leader at conference denouncing Brexit and vowing to lead the fight against it. But as Rob Marchant has pointed out more recently (26th July), Corbyn has always been anti-EU and telling Marr a couple of weeks ago that his policy was, like UKIP, to take Britain out of the single market was no surprise. This was the man who voted against the Single Market in 1996 and the Maastricht treaty and the Lisbon Treaty and there is only one question to ask about the man who leads the Labour Party.

Why did the Party allow him to run Labour’s Remain campaign into the ground?

But that is history – as will be the anti-Brexit campaign if the parliamentarians cannot be removed from running it. But more of that later. At present, the key issue is why the politicians cannot make an opposition that has an effect. For Labour, Corbyn is the problem. For the Lib Dems, the puzzle is the failure to stand up for anti-Brexit. Its position in the election was for soft Brexit. Much like Labour’s Brexit for jobs. But for the real disaster position, we have to look to the Tories, and their commitment via Theresa May to the dogma that No Deal is better than a Bad Deal. For once I agree with frequent Uncut commenter, Tafia. There will be no deal. The forces that control British politics will not allow a deal since any deal is from their viewpoint a bad deal with hated foreigners.

And who are these forces? Well, as Jonathan may recall, some weeks ago I pointed out at a meeting he was at that the key element is Nigel Farage. I might have done better to swing from the ceiling singing the Hallelujah Chorus. The reaction was that Mr Yesterday had gone, so good riddance and hopefully UKIP has gone too.

But Farage has not gone, just abandoned UKIP with his backer, Arron Banks. According to the Daily Mail, he has botoxed (and a before and after showed the anxiety wrinkles completely vanished), has a new (French) girlfriend and is full of the joys of spring.

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To those who voted for Labour as a pro-Remain party: you’ve been suckered

26/07/2017, 10:38:24 PM

by Rob Marchant

The madness that is British politics in 2017 this week continued apace. While Tories continued to flounder in their Brexit negotiations and, Trump-like, blame the media for their self-inflicted disasters, we finally arrived at the point of disarray where the half-bonkers Jacob Rees-Mogg, a throwback, cartoon Tory backbencher, is considered 2nd favourite to be the next Tory leader, when Theresa May is finally defenestrated.

Even so, Labour aimed to outdo them in the madness stakes. The man who was, in theory, the most senior opposition politician campaigning against Brexit, finally admitted that he was not, if he ever had been, anti-Brexit at all. In fact, the Labour leader was now in favour of the hardest of Brexits. Britain would unequivocally leave the Single Market.

Furthermore, it seems that Corbyn does not actually understand the phenomenon of the European Economic Area; he believes that you have to be in the EU to be part of the Single Market (you don’t, as Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland will attest).

His pro-European supporters on the left, such as the redoubtable Guardian columnist Owen Jones, scrambled to find a simultaneously pro-Corbyn and pro-European position which did not involve Houdini-like logical contortions. They failed.

All in a party where the vast majority of the membership, most supporting unions and the majority of the PLP resisted Brexit in the referendum. The party’s Brexit policy, between Corbyn, McDonnell, Keir Starmer and Barry Gardiner is now a jumble of contradictions which shifts daily.

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Labour can’t have our cake and eat it. We need to face our Brexit responsibilities

17/07/2017, 10:23:17 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Gus O’Donnell has stressed what has long been obvious about the Brexit process: “There is no way all these changes will happen smoothly and absolutely no chance that all the details will be hammered out in 20 months.” We are, therefore, starring into the abyss of a ‘no deal’ scenario.

This, according to JP Morgan, would be, “enormously disruptive to (trade) activity in the short run.” How bad? JP Morgan struggle to quantify this because, “there are no meaningful precedents for such an abrupt change.” That no one else has ever thought anything like this a good idea, should be a hint, shouldn’t it?

Living standards are being eroded by a post-referendum fall in sterling. Investment in the UK car industry has fallen by 30 per cent over the same period. Unsurprisingly, other industries are considering relocating out of a jurisdiction that can provide no clarity about the terms upon which it is soon to trade with the world.

Quelle surprise, too, to the supposed revelation that other European countries will encourage this investment to come to them. Immigrants – who might have treated our sick or picked our fruit – are departing these shores as rapidly as money is. Losing money and people is terrible for UK PLC and all our back pockets. With the CBI pushing for the softest of Brexits – inside the Customs Union and Single Market – the pressure from business on the government builds.

In not heeding these business warnings, the Tories are choosing to be the party of Brexit, not the party of business. It can no longer be both. It cannot have its cake and eat it. The ideological purity of Brexit and business pragmatism cannot coexist.

Neither – pace Rebecca Long Bailey – can Labour have its cake and eat it. We cannot sit back, watch this Tory destruction, and pretend that we have some kind of elixir known as “a jobs-first Brexit”. There is no such thing. We should be honest about that.

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Weeks after the result, the 2017 general election has left us with many more questions than answers

27/06/2017, 10:56:41 PM

by Trevor Fisher

As life in the Westminster bubble is now obsessed by the date of the next general election, the last one is slipping away without due care and attention, leaving many more questions than answers.  If the 2017 general election was a horse race, there would have been a steward’s inquiry. The bookies would have demanded to know why the favourite lost – but remained in the winners enclosure – the outsider came up strongly on the rails but still remained several lengths off the winning post, and the winners of 2015 were the losers in 2017 as the SNP fell back in its own hurdle race and UKIP lost most of the 4 million votes it gained in 2015.

The only consistent pattern was poor performance by the Greens and the weakness of the Lib Dems who having been destroyed in 2015 could not convert their opposition to Brexit into votes though 48% of those who voted in the 2016 Referendum voted to Remain. Even the one clear trend that was established on June 8th – the return of 2 party politics as the two main parties hoovered up votes from the small parties,  UKIP mainly going to the Tory Party – is not certain to be a long run trend.

The over-riding problem for analysts of political trends is that we are now in a politics of Surge. It has long been true that opinion polls don’t provide an accurate guide, partly because the old national swings rooted in class politics began to collapse with the rise of fringe parties from the 1960s. But this has come full circle recently with fringe parties rising and falling like a yoyo, while the two main parties rise and fall, with Labour rarely breaking 40% – June 8th was unusual – and the Tories normally ahead.

For example, it was predicted (in the Telegraph) that the Tories were heading for a Landslide, based on marginal seats, which backed up an Independent report by Andrew Grice that the Tories were “heading for a 90 strong majority”.

However the dates on these articles are (for the DT) November 28th 2009 and the Independent 10th November 2009, both 6 months before the election of 2010. The actual election was a hung parliament and as we all know, the Lib Dems went into coalition and were destroyed in the 2015 election, a development which no one saw coming.

Paddy Ashdown said he would eat his hat if the exit polls were correct, and later ate a confectionery hat on TV. In 2015 the SNP wiped out Labour in Scotland and the EU referendum in 2016 took Labour voters in numbers into the UKIP camp, with modest gains from both groups of exiles in 2017. Making the move back to two party politics more effective was the poor performance of  the Lib Dems, as on the one issue they can take a lead on, rejection of Brexit, they managed to fail to take a lead at all. Thus while instability has been a core fact of life for some time, the surges in the election as party performance kicked in were sufficient to mean  the early polling was not worth the paper it is printed on.

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Brexit means austerity and the death of Corbyn’s hope

26/06/2017, 07:05:23 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The Mandibles – Lionel Shriver’s latest – is a gripping and darkly hilarious story of a family and an America, over the years 2029 to 2047, in spectacular decline.

In our imploding chimney of a country, collapsing in on itself, we, too, feel precipitous descent. The appalling suffering and injustice of Grenfell. The banality of Islamic and right-wing evil. The biggest governmental challenge since World War II, with the least convincing prime minister since the last one.

Oddly enough, as everything that could go wrong goes wrong, The Mandibles reveals an optimistic core. This hope doesn’t come from institutions, abstractions, or politics. It is created by the visceral self-sacrifice and resilience of individuals, driven by love for those around them.

Oh, Jeremy Corbyn.

Like the Mandible family, Britain yearns to hope. Unlike them, we haven’t given up on politics as its source.

I was too young for Blair and am too old for Corbyn. Still up for Portillo but too wide-eyed to really absorb its historic significance. Not wide-eyed enough to have any anticipation of Kensington and Chelsea turning red.

Hope is what unites Corbyn with the Blair of 97. Much of the country looks into their eyes and sees a better tomorrow. Others scoff and are certain of disaster. My A-Level Economics teacher won £10 on a pub bet that there would be a recession within six-months of PM Blair.

New Labourites are misremembering if they think that Blair did not suffer doubters, as Corbyn does now. They would be lacking in generosity to not concede that Corbyn, as Blair did then, has, for those who have suspended any disbelief, become a canvass for disparate, even contradictory, hopes.

I’m not the first to draw comparisons between Corbyn and Blair. The left’s instinctive trust in Corbyn allows him, according to Matt Bolton, to successfully triangulate, that most Blairite of things. But Brexit is a triangulation too far.

“While Corbyn’s much derided ‘0% strategy’ on Brexit proved to a be a short-term electoral masterstroke,” Bolton observes, “assuring Red Kippers that he was committed to pulling out of the single market and clamping down on immigration, while allowing Remainers to project their hopes for a softer landing onto him, at some point a decision has to be made.”

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No matter what the Tories hope, Britain is not an island

30/05/2017, 07:38:31 PM

by Jonathan Todd

We’re wasting the finite time that Article 50 affords the UK to agree terms for our departure from the EU on an election supposedly about Brexit in which Brexit has hardly featured. This exit is not a trifling concern: no part of national life will be untouched by it.

“We’re being infantilised as a democracy,” Matthew Parris observes (£) of the lack of Brexit debate during the general election. But if there is a group of people with less appetite for Brexit discussion than our political class, it seems to be the general public.

“When it comes to Brexit, people have moved on,” wrote James Bethell after canvassing one Labour and two Conservative seats in East Anglia. The UKIP vote has moved on to the Conservatives. The Remain vote has failed to move on to the Liberal Democrats.

Roughly half of those Remain voters now accept that the UK must leave the EU – the other half want a government to ignore the referendum result or find means of overturning it. Whereas the defeated side remained energised after the Scottish referendum in 2014, the passion of the 48% has quickly dissipated.

Britain is over Brexit but Brexit isn’t over Britain. The grim prophecies of Remain have not really gone away. The UK’s trade balance, for example, has worsened by 1.8% of GDP since the final quarter of 2015. The fall in Sterling that Brexit triggered has sucked in imports, which are pushing up inflation, with no compensating rise in exports.

Our ability to pay our way is deteriorating – before tariffs are paid on goods moving from the UK to the continent (due to our exit from the customs union) and regulatory divergence further undermines the UK’s competitiveness (as a result of single market departure). To say nothing of the loss of labour and productivity induced by the end of free movement.

We’re on course to gut the NHS of the European workers upon which it depends but what happens in Libya, won’t stay in Libya. The things that we dislike about abroad (e.g. Islamic extremism) won’t avoid us just because we inadvertently curb the things we like from beyond our shores (e.g. NHS workers).

Did we intervene too much in Libya (in using aerial power to help topple Gaddafi who was butchering his own people) or too little (in failing to stabilise the country afterwards)?

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A coherent centrist response to Brexit means resisting economic nationalism – in all its forms

17/05/2017, 10:14:43 PM

by Mark Stockwell

One of the many, many issues faced by Labour’s moderate wing at the moment is that they are – perfectly understandably – so preoccupied with the short-term problem of saving their seats in June, and the medium-term one of how to oust Jeremy Corbyn and his ilk afterwards, that the longer-term challenge of putting together a viable centre-left platform is going largely unaddressed.

Those who favour trying to resuscitate a seemingly moribund party have directed longing glances across the Atlantic to Justin Trudeau’s Canada. Those who are coming to the painful conclusion that a breakaway may be necessary – with a view to triggering a full-on realignment – are casting admiring looks across the Channel to the newly-inaugurated French President, Emmanuel Macron, and his fledgling ‘la République en Marche’ movement.

But more immediate concerns have left little time or energy for thinking through what political centrists will need to do to provide an effective opposition – and, all in good time, an alternative government – to an emboldened Theresa May with a large majority at her back.

The Prime Minister is essentially campaigning for a free hand to negotiate Brexit, in the hope that increased parliamentary numbers will strengthen her negotiating hand, not just with the EU but also with potential internal critics.

She has also repeatedly made it clear, however, that she is looking to take both her party and the country in a different direction. Brexit is only a part of this story: a necessary but not sufficient condition for what amounts to a rethink of the Conservatives’ view of the role of the state in the economy. The May team’s conversion to the cause of a cap on domestic fuel bills is a recent, high-profile example of this, and recent pronouncements on ‘workers’ rights’ are also part-and-parcel of this repositioning, but the change in approach goes much deeper. It amounts to a rejection of the laissez-faire approach that has characterised Conservative industrial policy for 30 years and more (with the exception of Lord Heseltine, now paradoxically estranged from the higher echelons of the party).

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Campaign frontline: Despite its short term woes, UKIP hopes to bounce back

15/05/2017, 06:54:17 PM

In a series of reports from the campaign frontline, Uncut looks at what’s happening on the ground. Kevin Meagher was at Little Lever, in Bolton South East to take a look at UKIP’s local campaign

Reversing a coach into the narrow entrance of the car park of the Queens pub in Bradley Fold took some doing. Eventually, though, the driver managed it. Perseverance and a steady hand paying off. Given this was UKIP’s new campaign battle bus, emblazoned with the smiling face of its newish leader, Paul Nuttall, the moment served as a perfect metaphor.

Small steps. Incremental progress. Steady as she goes.

This was certainly the hope as Nuttall arrived in Little Lever, a village in the Bolton South East constituency and the closest thing UKIP has to Ground Zero. The party has all three council seats and intends to build out from here into neighbouring villages.

Amid its difficulties elsewhere, with losses of county council seats and plunging opinion poll levels, Little Lever, a Brexit-voting ‘upper working-class’ enclave, counts as safe ground for the kippers.

Owner occupiers with nice semis. Small business owners. Vans on the driveways. Satellite dishes. Nice gardens. Not Emily Thornberry territory, it is safe to say. This isn’t Middle England though. This is a small town full of classic aspirational Labour voters. Skilled manual workers, not middle class professionals.

It’s also a totem for how UKIP still hopes to replace Labour in its political backyard across the north of England, picking up on working-class disaffection with issues like immigration and the general drift under Jeremy Corbyn.

Defying the stereotype, Nuttall’s advance team are chatty and friendly. There are the obligatory burly security guys, replete with their CIA-style earpieces. A few local activists gather while a pasty young man paces around the car park, his plummy accent and Barbour jacket giving him away as a UKIP staffer.

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Theresa May’s dead EU cat shows the fragility of her campaign and paucity of political judgement

03/05/2017, 06:04:40 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The question is why? Why would Theresa May make that speech on the EU in this election? She’s already guaranteed a huge majority. Reports from all parties make it abundantly clear that the number one doorstep issue for switchers is Jeremy Corbyn.

She also knows that this speech will have a long term impact.

In France, Emmanuel Macron, most likely victor in this week’s second round is sure to be asked about it and will harden his line on Brexit. Merkel, approaching her own campaign, will do similar.

The Tory right will use May’s words to  make any backsliding towards the perfidy of compromise for an interim deal that much harder.

The chances of a Brexit disaster on Theresa May’s watch, in the next two years, just leapt exponentially.

So why do it?

A big part of the reason is that her team have been bounced: criticism of the Tories’ lack of policy, her own sheltered campaign which has studiously avoided contact with the public and the robotic repetition of the same lines, has clearly had an impact.

It’s hard to fill an election grid when the only policy commitment is to not make a commitment, journalists are getting restive and bored of anodyne events and the principal lacks the basic retail skill to deliver her core message without sounding like a ZX Spectrum speech program from the 1980s.

This is why Theresa May has thrown a dead EU cat onto the general election table.

Now, the next 48 hours will all be about May versus Brussels.

A great short term media win for the election campaign, disastrous for the premiership that follows.

That Theresa May would sacrifice her own prospects in office for this transitory triumph when facing Jeremy Corbyn says it all about the fragility of her campaign and her underlying lack of political judgement.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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