Posts Tagged ‘EU’

Remainers need to accept they lost. Make the argument for re-joining instead

23/05/2019, 07:00:35 AM

by Kevin Meagher

On Thursday night, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party will comfortably win more votes than the Labour and Conservative parties put together. This is the price we will pay as a country – and a political system – for the failure to deliver on the public’s vote to leave the EU in June 2016.

The European elections will represent a second people’s vote and an undeniable rejection of Remainer politics. Surprise is the very last reaction that is warranted. Over the past three years, there has been scant interest from the Remain camp in listening or reflecting on why they lost the referendum, let alone an attempt at persuading and winning round voters who backed Brexit.

For nearly three years, their actions have been condescending, tone deaf, incompetent and foolish. They resemble British tourists in a Spanish hotel in the 1970s shouting louder at the waiter in order to be understood.

British politics has changed, but there are those who still cling to the old certainties. No amount of sophistry about messages on buses or Russian interference has had any effect. Voters are wise to the tactics of the political class. When they hear Remainer politicians talk of a second referendum they simply hear, ‘We’re giving you another chance to give us the right answer.’

Am I a Leaver? No, I’m a democrat. When you’ve lost, you’ve lost. Accept it, learn from it and come back stronger. I’m also a rejoiner. I want Britain’s long-term interest to be served by being part of the European Union. I simply recognise that the short-term position is now lost.

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Labour’s dreadful local election performance is the clearest possible public verdict on Corbyn

03/05/2019, 07:41:02 AM

by Rob Marchant

Facing the most incompetent, divided, rudderless and risible Tory government in living memory, Labour has somehow managed to go backwards in the local elections.

It’s unprecedented and entirely a judgement on the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

This isn’t a bolt from the blue, Labour’s slide has been entirely predictable and, unchecked, catastrophe beckons at the next general election.

Fast-forward to 2022, the projected next general election: Jeremy Corbyn, safe in his position as leader, has been leader of the Labour Party for seven years.

With regard to tenure, that will put him as the seventh longest-serving leader in the party’s century-long history. MacDonald, Attlee, Gaitskell, Wilson, Kinnock, Blair and Corbyn. That is the peer group: all party leaders for more than one term.

While some might reasonably quibble about MacDonald, the first six are undoubtedly heavyweight, historical names. And party leaders with that kind of tenure are, clearly, the ones with the best chance of shaping their party in their image.

Jeremy Corbyn already has.

In three-and-a-half years – he is currently at the rough midway-point of those seven years – he has reduced his party to one riddled with, and about to be formally investigated for, anti-Semitism; and provided a nonsensically equivocal position on Brexit, as a result shoring up what many have reasonably come to think of as the worst government in history.

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Our summer of terrible dilemmas

26/04/2019, 09:10:09 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The temperature is rising. On our thermometers and in our politics. We face a summer of terrible dilemmas.

Should the Democrats seek to impeach Trump?

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the Mueller report says. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Mueller does not exonerate Trump. Mueller also recognises the Justice Department guidelines debarring prosecution of a sitting president. Mueller has taken matters as far as he feels he could.

It is for Congress to take them further. To not do so would set a dangerous precedent, while to do so would go against political realism.

In the absence of Republican support, an attempt to impeach Trump would not succeed. It would energise Trump’s loyal supporters. It would detract from focus on issues – such as healthcare – that are more likely to help Democrats in next year’s presidential election.

Who should pro-Europeans vote for in the European election?

Pro-Europeans have had few better friends in recent years than Andrew Adonis and Seb Dance. They intend to seek election as Labour MEPs.

The Labour leadership has been less solid. Barely exerting itself in the 2016 referendum. Slow to interrogate that vote’s dark money. Quick to push the “jobs first Brexit” oxymoron.

Theresa May, pace the ERG, has not defeated Brexit. Nor has parliament. Brexit – its contradictions and conceits – is defeating Brexit.

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The headlines missed the real Bercow story. He’s de facto implementing last week’s Benn amendment: the Commons now has the lead in deciding what get’s voted on for Brexit

19/03/2019, 10:35:15 PM

by Atul Hatwal

The headlines from John Bercow’s intervention yesterday might have been about his refusal to countenance another Meaningful Vote on an unchanged deal, but the real story, was elsewhere. Two words, one number: Standing Order 24.

In his response to a question from Labour MP Helen Goodman, the Speaker virtually set out how he would support the Commons in seizing control of the parliamentary agenda, allowing binding votes on different Brexit options such as a referendum or Norway+.

Here’s the key exchange from Hansard.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are obviously right that the House does not wish to vote on the same proposition over and again. Equally, I am sure that you will be aware of the fact that some hon. Members were interested in meaningful votes because at that time, they would be able to vote on amendments on matters that we have not yet considered. If the Government are unable to make any changes to their proposition, I seek your guidance on how we might secure opportunities for voting on those alternative propositions. I heard you talk about urgent questions, but of course, there is no vote on an urgent question or a statement, and a Standing Order No. 24 motion is in neutral terms. The Government have not been very generous recently in offering Opposition day debates either, so I seek your advice on how hon. Members might proceed.

Mr Speaker

Obviously, it would be helpful to the Opposition if Opposition days were supplied. That has not happened recently and I have no way of knowing whether the Leader of the House has it in mind to provide for Opposition days. I think that colleagues would think that it was a democratic and seemly thing to do to ensure that the principal Opposition party had the requisite allocation of days. So far as other business is concerned, the hon. Lady should look closely at the Standing Order No. 24 procedure. What she says about it is true, but I think that she should reflect upon the opportunities that the Standing Order No. 24 procedure presents, because the opportunities are fuller than has traditionally been acknowledged or taken advantage of by Members of the House of Commons.

The Speaker bends over backwards to needle Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House and highlight Standing Order (SO) 24. This is the SO that enables emergency debates to be requested by MPs.

Traditionally, emergency debates are phrased neutrally. They always use the formulation, “That this House has considered…” This is because the purpose of SO24 is to enable debate, to consider a motion, not direct action following the debate.

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Can the Labour breakaway escape our General Melchett leadership?

18/02/2019, 10:57:03 PM

By Jonathan Todd

“If nothing else works,” General Melchett (Stephen Fry) insisted in Blackadder Goes Forth, “a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through.”

Donkeys again lead lions. Theresa May won’t face facts about parliamentary arithmetic. Jeremy Corbyn won’t face the facts raised by 7 ex-Labour MPs.

For Melchett “seeing things through” came at tremendous human cost. As business investment plummets and the UK’s international reputation degrades to the shambolically pitiable, May and Corbyn are also callously aloof.

Brexit does nothing to solve the problems of the UK, while creating many new problems. At a minimum, a “good Brexit” would avoid these new problems. More ambitiously, it would somehow address the problems that the UK harboured in June 2016. No such Brexit exists.

We might choose to minimise the scale of economic damage caused by Brexit (by staying in the single market and customs union) but this comes at the price of being rule takers to the EU. Since June 2016, Labour has never confronted this trade-off.

The Irish backstop features in debate in the UK as if the border issue is a potentially temporary challenge, but any future divergence between Northern Ireland and the EU customs union and single market likely necessitates a hard border.

If the UK were, for example, to have lower tariffs than the EU customs union, a Northern Ireland with an open border to the Republic would create a way to avoid tariffs when bringing goods in to the EU. If these goods were to fall below EU regulatory standards, this EU backdoor would undermine the single market, as well as the customs union.

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The case for Remaining needs saving from Remainers

17/01/2019, 10:02:41 PM

by Kevin Meagher

There’s a fabulous scene in the recent Channel Four drama, ‘Brexit: The Uncivil War,’ where Rory Kinnear, playing David Cameron’s director of communications, Craig Oliver, storms into a focus group meeting of average voters and starts arguing with them in sheer frustration that the Remain campaign’s message just isn’t getting through.

As metaphors go, it’s just about perfect.

Stupid people don’t understand the issues or what’s at stake, so the swells need to barge in, shouting and finger-jabbing until the plebs acquiesce.

There’s no real mystery as to why the Brexiteers triumphed in 2016.

Remainers fluffed it.

Through the combination of a truly terrible campaign and their own unjustified sense of providence, they ‘lost’ Europe.

On the wrong end of a fair fight, Remainers have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from the experience.

All we have had for the past two years is incessant moaning about the manner of the loss, which, boiled down, usually amounts to “their lies were better than our lies.” Not to mention the daily epistles on Twitter from people like Andrew Adonis which long ago scaled the heights of self-parody.

We’ve had carping about the Leave campaign’s infamous bus and the hooky pledge to redirect the £350 million a week we contribute to EU coffers to the NHS instead. As though it’s the first porkie told in a political campaign.

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With each passing week, McDonnell becomes more like Brown to Corbyn’s Blair

07/01/2019, 10:41:33 PM

by David Talbot

In September 2015 Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour Party, was finishing his first speech to the party faithful. Embracing the mandate for change, Corbyn, with a wry nod halfway through, noted that “things can – and they will – change”. In the preceding three years, via an internal challenge and a general election, the nature of the Labour Party has been transformed in his image. Corbyn was of course in part elected, twice, as Labour leader precisely because he represented a riposte to the previous Labour governments and to, of course, the loathed Tony Blair. However, an aspect of the duopoly which so dominated the party throughout its years in government is set to be replicated, ironically, by those who have dedicated the most to repudiating him, his image and his governments.

John McDonnell was not a universally welcomed appointment when Corbyn gave his longstanding comrade the position of Shadow Chancellor over three years ago. The antipathy reached its peak during the botched leadership challenge to Corbyn during 2016, when murmurs reached a crescendo that his departure was desperately needed to restore some semblance of party unity. The fiery, left-wing firebrand made enemies in his own party as easily as amongst the Conservatives, his reputation as a deeply divisive and electorally poisonous figure seemingly cemented.

The scepticism extended as far as Corbyn’s innermost circle, who grew to distrust the Shadow Chancellor – an opinion also widely held amongst the trade unions who had dealt with him for decades. In his early throes he actively coveted controversy and attrition, from his ‘communist salute’ at the 2015 party conference to labelling Labour moderates “fucking useless” in their cack-handed attempts to dispose the new Labour leader. Since then, a transition has begun as ambitious and calculated as the work of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to transform the electoral prospects of a moribund party in the mid-1990s.

And it is to these two towering figures of the last chapter of the Labour Party that is becoming ever more prevalent for the new, Corbyn-led, chapter. The rivalry and trench warfare, often for the sheer sake of it, that came to characterise the then Labour leader and his Chancellor is fracturing into the open between Corbyn and his Shadow Chancellor. Over the summer, when Labour descended into a bitter dispute over anti-Semitism, it was the Shadow Chancellor, through the pages of the Times no less, that organ of the establishment, who made it known that he disapproved of Corbyn’s handling of the sorry saga. As to with the terrorist incident in Salisbury, where McDonnell, not Corbyn, voiced support for the security services and stated unequivocally it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible.

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As the country contemplates “to leave or not to leave”, Corbyn’s position may just become an irrelevance

27/12/2018, 10:38:38 PM

by Rob Marchant

December has been a mad, rollercoaster month for British politics. The first half brought a good couple of weeks for Remainers. There were the three Commons defeats for May; and then the government’s own legal advice was finally published, which said that the Irish border question is essentially insoluble within any kind of Brexit. I mean, who knew?

And then there was the European Court of Justice ruling, saying that Article 50 was unilaterally cancellable by Britain. This means, as John Rentoul noted, a referendum is now more likely.

Then the vote on May’s deal was postponed and the PM herself survived a no-confidence vote from her Tory party colleagues. Though it was painted as bad news for her by the media, it also weakened the Moggite fringe on the right of her party, who underestimated her support and were made to look silly. It also still means she is not leaving No. 10 any time soon, not at least without a general election – which now looks unlikely after Corbyn’s crying off from a parliamentary no-confidence vote, an altogether different level of bad.

It is hard not to see all this as something of a victory for Remainers and moderate Leavers. But where does it leave us?

If there is a People’s Vote, the key thing, as always with referenda, is the question.

May has made it clear that there are three options: Remain, Chequers and No Deal. But Many commentators seem to miss the fact that a three-way referendum would be highly unlikely to be practical: it would both lack legitimacy and further run the risk that the public didn’t actually get what it wanted – and everyone would be unhappy. No, a referendum must surely have two clear options and so one must be taken off the table. But which?

  1. Remain vs Chequers: Remain wins, as YouGov’s polling shows.
  2. No Deal vs Chequers: unlikely to happen. A People’s Vote can only really become a reality if the pendulum has swung towards Remain – that is, if the government suffers public pressure to do so.
  3. Remain vs No Deal: if a parliamentary vote happens first, Chequers loses and there is a last-minute swing to Remain, it could be that this becomes the vote. In the end, no-one knows what would happen, because it is not the same as the hypothetical vote polled for here in a three-way poll. Removal of one option would probably affect the other two. Even then, Leave vs. Remain is still roughly 50-50, as it was back in 2016. One can’t help feeling that, if No Deal were the only option, some Leavers would back away and it only takes a few per cent to swing things for Remain.

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Could we please have a real-world Labour Brexit policy?

19/11/2018, 06:05:32 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Theresa May is right. It is:

  • Her Brexit
  • No deal Brexit
  • Or no Brexit

If you are not choosing from that menu, you are at an imaginary restaurant. Which five members of the Cabinet, the so-called European Research Group, and the Labour leadership, unfortunately, are.

There is, according to the BBC’s Europe Editor, zero appetite in EU circles to renegotiate May’s withdrawal deal. “We have a document on the table that has been adopted by the EU and the UK, and so for me, the question of further negotiations does not arise,” Angela Merkel said.

But Andrea Leadsom demurs. She aims to tweak May’s deal. John McDonnell goes further. He wants a completely different agreement by next March.

In the real-world, there are three possible ways forward:

First, May’s deal. The lack of advocates for this deal has reduced May to comparisons with Thatcher’s final days. It is also reminiscent of the period immediately after the 2010 general election. Then, as now, it was apparent that the prime minister did not have the numbers.

There is, however, a plausible argument to say:

While imperfect, this withdrawal agreement takes the UK out of the EU, we accept it and are focusing upon the long-term relationship between the UK and the EU, which remains to be determined.

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Binning Brexit must be the start of the change that we need

13/11/2018, 09:47:38 PM

by Jonathan Todd

In William Waldegrave’s admirably honest and bleakly comic memoir, he describes William Armstrong, the head of the civil service, suffering a nervous breakdown. Armstrong, when Waldegrave was working for prime minister Ted Heath, “talked apocalyptically of his control of the Blue Army in its war against the Red, then lay full length on the floor of Number Ten’s waiting room, at the feet of an astonished delegation of businessmen”.

“Could civil servant Olly Robbins prove Brexit’s unlikely hero?” asked a recent Financial Times profile. Of course, sadly, not. While we hope that the strain does not impact Robbins as greatly as Armstrong, Brexit is a joyless revolution, devoid of heroes.

Out of the crooked timber of Brexit, Immanuel Kant might have said, no straight thing was ever made. Nothing, as Jo Johnson stressed when resigning from government, has been fashioned from it to compare with the promises made in its name during the 2016 referendum.

Politics, eventually, catches up with policy. While Johnson’s departure may trigger bigger political events, it responds to a policy reality that has long been obvious: Theresa May is incapable of delivering a Brexit that won’t make us worse off and her Brexiter critics have no plausible policy for doing better. The political energy that pulses through Remain derives from a more coherent policy: staying in the EU via a People’s Vote, based on what is now known, not the false prospectus of two years ago.

The right policy is the right politics. Labour MPs in seats that voted for Brexit cannot advance a policy that combines Brexit with the brightest prospects for jobs and growth in these places. Because – as voters increasingly realise – no such policy exists, eroding the political case for accommodation with Brexit by these MPs. Especially when, among Labour voters, at least two-thirds in every constituency support another referendum.

The polling does not reveal a thirst for Lexit among Labour voters in industrial towns. Other voters in these seats may have more of a taste for Brexit – in many cases, for reasons far removed from the inclusion and internationalism that have traditionally characterised Labour. But – with every unfortunate story of redundancies attributed to Brexit – this taste is diminishing. In any case, while Brexit ought to be bigger than self-interested calculations, these voters are less crucial to the survival of Labour MPs than Labour voters.

From whom the message is clear: we want another say on the dud that we were sold.

No one any longer bothers to deny the defectiveness of Brexit. The case for persisting rests upon fulfilling 2016’s mandate (whatever that was). Or the fear of no deal, which, given the willingness of the prime minister to listen to the parliamentary majority against this, is misplaced.

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