Posts Tagged ‘EU’

Corbyn fiddles while Europe, and the world, reach for the matches

02/07/2018, 08:14:20 AM

by Rob Marchant

It is somewhat inevitable, in the current, febrile political climate, that Tony Blair’s few interventions elicit disproportionate responses in Britain. Even when those interventions conclude little that most Western commentators outside Britain, or a European historian of average talent, would disagree with.

In part, this is because in Britain the effective, yet unspoken, May-Corbyn alliance on Brexit has meant effective mainstream unity on that subject.

That is, the only senior politicians who speak out against it are either (a) the leaders of minor parties (Greens/Lib Dems/SNP), or (b) retired heavyweights not bound by the party whip. So it is easy for him to outweigh the rest of the pack.

Love him or hate him, of all those, Blair is unquestionably the heaviest, in terms of prime ministerial experience at least. Against fellow living ex-PMs Major, Brown and Cameron, he wins on years (10 vs. 7, 3, 6); general election victories (3 vs 1, 0 and 2); and was never defeated in either a GE or a national referendum either, unlike the others.

And his latest intervention is not just correct: even if you disagree with him on Brexit (which, according to the latest YouGov poll, now puts you with less than half the population), it’s difficult to disagree with what he says about populism and the similarities to the 1930s.

2018 is a genuinely scary time to live. Not just through the narrow prism of Brexit, through which it seems all political questions are currently viewed here, although that is arguably a major disaster in itself and not just for Britain.

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Labour should back a ‘cooling off’ referendum on Europe. After all we did it before

12/06/2018, 04:55:26 PM

by Joe Anderson

Armaggeddon.’ There’s not much ambiguity about the word.

That’s the Whitehall assessment if there is no exit deal or transitional arrangements as we enter the Brexit endgame.

Even on civil servants’ less cataclysmic judgment, there is a chance that the Port of Dover collapses on the first day we leave the European Union. Food shortages follow.

Is this what Brexiteers mean by ‘taking back control?’

Their starry rhetoric and inflated claims are dissolving day by day.

The boast that the US is poised to sign an early trade deal with us – always a wide-eyed assumption – has been utterly shattered by Donald Trump’s trade war – which now puts 30,000 British steel workers’ jobs at risk.

Now all the talk is that the Government’s White Paper setting out its final negotiating position will be delayed until after the European Council meeting at the end of the month.

Will the Prime Minister be applying for an essay extension?

The impacts of Theresa May’s rickety negotiation position will echo for a generation to come.

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The UK will vote to be inside the EU – eventually

05/06/2018, 08:31:35 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The UK will have another referendum on our membership of the EU. Rather than if this will happen, it is more a matter of when, on what terms, and in what circumstances.

This is because:

  • The referendums of 1975 and 2016 have established a de facto constitutional principle that the UK cannot move in or out of the EU without a referendum.
  • If this referendum does not come before March 2019, and the UK exits the EU at the closing of the Article 50 window, the UK will make right-wing and/or left-wing attempts to find a new place in the world, but neither will be able to turnaround the ongoing diminishment of UK living standards associated with Brexit, building pressure for a revision to the status quo ante.

There’s much to be said for the Ken Clarke view that referendums are defective instruments. It is difficult, however, to imagine circumstances in which it would be politically possible to reverse the verdict of 23 June 2016 without another referendum.

While Best for Britain is expected to publish its campaign manifesto on 8 June, calling for such, given the intransigence of Labour and the Tories towards a referendum, the likelihood remains that the UK will leave the EU in March next year.

45% of the public now expect that this will have a negative impact on the economy. Versus, according to the latest polling, 30% who think it will have a positive impact. Only 13% think it will make no difference to the economy. In contrast, 40% think it will have no impact on their personal finances.

“A recession,” Ronald Reagan said, “is when your neighbour loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours.”

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If MPs privately oppose Brexit, they should show some public leadership and make the case against it

31/10/2017, 11:03:14 PM

by Jonathan Todd

To begin with a confession, when I heard that Douglas Ross, the Conservative MP for Highlands and Islands, was running the line in a Champions League match in the Nou Camp, I thought, “wow, how impressive and exciting”. While the hinterland – to use Denis Healey’s term – of too many MPs seems offensively and dangerously shallow, this is elite, non-political activity.

The generally negative reaction to Ross, including the oh-so-funny brandishing of a red card by SNP MP John McNally in PMQs, has felt to me curmudgeonly and small-minded. It reminded me of Roy Jenkins’ autobiography:

“I am strongly against the current fashion for full-time MPs … Being a full-time backbench MP is not in my view a satisfactory occupation … Excessive attendance at the House of Commons, with the too many hours spent hanging around in tearoom or smoking room which this implies, either atrophies the brain or obsesses it with the minutiae of political gossip and intrigue.”

These words have become heresy in the not quite three decades since written. We’d rather atrophy Ross’ brain than test it alongside Lionel Messi.

Yet we need MPs with brains more than ever. We need them, too, to have the courage, reinforced by a confidence that, if necessary, they’d prosper in careers outside of politics, to use them.

Shackling MPs to the tearoom limits their horizons. It makes them more likely to feel that their financial well-being can only be maintained by securing re-election, heightening the probability that their only instinct will be to follow constituency opinion. If this is all MPs are, we might as well have a legislature composed of 650 local sentiment algorithms.

Political life is a vocation or nothing. There’s scant point to any of it without animating purpose. There’s no socially democratic aim served by Brexit. Thus, social democratic MPs ought not to accept Brexit, or to only secretly hope that public opinion turns against it; they should, instead, stand for their pro-EU convictions and seek to move opinion with them.

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J’accuse

10/10/2017, 10:10:00 PM

by Robert Williams

Almost the entire political class in the UK is a pathetic, cowardly disgrace. I don’t mean the committed Brexiteers, those anti Europeans who hate the idea of co-operation with our closest neighbours, and who fantasise about turning the UK into the 51st state of America, or some sort of low tax, low regulation, low quality, cheaper, nastier and colder version of Singapore.

Neither do I mean the strange group of Labour MPs, including the Dear Leader and his shadow chancellor, Dennis Skinner and Kelvin Hopkins, who believe in a left wing version of Brexit (“Lexit”) because they think the EU is a capitalist club, and they want to deliver “socialism” in one country.

These groups represent nothing but a tiny minority of their parties, and are even less representative of the country. They know this, which is why they scream and shout about the “will of the people”, deliberately ignoring the fact that the “people” amounted to 37% of the electorate voting to leave.

If you believe that leaving the EU will be a disaster, diminishing Britain permanently and wrecking our economy, those you should have real contempt for are the moderates. Some of these pro Europe centrist MPs, the vast majority in the Labour Party, and still making up the majority of conservative MPs, are now meekly and pathetically accepting that we will, in some form or another, indeed leave the EU.

It cannot be stressed enough that the Brexit referendum was utterly flawed and based on nothing but lies and fantasy. Young people between 16 and 17, most affected by the decision, were excluded from the vote. British expats were excluded from the vote. It was a non-binding referendum, won by a flimsy majority, following a campaign based on outright lies, misrepresentation, distortion, funded by extremely dodgy sources and with likely malign influence of American billionaires and Russian cyber bots.

Last year’s referendum was the most shameless example in British history of our democratic deficit.

And this was just the process. As events have developed the never ending stream of bad news about our economy, our credibility, our ability to take control of anything at all should be enough to make a sane and rational MP, to think again.

And yet we have the truly incredible sight of the weakest, most divided and intellectually enfeebled government in modern history, utterly clueless in what sort of Brexit they desire, who show not the slightest understanding of how the EU works, how trade agreements work, who can’t plan, prepare or negotiate, and are fast turning Britain into a banana republic, an international laughing stock.

And this is supported by the Labour Opposition, with the courageous exception of 52 Labour MPs who voted against the Brexit Bill. The rest really should know better.

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Starmer is right: Only Labour can stop a blank cheque Brexit

25/04/2017, 11:14:50 PM

by David Ward

At times it felt like we’d completely bypassed the election and gone straight into the leadership contest. Jenny Chapman introduced Keir Starmer as “clear, articulate, and strong” and one of the “bravest, most sincere, people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with”.

Yet with the inescapable reality of the stopped clock on the adjacent wall telling the right time twice a day, Starmer had to bring us back into the present and tell us what Labour’s policy on Brexit would be.

For an election speech there was quite a bit of policy in there. Guarantee the rights of EU nationals, an end to free movement, a laser focus on jobs and the economy in negotiations. Although it isn’t clear how Labour would “retain the benefits” of the single market and customs union.

But the specifics were less important than the narrative. If this election is about who runs Brexit, Starmer’s message is voting labour is the only way to keep May honest.

This is surely right. Because there are reasons to be concerned about giving the PM such a free hand regardless of whether you supported Leave or Remain.

A huge majority for May simply allows her free rein to strike almost any agreement, impervious to criticism.

For example many leavers, including Labour voters, were motivated by concerns about immigration last summer. Yet already Theresa May has suggested free movement could continue after Britain leaves the EU.

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Labour’s pro-Brexit front bench is more of a problem than Corbyn

10/04/2017, 10:22:54 PM

by Trevor Fisher

For any blog site commenting on current developments, the latest headlines define the agenda. The opening days of April provided many, but if the Livingstone saga is ignored as driven by one person’s private attempt to stay in the headlines, there are two underlying themes that make Labour’s future increasingly grim. The first is the Party leadership abandoning Party policy to appease right wing interests, and the second is the short sighted belief that the battle for Party dominance is what defines party politics. Both major factions, Old Left and Modernised New Labour are paddling these canoes with no sense that the public is moving elsewhere. The first of these two problems is now coming to a head.

The major political issue of our time is Brexit, and the dominant forces in the PLP have abandoned defence of the EU for acceptance of the hard right agenda on splitting from Europe. The party policy passed by the 2016 conference, still  holds that while it “noted” the TUC decision to accept the majority vote, it would reserve its position including not triggering Article 50 and stated that “The final settlement should therefore be subject to approval, through parliament and potentially through a general election or referendum”, which remains feasible, most crucially through another referendum.

But the PLP leadership, from Corbyn to Mandleson, abandoned this with classic short term thinking. The principled reasons for defending Europe were abandoned once the vote came in, but it was not only Corbyn who demanded total obedience to Brexit.  Miliband’s speech to the Open Labour conference was that a soft Brexit was acceptable and Labour would get this, with no reference to the actual results of this policy. As I have already argued, there is no soft Brexit and to accept the Tory agenda as Corbyn did by putting a three line whip on Article 50 was folly. However  the electoral argument is currently top priority. The Corbynistas still claim that they can win the next election, arguing it will take two years to turn the party round.

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Nicola Sturgeon has gambled with her move for independence. It’s not such a bad bet

14/03/2017, 03:39:53 PM

by Atul Hatwal

There are three stages to processing the news that we seem to be heading for a sequel to the Scottish independence referendum.

Stage one: why the shock.

What is surprising about a Scottish nationalist politician calling for independence from the rest of the UK? Surely, the clue is in Nicola Sturgeon’s party title.

Brexit offers a justifiable opening to ask the question which was meant to have been answered for a generation. The fundamental circumstances of Britain’s position have changed and the post-2014 settlement was predicated on a United Kingdom in Europe.

Stage two: Sturgeon has miscalculated.

But once the campaign begins, the same economic pressures will be brought to bear again on the electorate. Set aside for a moment the ludicrous hypocrisy of a Tory Brexiteer government running a facsimile of the Remain campaign’s economic arguments about leaving a union, the threat that will be articulated is not only real but potentially greater than in 2014.

Many will talk about the importance of identity and nationalism but that doesn’t pay the mortgage or put food on the table.

There was a reason the SNP lost in 2014 by 10%: the economy, stupid.

Stage three: hang on, what if the UK is about to crash out of the EU without a deal?

The kicker for unionists comes courtesy of the Tory government’s approach to Brexit.

At the weekend, Boris Johnson was on our screens giving his considered view as Foreign Secretary that exiting the EU without a deal would be just fine.

If, and it’s a big if, the SNP could promise some form of ongoing EU membership while the rest of the UK wilfully stepped off the trade cliff, babbling about empire, the nineteenth century buccaneer spirit and British pluck, which outcome would represent the greatest economic danger for Scotland: independence or remaining in the UK?

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Brexit lost in Stoke. Time for Labour faint hearts to learn the lessons

24/02/2017, 10:15:45 PM

by James Valentine

Officially Labour won in Stoke on Thursday but the real result is that the Brexiteers lost.  This was supposed to be UKIP’s high point – their triumph, when they would have fatally undermined the Labour party, possibly leading to an apocalyptic decline, such as that suffered in Scotland. But the idea that “Leave” voters would apply transfer their preferences to a contest where that choice was not on the agenda was a fallacy. Labour faint hearts, worried about election chances in “Leave” constituencies, should take note and start standing up for Britain’s future in Europe.

Mr Nuttall losing in Stoke will still not mean the end of UKIP. It merely confirms a pattern – the previous leader Farage was after all a multiple election-loser. UKIP is a chaotic party run by dubious individuals but it will continue to appeal to xenophobic and anti-immigrant feeling, now made more “respectable” following the Referendum vote. But the result puts paid to the idea that some Labour constituencies, primarily in the North are vulnerable to UKIP purely because of their high “Leave” component. And it can’t just be put down to Nuttall’s lamentable campaign. Copeland was clearly a disaster for Labour, but under entirely different circumstances, the UKIP vote plunged.

So why has this happened? The European Union, as such, has not been the most important issue for electors. Pollsters such as YouGov have repeatedly shown that when salience of voting issues is measured then “Europe” or “the EU” comes well down the list, after the immigration, the NHS, crime and so on. But if you offer the electors a choice about Europe, they will always give negative answers. This is what happened at the Referendum. A proportion of electors who never vote at General Elections turned out. And voting against the “EU” was widely interpreted as a vote against the political establishment and a reaction to economic austerity.

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Labour’s Article 50 rebels are the party’s best hope for challenging a hard Tory Brexit

14/02/2017, 10:09:26 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The vote on Article 50 saw Labour officially support a viciously reactionary Tory proposal, which it had failed to amend in any way. Corbyn’s official order to vote for an unamended Article 50 undercut any future influence Labour may have on the next steps. Given that voting for a Tory measure was the complaint against Harriet Harman and the front bench in the summer of 2015 when Corbyn gained the support needed to win the leadership, this is more than a mistake. It is to repeat the mistakes of the Blairite past.

The official Labour position was to move amendments to improve the bill which would allow it to support the trigger of Article 50. While a concession was made, and this needs examination, it was not to satisfy Labour. It was to keep Tory MPs from rebelling and with the exception of Ken Clarke it succeeded. The overall effect, as the hard left Another Europe Is Possible put it, in an accurate observation

“The vote wasn’t close, because Labour voted for it despite losing all its amendments”.

The actual concession was described by AEIP, accurately but not entirely correctly, as “the government agreed that parliament will get a vote on a Brexit deal before it is concluded. This is meaningless, because when this vote happens MPs will have a gun to their heads. Either they accept the government’s deal or the UK gets no deal and crashes out of the EU anyway.”

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