Posts Tagged ‘EU’

Uncut predictions for 2017: Blair will abandon support for free movement

04/01/2017, 06:23:29 PM

How to solve a problem like Brexit?

Ostensibly, it’s the reason for Tony Blair’s return to fray. He wants a second referendum to reverse the public’s decision to quit the EU back in June, but polls show the voters simply don’t regret the decision.

To get them to change their minds, the facts must change.

Ever the pragmatist, Blair knows full well this means abandoning free movement of people as an article of faith for the pro-globalisationists of British politics, of which, he remains the undisputed leader.

Could he follow contemporary Labour luminaries like Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, Rachel Reeves, Chuka Umunna and Hilary Benn who have each recently called for an end to free movement?

The impact of mass migration was the defining issue of the campaign and reforming it is an essential down payment in securing any fresh plebiscite. But, even then, there’s no guarantee one can be justified.

Of course, it also requires Europe to even discuss a special deal for Britain, which, variously, Angela Merkel, the Commission and east European Member States have all flatly rejected.

But we are through the looking glass in 2017.

And if John Major could secure his Maastricht Treaty opt-outs from joining the single currency and social chapter, Blair might calculate that a fresh deal on free movement is achievable.

After all, 2017 may be another tumultuous year for the EU, if Marine Le Pen wins the French presidency, or if Merkel is ousted in German federal elections later in the year.

Buying off the truculent Brits with a concession on free movement might seem the cheap option for a bit of stability.

Watch this space.

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Welcome to the United Kingdom of England and Wales

21/12/2016, 03:57:18 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Brexit may mean Brexit, but it also means something else: the United Kingdom, as we have known it, is finished.

The result of our vote to leave the European Union will precipitate a reshaping the United Kingdom from first principles, as our Celtic fringe is shorn off and overseas commitments become more burdensome.

Although a recent poll showed support for Scottish independence dipping a fraction below the 45 per cent level secured in the 2014 referendum, it will prove to be a false dawn for those hoping the fires of nationalism are dying down.

Brexit now makes a second referendum inevitable. More than that, it makes it entirely justifiable. A point Nicola Sturgeon was keen to exploit yesterday with her demands that Scotland be allowed to stay in the single market.

She has a point. Why should 62 per cent of Scots who voted to remain in the EU have their country’s prospects curtailed, as they see it, because of English votes; in a reversal of the famous West Lothian Question (why should Scots MPs vote on English laws?)

The SNP should be in tatters after losing the 2014 vote, but instead now dominates Scottish public life, utterly. So much so that Sturgeon announced back in October that she is teeing up a second referendum bill and amassing for a war chest for the next tilt at independence.

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Article 50: we do not have to lay down and roll over

11/11/2016, 08:00:49 PM

by Rob Marchant

As we reel from the shock of a Trump victory, it would be easy now to lose sight of our own problems as a country. But they remain the same as they were on Tuesday.

Since June, we have rapidly become a country which most of its neighbours now look at with a mixture of sympathy and blank incomprehension; shaking their heads, like a dear friend whose life has suddenly and inexplicably hit the buffers, but has yet to truly recognise the fact. Bless them, those Brits. They know not what they do (and, as of today, it looks like we are not the only Anglo-Saxon country in that position).

No, apart from Brexit, we have a government which operates without the normal checks and balances, beholden to its lunatic rightward fringe; and a dysfunctional opposition which, thanks to Labour’s current leadership, struggles to effectively oppose anything at all, even on this, the most important issue of the day.

Last week, however, a glimmer of light shone into Britain’s troubled political landscape. Seemingly out of nowhere, the High Court ruled that Parliament must be consulted on Brexit and that the referendum itself was not sufficient. The government had constitutionally overreached itself, and Theresa May had to tacitly admit that her prime ministerial powers were not quite as strong as she thought they were.

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Labour needs to learn to accept the public’s mandate

30/08/2016, 09:27:26 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Is it really a surprise that Theresa May intends to press on and trigger Article 50 and begin our negotiated withdrawal from the EU without a vote in Parliament?

After all, June’s referendum was conclusive.

A clear majority of Britons chose to quit the EU. 52 per cent to 48 per cent. 17.4 million votes to 16.1 million. And at 72 per cent, the turnout was higher than the 66 per cent that voted in last year’s general election.

The debate was had. The issues were discussed to death. Both sides made their case. They were well-matched. The Remain campaign lost. Game over.

What comes next is axiomatic, surely? Article 50 is triggered, we negotiate the terms of our exit and future working relationship with the EU and we get on with it.

That’s what the public chose to do. It’s what they commanded ministers to implement on their behalf and the political class to accept.

Yet Owen Smith is standing for the Labour leadership on a platform of offering a second referendum, while Tottenham MP, David Lammy, called Theresa May’s plan to press ahead with Article 50 a ‘stitch-up’.

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Sorry Nigel, nationalisation is not against EU Law

02/10/2015, 05:25:51 PM

by Sam Fowles

Nigel Farage thinks EU law prevents nationalisation. Ironically he seems to have got this from a recent post on Left Futures by Westminster University’s Danny Nicol. Professor Nicol argues that the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) and EU liberalisation directives prohibit renationalisation of energy utilities, as proposed by Jeremy Corbyn.

Professor Nicol raises an important point. The EU probably encroaches on the sovereignty of member states to its most egregious degree when it comes to market liberalisation. Art. 176 TFEU commits member states to the expansion of markets.

I have a lot of respect for Professor Nicol and recommend his excellent book. But I can’t help but feel that, in this instance, he has reduced a complex area of law to a zero sum conclusion. There are many forms of “nationalisation” that would never be touched by the TFEU (such as taking utilities into municipal control, as has happened in Germany). Furthermore, EU law wouldn’t prohibit the sort of nationalisation proposed by Mr Corbyn.

Let’s be clear, the Corbyn plan isn’t for complete nationalisation. Mr Corbyn wants to nationalise the grid (the infrastructure that transports gas and electricity from generator to supplier), the “Big Six” energy companies and the railways.

EU law explicitly protects the right of member states to nationalise industries. Art. 345 TFEU states “The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States (MS) governing the system of property ownership.” In his book Professor Nicol argues that this provision has recently been ignored by the ECJ. This is largely correct but it does not justify the conclusion that it will always be ignored.

Art. 345 remains in the treaty. It is possible to generally promote liberal markets and operate some industries as national monopolies. Arts. 176 and 345 are not mutually exclusive. The ECJ has often been tolerant of member states accused of violating the treaties if their actions are “proportionate“, i.e. for a legitimate aim (which would include one endorsed by the electorate) and effective, but not excessive, in achieving that aim. Assuming that nationalisation was prominent in Mr Corbyn’s manifesto, conducted on a transparent timetable and proper compensation was paid, Mr Corbyn would have a strong case based on Art. 345.

But even without Art. 345 EU law would not prohibit the Corbyn plan. Professor Nicol relies heavily on Art. 106 TFEU. But this provision doesn’t ban nationalised industries. It simply regulates how they can behave in relation to other enterprises. In essence, enterprises with a dominant position in the market due to state action cannot use that position to behave unreasonably. The ECJ will only intervene if Art. 106 is breached.

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Ten hard truths

14/08/2015, 06:02:56 PM

Following Tristram Hunt’s call for “a summer of hard truths” Labour Uncut is running a short series laying them out. As leadership ballot papers are despatched, here’s John Slinger with his top ten for a centre-left party that is serious about winning.

1. Elect someone capable of genuine leadership, who can speak to and for the whole country. Labour members and supporters should spurn the view that this selection process is primarily about them; it should be about the voters.

2. Appeal to people who voted Conservative and for other parties with policies which appeal beyond Labour’s declining ‘core vote’. A winning alliance elected us in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Only leadership as in point 1) can encourage a genuine conversation with all voters rather than ourselves.

3. End the constitutional link with the unions to show that Labour is above sectional interests. No party should hard-wire significant political influence for one section of society into its constitution. Unions should remain close friends, enabling relationships with other sectors to be nurtured.

4. Seek to become the party for workers and business by unashamedly building new bridges to both unions and business, the sector employing more than four in five UK workers.

5. Focus on ideas that work by following wherever evidence leads, rejecting ideology and ignoring protest group purism. That could mean a greater role for the state where markets should be more competitive or more involvement by the private sector in providing, but not owning, public services.

The party would condemn failure in public and private sectors, and encourage both sectors where they succeed. The cases of Mid Staffs, Hillsborough, Jimmy Savile and others show the dichotomy of ‘public sector good/private sector bad’ is false. Labour should incubate excellence wherever it is found.

6. Champion continued EU membership by emphasising its benefits for our economy and for our global influence. With the exception of a few leading politicians such as Pat McFadden, debate on EU membership has long lacked a positive, effective political voice, thereby offering the field to those who peddle the myth that Brexit is the panacea to complex global problems.

7. Stand up for strong defence and diplomacy because at a time of growing global instability Britain must be a confident member of Nato, a proud and trusted ally of the United States and willing to play a leading role in maintaining global security and enforcing the Responsibility to Protect doctrine where appropriate. This would help convince the public that it is a party of hard-nosed, principled government not pious protest. (more…)

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Ten hard truths for Labour

07/08/2015, 12:34:57 PM

Following Tristram Hunt’s call for “a summer of hard truths” Labour Uncut is running a short series laying them out. Here’s Jonathan Todd with his top ten.

1. Most people are not interested in politics. At best they see it as irrelevant to them. At worst they are actively hostile. Most politics, therefore, passes most people by most of the time. They only pay attention when things they hadn’t expected happen.

2. People get that Labour cares. Labour did not lose the election because we were insufficiently stout in our defence of the NHS and other causes typically dear to Labour hearts. Most voters expect Labour to care about the NHS and other institutions – like local schools and Sure Start centres – that tend to (but not always) make the world better. Because they expect this from Labour, noting point 1, they don’t really register Labour providing this.

3. It’s the economy, stupid. Doubts about Labour’s capacity as custodians of the economy and public finances, as well as Labour’s ability to have mutually productive relations with business, contributed toward this year’s defeat.

4. We need to show we’ve changed on business and the economy. If we accept that only counter intuitive political moves gain real public traction and that concerns about Labour’s economic and fiscal management gravely imperil the prospects of Labour government, Labour should be seeking strongly counter intuitive moves that challenge these negative perceptions. This means more than mouthing platitudes about being pro-business or fiscally responsible. It requires actions that show and reshow this to the public. Till the political professionals are bored stiff and the activist class are blue with frustration. Then the public might hear.

5. The case for a reformed EU needs to be made. While voters are paying little attention to UK politics, they are paying even less to EU politics. For the majority of the time that the UK has been in the EU, pro-Europeans have asked Brits to be part of a successful club. The Germans prosper. The French have fast trains. The Italians are well-dressed. Attachment to these successes has been the bedrock of the UK’s EU membership.

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Reaching out to centrist voters now is good tactics. Strategy it ain’t

23/04/2015, 11:45:50 AM

by Rob Marchant

Happily, Labour has had a very good fortnight. Since my last column, Miliband’s personal ratings have jumped up and the Tory campaign has blundered from unforced error to unforced error. Bookies and polls now put him as neck and neck with Cameron as next PM, not lagging way behind as before.

The final piece of this recovery in both results and performance, last weekend, was a quite unexpected outreach programme from Labour to the centre ground, of which more later.

After the last election, the new prime minister, formerly known for his husky-cuddling and his “greenest government ever” shtick suddenly remembered his back benchers and became, for the most part, a much more traditional kind of Tory.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in his Europe policy, where he essentially caved in to the more rabid Eurosceptic elements in his own party, in the hope of stemming the flow of voters and defecting MPs to UKIP. If, as some are predicting, UKIP ends up the election having lost Thanet South and with merely a couple of MPs, he will surely look back on this decision to pander to their agenda as one of the utmost folly.

That game is not only dangerous for Britain, it is poor internal politics for Cameron: after all, his (almost universally pro-EU) big business backers can hardly be delighted at the prospect of an EU referendum. But in any event, it is not hard to paint the Tories as having lurched into a right-wing caricature of themselves.

On the other hand Miliband, for the majority of his tenure as leader, has often given the impression of being more mindful of his party at large than of the electorate outside, with the result that Labour’s policy agenda has mostly languished in its comfort zone on the soft left. There was one brief flicker of hope that Labour would once again embrace a broad church, around the time of Miliband’s 2013 “One Nation” conference speech: but in policy terms One Nation turned out, for the most part, to be a slogan, and little more.

Politics is a lot like the game of squash: those who dominate the centre of the court tend to dominate the game.

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The entwined challenges that the SNP and UKIP may pose PM Miliband

21/04/2015, 10:59:14 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Scotland is diminished inside the UK, argues Alex Salmond. The UK is diminished inside the EU, says Nigel Farage. Scotland did not vote for David Cameron, insists Salmond. The UK didn’t vote for Jean-Claude Juncker, maintains Farage. It would be “nae bother” for Scotland to break up the UK, asserts Salmond. It would be “no problem” for the UK to leave the UK, claims Farage.

Salmond briefly seemed a broken man after the defeat of Yes last September. Having promised to resign the leadership of UKIP if he doesn’t win South Thanet, defeat for Farage on 7 May would also leave him broken. But Salmond has been reborn, as support for Yes has wholly transferred to the SNP. Farage might be reborn too.

Salmond’s rebirth has been enabled by glacial shifts in Scottish opinion that now appear to have unstoppable momentum but which built up over a long period, going undetected by those focused on Westminster. No Scottish seats in the UK parliament changed hands in 2010. The SNP gained two seats at the 2005 general election and lost one at the 2001 general election. The churn over the same period in elections to the Scottish Parliament, however, was much more dramatic. The SNP gained 20 additional seats in 2007, 23 in 2011.

If we look only at the lack of 2010 seat change in Scotland, the SNP’s rise appears inexplicable. If we look instead at recent elections to the Scottish parliament, it seems less so. Perhaps for reasons wrapped up with the referendum, decisive numbers of Scots are now prepared to entrust the SNP with their support in the UK Parliament, as well as in the Scottish Parliament. The decision factor for voters may have migrated from “who is best to lead the UK?” to “who will get the best deal for Scotland?”

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Blair is wrong. There should be a referendum on the EU – and pro-Europeans can win it

09/04/2015, 11:40:55 AM

“Nationalism is a powerful sentiment” warned Tony Blair on Tuesday. “Let that genie out of the bottle and it is a Herculean task to put it back. Reason alone struggles.”

Thus, the great communicator joins a long line of patrician pro-Europeans in British politics who have baulked at the prospect of holding a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, ever fearful of relying on the critical faculties of the British public in case they arrive at the ‘wrong’ answer and vote to leave.

It is a dispiriting and reductive view of the electorate’s judgment.

It is also the most glaring example of where a narrow political class has decided what is best for us and cannot – will not – brook further discussion.

But a debate needs to be had. Most obviously, the EU we have today is not the “common market” the public voted for forty years ago in our one and only referendum on the subject. It is not even the EU we had when Blair was Prime Minister.

More recently, the failings of the Eurozone and the unintended consequences from the uncontrolled free movement of people have poisoned the political debate across much of the continent and seen the flames of real nationalism rise amid endless economic gloom and the impact of low-skilled immigration.

In response, the battered consensus in British politics that our membership of the EU is A Good Thing needs refounding from first principles. Europe is still a cause worth fighting for and Blair was spot-on when he said “the objective case for Europe has actually never been stronger”.

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