Posts Tagged ‘hard Brexit’

By backing the Brexit Bill, Labour is writing the Tories a blank cheque

01/02/2017, 05:42:28 PM

by Frederick Cowell

Sometimes metaphor’s are over cooked – the repeated reference to the 1972 European Communities Act as a ‘conduit pipe’ in the Supreme Court judgement in the recent case brought by Gina Miller being one. But sometimes metaphors are apt none more so than the blank cheque metaphor being used about the current Brexit Bill. The problem with a blank cheque is once you have signed it and handed it over the other party is free to fill in whatever they like into the amount box. To strain the metaphor still further; that Parliament has to ‘pay’ and deliver Brexit is not at issue – that has to be done to respect the referendum result. The question of what and how you ‘pay’ is however at issue and is what Labour should be addressing at the moment.

The Bill is very simple – just two clauses – but its brevity belies its significance. It represents one of the most significant retrenchments of executive power in recent years. The Supreme Court judgment in Miller revolved around the capacity of executive power – called in the British Constitution the Royal Prerogative. The government’s contention was that they should have the power to activate Article 50 without parliamentary control. The technicalities of the way that the 1972 Act was enacted and subsequent treaties meant the government were not entitled to use the Royal Prerogative to initiate the process of leaving the EU. They needed to get Parliamentary legislation instead.

What could have turned into an opportunity to – borrowing Keir Starmer’s phrase – to legislate for the 100% rather than the 52% or 48% has basically turned into a government power grab. The un-amended version of the Bill simply provides a framework for the government to do what it wants regarding Brexit. All of the negotiations will be conducted using the Royal Prerogative for foreign affairs which is notoriously difficult to scrutinise, does not have to be authorised by Parliament and is notoriously difficult to review in the courts. In short there is no real parliamentary control until 2019. Then a vote will be given two things.

Firstly the final Brexit deal with the EU (if there is one) but this vote is a formality – even if the deal is appalling there will be no chance to amend it, as that would require it to be cleared through the EU institutions and member states. A piece of legislation might not even be required here as this would simply be the ratification of a treaty, which does not technically need an act of Parliament. Any attempt to reject it would be basically impossible as by 2019 the UK would be required to ‘take what it can get’. Full exit would be just days away and something would be need to replace the EU’s international legal framework otherwise the markets would be in free fall and the UK would be plunged into an economic crisis.

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Uncut predictions for 2017 (and beyond): George Osborne is the next Prime Minister

08/01/2017, 10:06:14 PM

In the event of train wreck Brexit, or something near to it, the economic costs of Brexit are likely, unfortunately, to hit back pockets. This would have far more powerful political consequences than any slogan. But Osborne has put forward one of the best slogans since 23 June.

“Brexit won a majority. Hard Brexit did not.”

This slogan, in itself, does not change reality – but it positions Osborne to benefit when reality changes. The steeper the costs of Brexit, the sharper the political price paid by Theresa May, and the more dramatically political reality will shift.

As Nigel Farage cedes notions of a Brexit betrayal, blaming immigrants and foreigners for the costs of the unravelling that he so vehemently pushed for, it is hard, sadly, to rule out British politics taking an even sharper turn to the right. As much as this would benefit UKIP, PM Farage remains implausible.

As much as President Trump was also not so long ago unthinkable, a perhaps more likely scenario is a PM Osborne. He will be untarnished by any Brexit costs experienced under May. His opposition to hard Brexit would allow him to personify a change of direction, a return to the management deemed competent enough only 18 months ago, to deliver the Conservatives their first majority in nearly a quarter of a century, and more smoothly and credibly reach compromise positions with EU partners.

Misjudged party management drove David Cameron to a referendum. Its loss sparked a revolution in his party, requiring that a quiet remainder, May, can only wear its crown as an ardent Brexiter. If the costs of Brexit are large enough, they may power a counter revolution, and resurrect Osborne.

This series of events would have dramatic consequences for the UK and the EU but to a significant extent, this revolution was about the internal dynamics of the Conservative Party. Any counter revolution would be too.

A natural party of government with somewhat bipolar tendencies. It is their country. We just live in it. Till we can offer a better party to govern it. It shouldn’t be that hard, should it?

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How to fight hard Brexit: Step 1 – Understand why Remain lost. Spoiler: It’s not what Westminster thinks

28/12/2016, 11:04:18 AM

In a series of three pieces, Atul Hatwal sets out how hard Brexit can be fought in the coming years. Today he looks at why Remain lost and the implications for the battle to shape Brexit

Why did Remain lose? Since the referendum Brexiteers have been assiduous in asserting their narrative: immigration trumped the economy, emotion won over facts and these are the new rules of the political game.

The Brexiteer version of history is now the accepted consensus at Westminster, virtually unchallenged by pro-Europeans, often meekly accepted.

The state of the pro-EU camp feels very familiar, certainly to a Labour member. All very mid-1992 when following a fourth electoral defeat, the best that many senior leaders of the party had to offer by way of strategy was “one more heave.”

It wasn’t good enough then, it isn’t now.

The starting point for pro-Europeans is to ask the right question.

Not just why Leave won but why a Remain campaign built around familiar economic beats failed when the same backing track had proved so persuasive at the general election and the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

At the election and referendum, campaigns targeting concerns about the economy had convincingly defeated Scottish nationalism in 2014 and crushed Ukip’s English anti-migrant nationalism in 2015.

The conventional wisdom is that immigration was more potent as an issue in 2016.

Fortunately for those who want to prevent a hard Brexit, this is wrong.

The British Election Study (BES), which surveyed a huge panel of 30,000 voters before and after the referendum, sheds some light on what actually happened.

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Nissan might have got the headlines last week but the real story is what’s bubbling on free movement

30/10/2016, 11:04:22 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Imagine for a moment you are Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.

The man entrusted with securing Brexit on the best possible terms for the 27 EU states.

The man whose job it is to stop those truculent Brits going a la carte on the EU set menu and establishing a precedent where leaving the union means that cake can be had and simultaneously eaten with no question of anyone having to touch their greens.

You are the man who had a very interesting lunchtime last Thursday.

That is when the British government announced that Nissan would be building its new cars in the UK, something which infuriated a number of the EU states who had hoped they would win this investment. States that will be represented by Barnier in the Brexit negotiation.

As a very senior EU official and seasoned French politician, Michel Barnier will have been in contact with Nissan and a variety of international businesses, through official and unofficial channels.

He will know that Nissan had drawn some very clear red lines before making such a commitment.

He will have been baffled by the visits of the UK secretary of state for business, Greg Clark, to Japan for the same reason that most of Whitehall was perplexed.

What on earth could Clark give the Japanese manufacturer?

Specifically, Nissan wanted assurances on the continuation of country of origin rules, which mean parts sourced from around the world but assembled in an EU state do not incur tariffs; that tariffs would not be levied on the finished car in the EU and non-tariff barriers, such as forcing importers to register each car up a mountain, at a portakabin that is staffed once a week, which is only accessible by dirt track, would not be put in place.

Thanks to the efforts of the British government, somehow, Nissan have been convinced to make a multi-million pound investment. It’s clear that what they were told did not amount to warm words. Some very hard and definite commitments were given (with a clear implication that non-delivery by Britain will nix the deal).

The British press have focused on perceived promises from the UK government to compensate Nissan financially if tariffs are imposed, but Michel Barnier will have known better.

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