Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, Customs Union, Single Market, Theresa May

Two weeks to go (to Brexit) and we still do not know…

This blogpost was written on Friday March 15th 

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It is hard to know what to say about what happened in the UK House of Commons (HOC) this week. In two weeks, two weeks from today Friday, March 29th at midnight Brussels time, the UK is due to leave the European Union.

As I write this briefing we still do not know on what terms the UK will leave, if there is to be a deal or if the UK leaves with no-deal. Even though the HOC voted on Wednesday night to take a no-deal Brexit off the table that does not actually mean anything, as we explain below.

The week began with UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, flying to Strasburg on Monday evening to finalise “clarifications of clarifications” with EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. These “clarifications” came down to trying to define in what circumstances, if any, the UK could leave the “Irish backstop”, the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement designed to ensure that there would be no return of border infrastructure on the island of Ireland.

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Brexit, British Government, Employment law, Negotiating, Theresa May

Has the UK “led the way” on Workers’ Rights? The honest answer is: No

This blogpost was written on Saturday March 9th, 2019

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Speaking in Grimsby on Friday, March 8, the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, said:

We have also committed to protecting the rights and standards currently set at the EU level – from workers’ rights to environmental protections.

Brexit will not be a race to the bottom. In fact, in most of these areas the UK has led the way, ahead of the EU. And this week we have said that if the EU expands workers’ rights, we will debate those measures in Parliament and decide if we want to follow suit.

…But we will not tie ourselves in automatically to follow EU changes without Parliament having its say.

That would mean weakening workers’ rights if the EU ever chose to do so. And it would not be taking back control. The UK has led the way in the EU, and we will lead the way outside it.

To put it at its mildest, this is simply not true.

The UK has consistently opposed and sought to water down proposals for EU employment and social law more or less stretching back to the start of its EU membership in the 1970s. Back in those days, with Labour in government, and the trade unions and the Left within the party hostile to the then European Community (EC), seeing it as a “capitalist club”, the UK blocked moves on “industrial democracy” proposals because their adoption might undermine the workplace position of the then dominant trade unions.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Theresa May

It’s a Long, Long Way from Gove to Here. 3 years is a long time in #Brexit politics

This blog was written on March 6th, 2019

Michael-Gove-672233It’s a Long, Long Way from Gove to Here

“The day after we vote to leave, we hold all the cards and we can choose the path we want.” – Michael Gove, April 2016

“I don’t believe it (no-deal Brexit) will be Armageddon” – Suella Braverman, March 2019

It’s a long way from “holding all the cards” to it won’t be “Armageddon”. Three years is indeed a very long time in politics.

Speaking to the Institute for Government last Monday, Sir Ivan Rodgers, the former UK ambassador to the EU who resigned from that position because his advice on Brexit strategy was being totally disregarded in London, said there was no chance that the UK would be able to disentangle itself from the EU even if Brexit goes ahead. He added:

“These fantasies of release and liberation – they are fantasies. We are going to be negotiating on everything from aviation to farming for evermore with our biggest neighbour. We cannot live in glorious isolation. Talk to the Swiss and to the Norwegians – they live in a permanent state of negotiation with the EU.”

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Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Irish border

One month to go and #brexit gameplaying goes on…

This blogpost was written on Wed Feb 27, 2019
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UK Labour’s Starmer & Corbyn in Brussels. Pic via Skynews

With each passing day it becomes clearer and clearer that far too many politicians in the UK, including the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, think Brexit is some form of game of political point scoring, with little or no thought for the immense damage to lives and livelihoods that will ensue.

On Monday of this week the leadership of the Labour Party, still reeling from the defections of nine MPs last week to the independent benches, announced that it planned to table a motion in the House of Commons calling for a different Brexit deal than the one Theresa May has agreed with Brussels. If the plans it brings forward are voted down in the Commons Labour may then call for a second referendum.

So, what are these Labour plans?

Apparently, the party wants a “future relationship” which would see the UK in “a” customs arrangement with the EU, but the UK would not actually be a member of the existing EU customs union. It would be a bespoke union between the UK and the EU. As part of this arrangement the UK would have a decision-making role when it came to future trade deals being negotiated by the EU.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Referendum, Single Market, Theresa May

Après Honda, Le #Brexit Deluge?

This blog was written on Feb 19, 2019
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A section from a pro-brexit referendum leaflet – it has not aged well…

I suppose that the modern equivalent of the old phrase “O that mine enemy would write a book” would roughly translate as “Just let them go ahead and Tweet that”.

For, despite the “right to be forgotten,” our tweets have a habit of following us around. Even if you delete them, someone, somewhere has them. As Terry Benedict might have said in Ocean’s 11 “On Twitter, someone is always watching”.

Sure enough, Monday last, the day the news broke that Honda intends to shutter its Swindon plant with the loss of 3,500 direct jobs, and thousands of indirect jobs, someone dug up this old, 2015 Tweet from Daniel Hannan, one of the original Brexiteers:

That idea that car manufacturers might disinvest after we leave the EU? It’s a – what’s the word? – oh yes. Lie.

That doesn’t seem to have aged well. Nissan, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) have all announced production switches or cutbacks. Now Honda.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, UK Labour Party

While #Brexit is a big thing, it’s the little #Brexit things that will add up and hurt…

This bog was written on Friday Feb 8, 2019

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It was a week of Brexit big things:

  • Nissan announcing that new models would not be manufactured in Sunderland after all.
  • Theresa May turning up in Northern Ireland and Brussels to tell people that she had a problem, but no solutions.
  • The Labour party setting out proposals which would see the UK as an equal partner with the EU in a “mini customs unions and single market”. But without the stuff the Jeremy doesn’t like.

Big things.

Yet it is the little things in the great scheme of things that people going about their daily lives generally care about. For the most part, few of us bother with politics. Politics are something that happens somewhere else as we just get on with organising the kids for school, driving to the job, doing the shopping, getting home, cooking dinner, falling asleep in front of the television. Life is just everyday ordinariness.

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France, Gilets Jaunes, Macron

Guest post by @john_lichfield: Understanding the #GiletsJaunes

This week I have opted to feature a guest post. Though it is not on the topic of Brexit, it does look at another recent phenomenon: the Gilets Jaunes.

I am deeply grateful to the renowned Paris based, UK journalist, John Lichfield, (formerly senior journalist with UK Independent) for allowing me to reproduce here the text of the talk he gave at our most recent BEERG Network Meeting in Brussels. It is about the Gilets Jaunes and what this movement means in a wider political context. I think it worthwhile sharing his insights as widely as possible.”

The talk was part of a discussion session entitled: Breaking Bad: Thoughts on Social Media, Gilets Jaunes and Unstructured Protest Movements: 

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Speaking on Thursday January 31st 2019, John Lichfield said:

I’m here to explain the Gilets Jaunes. It might be easier to explain black holes. I’ll do my best. But there is no simple explanation of the Gilets Jaunes, no monolithic, single-minded movement, no leadership structure, no single, accepted programme of demands. That’s what makes them fascinating. And baffling. And worrying. I will give you a brief narrative of the story so far. Then I will offer some clues on how to understand the movement. And what may happen next.

Are the Gilets Jaunes just another example of the French being French? Is it all Macron’s fault? Or Putin’s fault? Or is it an internet phenomenon – Facebook populism – which could have happened anywhere? What are the similarities with other populist movements in the social media age, Brexit, Maga-Trump, Five Star? Is it a movement remotely piloted by the far right? Or far left? Who is responsible for the violence? What does it all tell us about the fragility of democratic institutions, and all institutions, in an age when the old channels of authority and opinion-forming have broken down? Political parties, trades unions, newspapers, TV and radio news, even the Church.

FIRST, A BRIEF NARRATIVE: Continue reading