Article 50, Backstop, British Government, Jeremy Corbyn, UK Labour Party

The nightmare on #Brexit St continues

This blogpost was written on Sunday May 5th, 2019

LE19 UK result

Back in the day in the 1980s, whenever Labour lost an election to Mrs Thatcher’s Tories, the cry would go up from the usual suspects on Labour’s left that the reason the party had lost out, yet again, was because it was not “left wing” or “socialist” enough. It was just too “centrist”. Which is why people voted for Thatcherism instead. If only the raw, red meat of real socialism was on offer, Labour would sweep to victory.

It must have been me, as I never got the logic of the argument that because Labour was not socialist enough people voted for “right wing” policies instead. But then I never had that unique Marxist insight into the hidden dialectics of history, which readers of New Left Review and Living Marxism did, which is probably why I suffered from “false consciousness”.

These remembrances of time past came to mind as I watched reactions on Friday last to the results of England’s local elections as they came in. Bear in mind that not all of England voted on Thursday last, nor did Wales or Scotland.

On the day, the Conservatives lost over 1,300 seats, from a starting position of just over 8,000. Labour, which had expected to make significant gains, was also down by 81. The winners were the Liberal Democrats with plus 695, the Greens up by 194 and “others”, who picked up 662 seats.

The projected national share of the vote, calculated by elections analyst Prof John Curtice for the BBC, put both major parties neck-and-neck on 28% of the vote – both down from 35% a year ago. If that result were replicated in a general election, it would result in another hung parliament.

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Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, UK Labour Party

May’s #Brexit Express is now the little engine that can’t

This blog was written on Sunday April 28th, 2019

Brexit engine

Just over two weeks ago, UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, went to the European Council to ask if the UK’s departure date from the EU could be pushed back again, one more time. We’ll be ready to go by the end of May, she said, though no one was quite sure if she was talking about herself or the month of May. Maybe both.

Reports from the European Council suggest that the French President, Emmanuel Macron, was none too happy with any extension, while others wanted to give the UK another year to agree on what Brexit meant. In the end, an extension to the end of October was offered. There were conditions. The UK would have to hold elections for the European Parliament on May 23rd, and, as a continuing member of the EU, would have to behave itself when it came to EU decision making.

The President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk, warned the UK not to waste the extra time it had been granted. Make the most of it, he said. With that, the UK Parliament went on holidays the week before Easter.

So, nothing has happened in the past two weeks to bring the Brexit process to any sort of conclusion.

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Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Northern Ireland

The never-ending BYOB (Bring Your Own #Brexit) story

This blogpost was written on Monday, April 15th, 2019

BYOBrexit

Brexit has become a never-ending story for which there may actually be no end.

There is no majority in the House of Commons for the Withdrawal Agreement on offer. Nor is there a majority for leaving the EU with “no deal”. No one seems able to put together a winning coalition for any of the other exit strategies on offer: “Norway” (with or without +++); Canada, SuperCanada or Canada Dry; Malthouse. Alehouse or Curryhouse.

OK, I made the last two up but that’s about where we are. In restaurants BYOB normally means “bring your own bottle”. In the House of Commons read it as meaning “bring your own Brexit”.

Last week the European Union gave the UK a further Article 50 extension, to run until October 31st on condition that European Parliament elections are held on May 23rd next. As a continuing member of the EU the UK must hold the elections, otherwise the legitimacy of the Parliament, and any legislation it adopts, could be called into question.

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Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Irish border, Single Market, Theresa May

Now #Brexit shifts from omnishambles to megashambles

This blogpost was written on Thurs March 21, 2019

May

How did it come to this? Just eight days before the UK is due to leave the EU and we still do not know whether it will leave on agreed terms or leave with no deal. What a megashambles!

A megashambles is beyond an omnishambles, it is on route to being a blackhole-shambles, into which everything disappears. If that happens there is every chance that the UK, as we have known it, will never be seen again.

That would be a great pity because, leaving aside dark times past and crimes in foreign lands, in recent times the UK has given the world so much. I am of the 1960s generation. When Ireland was still a closed, introspective, Catholic-dominated country, the UK in general, and London in particular, opened windows and showed us that other lives were possible. Clothes that went beyond the drab, rock concerts in Hyde Park, the West End on a Saturday night. Magazines and writers suited to all tastes. Best of all, no church on a Sunday.

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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 

theresd_1547590814

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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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
skynews-jeremy-corbyn-keir-starmer_4435682
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, Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Theresa May

. #Brexit and the Dark Art of Bullshit

Written on Sat., Jan 26th 2019
this-week-2
Andrew Neil with James Delingpole on BBC1’s This Week

Negotiations can be full of sound and fury for the most part signifying nothing. This week has been one of those weeks where UK politicians and commentators sought to play the “gotcha” game. Remarks by EU spokespersons and Irish politicians on the backstop and what would happen with regard to the Irish border in the event of “no deal” seemed contradictory. “Gotcha – the Irish border issue was a hoax all the time designed to keep the UK trapped in the EU”.

While I can’t remember just how many labour negotiations I have been involved in over the past forty plus years, I can say with certainty that in every one of them someone or other, at some time or other, said something out of place that had to be corrected.

Negotiations are conducted by human beings. They are not run by algorithms. Human beings can make mistakes. But when verbal mistakes are made, or are alleged to have been made, it does not change the underlying balance of forces which is what ultimately determines the outcome of any negotiation.

By the way, algorithms are not infallible either. Garbage in, garbage out. Anyone who has ever spent any time on Twitter knows just how much garbage there is going in.

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