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, Backstop, Brexit, Negotiating, Theresa May

Where next on #Brexit… My Modest Proposal

This blogpost was written on Sunday, Dec 9th, 2018

BoJo

It is impossible to say what will happen in the week ahead, other than it appears that the May government has little chance of winning the Tuesday’s vote on the proposed Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

How things play out after that it is anyone’s guess.

Much will depend on Tuesday’s numbers, particularly the government losing margin. Such is the state of things that there are even suggestions in today’s Sunday newspapers that May could delay Tuesday’s vote as she does a “Maggie May” dash to Brussels to demand changes to the deal, specifically the removal of the Irish backstop. Goodluck with that.

No matter what happens, the choice facing the UK is clear: stay in the EU or leave the EU.

Many will say that this was decided by the June 2016 referendum. Since then, however, much new information on what leaving the EU involves and the price to be paid has become available.

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Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, Negotiating, Theresa May

The #Brexit #WithdrawalAgreement negotiation – Could Anyone Else Have Done Better?

This Blog was written on Sun, Dec 2nd 2018

 

Commons Vote

At the time of writing the Commons vote on the EU/UK Withdrawal Agreement looks like it will result in a very heavy defeat for Prime Minister Theresa May.

Depending on which pundit you heed, anywhere between 65 and 90 Conservative MPs are expected to vote against the WA. When you add the government-supporting DUP, as well as all the opposition parties. the majority against could be up to 200 votes. For the moment there is little point in speculating as to what happens next. Quite simply, no one knows.

So, when Michael Barnier, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker on the EU side, and Theresa May on the UK side, say that the Withdrawal Agreement, and the accompanying Political Declaration, is the only deal available and that the choice facing the UK Parliament is the deal on the table, no deal, or remain in the EU, are they right?

I believe they are. That is indeed the choice MPs are faced with. Of course, the choice can be passed by parliament to the people in a second referendum, but it will still be the same choice: deal, no deal or remain.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Negotiating, Northern Ireland, Single Market, Theresa May

U.K. Has Deadlocked Itself on #Brexit

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This blog was written on Sunday Oct 14th, 2018

When we began writing these BEERG Brexit Briefings in June 2017 we continually advised businesses to “hope for the best but prepare for the worst”.

As we head into a crucial Brexit week, with EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Wednesday evening and Thursday with Brexit very much on the agenda, we are dropping the “hope for the best” part and are now advising businesses to “prepare for the worst” because that is where we are heading.

The way we see it, there is no deal that Prime Minister May can negotiate with Brussels that would command a majority in the House of Commons.

As Andrew Rawnsley, one of the most perceptive UK political commentators puts it in the Observer on Sunday:

On the face of it, this makes it very hard to see how Mrs May can strike any agreement with the EU for which there will be parliamentary approval. The opposition has no incentive to help her out of a swamp of the Tory party’s own making. The Democratic Unionists say they will cut off their life-support. The DUP are co-ordinating with the Tory Brextremists. The parliamentary maths is a horror.

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Brexit, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Rees Mogg, Theresa May

Deadlock on #Brexit

This blog was written on saturday morning, Sept 29th 2018, 

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I completely agree with Jacob Rees-Mogg. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Actually, to be more accurate, Rees-Mogg agrees with me. Some weeks ago I wrote a Briefing, The Politics of Hard Numbers, here, in which I argued that there was no majority in the House of Commons for any Brexit deal.

In an article in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph Rees-Mogg argues, as regards Theresa May’s Chequers plan, that the EU:

“…has been so clear that the plan fails to meet its requirements that it is hard to see that it could change tack without a new chief negotiator.”

More critically, he notes:

The domestic opposition is even more important because, although our system provides for a powerful executive, ultimately laws need the support of the House of Commons, which Chequers cannot get. Indeed, if put forward it could be heavily defeated with no direct consequence for the Government.

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Brexit, British Government, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Theresa May

A Bad Week for Theresa May on #Brexit in #Salzburg

Salzburg Dinner
Pic: Getty Images via BBC website

This blog was written on Sept 21st, 2018

In our Brexit Briefing last Tuesday (here) I wrote:

“So, how will Brexit end up?”, they ask. My answer is that I have no idea. I have been following Brexit developments in detail over the past two years and have written some 60 or so of these Briefings. Yet, I have absolutely no idea of what is going to happen between now and March 29th next year. Quite frankly, neither does anyone else.

What happened yesterday in Salzburg, when the EU brutally said that Mrs. May’s Chequers plan was unacceptable and would not work underscores the truth of this statement.

In the run-up to Salzburg it had been widely reported, especially in the UK press, that Mrs. May would use the occasion to appeal to the EU’s political leaders to go over the head of the “Brussels theologians” and show more flexibility in accommodating UK demands to be both in and out of the EU’s single market and customs union at the same time. “In” so as to ensure continued frictionless trade in goods between the UK and the EU so preserving the UK as the European off-shore manufacturing base for US, Japanese and, in the future, Chinese companies.

“Out” for services allowing the UK to cut buccaneering trade deals, with which a swath of UK politicians have an ideological obsession, with non-EU countries.

(For the arguments on why this approach was never going to work see this excellent article by former Irish ambassador, Bobby McDonagh: here)

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Brexit, Conservative Party, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, UK Labour Party

Chucking Chequers and #Brexit… there are just too many ‘unknown unknowns’ in play

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Michael Gove with Andrew Marr (Photo via Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire)

I took the last week off to spend a few days outside Chatal, on the west coast of France. But even there, there was no escaping Brexit.

It is important to understand that Europeans are not obsessed with Brexit in the same way as people are in the UK. Talking to people in France, Belgium or Spain over the past few months leaves you with the impression that most people think the UK is “nuts” or “mad” to leave the EU. But they also believe that the UK never really wanted to be part of “Europe” in the first place, so, goodbye to them.

Nevertheless, quite often when people in France, Belgium or Spain hear you speak English they ask you “What do you think of Brexit?” My first response is to tell them that I am Irish, not English.

It’s amazing the difference that little sentence makes. Any suggestion of hostility immediately disappears as they begin to tell you about a fishing trip they once took on the Shannon or their cycling tour of Connemara.  When they were much younger, of course.

“So, how will Brexit end up?”, they ask. My answer is that I have no idea. I have been following Brexit developments in detail over the past two years and have written some 60 or so of these Briefings. Yet, I have absolutely no idea of what is going to happen between now and March 29th next year. Quite frankly, neither does anyone else.

There are just too many “unknown unknowns” in play, political molecules bouncing around, crashing into one another, producing unintended effects.

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