Brexit, British Government, Irish border, Northern Ireland, UK Labour Party

On #Brexit, things come full circle: the former accusers now stand accused

widdecome far from fair

This blogpost was written on July 9th, 2019

At the heart of the original Eurosceptic critique of the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU) was the contention that the people of the UK had never been told the unvarnished truth about what EU membership would involve and the sovereignty they would have to sacrifice. They were “deceived” into backing membership and because they were so deceived the UK’s membership always lacked legitimacy. It was a house of cards built on a foundation of lies, Eurosceptics contended.

The original critique was, in essence, that the UK never voted to be a province of a “country called Europe”. It would be more than happy to be involved in a customs union and single market, an EFTA/EEA business arrangement, stripped of all references to a political journey ending in an “ever closer union”. Trading together as free nations, preferably without any of the “supranational” decision making that was the hallmark of the EU. Preferably under “common sense” British leadership.

Continue reading

Brexit, Conservative Party, Customs Union, Negotiating, Northern Ireland, Single Market, UK Labour Party

Britain and Europe Plus ça change

This blogpost was written on July 1, 2019

marr hunt

You know a country is in deep trouble when one of its major political party appears to lose touch with social decency and economic reality. Yesterday, we had Jeremy Hunt telling a Sunday TV show that he would willingly tell people whose companies went bust after a no-deal Brexit that their sacrifice had been necessary, saying:

“At the beginning of October, if there is no prospect of a deal that can get through parliament, then I will leave at the end of October because that is our democratic promise to the British people.”

Asked whether, under such a policy, he would be willing to look owners of family businesses in the eye and say they should be prepared to see their companies go bust to ensure a no-deal Brexit, Hunt said: “I would do so but I’d do it with a heavy heart precisely because of the risks.”

As Nick Cohen, recalled in his Observer column“At no time and in no circumstances should a communist place his personal interests first,” said Chairman Mao.” As if anticipating Hunt’s later remarks, Cohen commented: “In the Conservative and Unionist party, as in the Chinese Communist party, personal interests are discarded if they threaten the purity of the Brexit cause.”

Truly, greater love for Brexit hath no politician than this that he would willingly lay down your job for his career (and votes from the 150,000 Tory selectorate who will choose the party’s new leader and potential prime minister).

Continue reading

Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Conservative Party, Northern Ireland

Boris Leaves #Brexit Wriggle Room

This blogpost was written on Sunday morning, June 9th, 2019

theresa-may-boris-johnson

It’s as if the past three years never happened. Airbrush Theresa May and her Brexit negotiations out of history. It’s back to the morning after the referendum and the UK “holds all the cards”.

Well, that seems to be the way Boris Johnson, favourite to become the next Tory leader and Prime Minister, sees it. Or, at least, wants us to see it. Maybe it is all smoke and mirrors.

In an interview in the Sunday Times, Johnson says that, if elected his government would:

  • Hold on to the £39bn Brexit divorce payment until Brussels agreed more favourable terms
  • Scrap the Northern Ireland Backstop and settle the Irish border issue only when the EU was ready to agree a future relationship
  • Guarantee the rights of the 3.2m EU citizens living in the UK
  • Step up preparations for no-deal and prepare for “disruption”.

If there is no deal with the EU on these terms, he would then take the UK out on October 31st next with no deal. Raw, red meat for the Brexit ultras, it would seem.

Continue reading

Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Irish border, Northern Ireland

For Ireland: the only good #Brexit is No-Brexit

This blogpost was written on Sunday June 2nd 2019
NI MEPs
Northern Ireland’s 3 MEPs: 2 Remainers & 1 Leaver

For Ireland, the only good Brexit is no Brexit. That goes for Ireland and for Northern Ireland (NI). Little noticed during the past week in the UK press, much less commented on, was the fact that in the European Parliament (EP) elections a majority of people in Northern Ireland voted for Remain candidates.

Of the three NI MEPs, two are now Remainers. Meanwhile in the rest of Ireland you would need a microscope to see the votes the Irexit candidates got. Calls for Ireland to follow the UK out of the EU simply have no traction.

But then, when it comes to NI, the UK behaves a bit like Boris Johnson when he was foreign secretary. Whenever his officials brought him Brexit news he didn’t want to hear he would stick his fingers in his ears and sing God Save the Queen. Or it could have been Rule Brexannia.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Article 50, Brexit, Customs Union, Northern Ireland, Single Market

Some #Brexit Thoughts For This Holiday Season

This blogpost was written on Dec 19, 2018

May Commons

We head into the holiday season with Brexit appearing to be in some form of holding pattern. Brussels has said that the Withdrawal Agreement on the table is all there is and will not be renegotiated. On the other hand, Theresa May is telling MPs that she will secure additional political and legal guarantees that the backstop will be temporary and that the UK will not be trapped in a customs union with the EU.

They both can’t be right.

If to prove that she knows she isn’t right May’s government has stepped up “no deal” planning, which most businesses think insane but then, where Brexit is concerned, rationality, like Elvis, left the building a long time ago. When it comes to Brexit, as Groucho Marx might have said, there is no “sanity clause”.

So, as we wait for the New Year and the final run-in to Brexit on March 29th next, I offer these random thoughts on where we are and why we are here.

The Withdrawal Agreement is all there is: As I wrote last week, the UK really only has two choices. Leave the EU or remain in the EU. Personally, I would much prefer the UK to remain, but as long as the government and the Labour leadership are committed to Brexit then is seems inevitable that the UK will leave on March 29th, 2019.

Continue reading

Backstop, Brexit, Northern Ireland, Theresa May

Book 1 on #Brexit Closes – Book 2 will be a lot harder to write.

This Blogpost was written on Sunday Nov 25th, 2018

0_EU-Council

Imagine you are in reasonably well-paid, full-time employment with a large company, with a decent benefits package. Your company is doing well… all things considered.

Your union negotiators come back from a meeting with management to announce that they have reached an agreement that you and your colleagues are to lose your full-time employee status and to become self-employed contractors, with no guaranteed hours or weekly pay package.

However, you will be free, as independent contractors, to pick up other work elsewhere, if you can. All of this will kick-in in two to four years’ time, which is the time needed to work out the detailed terms and conditions of the new arrangement. Call it a “transition arrangement” or “implementation period”.

Continue reading