Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, Employment law, Labour Law

Deregulation is the beating heart of #Brexit.

This blogpost was written on Sunday Oct 27th

Delors TUC Conference

With each passing day it becomes clearer and clearer that Brexit is not just about the UK leaving the European Union. The real debate, often hidden but which breaks through into the light every so often, is around what sort of society the UK wants to become and what sort of economic model it wants to pursue if and when it does leave the EU.

Now, for those with eyes to see, there are hints in Withdrawal Agreement currently before parliament as to how Johnson’s Conservative Party plans the future. “Singapore-upon-Thames” it is.

A week ago, Saturday morning, October 19, Johnson opened a Commons debate on the new agreement he had just negotiated with Brussels. Initially, the deal was seen as little different from the one that Theresa May, the former prime minister, had laboriously worked out over the past two years, though with two major differences.

First, the all-UK backstop, which would have seen the UK stay in a customs union with the EU at the end of the transition period if a trade agreement had not been negotiated by then, was dropped in favour of a Northern Ireland-only “frontstop”.

De facto, the “frontstop” would see Northern Ireland remain in the EU’s custom union and single market, though single market membership would be limited to goods and not services. (The question of how you differentiate between goods and services in a modern, digital economy has yet to be answered). 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.

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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”.

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Brexit, British Government, Northern Ireland, Single Market, UK Labour Party

A Never Ending #Brexit

This blogpost was written on Sunday Nov 4th, 2018
The Prime Minister Meets DUP Leader At Downing Street
Prime Minister May with DUP leaders

It is Sunday and the weekend papers are awash with suggestions that the Brexit negotiators are close to a breakthrough. The Sunday Times reports, almost breathlessly, on “May’s Secret Brexit Deal”. RTE’s European editor, Tony Connelly reports it somewhat differently – and far more soberly.

As usual, the potential deal-breaker is the Irish backstop.

Apparently, what is now being discussed is that the while the whole of the UK would stay in a “bare bones”, temporary customs union with the EU, Northern Ireland (NI) would stay within the full EU customs code and the single market for goods. Regulatory checks would take place in factories and businesses away from the actual border. Instead of the border being down the middle of the Irish sea it might be somewhere in a factory in, say, Liverpool. But then Liverpool was always part of Ireland, really.

Were this deal to be finalised between the negotiators it is being suggested that it would allow UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, to argue that her redlines of no divisions within the UK have been respected and that the NI backstop would never have to be used in practice.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Irish border, Northern Ireland, Theresa May

There is Only One #Brexit Question: The Irish Question

May FosterBrexit, all comes down to this: The Irish Question.

As on so many other occasions over the past 200 years, the English, and it is mainly the English, do not know to handle the existential problems that Ireland creates for UK politics.

As we have done previously in this Briefing, it is well to remind ourselves that the UK voted to leave the EU. It was not pushed out, expelled or asked to leave. It decided to leave, and UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, determined, fairly much on her own it seems, that leaving meant leaving the single market, the customs union, the jurisdiction of the European Court and ending the free movement of people. The problems of Brexit are entirely of the UK’s making.

The EU didn’t start the fire.

Despite initial shock and deep disappointment, the EU has never sought to challenge the decision of the UK to leave. It accepted the decision and told the UK that its departure would have to be dealt with in accordance with Article 50 (A50) of the Lisbon Treaty. The key language in A50 reads:

In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. Continue reading

Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Irish border, Northern Ireland, Theresa May

They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot #Brexit #BrexitShambles

This week’s blog was written on May 8, 2018
borisAs of today, May 8th, the day after a long, hot, holiday weekend, it is difficult to see Brexit ending well.

It is difficult to see how it even makes it to March 29th, 2019, the date on which the UK is due to leave the EU, with, it hopes, a signed Withdrawal Agreement providing for an orderly exit.

The fault for this state of affairs lies not with the EU but with the UK itself and particularly with the UK government.

Close to two years after the June 2016 referendum, thirteen months after informing the EU that it planned to leave, and with just over 10 months before it actually does leave, the UK cabinet is still debating the nature of the future trading relationship it wants with the EU.

Debating is too kind a word. Hand-to-hand, combat to the death between different factions more correctly describes it.

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Brexit, British Government, Irish border, Northern Ireland, Theresa May

#Brexit – Charging on…

Written on Monday April 9th 2018

LightThere is an old Chinese saying that you should always give your enemy a “golden bridge over which to retreat”. After the battle, you may need to negotiate terms with the other party and a bruised, battered and bitter enemy can makes for a bad negotiating partner.

Over many years involved in labour negotiations, I have also found that it is a wise negotiator who ensures that a golden bridge is available in case their initial plan does not work. This is known as having a Plan B. A necessary precaution for, to paraphrase Mick Tyson, “Everyone has a plan A until they get punched in the face”.

Sometimes, however, you can be faced with another party who seems determined to burn all bridges behind them or, at the very least, to pack them with enough explosives that they can be detonated at any time. For such parties, Plan A must be the only plan for if there is no way back, no Plan B, all they can do is to stand and fight, or push forward.

Call this the Charge of the Light Brigade stratagem and it usually results in disaster.

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