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, Backstop, Brexit, Theresa May

#Brexit: A Procedural “Fix”?

This #blogpost was written at midday on Friday Jan 18th, 2019

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The UK would apppear to be in a state of political paralysis over Brexit. While there might be a majority in the House of Commons against a “no-deal Brexit”, there is no majority for an alternative way forward.

The European Union cannot rewrite the agreement that is on the table. You cannot negotiate with a party which keeps saying: “I don’t like the proposal you have just made to me. Make me a different one”. You need to know what it is they want, at least in general outline.

But could the EU offer the UK a procedural “fix” as a way forward? Could the EU create time and space for the UK to reflect on where it really wants to be at the end of the Brexit process? Is there a way for all parties to step back from a brink that no one wants to be standing on?

As things stand the UK leaves the EU on March 29th next. If, a very big if, the Withdrawal Agreement is accepted the UK goes into a transition arrangement which could run until the end of 2022, a period of nearly four years. During this time the UK will be a de facto member of the EU, following all EU rules and procedures, but will have no say in EU decision making.

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Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Theresa May

So… #Brexit? What happens next…? No one knows…

This blogpost was written early on Wed Jan 16th

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Last night the UK government lost the vote in the House of Commons on the Brexit agreement it had negotiated with Brussels by 432 to 202.

This is the largest defeat suffered by a government in over 100 years. In normal times a defeat such as this on the government’s flagship policy would result in the fall of the government or, at the very least, the resignation of the Prime Minister.

But Brexit times are not normal times and today the government will, in all likelihood, win the vote of No Confidence tabled by the Labour Party. While over 100 Conservative MPs voted against the government’s Brexit plans, they will not vote to bring that government down, thereby possibly letting Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, regarded by many as a radical leftist, into 10 Downing Street.

So, the UK government is likely to survive, though whether Theresa May stays on as Prime Minister may be another matter.

So, what happens next? Absolutely no one knows.

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Article 50, Brexit, British Government, Parody

When #Brexit Goes to the Movies

This blog was written on Sunday Jan 13, 2019

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I don’t know how many of you saw last Monday’s Channel 4 drama: Brexit, The Uncivil War. I will leave it for others to judge its merits as a drama, and for good reason too.

I am, sadly,one of those curious individual who genuinely enjoy the dublinese patois of Mrs Brown’s Boys. This tells you all you need to know about my artistic judgement – and so goes any “street cred” I have managed to build up over recent years.

Then again, I am originally from Dublin so maybe it’s just the dublinese calling out to me, like Colin Farrell’s opening lines in the great In Bruges. But a Dubliner, is a Dubliner is a Dubliner. Once and for always.

However, I do know about politics and, unfortunately, too much about Brexit – so, as I see it, when it came to attempting to explain Brexit and why the UK voted for it The Uncivil War fell well short of the mark.

The nearest it came to the actual raw and ugly politics of Brexit was the focus-group scene which, as the playwright Sarah Helm noted in the Guardian, better portrayed …how the poison of Brexit has set ordinary people against each other, or exposed how easily our feeble leaders were led by opportunistic apparatchiks… than any newspaper article

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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

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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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Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Irish border, Northern Ireland

#Brexit – The Fast Fading Fantasies

This blogpost was written on Sunday Nov 11, 2018

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Just when you think there cannot be any more twists and turns in the Brexit saga, along comes the resignation of Jo Johnson (Photo): Transport Minister in May’s government and Boris Johnson’s younger brother. Jo Johnson is not, and never was, an attention seeker. Instead, he was a sober, industrious member of the government who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum.

His devastating resignation statement frames the choice May intends to present to parliament as one between “vassalage”, obeying EU rules with no say in their adoption, or “chaos”, leaving the EU with no agreed terms. Rather than have parliament vote on these two unpalatable options he wants them, along with the option to remain in the EU, put to the people in another referendum.

If a centrist such as Jo Johnson is taking this position, then there must be many other centrist MPs who see things similarly. Will they break cover in the coming days? If we add the dozen or so already declared centrists who want another referendum to 20 or 30 Hard-Brexiteers and the 10 DUP votes, it becomes increasingly difficult to see May getting the Commons to vote for any deal she manages to bring back from Brussels.

That is, if she manages to bring back a deal.

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