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, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Data Protection, Single Market

No matter what, years of Brexit uncertainty beckons

This blogpost was written on Sunday Oct 20th, 2019

boris

Whatever happens in the days and weeks immediately ahead, one thing can be said for certain: the UK faces years, if not decades, of uncertainty as it struggles to negotiate, and then constantly renegotiate, the nature and substance of its relationship with the European Union.

Despite what Brexiteers like to claim, the UK cannot deny the pull of history and geography.

The “history” is, in the first place, that European economies have been slowly integrating over the past fifty-plus years and that integration is not going to stop, or go into reverse, anytime soon. The “history” is, in the second place, that Northern Ireland is not a “normal” part of the UK and because of its unique relationship with Ireland, the country with which it shares the island of Ireland, it will always need to be treated differently from the rest of Great Britain.

The “geography” is that the European Union is, and will remain, the UK’s single biggest market for both goods and services for many years to come. Which means, given that the EU will be some six times bigger than the UK, that if the UK wants to trade with the EU it will be largely on EU terms. But this undermines a great deal of the rationale for Brexit, that it allows the UK to “take back control” of its own laws enabling it to diverge from EU standards.

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Article 50, Backstop, Boris Johnson, Brexit, British Government, Customs Union, Michel Barnier, Negotiating, Single Market

The #Brexit Syndrome Delusion

This blogpost was wrtitten on Friday Sept 27th.

cropped-politic-1013.jpg

Wikipedia defines Stockholm Syndrome as

“a condition which causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors during captivity. These alliances result from a bond formed between captor and captives during intimate time together, but they are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims.”

However strongly the bond is felt, to the outside observer it is irrational, explainable only by the unreal circumstances created during the time of captivity.

A large part of the UK political class and the wider population now seem to be suffering from “Brexit Syndrome”. This is probably best defined as:

an irrational and emotional commitment to a political project which all objective evidence shows to be deeply damaging to the long-term national interest.

Brexit Syndrome causes many friends of the UK from across the world to shake their heads in disbelief that a previously pragmatic country could become so deluded.

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Backstop, Brexit, British Government, Conservative Party, Data Protection, Negotiating

There’s no #EP2019 #Brexit domino effect. UK is on its own

This Blogpost was written on Tuesday May 28th, 2019

Election night at the European Parliament in Brussels

Tuesday, May 28, 2019. Two days after the European Parliament elections and the political landscape becomes a little clearer.

There has been no “right-wing/populist” surge of the sort that many commentators were predicting some months back. True, the hold on the parliament that has been exercised by the centre-right EPP and centre-left S&D, working together, has been broken. That’s no bad thing. But it has been broken by the very pro-EU Liberals and Greens and not by the extreme right of France’s le Pen and Italy’s Salvini.

Even in the UK, “hard-core” remain parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Greens polled 40% against 35% for the Brexit Party and the now defunct UKIP. With the Tories and Labour on a combined 23%, the numbers suggest that there is now a narrow majority in the UK in favour of remaining in the EU.

Inside the European Parliament it is the parties based on civilised and democratic values, who between them hold around 70% of the seats, that will determine the future of the EU and have a critical say in deciding who will be the next president of the European Commission and other top jobs in Brussels.

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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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Article 50, Backstop, Brexit, Theresa May

#Brexit: A Procedural “Fix”?

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

article-50

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, 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.

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