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Showing posts from October, 2019

Tory failure on Brexit

The Tories failed to deliver Brexit.  They will point to others as the cause of that failure, but it was their divisions and their lack of vision that made it impossible.   Their bluster cannot hide that truth.  Two prime ministers with two failed deals.

It need not have been like this.  The Tories could have reached out to the opposition benches in parliament and delivered Brexit.   Yes, it would have involved compromise,  but it would have fulfilled the pledged to respect the referendum result.

No doubt the Tories will enter the general election saying they are the only party that can deliver Brexit.  Why would voters believe them?

The do or die tactics of Boris Johnson have failed to deliver.   He would not and could not have his withdrawal agreement scrutinised.   Instead, he has delayed Brexit, and there is no guarantee that the result of the general election will deliver it either.  

First, Mrs May tried to use Brexit for party advantage by calling an election in 2016.  She los…

Time to remain?

The EU has agreed to an extension of article 50, in principle to the 31 January.   This gives time for proper scrutiny of the withdrawal agreement and Bill.  It also provides time for a general election and/or a referendum, although a referendum would require more time.

Both Labour and the Tories are uncertain about the way forward on Brexit.  While Labour is shifting from its desire for a general election, so too are many Tories.  Nor is it clear that a general election would produce a better outcome.

Putting aside party politics, the best way forward for the government is to allow time for proper scrutiny of the EU withdrawal bill.   There is now a chance that it could get it passed.  But the government has held the withdrawal bill back to avoid such scrutiny.

The problem for the government is that parliamentary scrutiny is expected to see the Bill amended.  It is a fundamentally flawed Bill.

It is still unclear precisely how the provisions for the Irish Border will work.  Further…

Brexit deal bad for the environment

Environment groups have warned that Boris Johnson withdrawal agreement would be profoundly bad for the environment. 
It would be easy enough to think Boris Johnson's deal is pretty much the same as Theresa May's apart from arrangements for the border with Northern Ireland.   As ever, the devil is in the detail.   This is not Mrs May's deal wrapped in tinsel.   It would be profoundly worse for environmental protection. 
In the struggle to avoid a catastrophic no-deal exit, we should not take our eye off the ball. Merely adding a referendum to a profoundly lousy deal would be a dangerous strategy.   
If there is to be a referendum on the current withdrawal agreement, then it will need considerable amendment as it passes through parliament.  It requires detailed scrutiny.  
Theresa May's deal had binding commitments to maintain environmental standards during the transition period.   This commitment has been stripped out from Boris Johnson's deal.  
That is no acciden…

Greenpeace exposes plastic polluters

Are we really getting to grips with plastic?

Coke, Nestlé, and PepsiCo have topped the list of world’s worst plastic polluters for the second year running, a global survey by Break Free From Plastic has found.

As part of World Cleanup Day in September, volunteers from the UK and more than 50 other countries collected plastic and logged the brands of the litter that they found. 
A report published this month, “BRANDED Volume II: Identifying the World’s Top Corporate Plastic Polluters.”, reveals the other companies in the list of top 10 polluters are Mondelēz International, Unilever, Mars, P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris, and Perfetti Van Melle.

It follows a Greenpeace US report earlier this month which criticised the use of false solutions to cut plastics, such as swapping throwaway plastic for throwaway paper, or bio-based plastics.

Louise Edge, head of Greenpeace UK’s ocean plastics campaign said: “Yet again we’re seeing these corporate giants such as Coke, Nestlé, and Peps…

A people's vote is not so simple

Supporting Boris Johnson's Brexit Bill with a referendum attached is a risky option for those who believe it is a bad Bill.  Labour is right to agonise over the decision.  However, in the end, it might be the only option available.

Labour has argued consistently for a customs union with the EU as the best way forward short of remaining in the EU.  The May/Johnson withdrawal agreement is a long way from that objective.  So, should Labour now allow the Bill to pass through parliament on condition of a referendum?  Or should it hold out for a renegotiation and a better deal?  Short of Labour winning a general election, the latter option looks unlikely.

Would it be responsible for parliament to put what it considers to be a bad deal back to the people to decide? And if they do, would it produce a precise result.  What conditions, if any, should be attached to the vote?

One reason for putting a deal back to the people is that parliament is unable to agree on what is a 'good' d…

The muddled message of a people's vote

The People's Vote campaign needs to decide whether it is campaigning to Remain or for a people's vote.  The two are not the same, and the arguments sometimes conflict.  It sends a confusing message.  To get a people's vote, they will need to win support across the spectrum.

Simply telling Leave voters that they have made a "mistake" isn't going to win them over.  They need convincing that a people's vote is not merely a trick to stop Brexit; it is for them also.

But, listening to some Remain campaigners, a people's vote appears to be a ploy to stop Brexit.  Their argument is primarily based on the idea that voters were "tricked" or "misled" in the last election.

Their argument is another way of saying Leave voters were stupid, or gullible.  When they are challenged on this point, they will say "no, of course, we are not saying that", and then it is followed by a "but" - "but the Leave campaign lied!"

Boris' deal needs scrutiny

There is a saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.   This can be said of the Withdrawal Agreement reached by Boris Johnson with the EU.  The devil, as ever, is in the detail, and these details raise many issues that still need to be resolved.  Rushing the complexities of those issues through Parliament on Saturday is hardly likely to give them proper scrutiny.

Boris Johnson will tell MPs that it is "his" deal or no-deal.   This, of course, need not be so, but time is running out, as is the patience of the EU.  They want to get a deal so they can move on.  So also does the British public.

I am sure we are all fed up with Brexit, but it is the most significant decision our country will make for generations.

Accepting a deal merely because we want to 'get Brexit done' is not a good reason. We need to be sure the compromise is workable and that it is what the British people really want.
The withdrawal agreement is at least a case to be made to the British…

Allow Boris to compromise but let's vote

Boris it appears is about to compromise on the backstop to do a deal on Brexit.  Such a compromise is good and should be encouraged because leaving the EU without a deal would be catastrophic, and, despite his rhetoric, Boris Johnson knows that to be so.  But an agreement must be put back to the people to decide.

Accounts running in the press today suggest he is willing to reproduce Mrs May's former compromise on a Northern Ireland customs union with the EU.

This is a deal Brexiteers, such as Rees Mogg,  described as

“completely cretinous, impractical, bureaucratic and a betrayal of common sense.”
But let's not stop Boris compromising.  It is far better for the country that a deal is done.  But such an agreement must be put back to the people.

A deal put forward by those in government who once described it as cretinous, impractical, bureaucratic and a betrayal of common sense needs to be approved by the people.

Is it really what people thought would happen when they voted to Le…

A deal is in "the interests of all"

A deal for Brexit is still on the cards. The British and Irish Prime Ministers meeting today say they can "see a pathway to a possible deal." As ever, the devil will be in the detail. 
The two sides also say that a deal "is in the interest of all." That is undoubtedly true. Crashing out of the EU without a deal would be harmful to all sides and profoundly damaging to the UK. This much we have said all along. An agreement is necessary. We must hope that there will now be a meaningful dialogue to achieve one, and an end to the gameplay.  
Finding a way forward that keeps the border with Ireland as open as needed for the Good Friday agreement and the peace process is essential. 
Any deal must be put back to voters. People talk a great deal about 'respecting' the referendum result. But that result was not about giving the UK government a blank cheque to make whatever kind of arrangement without proper scrutiny. A key element of democracy is accountability.  
W…

Labour's commitment to "scrap" Universal Credit

With Brexit still casting its shadow over all else in politics, it would be easy to ignore other pressing issues, such as the future of Universal Credit.
In his speech to Labour's party conference, Jeremy Corbyn, outlined a Labour policy to introduce “emergency” changes to Universal Credit as part of a fundamental reform of the welfare system. 
In an immediate assessment, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that the specific proposals presented by Labour would increase incomes of a significant number of low-income families - and in some cases by £1000s per year. 
Reversing the two-child limit in means-tested benefits would mean that about 700,000 households with children would be better off than they would otherwise have been, by an average of £3,000 per year, with a cost of about £2bn per year.
Abolishing the benefits cap would benefit approximately 100,000 working-age families by an average of roughly £2,000 per year, costing around £200 million per year. 
The winners wou…

Does Boris have a strategy?

What is Boris Johnson's strategy? Or is he stumbling from crisis to crisis, a victim of events?

There are two views.  The first is that Boris is playing brinkmanship.  So many times, we have heard it said that no-deal has to be an option to force the EU to agree a deal "best for Britain."  It is a "who will blink the first" strategy.  If that is the plan, then it has failed.

The second strategy is that Boris wants a no-deal Brexit and wants to blame the EU for the breakdown of the talks  "It's all their fault!"   That is what we see now - the blame game.

In any event,  far from being the first to blink, the EU position has hardened.  Boris offered no sensible or workable plan to deal with the problem of the Irish border.

So, now we are in the blame game.   It might have some success with hardened Brexiteers, those who want to leave the EU without a deal.   No-deal for them has become a kind of totem around which they do their war dance.

However, …

The problem of an "ever closer union"

If we do remain in the European Union, then it cannot be based on an "ever closer union".   One thing Brexit has done is alter the aspirations for Britain's membership of the Union forever, even if by some miracle we now decided to remain.

The "ever closer union" was at the heart of David Cameron's "negotiation" with the EU.  In a statement to the House of Commons he made clear this objective:

“we do not want to have our country bound up in an ever closer political union in Europe.”
An ever closer union has been precisely what the UK has signed up to time and time again.

During the 2016 referendum, it was often said by the Leave side that we only signed up to a Common Market in the referendum of 1975.  But this is disingenuous.   An "ever closer union" was incorporated into the preamble to the 1957 Treaty of Rome setting up the European Economic Community (common market):

"DÉTERMINÉS à établir les fondements d'une union sans cess…

A deal is still the best way forward

A deal is still the best way forward.  A no-deal Brexit would threaten the United Kingdom itself.  Scotland is more likely to break free. Northern Ireland, if it hasn't fallen back into the chaos of the "troubles", will likely seek closer ties with the Republic.
Boris's substitute for the backstop would hand control of our relationship with the EU to the Northern Ireland assembly, which in any event is currently suspended.  But at least it acknowledges the need for a deal, even if it is a cynical ploy to put the blame for rejection on the EU.  
We could say "so what!" to all this. Let the United Kingdom break-up. But this was surely not what the EU referendum was about.   None of us voted for a constitutional crisis.  Yet, we are in the midst of one. 
We are forever told that the United Kingdom voted "as a whole". Nothing could be further from the truth. There was nothing "whole" about it.   We are now a fragmenting country, where popul…

Boris is playing games

There are no credible proposals, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is playing games.  So much so that his statement to Parliament today had scant regard for the legal text of the plans he submitted. According to the Irish Prime Minister, they deviated significantly. 
The Prime Minister says the government is committed to finding solutions "compatible" with the Good Friday Agreement.   The Peace process he says is the "fundamental basis for governance in Northern Ireland and protecting it is the highest priority for all."
Yet, Johnson's proposals would run a coach and horses through the heart of the Good Friday Peace process. 
He says there will be "no hard border" with the Republic of Ireland. But this is predicated on electronic customs checks, which in turn depend on businesses working within the law.
I am not convinced that bootleggers will easily be found at their point of destination and checked, electronically or otherwise. 
The Border between S…

Put it back to the People

The people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly for their current relationship and cross border cooperation.  It was a historic political settlement made in good faith by the UK and Irish governments with the people of Northern Ireland.  That good faith is about to be broken.

Boris Johnson is proposing to tear up the agreement, either with his proposed 'deal' or with a no-deal Brexit.  He would do so regardless of warnings from across the political divide and from business and community leaders,  as well as the police and security services.

The Good Friday Agreement is in jeopardy.

There is a great deal of talk about 'honouring the referendum'.   But which referendum?  Do the people of Northern Ireland not matter?

Northern Ireland voted 71% for the Good Friday agreement, and they also voted to remain in the EU.  Their will and their future are now being sacrificed to keep Boris Johnson in Number 10.  Boris is willing to take Britain blin…

No-deal is not an end.

Nigel Farage says that Boris Johnson's "new" Brexit offer is a "reheated" version of Theresa May's withdrawal agreement. As I write the details are unclear;  but, deal or no deal, it doesn't stop there. 
A no-deal Brexit isn't what it says it is.  Yes, we would leave without a deal, but it isn't the end of the matter. We still have to make a trade deal with the EU, just as much as we would need to make a deal with the USA.  
 Unlesss we want to capitulate to all the demands made many years of haggling lie ahead.  Our formal exit from the EU is just the beginning.   That, after all, is what the fuss about the backstop has been about; it is about what happens if we can't reach an agreement. 
Of course, if we leave 'without a deal', then the backstop doesn't exist, but what then do we do about our arrangements with Ireland? We would need to renegotiate how those work.  Many businesses operate across the border.  Arrangements will ne…

Another opportunity missed?

Another opportunity missed? It seems that opposition parties still cannot agree on a possible caretaker prime minister in the event of Boris Johnson losing a confidence vote in parliament.

The failure to put aside party advantage is decisive.  Constitutionally, it would be right for the Queen to ask the Leader of the Opposition if he could form a government.  The Labour party received 41% of the vote in the general election.   By all accounts, the SNP would support him.

It is easy enough to conjure alternative names out of a hat: Margaret Beckett, Ken Clarke.  But these are desperate attempts to avoid Jeremy Corbyn entering No 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister.

Why should they want to do that?  Isn't stopping a 'no-deal' Brexit more critical?

Jo Swinson, the LibDem leader, says it is because "he is unfit to govern."   One wonders why she considers Jeremy Corbyn less able than Boris Johnson, or even herself.

 No, it is for party advantage.  What they desperate…