Three steps back from Brexit

Three steps back from Brexit

I have been away and missed and thus not commented on three small steps made to improve the co-operation and relationship between the UK and the European Union. The areas of policy are science and research, settlement rights for EU citizens in the UK and relationship with Frontex.

The first is that the government finally signed up to Horizon Europe, the European Union’s R&D programme; this will be of advantage to scientists and private sector researchers but also everyone as the research has a multiplier effect and for some, investment in human capital is the most effective investment for stimulating GDP growth.

The government have also announced the automatic extension of pre-settled status to allow those that have not applied for conversion to settled status, the time to do so. It seems that the judicial arguments between the Independent Monitoring Authority and the government seem to have been settled, but there may have been more in the pipeline. Any failure to treat those entitled to remain in the UK often having been born here, and or, lived here for decades would be an illegal act. This would include applying the hostile environment to them and charging them the NHS surcharge. No doubt, whatever the motives, this is a good thing.

The government is in negotiation with the EU to improve its relationship with Frontex, the troubled EU border agency. Even if only about intelligence sharing, this is a step in the right direction away from the hard Brexit that the Tories negotiated which led to the UK being excluded from Frontex and interpol because the member states don;t want to share information with nations that don;t accept the Charter of Fundamental Rights. And as the Guardian comments, it is Sunak’s third agreement with the EU. It’ll be interesting to see how far this one goes as the critical issues are not on intelligence sharing, although I am sure the UK will find it useful, but in order to get agreement from the EU to take illegal entrants back, we’ll have to agree to accept those that have the right to enter. It would be an act of solidarity with the government and people of Greece and Italy to accept some of their migrants. Kier Starmer seems to be struggling at where to draw the line. The FT (pay or id walled) covers this well and better than most, reporting on Starmer’s position, adding a longer piece by George Parker in London, William Wallis in Lewes, Andy Bounds in Brussels and Laura Dubois in Strasbourg on the dangers of a Tory counter attack; Starmer’s words are also reported in the Times and Star. Labour’s language has not moved on from pandering to the view that immigration is bad. I repeat my posed dilemma, we need workers, skilled and unskilled, we should want students, and we have a duty to accept refugees; who do we seek to stop. While if even the Tories are looking to work with the EU and Frontex, solving the problem with decency and justice will take a lot more. …

Brexit/Brejoin is on #lab23 agenda

Brexit/Brejoin is on #lab23 agenda

As a member of the AEIP National Committee, I have been campaigning to reverse Brexit. The personal politics that led me to stand for their NC is based on both an abstract commitment to what the EU could be and a detailed observation of the economic and social advantages of common citizenship, together with the economic advantages to the nation of belong to the European Union. The absence of the EU’s freedom of movement to work and the common citizenship rights do not affect the rich.

Opinion polls are steadily showing a majority to rejoin the European Union but the two major parties in the House of Commons are both triangulating with a dying electorate and rejecting the aspirations of its replacement.  The younger voters that replace them see the reciprocal freedom of movement as a benefit.

At my Labour Party’s general committee, I successfully moved a motion for Labour’s Conference calling on the UK to rejoin the single marker and customs union, together with Erasmus and Horizon. Horizon has just been agreed by the government in another series of small steps back towards the Union. The motion will be submitted to the Labour Conference but will need to survive the priorities ballot and then the composite process.

I believe that Momentum’s model motion, Breaking from the Brexit Disaster, has also been submitted by at least one CLP. I have also posted the words of their motion below. It is probably too late get more CLPs to submit these motion as the deadline is 21st September and notice of a meeting and of business. to be conducted needs to be given. A more effective way of supporting the motion and policy is to argue to include these motions in the priority ballot which takes place at conference.

The following is the speech I made, or something very similar to the speech I made. I was very constrained by time; if I’d had more I’d have made more of the human arguments around the racism of the hostile environment and in favour of freedom of movement.

This motion is quite clear, and maybe public opinion has moved on, and we could ask for more but,

Brexit was a con, perpetrated by liars and will go down in history as an act of national self-harm and folly.

Economically,  the Tory ‘Hard Brexit’ has led to reduced foreign inward investment, a worsening balance of trade, reduced employment, a labour shortage in many industries, particularly social care, agriculture, hospitality and the NHS, and sterling has lost value against the dollar and the euro.

The Labour front-bench’s response is not good enough.

It remains a mercantilist, shop keepers’ approach, it focuses exclusively what membership buys and calculates it value in red and black ink. They propose to amend the future trade and co-operation agreement with five changes all of which are of benefit the UK. It’s a version of cakeism. Why would the EU agree to those if there is no commitment by the UK to make their citizens’ lives better too. Why would they make it easier for our musicians and consultants to work in Europe, while we continue to refuse entry to Eastern European construction workers and Western European health workers, all of whom we need!

In order to fix Brexit, we need to rejoin the single market and customs union, and re-engage in Erasmus+; this motion is so much common sense that even the Tories have agreed to rejoin Horizon, although we don’t have it as good as we did.

Much of the reasons for Brexit were based on the xenophobia and racism, as part of fixing Brexit and re-establishing a rule of law we must welcome migrants and repeal the hostile environment.

This is right and decent; arguments opposing this because of electoralism are neither, we are better than that; triangulating on this issue is preferring those that don’t and won’t vote for us to those that do.

Send this motion to conference so Labour can go into the next election with its head held high offering to work as partners with out European allies and welcoming migrants as equals and citizens.

Dave Levy @ Lewisham Deptford General Committee

The text of the Lewisham Deptford motion and the Momentum model is overleaf, use the “read more” button … …

Starmer’s reshuffle

Starmer’s reshuffle

Kier Starmer rearranges the desk chairs and announces a Labour Shadow Cabinet  reshuffle. Most, including Phil BC, with whom I agree, see this as a shift to the right of the Party. The demotion of Ashworth and his replacement with Kendall is a move to the right on policy grounds. The demotion of Lisa Nandy & Rosanna Allin-Kahn would seem to be a warning to others that either have ambition or ideas.  Momentum’s co-chair Hilary Schan, reacts in this article in Left foot forward, and points at Neal Lawson’s devastating critique of the reshuffle, as being designed to minimise [and scare] ideological diversity.

In the rest of this article, I comment on some of the more high profile moves and look, in some detail, at the new leadership in Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The high spot for me is moving Reed from Justice, perhaps moving someone who must share some of the blame for losing Croydon Council to a popular insurgency to impose a Mayor, to DEFRA is designed to put him somewhere where he can do less damage electorally. Reed also proselytises the worst of blue labour politics on crime and punishment. Shabanna Mahmood, who takes over at justice from him, has generally struck me as decent, a talent much needed in the Justice portfolio and has voted in favour of proportional representation. It is being reported that Ellie Reeves has been moved from Justice to campaigning; she previously held the role of shadow Solicitor-General; I am unsure who is replacing her and we can assume that Starmer’s kitchen cabinet see campaigning as more important than compliance which is what the Solicitor-General does.

McFadden moving to Treasury reinforces the power of the orthodox neo-liberal economists in the shadow Treasury team.

I had a look at the changes to the digital and digitisation portfolio because it interests me and others will not.

Thangam Debbonaire swaps with Lucy Powell to become shadow Secretary for digital, culture, media and sport. Stephanie Peacock gets, Media, Data, and Digital Infrastructure, the portfolio is described at while Alex Davies-Jones gets Tech, Gambling, and the Digital Economy, also described on the site. On reading the two departmental pages, there seems to be some room for confusion as they both have responsibility for data, and the split between the two roles makes sense in a hierarchy as is the case on the Government benches, but not between two equals; perhaps Debbonaire will need to mug up on the politics and act as referee if she allowed.

Media, Data, and Digital InfrastructureTech, Gambling, and the Digital Economy
Media, Creative Industries, Digital Infrastructure/Telecoms, Data, Cyber, Digital Identity, Corporate  Digital Strategy (including Digital Regulation and Digital Markets), Tech Policy, Office for AI, Online Harms, Online advertising, International strategy, Digital Standards, Economic security, Gambling and Lotteries, Overall legislation and SIs

All of the new DCMS team were anti-brexit as was Shabanna Mahmood.

Labour has, in my opinion, a poor record on 21st century digital policy; on copyright, surveillance and cybersecurity, it has most of the big calls wrong. On copyright, it passed laws or argued for those that benefit industrial music and movies. This is at the cost of supporting fans, and inhibiting the internet’s growth and the value it creates.  The vision that economically this is a dispute between the creative industries and the internet service providers is a profound mistake. The pro copyright lobby campaigns for laws which as a side effect makes the development and adoption of software difficult or costly. This dispute plays out, not only in the legislatures of the OECD nations, but also in their courts. The epitome of this dispute, strangely, is expressed in a court case between two of the DatenKraken, in the multi-year, Google versus Oracle court case finally settled in US Supreme Court in 1921. I say finally, but the Supreme Court judgement leaves much room for another round, as they ruled what Google had done did not infringe Oracle’s copyright, but only because of what they had done. The software industry wanted the court to declare that APIs like laws could not be copyrighted.

Labour also has a poor record on freedom of speech, state surveillance and cybersecurity, partly through their reaction to political fake news and bullying, although not so seriously that they want to investigate the Russian influence on the referendum. The effect of the western politician’s legislative response to cyberbullying, and illegal porn is to privatise prior-restraint. Much of these legal frameworks come from the United States and are designed to boost the profitability of US intellectual property industries and facilitate their surveillance state.

However, the crapness comes from Starmer and his New Labour predecessors, so I don’t expect much to change.

On Wednesday, we learn that Chris Bryant becomes shadow-Minister for the Creative industries, more of Watson’s fingerprints on the department. Personally, I think Bryant was/is one of the most articulate backbenchers, his ‘promotion’ to the front bench will sadly silence his voice.

This was written mainly on 5 Sep 2023, and was published on 19th and has been back dated to 8 Sep 2023 …

More Macro

More Macro

In this article, “Britain’s tax delusion”, the ‘Statesman identifies that the UK is not overtaxed, that taxing non-doms and imposing VAT on school fees will raise trivial amounts of money and that the clawback of child benefit has a disincentive on the supply of effort. It is silent on the clawback of the personal allowance which does the same, and fails to substantiate its arguments on income and wealth equality by not quoting the gini coefficient or any altenrative statistics, or facts as I like to call them.

… creates a system that is not just dysfunctional but profoundly inequitable, in which the average effective tax rate paid by those earning more than £10m a year is lower than that of most nurses. In 1845, Benjamin Disraeli wrote of England’s division into “two nations”: the rich and the poor. Today, the gulf between Asset Britain and Austerity Britain is as wide.

Since both major parties identify growth as the answer, we need to ask how they think it’ll happen, the three sources of growth are investment (private or public), government expenditures (i.e. the deficit), or exports (and we know why they’re fucked).

The challenge for Western democracies is to provide for that spending while encouraging investment and job creation. It is a challenge that Britain is failing. Instead, the UK’s tax system is quietly managing our ­economy towards disaster.

Business taxation does not encourage investment; the UK’s investment rate is low by international comparison.

Growth strategies must only be pursued in the context of combatting climate change. So a new coal mine is not a good idea.

Modern economists argue that investment in human capital is a priority as an incubator of growth. Even those politicians who agree are silent in the face of monetarist orthodoxy which requires continued austerity. After 13 years you’d think they’d have learnt, but it seems not.

Image Credit: from , cropped. Fair use as it has no economic impact on the original publisher. …

Brexit & modern supply side economics

Brexit & modern supply side economics

I have just read Jonathn Portes’ review of Peter Foster’s book “What Went Wrong With Brexit?”. Foster was a remainer, despite following in the footsteps of Boris Johnson as the Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent. Portes looks at the economic damage, the under investment in human capital and the continued timidity of our politicians. In this review, I [hope I] add to the debate by looking at long term goals and short term modern supply side programmes, most importantly in my mind, rejoining Horizon Europe.

There’s a couple of things in the article which interest me. Portes in the subtitle ensures that we understand the damage that Cameron and Osborne ‘s austerity has done to the UK economy. A critical conclusion from this article is that the problems in the British economy are endemic, predate the Brexit vote but are made worse by the increased bureaucracy in conducting foreign trade, and the miserly modern supply side policies of this Tory government. The Portes’ review concludes with a look at Foster’s proposals on making things better. Portes suggests that the realistic choice, because of our political leader’s timidity is between minimal change to the future trade and cooperation agreement or rejoining the single market. Portes suggests that the minimal change suggestions i.e. fixing Brexit will not be as easy to achieve as its proponents hope.

Portes and Foster shred the argument that leaving the single market will reduce bureaucracy and red tape. We can see by the 5th delay to introduce full customs checks on the UK/EU sea border that  these checks are hard and expensive to implement and that the EU’s imposition of the checks and paper work inhibits EU companies exporting to the UK.  

The review, segues to macro-; a critical passage in the review states,

… this perhaps reflects a wider failing. While there are occasional references to the political and economic backdrop against which the referendum took place, it’s hard not to come away with the impression that Foster, like many broadly centrist remainers, thinks that the UK was on the right track until Brexit came along to upend both our politics and our economy. But the UK’s productivity slowdown began around the time of the global financial crisis, while other longstanding and interrelated structural issues – inequality, housing and skills – long predate this.

Portes also argues that the Cameron/Osborne initiated austerity economics has made the UK’s structural problems worse. With the exception of the Truss administration, the austerity ideology has driven the Tory government’s macroeconomics since 2010. But now, due to Brexit, we are now in a position where the balance of trade and foreign exchange rates are worsening, foreign investment is declining, there are labour shortages, and we remain the only major economy to have a GDP lower than its pre-pandemic peak.

The Government looks to compound this by reducing the number of university places, by restricting immigration, and by continuing to exclude the UK from Horizon Europe. This last aspect of government policy, I find both bizarre and another aspect of the self-harm that austerity and Brexit have caused. It is curious that Sunak permits this policy to stand, given that he is a fan of Paul Romer’s work on investment & innovation. Romer argues that growth is driven by investment in Human Capital. Re-joining Horizon Europe, the EU’s R&D funding programme, is on the table, since much of our problems are because of low skills and low investment, we should grab this opportunity with both hands. Each year we are excluded exacerbates the damage to our research, innovation, and productivity.

Portes looks at Foster’s proposals for change. He suggests that centralist remainers/rejoiners ambition is limited to either fixing Brexit or rejoining the single market. Most seem to compromise around Starmer’s Labour’s proposal to fix Brexit. Portes suggests this will not be as easy as its proponents hope.

As I have said, as have others, why would the EU amend the Future Trade & Cooperation agreement exclusively to the advantage of the United Kingdom, specifically the proposals to ease immigration controls within the European Union to allow musicians and other creative artists to tour the European Union and to allow professional services consultants to work in the EU seems highly ambitious without some form of sectoral reciprocation and the EU’s start position will be freedom of movement for all labour. As Portes puts it,

He [Foster] outlines a long list of technical changes where, with both determination and goodwill, the UK could make modest but meaningful improvements to the current Trade and Cooperation Agreement, although he perhaps underplays how hard it will be to persuade our European counterparts to engage seriously with this agenda.

It maybe the only way to fix Brexit, is to take the terms we are offered by the EU, and an indivisible single market is part of that. If that’s on offer, we should take it. …