Reading Labour’s tea leaves

Reading Labour’s tea leaves

I wrote about the possibility of a youth mobility proposal from the EU; I’d say it’s now dead and that may be what the Commission was trying to achieve, to stop the UK cherry picking, stop us levying the NHS fee and high [unreasonable] visa fees, although the Commission may not give up. The bad news is that it has enabled those that oppose freedom of movement to reinforce their arguments.

During the discussion I was pointed at the FT’s comments on David Lammy’s Foreign Affairs article extolling “Progressive Realism (in foreign affairs)”.  On the EU, it is my view that Labour will seek to use enhanced security co-operation to further their cakeist approach to the single market. The FT article on Lammy’s speech makes it clear that using our military budget as a negotiating tool for single marker opt-outs will not be easy and everyone in the UK is ignoring the fact  that justice co-operation requires a common basic law and that the majority of the UK’s recent case losses at the ECtHR have been on issues of justice. Lammy also repeated/published his views in a Guardian piece. Lammy in his article, and in his speech to Labour Party conference 23 has articulated the need the greater cooperation with both the European Union and its member states. He always adds the mantra of the new red lines, but he clearly sees and speaks for the need for greater cooperation over a range of issues.

I have also been pointed at Martin Kettle, in an article, “Starmer can’t dodge the Europe question for ever. In office, the economy will answer it for him”. He reckons, it’ll be Reeves who’ll break first, I don’t agree. She’s remarkably stubborn and well trained by the high priests of QMT in the Bank & Treasury. I wonder if it might be Lammy. While I gave up trying to read the tea leaves from the speeches of Labour’s front bench, Lammy’s speeches read as if he may want to do something else but adds the red lines because he has too. …

UK politicians say “No” to youth mobility

UK politicians say “No” to youth mobility

The FT ((£ | (-)) and Steve Peers on X report late last week that the EU Commission has sent a request to the Council for a mandate to negotiate a “youth mobility” scheme to allow British and EU under 30’s to freely travel, work and study in each other’s countries.

Cynics suggest this is to hold the Union’s position together as the UK Government has already opened or attempted to open bi-lateral talks with several member states; however, the Commission’s initiative has it seems produced a negative public statement from Labour. (And later by the Government, reported here by the BBC which highlights this government’s disrespectful approach to British and European youth’s interests. )

Labour really seem to be taking a foolishly hard line; I think that agreeing this would make their plan to negotiate a new co-operation agreement easier since their goal seems to be to bargain the UK’s defence capability in exchange for opt-outs from the single market.

The FT reports that Sweden has refused because it wants to act in solidarity with all the member states and the Commission if it gets a mandate will have conditions on visa charges and the NHS surcharge; they will also not permit the UK to discriminate against any member state.

Stella Creasy of the Labour Movement for Europe, welcomes the proposal and the scheme,

Luke Cooper, a colleague on the AEIP national committee comments on X, and also places the issue in the context of Lammy’s recent article on security and defence co-operation with the EU, also reported by the FT, which also reflects on the more frigid end of the EU conversation. It would seem that Luke considers the position of the German Government to be important, as well as the “Report of the committee of Franco/German experts” on the medium term direction of the EU which perceives a multi-tiered commitment to and within the EU on which I comment on my wiki, and on my blog, in an article called, “The (EU) reform train is at the platform”. For a further analysis of this debate on that report and its Federalist alternative see my article, “EU Reform”i. Personally, I think the Franco German report has been lost in a cupboard as the sponsoring governments have new priorities,

It’s a shocking opportunity missed and while I am not surprised at the Government’s reaction; I am bitterly disappointed in Labour’s. …

Slogans aren’t bullets

Slogans aren’t bullets

Last week, Keir Starmer visited BEA systems at Barrow in Furness, the dockyard that builds and maintains the UK nuclear submarine fleet. He promised that a Labour Government’s support for strategic nuclear weapons was absolute and total. Here are the FT and the NWE Mail, the latter being the local news paper for the area. He said,

“My commitment to NATO and the UK’s nuclear deterrent — maintained on behalf of NATO allies — is unshakeable. Absolute. Total. The changed Labour party that I lead knows that our national security always comes first.”

Sir Keir Starmer

Some right-wing commentators have suggested that this is just cynical electioneering, and the FT article links the proposal to increase spending on defence to 2.5% GDP, to recent statements of admiration by Reeves and Starmer of Margaret Thatcher. The NWE article quotes  Labour’s PPC for the seat  but it  finishes with quotes from Greg Hands, the current Tory defence secretary, showing no matter what a Labour leader says, the Tories will never concede any rhetorical grounds on the issue of defence, despite their appalling record.

The Tory record is indeed appalling and while Labour’s front bench is busy trolling its left wing on the issue of nukes, it is ignoring the massively degraded land forces capability, the army’s recruitment crisis and the very real threats to NATO & the EU from both Russia and a possible Trump led [or even influenced] USA. The Tories record, having cut both budgets, personnel and wages, and inclinations, the endemic Russophile sentiments, make them inappropriate guides to solving these problems. Even for those who think that Margaret Thatcher was robust on defence have forgotten that one of the reasons the Argentines invaded the Falklands was due to perceived hints from the defence cuts announced by her government.

Starmer was criticised by elements of the left arguing that it was morally wrong for a Labour leader to spend more on a nuclear deterrent while refusing to consider lifting the benefit cap placed by the Tories on large families, those with more than two children. To these critics who think it is a choice, I say the problem is austerity and Reeves’s “golden fiscal rules”. i.e. it needn’t be a choice and arguing it is, just allows yourself to be painted as unpatriotic, a fool or a pacifist.

This country needs an effective defence policy, as well as being able to offer everyone a decent standard of living. An effective defence policy requires an understanding of an effective military capability; while security of supply is important, possibly critical, jobs and wages in the arms industry are not a key success indicator. Neither is the expenditure level, which simply becomes a slogan.

Despite Sweden and Finland feeling provoked into joining NATO, it is an organisation on the cusp of crisis. It was designed to defend Western Europe albeit against the Soviet Union and was and is overly reliant on US military force. Today we have to ask whether America’s will is there. Starmer’s eulogies in favour of NATO are designed to embarrass elements of the Labour left. We can see the EU’s response as it crawls towards common European defence strategies, a direction mildly echoed in Labour’s alternative European Union cooperation prospectus.

Paul Mason has been writing on his most recent blog site on the need to refactor the defence policy to increase the capability of the Army, in his article, Land: the MOD’s “burning platform”, he quotes Sir Patrick Sanders, from his controversial IAVC speech in January, as saying,

“Modernisation is non-discretionary, and it is urgent – a burning platform. Its absence is felt in our recruitment numbers. The army’s size always generates headlines, but the real story is about capability and modernisation.”

Sir Patrick Sanders
from flickr “defence images” BY-SA 2016

Mason makes a more deeply evidenced argument in ”You only need tanks if you want to win”, in which he argues that it is necessary to rebalance the military defence capability to restore the British Army’s capability, increase the wages of the Army,  plug the budget shortfall for current plans, and increase British aid to Ukraine. He also, rightly in my opinion, hints that the ambition of 1½ expeditionary divisions is insufficient for today’s security threats. The budget gap has been caused by overspends on the nuclear deterrent. An axiom of defence and security policy should be that, a reduction in conventional capability makes nuclear escalation more likely, and as in the case in the Falklands, deterrent is not always the nuclear threat.

But this is not just an argument about iron and treasure, Britain’s reputation as a military nation has been deeply damaged by the isolation that Brexit has brought, and the failings of its Army in Afghanistan most obviously demonstrated by the final evacuation from Kabul and Dominic Raab’s failure to return from holiday, although the Army had been failing there for several years.

In brutal summary, if Labour wants an effective defence policy; don’t start in Barrow, you need to start in Aldershot! …

No jokes Mr Mandelson!

No jokes Mr Mandelson!

This article in the guardian, entitled, “‘You’ve got to be joking’: Mandelson dismisses prospect of UK rejoining EU” reports a speech by Peter Mandelson to the BCC in which he reinforces the labour leadership’s argument that the UK will not rejoin the European Union. He states the British people would not want to go through another referendum and there is little appetite in in Europe to renegotiate a new accession.

I just ask how hard is it to say “yes”! The problem with Mandelson’s argument, although shared by others is they do not understand, firstly the damage that Brexit has done to our economy and standard of living and thus dismiss or at best trivialise the benefits that joining will realise and secondly all the opt outs from the European Union have gone. The only terms on which we might rejoin are full compliance with the treaties. It will not be a hard negotiation. What would be hard is negotiating piecemeal variations of the FCTA, which is what Labour claim to want.

This means no opt outs from the justice pillar which should never have been negotiated , compliance with the stability and growth pact and Euro membership, full payment of dues i.e no rebate, and if the the Irish agree,  membership of Schengen.

As for the pain of a referendum, it seems he’s changed his mind, or was his support for a people’s vote just a tactic to thwart a Corbyn led Labour Party. I also remind him, we don’t need a referendum, although it might be best; the EU needs confidence that the decision is the popular will of the masses, and the Brexiteers need to know they’ve lost and get over it.

  1. There are problems with the EU’s SGP but since Reeves’ Rules are even tougher than the SGP’s, they shouldn’t be hard for Labour to agree.
  2. We need to agree with the Republic of Ireland because of the Anglo-Irish common travel area; if the UK joins then so must Ireland.

Image Credit: The picture is CC World Economic Forum 2008 BY-NC-SA; this blog is non commercial.  …