The Northern Ireland Protocol

The Northern Ireland Protocol

I was originally going to write something which I hope might be profound or provoking, but in the end, this just noted more of the Govt’s myopia. Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed to avoid border infrastructure on the island of Ireland. The UK Govt agreed … Boris and the DUP blew up May’s previous solution to the problem , which was to belong to the Customs Union while working out something better. The Guardian comments,

Just seven months after it came into force, the Northern Ireland protocol is once again a significant flashpoint in the UK’s relations with Dublin and Brussels.

On Wednesday, the UK published a “command paper” on the protocol. Some will see it as an attempt to tear up the agreement Boris Johnson struck in 2019; others will see it as a serious attempt to fix a deal they argue was flawed from the beginning but signed to help the British prime minister to get Brexit done, as he had promised.

Lisa O’Carrol, The Guardian

Lord Frost, the Brexit Minister presented a command paper to Parliament last week. This article looks at the paper, its proposals and puts them in a historical/political context. It looks at the contribution  to Northern Ireland’s problems that the end of Freedom of Movement has caused. It asks if the supply chain problems in Northern Ireland are the real concerns of the Govt or if  It then looks at the potential political cost in international reputation and ends looking at the theories explored in “The need for enemies”[3]. In terms of Brexit problems, re-joining the customs union and single market looks quite good.

Michael Dougan, Professor of European Law, University of Liverpool Joint Editor, Common Market Law Review writes on Twitter,

The command paper is an attempt to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Withdrawal Agreement which left Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs area for the purposes of intra-Ireland trade. The NIP was Boris’s jolly wheeze to allow him to present Brexit as an oven ready deal and allow him to distinguish his deal from May’s which had agreed, unless other agreements could be found, to keep NI and Great Britain in the EU Customs Union. While some of the Tory backbenches saw the cost of May’s delaying tactic as too high a price, and the DUP only caught on after Johnson’s election had made their support unnecessary, there were substantial reasons or at least as far as the Vote Leave faction in the Tory Party were concerned, for making this change, but one key priority was Tory Party management and today we need to ask did Frost and Johnson understand or care; the Northern Ireland protocol which was presented by many as a customs border in the Irish Sea and was always going to be a problem for the “Vote Leave” extremists, and many others. This was done exclusively for reasons of party management.

Frost proposes that the Govt UK & EU replaces the current regime of documenting all goods’ rules of origin and satisfactory quality to documenting them for only[1] those goods for which the final destination of is Northern Ireland. Chris Grey in his blog, “The Frost-Johnson approach has already failed “.

These include a revival of the ‘honesty box’ idea in place of customs checks, a Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) ‘dual regulatory’ system, and the removal of the ECJ’s role in governance. These suggestions are not explained in any great detail, but in many ways they quite closely resemble the proposals made in October 2019, and rejected by the EU …

Chris Grey

This would be a problem for the EU which it seems has already rejected these proposals in 2019; if we act as an entrepôt for goods from outside the UK, EU tariffs will not be collected while safety rules and rules of origin may be subverted. This would also cause the EU problems with its relationships with Switzerland and Norway as they (and others) may also ask that these provisions are extended to them. To agree this, trust between the EU & UK would need to be higher than it is, and what trust exits will have been damaged by the way in which the command paper was trailed with threats of its revocation.

The paper also objects to the significant residual authority of the ECJ and Commission in Northern Ireland and the increase in power of the EU institutions that these compromises would require. This is a political objection and the problems cited are evidence free. The UK Govt. has sought remove the EU jurisdiction from the UK over many issues[2], but the Northern Ireland Protocol belongs to Johnson’s administration. Are they seriously trying to wind these provisions back? It would be a major step if so, and remind everyone as to whether it was signed in good faith in the first place and raise questions of trust throughout the world.

The EU took 24 hours to say, that they will not renegotiate the NIP,

We are ready to continue to seek creative solutions, within the Protocol on IE/NI, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland. However, we will not agree to its renegotiation.

Maroš Šefčovič

While the Northern Ireland protocol is a key point of conflict, the Trade & Co-operation Treaty agricultural product grace periods have been unilaterally extended for 6 months at which point the UK is committed to meeting its trade border commitments under the treaty and the world trade organisation rules. This will likely exacerbate the difficulties in the food supply chain within the UK and most acutely in Northern Ireland. Some of the political pressure is being applied by the major UK food retailers who are carrying the burden of the documentation costs and are also suffering from a shortage of lorry drivers, [BBC | FT (£)] another effect of Brexit’s abolition of freedom of movement. While a burden to the large companies, the documentation overhead, costs and transport shortages are worse for the SMEs. Is the fear truely about Northern Ireland, or are they concerned that the expiry of the control free grace periods will make things worse in England!

Meanwhile other national leaders issue warnings that negotiations must be undertaken in good faith and that commitments made are kept, a warning to the Johnson Govt. Further warnings will be sent or have been sent by the Biden Administration and other US friends of Ireland. The UK’s accession to the Lugano Convention, which involves mutual recognition of national courts. has also been vetoed by the Commission.

The EU have responded in that both  Maroš Šefčovic reported by Sky News, and Ursula van der Leyen have rejected the proposal to renegotiate the NIP but a continuing conflicting crises suits Johnson & Frost, their Brexit war continues although there may be simple ways out of this particular impasse, the most obvious is membership of the single market, which with the re-establishment of freedom of movement, might mean we could get the food lorries moving again although there are less dramatic compromises.

This behaviour by Frost and Johnson is reinforcing the world wide view that they signed a deal to ‘get over the line’, lied to the UK electorate and had no intention of abiding by the terms of the agreement. This is their deal, the problems were foreseen, they need to own it. This isn’t the last of these bogus crises, the UK-EU future Trade & Co-operation agreement is full of deadlines and reviews which will allow Johnson to continue to paint the EU as bad faith actors and rile up his base. In “The need for enemies[3], it is posed with evidence, that politicians with a reputation for solving a problem, have little incentive in doing so. This seems to inform Boris Johnson’s strategies when his inherited laziness permits him the time to strategise.

We need to be clear, this is a crisis of Brexit and while this one will probably be resolved, there will be another one, probably quite soon. It all makes Brexit a questionable endeavour with limited support in the UK.

The EU, it seems are coming to the conclusion that Johnson and Frost signed the withdrawal agreement in bad faith and have always meant to renege on it


[1] Goods excluded would be declared by a ‘light touch’ declaration albeit using a system that does not yet exist

[2] However, the CJEU still has some jurisdictional authority over citizenship issues.

[3] “Fergusson, Leopoldo and Robinson, James A and Torvik, Ragnar and Vargas, Juan F” (2012). “The Need for Enemies”. National Bureau of Economic Research: {10.3386/w18313} http://www.nber.org/papers/w18313

See also, if you want, my notes page on the Northern Ireland Protocol. …

More on Labour’s disciplinary rules

I made a critique of Labour’s response to the EHRC report, which has been published in Solidarity. It talks about Free Speech, a lack of process, failure to meet Article 6’s definition a fair trial and makes a series of proposals as to how to introduce a fair process. The article proposes a segregation of duties within the disciplinary process, subordination to the European Convention on Human Rights, covers the role and accountability of the complaints department and General Secretary, suggests the need for a policy on investigations and ‘prosecutions’ , notes a duty to alleged perpetrators and victims, proposes the need to appropriately manage sanctions, the role and power of the General Secretary and the need for an Ombudsman.  …

Yet again, a purge!

Yet again, a purge!

So Kier’s planning that Labour proscribe four organisations allowing the Party Bureaucracy to auto-exclude its supporters. Two of the organisations (LIEN, Resist) are basically outside anyway, one (LAW) is practically defunct which leaves Socialist Appeal, who are irrelevant to the left right struggle in the Party. I have written extensively about the failure of these rules to conform to the rules of natural justice and that I have friends who have been unjustly and arbitrarily auto-excluded. Rule 4.I.2.B is contrary to the ECHR’s right to a fair trial.

The first point to make is that this is a defined collective offence. No personal culpability of anti-party activities is to be assessed. Secondly, we are in stupid position where people can self-id as BAME, women and disabled, but not as socialists, although as I discovered recently, the word socialism does not appear in the rule book. Thirdly, they won’t stop here, Neil Coyle argued that Jewish Voice for Labour should be next but the real target is to cow Momentum.

Finally, it’s a piece of theatre, designed to create the momentum that Blair created by fighting the Left. The Miitant were expelled 40 years ago and Clause IV amended in 1996, (25 years ago). Politics have changed. History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. The end game of this strategy is obvious to see, a Labour Party run by people without vision and without hope (as it was in 2010), whose only sense of journey is to attack their core support; today, that is the young city dweller who is/was a Remainer.

I quote Phil BC, from his blog, who says,

Anyone with a leftwing, socialist bone in their body should stand against this petty purge. And remind ourselves again that we’re not dealing with just another Tory-lite Labour leader but an existential threat. Starmer is more likely to lead the party into complete collapse

Here’s a petition to oppose the purge, a statement from Unite & Momentum and a statement issued by left members of the NEC. …

More Brexit missed or almost missed deadlines

More Brexit missed or almost missed deadlines

This article, or one very similar to it first appeared on AEIP's Brexitspotlight. The 3rd deadline of the post Brexit Future relationship passed on the 30th June. The deadlines were on the issues of cross border data adequacy, northern Irish meat product movement, the end of equivalence for share depositaries and the end of the grace period to allow EU citizens resident in the UK to apply to stay. It looks like the security depository equivalence was sorted in Sept. 2020 and the EU have granted a three month extension on moving chilled meat from Great Britain to Northern Ireland as required by the treaty’s Northern Ireland protocol[1]. The Commission flagged the agreement of a data adequacy ruling earlier in the year and finally agreed it with two days to go. The parliament is more sanguine. The EDPB is also more cautious, and we expect the CJEU to be so too. Whenever the CJEU has ruled, it has ruled in favour of citizens, whereas the ECtHR gives nation states significant leeway. For more see here, or read more ....

Wiping the phone at the Treasury

Wiping the phone at the Treasury

I wrote a piece on the Guardian story about the Treasury losing the Perm Sec’s texts and posted it on linkedin. One particularly disturbing feature of this story may be that messages from David Cameron about Greensill Capital have been lost. On the linkedin blog, I looked at the story from an IT Security and employment law point of view rather than looking at the political corruption angle. I suggest that for an organisation with a public record, FoI or compliance liability that SMS and whatsapp or any messaging product without central logging should not be used. I suggest that wiping the phone instead of a password reset especially when the device has not been lost might be a bit extreme. I hint that peer to peer messaging without a super user is also inappropriate.

I argue that this is a symptom of the growing contempt that politicians and now it seems bureaucrats have for their record keeping responsibilities which are mandate by statute law. It is likely that the use of personal IT i.e. phones and emails if not laptops/workstations is becoming endemic destroying and designed to destroy audit trails of behaviour. I note and have commented elsewhere on the failure to pass the email & records relating to Johnson’s decisions with respect to Jennifer Arcuri’s trade missions and grants.

I note that such behaviour if undertaken by more junior staff would probably involve disciplinary action. I have dealt with cases where people have been investigated under the disciplinary policy for misuse of their personal IT in the office and also for the destruction or unauthorised amendment to business records. These have usually been considered gross misconduct cases which can lead to dismissal, but most of my members are blue collar workers.

With respect to the Treasury, I wonder if the texts have been truly lost, if they have, it’s either a policy failure, i.e. a failure of the control design or a deliberate breach. Someone should be accountable, just as they should at the GLA. The irony here i.e. at the Treasury is that it looks like the responsible person for either of these failures is the same person. The Permanent Secretary is meant to be a check on the, certainly, financial probity of ministers and occupy an important role in implementing a segregation of duties and avoiding  toxic combinations. These controls are designed to stop fraud and corruption. These ones seem to have failed. …

Nelsen & Others vs. Evans

Nelsen & Others vs. Evans

During the week, Judge Butcher delivered a disappointing ruling in Neslen & Others vs Evans. Diana Neslen and her co-plaintiffs were suing the Labour Party over their treatment under the disciplinary code. This is  reviewed at the Mirror, Morning Star by Ammar Kamzi, who has also posted a blog article, , and presented in judgement form at Bailli.

Most disappointing is the idea that the accused do not need to know the charge against them, merely the gist and that the Labour Party’s investigation policy can be secret. I have argued before that the absence of a policy to guide investigators was just deplorable, but the Judge seems to think it’s OK.  Apart from being against the Party’s values, this would all seem to be in contradiction of ECHR Article 6.

I might read the judgement and comment further. I’d be interested to know if C2.II.7, a member’s right to fair treatment was deployed.

I feel disappointed that I took my foot of the accelerator over the need to incorporate the ECHR into Labour’s Rules.

Some of us who had more hope in judicial review may need to think our strategies. …

Meals Ready to Eat. Not!

Meals Ready to Eat. Not!

Reuters reports on a meeting between food distribution industry representatives and DEFRA. Using the Army was only one idea expressed, and it’s an indicator of the com9ing food shortage crisis created by Priti Patel & Boris Johnson’s “controlled border” policy and Brexit. One of the massive labour shortages at the moment is HGV drivers, and we can’t get the food to the supermarkets, even if we can pick it from the fields. The problem is compounded by the relatively low wages paid these people . UK PLC is failing because its low wage economy cannot get people to work for it any more.

from team voyas, via unsplash

My evidence for the coming crisis is that. in Tesco’s yesterday, there was no cabbage. and the garlic came from China. (I have grown garlic in my garden in previous years, so there is a food miles carbon cost thing here too..) …

Labour hold!

Labour holds Batley & Spen. Was it good luck, or did something important and positive happen?

The first thing I want to say is that from the reports I have, Kim was an excellent candidate and the fact she was a local important. I am also told that she is good on the doorstep. I think this is important, more important than some would like, I got push back from voters in Lewisham East who didn’t want what they saw as carpet baggers standing.

If it was luck, it was luck the Party made, it seems that the election day ground operation was awesome showing Labour at its best when we pull together. Some make much of Shabana Mahmood’s appointment as national campaign chair, and with such a slim margin everything helps.

There was no Green Party candidate and the Lib Dem voted halved, but where did the 6,500 votes that went to the Heavy Woollen District Independents, a local successor to UKIP, go. It looks like not to Galloway, most of whose votes come from areas that have traditionally voted Labour and are represented by Labour Councillors on the Council and these areas have a relatively high numbers of Muslim voters. Mike Phipps, looks at the campaign and the role of the politics of the middle east and Kashmir on the election. But after this, and after the 6th May, where some softness in the Tory vote in the South was shown, and Chesham & Amersham, we can ask has Boris actually lost his mojo?

Some, it seems are rightly being expelled for supporting Galloway; I agree with this, every campaign he runs leads to bad politics and his result was disappointingly high. Galloway is no longer of the Left despite running as the Worker’s Party. Galloway is and was well funded, Novara Media reports he had 10 full timers and was ‘lent’ three office spaces. He has very publicly supported the Tories & Nigel Farage at the last General Election.

Galloway’s votes will have been shored up by the fact that the Labour leadership is leaden on the issues of islamophobia and peace and justice in the middle east and Galloway just pours petrol on this.  However, this was helped, by the official labour source who spoke to Dan Hodges in the Mail and accused Labour’s Muslim votes of going to Galloway because of Starmer’s line on anti-semitism in the Party. If this was a Labour Party member, they should be sanctioned under the rules, but there’s a high chance it was an MP.

Labour returning to the New Labour colours of purple, once used by UKIP left Galloway free to use Labour’s Red & Yellow colours. Is this a mistake? Some suggest that Ledbetter campaigned on local issues and this was a deliberate tactic to combat the anti-democracy of the populists. It doesn’t work for me.

It’s clear to me that the Labour Party is shit at negative campaigning. We’d best stop it.  The Boris/Modi leaflet was a crass mistake which will come to bite us in the arse in large parts of the country, just as putting a picture of Farage on the final leaflet in the Euro elections was a mistake.

What lessons should we learn from this?

Lesson No. 1, candidate quality counts! Al;though we are still trapped between running a good MP, or running a good campaigner; people that can do both are rare.

John Macdonnell has five lessons for Starmer: show some anger and some outrage, PMQ’s & Parliament are not enough, offer some hope and vision inc. a promise for a national care service, put climate change at top of the agenda, and make the Policy Review a real democratic exercise.  He also proposes concrete steps to unite the Party and end the war on the Left. Personally, I am not sure the pandemic is done and we need to talk about track and trace and financial support for isolation and decent sick pay. The Mirror also says, the result has bought Starmer time, but he needs to use it wisely.

Some of what I say is quite hopeful, there are lessons to learn, and if Johnson’s shtick has passed its sell by date, then this is good news but I will leave the last word to Phil BC, who is less optimistic who says,

It’s fair to say the leadership did everything wrong, and showed they’d learned nothing since Hartlepool and Chesham and Amersham. Kim might have been a personable candidate with bags of energy, but politically speaking she’s weak to the point of being homeopathic. So watered down were her responses to Israel/Palestine and pay rises for NHS workers that she’ll be right at home in Starmerism, which in its best moments affects to do nice things and at its worst pitches to the right of the Tories. And if Keir Starmer was unwilling to take lessons from elections lost, he’s not about to have an epiphany now Labour has won something.

Phil BC – averypublicsociologist.blogspot.com
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CLP rules, can one person hold more than one post?

CLP rules, can one person hold more than one post?

A number of CLPs are holding their AGMs and I have seen the following question asked, if it’s possible/permitted for one person to hold two positions. The rules are at best unclear but I have come to the conclusion that this should not be allowed.

Let’s do the easy stuff first, it is not permitted that one person holds more than one of the positions of Chair, Secretary & Treasurer as these hold separate responsibilities under the financial compliance policy and regulations.

I also assume its agreed that auditors may not hold a position on the EC. This is just basic.

Other than this, the relevant rules say, C7.VIII

  1. The officers of this CLP, the Executive Committee, and two auditors shall be elected at the annual general meeting of this CLP and shall continue in office until replaced or re-appointed.
  2. The Executive Officers of this CLP shall be; chair, vice-chair, vice-chair/ membership, secretary, treasurer, policy officer, women’s officer, BAME officer (where established), disability officer (where established), LGBT+ officer (where established), youth officer (where established), trade union liaison officer (where established, who shall be a member of a trade union in accordance with Chapter 2 Clause I.6.B above), political education officer (where established), communications and social media officer (where established). At least three of the first six officers listed above, as well as at least half of the total number of officers, must be women.

Also

  1. The Executive Committee shall consist of the Executive Officers, branch secretaries or other representatives elected by each branch and { } members upon such proportionate basis of the whole membership as this CLP may decide, subject to the approval of the NEC.

While 1 & 2 are not necessarily clear they set the clear expectation, through their use of grammar, that each officer is a separate person or a specific job share to be elected/approved at the AGM. The failure to permit people to hold two or more posts is also in my mind significant.

Permitting one person to stand and be elected to more than one office on the EC permits games, it allows factions to put, in the extreme case, one candidate for multiple positions and deny properly nominated people the opportunity to serve on the EC. The fact that such outrageous conclusions can occur means that it cannot be permitted or meant by the rule authors. The rules cannot mean that one person can hold six roles, and so cannot mean that they may hold two.

By the way, everyone agrees that even if permitted, someone holding two posts does not get two votes.

In some small CLPs, there may be problems filling a EC, and/or filling one while meeting the gender quota rules. In this case, I recommend that the EC office should be left vacant and the work done as a portfolio role or assigned to a co-ordinator.

Footnotes

  1. I interpret sub clause 6, as meaning that if Branch Secretaries are elected as CLP Officers, the Branch can replace their Secretary on the EC with another person. Others have a different view, that the Branch can choose if they have an EC Rep or send their Secretary.
  2. It seems most people, believe that the Branch Secretary elections are subject to a different gender quota and exclude them from the need to be part of the EC gender quotas as they are excluded from the gender quota requirement by C7.VIII.2.
  3. It should also be argued that the first vice chair cannot be held by the Chair since they have a duty of substitution for the Chair.

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