Shenanigans at London Labour 2021

Shenanigans at London Labour 2021

At London Labour Conference, the staff used a number of tricks to ‘control’ the zoom meeting. They closed the meeting early having failed to silence Katheryn Johnson, the outgoing Chair of the CAC and they also excluded Craig for asking questions about expulsions and the Forde Enquiry and there are rumours that they chucked out some delegates for ‘inappropriate’ background images by which I mean ones with the slogans ‘reinstate Jeremy Corbyn’ and “where’s the Forde Inquiry”. I am also concerned that not all people present in the meeting were validly nominated delegates and know that we were one delegate short as they had made a mistake, again, in calculating our delegate entitlement. During the first day, the Chair, failed to ask the mover of our motion to speak in summing up, and then proposed to move to the card vote. I was concerned that this would stand and tried to move a point of order; this was not possible. This is not the first time that London Region have used control of the meeting to ensure that meetings avoid taking decisions they don’t want taken. The rest of this blog looks at four of Labour’s Rules which have probably been broken.

Rule C9B.IV.9 Procedure at Regional Conference shall as far as practicable be informed by the Standing Orders agreed at the last session of Annual Conference.

The standing orders agreed at the last session of Annual Conference are in Chapter 17 and so the following two rules apply.

Rule C17 I.2.N.i Any breach of or question to the rules or standing orders may be raised by a member rising to a point of order.

It was not possible to raise points of order.

Rule C17.I.2.O.ii Any member acting in an unruly or disruptive manner, in contravention of the standing orders, may be removed from the meeting by action of the chair. The chair shall put such a motion to the meeting, which to be carried shall require the support of two-thirds of those present and voting.

People were excluded other than via this procedure.

C2.II.8 Members have the right to dignity and respect, and to be treated fairly by the Labour Party. Party officers at every level shall exercise their powers in good faith and use their best endeavours to ensure procedural fairness for members. …

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 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 ....

Wiggle room on human rights law

Wiggle room on human rights law

I made a linkedin blog on the ECtHR’s margin of appreciation. I was reading up on the UK’s post Brexit data sharing arrangements with the EU, and under the terms of the GDPR. I was diverted by the ECHR’s doctrine of a “margin of appreciation”.

Broadly speaking it refers to the room for manoeuvre the Strasbourg institutions are prepared to accord national authorities in fulfilling their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Steven Greer Reader in Law, University of Bristol,United Kingdom

Human Rights law is designed to constrain governments but will always require interpretation. The doctrine means that the rights of interpretation are shared between the ECtHR and the signatory states, who themselves will divide this between their courts and executive branch.  

This seems sensible, as I observed, when the British courts were busy interfering with the CPSA in the ‘80’s and undermines the argument of foreign interference because where there is a benefit of doubt, the ECtHR can allow the otherwise infringing government that benefit.

With respect to the cross border transfer regulation, this might make it easier to comply with the law, but there are several outstanding problems. With respect to international data sharing, the most relevant to the doctrine of appreciation and this article is that, the UK is now an ex-member-state and while the Commission argues this means that the UK’s data protection regime is suitable, the fact it is now a 3rd country means that the UK has less legal privileges to exercise its “margin of appreciation” as the powers granted to member states to vary/diminish the protections in Article 23, no longer apply. This was observed and commented on by the House of Lords Select Committee report on Brexit in 2017. See also,

I was reading this article, which makes it much clearer, that the ECtHR looks to defer to national institutions, where it can,

According to the classical position of the ECtHR State authorities “are in principle in a better position than the international judge to give an opinion” on the “necessity” and “proportionality” of a derogation or restriction authorized by human rights law. As a consequence, international courts “should grant national authorities an important degree of deference and respect their discretion” with regard to the implementation of exceptions. Thus, without precluding judicial review of a State’s action in this field, the doctrine intends to “limit the scope of this review” and to impose some degree of judicial self-restraint where an assessment of the attitude of national authorities is concerned.

Theodre Christakis

 …

Without Track & Trace, it’s just herd immunity

Without Track & Trace, it’s just herd immunity

Today should have been either Freedom Day or a more mundane, lifting of all lockdown restrictions. It isn’t. It’s been postponed by four weeks. I remain uncomfortable about the Govt’s (and Labour’s) approach and its sole reliance on vaccines. I came across a tweet today from Deepti Gurdasani , who has taken up the issue of pandemic response and, in my mind, talks about the fact that the Govt. are still pursuing a herd immunity strategy and the the failure and loss of trust in track and trace is a critical weakness in the UK response. She also pointed me at the serious escalating evidence of the crippling damage of “long covid”. and at the John Snow Memo.

It seems to be about 1 year old, and says, among other things,

In the absence of adequate provisions to manage the pandemic and its societal impacts, these countries have faced continuing restrictions. This has understandably led to widespread demoralisation and diminishing trust. …

Any pandemic management strategy relying upon immunity from natural infections for COVID-19 is flawed. … Furthermore, there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following natural infection and the endemic transmission that would be the consequence of waning immunity would present a risk to vulnerable populations for the indefinite future. …

Effective measures that suppress and control transmission need to be implemented widely, and they must be supported by financial and social programmes that encourage community responses and address the inequities that have been amplified by the pandemic.

The John Snow Memo

We, i.e. the UK, need an effective and trusted track and trace, which we don’t have, thanks to Hancock and Harding. Without it, we are just using sticking plaster to mend a broken leg! …

Crisis in the hospitality business

Crisis in the hospitality business

While it seems people are desperate to get back to the pub, the staff don’t seem so keen. Across the country, pubs and restaurants are having difficulty in recruiting staff. Here’s the BBC, here’s the FT and again, here’s the Manchester Evening News. Even Tim Martin, the arch Brexiteer Weatherspoons boss is complaining. This is another lesson to us about how our economy is out of kilter, essential work is not well paid!

While much of the reporting suggests a desire for a better life work balance, I wonder how much Brexit and the end of Freedom of Movement has to do with this.  …

Free Palestine

There was a demonstration in London over the weekend in solidarity with Palestine and Palestinians. Eye witnesses tell me it was very large, some report it as 100,000. This is as a result of the resuming war in the Middle East, the siege of Gaza, continued oppression of the West Bank Palestinians and also of their ecumenical and secular supporters within Israel. I wasn’t there, perhaps I should have been.

António Guterres spoke to the security council last week, this reported by the UN whose press release includes the following,

… the past week has seen the deadliest escalation between Israeli military forces and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza in seven years, as well as dramatic scenes of violence across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, there have been protests and clashes over the threat of Palestinian evictions by settler organizations. Meanwhile, in the Old City, including in the Holy Esplanade, violent clashes have unfolded between Palestinians and Israeli civilians and police. Police deployed a heavy presence in the area in the context of large numbers of visitors for Ramadan prayers, protests and Israeli extremist demonstrations, leading to clashes.

Tor Wennesland,UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process
 …