Two days ago, David Lammy, Labour’s Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs made a speech (mirrored) to a seminar hosted by “UK in a changing Europe”, in which he makes a searing attack on Johnson’s Govt, highlighting the myopia of the defence white papers, and the sectarianism of their approach towards Northern Ireland, and towards the EU. He concludes by stating that Brexit is over, we’re out but that a Labour Government will seek to improve the terms of the Trade & Co-operation agreement, albeit without renegotiating the deal, and without rejoining either the customs union or the single market.

Duncan R2, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – Different times

This is disappointing for those of us who never wanted to leave and campaigned with Labour to remain; when will this mandate of the referendum die? When the Labour leadership says, “Not in 50 years”, it is not speaking for me!

In his speech, Lammy says,

The question the country faces is no longer leave or remain. We have already left. The questions people are asking are: How do I pay the bills? How do I put food on the table? How will afford my heating this winter? How do I get an appointment with a GP? What jobs and opportunities are there for my children? And how do we keep our country safe? Only Labour wants to leave behind the binaries of the past.

… the issues that have divided us for half a decade have been settled,

David Lammy MP at UK in a changing Europe

I say, “No they haven’t!”

Corbyn tried this, and Labour’s anti-Corbyn Remainer plotters and Labour’s true Remainer ideologues and voters told him to fuck off; if this comes from Keir and his focus group[1] driven kitchen cabinet. Kier can go there too! This is too important an issue to be a factional issue in my mind.

Brexit has led to a reduction in trade, both imports and exports, failing businesses, a falling currency, a labour shortage, weaker growth, a reduced foreign inward investment flow, the impact of the last compounded by falling domestic investment and the withdrawal of the EU’s cohesion fund expenditure not being replaced by the Govt’s levelling up promises. Brexit also threatens the Union in both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Lammy addresses the issues of Northern Ireland, and states the Protocol Bill introduced to the House of Commons breaks international law. He then lists a series of failings of the policy and the Bill and concludes,

It’s not even enough to get the DUP to commit to return to Stormont. The only people this Bill satisfies are the ERG.

It’s an interesting and devastatingly accurate criticism.

When he lists proposals on trade friction, he only focuses on Great Britain and Northern Ireland, there seems little interest in addressing the problems that being outside the single market/customs union causes in Kent, or on the east coast and in Scotland, or even in Wales as Eire/Europe trade is diverted to avoid the UK

He proposes free movement for creatives and professional services workers; there is no recognition of the Labour shortages in the UK economy, nor that the UK’s ‘flexible’ immigration policy has a requirement that immigrants can economically support themselves, with a job earning more than £25,600 [2]. This limit means we cannot recruit large numbers of worker roles from abroad, both white and blue collar, most obviously agricultural workers and even teachers.

For some reason they’re frightened of free movement, presumably electoral politics, but immigration numbers are not declining and won’t because the work needs to be done and the taxes paid. Lammy and Labour’s proposals are a freedom of movement for the rich, and says nothing about the right to learn and live across the continent.  Anyone studying Starmer’s track record in the topic knows it comes from him and McSweeny’s focus groups.

He talks about ‘Adequacy’ and ‘Equivalence’. There is little doubt that the Tories plans for weakening the GDPR and monetizing personal data, the extension of state surveillance and their attacks on the independence of the ICO will jeopardise the UK’s ‘Adequacy’ ruling which is becoming more valuable as the CJEU reviews standard clauses and binding corporate commitments against the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Adequacy is important for small business who want to operate without a compliance department. With Adequacy, businesses can trade with the EU and with EU citizens, if we lose it then it becomes more difficulty, although at the moment we have an Adequacy ruling, which we can expect to last until 2024.

Lammy argues that adequacy is crucial for our digital services companies. What digital services companies?  There are now no UK quoted large music companies, the top three of the top four are quoted in the ‘States, while Universal is quoted in the Netherlands and let’s not talk about movies.  For the UK digital services exports, we are talking about people, which brings us back to freedom of movement and the same is true for movies.  Obviously, BT & Vodafone and the BBC are important players here, but the BBC monetises its content through other digital services companies, such as Netflix and Sky[3] and is constrained by law from streaming its own content outside the UK.

Financial Services equivalence should not be a partisan issue; financial services regulation is global and is managed by the G7 and Bank of International Settlements. The change in market share over the last two years is due to the Eurozone requiring that Euro trades occur on EU/member state regulated exchanges.

These items seem to be tick boxes to prove modernity.

I have been campaigning for five demands to ease the problems of the Brexit treaties, and while Lammy and I agree on a creative’s visa, reentry to Horizon and negotiation with the EU over GB/NI trade, he avoids Erasmus and reciprocal voting rights for the 1m Brits living in the EU. Erasmus is and was an important way in which UK academe recruited talent and exercised soft power. Leaving was ideologically driven and designed to increase xenophobia. Again, Labour and the UK could do better. My demands are 5½ months old; I think the modus of acceptable demands has moved since then and that talking about the single market is both acceptable and justified. Those who oppose the single market due to freedom of movement need to answer the question as to how we pick [4] our domestic fruit and veg which is rotting in the fields.

The last issue I want to pick up on is security and defence. I agree that the Tories have since 2010 been dreadful on defence, firstly gutting the budget and then publishing a white paper that ‘turns to the East’ leaving us with a military unprepared for the Ukraine War and Russia’s aggression. There is no question the UK can only defend itself with allies and that NATO is all there is. However, its defenders must recognised that NATO has over the last 30 years looked outside Europe and spent much of its effort and mindshare on ‘out of theatre’ operations which have stretched the popular consent it holds in a number of European countries. I am also of the view that the UK is not, as Lammy said, the largest European military power. France is! France spends more and has more of most assets and more people. It’s just more vainglorious bullshit, echoing Johnson and the Tory’s party’s mantra that defence is only safe in the Tories hands. It also ignores the fact that the EU treaties have a mutual defence clause, that the US under both Trump and Biden have proved unreliable and Germany is probably on the way to rearming. We need allies and we need France & Germany, The future may be more than NATO.

I am disappointed at the cowardice shown by the Labour Front Bench, but not particularly surprised. Starmer has shown himself to be more accepting of Brexit than Corbyn, who it seems, at least remembered that the policy was to accept the referendum but only if the terms were acceptable. Starmer’s Labour voted for the final deal and are not challenging the Brexiters, even as their fantasy crumbles around them.

Finally I am reminded of a prediction made in of all places the International Socialist Journal, on 2nd Jan 2019 where a dissident author, Wayne Asher, argued for a remain position opposing the more popular, in those circles, Lexit position. He argued that the Brexit vote within the working class was not progressive.  He finished his article,

Imagine a worse case situation in the spring, a chaotic Brexit has led to queues on the M20, factory layoffs, food shortages and high inflation after a currency collapse. We will be forced to tell workers that all this is very dreadful and should be fought, but, ahem…we actually supported Brexit. It won’t wash.

Wayne Asher – ISJ Jan 2019

It looks as if the right of the Labour Party have not read this and are still playing triangulation within the Overton window. There is an uber-Remainer vote to win, it’s young, it works and is often not white. The policy goals are insufficient and they are chasing the wrong votes.


Here’s the speech,


[1] Focus groups should test messaging not policies.

[2] This is more than double the pension and four times universal credit. Why are the benefits so low?

[3] That would explain the massive interest by politicians. We should note that creative industries have historically been net importers.

[4] This business sector needs serious improvements in employment protection laws covering zero hour contracts, sick pay and tied accommodation.

Lammy on the EU/FTC
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