Fix the Tory Brexit, I don’t think so!

Fix the Tory Brexit, I don’t think so!

Up until now, the Labour Front bench has been promising to “Fix the Tory Brexit”, a statement echoed by Rachel Reeves in her speech to Conference, but the plaster seems to be cracking. David Lammy, in an interview with the BBC suggested that getting it right will involve renegotiating Boris’s deals, a move from Starmer’s position in January. Why this is controversial, I have no idea, if Labour don’t get their first, the Tories will. I should add that there is a growing support for rejoining the Customs Union and Single Market as solutions to the Northern Irish problems and the UK wide shortages and inflation. …

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. …

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..) …

A better Brexit?

Another Europe (AEIP) have issued a pamphlet, called “The fundamental problems in the UK-EU trade deal and how it can be reformed”, it’s release is announced on the AEIP blog and commented on in the Guardian, Labour group urges Keir Starmer to back better Brexit deal

Luke, its author has started a thread on twitter which I have unrolled here. Central is the argument that the negotiated sovereignty is bogus and that it would be more efficient even in liberal terms to synchronise some laws and regulation. It catalogues what it sees as the weaknesses of the agreement and the demands are summarised as,

  • Harmonisation with EU standards, with a no-downgrading principle written into future deals
  • A review and weeding out of regulatory duplication
  • Re-joining EU programmes on the basis of common interest e.g. Erasmus and Erasmus+
  • A mutual rights agreement for UK and EU citizens to reinstate free movement rights
  • Promoting a democratic economy, with state investment and industrial strategy sitting alongside strong protections against cronyism
  • The creation of a forum in which to cooperate on human security and foreign policy

I am disappointed that he doesn’t talk about the customs union, as this is key remedying the collapse of the SME import/export industry and part of the threat to the Good Friday Agreement.

I am also disappointed that he doesn’t talk about Parliament and while I understand why, I think it’s a mistake, but I am equally disappointed with the apolitical nature of UK trade and business commiussion and the support it has won in the PLP. Its a lack of a political defence of the EU and its internationalist future that has led to us being where we are today.  …

Cowardice

Cowardice

Just a quick note, a comment on ‘desperate from Hartlepool’, and a longer comment from the Irish Times on Britain, the EU, and the creation of compulsive narratives.

Starmer’s rejection of rejoining, is a slap in the face for those members and voters who want to do so, and that number is growing. Starmer’s strategy would seem to be based on that of an Ostrich and following Corbyn’s, “what unites Hull and Hackney is social justice, we shall not be divided by Brexit” whcih worked so well. This issue cannot be avoided and the post brexit trade deal is poor. It’s killing SME importers and exporters and is exacerbating tensions in Northern Ireland and fuelling racism in Britian. Starmer’s positioning reminds me of some of the games I have played where one positions your party according to one metric, usually tax to ‘win’ the game; it’s also a return to focus group led policy making.

You can’t make Brexit work without engaging with the failings of the current situation and policy. In my mind this requires reentry to the customs union and single market.

The Irish Times article is a damning indictment of Labour’s silence in the knowledge that, that silence concedes space to poor policy and xenophobia and its hard to turn an oil tanker round, once the big lie is established, its opponents will always be on the backfoot.

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay …

Let’s see the Brexit deal risk assessment

Let’s see the Brexit deal risk assessment

While thinking about how to make waves around the Tories Brexshite mess, I have come to the conclusion that the fact they’ve turned off parliamentary scrutiny is a big problem; we have no effective politicians to engage with. They are also treating us to mushroom therapy by withholding the impact analysis on the future relationship treaty. It’s clear that small businesses are having difficulty exporting, jobs in finance and distribution are moving to continental Europe, there are stirrings of border fetishism rising in Northern Ireland and the settled status programme will lead to massive hardship although in the latter case it’s as much be design as by accident. Let’s see the Impact Assessment, we’ve paid for it.

 …

The EU, too early to ask to rejoin?

The EU, too early to ask to rejoin?

I am standing for anothereurope’s national committee, the poll closes tonight, if you’ve not voted, please do so and put me first, I explain why in another article on this blog and in this article I look at rejoining. I had thought “rejoining the EU” to be off the table for years but the post Brexit trade deal is turning to shit even more quickly than I expected. Again, I over-estimate the Tories; if I was planning to fuck up the economy, and betray noisy element of my electoral coalition, I’d have sort have planned to do it over a period of time, inspired by the instruction manual of how to boil a frog, hoping they wouldn’t notice. But no, within days, it’s clear that the threats identified by ‘Project Fear’ are well founded. I believe that we should rejoin, but there are two problems, one the Tories and secondly, there will need to be unanimity amongst the member states and many of them will be fed up with our behaviour over not only the last 11 months but in much of the time leading up to our 2016 vote. We will need to show that we’ll be better Europeans and probably show it for a sustained period. It will take time; in order to mitigate the damage being done to the economy now, I think we’ll have to pursue a stealth mission to re-join the single market either via a swiss route, of a bilateral agreement, by developing the future relationship agreement. This will be hard with this current Government and Parliament, partly because of its hard on for ‘controlling our borders’. The full article says more, with hyperlinks on the economics and on the paths to rejoining, ...