Trade Friction and free movement.

I co-authored this, published at Brexit Spotlight by Another Europe.

It is little wonder then that the Conservatives are under acute pressure to revise their trading arrangements with the EU in order to re-open access the European single market. But it seems likely that – at least for the time being – Brexit ideology will not allow any serious recognition of the economic reality.    …

Froth about the Swiss style deal with the EU

Froth about the Swiss style deal with the EU

The Times broke a story (£) on Sunday that the UK would start to seek to improve relations with the EU and seek a “Swiss style” deal with the EU. This has caused some bad reactions in the parliamentary Tory party and the detritus of the Leave campaigns, with even that political zombie, Nigel Farage, offered us his advice.

A number of so-called experts add their voices on the impracticality of a “Swiss” style deals for reasons  of the size of UK economy, the absolute lack of will by the EU to repeat the Swiss treaty model and, for some, the democratic deficit that single market membership without the right to appoint CJEU judges, MEPs, commissioners and having a seat (and veto) at the Council would entail.

Opinion both expert and popular is now of the view that the UK must rejoin the single market; even some previously silent Remainers are finding their voices.

The Government spooked by the reaction from some of their backbenchers and Brexit supporters are trying to calm the political seas. The fact is that the language of a Swiss style deal is an attempt to linguistically soften the blow to the Brexit project. The idea, based on some truth, that the Swiss have more say than the rest of the EEA countries on sovereign issues is something that the Tory advocates of the single market are seeking to persuade rump Brexiters as acceptable.

Any road to change will be via the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation agreement. We will have a single agreement, unlike the Swiss, which will be developed to include the customs union, single market and CJEU supervision of regulatory compliance.

Image Credit: from wikipedia, cropped and passed through an ‘inks’ filter originally by John Fielding CC 2012 BY-SA …

Will CoFoE make a difference?

I had hoped to have my views on the progressive nature of the CoFoE published elsewhere, but I doubt it’ll happen. I have put it out on this blog, as at the date I submitted it, 21 Sep 2022. It reflects the demand for better, more inclusive policies, on macro-economics, climate change, health and education.

The demand for more citizen’s assemblies seems to have been adopted, but the need for treaty revision is more controversial.  …

We want our star back

We want our star back

The Rejoin EU movement held a national march today, the Evening Standard reported that it was well attended by 15,000 people, and @femi_sorry who took a film of the march and posted it on twitter at 12 times speed, so not as large as others

I’d love to thank the interpretive dancers performing to ‘ode to joy’, the car and van drivers that supported us, and the one builder who told us to “fuck off”. …

Big changes after CoFoE

Big changes after CoFoE

The EU has the capability of placing a soporific blanket over much of its politics and also has a reputation for only reforming at the point of crisis. The last year has given it the opportunity to challenge both reputations. The EU held a citizen’s assembly driven Conference on the Future of Europe. (CoFoE). The idea was conceived by President Macron who in a 2019 speech called for this. It became an opportunity to try and raise the Union’s eyes above the trench warfare realpolitik of the EU.

The Conference’s genesis was complex, but impetus was given by the shenanigans played in the appointment/election of Von der Leyen as President of the Commission. The Parliament was unhappy at the way in which the spitzenkandidat process had been subverted. Von der Leyen, promised a mechanism by which it could be strengthened by promising to hold a conference in her statement for confirmation. The proposal rapidly came to include the use of citizen assemblies which it was hoped would enable innovative and orthogonal ideas to evolve. See also, my notes on my wiki.

The Conference was convened, it deliberated over 2021/2 and made its report to the final plenary held in April 2022. Important proposals were made on the topics of democracy, the rule of law, the EU in the world, and digitisation. The report also considered key economic and social issues in chapters on climate change, health, the economy and social justice, and education, all of which on first examination would involve an extension of EU competencies. These demands for a guarantee of a better life has come from the citizens’ panels and mirrors many of the demands made by the Chilean constitutional assembly.

Energy and Climate Change

On climate change, the conference proposes requiring safe, sustainable, and just production of food, while also requiring the same principles to be applied to energy supply.

The measures are obvious and effective. While they regrettably do not refer to the IPCC temperature change limitation goals, they adopt a series of progressive investment goals in renewable energy, while maintaining an absolute commitment to a just transition and the maintenance of social and human rights. Protecting biodiversity , the importance of public transport systems and internet connectivity were also mentioned as part of an anti-climate change programme.


On Health, the centre piece for progressives must be the proposal calling for a “right to health” by guaranteeing all Europeans have equal and universal access to affordable, preventive, curative and quality health care.

Making access free is not explicitly demanded but the proposal calls for treaty change to allow the EU and its member states to offer a pan-European personal and public health service to its citizens and residents.

Economics and social justice

The chapter,   “A stronger economy, social justice and jobs”, calls, for the need to subordinate the macro-economic goals of the European Semester to the European Green Deal, digital transition and social justice & progress goals. It explicitly calls, in the context of the single market, the importance, if not the primacy, of the need to conform to “Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality, and … not [to] undermine the protection of human, social and workers’ rights [ and] environmental and consumer protection standards.” It also calls for the EU’s macro-economic policy framework to take on board full-employment, sustainability, and minimum income goals.

On Tax, the report focuses on anti-tax avoidance measures, QMV for council decisions on tax, and anti-tax haven measures. The report is particularly excised by corporate tax avoidance through transfer pricing and international profit repatriation.

The one downside is where the report talks about responsible fiscal policies at the member state level, which is usually code for austerity and suggests that on the debate between QMT & Keynesianism, this part of the report is agnostic at best and remains in favour of tight money at worst.


On education, the report demands the immediate establishment of an inclusive “Education Area” which provides equal access to quality education and life long learning. They propose mutual recognition of professional degrees and a common validation scheme. They make practical proposals  that would give effect to this while recognising the need to accept national, regional and local variances. They also propose using the cohesion fund to combat brain drain and/or youth exodus.

The Education chapter also includes proposals on youth, culture and exchanges, and sport. They propose permitting votes at 16, promoting exchanges beyond Erasmus+.

What next?

The European Parliament has issued a call for a convention to amend the Treaties to consider all the changes while the Council in July postponed its reply to the Parliament’s request. Some of these proposals would seem to require treaty change, others maybe not; the EU always seems to find a way to change itself when circumstances need.

This article highlights the progressive demands of the Conference, on Health, Climate Change, Social & Economic Justice and Education. It is a social democratic manifesto addressing the demands of the less well-off and marginalised. It’s the opportunity for a renewal of the social pillar which progressives should grasp with both hands, this time in alliance with the voters of otherwise conservative governments.

Last week in her State of the Union speech, Von Der Leyen committed to a call for a Convention on the treaties, prioritising an inter-generational contract, to leave the world better than we find it for our children but also to make the accession of new countries simpler and to ease decision making.  She welcomed the Conference outcome.Whether a convention is called, and whether all items will be on the table is now in the hands of the European Council.

I had hoped to get this published elsewhere, but it seems not, I have backdated it to the date I submitted it to what I considered my best hope.  …

Will CoFoE’s democracy come to be?

Will CoFoE’s democracy come to be?

At the CTOE plenary meeting we discussed Von der Leyen’s state of the Union address, we are/were most focussed on what she said as a result of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

We noted that she concluded the speech with a call for a convention on the treaties, prioritising an inter-generational contract, to leave the world better than we find it for our children but also to make the accession of new countries easier and to ease decision making.  She also welcomed the Conference out come and promised that citizen’s panels, “will now become a regular feature of our democratic life.”.

It was reported that there was little coverage of the commitment to reform in the speech in Germany. It was also reported that at the moment there are 17 member states opposed to a convention including the current presidency, the Czech republic, and its successor, Sweden. However circumstances change, and there is significant interest in the larger member states in specific reforms most obviously reform of the veto and possibly the extension of competencies, with defence, migration and energy markers being the obvious candidates, as a result of the war in Ukraine.

I am of the view that the Conference report opened a number of gates to a massive progressive improvement of the social and economic well being of the citizens of the European Union and Von der Leyen has in particular picked up on Migration policy as an area where it can do better, building a system based on dignity and respect. She also promises to incorporate citizens’ panels into the democratic fabric of the EU.

The CTOE agreed to continue to campaign for a convention, with the whole report of the Conference being on the table, and to continue to push for reform of the veto, and the implementation of transnational lists, which requires Council acquiescence. …

Labour and the EU

Labour and the EU

I have written an emergency motion for Labour Party Conference, I have ’till noon on Thursday to get it submitted, so better get a move on, unfortunately doing this from a CLP is a bit tricky . I need to check if it’s on the Agenda but that’s a bit tricky, I am not sure they have published all the motions to hoi-polloi like me yet.

Conference notes the announcement by Liz Truss on 19th September that there will be no post Brexit trade deal with the USA, and that the Govt is once again postponing (16th Sept) the imposition of the agreed customs checks between Great Britain and Northern a bit tricky, made worse by the direction not fo

Conference further notes that the Tory ‘Hard Brexit’ has led to reduced foreign inward investment, a worsening balance of trade deficit, reduced employment, a labour shortage in many industries, most obviously in agriculture, hospitality and in the NHS,  jobs are being offshored to western Europe and sterling is at its worse exchange rate ever with both the dollar and the euro. The labour shortages are compounded by the xenophobia released by the referendum and the Tory’s “hostile environment”.  

Conference believes that these negative economic consequences of Tory policy are significant contributors to the cost of living crisis.

Conference believes that to start reversing the damage inflicted by the Tory ‘Hard Brexit’ Britain needs to significantly reduce the trade frictions it has imposed on its imports of goods, services and labour from its biggest trading partner, the EU.

Conference resolves that Labour will call for a closer relationship with the EU in order to alleviate the trade frictions the Tories have introduced, that we will seek to rejoin Horizon Europe and Erasmus+, and that we will repeal the cruel and intrusive hostile environment. …

Subsidiarity, representation and human rights

Subsidiarity, representation and human rights

Despite the picture above, this is a short piece of comparative politics, comparing the US Constitution with that of the EU, taking in some lessons from the UK. I have just watched The Original Intent of the [US] Constitution by Prof. Mark Stoler. This taught me some things and this essay reviews these points and looks at lessons for the UK, the EU and the rest of the world.

I look at the “Separation of Powers” vs “Parliamentary Sovereignty”, note that checks and balances are designed to protect the [untitled] aristocracy against the mob, that without the Bill of Rights, the US Constitution may well not have been agreed. I note the desirability of a basic law, with the ability to amend, but not as flexibly as is the case in the UK. I look at constitutional inflexibility in the residual construction of the US Senate and the EU veto. I look at the need for federal taxation powers. I have concluded that parliaments need a freedom of action, and the freedom to negotiate between party programmes. The paradox is that they need to be constrained which is why we need human rights law.

The lecture to me reinforces the need for a subsidiarity guarantee within a constitution, including taxation powers, and a human rights guarantee, remembering that human right law is designed to protect you from the Government. Vetoes are a topic for another day, although much of the failings in the US Constitution can be placed at the door of single seat constituencies, including the Presidency, elected by simple plurality, or indirectly in the case of the Presidency. I say more overleaf ….

Back to the single market?

Back to the single market?

I have been published on Brexit Spotlight. The article reviews the macro economic reporting and increasingly obvious failure of Brexit, it critiques the Labour Party leadership’s recent response reported at least by me in these two blog articles, Sensibleness Postponed, and my take on Lammy’s speech a week earlier , looks at other political forces within and outside the Labour Party. It highlights the Redfield Wilton opinion polling showing growing support for the single market and rejoining the EU and ends with a warning, that Labour “is terrified of setting out a principled case that seeks to lead, not follow, the electorate. Ironically, he i.e. Starmer risks losing Labour voters – especially young and working-age voters – with this strategy”. …

The Single Market

The Single Market

In the middle of the week, one Tory MP wrote in a House of Commons magazine. He catalogued the decline in trade,  GDP and inward investment. He does not mention the traffic queues in Kent or in European airports. On exports he said,

the fishers who can no longer sell their Scottish salmon, to the farmers undercut by unchecked imports, to Cheshire cheesemakers running into £180 health certificates, even to the City which can no longer sell financial services to Europe, sector after sector is being strangled by the red tape we were supposed to escape from.

Tobias Ellwood MP, Politics Home, The House

He concludes that,

In a nutshell, all these challenges would disappear if we dare to advance our Brexit model by re-joining the EU single market (the Norway model). …

Any model will have benefits and drawbacks. The single market means the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. It would see £7bn of paperwork and checks go, and boost our economy by restoring free trade to sectors demanding change. 

Tobias Ellwood MP, Politics Home, The House

What’s fascinating and brave is that this is a Tory MP!. He makes the obvious point that it’s still outside the EU and needn’t be seen as abandoning Brexit, but many in the parliamentary Tory party disagree. It has attracted the usual idiocy from Lord Frost whose response in a non-linked three tweet thread 🤦 is best seen in this article at the London Economic. It’s as light weight as everything else he does.

He’s right we should re-join the single market, and I think that support for this is growing.

The question I ask is where is Labour on this.