Three steps back from Brexit

Three steps back from Brexit

I have been away and missed and thus not commented on three small steps made to improve the co-operation and relationship between the UK and the European Union. The areas of policy are science and research, settlement rights for EU citizens in the UK and relationship with Frontex.

The first is that the government finally signed up to Horizon Europe, the European Union’s R&D programme; this will be of advantage to scientists and private sector researchers but also everyone as the research has a multiplier effect and for some, investment in human capital is the most effective investment for stimulating GDP growth.

The government have also announced the automatic extension of pre-settled status to allow those that have not applied for conversion to settled status, the time to do so. It seems that the judicial arguments between the Independent Monitoring Authority and the government seem to have been settled, but there may have been more in the pipeline. Any failure to treat those entitled to remain in the UK often having been born here, and or, lived here for decades would be an illegal act. This would include applying the hostile environment to them and charging them the NHS surcharge. No doubt, whatever the motives, this is a good thing.

The government is in negotiation with the EU to improve its relationship with Frontex, the troubled EU border agency. Even if only about intelligence sharing, this is a step in the right direction away from the hard Brexit that the Tories negotiated which led to the UK being excluded from Frontex and interpol because the member states don;t want to share information with nations that don;t accept the Charter of Fundamental Rights. And as the Guardian comments, it is Sunak’s third agreement with the EU. It’ll be interesting to see how far this one goes as the critical issues are not on intelligence sharing, although I am sure the UK will find it useful, but in order to get agreement from the EU to take illegal entrants back, we’ll have to agree to accept those that have the right to enter. It would be an act of solidarity with the government and people of Greece and Italy to accept some of their migrants. Kier Starmer seems to be struggling at where to draw the line. The FT (pay or id walled) covers this well and better than most, reporting on Starmer’s position, adding a longer piece by George Parker in London, William Wallis in Lewes, Andy Bounds in Brussels and Laura Dubois in Strasbourg on the dangers of a Tory counter attack; Starmer’s words are also reported in the Times and Star. Labour’s language has not moved on from pandering to the view that immigration is bad. I repeat my posed dilemma, we need workers, skilled and unskilled, we should want students, and we have a duty to accept refugees; who do we seek to stop. While if even the Tories are looking to work with the EU and Frontex, solving the problem with decency and justice will take a lot more. …

Brexit & modern supply side economics

Brexit & modern supply side economics

I have just read Jonathn Portes’ review of Peter Foster’s book “What Went Wrong With Brexit?”. Foster was a remainer, despite following in the footsteps of Boris Johnson as the Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent. Portes looks at the economic damage, the under investment in human capital and the continued timidity of our politicians. In this review, I [hope I] add to the debate by looking at long term goals and short term modern supply side programmes, most importantly in my mind, rejoining Horizon Europe.

There’s a couple of things in the article which interest me. Portes in the subtitle ensures that we understand the damage that Cameron and Osborne ‘s austerity has done to the UK economy. A critical conclusion from this article is that the problems in the British economy are endemic, predate the Brexit vote but are made worse by the increased bureaucracy in conducting foreign trade, and the miserly modern supply side policies of this Tory government. The Portes’ review concludes with a look at Foster’s proposals on making things better. Portes suggests that the realistic choice, because of our political leader’s timidity is between minimal change to the future trade and cooperation agreement or rejoining the single market. Portes suggests that the minimal change suggestions i.e. fixing Brexit will not be as easy to achieve as its proponents hope.

Portes and Foster shred the argument that leaving the single market will reduce bureaucracy and red tape. We can see by the 5th delay to introduce full customs checks on the UK/EU sea border that  these checks are hard and expensive to implement and that the EU’s imposition of the checks and paper work inhibits EU companies exporting to the UK.  

The review, segues to macro-; a critical passage in the review states,

… this perhaps reflects a wider failing. While there are occasional references to the political and economic backdrop against which the referendum took place, it’s hard not to come away with the impression that Foster, like many broadly centrist remainers, thinks that the UK was on the right track until Brexit came along to upend both our politics and our economy. But the UK’s productivity slowdown began around the time of the global financial crisis, while other longstanding and interrelated structural issues – inequality, housing and skills – long predate this.

Portes also argues that the Cameron/Osborne initiated austerity economics has made the UK’s structural problems worse. With the exception of the Truss administration, the austerity ideology has driven the Tory government’s macroeconomics since 2010. But now, due to Brexit, we are now in a position where the balance of trade and foreign exchange rates are worsening, foreign investment is declining, there are labour shortages, and we remain the only major economy to have a GDP lower than its pre-pandemic peak.

The Government looks to compound this by reducing the number of university places, by restricting immigration, and by continuing to exclude the UK from Horizon Europe. This last aspect of government policy, I find both bizarre and another aspect of the self-harm that austerity and Brexit have caused. It is curious that Sunak permits this policy to stand, given that he is a fan of Paul Romer’s work on investment & innovation. Romer argues that growth is driven by investment in Human Capital. Re-joining Horizon Europe, the EU’s R&D funding programme, is on the table, since much of our problems are because of low skills and low investment, we should grab this opportunity with both hands. Each year we are excluded exacerbates the damage to our research, innovation, and productivity.

Portes looks at Foster’s proposals for change. He suggests that centralist remainers/rejoiners ambition is limited to either fixing Brexit or rejoining the single market. Most seem to compromise around Starmer’s Labour’s proposal to fix Brexit. Portes suggests this will not be as easy as its proponents hope.

As I have said, as have others, why would the EU amend the Future Trade & Cooperation agreement exclusively to the advantage of the United Kingdom, specifically the proposals to ease immigration controls within the European Union to allow musicians and other creative artists to tour the European Union and to allow professional services consultants to work in the EU seems highly ambitious without some form of sectoral reciprocation and the EU’s start position will be freedom of movement for all labour. As Portes puts it,

He [Foster] outlines a long list of technical changes where, with both determination and goodwill, the UK could make modest but meaningful improvements to the current Trade and Cooperation Agreement, although he perhaps underplays how hard it will be to persuade our European counterparts to engage seriously with this agenda.

It maybe the only way to fix Brexit, is to take the terms we are offered by the EU, and an indivisible single market is part of that. If that’s on offer, we should take it. …

Science & Brexit

Science & Brexit

I wrote something more on immigration and Horizon, based on the report that the UK has had three applications for its super highly skilled visa scheme. I argue that the focus on prize winners is foolish, we need the next generation of prize winners, and that being out of Horizon Europe makes UK based innovators less attractive collaborators. I make a cheap crack about how this shows the emptiness of Sunak’s ambition to be a science super power. The article is on Linkedin and Medium, entitled, “Science, the UK and Horizon Europe, again”. It was followed up in the Independent.  …

Immigration and Solidarity at GMB23

Immigration and Solidarity at GMB23

I was privileged to move M178 Immigration and Solidarity, which it would seem the video engineers did not record; they only turned it on in time to capture the second half of Lara Johnson’s excellent speech on M182 so they missed my & Joe’s speeches moving M178. I have posted the words of the two motions below/overleaf.

Our branch motion was designed to ensure that the Union and the Labour Party stood for an immigration policy based on decency and compassion, which are Starmer’s words from his ten leadership pledges an applied to all those seeking to come here, whether for work, to make a home or because they were fleeing war or political persecution.

I had been inspired by one of the fringe meetings, about Migrant’s Rights; a central piece of my speech in which I address part of the qualification, was,

If I had attended yesterday’s London Region Fringe, “Rights for all, organising and supporting migrant workers” before writing this motion, I would have focused less on the economics and more on the people but one of the purposes of the motion was to challenge the canard that migrants are an economic burden. It wasn’t true in 2016, and it isn’t true today. …

It is the view of the movers of this motion that the current immigration system which ties workers to jobs inhibits their ability to join unions and fight for their rights. Again the stories of the corruption and cruelty shared yesterday in the Organising Migrants session are an illustration of the truth of this.  Low wages aren’t caused by migrants they are the result of weak unions and poor enforcement of minimum wage and health and safety laws.

The video link above, has Dean Gilligan of the CEC presenting the CEC Qualification.

Both motions were carried with qualification.

See below for the words of our motion and full notes of the speech I made. I have also posted the words of M182, Support and solidarity with Migrant Workers. … …

The GMB and the single market

The GMB and the single market

The GMB voted to rejoin the EU’s customs union and align with the single market yesterday. The text of the motion is below/overleaf as are the notes I used to make the speech. The debate is posted on youtube, I was supported by Joe Dharampal-Hornby. In the GMB, the Central Executive Council has the right to make amendments to all motions, these are called qualifications. The regional delegation, the moving entity,  have the option to accept the qualification or have the motion opposed by the CEC. I have reproduced the qualification below. We took the view that the qualifying comments on migrants and wages are an observation not a negation of the need to re-establish the reciprocal right to find and perform work throughout the EU. The debate followed the General Secretary, Gary Smith’s interview in the Observer. …

Labour and pandering to racism

Labour and pandering to racism

I was published, last week, at Another Europe’s Brexit Watch site with the subtitle, “Labour is lurching to the right on immigration”. What follows below/overleaf mirrors that article, with the deadlines for the National Policy Forum interventions removed, because by the time I made this mirror, the deadlines had passed. The article looks at the Labour front bench’s reticence to speak up for migrants and the refusal to rejoin the EU’s single market, a topic on which Starmer has long term form;it also looks at the tendency to prioritise public finance and competence, over compassion and decency, studies the electoral impact of the position, and suggests what a decent immigration policy would look like. It was originally designed to encourage Labour members to canvass their NPF representatives. See below/over leaf for more, or go to the Another Europe version of the article. … …

Travel to the EU

Travel to the EU

I have just seen another article, this time in the Metro issuing scare stories about entry into Europe claiming that the EU is tightening up on border controls starting this year. It is, but much of this seems to be exaggerated for Britons, or should I say British Passport holders.  

As far as I can see, this autumn/winter, British passport holders will need a biometric passport to enter the EU and the EEA except Ireland where freedom of movement is guaranteed by the Good Friday agreement.  We should note that Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania are not in Schengen but Switzerland is it seems in Schengen, because it’s part of the single market.

The UK government have been issuing biometric passports since 2010. To be honest and from my experience at Vienna airport, this first stage will be an advantage to most people.

The second stage is to tell the EU that you intend to travel, the so called ETIAS process. This seems identical to what the USA demands today and has done for over a decade. NB the US charges $21 and lasts for two years. The EU process is new, will have to be done, and paid for, but it’s not exactly onerous and unlikely to be implemented this year. Of course, if we were in the single market, this wouldn’t apply to us and I wonder if NI passports could be exempt although documenting the passport as issued for Northern Ireland would be extremely provocative to the Unionists.

Image credit: Passport Control, BRD, by Heike Baerbel from pixabay, shrunk and cropped, reused under the Pixabay Content licence. …



On Tuesday, the Government presented a new bill called the Illegal Migration Bill. It’s centre piece is that any asylum seekers who enter the country illegally will have their claims denied and be ‘removed’ from the UK. Rishi Sunak proudly proclaimed the goals of the legislation in a tweet, with a big picture of the word denied.

The Bill, unusually, does not come with a certificate that the law complies with the European Convention on Human Rights. A number of organisations, including the United Nations have stated that they consider the Bill to be in breach of international law and the UK’s duties under these laws and treaties to treat asylum seekers fairly and with dignity. We must remember that these people are fleeing threats of death or war. Alasdair McKenzie writes a more detailed review of the Bill as it stands. He says, “It’s extraordinarily authoritarian.” Also, this article at Euractiv also describes the law’s effects including the argument that one had been brought to the UK as slaves.

The Bill has passed its first reading, on which it seems there is no vote [hansard | parliament live ], the BBC report it, saying ‘The United Nations refugee agency has described the moves as “very concerning” and would block even those people with a compelling claim to asylum.’ They also quote Sunak, Braverman and Cooper. This concern, of abrogating the UK’s legal commitments is echoed in the Guardian.

Zoe Gardner highlights the difficulties that such brutal and scofflaw behaviour will have on the EU and the French. Of course, the UK needs the latter’s help to genuinely close down the Calais camps, but leaving the ECHR is not the way to do it and of course the US will be watching closely as to how the UK Government treats the ECHR.

Not only is the law morally reprehensible, the language used to promote it is equally repugnant and has led commentators such as Gary Linekar and Tanya Bueletmann to compare it to the racism and tactics of the German Nazis which will only encourage the far right to continue their attacks on immigration camps and hotels. This, has also, allowed the Tories to change the topic from their nasty racism to the neutrality of the BBC. Care4Clais & the FBU have organised a statement of solidarity with refugees signed by many of the UK’s leading trade union officials.

On the issue of totalitarianism, there’s also this, an infographic comparing the Tories’ legislative programme with that of the Nazis, detailing their common approaches on protestors, the victimisation of gypsies and Roma, the dilution of fair elections, permitting the stripping of citizenship, the restriction of judicial review, the excising of human rights law from the UK, and the blaming of immigrants & minorities.

Some of Labour’s spokespersons, including their shadow home affairs spokesperson, Yvette Cooper,  are treading a fine line, criticising the government on competence rather than on values, a reminder that people that sit on fences get splinters up their arse.

Refugees have the right under international law to apply for asylum here. The Tories for performative reasons want to make it harder and to remove those who enter the country without permission which is pretty much impossible to get.  …

Is Brexit worse than expected?

Is Brexit worse than expected?

I was talking to a friend, who asked if anyone had predicted the current chaos caused by Brexit, which led me to look for and find my personal manifesto for remain [ or on medium ], both published in May 2016

I got the economy, rights, and the loss of freedom of movement right. I was also right on sovereignty and remain so on peace and hope!

I didn’t predict the collapse of offshore fishing industry, food rationing, or an energy cost crisis or that we would have a trade agreement that didn’t allow people to come here to work, although on fish & food, others did. I, and I think most people, have a better understanding of what we’ve lost. I think we’ll be back. …