A noble individual

A noble individual

Over the last 24 hours, possibly longer after I actually publish this piece, Sean Jones QC, has published two longish twitter threads on Labour and Brexit. He was inspired or provoked by an interview on Cambell & Stewart’s “The Rest is Politics” of Kier Starmer.

Jones’s 1st thread asks how ‘leaning into’ the Tories Hard Brexit can possibly be a policy success when it’s clear that it’s failed and asks how it can be an electoral success given that so many Remainers have not changed their mind. There are few, if any words wasted in the thread, so have a look yourself, but I am particularly taken with this tweet,

How does backing a hard Brexit heal the division? There is literally nothing on offer to those who backed Remain. This is just as doomed a strategy for him as it has been Johnson because it is not materially different.

Sean Jones QC – Twitter

And this, in a reply to a comment on the thread,

There are compromise options that fall short of rejoining. He has ruled those out too. The problem is it [not] that he’s failing to commit to rejoining, the problem is that he is committing to a Hard Brexit with some tinkering.

Sean Jones QC

I retweeted it, saying,

This is possibly the crux of the problem with Starmer’s speech on #failedbrexit. It is part of a tremendous thread examining the politics and traps of agreeing to the #ToryHardBrexit at the very time the country is beginning to reject it.

Dave Levy – Twitter

The 2nd thread, addresses the pro-Starmer argument that this is a long game. Jones argues that Starmer’s Brexit line is a foolish thing to say because it fails to differentiate him and Labour from the Tories, Starmer’s assuming that remainers/rejoiners who seem to be growing in number will put up with it. Starmer’s policy needs to be effective politically before the election and the basis for effective policy after. The first proposition is questionable, and the second wrong.

On the electoral dimension,

First, the policy is disappointing a very large proportion of his party membership and base. Telling them, in effect, to suck it up is dangerous particularly given the rationale of the plan.

The rationale is, “I need the Red Wall votes, so I have to give them what I think they want”. So the pellucidly clear message is, if you want a different Brexit policy you will have to show him that he will lose your votes. He is literally telling you how to change his mind.

Sean JOnes QC

Starmer should note that the Greens, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the SNP are all going to have, in my eyes, better positions on relationships with the EU and the means of achieving it. On Starmer’s proposition’s utility as a policy guideline, Sean writes on this, but I think this is the best quote,

So if you believe that he is sucking up Hard Brexit in order to get a chance to do the things he really wants to, the bad news is that Hard Brexit makes doing those things much more difficult.

Sean Jones QC

Much of the rest of what Jones says is that Brexit cannot be made to work, saying it can means that all its failures will be down to Starmer, and it is an obstacle to what he really says he wants to do. In the podcast, Starmer talks about his talks with Oscar Scholtz, the German premier, talks about improving trade when that trade failure, the decline in exports and imports are exclusively down to Brexit trade barriers and we haven’t even introduced the customs checks we require y the treaties, yet Starmer claims he can have conversations about trade without talking about the EU.

The problem for the ‘long gamers’ when talking to Labour’s remainers/rejoiners, is that the electoral offer is based on another lie, which together with Starmer’s 10 pledges, and his promise to ‘end factionalism’ are an unfortunate conjunction. The charge that he lies, although not as much as Johnson, has significant evidence.

I’ll finish with a quote from Rory Stewart from the podcast, they were talking about the loss of trust that people have with politicians, and Stewart argues, that it’s not about virtue.

“…  [parliament is full of people who are] most of the time more interested in campaigning and sticking it to the opposition then they are in thinking critically and governing well and we can’t change that by hoping we are going to have noble individuals.”

Rory Stewart – The Rest is Politics

This off course, together with Starmer’s record as a politician, raises the question as to whether Starmer really is a ‘noble individual’. …

Can ‘boring’ win elections and deliver good policy?

Can ‘boring’ win elections and deliver good policy?

I am provoked by Chris Grey’s article, “Making Brexit Boring”; it’s long and covers a number of dimensions of the consequences of Starmer’s speech on Labour’s new approach to the EU. Much of his Brexit blog I agree with and find informative, but I have a couple of things to say on this article.

He writes,

Yet that answer [i.e. Labour’s differences with the Government]  is a disappointing one, and in some key respects an ambiguous one. It could hardly have given less to erstwhile remainers without being indistinguishable from the government’s policy. It offered the bare minimum of an alternative, and no one could call it an inspiring vision for Britain’s future. But it wasn’t altogether empty, and its critics should be careful not to fall into the age-old political trap of ‘making the perfect the enemy of the good’.

Chris Grey – Brexit & Beyond

This I feel summarises what Grey thinks of Labour’s position but I hope I don’t fall into the trap he identifies. He also disagrees with those who describe Starmer’s position as cakeism,

It’s also misguided to suggest, as some claimed following the speech, that Starmer’s proposals are ‘cakeist’ (i.e. calling for the benefits of EU membership without belonging).

Chris Grey – Brexit & Beyond

I had not realised that Peston had described the trade barrier proposals as cakeism and I comment on his article below. I believe that arguing for enhanced business visas, mutual recognition of professional qualifications while rejecting free movement of presumably unqualified labour is ‘cakeist’ , unlikely to be agreed by the EU and fails to recognise the UK economy’s labour shortage crisis. It’s pandering to the racism inherent in the objection to free movement and the only way to put this right is to agree to the EU’s freedom of labour and reverse the hostile environment. Many of those who’ve left the UK have done so because they feel unwelcome due to the racism enabled and encouraged by the referendum result.

While Grey welcomes Starmer’s embrace of a Security deal, both he and Stramer fail to recognise that this will entail agreeing to CJEU supervision/jurisdiction of wide areas of our administration of justice. While I have no problem with this, if he is prepared to have the CJEU rule on civil liberties, what’s the problem with having them adjudicate trade issues. Starmer’s line on security co-operation is thus also arguably ‘cakeist’, although the number of people on top of this seems very limited. Although yesterday, the government published its plans for the Data Reform Bill which ORG describes as gutting the GDPR and if so may jeopardise the UK’s ‘adequacy agreement which was another point in Starmer’s plan to retain regulatory alignment with he EU on data and financial services.

Peston in his article also accuses Starmer of cakeism, albeit before I did. His article focuses on the trade aspects of Starmer’s five point plan, I take the alleviation of trade friction as a given in any policy, although I am less sanguine that easing trade friction between NI and Great Britain will have any benefit in calming the political friction in Northern Ireland and Starmer’s plan focuses on that specific trade flow and not cross-channel trade.

Peston avoids looking at how Labour’s remainers/rejoiners will react to the brutal policy outlined by Starmer and Lammy. As I note elsewhere, the tide is flowing against them. …

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”. …

Sensibleness postponed

Sensibleness postponed

Having let David Lammy, and to some extent Rachel Reeves trial a new Brexit line, Kier Starmer is planning a speech with a five point plan, which has been previewed (£) in the FT.

Trade is down the plughole (£), as is inward investment and our GDP is set to flatline for the next 18 months and we have labour shortages which are crippling various industries but most obviously agriculture and inflation is now running at 11%. The economy is not in a good state (£). All of this is caused by Brexit, When studying macroeconomics in the ’70s, we thought these dimensions of the economy were choices and a trade off, and while popular theory has changed, it’s quite an achievement for them all to be wrong and yet another not to want to fix it.

Meanwhile the FT article (£) states,

Starmer will insist that a Labour government would not seek to rejoin the EU’s single market or customs union or reintroduce freedom of movement — let alone seek to reverse the 2016 Leave vote.

I say “why not?”. All three of these measures are obvious and growingly popular solutions to the macroeconomic problems we face today.

The five point plan is important, but leaves glaring holes, does Labour propose to put import checks on products not included in the new agreement, will it try and ease the Labour shortage by allowing workers from Europe to return, why would the EU agree to freedom of movement for the professionally qualified only?. Does any of this help jobs and the environment in the east coast and southern port cities?

Meanwhile, Redfield Wilton report that a majority of voters would vote to rejoin the EU although just as with the original referendum the terms of entry are not clear. Starmer and kitchen cabinet are going to be left behind and are in danger of driving their own core votes into the hands of other parties. RW show that the majority of working age people (at least those under 55) support rejoining.


Image: the port is from unsplash, the plughole is public domain …

Lammy on the EU/FTC

Lammy on the EU/FTC

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.

Overleaf, the article includes my statement that Brexit is not over, it also talks of Labour's five points and its inherent 'cakeism' on freedom of movement, it notes the cowardice still within the Labour Front bench and it also looks at the security implications of Brexit, I conclude, '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.' I link to a video of the speech. ...

An old idea, whose time has come

An old idea, whose time has come

Has the single market pendulum swung? Tobias Ellwood MP, a Tory, lifted the lid? The GMB voted to recognise that we could do better than the terms agreed; it seems I was preceded (or maybe not) by Ann McMorrin MP, who was rebuked by a courageous un-named Labour spokesperson. McMorrin was followed today, by an article from Stella Creasy, arguing that Labour’s silence on the crapness of the Brexit deal leaves the whole of the narrative to the Tories, although crapness is not the word used by Creasy. This is compounded in my mind by Starmer’s decision to vote for the withdrawal deal! The Creasy article is to my mind very good, and here are two quotes,

For fear of saying the wrong thing, many in Labour claim it is better to say nothing at all about Brexit. But such reticence does not honour those who voted Leave – or Remain. Each wanted their vote to mean something better than chaos at the borders or businesses in peril. Post-Brexit, there are many ways forward for the UK and the EU – and most don’t end in a trade war as a distraction from a prime minister’s personal misconduct

Aneurin Bevan once argued that “silent pain evokes no response”. The same is true of silent politics. It will damage our national interest for generations if hostility about the UK working with the EU seeps into public life without dissent. To be able to do business with the biggest trading block in the world, stand shoulder to shoulder against Russian aggression and tackle climate change, terrorism and social injustice, Britain needs us to speak up now. Keeping stumm is not in anyone’s interest except Johnson’s.

Stella creasy – The Observer 19 June 2022

She’s right, we need to talk about the post Brexit deal and the single market; and if the Chair of the Labour Movement for Europe won’t then there’s little reason to expect others to do so as the treatment of McMorrin shows.  …

The EU and the FTC at GMB22

The EU and the FTC at GMB22

I moved Motion 194, from my branch, on the Future Trade & Co-operation Agreement. This motion called for five reforms in the FTC, calling for relaxation of the agreement on freedom of movement, rejoining Horizon Europe, the mutual R&D programme, to enhance inward investment, rejoining Erasmus+ to continue youth and educational exchanges, mutual reciprocal voting agreements to allow citizens of the UK and of the EU to vote where they live, and to ease trade friction particularly in the context of the Northern Ireland Protocol. I have clipped my moving speech, and Joanne Rust's seconding speech. The CEC supported with qualification, and the motion was carried. If you use the 'read more' button, you can see the video of the debate, the words of the motion and my notes on the speech ...

Is exit from the single market dead?

Is exit from the single market dead?

This needs to reported; the UK Government, is postponing the introduction on import checks on goods arriving from the EU. The announcement was made by the Minister for Brexit Opportunities Rees-Mogg. It is reported in the Guardian with the following comment,

You read that right. Jacob Rees-Mogg, arch-leaver and longtime loather of the EU, is now parroting lines from the remain campaign. He is admitting that implementing Brexit in full, honouring the 2016 promise to take back control of Britain’s borders, would be “an act of self-harm”. There’s plenty to attack here, starting with the nerve of hailing this move as “saving” Britons £1bn, when this was £1bn that Britons would never have had to spend at all if it hadn’t been for Brexit. Or you could share the outrage of British farmers, appalled that, thanks to Brexit, they have been left at a serious competitive disadvantage: they now face onerous and costly checks when they ship their goods across the Channel, while French, Italian or Spanish farmers face no such hassle moving their products in the other direction. Or you could worry along with the British Veterinary Association, which warns that not checking food imports leaves Britain exposed to “catastrophic” animal diseases such as African swine fever – a risk that was reduced when Britain was part of “the EU’s integrated and highly responsive surveillance systems”. Or you could join the lament of the UK Major Ports Group, whose members have spent hundreds of millions of pounds building checking facilities, which now stand unused as “bespoke white elephants”.

Jonathan Frredland – TheGuardian

The BBC also report with a comment from Faisal Islam, their economics editor, although they find a quote to illustrate the benefits, or at least the avoidance of further harm. This is the fourth postponement. The critical politics is that this Government, things that the customs checks are a harm.

Luke Cooper of Another Europe, in an article on Brexit Spotlight also highlights the announcement and concludes with,

This is why the Rees-Mogg announcement shows that the game is up for the British exit from the single market. … This [the asymmetric checking system] is self-evidently unsustainable. If the most nationalistic government in recent British history is not able to fully extricate the country from the European market, then it simply isn’t possible. The question now is when – not if – Britain re-joins the single market.

Luke Cooper – Another Europe

At the beginning of the year, I thought that the critical failure of exit from the single market would be in Northern Ireland but maybe not; the new lorry park in Kent is another pressure point and a number of EU exporters were just giving up on the UK as a market. …

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. …