The first part of Brexit: Behind Closed Doors aired on BBC4 last night. The second part airs tonight.
This should be compulsory viewing for all UK citizens, regardless of which side of the Brexit divide they stand. The BBC4 documentary – Brexit: Behind Closed Doors – could not have given a clearer insight into the contempt the EU negotiators have for us in Britain for daring to vote to leave the EU.
This was not a fictional reconstruction of events but an actual fly-on-the-wall account of real conversations and factual behind-the-scenes discussions between the EU negotiators. We are left in no doubt about their determination, from the very beginning, to delay the process as long as possible and thwart any attempt at a successful negotiation for the UK. They mock our negotiating team and ridicule the people of this country.
The programme starts with a telephone conversation between Michel Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt, the chair of the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Committee. Barnier thinks it is a confidential phone call and is unaware that it is being recorded and filmed. Barnier says:
“Frankly speaking, just between the two of us, there’s no justification in discussing the future relationship between the EU and UK in combination with their debts. I’ll tell them tomorrow quite brutally, calmly but clearly, that this is not negotiable.”
Then, following a meeting at No. 10 in the early stages of the process, Guy Verhofstadt speaks openly in the back of a cab: “They’re going nowhere. They are stuck.” They knew from the beginning that all they had to do was exploit the obvious differences that existed at Westminster, to divide and conquer, and the Brexit train could be derailed.
At the first full meeting of the Steering Committee they are seen celebrating, toasting each other with red wine, and joyfully concluding “We are together for two years – yeah. And then the transition period for another three years. At least!” That first meeting set the tone and the agenda for the EU negotiators. They were in no hurry. Delay as long as possible, get the negotiations bogged down in process and conduct a plan of attrition. The debate in Britain would become more fractious and the people of this country would tire of the whole affair.
Did the EU team believe in the early days of the negotiation that the tide would turn perhaps in Britain and we the people would turn on our politicians and begin to question the result of the 2016 referendum? The whole tone and content of this TV programme suggested that this was their intent and purpose.
What surprises me is that the programme was shown at all, and at this crucial time. This was not a revelation of secret material that had come to light five years after Brexit, it was a frank and open declaration of exactly what the EU negotiators think of us now. There is no attempt to hide the disdain they have for our negotiators or our politicians – perhaps because they were unaware that they were being filmed. And they have the nerve to flaunt their views on national television.
The programme ends with two of the EU team revelling in what had been achieved and saying about the UK people, “We got rid of them. We kicked them out. We finally turned them into a colony, and that was our plan from the first moment.”
We don’t need any further evidence. Every MP who is trying to block Brexit should read these words, watch this programme and realise who, and what, it is they are determined to keep us shackled to.
It’s a pity the BBC relegated the programme to BBC4 and didn’t have the courage to show it on BBC1.
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No one expected us to be holding these European elections but the government’s complete failure on
Brexit means they are going ahead against a backdrop of division and frustration.
A vote for Labour is a vote to bring our divided country back together.
Labour is the only party with a plan to unite our country to make it work for the many, not the few.
We will end austerity invest in our economy and our communities and raise wages and living standards.
Labour’s alternative plan for Brexit which protects jobs, living standards and communities would end the chaos caused by the Conservatives and let us focus on the other big issues facing our country.
It’s a real and credible plan that would allow the next Labour government to rebuild our manufacturing industries. And restore pride and prosperity to parts of our country that have been neglected for too long.
That neglect was, I believe a major reason behind the vote for Brexit in the first place.
Three years of botched negotiations between the Government and the European Union have left everyone frustrated.
Over 17 million people voted to leave the European Union. As democratic socialists, we cannot ignore that.
We voted to trigger Article 50 in 2017 and promised to respect the referendum in our general election manifesto and again at our party conference last year.
But we cannot respect the government’s shambolic handling of Brexit that has caused huge uncertainty for people, businesses and jobs.
When Theresa May became Prime Minister she didn’t consult either Parliament or the country
Brexit policy was announced through a series of speeches declared, never discussed.
What we got was three years of the Tories spending more time arguing with themselves than negotiating with Europe.
What the Prime Minister finally cooked up led to the biggest government defeat in parliamentary history.
It wasn’t until that damaging deal had been defeated three times and the Government had already missed its own deadline for leaving that the Prime Minister finally admitted she needed to compromise.
Labour agreed to talks because we believed it was the right thing to do to see if we could get a better deal in line with our plan and the needs of businesses and trade unions a deal that would see us leave the
European Union but keep a close relationship with our major trading partners. So far in those talks, there has been no big offer, and the red lines remain.
It’s difficult negotiating with a disintegrating government with cabinet ministers jockeying for the succession, rather than working for an agreement.
It’s in the country’s interests to try to get this sorted one way or another.
But we can never accept the government’s bad deal or a disastrous No Deal.
So if we can’t get a sensible deal, along the lines of our alternative plan or a general election, Labour backs the option of a public vote.
I am very worried about how divided our society has become.
Every week I go to a different part of the country to campaign to meet people and to listen.
And over the last year, I’ve seen the divisions around Brexit grow.
In communities and families, there are real tensions.
So how do we go forward?
We could all retreat to our respective side of the argument and let bitterness drive us further apart.
We could allow ourselves to be defined only as ‘remainers’ or ‘leavers’ labels that meant nothing to us only a few years ago.
But where would that take us?
Who wants to live in a country stuck in this endless loop?
What’s needed is a bit of understanding.
Understanding of why so many people felt so frustrated with the system that they voted to leave.
And understanding of why so many others believe that staying in the EU is the only way to protect our open and diverse society.
Some people seem to look at the issue the wrong way around.
They tend to think the first question is leave or remain as if either is an end in itself.
I think they’re wrong. The first question is what kind of society do we want to be?
And on that people can find so much common ground.
Labour, and only Labour stands on that common ground in this election.
That’s why we insist the real divide in our country is not how people voted in the EU referendum. The real divide is between the many and the few.
Whether you’re from Tottenham or Mansfield, Stockwell or Stoke here in Medway or Manchester so many of the problems you face are the same.
And while the government’s incompetence and divisions over Brexit have created this deadlock the injustices in our society are deepening.
Those injustices aren’t to do with back stops implementation periods and all that obscure jargon.
They’re about whether your children will go to a school that can afford the basics or one that has to send begging letters to parents.
Whether your relatives will be treated quickly and safely on the NHS or wait in pain and distress for months.
Whether your parents will get a helping hand in old age or be left isolated and afraid.
And whether we as a country can end the burning injustices in our society that Theresa May once talked of but did nothing about.
Austerity insecure work and low wages cause anger and disillusion.
Some want to use that to stoke further division.
But it wasn’t the EU that slashed public services to pay for tax cuts for the richest it was Tory governments.
It wasn’t nurses and teachers who crashed our economy it was the bankers and hedge funds.
And it wasn’t immigrants who caused the biggest squeeze on wages since the Napoleonic Wars it was bad employers.
We need solutions, not scapegoats.
When you blame your neighbour rather than the powerful for problems with the health system or for overcrowded classrooms or for a lack of housing you’re letting those responsible off the hook.
You haven’t trained a doctor or a nurse you haven’t opened a new school you haven’t built a house you haven’t secured a penny of extra investment.
All you’ve done is fuel an atmosphere of division and nastiness.
It’s only by coming together and working together that we can improve people’s lives.
Labour will stand up for all workers black and white.
And we will guarantee the rights of EU citizens and students in this country and British people who want to work and study in the EU.
We are internationalists to our core.
So when we see the emboldened far right strutting its stuff across Europe and in this country too in the shape of UKIP and its hangers-on our response is to strengthen our ties with working class and progressive movements both at home and abroad.
The biggest issues facing us like tax avoidance and the power of multinational corporations are international issues that demand international solutions.
And the biggest issue of all the climate and environment emergency that threatens everyone’s future cannot be averted by one country alone.
Climate breakdown air pollution and the frightening loss of species demand collaboration across borders.
And I am proud that Labour led the way last week to make the UK parliament be the first in the world to declare an environment and climate emergency.
I hope our action sparks a wave of declarations of a climate emergency by parliaments and governments around the world.
So we will always cooperate closely with our progressive allies in Europe and across the world.
These elections are also a chance to challenge the poison being peddled by the likes of Nigel Farage.
He says Brexit is being blocked by the elite It’s not true The large majority of MPs have voted for a Brexit deal in one form or another.
The Brexit party is in fact the No Deal party.
And for millions, No Deal would mean no jobs.
An economic shock threatening entire industries.
And here in Kent turning the M20 into a permanent lorry park, causing massive disruption.
It would be an elite Brexit that would only work for the richest.
Who wants to deregulate slash public services and rights at work still further.
It would be a Donald Trump Brexit leaving us at the mercy of a reckless and bellicose US administration.
Nigel Farage’s Brexit is a Brexit for conspiracy theorists.
For those who see Muslims and migrants or George Soros as the enemy.
Only Labour can see off the Farage snake oil in this election.
And stand by our country’s values of tolerance, openness and diversity.
It’s said that Labour is trying to offer something to everyone over Brexit.
I make no apology for that.
Labour will never be the party of the 52 per cent or of the 48 per cent.
We are the part of the great majority who reject the politics of smear and scapegoating.
In favour of unity for social justice.
Other parties appeal to just one side of the Brexit debate because they aren’t really committed to taking on the tax dodgers the big polluters or the financial gamblers who crashed our economy a decade ago.
To transform our country and tackle injustice, inequality and the climate crisis we need to unite the overwhelming majority of people and take on the privileged and powerful.
Labour will address the inequalities that helped fuel the Brexit vote by investing in our communities and people ending austerity and creating a fairer society.
And we will lead the fight against racism at home and across Europe wherever and however it arises.
It is Labour that wants to bring our country back together.
So whether you voted leave or remain in 2016, I urge you to vote Labour the party that is determined to bring the many together and take on the entrenched power of the few.
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Why is it that so many people seem to be inconsolably pessimistic about this country’s future?
Undoubtedly for some, Britain’s exit from the European Union is of great concern, especially those who have been unable to reconcile themselves to the democratic will expressed in the 2016 referendum. They seem to believe that Britain cannot have an optimistic, prosperous and secure future without being subsumed into the supranational entity that the EU represents.
Others believe that the era of globalisation may not work for us or that the challenge of rapidly changing technology is a threat to the social stability and economic predictability that we have taken for granted for many years.
What is this Britain that the pessimists describe or fear? Are we retreating from the world stage, abdicating our international influence or embracing protectionist concepts of economic nationalism? No, we are not.
We are not surrendering our permanent seat on the UN Security Council or leaving the G7 or G20. We are at the very heart of NATO. We remain in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OECD, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. We are not abandoning the Commonwealth where we hold a pivotal influence. Our special relationship with the United States holds firm.
Not only do we support the WTO but we will soon take up our independent seat for the first time in over four decades. Yet still the voices of pessimism take on an almost “end of days” tone. Some may think it is irrelevant but I believe it matters because it damages us at home and abroad.
Not only do I believe such pessimism is unfounded and both defeatist and self-defeating, but I believe that there is every reason for the UK to be confident and optimistic about the future. Change is coming a-plenty but it is something we should embrace, not fear.
Let’s start with a reality check about the state of our economy and our comparative international performance. UK unemployment is at a 45-year low. Our rate of 3.9% compares with 7.9% for the Eurozone, 8.8% for France and 14.5% for Spain.
Last year, UK exports of goods and services rose to a new record of £634.1 billion; last year, Britain was the third top global destination and the top European destination for foreign direct investment. As long as we maintain an open, liberal, market economy with relatively benign tax and regulatory environments, our economic fundamentals will remain strong and our country an attractive one. That is why issues such as Brexit are not nearly so worrying to investors as the potential election of a hard Left, anti-wealth, high borrowing and irresponsibly spending Labour government.
The automotive industry is changing in ways that are transforming our understanding of mobility. These changes are facilitated by new technology and driven by consumer demands for a mobility experience that is connected, automated and sustainable. British companies have developed new technical capabilities in the UK automotive supply chain management and many are looking to continental supply chains for growth.
Our tech-based export and investment has proven most resilient to the dampening effects of Brexit and the UK tech ecosystem equips us to play a leading role in the 5G world. 5G will lead to a boom in data use and data use intensity correlates directly with per capita GDP growth. In Europe, the UK is leading the way with substantial investment in 5G testbeds and an extensive network of catapult centres bring industry and academia together to address problems at scale.
All of these things matter because they are an antidote to the corrosive pessimism that masquerades for some as a narrative of contemporary Britain. The examples that I have given represent empirical data rather than downbeat propaganda. There is a world beyond Europe and there will be a time beyond Brexit and we must be ready to face the challenges, accept the challenges and reap the rewards that the coming year will bring.
The lesson from the natural world is that adaptation is necessary for survival. We have the talent, the ingenuity and the experience as an outward-looking nation to navigate the fourth Industrial Revolution as well as, if not better than, many of our competitor nations.
The above is an edited extract from a speech delivered to Politeia.
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When the campaign for the EU referendum kicked off in 2016, I was sanguine about David Cameron’s Government. As a property man, I thought his right-hand-man and Chancellor George Osborne had made some bizarre changes, namely around the tax on residential property but, apart from that, the economy was in much better shape than it had been since the onset of the credit crunch and Cameron had at long last called the referendum the British people had wanted for so many years.
I had little expectation that Leave would win. I was, however, delighted that the democratic voice of the people would be heard on this issue, which had dogged politics and the Tories since the Maastricht Treaty – the agreement which founded the EU and put closer political and economic union into action – was signed in 1992.
I have been an EU-sceptic for as long as I can remember. I have never been able to get my head around its federalist aims, its inherently undemocratic structure, its profligacy, its relentless expansion and its one-size-fits all straitjacket currency. I had studied all of these aspects of the EU, amongst others, and reached my position based on a thoughtful analysis. I felt comfortable with my analysis, even though it was not universally shared.
But as the 2016 EU referendum campaign unfolded, I was increasingly irked by what was later branded Project Fear. Its proponents included not only the Remain camp but, to name a few, the Government, the Bank of England, the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce and large swathes of the media. It was my first taste of the contempt in which the political class holds Leavers. I am sure that the seeds of my standing for election now were sown in the months before the referendum.
Had we lost the referendum, I would have bitten my lower lip and got on with life. But we did not lose; we won. And in accordance with the promises made by David Cameron, I fully expected that we would now Brexit. I had no idea the humiliation to which May’s Government and Parliament would subject the nation and pointedly to those of us who voted Leave.
I have lived in London nearly all my adult life and had, until 2016, felt entirely welcome here. That changed during the referendum campaign and afterwards. Leave won the vote but Leavers have been and are being treated appallingly. I am sure that all those Londoners who voted Leave – an often under-reported 1.5 million of them – know exactly what I mean.
I would not blame a single Londoner for feeling utterly dejected about the democratic process and those who govern our country. There must be a temptation to flick a metaphorical V-sign at the institutions which govern us and to withdraw into our own shells, never to vote again. But that would be a catastrophic mistake.
Even though Mrs. May’s Government and Parliament have driven the country into a seemingly hopeless cul-de-sac, it is now that we must display that stiff upper lip for which Londoners are renowned. It is now, with the established political class exposed for its ineptitude, that Leavers must stand up and, literally, be counted. It is the de-robing of the political class that gives us the opportunity to effect real change: to change politics for good.
I am very proud to be running in London. It is the greatest city in the world and it is a huge privilege to have the chance to represent it.
If I am elected, I will not rest until we have given effect to a clean Brexit. Not Brexit in name, but Brexit in fact, returning to the UK all the powers traditionally associated with a sovereign nation.
This, however, would only be the first step. There would be little point in returning powers either to the Tories or the Labour Party. They have both proven themselves to be unworthy. Their grip on Parliament must be broken. It is high time to establish a new form of politics – a politics in which a new socio-economic contract is forged with the people, for the people (not originally my line but one which is bang on for where we now find ourselves).
But first things first – we have to win these EU parliamentary elections to give us a seat at the table. We can only achieve this if all Londoners who believe in democracy vote for us. So do not be dejected; do not shrink back into your shell. Please stand up, be counted: vote for Brexit, vote for The Brexit Party. Together we will light a fire under this hopeless established political class.
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As the political parties gear up to fight European Parliament elections that no one really wants, my mind goes back to the first euro-elections in which the UK was involved.
I recall speaking in 1979 at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, specially convened to consider the party’s strategy for those elections. The euro-enthusiasts – the equivalent of, and in some cases the same people as, today’s Remainers – were of course cock-a-hoop. The elections, they asserted, were not only a further step towards the UK’s integration into the evolving European political system, but were proof-positive that the democratic deficit – so often criticised by those of us who were less enthusiastic about “Europe” – was being conclusively addressed.
In the speech I made on that occasion, I tried to point out that democracy was not achieved simply by holding elections; what mattered was what the elections were to, and for. Were we electing representatives to a body by which we agreed to be governed? Or were we simply providing a democratic facade for a political system dominated by unelected bureaucrats and central bankers, who exercised a power of government over us to which we had not consented?
Democracy is not, in other words, just a process; it is a form of government, and one that depends for its authenticity on the consent of those to be governed. The “democratic deficit” that arises in the absence of that consent cannot be corrected by simply going through the motions of an election, if that election is merely to decide on representatives to a body that does not enjoy, by the will of the people, the right to govern.
My speech obviously fell short of what was required, since these same mistaken perceptions are still apparent in the thinking of many of those who currently seek the means of undoing and reversing the referendum decision – or, in other words, the will of the people. For many Remainers, the penny still hasn’t dropped; they do not grasp that the Brexit decision was principally a reflection of the people’s view that it was time to repatriate our sovereignty – or, to put it in more modern terminology, our democracy and powers of self-government. Those who voted Leave were, I believe, primarily motivated by a desire to reclaim what remained of their democracy.
The irony is that the efforts being made on both sides of the Channel to frustrate the people’s decision will do more than anything to drive home to the British people just how much they have lost in that regard. If, having decided that they have had enough of ceding the power of government to an external body, they find that they cannot even say “no more – enough!” without being told that they cannot withdraw except by leave of that external body, they will be reinforced in their determination to restore democracy to our system of government.
If those who are equally determined to delay and impede that democratic decision have their way, the consequences for our politics and our democracy could be calamitous. If the people should once lose faith, not just in the democratic process but in democracy as a form of government, the future would be bleak indeed.
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It is astonishing yet not surprising that the Prime Minister and others in her party have taken the local election results as a signal to tell MPs that they must now come together and vote through her deal. Do the Prime Minister and her deal promoters think the British people are fools?
How many times have we heard this before from Mrs May? How many times did she tell us we would leave the EU by 29th March? How many times has she promised to ‘break the deadlock’?
To hear her plea for support from the Labour Party which – with the exception of a few – is crammed full of ultra-Remainers and has a leadership that is tilted to the far left is extraordinary and dangerous.
How anyone could countenance such negotiations to further the appalling Withdrawal Agreement is beyond most of us. Someone needs to tell her and her supporters that it is they (not the vote to Leave) who are damaging our country and our people.
The message must be clear and as follows: “Prime Minister, you may have heard what the British people have said, but you have not listened to them. We voted to leave the EU and all its institutions: the Single Market, the Customs Union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Your deal is rotten beyond belief, it is a betrayal of the referendum result.”
Despite this sorry saga, the media and some politicians talk of her tenacity and self-belief with a hint of admiration for her ability to resist pressure to resign. How much longer will it be and how much more damage will be done before the people in grey suits wake up to the reality that our PM and deal-backers have lost the plot?
As I said to a senior and highly-respected Conservative Member of Parliament only last week, the Conservative Party risks being obliterated if it maintains its current course.
Its only chance of salvation rests with changing the current leadership and leaving the EU now on WTO rules. To not do this would be the biggest act of self-harm for the Conservative Party in its history – not mention for the future of our country.
The local election debacle confirmed – if we needed any confirmation – that the public’s patience has worn out, to be replaced by frustration and anger at the damaging and embarrassing equivocation, indecision and inertia which has come to characterise Mrs May’s premiership.
She has clearly and quite categorically missed the point of the local election debacle. Does she really think that the ‘takeaway’ message is that we want her to get her deal through or ‘over the line’? Is this more disingenuous political rhetoric and capitulation or is she seriously in denial?
To be clear Mrs May: it is not that we want you to agree your deal or any deal merely for the sake of it, which would be Brexit In Name Only. It is that we are sick of the procrastination and betrayal; we want to leave, leave now, and leave with a clean Brexit, free of the EU and of any of its institutions and damaging directives.
There can be no face-saving departure, no resigning with dignity – as all of us would have much preferred. These opportunities passed many months ago, arguably as far back as the 2017 General Election result.
It’s time for the Conservative Party to face the facts: their leader and her willing crew believe in their deal and themselves so much that they have all gone off the reservation. It is time for them to depart now, before we all go the same way.
We should thank Chuka Umunna, Anna Soubry and friends for creating The Independent Group. Be it their confusing name (is it TIG, Change UK or the Remain Alliance? Nobody really knows, and neither does their Twitter handle by the looks of it), their confusing black and white party logo that actually resembles a Tesco bag with the life sucked out of it, or their disastrous campaign launch, the forming of this new party has confirmed the gut instinct of many: that the people still want, and have never stopped wanting, to leave the European Union.
The creation of this party was designed to present a real challenge to the Brexit question, to show that the public had in fact changed their minds and decided that remaining in the European Union was the best option for the UK – despite us having a referendum in 2016 that emphatically and legitimately said that this wasn’t the case. But what it has actually done is expose the arrogance of our political elite and demonstrated how woefully out of touch they are with ordinary voters – and for that, we should be grateful.
I admit, that with the car crash that has been Brexit so far, I was worried about the emergence of the Independent Group. I feared that it might reignite a new appetite for a second referendum and that the will of the people would be thwarted, because this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon in relation to the European Union.
Just look at Ireland, for example: made to vote again in 2001 after voting against the Nice Treaty and then again in 2008 after voting against the Lisbon Treaty. Look at Greece, Denmark, the Netherlands, France; this isn’t new and any argument for a second referendum should be treated with suspicion. But we have been told countless times by Remainer politicians that ‘the facts have changed’ and as a result people have supposedly changed their minds, therefore meaning that there should be a “People’s Vote” on Brexit. They reckon that suddenly there is this huge appetite for a centrist party that wants to provide more of the same.
Unsurprisingly, though, people haven’t actually changed their minds. 57% of Leavers, according to YouGov, are more sure than they previously were that they had voted the right way. That’s not to mention the explosion of the Brexit Party onto the political scene, smashing anti-Brexit parties like Change UK and the Lib Dems out of the water, just days after its launch.
The latest polling shows the Brexit Party at 30% for the European elections, topping the polls, with CHUK trailing behind in sixth place at 9%. Indeed, the Brexit Party has been polling consistently above them since the beginning. To make matters worse for CHUK, even in the instance of a general election, the Brexit Party would have the third largest share of the votes according to most polls, which is pretty damning considering the Brexit Party is even newer than them.
All of this serves as a reminder to the elites who believe they know what the people want, when they quite evidently do not. Brexit continues to be the fire that burns in the bellies of the British people and the failure of Change UK to muster the same excitement within the political arena is a sad indictment of the pointlessness of their cause. And so for that, I remain eternally grateful.
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Every relationship requires ground rules to work. Whether it is a marriage or a business partnership, a shared understanding of the ‘terms of reference’ are vital to its longevity and success. And yet, if one argued for full homogeneity – a partnership where a business colleague or a spouse completely acceded to every opinion or demand of the other, would we argue that such relationships are ‘perfect’?
Most people would say that in such situations, forcing one party to the other’s priorities creates a false sense of compatibility, and will eventually fold when it can no longer paper over the differences. Business partnerships dissolve and marriages end in divorce. Relations between nations – particularly in matters of trade – are no different. Indeed, the rise of populism and the phenomenon called ‘anti-globalisation’ are a consequence of this breakdown. But is it an indictment of globalisation, or just globalisation done badly?
For thirty years, free trade conditions have existed between Canada and the US. If there ever was a situation where a power imbalance could lead to the abuse of one party by another, this would certainly be it. One country has one tenth of the other’s population, and roughly one tenth of its GDP. The other is, arguably, the most powerful nation on earth by every measure.
The original Canada US Free Trade Agreement – and its NAFTA successor – did not harmonise currencies, courts or laws. There is no NAFTA flag, Parliament or anthem. There is no customs union, or equivalent of ‘Norway+’ or any kind of plus this-and-that. Any cursory reading of the history of these two nations would readily reveal that the United States places great importance in its ability to act independently of other nations, while Canada’s history is that of a nation where sensitivity to American power and influence is ever-present. Any sort of union – customs or otherwise – would be unacceptable to either side.
Despite this, the bilateral relationship is the most successful of any in the global economy. Not perfect, but better than virtually every other pairing. The two-way goods and services trade between the nations in 2017 totalled US$673.1 billion, with the US enjoying a surplus of US$8.4 billion – the equivalent of US$0.01 per dollar. In other words, it almost reaches the ideal for any trade deal – the ever elusive thing known as ‘reciprocity’.
Unlike the NAFTA experience, Britain has harmonised its economic laws and significant aspects of its governance with other EU members. It has, in a legal sense, “gone along to get along.” One would assume, therefore, that the relationship would be even more mutually beneficial than the North American case – after all, on so many measures, we are comparing ‘apples to apples’.
Yet, in the same year (2017), British two-way trade with the rest of the EU was US$800.8 billion, with a trade deficit of $87.25 billion – a loss of nearly US$0.11 on the dollar. When one subtracts the US$15.91 billion (£12.2 billion) surplus Britain enjoys with Ireland – arguably the most similar and compatible of EU member states absent legislative harmonisation – on US$77.72 billion (£55.8 billion) of bilateral trade, the deficit moves to US$103.16 billion on a total volume of US$728 billion – a loss of US$0.14 on the dollar, or a 21% worsening over the status quo.
Those losses have real consequences for the future of globalisation. They do not accrue to those in professions and industries – like finance and legal services – where incomes are earned on the total value of the transaction. They fall squarely upon those who earn their livings in sectors and activities where the deficits equate to substitution for foreign competition – like manufacturing.
Free trade, as a theoretical construct, considers this and argues that, at some juncture ceteris paribus, there is a levelling out and some form of equilibrium is reached. Canada, having agreed to only a free trade treaty with the world’s largest, most powerful economy, has achieved close to that balance. Britain – even after having outsourced so much of its legal, political and bureaucratic functions to Brussels for four decades – is nowhere close to that elusive goal.
The result of this flawed policy is a perfect storm. Forty years of sweeping trade problems under the rug has led to an electorate increasingly angered and motivated for change. Unfortunately, the only ones who can make a difference haven’t exercised that authority in Britain’s right for decades. The current debacle over implementing Brexit demonstrates that lack of vision and the courage.
Critics of Brexit are correct that it is not a magic bullet for Britain’s problems. It may very well be that it will not fix what is broken with UK-EU trade. What it will do is give Britain both the tools to address the economic dislocations it brings, and the freedom to pursue relationships where the benefits accrue both ways – something we Canadians have taken for granted for over thirty years.
The above was originally written for The Red Cell
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In many of the world’s democracies traditional parties are on the slide and populist movements are on the rise. I have been charting their ascent and looking at how the establishment tries to fight back in my latest book, We Don’t Believe You.
In the USA, a populist candidate took over one of the old parties and got into office against all the establishment odds. In the UK, the two traditional parties boosted their popularity at the last general election by adopting the mantle of populism by espousing the cause of Brexit, only to wobble by not delivering on time. In Italy, two different challenger parties cast aside the ancien regime of the older parties, just as Syriza did in Greece. At the root of much of this is a row over money and tax.
The traditional parties have become wedded to higher taxes to pay for big government. They also impose higher taxes to virtue-signal over a wide range of behaviours they want to control, from driving cars and flying away on holiday to eating the wrong foods and buying expensive homes. It took a Trump to sweep in promising to slash individual and company tax rates, cuts which proved popular when he drove them through Congress. In France, the gilets jaunes protesters took to the streets to demand a reduction in fuel tax, as they were finding it too dear to drive to work or get their children to school by car. Mr Macron tried to turn it into a big conversation with voters, only to discover one of the main demands is lower taxes. Many people think they can make better use of their own money by spending on it on their family and their own priorities instead of the government spending it for them.
The wish to control individual lives has led to taxes on owning a car, buying a car, putting fuel in a car and driving a car. It has led to taxes on buying a home, living in a home, renting out a home and selling a home. It has produced new taxes on foods and drinks the state thinks dangerous, new taxes on rubbish, on plastic bags, on parking, on buy to let properties and much else. It spills over into a wish to control our very thoughts, with a wide range of concerns the subject of surveillance in case people have inappropriate ideas. Taking individually, some of these proposals are good. I for one think it right that we ban hate speech, and wish to see less plastic litter around. Taken altogether, it becomes too much for many individuals who feel circumscribed, their freedoms damaged, by too many instructions, fees, charges and taxes. Many of the frustrated take to social media to let off steam. That too is now coming under government control, with new regulations to extend usual media restraints to more private conversations.
In the UK a crucial argument in the Brexit campaign was the wish to take back control of our money. Many voters feel our budget contributions to a rich club of countries is too large. They want that tax revenue to be spent here at home, or given back through lower taxes. At a time when many think our schools and social care could do with some more cash, it seems perverse to send £1bn a month to the EU which we do not get back. Many voters dislike the draft Withdrawal Agreement because it casually gives away a huge and unspecified sum for no good reason. The Treasury thinks it will be at least £39bn. It would probably be considerably more, and stretching forward over many years. EU austerity budgets have done considerable damage to economies and to voter feelings on the continent. The disciplines of the euro have been stricter than the UK imposed budget rules, and have helped fuel much higher unemployment and falls in real wages which have angered many electors.
The populists are still gaining votes and friends. They offer people hope of a bit more of their own money to spend. They don’t lecture them so much on how they are to live or what they are to think the main problems of the world might be. When the elite come out now with their gloomy forecasts, people often bellow back “We don’t believe you”. The UK establishment came horribly unstuck over its economic forecasts of a recession in the winter after the Brexit vote. All the establishments failed to forecast and prevent the banking crash which went on to cost many their jobs or their businesses. The gap is growing between what the elite say the issues are and what the public wants sorted.
Social media allows the populists to send messages to the many at an affordable price. It allows the public to flag what they want tackled. Many of them want a bit more disposable income, so a bit less tax. They want to be able to get to work or take their children to school by car in an affordable way without too many delays. They want governments to listen to them, not to talk down to them.
Populism is an attempt to get politics to rejoin the public by taking their concerns seriously and trying to do something about them. Many old parties on the continent of Europe are no longer serious challengers for power because they ignored the growing gap between the public and their own views. They now disagree not just on how to tackle problems, but over what problems they need to tackle. Putting prosperity and wider ownership back on the agenda would be welcome for many.
We Don’t Believe You: Why Populists Reject The Establishment by John Redwood has just been published by Bite-Sized Books and is available from Amazon for £6.99
The post Brexit is one of many examples of the disconnect between the political elite and the public appeared first on BrexitCentral.
The Labour Party has been sidelined in the Brexit process by a Prime Minister who has persistently brought back a betrayal deal which utterly fails the British people and those in Labour who voted Leave at the EU referendum. Theresa May’s deal locks us into an Irish backstop which will break up the Union of the United Kingdom. Labour, as the ‘Party of the people’ must offer a Brexit the people want. We must end talk of a second referendum and deliver a complete and comprehensive exit from the EU. If Labour does not do this, they will risk aliening and betraying all Labour Leave voters.
Second referendum advocates – like Deputy Leader Tom Watson and nearly 90 Labour MPs – do not represent Labour Leave voters. The National Executive Committee’s decision this week “to keep the option of a ‘Confirmatory Vote’” within the manifesto for the European Parliamentary Elections betrays Leave voters within the party. We have already seen advocates of a second referendum such as Chuka Umunna leave the Labour Party because they are unwilling to recognise the result of the EU referendum and deliver on the Labour Party 2017 General Election manifesto. Labour voters do not want a divided party. They want Brexit to be delivered.
The Labour Party has a duty to deliver for the 17.4 million Leave voters and all those who value Britain’s democracy.
The only Brexit which delivers on the result of the referendum is a no-deal, WTO rules Brexit. Theresa May’s Government failed to deliver on her numerous promises to Leave the EU on 29th March 2019, as well as the people’s desire for a no-deal Brexit. Labour must not make the same mistake. They must advocate leaving the EU on WTO terms, without a deal and as soon as possible.
For far too long the Labour Party has fought Conservative governments and the EU over workers’ rights. The EU has upheld workers’ rights but did not improve them to the standard Britain wants or expects. The UK must ‘Take Back Control’ of our own labour laws so we improve workers’ rights beyond what the EU would grant. The EU has kept trade unions passive and not allowed them to protect their workers in the way they deserve. After the last recession, the millions of unemployed in Spain, Greece and elsewhere in the EU received no benefits from their trade union rights. We cannot fall into the same trap. We must break free of the EU and secure proper working rights for British workers.
Labour must advocate a Brexit which gives British business and workers the opportunities for success which EU membership denies us. We must grow our digital economy and ensure our future trade agreements are international. The world does not end at the EU’s borders. We would limit ourselves by remaining in the Customs Union and the Single Market. The growth in international trade will bring business growth, job security and a higher standard of living for British workers. Labour must protect workers by securing their jobs and improving their rights. We cannot achieve this if we are dictated to and shackled to the EU.
The EU is anti-democratic and anti-socialist and goes against the principles of the Labour Party. It takes decisions away from national governments and through the weed-like growth of the euro, it has limited the economic independence of EU members.
The UK has dodged the euro bullet, but has fallen victim to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The CAP and CFP have restricted British business and damaged the livelihoods of British workers by reducing competition and subsidising Britain’s competitors in the EU. British farmers and fishermen must have unfettered control over their own success in the future, by being able to trade with the rest of the world, on global prices, without EU quotas hampering them.
So, I repeat, the only way Labour can deliver on the result of the referendum and for the millions of Labour Leave voters is to leave the EU without a deal, on WTO terms. This would secure jobs and livelihoods for British workers within an independent economy and with global trading potential. Workers’ rights would be enhanced and guaranteed by British courts, no longer subservient to the European Court of Justice.
It is imperative we Get Britain Out of the EU as soon as possible, so we can look after our workers, build industry and move forward. The Labour Party must present a united front and give the leadership and direction which the UK has lacked for far too long by delivering a no-deal Brexit.
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