We are inured by now to the biased reporting of Brexit which those opposed to it perpetrate in the media. Even so, I listened with more than the usual incredulity and irritation to one BBC correspondent giving his opinion on the Operation Yellowhammer papers (a five-page out-of-date summary of the Government’s Reasonable Worst Case Planning Assumptions). Having read them myself, the only thing missing in his one-sided report was mention of the plague of locusts which Brexit will surely cause.
A long time ago I worked for a colleague assessing whether we should be making investments into various businesses. He had previously worked for the FT as a Lex columnist and was adept at using the same information and set of facts to produce two seemingly plausible reports on an opportunity, one of which would convince the reader that it was an investment never to be missed and the other which would cause the same reader not to touch it with a barge-pole. He would then point out that the answer invariably lay somewhere in the middle. Sadly, there are now very few, if any, professional mainstream journalists able to see through the propaganda they are fed and take an objective view.
In the interests of a more balanced assessment of a no-deal Brexit – by no means made now a No Worries Brexit – I will try to emulate that colleague and in the article which follows give an alternative Brexiteer’s assessment of the same Brexit assumptions. Let us call it Operation Nightingale (a bird with a beautiful and powerful song quite capable of being heard in SW1 from Berkeley Square).
When the UK leaves the EU on 31st October, the EU will flagrantly ignore its obligations under Article 8 of its treaty, the requirement to cooperate with neighbouring countries and enter into agreements to effect that cooperation. It will make life as difficult as possible for one of its closest allies.
Whist the UK has made it clear that all EU citizens living in the UK will continue to enjoy their exact same rights, no such assurances have been given by the EU and some member states may deliberately attempt to penalise UK citizens in respect of social security and other work and pension benefits, even to the point of demanding on-the-spot payments for acute or emergency medical treatment.
The UK Government is no longer sitting on its hands, as it had been doing when Philip Hammond was gloomily predicting economic Armageddon and not allocating enough resources to No Deal planning, but is making up for that lost time and devoting even more resources for the formidably efficient (when it wants or has to be) Civil Service to inform and prepare us to leave the EU.
Because the EU gave the supine government led by Theresa May Hobson’s choice that Brexit must now occur on a Thursday, Friday 1st November should be declared a public holiday (and why not annually?) to celebrate our liberation from the democratically stifling and economically sclerotic EU. Rather than have journalists scouring the ports and country for Brexit horror stories, they can have the day off.
The enforced timing of the UK’s departure by the EU in the run-up to winter is also unhelpful, given the unpredictable British weather, but we will all need to react as we usually do. Some may observe tongue-in-cheek that whilst the Common Agricultural Policy has eurocrats in Brussels working to grow a magic money tree, at least meteorological efforts have thus far concentrated on climate change rather than passing Weather Directives.
Big businesses will continue to protest and, with their greater resources and lobbying firepower, attempt to engineer and then exploit disruption to protect themselves against smaller, more entrepreneurial companies which threaten their cosy existence. With the UK able to make its own laws regarding competition and state aid, it can utilise as much of the £39bn alimony payment as it chooses to compensate those businesses and UK citizens who can demonstrate that actions taken by the EU and their global corporate chums have harmed them. Well-run British businesses will spot and exploit commercial advantages created by the anti-competitive actions of the EU and big business.
Many of the actions which the EU could take to harm the UK will also have negative, and sometimes greater, impact on member state businesses and citizens. Politicians will therefore be taking these steps at their peril.
There have been assurances for some time from those running the port of Calais that they have been well prepared to ensure there are no delays to inbound or outbound traffic to and from Dover under any Brexit scenario. The French government under President Macron, a hard-line Europhile under increasing domestic political pressure, may decide to make life more difficult in terms of bureaucratic checks and delays for trade with the UK, one of its strongest security allies and saviour militarily of recent times. If he does, the logistics companies will look to the many other continental ports serving cross-Channel trade for solutions such as Zeebrugge, Rotterdam or Antwerp, which compete and would be only too happy to keep the UK’s £95bn trade surplus in goods flowing. These same logistics companies, which employ people and pay taxes in the UK, will also relish the challenge of providing just-in-time or emergency supplies of parts, medicines and fresh food supplies in the event that unnecessary delays are caused for the Dover to Calais crossing.
It was clear that the UK economy benefited from the build-up of stocks prior to the 31st March deadline and will benefit again before 31st October. It is now also clear that the uncertainty of the six-month delay was not good for the British economy, so by leaving in October business and investment can once again face all the ever present normal and various challenges that exist whether we are in or out of the EU without having to speculate about our hokey-cokey Brexit.
There will be no overall food shortages but in the event of avoidable disruption to food supply chains caused by the actions of others, British food suppliers will be obvious beneficiaries. Some food availability and prices may suffer but there is more likely to be a shortage of Cheddar in Carrefour than Brie in Budgens.
And it must also be remembered that because of that £95bn trade deficit, the majority of lorries using the Dover to Calais crossing are EU-owned with EU drivers and many of them returning with a cargo of fresh air. It will therefore be EU businesses and citizens, along with continental exporters who want to turn their lorries round swiftly with a new load, who will complain the loudest if French checks cause M20 tailbacks.
The UK is already taking steps to implement export registration points (some 150 at the last count) across the UK to ensure lorries can enter Kent ‘export ready’ with the relatively straightforward paperwork that cannot be provided in advance or retrospectively, as happens already for Britain’s trade which is with the rest of the world (growth in which is outstripping that with the EU). The UK Government will not impose checks for EU goods which, by definition, will be compliant and so it will only need to continue with those checks it already undertakes to prevent law-breaking, such as the smuggling of people or non-compliant and dutiable goods. So no change there.
Having heard so much about the threat of the mass exodus of bankers from the City and of power cuts, it is reassuring that the report has little mention of any significant threat to cross-border financial services or energy supplies. There may be some delays in getting personal data out of the EU and travellers to the EU would be well advised to allow some extra time for passport and immigration checks while border officials get used to the similar checks that apply to travel all over the rest of the world. But any teething problems will be short-lived.
The two most sensitive land borders which the UK has with the EU are in Gibraltar and Ireland. Both have been exploited by those in the EU seeking political advantage and by Remainers in the UK intent on spreading alarm. Spain’s claims over Gibraltar are old hat and will continue, Brexit or no Brexit. What will also continue, Brexit or no Brexit, is the critical dependency of the Spanish economy on the British tourist euro. You don’t need to be a commercial genius on that issue to work out which bigger boot is on the bigger foot.
The Irish border is a much thornier and politically sensitive challenge for both countries. It has been hugely politicised by those in the UK resisting Brexit and in the EU for negotiating leverage in the context of a deal. It has also spawned a host of self-styled experts of which I am not one. However, to suggest that no solutions have been put forward for alternative arrangements to the backstop is untrue and that no negotiations are taking place naïve, not least because they need to be highly confidential, given the cynical way in which those who break the law rather than uphold and preserve the hard-won peace will exploit the Irish border issue for their own selfish political ends.
Resolving a workable solution will take both time and compromise, but as no-one is proposing erecting a hard border if Brexit has actually happened, the incentive and imperative then to reach compromise will trump the temptation to use Ireland as a political football. Ireland may be the biggest loose end after Brexit, but there will be an overriding will on the part of all committed to peace to find a way, which will be practicable but not perfect, just as there was with the Good Friday Agreement.
The last two other areas identified in the report which are important to many in this country – and identified as loose ends after the end of October – are firstly to move from the situation where foreign fishing vessels will almost certainly continue to fish in British waters without a further outbreak of cod wars or scallop skirmishes. And, secondly, the underlying challenge of improving adult social care. Getting Brexit over and done with enables the UK Government to turn its attention wholly to underlying issues such as these which are not caused by Brexit but where specific provisions may need to apply over a period of transition following Brexit.
So there are two sides to every story and my erstwhile colleague would no doubt have made a more succinct job of telling the other side of the Yellowhammer story. But our mainstream journalists should be doing a better job in the first place of reporting Brexit in a way which puts this potentially divisive topic in perspective rather than fanning the flames of hysterical rhetoric.
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It’s become a mantra, endlessly repeated by Remainer unions: “Workers must not pay the price of Brexit.” What price would that be? And how about acknowledging the price of staying in the EU?
On 6th July 2017, Michel Barnier, the EU Brexit negotiator, addressed the EU’s Economic and Social Committee. His words were noted and passed on to unions in Britain by the TUC delegate to the committee under a title saying that Barnier ‘spells out the truth’ about Brexit.
Barnier’s address, wrote Unite’s Martin Mayer with doe-eyed devotion, was ‘clinical in its analysis’ and ‘impressive in its clarity’. And he dubbed as ‘fatuous’ Theresa May’s statement that “Brexit means Brexit”. The TUC’s love affair with the EU was still going strong, despite the referendum.
At the meeting Judy McKnight, ex-TUC General Council and ex-General Secretary of the prison officers’ union – described as ‘Leader of UK Workers Group members’ although she is and was actually retired – repeated the worn old refrain that “workers must not pay the price of Brexit”.
The TUC was campaigning back then for Britain to stay in the Single Market for as long as possible, under a transitional agreement, to ‘keep workers’ rights safe’. Now it has hardened its stance, calling for Britain to remain in both the Single Market and the Customs Union.
The Fire Brigades Union, for example, which in June suspended executive member Paul Embery for two years for speaking out in favour of Brexit, parrots every Project Fear statement put out by the Treasury. The union attacks the World Trade Organisation for being ‘neoliberal’ – but of course fails to say that the EU and the USA were trying to negotiate the TTIP treaty because the WTO isn’t neoliberal enough.
Nowhere do these euro-enthusiasts talk about the fact that the EU constitution sets all the key principles of neoliberalism in stone, effectively unchangeable – the free movement of goods, services, capital and ‘persons’ (this includes companies). That’s something that the bankers and transnational capitalists haven’t managed to get into a single national constitution outside the EU, not even the USA. In particular, they see the European Court of Justice as the guardian of workers’ rights. Yet it is anything but that.
Successive ECJ judgements have made it perfectly clear that the rights to free movement – of goods, labour, services and capital – come first. The right to strike in pursuance of what it calls social policy (jobs, pay, conditions, pensions) cannot, according to the Viking judgement, ‘automatically override’ these fundamental rights.
More fundamentally, said ECJ Advocate General Poiares Maduro on 23rd May 2007, “the possibility for a company to relocate to a Member State where its operating costs will be lower is pivotal to the pursuit of effective intra Community trade.” There’s the EU, in a nutshell: it’s a fundamental right for a company to move from country to country in search of lower and lower labour costs.
The EU’s fundamental rights are all about the market. It’s a far cry from ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ or ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity’. In effect, the EU acts as a superstate whose constitution embodies the freedom of capital and capitalists in a way unheard of in any other.
The first price that workers pay is that they must allow outsourcing and privatisation of national industries and services.
The second is that they cannot strike to stop work being outsourced to a cheaper country. The ECJ made the reasons for that very clear: “Without the rules on freedom of movement and competition it would be impossible to achieve the Community’s fundamental aim of having a functioning common market.”
And of course, there is the cost of the free movement of labour. It’s beyond doubt that it has hit unskilled workers in Britain particularly hard. It has lowered pay rates, and according even to the official Migration Advisory Committee, damaged the job prospects of lower skilled workers when the labour market is slack.
It’s not just the unskilled. Without free movement how could the government have erected the massive tuition fees barrier to the training of nurses, midwives and other health professionals while understaffing runs through hospitals like a plague? And the laws of supply and demand are clearly operating in other areas too, such as academic pay.
The TUC not only backs this free movement but, astonishingly, thinks that Britain’s migration policy should be handled on our behalf by Brussels. “It is… more effective for migration flows to be managed through EU legislation rather than member states creating patch-work laws to deal with the issue”, it told a government inquiry into EU powers in 2013.
The odd thing about the TUC’s blather on ‘workers’ rights’ is that you might expect trade unions, of all bodies, to know that it is first and foremost through the existence and activity of unions that workers can establish and defend any rights that they have.
There is nothing – not a single sentence – in the draconian Trade Union Act 2016 that runs counter to EU law, nor in the even worse bits that David Cameron’s Government was forced to drop as the Bill made its way through Parliament.
Items that would not have bothered the EU included the proposed requirement for pickets to give their names to the police – an idea that Conservative MP David Davis objected to violently. “What is this? This isn’t Franco’s Britain”, he said, referring to the 40-year fascist dictatorship in Spain.
Yet the EU is supposed to guarantee ‘workers’ rights’!
And when collective action fails or is absent, the only recourse is often to an employment tribunal. Yet when the Government introduced huge fees for employment tribunals in 2013, and Unison brought a legal challenge, it was primarily to English law based on Magna Carta and enshrined in 1297 that the Supreme Court turned in 2017 to rule the fees unlawful.
Back in 2015, Unite published a particularly biased leaflet called What has Europe ever done for us? (incorrectly equating Europe, a geographical fact, with the EU, a political construction). Among its outrageous claims was the oft-repeated notion that the EU ‘is also responsible for 3.5 million jobs in the UK’. The implication is that we would lose these jobs with Brexit. This is utter nonsense, though some politicians have said the same thing, and keep on saying it.
Claims that three million or more jobs depend on Britain being in the EU appeared following the publication of a report by Dr Martin Weale in 2000 for the National Institute for Economic and Social Research.
But the report did not say that these jobs would be lost if we left the EU. Far from it. It suggested that withdrawal may actually be good for us. It was the fault of politicians like Nick Clegg, John Prescott and Stephen Byers that the findings of this academic report were twisted.
Weale was furious at this distortion, describing it as ‘pure Goebbels’ and saying, “in many years of academic research I cannot recall such a wilful distortion of the facts.”
What, then, does the EU offer workers in the way of rights? Its defenders talk admiringly about working hours legislation – but what’s to admire?
It is true that the EU brought in its Working Time Directive in the 1990s, incorporated into British law in 1998. But look closer. Brussels mandated a minimum holiday of 20 days – including public holidays. British law states that the minimum is 20 days excluding public holidays, making our minimum 28 days.
So, any government could cut statutory holidays by a full eight days without contravening any EU law. Not that you would hear this from the TUC, which continues to push out stories talking about, for example, 7 million people’s holiday pay being at risk.
“There is no guarantee that [the government after Brexit] would keep paid holiday entitlements at their current level, or at all,” claimed the TUC in a typical act of gratuitous scaremongering, turning a blind eye to the lower holiday pay rights in most of the EU.
British maternity leave is another area where TUC alarmists have been trying to sow suspicion. Yet British law mandates up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, with Statutory Maternity Pay for up to 39 weeks. EU law? Pay and leave of up to 14 weeks.
And then there is health and safety. The TUC acknowledges that the government says it will transfer all existing health and safety protections from EU law to British law. But it adds, “there are no guarantees for what happens afterwards” – as if permanent future guarantees were possible.
“It should be written into the [Brexit] deal that the UK and EU will meet the same standards, for both existing rights and future improvements,” said Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary.
This really is fatuous. It would leave Britain unable to improve its health and safety legislation unless the EU agreed to do the same, necessitating a negotiation with 27 member states. It would give Brussels sovereignty over workplace legislation in Britain, which is no kind of Brexit at all.
Back in 1988 the TUC waved the white flag and assumed that the only improvements in legislative protection for workers would come from Brussels. It’s still waving that flag, even though the EU itself acknowledges on its own website that “Responsibility for employment and social policy lies primarily with national governments.”
The truth is that our rights as workers have always existed only so far as workers have been prepared to fight for them and defend them. As long as we tolerate the employing class and the capitalist system, any rights we have will always be ‘at risk’.
But for now, the urgent risk is that we fail to finish the job of the 2016 referendum. Nothing is so imminently threatening to the wellbeing of workers in Britain than allowing the independence process to be derailed.
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I campaigned and voted to Remain in the EU because, for all its imperfections, I believed staying in and working on a collaborative basis was better for our country’s future. Like many, I was surprised and disappointed when the majority who voted chose to Leave. But as someone who believes in democracy, I committed to respecting their decision as did the Labour Party in its 2017 General Election manifesto.
I hear those who say the Leave campaign lied about the money promised for the NHS and the ease with which we could depart. However, the Remain campaign also made claims about an erosion in workers’ rights and environmental protection which in reality can be prevented. They also predicted economic catastrophe when there is no such certainty. So attempting to selectively delegitimise the referendum result because of “lies” is not in reality credible.
I opposed Theresa May’s deal because it offered the worst of all worlds. We should do everything possible to leave the EU with a better deal.
However, we cannot go on like this and it is perfectly reasonable to set an end date for negotiations of 31st October. For such a deadline to be meaningful, it is a simple fact that if an agreement cannot be reached, leaving with No Deal will be the only option.
There are a few MPs who believe the referendum result should be respected but oppose leaving with No Deal. However, the vast majority of MPs opposing No Deal or supporting another referendum are hell-bent on overturning the referendum result. They claim to oppose No Deal and/or support a so-called affirmative referendum – but in reality they are determined to thwart Brexit under any circumstances. They know full well that taking No Deal off the table will weaken the UK’s negotiating position.
I did not support Boris Johnson’s decision to reduce the number of days Parliament is sitting by introducing a Queen’s Speech. However, events of the last week have shown that there is sufficient parliamentary time for both debate and emergency legislation.
Leaving with No Deal is an economic risk, but so is continual uncertainty and yet more extensions. Uncertainty has led to business investment and consumer spending drying up. Continued uncertainty is likely to tip us into recession with a devastating impact on jobs and people’s standard of living. This is now at least as big a risk as leaving without a deal.
It is for these reasons that I opposed Parliament taking control of the business from the Government last Tuesday and then voted against legislation which sends the wrong message to the EU about the need to make changes to the existing Withdrawal Agreement.
I want us to achieve an agreement which is fair, but the referendum result must be respected not sabotaged – and we must leave with no more extensions.
The post Although I want a Brexit deal, No Deal would now be less risky than even more uncertainty appeared first on BrexitCentral.
Earlier in the week, I and two colleagues from Veterans for Britain, Professor Gwythian Prins and Rear-Admiral Roger Lane-Nott, gave a briefing in Whitehall on the consequences for the UK if the defence and security sections of the current exit arrangements laid down in Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration are approved.
While the media overwhelmingly predicts negative consequences if Boris Johnson does not pass the EU’s one and only deal, defence is an area where there are clear and unparallelled dangers for the UK if he does. Three principal parts of the exit arrangements, contained in the Political Declaration, would immediately extinguish our defence autonomy and with it, one of the essential attributes of national sovereignty. We would be walking into a swamp from which it would be all but impossible to escape. Additionally, the legal knotweed which accompanies these three structures, which is scandalously given only a passing mention in the texts, makes the political burden and attachment even deeper.
Yet we are not even safe if we avoid the deal in the coming weeks. There is every risk that the Government could be led into these same defence arrangements under the guise of a trade deal, owing to the misplaced enthusiasm for these schemes among some members of the senior levels in the civil service. This has led to us being committed to at least seven levels of integration in EU defence structures that supersede and over-ride our national sovereignty. MPs have allowed this to continue or been duped; but sadly, few of them have taken an interest in the subject. Those who do take an interest have received bland reassurances from ministers, which usually carry the same wording regardless of which minister has sent it. In truth, how could MPs know in their own right how the EU Defence Union works and therefore the threat to autonomy that it presents? My colleagues and I took more than three months to piece it together while new linking structures were being announced on a gradual, staggered basis. This has meant working through more than a quarter of a million words across more than 15 texts and agreements.
I fear relatively few MPs have bothered to investigate how we are being sold out – and an even smaller number have spoken up in protest. It is the civil service and the political advisers who have been eager to accept the EU’s sales pitch and it is the same officials who have been free to frame ministerial advice on the subject. The result of this advice is that MPs think they are getting an à-la-carte buffet of defence, where the UK can breeze in and out as it pleases, with no obligations and only benefits. Nothing could be further from the truth. You would have thought 40 years of being told ‘no cherry-picking’ would have made MPs notice the hidden catch. The catch might have been noted, had Parliament scrutinised these measures as it should have done. A Scrutiny Reserve Regulation was put in place in 2010 to make sure this happened – but it has been repeatedly and deliberately breached.
Of course, the expanded political-military architecture of the EU comes with a broad and binding rulebook. You will struggle to find a Whitehall fan of EU Defence who is prepared to admit this. Most importantly, every part of EU Defence links to everything else. This detail is so poorly understood on our side of the Channel that EU spokespeople have taken turns to rebuke the UK for believing they can dip in when they choose without accepting EU terms.
Of course, it is not only MPs who have missed a trick. The UK’s news media have shown little interest and not even paid attention to the EU’s rebukes over policy links. The bottom line is that whatever exit deal we reach – including WTO rules – we have been enmeshed in a system that removes our sovereignty over defence and our defence forces. We can only take back control with an explicit statutory instrument that breaks this control from Brussels.
Are we a country, with all the attributes of statehood? Or are we simply a rule-taking colony of Brussels, happy to let our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines be put in harm’s way by unelected officials who can never be called to account when things go wrong? It is a simple choice.
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I can’t help admiring the way Recalcitrant Remainers – apart from lunatics and other Liberals – have managed to disguise their desire to stop Brexit.
For two years of parliamentary tactics and fear creation, they’ve held Brexit up rather than killed it – but defenestrated poor old Theresa who attempted to accommodate them.
Now, as departure date nears, their attack is on a “no deal” Brexit, rather than any Brexit at all. This is done to weaken a Brexit government by depriving it of its weapon of last resort and encourage the EU to argue that a deal which can’t pass Parliament can’t be changed.
Next there’s the claim that they’re not defeating Brexit but defending democracy by bringing Guardian readers onto the streets to demonstrate against a “coup”, a “dictatorship” and the emasculation of Parliament. This provided a useful opportunity for Owen Jones to harangue Waitrose customers about the joys of socialism, for Momentum to fraternise with the liberal elite and for others to build their upper body strength by waving EU flags (not to mention the bonanza for flag importers).
Sadly the hysteria didn’t help. People welcome a Prime Minister who’s doing something at last. They don’t like Parliament, the politicians who live there or the messing about that’s gone on there on behalf of an EU they don’t particularly like either.
The fourth and final tactic is tripping Boris up in Parliament with the help of Remainer Bercow. But how? They disagree about the tactics. Not a vote of confidence: if it were carried the Queen would be obliged to send for Corbyn. They can’t legally ban “no deal” if the EU forces one on us. They can’t demand a referendum, as there’s nothing to vote on. They can’t demand an election. Labour in its present state would lose.
So it’s a field day for lawyers, quibblers and parliamentary pedants who have narrowed things down to an extension of Article 50. That’s the preference of the EU because it’s so difficult for the hydra to get agreement on anything else. Which is why they’ve suggested that through their British allies.
The public will not be happy with kicking the can down the road for longer, nor will the vested interests calling for an urgent decision. It won’t budge an inflexible EU but it will force Boris into an election to capitalise on its obduracy.
That election will be difficult to predict because the electorate is split four ways: Brexit versus Remain and Labour versus Tory. The Tory vote will be split with the Brexit Party and Labour’s with the alienated people and regions which would normally support it. The Tory-Brexit split may be easier to fix than Labour’s long-term loss. Which leaves only one thing clear: the end result won’t be a resurgence of respect for Parliament, politicians or the British political system. Parties can be patched up, respect can’t.
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The orchestrated attack against the Prime Minister’s decision to move on ahead with the Government’s programme and a Queen’s speech after the annual conference recess reveals, once again, the lengths to which those who lost the 2016 referendum will go to stop the democratic decision of voters in 2016 and again in 2017 from being put into effect.
The real outrage is not that Boris Johnson is moving decisively to honour his predecessor’s pledge to voters to leave the EU, deal or no deal, repeated in the Conservative manifesto and endorsed by an Act of Parliament; nor that he intends to tackle the ambitious programme for economic and social regeneration for which the country cries out. Rather, there is cause for genuine outrage that the last government ducked and weaved on its duty to do these things, and that Remain-backing MPs ganged up in a parliamentary dictatorship under the Speaker to defy the electorate and call the shots.
Those now protesting against the limited extension to Parliament’s normal three-week conference recess for the prorogation before the Queen’s Speech have from the outset sought to obstruct or reverse the people’s decision to leave the EU. It need hardly be added that they are mostly Opposition MPs, a handful of Tory rebels, and the usual contingent of fringe opposition parties, with plenty of noise on the streets from the anti-democratic militants on whom such parties can call to threaten the fabric of democracy. Despite the fact that the authority of these MPs comes from the people, they have used their office to frustrate the legitimate workings of democracy, and to violate the very constitution, under which they were elected.
We have to look back more than a century to find a similar parliamentary attempt to prevent the express wish of the people from being executed. In 1909-1910 the House of Lords tried to veto the then Liberal Government’s Budget, the heart of its radical reforms providing for new social security and pension schemes. Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister of the day, defeated the move by threatening to flood the Lords with his own nominees.
By contrast today’s anti-democratic MPs have, until now, been been allowed to get away with their unconstitutional obstruction of voters’ authority. Theresa May, many believed, started out with the best of intentions to see Britain’s interests through, deal or no deal. But good intentions were no substitute for ruthless determination to use the toolkit of government to do her duty and take Britain out of the EU, if necessary facing down the enemies of democracy, whether in the EU or in Parliament. Instead, having gone along with EU agenda and approach in negotiations with Brussels, she then tried to appease Brexit’s opponents in the Commons and finally colluded with them against Brexit, in favour of a deal that compromised the UK’s sovereignty, kept the county in an EU customs union, subject to its laws and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
Boris Johnson, by contrast, has understood the fundamental truth of Britain’s unwritten constitution. The authority to exercise political power comes from the people. So it has been for as long as history records, as long as people recorded the struggles in parish and country, in Parliament and in law; and to maintain that freedom, Parliaments and MPs, monarchs and governments have ultimately had to bow to the people’s will. The most dramatic example of this in recent centuries was the repeal of the Corn Laws – in the early decades of the 19th century, people formed leagues and societies and campaigned for the repeal of the duties, really a tax on imported corn, that kept up the price of bread, then a staple food on which the working men and women of Britain fed their families and themselves. Ultimately, a Tory Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, gave way to that demand, and did so against the vested interests of landowners and the protests by MPs in his own party.
Though he heads a Conservative government, Boris Johnson is no more a partisan Prime Minister than Peel, who repealed the Corn Laws to execute the people’s will.
He knows now is no time to appease the treachery of MPs and Brexit’s opponents. Institutional order has always mattered. Even at the height of World War Two, the King’s Speech took place each year, to announce the programme for the current year: not just that armed struggle would continue to preserve freedom at home and restore it abroad, but also other measures that victory would make possible – an education system for all, universal social insurance and land reform. The King’s Speech was a symbol of his people’s determination to see the war through, as the means to a better end.
Johnson must therefore persist. Until he gets Brexit done, the people of this country will remain deprived of their constitutional right to determine how they are governed and by whom. Instead MPs will have usurped that power to undermine people’s right. And the EU’s leaders, rubbing their hands on the sidelines in Brussels, will crack on with their plans to chain the UK economy to its customs union, its laws, and to the European Court of Justice for which politics comes before freedom.
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A mere few months ago, only those with copies of Erskine May on their bookshelves would have likely known the meaning of prorogation. It burst onto the centre-stage of the public debate framed as a tool by which besuited desperados could force their maleficent policies on us by snatching power away from the legislature. A ludicrous narrative was constructed in which a government could do whatever it wanted by phoning the Queen and asking if she wouldn’t mind awfully sending MPs home for a bit. As should be excruciatingly obvious, this can and will never happen.
Unsurprisingly, then, despite what some seem determined to believe, that is not what the Government is doing now. We have a new Prime Minister, keenly brandishing a fresh domestic agenda, nearly two and a half years into the longest parliamentary session since the English Civil War. Even in a world blissfully free of Brexit discourse and wrangling, those would be excellent and comprehensive reasons why the Government is well within its rights to call a Queen’s Speech. MPs do not have the right to demand the Commons sits on any given day; they have had years to propose anti-No Deal legislation.
Even so, it should come as no great wonder that the Church House Remainer coalition is rather unhappy, as is evidenced by its classless and unimaginative mud-slinging. MPs from all parties hurl straight-faced accusations of a disregard for democracy. This is, of course, despite the fact that the passing of a Queen’s Speech depends on Parliament’s approval. Nonetheless, throw a few references to ‘17.4 million people’ into the irate Remainer tweets and they could almost be a Brexit Party rallying cry.
The most troubling – and concerningly understated – aspect of this uproar is the fact that this rhetoric is being consistently echoed by one John Bercow. Questions have, of course, been repeatedly raised about the Speaker’s ostensible partiality on Brexit, ever since he abandoned his neutrality and told an audience of students in February 2017 that he had voted Remain. Then of course he rewrote Commons rules in January to give his chum Dominic Grieve a leg-up and toss a small but not insignificant spanner into the works of Theresa May’s Brexit plans.
Bercow is edging ever closer to the Remain camp. His condemnation of the Prime Minister’s announcement last week was drowned out by the near-identical censures from the likes of John McDonnell, Jo Swinson, Anna Soubry and Nicola Sturgeon. While they are fully entitled to unreservedly express their view on the Government’s actions, the Speaker is not. The mere fact that he is now consistently saying almost exactly the same things as those MPs is a cause for grave concern. Imagine the shrieks if the reverse were true.
One of the primary objections cited by the Boris-sceptics is the supposed risk of setting a precedent for the use of prorogation to political ends. Remain-leaning Tories in particular have taken to scare-mongering that Jeremy Corbyn could somehow use prorogations for Queen’s Speeches willy-nilly to force through deranged policies of sweeping nationalisation. This is fatuous; the reasons for having one now are ample and extend beyond Brexit. The genuinely disquieting precedent is that of a biased Speaker. It is disturbing in the extreme that we may soon find ourselves with a de facto co-Prime Minister in the Speaker’s chair.
Our parliamentary system only works when the Speaker is of impeccable impartiality. Across the pond, things are done differently; much American political manoeuvring consists of obsessing over the semantics of an ill-important centuries-old text in desperate attempts to discern whether James Madison really meant that everyone should be allowed to carry their six-shooters into Walmart. Our constitution is not codified, nor even written; it walks, talks and, worst of all, thinks.
This undoubtedly grants the Mother of Parliaments a great many advantages over the American structure, but it also brings with it a host of other democratic tripwires, many of which have been catapulted to the fore by Brexit. Bercow sits astride a stallion, hair blowing in the wind, fist raised in a triumphant declaration of power, staring towards Heaven, as he declares unto the people: “I am the Constitution!”
Thankfully, there are checks to the Speaker’s authority. Our structure of government as a whole is rather good at blocking spates of erraticism. What’s more, so far at least, no certifiable craziness has emanated from the Speaker’s chair. But all is not well. However angry he may be, Bercow has no legitimate reason to seek to impede the Queen’s Speech. For now, his conduct is merely “improper”, as the Leader of the House put it.
But the Speakership is the pillar supporting the glorious democratic ceiling above our heads. And that pillar is being determinedly chipped away at as Bercow’s veil of self-restraint rapidly slips away.
Photocredit: ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
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Her Majesty the Queen’s approval of the Prime Minister’s request to prorogue Parliament has sent Remain-supporting Westminster into meltdown. Boris Johnson pitched the move as a way of preparing for a Queen’s Speech on 14th October following the prorogation, which is of course the formal mechanism that ends a parliamentary session. What makes the decision by Johnson to prorogue Parliament at this time so interesting is that it is both necessary and convenient. The current parliamentary session (which started in June 2017) is the longest for almost 400 years. The prorogation of Parliament is almost required at this point, but it is set to last longer than usual. The Prime Minister can honestly say that this is a necessity, although it would be hard for him to argue that it doesn’t assist efforts to stop anti-democracy campaigners from cancelling Brexit.
That’s exactly how I see it, not least because a ‘Remain Alliance’ fronted by Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and a host of other radical Remainers has repeatedly threatened to bring down Johnson and his Cabinet to stop Brexit either through legislative means or a temporary government. MPs from every party except the DUP have explicitly stated that they will do everything possible to stop a no-deal Brexit from happening, with some going as far as stating they intend to cancel Brexit altogether. The Independent Group for Change’s Anna Soubry campaigns on a message to stop Brexit and initiate a second referendum, as does Swinson, along with a number of Independents, Conservative MPs and Labour frontbenchers.
Boris Johnson promised that his new Government would fulfil the repeated promises of Parliament to the people, and ensure the UK leaves the EU on 31st October. He said it the moment he took office, standing outside No. 10, and it’s a promise that can only be fulfilled by stopping those in Parliament working to cancel Brexit. No matter what Johnson might say, I would suggest that this prorogation of Parliament has been designed specifically to allow his Government to achieve three things:
- To reduce the amount of time that Brexit-hating fanatics have to introduce legislation that could stop Brexit.
- To allow his Government and civil servants to continue their focus on preparing for the possibility of No Deal.
- To give Parliament (and the EU) a final chance to agree to a deal – something they have failed to do three times during Theresa May’s leadership – following any possible last-minute negotiations.
It is a strategic decision that is likely to work, which is why a great many political commentators, MPs and protestors are losing their collective minds. On Wednesday night, protesters took to the streets, with many sitting down outside the gates of Downing Street to stop anyone entering or exiting. Independent MP Heidi Allen suggested the move was part of a “Brexit coup”, hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition in protest, Owen Jones claimed “our unelected Prime Minister has started a war with our democracy” and #AbolishTheMonarchy trended on Twitter.
Amidst this chaos, the most common line of attack you’ll hear against Johnson is that he does not have a mandate, having become Prime Minister following a party leadership election. They suggest that he is attacking our democracy by refusing to allow elected representatives to do their job. Yet it is a great irony that those who have campaigned to stop the implementation of a decision made by the British people now claim to be campaigning to protect democracy.
Their claim that this is a “Brexit coup” is demonstrably wrong, too. Prorogation of Parliament is a constitutional procedure, regardless of its length. It was introduced by the leader of a governing party elected by the people, signed by the Head of State in accordance with precedent, and to top it all off, will ensure the greatest likelihood that the politicians cannot stop Brexit from happening. Since the British people were promised “the government will implement what you decide” in 2016, Johnson’s decision to request the prorogation of Parliament is the antithesis of a coup: it is democratic, it is legal and it is not violent. It is a strategic move that, whether they want to accept it or not, protects the integrity of our democracy and potentially maintains some level of faith in British politicians.
Johnson’s move was divisive precisely because it offers hope that the result of the referendum will be delivered. Many in both the media and political classes are desperate to stop that from happening.
Another great irony is that the politicians who have tried at every turn to stop No Deal are the ones who caused this to happen in the first place. Don’t forget, even Nigel Farage was advocating a deal with Europe during the referendum campaign. Brexiteers didn’t rule out No Deal, but still expressed a clear desire to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with the EU. It wasn’t the Brexiteers who made this happen, but the parliamentarians who refused to pass the Withdrawal Agreement or work constructively with Theresa May’s Government to achieve a compromise deal.
Now, No Deal is almost inevitable.
Parliament voted to hold a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. Parliament also voted for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act. Parliament then voted for the EU Withdrawal Act. Then it rejected a deal three times over. With no willingness to compromise, and an inability to offer any workable alternatives to May’s Withdrawal Agreement, No Deal is the natural conclusion and now the most likely result of this three-year arduous process.
Those same anti-Brexit ideologues may also be the reason Johnson wins a snap general election in the coming weeks or months. Meg Russell, a senior fellow from UK in a Changing Europe, said on Wednesday that the Prime Minister was “daring MPs to vote him out of office” – and perhaps he is. We could soon see the vote of no confidence Jeremy Corbyn has been threatening for weeks, and maybe a general election is right around the corner. As it stands, though, the Remain camp just won’t win. Polls consistently show a Tory lead, with the Brexit Party’s voteshare shifting between 5% and 15%. Depending on whether a non-aggression pact can be agreed between the Tories and the Brexit Party, Johnson could win an immediate general election that some senior Tories want him to call.
And should he deliver a clean Brexit on October 31st, the Brexit Party will have served its purpose and there would be little reason for anyone to vote for them again. Just like the voters abandoned UKIP in 2017, they would abandon the Brexit Party after No Deal and – in the main – flock back to the Tories.
The ideologues, extremists and anti-democracy campaigners on the Remain side bewail the likelihood of No Deal, but they created this mess. Thanks to them, Britain will almost certainly be leaving the European Union without a deal, and it’s likely Boris Johnson will gain an increased Tory majority in the coming general election. They made their bed, and now they’re going to have to lie in it.
The post The forthcoming prorogation makes No Deal almost inevitable appeared first on BrexitCentral.
The failure (thus far) to implement the people’s wishes on Brexit must be the greatest cock-up in British history. It has created a political mess in which we wallow while the world laughs. So it’s worthwhile to ask what went wrong and learn the lessons. We wasn’t just robbed. We failed incompetently.
Brexiteers assumed that it would be easy. In fact the obstacles were enormous. We faced an intransigent and inflexible opponent in a devious, cunning EU. A determined and articulate middle-class reaction in Britain colluded with Brussels to undermine our case. The Cabinet was divided, a wittering Chancellor poured on cold water and the Treasury organised a chorus of fear. Theresa May’s weakness meant she could be treated and foiled in shameful fashion. All this doomed her.
Instead of implementing the referendum result as his Government had said it would, Cocksure Cameron sulked off. In came Theresa May, too nice to fight, too inflexible to be devious and too stupid to understand. She naively assumed that all she had to do was talk nicely to other heads of state who would understand the politics. Instead she was forced to deal only with the Commission – that had everything to lose. Its role and its money were threatened by Brexit. So it grabbed control of the negotiations to punish us and protect itself.
Niceness was out. Middle-class Europhiles and the Establishment in Britain felt their right to rule was threatened by the hairy armpits of uneducated, ill-informed plebs who’d voted in a way they should never have been allowed to. This encouraged EU determination to punish a nation impertinent enough to question its EU destiny. So while Brexiteers celebrated, the Commission plotted and decided immediately that the 27 would stand together. Then the conditions of departure would be settled before any talks about trade. They’d come only after Britain left. In effect “no deal departure” started as an EU policy.
That put May in a trap. The Lisbon Treaty says once notification is given “a withdrawal agreement is negotiated setting out the arrangements for withdrawal and outlining the country’s future relationship with the union”, two processes to go on concurrently. May’s notification letter of 29th March 2017 asked for this:
“We believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal.”
Legally correct. But EU law is observed only if it furthers ever closer union. This didn’t. A conglomerate of 27 nations can’t negotiate. So EU bureaucrats insisted on one negotiator who would not discuss future cooperation until tough terms for divorce were agreed. Their executioner was Michel Barnier, a man with a Gallic dislike of Britain who announced:
“My mission will have been a success when the terms are so brutal for the British that they prefer to stay in the union.”
He made certain of this by adding a veto for Ireland to the two initial demands about money and protection for EU citizens. There would be no customs border, thus ensuring that Northern Ireland must be treated separately, or the whole of the UK kept in the Single Market. This was the backstop. It threatened to keep the UK a vassal state, but was justified as protection for the Good Friday Agreement. The two were totally unrelated but it was an implicit threat that the old violence would be unleashed unless May caved.
She did. David Davis announced that simultaneous negotiations would be “the fight of the summer” but by the autumn May had decided to grovel, not fight. She erased her red lines, walked into the trap and agreed everything the Commission wanted – only then to suffer humiliation at the EU summit and more in Parliament, which refused to pass her bedraggled agreement.
Her demise leaves a deadlock. A new government determined on Brexit confronts an EU which won’t budge from an agreement which can’t pass, while deliberately inflated fears of “no deal” intimidate the nation. A new government should mean new negotiations but that opens up the whole can of worms of legality, unity, and skullduggery. So the EU is loath to do it, meaning a confrontation which deadlocks everything. Except hysteria.
My conclusion is that whoever negotiates with the EU must carry a big stick. Others invoke the analogy of Dunkirk with Churchill snatching victory out of defeat. That’s daft. We were a nation then, Churchill had a huge majority, there was neither a bourgeois fifth column, nor vested interests generating fear and no media to damn Churchill for dirty underpants. How fortunate that the consequences of either side winning are more marginal than 1940, whatever their long-term impact on the kind of nation we want to be.
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In the past two months, the European Union has begun to set out its stall for how, as an organisation, it will move on for the next 10 years after Brexit. What is clear from these decisions is that the EU is on a path towards federalisation in the form of a singular economic, foreign and security policy. Yet many Remainers seem to be blind to these simple facts – which the EU itself has confirmed as its goals. They do not seem to acknowledge how this would change our United Kingdom if we had to Remain inside the EU. Instead, Remainers seem to have their heads in the sand, insisting we should stay in the EU and that nothing would change from what we have now – and going forward – forever.
The EU, in any case, will not be content with a two-speed Europe in the long term, and Euro membership – along with homogenisation of the whole European Union – would be an inevitable price to pay if we were to continue as a Member State of the European Union. Are these Remainers duplicitous, simply naive beyond belief or do they have some vested interests in our membership of the EU perhaps?
The horizon is clear for the EU as shown by Brussels’ own press statements following the June 2019 European Council. They specifically mentioned numerous goals – including the EU aiming to create the mechanisms required to act together on matters of ‘foreign policy’ with a united front, with decisions taken on the supranational level. This is not simply on foreign policy, however. Singular economic policy in terms of taxation is also listed as a goal of the EU within the next 10 years. This would be a means to stop disparity between Member States, effectively giving the unelected European Central Bank the power to make taxation and spending policy for every single Member State.
These are not the words of an economic union which has goals of simply helping countries trade and work together. Instead this is the beginning of the path towards the total federalisation of decision-making, taking powers away from domestic governments and the people who elected them.
But despite the clear evidence of this being a desire of the EU, many Remainers call it ‘hogwash’, or the Brexiteers own version of ‘Project Fear’. ‘It’s nothing to worry about,’ we are told, ‘we can just cancel the result of the EU referendum by revoking Article 50 and everything will go back to normal and stay the same’. Yes, revoking Article 50 would stop Brexit, but simply remaining in the EU would not mean everything staying the same, or going back to normal. No doubt the EU, the vindictive organisation that it is, would attempt to place further restrictions upon Article 50 to ensure this situation did not happen again.
And meanwhile, don’t forget the 17.4 million of the Great British Public who voted Leave in the EU referendum, and the many people who have changed their minds who now want to Leave, who would rightly feel betrayed by the politicians. It would result in a huge democratic deficit and complete mistrust in the British political system, should Brexit simply be cancelled.
If, for some inescapable reason, the UK crawled back to the EU and asked to stay inside their corrupt organisation, the UK would be told to sit down and shut up, no longer the noisy neighbour blocking the EU’s federalist ambitions, and we would be forced to accept whatever is thrown at us in the future, whatever the repercussions for our nation. We would have had our chance to Leave and prosper outside the EU. But should we attempt to return to the EU’s fold in the future, the hard-won rebate former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher fought for would be out of the window; and the exemption from Schengen and other preferential treatments we have received would be put at risk.
After October 31st, when the UK should be out of the EU (hopefully with a new drastically improved deal), the new European Commission will take office. This will be a Commission which is fundamentally in favour of increased federalisation and measures such as reinforcing a European Army. Ursula von der Leyen, the new President of the European Commission, has explicitly stated she believes this would be the best course of action to take. These are the organisations and policies which, if we Remain – or passed Theresa May’s dreadful Withdrawal Agreement – we would be exposed to as a nation.
Fundamentally, Remainers seem to be so obsessed with the EU, they refuse to accept its failings and the inevitable future of the supranational organisation.
However, what is unclear is whether or not Remainers are actually aware of these potential consequences of cancelling Brexit and staying within the EU. I suspect it is far more likely that many of those people who are obsessed with cancelling Brexit know full well the path the EU is on, but have no problem with the damage it could do to the UK. They see themselves more as European than British, and deem traditional ideas of the Nation State as obsolete or damaging.
While they have every right to hold these opinions, they are not the views of the United Kingdom as a whole. This is exactly the reason why we need to Get Britain Out of the EU on October 31st, and ensure we steer clear of the dastardly Withdrawal Agreement as negotiated by Theresa May.
The post Remember the ever-changing nature of the EU in which the anti-Brexit crowd would have us Remain appeared first on BrexitCentral.
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