Chuka & the Whip – a Logical Analysis

Who benefits from Labour’s continuing ambiguity on Brexit? The country, or the party?

A few days ago Chuka Umunna put forward an amendment to the Queen’s speech with the aim of securing our place in the Single Market & Customs Union.  Jeremy Corbyn instructed his MPs to abstain on the amendment though 50 MPs “defied the whip” and voted in support.  There’s been much discussion about whether this was foolish, vain, badly timed or actually necessary at this stage, given that the Conservatives are widely seen to be under pressure & the Labour party is trying to hold onto a coalition of pro & anti brexit voters. Much of this discussion however has taken place from a Labour party and not a national perspective.

This blog attempts to look at the position logically from a national rather than purely Labour party view.  Firstly, it’s important to lay out some basic assumptions.

There is no “cake and eat it” Brexit – There is no special deal available from the EU that does not include membership of the Single Market & Customs Union.  Therefore if we do not join both of these the UK will suffer significant economic damage.

Clearly the UK voted to leave & clearly immigration is an issue for the UK.  There is an argument which says membership of the SM & CU means we haven’t really left.  That doesn’t change the facts.  At some point the UK will need to choose between prosperity & “controlling immigration”, or, alternatively, the choice will be made for them by our political class.  But there is no middle ground, no “near exact benefits deal” that excludes FoM.  And all parties know it.  Therefore continued fudging around “the best deal” is a political device used by both major parties which actually does the UK no favours whilst it continues.

Labour’s Pro/anti brexit dualism dilemma is wholly it’s own fault – Yes Labour has brexit seats in the north and remainer seats in the south and therefore it’s played a skillful game of playing to both sides.  But this was a cynical decision it took, no-one forced Labour to play both sides.  Therefore, it’s ultimately up to Labour how it solves this problem because at some point it will have to disappoint 1 of these 2 groups.

The interests of the Labour party & the National Interest are not the same thing – Yes the Labour party has issues and yes it needs to sort itself out however at this time more than ever the national interest must override party interest – country before party.  Getting the Labour party into a majority government may be the single aim of party loyalists but it does not in itself end or mitigate Brexit, nor is it necessarily the best thing for the UK at this time.  In actual fact the most useful government right now would likely be some form of multi-party coalition that had a clear mandate to minimise or stop brexit and a balanced view on how to take the country forward.

The clock is ticking – Article 50 has been triggered and the clock is ticking.  It cannot easily be stopped or pushed back, if it can be at all.  There’s simply no time for Labour or the Tory party to “play the long game” as we should have started negotiations proper with a decent and well thought out plan 3 months ago.

 

So, to summarise, Labour must at some point in the near future come down on  being in or out of the SM & CU, and in doing so accept that it will disappoint its Leavers or Remainers.  The current behavior of both parties (“ambitious trade deal”/”exact same benefits”) is simply designed to delay this point as long as possible however this serves the individual parties interests and not the UK.  On the contrary, whilst this continues the UK economy is being damaged and we are looking increasingly ridiculous to the rest of the world.

If that in/out decision is proving impossible that will only be because Labour was dishonest with its voters at a colossal scale.  Labour activists will say this fudging was necessary however given the levels of dishonesty the British public has been exposed to these past 2 years that is arguably unforgivable and certainly not a “new kind of politics”.

 

So, was Chuka Umunna right in raising the amendment? To address that we need to consider it under 2 separate scenarios, is Corbyn a secret soft brexit/remainer or is he a secret hard brexiteer?  I have my own views on this but others have argued differently so we’ll consider both.

 

Corbyn is a secret soft brexit/remainer

In this instance the argument goes that Chuka has jumped the gun and ruined the long “soft brexit/remain” game that Corbyn & Labour are playing.  However if we examine this we have to conclude that, given there is no middle ground & we are in the SM & CU or we are out, the Labour party is essentially deliberately misleading its Leave voters.  Furthermore it’s doing this not in the National Interest but in the Party’s interest, in order to hold on to leave seats as long as possible.

Therefore, in essence Chuka & the 49 rebels were attacked for not colluding in an ongoing & drawn out evasion with the public in general and leave voters in particular, solely because Corbyn and the Labour party want to keep misleading Leave voters for as long as possible.  It’s important to emphasize this – Labour supporters appear quite comfortable with this “necessary” deceit but this will only create feelings of betrayal and disenfranchisement which will cause significant problems later.  Corbyn was supposed to bring a new honesty into politics.

 

Corbyn is a secret hard brexiteer

This is even more straightforward.  In this instance Corbyn and therefore a large part of the Labour leadership are resigned or happy with leaving the SM & CU, are deliberately misleading their remain voters and so there is no long “remain” game to disrupt.

There is however a long “leave” game to be disrupted which Chuka tried and hopefully succeeded in doing.

 

In summary, the Labour party are leading on either Leavers or Remainers as there is no middle option that satisfies both.  Furthermore by doing this they are putting party before country at a most crucial time and are playing a very dangerous and irresponsible game at a time when the UK is very vulnerable and in desperate need of honest leadership.  The fact that so many Labour supporters accept this cynical “Party first” attitude is worrying.

At best, this misdirection is leading to soft brexit/remain, and Chuka & co have been penalised for interrupting a cynical, self serving ruse which will only create further distrust and anger with Politics, at worst it’s leading to a Labour driven hard brexit, and anyone with any sense should be thanking the 50 MPs profusely.

My own personal view?  Corbyn is a hard brexit supporter, it’s not even really a secret to non Corbyn supporters and as such, Chuka should be applauded for trying to flush him out. 

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Why is Corbyn Pro-Brexit?

Jeremy Corbyn, despite what many supporters believe, has historically been opposed to the EU.  When this is discussed however generally rail nationalisation is raised as an example and it’s then pointed out that the EU doesn’t prevent state owned railways.  It’s then also pointed out that Labour policies aren’t really that radical and that many Scandinavian states have similar left wing policies.

This leads to the hope that either a) Corbyn isn’t really pro-brexit or b) as soon as he understands that he can nationalise the railyways or utilities or have a larger State under the Single Market rules he’ll be OK with the EU again.

The mistake here however is in assessing “Corbynism” through a 21st century political lens, in thinking of his beliefs in terms of “normal” 21st century economic thinking.  This is a flawed approach as Corbyn’s ideas were formed in the 1970s and haven’t changed much since and in fact his traditional aims & objectives go further than nationalising the railways or even the power companies.  Labour is a socialist party, however “pure” or “traditional” socialism isn’t just about equality or improving the social contract.

nationalisation

In fact, the traditional aim of socialism is to control the “means of production” or “the commanding heights” to quote Lenin.  This wasn’t even an unusual policy for Labour back in the day.

In July 1945, Labour came into power totally committed to nationalization and determined to conquer the “commanding heights” of the economy, having borrowed the term from Lenin by the mid-1930s

Tony Benn, a key socialist from Labour’s past and Jeremy Corbyn’s guru, advocated a break from the EU back in 1975 (source: Wikipedia) for this very reason:

The Secretary of State for Industry in the Labour government, Tony Benn, wrote a paper …in 1975, …  “It described … Strategy B which is the real Labour policy of saving jobs, a vigorous micro-investment programme, import control, control of the banks and insurance companies, control of export, of capital, higher taxation of the rich, and Britain leaving the Common Market“.

With Britain in economic crisis in October 1976, Benn put forward the (Alternative Economic Strategy) …  “the protectionist course which is the one I have consistently recommended for two and a half years…protectionism is a perfectly respectable course of action. It is compatible with our strategy. You withdraw behind walls (in a “Siege economy”) and reconstruct and re-emerge”.

Yes it’s true that this was 40 years ago, but this is how far back Corbyn’s political roots go.  It’s well known that he strongly admired Tony Benn and his policies and has carried most of them forward.

Benn2

What would this “State control” mean in practice? To take an example, if a major car manufacturer pulled out of the UK as a result of Brexit, a “Jobs first Brexit” might actually take over the car plant and pump in Government money to keep the plant going.

This would be Corbyn’s approach – you might even agree with it. The issue though is that now the state is supporting Car Manufacturing.  Other car companies would be at a disadvantage.  Steel production would follow, then Banks & perhaps Insurance Services and other service industries, the new “commanding heights”

This may be a society you are happy with, millions would be.  The Labour Leadership would be.  It’s one way of “fixing” things in our society.  But it’s not compatible with being in the EU or the Single Market.

Corbyn quote2

This is because problems arise when you try to sign a trade deal (with the EU or anyone else) or try to attract inward investment.  The UK economy is no longer a level playing field and cannot therefore operate fairly in the Single Market.  Other countries would not sign comprehensive trade deals with a county which is subsidising its industries – they simply wouldn’t be able to compete with state supported UK companies and trade is ultimately about competition.

This matters if you want to be an outward facing country however it doesn’t necessarily matter if you want to create a “socialism in one state” bubble society.

This is the root of why Corbyn, McDonnell and others are opposed to the EU and always have been at a very fundamental level. This “traditional socialist”,  heavily subsidised government owned economy just wouldn’t work within the Single Market, it would create unfair competition.  It’s also why comparisons of Corbynism with Scandinavian countries are a false measure.  Corbyn thinking is more geared towards the original Venezuela model even if Labour party policy appears non-radical.

Therefore, talk of “he wouldn’t be that crazy to push for a Hard Brexit, it would cause major economic harm” is well wide of the mark.  If you believe that the economy is fundamentally unfair & broken, top to bottom, in its assumptions & operation then you will be entirely comfortable with a period of destruction if you believe a better society will arise from the ashes.  Of course your supporters may not be entirely comfortable with that future or the interim pain which is why its not shouted from the rooftops as a plan.

The reality is, most of us assume Corbynism is about more money for NHS, Tax credits, welfare.  It’s not.  Corbyn & his team believe UK society is fundamentally broken and needs to be reformed along pure socialist lines to address its issues.  You may well agree however it should be noted such a model has never worked well in other countries, and such a country would find it hard to function as a trading nation (as part of the WTO for example).

It may be a “fairer” society, but it would also likely be a poorer one, with far less opportunity & flexibility. However it is a model, very different from ours, and our society does have issues.

The point being, don’t expect Corbyn to change his mind any time soon on the EU, or think that the ability to nationalise railways will convince him.  His antipathy towards the EU is long standing.  In fact it’s ironic that now both the hard left in Labour and the hard right in the Conservatives want to leave the EU for the same basic reason, to radically alter how our society & economy operates (Singapore low regs/low tax economy vs State owned bubble society).

For the past 2 years Jeremy Corbyn has attempted to give the impression of being pro-european because it was needed to maintain his position, but supporters need to look back to his past as his (now deleted) history says otherwise.

hiding

Brexit – “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire”

There’s a lot of confusion & mixed messages around hard brexit, soft brexit, open brexit, closed brexit however there’s one very simple trick to cut through the deliberate fog.

If you hear a politician talk about “Access to the Single Market”, “Retain benefits of the Single Market”, “Reform some aspects of the Single Market”, “Tariff Free Access” or in fact anything that isn’t “Stay in the Single Market”, then they’re lying to you.

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It doesn’t matter if it’s Theresa May, Boris Johnson, John McDonnell, Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn or even Kier Starmer saying it, it’s a deliberate lie.  Because these phrases don’t mean anything in practical terms.

There are 4 reasons for this:

  1. “Access to the Single Market” is a nonsense phrase. You’re either a member of the Single Market or you can trade with countries in the EU on much more restrictive terms based on specialist deals that take years to agree.
  2. The EU has been absolutely clear.  They will not agree any deal that is seen as “better” than being in the Single Market, and all 27 countries have to agree to any deal, it’s not a majority vote, every single parliament in all 27 countries have to agree any deal we get.
  3. We are by far the weaker party in the negotiations, and getting weaker all the time as we embarrass ourselves with our hung parliaments and lying politicians
  4. There was very little time to negotiate a new deal, there’s now, practically, no time. Trade deals take 5 years plus and we will have about a year.

If, for example, you cut through all the fluff and actually listen to what the Conservatives have said, what Labour are saying now and take yourself back to what Vote Leave said prior to the referendum – it’s all identical:

We can negotiate a pick & mix, cake & eat it, bespoke trade deal for the UK, without having to accept Free Movement of People

It was a lie when Vote Leave said it and it’s still a lie when Labour or Conservative politicians say it to you now.  In fact this has been the central lie at the heart of Leave/Remain, that the UK is in a position to demand a bespoke deal that suits us without any of the EU stuff we don’t want.  In fact, as far back as March 2016 when Johnson, Gove and their colleagues first started using the phrase “Access to the Single Market” the Institute of Fiscal Studies had this to say:

Any country in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe – has ‘access’ to the EU as an export destination. Single Market ‘membership’ by contrast involves elimination of barriers to trade in a way that no existing trade deal, customs union or free trade area achieves.

“Access”, despite what Vote Leave said then and what Labour & Conservatives are saying now doesn’t define anything because every country already has it. Vote Leave started the lie, but Labour & the Conservatives continue to support it.  The tragic failure of our media is that Vote Leave, Labour & Conservatives have been able to use this meaningless phrase unchallenged for 15 months or more.

For Labour in particular, they are committed to leaving the Single Market

Given the above, that means hard brexit.  It may come as a shock to hear that the Labour Leadership are committed to a hard brexit but it shouldn’t be.  It’s in the manifesto if you again cut through the fluff & Corbyn and McDonnell have actually been anti EU for most of their political careers.

Ironically, Hard Brexit was dead, or so we thought, the night of the election.  David Davis was retreating from it due to the incoming results:

davis2

However it turns out that Corbyn & McDonnell were happy to apply the kiss of life because, following their support Davis reversed position:

duntx

There’s really no other way to spin this.  Corbyn & McDonnell have deliberately revived Hard Brexit and are now propping up the government position.  This clearly goes against everything people think they know about Corybn, but it’s still the situation.

It should be noted that “leaving EU” does not necessarily mean “leaving Single Market”.  Norway and other countries are in the EEA which sits outside the EU but which maintains membership of the single market, including the freedom to live & work anywhere in the EU.  By saying the above McDonnell and therefore Labour are making a deliberate choice, to interpret the referendum in the most extreme way possible.  This is exactly what Theresa May did.

A “Jobs first” Brexit for example is a nonsense phrase unless “Jobs first” means staying in the single market and customs union.  Any other approach will result in job losses.

Hard Brexit means a massive hit to the economy and likely a recession.  This in turn will make all the good stuff in the Labour Manifesto undeliverable without massive borrowing, which, in turn, will fall on the shoulders of the young in particular over their lifetimes.

That isn’t to say that the things in the Manifesto aren’t worthwhile, many of them are, it’s just that they become practically undeliverable following a hard brexit (which will cost anything from £36 B to £100 B plus per year).  Instead, we’ll likely have a lost decade whilst the country tries to recover.

Which brings us back to the reasons many young people voted for Labour, because they believed Labour was on their side.  Unfortunately, they’re really not, because by exiting the Single Market they are sacrificing the ability for young people to live & work in 27 countries, as well as their financial future, to appease UKIP voters who want to see less foreigners OR to give Corbyn & McDonnell maximum flexibility to create a managed economy like the UK had in the 1970s.

This post explains in more detail but essentially there’s membership of the Single Market, with the 4 freedoms including free movement of people & the Customs Union, or there’s some rubbish, restricted last minute deal that means losses in jobs, impacts on services & removal of the ability to work and live in 27 countries.  There’s nothing really in between.  Anything else is a lie.

 

Materials:

Why the UK has little practical leverage with the EU in negotiations

Difficulty UK will face in replacing lost trade with EU

Study on loss of trade from leaving Single Market

Know your Soft Brexit

Brexit Black hole in May & Corbyn’s manifesto

 

 

 

Brexit & Traitors

One major theme from Brexit was the “patriotism” of the Brexiteers.  They “believed in Britain” whereas Remainers were “traitors” who were “talking the country down”.

May made specific reference to this when she challenged Corbyn’s patriotism.  True patriots believed in Brexit and would “Make Britain Great again”, we would take our country back not only from the EU, but from themake treacherous remainers who were EU huggers that didn’t believe in the UK.  The unpatriotic remoaners would be put in their place and the UK would sail forth to reclaim it’s rightful place in the world.

It was going to be a world of new opportunities, new trade deals and dynamic relationships.  When Trump came to power Theresa May announced that we were going to lead the world hand in hand with the USA.

May lead the world

Yes, she really said that, strange at the time given his campaign but positively bizarre a few short months later, the idea that we would be looking to tie ourselves to the US president. What does that say for our international standing when even the majority of the American people find him embarrassing?

But surely patriotism MUST be about international standing, a nation’s self respect, it’s influence and it’s place in the world and in this regard the UK has always punched above it’s weight. We were considered part of the “big 3 of Europe”, the 3 major players who influenced the direction of the EU

big 3

Not of course by the Eurosceptics.  They hated the EU, they hated the very idea that we might share influence with other nations.  Scratch the surface of a brexiteer and you’ll typically find someone with dreams of Empire.

hannan

(if I can break though the “4th wall” for a second.  Yes, the above is real.  Search “Hannan Anglosphere” and it pops up.  Incredible.) However unknown to most of us the EU raised the UK and was a force projector for our influence.

How could it not be?  We had big 3 status but also we were the bridge between the commonwealth, the USA and the EU because of our historical & cultural links.  In reality the UK had huge “soft power”, something we took for granted.  So, where is the UK now on that world stage?  How is our influence? Are we growing in stature, does the world respect us more?

No. We’re now bundled in with Trump.  Our allies in Europe see us as being unreliable & cut from similar cloth. The political landscape is moving in the EU, but we are not a part of it, for the first time in 40 years.  Prior to that, UK policy was to play off one European nation against another, that simply isn’t going to happen any more.

merkel

As for our outlook, that Brexit booming economy has stumbled, our economic growth has dropped from the top to the bottom of the G7 nations.  Foreign investors are nervous, as of course they will be, as business & investment hate uncertainty. Meanwhile,  Our trade secretary is so desperate to break into trade areas not already dominated by the EU that talks about “shared values” with a dictator in the Philippines.

fox

Consider the above image, and then consider these quotes from Duterte.

Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them…At least Germany had Hitler. The Philippines wouldn’t.

I saw her face and I thought, ‘What a pity… they raped her, they all lined up. I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first

The world is seeing this.

As for our Foreign Secretary Theresa May (who herself has shown incredible weakness obvious to any external observer), for party political reasons, sends out Johnson to represent us on the world stage, something that’s actually had foreign diplomats laughing in disbelief.  Our Brexit Secretary has flip flopped in his position every few months and displays an utter lack of awareness for his brief.

chartdavis

Our influence in Europe is greatly diminished, the commonwealth by and large think we are foolish and don’t see new trade deals happening any time soon and all we have to fall back on is our fabled “special relationship” with the USA.  Our strongest ally, our greatest international Brexit cheerleader.

Well, no, not really, because size really does matter and, all too predictably, the US is favouring an EU market of 440 Million over the UK.  So much for Mr Brexit.

teleg

The sad, painful reality is, we were a player in the world.  And perhaps it didn’t matter to a lot of us or perhaps we took it for granted.  Nevertheless, we’ve lost our EU influence, and we’ve lost our role as the bridge between other countries and the EU.  And the result is we’re tied to Trump, we have no other options.  What does that mean for for the national interest, for our place in the world?

It means the US can try to implement a racist (and illegal) Travel ban, and we say not our business as long as our citizens are not affected. It means the US can pull out of a vital agreement to fight climate change, and we’re “disappointed”.   It means that when the EU leaders try to create a united front to push the US into reconsidering, our foreign secretary describes it as “tagging along” like it’s some schoolyard follow the leader exercise, thus insulting our allies and demeaning his office.

Tag along

Finally it means this can be sent, in the middle of a crisis, attacking the Mayor of our capital

trump

And then this, when he gives a dignified response:

Trump2

and with the world watching, and with Sadiq Khan working to restore calm, our strong and stable PM says nothing in his defence for 2 days whilst that crisis is being resolved until she’s forced to sneak out the briefest and lightest of condemnations in an off the cuff interview.

Can you imagine a European Leader sending tweets like that? Can you imagine a European Leader not immediately & robustly responding?  This is what it means to “Make Britain Great again” – influence lost, bracketed with Trump and so desperate for his attention that we can’t even respond to insults.

 

But again, does this matter?  Maybe not, maybe all that soft power stuff is for the inner circles of Westminster and whispered conversations in Embassy corridors. But if it matters to anyone it should have mattered to the Brexiteers, who put so much stock on us being “under the cosh” of Europe.

But it clearly didn’t and it clearly doesn’t, because they’re silent.  All those flag waving brexit leaders aren’t stupid (stick with me here), they must know what this is doing to our country?  The EU will not roll over.  The Single Market will be a huge loss.  The new Free Trade Deals are years away.  The Special relationship is like any of the President’s relationships.  Politically and economically the UK is moving away from the EU AND the USA and we have never been more isolated.  Yet not one of the commentators will turn around and say “OK, we made a mistake, this wasn’t the plan”.  Clearly they didn’t love their country all that much.

But of course it does matter.  International relationships matter.  Alliances matter.  Countries having each other’s back over terrorism, foreign despots, climate change, the economy and a whole host of other global issues matters.  And yet here the UK is, more isolated, more exposed & less respected than at any time in our history as a nation.

Patriots? Or jingoists who trashed our reputation and our standing in the World.  A reputation built up over years, destroyed in months.  We will likely never recover the influence we had. To many countries we just look foolish, vain, unreliable, unpredictable and, let’s face it, a little bit racist.  That is the reality of Brexit and the “Patriots”.

 

PS. A note on our political class.  Whatever the public statements Brexit is supremely against the national interest in almost every sphere we can think of.  The first duty of parliament is protection of the nation and without question we are less secure as we Brexit.

So when you consider May, Davis, Johnson, Corbyn, Starmer and all the MPs from Labour & Conservatives, remember that they are not stepping up to be counted as the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens are to a greater or lesser extent.  They are going along with a process that they know, or should know, is significantly damaging to the UK and which directly affects it’s security.

Perhaps when the vote was fresh it was hard for some to fight against it but as the evidence gathers there must surely be an imperative to stand up and say “Yes, I understand there was a narrow vote for this, but as a member of a representative parliament I cannot in all conscience support it.”  The only reason not to do so is a desire to protect their seat or position.

History will not be kind to these representatives of the people.

The Brexit no-one wanted

Twitter thread in blog form by request:

1 of the most bizarre aspects of the UK’s current direction is that none of the Brexit Leadership expected this hard brexit.  Looking back prior to the referendum, there were 2 schools of thought from Brexit leaders, and this drove 90% of their thinking:

  1. We would stay in the single market in a Norway style model
  2. We’d use our trade deficit to force a free trade deal

So, for Norway/Single Market model we have for example Nigel Farage putting this forward as our preferred approach and Dan Hannan, actually campaigning for the EEA/Norway approach, including Free Movement which, at least in April 2015, he saw as a thing to be protected.

Dan4f

As for the 2nd approach, forcing a deal – how many times did Leave tell us “they need us more than we need them”? It was a continuous narrative, such as the below from Chris Grayling:

The Germans are not going to stop selling us BMWs, nor are the French going to stop selling wine, cheese and apples just because we are not in the EU. It is not in their interests.

There were essentially 2 promised Brexit outcomes, Single market membership or something even better – the “cake & eat it” option.  The day after the outcome, Johnson said  in this telegraph article:

I cannot stress too much that Britain is part of Europe, and always will be. There will still be intense and intensifying European cooperation and partnership in a huge number of fields: the arts, the sciences, the universities, and on improving the environment. EU citizens living in this country will have their rights fully protected, and the same goes for British citizens living in the EU.

British people will still be able to go and work in the EU; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes and to settle down. As the German equivalent of the CBI – the BDI – has very sensibly reminded us, there will continue to be free trade, and access to the single market

Few of us would be able to reconcile that sunlit uplands picture described only 12 months ago with the high risk, potentially highly damaging Brexit described by Theresa May a few days ago:

mayspeech

It is hard to believe that the referendum would have been won for Leave if the Leave leadership had used the words May used in her speech to describe the risks of Brexit.  As for other Leave leaders such as David Davis, he didn’t even appear to understand how the EU or trade deals work and thought we’d be writing new ones in months.

davis july

but no-one, absolutely no-one in the Leave leadership at that time expected us to be where we are now, facing a hard brexit with a total lack of a plan and few options.

And of course where are the Leave leadership now? Grayling, Stuart, Farage, Carswell, Leadsom, Fox have all gone quiet or disappeared.  Steve Hilton, Cameron’s old PR geek, was all over our screens prior to June 23rd and hasn’t been seen since. Davis has moved from supreme (though misplaced) confidence and now changes his position every few months as reality dawns on him.

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Johnson & Gove, having got the fright of their lives by actually winning, disappeared,

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reappeared and managed to excuse themselves from leadership in an almost comedy fashion.  They both now bluster and snipe from the sidelines making no sensible contribution to the debate.  As for May and Hammond, both were Remainers and May can’t even say that Brexit is a good idea.

But no-one put forward this hard, self harming Brexit, not a single person either previously or currently involved in Brexit leadership had ever seriously suggested a “no deal” crash out of the EU either as part of the referendum campaign, or in the first few months afterwards.

Now of course we in the process of rewriting history.  We’re being told “People knew what they were voting for”.  But that’s a lie. Most people on the leave side believed we would get a near pain free exit.pollsimple

The majority of Leave voters thought they were voting for a no downside/all upside  cake & eat it Brexit or an EEA/SM model, and any suggestion that it might be difficult was dismissed as “project fear”.

So what are we left with? An election called not to strengthen the government’s hand in the negotiations with the EU (who have no interest in the Tory majority) but instead to enable the forcing through parliament of the inevitable poor/no deal which will result. But more importantly, a Leadership who do not believe in Hard Brexit (perhaps do not believe in Brexit at all) but must push it through, backed by a vote for soft brexit which in turn was based on lies & misrepresentations.  Furthermore, the race is on to convince the public that:

  1. the upcoming pain is the EU’s fault and not the leaders of Brexit who lied to them and
  2. they actually voted for the pain in the first place

Before that pain becomes too pronounced.  Unfortunately in many cases the Leave voting public would rather not accept they’ve been fooled, it’s far easier to believe they expected this all along.

However the fact remains, we’re heading for a future that no Brexit leader wanted and almost no-one voted for, almost out of embarrassment.

PS. This point is important.  When anyone, Labour or Tory, says “we will end FoM AND get a comprehensive Free Trade Deal”-they are lying to you, its that simple.  There is no time or inclination by the EU to agree a significant free trade agreement that does not include free movement.  “Best Deal for Britain” or “A Brexit that protects jobs and the economy” are the same lie if both deals exclude freedom of movement.

PPS – old blog which highlights the bait & switch of the Leave Leadership, a longer (older) version of the above.

Paxman & Battle for Nbr 10

Quick jotting down of one particular thought around the “Battle for Number 10” TV Election discussion.

Like many of us I’ve been surprised/annoyed at how the majority of our TV journalists have essentially let Brexit and it’s issues pass them by.  Complex issues have been trivialized and, 10 months later, we’ve still yet to see a proper, adult discussion on TV on the major components.

Tonight however Jeremy Paxman took this to a new level.

Approximately 6-10 times Theresa May answered audience questions with “but everything depends on getting the best deal for Brexit, and only I can do that”.  Everything from NHS, Security funding to Schools depends on the economy and the economy in turn depends on getting a good Brexit deal.

So the deal is clearly important, vital in fact to UK interests.  I know this is obvious but it’s important to state that this was May’s entire position.  It’s fair to say she is running the election in part on how only she can get that best deal.  And we also know that the government have completely failed to cost the impact of a “no deal” scenario (or, possibly, they have costed it but dare not release the figures),

So, in Paxman’s one to one interview he asked her, 4 times, “Are you however prepared to walk away from the EU with no deal?”.

And May said “Yes”

And Paxman said “Thank you, goodnight”.

The obvious, vital follow up question which demanded to be asked was “OK, but what will the impact be on the UK if we walk away?”. Or, the alternative “Then if walking out is an option, why haven’t you costed the impact of that walk out?”.

But neither was even hinted at.  Paxman harried Corbyn over why obscure beliefs of his from the last century were not in the Labour manifesto…but not a single word on what might happen to the UK if this vital deal, that May based almost her entire appearance on, arguably the entire election on, doesn’t actually happen.

Paxman is not stupid, he may not believe the “cliff edge” predictions of a no deal scenario but he must know they are out there.  And the predictions are dire, there are even worst case scenario predictions that we might not be able to feed ourselves when the supply chains are disrupted.  But instead of asking a single question on “what happens to us if we walk out with no deal?” he instead let May go out on a high saying “yes, I’d walk out”.

This is unacceptable, this is a shocking dereliction of duty.  What possible value is there in discussing Labour or Tory manifesto costings if there is the very real possibility hanging over our heads of a chaotic brexit crash out of Europe,  Yet Corbyn’s thoughts on the Monarchy got more attention.

 

This blog talks about the failure of UK journalism when compared to the US.  The author talks about how in the US the failure to take Trump seriously has reinvigorated the US press.  They are now being more critical of themselves and the new administration, to do their job in other words.

In the UK however, as we saw tonight, our journalists continue to let us down.  We will go into the election and into Brexit, and no TV journalist will even attempt to help the public understand the real issues.

David Davis & Brexit Negotiations

Consistent message from Conservatives is “Vote for May to get a steady hand during EU negotiations”.  But of course it’ll be David Davis who’ll be our chief negotiator, not May so how much faith can we put in him to get us a good deal? Presumably, a key requirement for success in that deal would be that Davis is on top of his brief & has a full awareness of the scale of the problem in front of him.  So let’s chart his journey.

As recently as May 2016 he was proposing bi-lateral agreements with EU countries.

Post Brexit a UK-German deal would include free access for their cars and industrial goods, in exchange for a deal on everything else.  Similar deals would be reached with other key EU nations. France would want to protect £3 billion of food and wine exports. Italy, its £1 billion fashion exports. Poland its £3 billion manufacturing exports.

Such bi-lateral agreements are illegal under EU law.

Following the referendum in a post on conservative home  he then turned to non-EU deals:

So be under no doubt: we can do deals with our trading partners, and we can do them quickly.  I would expect the new Prime Minister on September 9th to immediately trigger a large round of global trade deals with all our most favoured trade partners.   I would expect that the negotiation phase of most of them to be concluded within between 12 and 24 months.

So within two years, before the negotiation with the EU is likely to be complete, and therefore before anything material has changed, we can negotiate a free trade area massively larger than the EU.  Trade deals with the US and China alone will give us a trade area almost twice the size of the EU, and of course we will also be seeking deals with Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, India, Japan, the UAE, Indonesia – and many others.

By this reckoning the first major trade deals would be due in 4 months and in fact the entire article gives the impression that Brexit is simple and straightforward, and could practically be all over by Christmas.  Around 2 months later Davis changed his position somewhat and was saying  this:

Before article 50 is triggered [it] will be a rather frustrating time as we won’t be saying much. After, I expect it to be a more open process…It may be the most complicated negotiation of all time. By comparison, Schleswig-Holstein [a 19th-century political conundrum] is an O-level question

The question has to be asked – how did he not know this 2 months earlier given that he’d been campaigning for Leave for several months beforehand?  This is particularly concerning as the last cabinet post Davis held between 1994 & 1997 was Europe Minister in Major’s government and therefore was surely best placed to be informed on how the EU and our relationship operates.

However, by January, Davis was confident again and was saying that the Government had a plan to deliver a deal with the “exact same benefits” as the single market:

What was on the ballot paper was leaving the European Union. I am afraid that it is very difficult to see how we can leave the European Union and still stay inside the single market, with all the commitments that go with that. What we have come up with—I hope to persuade her that this is a very worthwhile aim—is the idea of a comprehensive free trade agreement and a comprehensive customs agreement that will deliver the exact same benefits as we have, but also enable my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade to go and form trade deals with the rest of the world, which is the real upside of leaving the European Union.

This despite all evidence indicating that this was impossible given the government’s self imposed red lines on FoM & the ECJ.  Just over a month later he appeared to change his position again as he was telling the cabinet to prepare for the unlikely possibility of UK not getting a Brexit deal.

unlikely

(The contrast in the 2 news items is interesting). As minister in charge of Brexit, it would seem reasonable for Davis to ask his team to evaluate the impact of a no deal scenario on the UK given that he believed it was a possibility.

When asked whether the Government had made an assessment of the economic impact, he said: “Well, it made an estimate during the referendum campaign, but I think that one of the issues that has arisen is that some of those forecasts don’t appear to have been robust since then…

But not since then. Under my time, no”

Apparently not, a month later Davis admitted no such impact analysis had been carried out.  And yet, despite this lack of analysis, Davis is now threatening to walk out of the EU negotiations.

Before summarizing, it’s worth mentioning 2 additional points to give some further background.  Before David Davis became an MP, he had only one significant career position, at Tate & Lyle:

Davis worked for Tate & Lyle for 17 years, rising to become a senior executive, including restructuring its troubled Canadian subsidiary, Redpath Sugar.[4] He wrote about his business experiences in the 1988 book How to Turn Round a Company.

Tate & Lyle are one of the few major companies to support Brexit, as it wants to displace home grown sugar beet with imported sugar cane.  A second point is that Davis was instrumental in derailing identity cards in the last Labour Government.

As Shadow Home Secretary, Davis turned the Conservatives away from the Labour Party’s plan to reintroduce identity cards,[9] citing spiralling costs and libertarian issues. He turned initial Conservative support into one of concern and abstention, making the final change to one of opposition much easier. Davis believed that once the true cost and unreliability of the ID card scheme was explained to the general public, they would turn against it.

Whatever your views on ID cards, if the UK had them they would help us implement the same Freedom of Movement controls as other countries in the EU, such as the requirement to prove you can support yourself after 3 months:

residence

It should be noted that these are the same controls the UK government under May as Home Secretary failed to implement.

 

David Davis & Brexit – a summary

So let’s summarise:

  • Prior to campaigning being an MP, Davis spent 17 years as an Exec at a heavily pro Brexit company.
  • He was then Europe Minister for 3 years and so therefore should presumably have gained some insight into the single market & how it operates.
  • He then campaigned for Leave for several months which should have given him further insight.

However, when we look at the last 12 months alone:

  • In May 2016 he proposed illegal and impossible bi-lateral deals with EU countries such as Germany
  • He then proposed in July 2016 a hopelessly naive and technically illegal trade deal plan that would see all major trade deals signed between September this year and September 2018.
  • By September 2016 he finally admitted that Brexit would be complicated, the most complicated negotiation of all time.

chartdavis

  • But by January 2017 he was confident enough to tell Parliament that we could get a deal with the exact same benefits as that which we had now.
  • In February 2017 he reversed again, and was telling his cabinet colleagues that they should prepare for a no deal brexit.
  • But in March 2017 he admitted no work had been done at all to assess the cost of this no deal outcome.
  • However in May 2017 he said he was prepared to walk away from negotiations, even though he promised the exact same benefits as an outcome previously and even though he had not (apparently) costed the impact of such a walk out on the UK.

Finally, and ironically, prior to this period he was instrumental in blocking one of the major initiatives that would have allowed the UK to manage FoM in the same way as our European partners, arguably one of the key drivers for Brexit.

As so much in Brexit, it’s useful to draw real world parallels.  Consider an executive in a large UK organisation.  Say that executive had consistently over promised and under delivered, had set impossible targets and then failed to meet them before radically readjusting them downwards. Furthermore, imagine the reaction if that Executive had utterly failed to carry out any impact analysis on future plans.  What are the chances of that Executive keeping their job under those conditions?

Such a poor performance in the real world would have been addressed months ago. However in the surreal world of Brexit we are expected to trust this man with the most complex negotiation in history.

 

To be blunt, if you vote Conservative then David Davis will be in charge of Brexit negotiations.  In turn this means that we will likely be walking out of said negotiations sometime in the next 12 months.  Davis, with the help of the pro-brexit press, is already most likely setting us up to follow the path of least resistance (and most destruction) – a walkout which he can blame on the EU.  Any other option involves hard work, compromise and competence.

There is absolutely no evidence that things will turn around or that Davis will suddenly apply himself to the reality of the UK-EU situation.

Walking away with no deal is the most stupid thing to do and is therefore consistent with Davis’s actions so far.