Sunday, 5 August 2018

The Summer Break Before a Crisis

The BBC non-channel on TV is showing lots of young people dancing to BBC Radio 1 presentation in Ibiza/ Elivissa. Many of those dancing will be British, but they will also come from all around Europe. We are the same people sharing overlapping histories. Britain came from the Celts from Europe, and then the Anglo-Saxons, and then the Norman French who had been Vikings. And, more recently, we have people in Europe from everywhere.

What on earth are we doing building a wall against our neighbours. And don't say, this is only against a set of institutions not Europe itself. Because in all effect it is against Europe itself. The European Union is the political expression of Europe: it makes things possible.

If you were to design a European Union, it would look something like this. The nation states would make decisions and often with vetoes. There would be direct representation, but this would have to recognise the existence of nation states as core. There would have to be an executive branch at this level, but it could only propose and regulate. Trade disputes without and all disputes within would need a court.

This is exactly what we have got. And having one currency through most of this makes it easier to spend, buy and trade. How ridiculous that Britain will most likely leave an institution where participants will find English as a convenient second language.

The British Prime Minister recently visited Emmanuel Macron at his fortified holiday home. He'll have told her to negotiate and realise this European Union has its essential features. The single market was heavily influenced by Britain, the push to neo-liberalism came from Britain.

So where are we going with all this, after Cameron's failed Tory gamble with a binary referendum, and May's gamble of a General Election by which she lost her inherited slim majority.

What we know is that there is no majority for any particular deal. The Chequers' proposal is opposed by those to whom May has previously rolled over. She gave a hard time to those Tories who gave her plan qualified welcome, and rolled over to the amendments of the Tory right. The hard right Tories will not accept her Chequers' proposal, with or without change through negotiation. May herself won't accept a move to the Customs Union, never mind Single Market. She refuses the EFTA option, which has its own institutions and rules, yet plugs into the Single Market and Customs Union.

So there is an impasse, unless the House of Commons can 'get it together' on a cross-party basis. Whilst there could be an appeal to delay Article 50, that the government would not accept, all 27 member states would have to agree with any one having a veto. The other opportunity is the return of the Trade Bill from the House of Lords, when the so-called remainers really would have to get it together and pass an amendment to join the Customs Union. This is the likeliest prospect. Many moderate Tories may well vote for this come the prospect of crashing out and immense damage and uncertainty to the British and European economies.

However, each option undermines the Government and its unhappily balanced executive may well disintegrate. Also, assuming some sort of an agreement, May could try and do what John Major did, after Denmark rejected the Maastricht Treaty and press the 'nuclear option' - he also stood and was opposed by John Redwood and retained himself as Prime Minister. May does not have this option in the sense that the issue is so pressing, so monumental, and the opposition so multi-sourced, that if she tried it the likelihood is a collapse into a General Election.

The problem is this: suppose the Fixed Term Parliament Act holds up the present House of Commons. Suppose in this situation the House of Commons can work beyond the front benches and produced votes to prevent a crash out. Who will provide the executive branch of government? What will be the effect of Tony Blair's introduction of timetabling: no longer does a government introduce the guillotine, but rather the Speaker limits MPs' speeches because everything is timetabled by the executive. The House of Commons may well act to find its majority votes, but the executive will dissolve in front of our eyes.

Again, a vote to have a second (might have to be a third) referendum would have the same effect. I'd have thought we'd have learnt our lesson regarding referenda. We need a 'this deal', 'no deal' 'may as well stay in' set of options in a referendum, and this either needs a single transferable vote method ('Fiddle!' shout the hard right) or a two-stage two binary referenda. My view is that Parliament should be sufficient. The referendum was legally advisory, it cannot bind Parliament, and we've already had one General Election since with the effect to 'soften' the exit, unless things simply become chaotic.

Now a General Election will be messy. In any case, a majority of an electorate that once produced Thatcher's 43 majority, or Labour's after the Second World War, now leads to tiny majorities or a hung parliament. Some 150 changeable marginal seats are now around 80 or so. Secondly, both main parties are both-and regarding the European Union, and both are formally committed to leaving. So, with the exception of the Liberal Democrats and UKIP, parties are not arranged along a contest of this pressing issue. It will have to be a battle between individual candidates. In the 2017 election, many working class areas were more likely to vote Tory, and many middle class voters moved towards Labour, as did remainers. But Labour is now exposed as a non-remain party, and its leader sceptical.

It is far from clear that Labour will even be the largest party next time. It has not been helped in its chances by its inability to squash a rather misleading anti-semitism charge against its leadership. Corbyn's rallies may not have the magic touch second time around. As for Theresa May, many Tories said she can lead negotiations but cannot be allowed to head a General Election instead. Who would provide Tory leadership rapidly in an instant decline into a General Election?

Nevertheless, government party MPs are heading for a fall as incompetence is the biggest charge. How come so little was proposed after so long, how come they cannot operate a pub in a brewery? It may be that individual MPs of distinct opinions do better than others.

The four Labour MPs have consistently voted with the government, including that Ulster Unionist Kate Hoey dressed up as Labour, and one forced to be Independent Labour, shows what could happen after an election. A government (from somewhere) will not have a single party command. One can imagine Anna Soubrey in the same collection of MPs as Chukka Umunna, whether she finds him "so attractive" or not. In fact, one can imagine Chukka Umunna heading up some sort of emergency government cobbled from many MPs across parties.

There is an answer to this, for MPs to consider while away this summer. Stop regarding the refendum as sacred. Start saying that they are in a representative democracy, that they own the consituencies information but not slavish direct democracy. Have the guts to say that the campaigns were fought in ignorance and with misleading claims. Have the guts to say that 37% of voters cannot decide such a massive outcome. Come back with the resolve to say that they are paid to have time to consider and make choices. Let's here some MPs make summer speeches outlining how they are going to act in a crisis and to prevent a crisis. Let's have some open conferences where policy can change in recognition of the crisis.

Parliament - the House of Commons and the House of Lords - needs to rise up and make its sovereignty count. We share sovereignty with all kinds of world institutions, and this is the practical reality of the world as it is. We have for decades with the confederation of the European Union and it is woven into UK life. Every time we make a trade or any other kind of agreement we share sovereignty. Yet here is a decision that falls on the laps of Members of Parliament and their Lordships. Use the summer to consider, and then come back to act.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Reaching the EU Negotiation Dead End

It's mid-July and the final week of the House of Commons before the summer break is going to be eventful.

Consider this: even if Theresa May had achieved her majority to overcome the two wings of her party, she would still have been nobbled by the Irish question. The Irish question and subsequent partition has derailed British politics ever since. The 'no border' in Ireland or across the Irish Sea would have had the same result. The European Union, designed to bring countries together, underpinned the evolution of Irish unity and British unity too. We cannot leave. It is as simple as that.

The new effort will have to be improving the democratic machinery of the European Union: elect its President, give the European Parliament more powers, and retain important vetoes in the Council.

Why? Let's look at the final week of the full parliamentary season...

If the 16th July Daily Telegraph authored article is anything to go by, Boris Johnson's expected House of Commons speech will be platitudinous and hardly a call to a strategy. Who knows: perhaps he has a clue. Boris Johnson was never a card-carrying anti-European; he adopted this persona only in the light of David Cameron's gamble.

Had David Cameron lost the Scottish Independence referendum that followed Scottish National victory and policy in Scotland, he would never have done his own gamble with an EU in or out referendum. From then, until now, this was only ever an attempt to close down Tory Party division.

That referendum would never have decided it. Indeed what has followed has not and will not decide it. This will go on, even if we do leave, because how we leave will not then satisfy the divided land created from the Tory Party dispute source. The outers will want it cleaner as out, the inners will want to develop closer contact for a return back into the fold.

The Prime Minister's choreography at Chequers was no substitute for actual agreement. Once people are let out, normal behaviour resumes. Officials and ministers continue to resign, and two cabinet members are on resign-watch. The proposal, with its White Paper, is not good enough among remainers for business and co-operation (we leave political institutions but carry on economically) and far too compromising for the exiters. The proposal is a classic middle of the road option, that if you stand in the middle of the road among divided traffic lanes, you get run over.

Such a proposal, then, grinds into the ground rapidly. It lacks support, and the party three-line-whip system isn't strong enough to have Tory members support it sufficiently, when no one else will bale out this half-baked attempt to retain limited contact with the European Union.

By at last coming to a position, the government has found that there is no position. It turned over its cards, and lost.

So what happens now? This White Paper is a non-runner. The government might try to nip and tuck, but which way? If it tries to satisfy one side, it will lose the other. Because it cannot go either way, it may push this scheme into negotiations. But it will not survive a vote of the House of Commons or House of Lords.

We assume the exiter Tories are going to push amendments this week that will find their own 80 or so MPs maximum (let's see) vote for them, but no one else will. They will contribute to destroying the Tory Party as it presently stands, but they won't contribute to a solution.

There are remain amendments too, that have more cross-party support, but the Tory remainers welcomed the government White Paper in order to isolate the exiters. For the time being, then, they may once again prove to be unreliable for business in goods and services and vote with the government. Time after time the remain Tories have shown an absence of will, and have caved in to assurances soon withdrawn, and they may well do so again. If so this means that they won't vote for the European Economic Area option that would put the UK into the European Free Trade Area. Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway are in EFTA; the EEA unites these with the EU by following basic rules to enable goods, services, capital, and persons to move freely about the EEA. We could move from the EU to EFTA with minimal disruption, but Tory remainers might faff around with the government's half-baked proposal.

Meanwhile the Labour Party has a fantasy that it can have a customs union outside EFTA because we will then go to EU meetings to influence EU policy regarding the Customs Union proper. That's not how it works: there is full membership, the EU, and associated membership, the EFTA. EFTA members already have their needs considered with the jealously guarded EU Single Market and Customs Union. Many Labour MPs also think Labour's policy is a fantasy, and simply say go for staying within the EEA.

The exiters think that, because there is Article 50 and the ticking clock, and the Leaving the EU law now in place, that enough disruption will lead to the crash-out: leaving altogether at the end of March 2019: no transition, no nothing. The disruption this will cause will be like hitting a great depression: business processes will simply cease to function.

The Prime Minister has hinted that if her approach does not go forward, due to lack of support, then we may not leave the EU at all. How does that work?

Would the government do this? It means telling the EU to stop the clock, and means emergency legislation to overcome the law as it now is, that we leave the EU in March 2019. But if the government is suffering resignations now, it will have a torrent of them if the government goes ahead to stay in the EU. The EU no doubt will faciliate this, but not if it means carrying on with endless and pointless negotiations because the UK is incapable of making up its mind. If we stay, we stay.

One possibility is a referendum on the deal. But what if there is no deal? The government cannot make a deal alone without likely legislative back-up. Here I disagree with Liberal Democrat policy and the clamour for a second referendum: a second referendum is no more likely to heal divisions and provide legitimacy than the first one. A three-way referendum - deal, leave, stay - will simply cause confusion. Don't we learn any lessons?

If the government cannot function to put the brake on, the House of Commons through significant figures within it can. The Dominic Grieve's of this place will have to negotiate rapid votes cross-party to ram on the brakes, even as the government disintegrates towards a likely General Election, one unlikely to solve anything because of one split party competing against another split party, unless the Liberal Democrats were to rise like a pheonix (not likely).

If I call myself a remainer, it is a term I do not like. I never regarded the referendum as legitimate, because it didn't attempt to confirm a government changing the constitutional position. The Scots said, 'We are going independent, please confirm the action.' The people did not. Here there was no decision, only a ridiculous negotiation that achieved nothing pre-vote. So my approach has always been about staying in the European Union. MPs are representatives in the House of Commons and this is where sovereignty is demonstrated: as an MP I'd have been voting consistently to stay in the European Union.

The logic was always this. Come out, and we lose economic and cultural sharing thrugh institutions: such is how things are but also they are good - they bind peoples together and make us one. However, come out to EFTA and we are rule takers and have no formal representation, and therefore we may as well stay in. Being in the Council of Ministers, the Commission, the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice, makes sense. It makes more sense than sitting outside of these just taking the latest decisions others make.

Should we stay in the EU then many will cry foul. There will be a lesson here about facts on the ground. The Conservative Party will be shattered and lose a lot of support, and the Labour Party will hardly shine in comparative glory. One outcome may well be the division of the UK into four countries by a collapse of legitimacy. We will become our own confederate EU-like kingdom.

Cameron took his gamble and did not realise how bound we were to the EU, and how fragile is the UK union. His stupidity has likely destroyed his own party and the UK it once represented.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Europe Destroying this Government

So, Sunday night and David Davis has gone. I was saying to my friends in the pub that political choreography on the day is no replacement for actual achievement. They were more cynical and saw it in terms of individuals and careers. I said it is legitimate for Gove to represent the Cabinet even if he is only the Environment Secretary: however, that he has sold the deal in public now does compromise him because he can hardly say, "I was talking collectively." I'm surprised Davis went, even though he had become tired of his job. It means, probably, Liam Fox will go, though he was 'in favour' even before the weekend. He can say that he disliked what happened. How long before Boris Johnson goes? He called the proposal "polishing a turd" and then under threat of restored Cabinet unity said he approved. He is so compromised now, given that he did his escape during the Heathrow expansion vote. Andrea Leadsom is, at the moment, a non-entity.

I said to my friends that Michael Gove put the strongest pro-Brexit case he could to Andrew Marr to appeal to that side of the argument for something that had this Combined Customs Territory and Common Rule Book. He was disingenuous about Parliament later changing regulatory alignment rules because it all will be fixed by Treaty. 'Fake Sovereignty' was a question or suggestion that rankled Gove by his reaction.

Coupling Robert Peel (Corn Laws) and the Irish question as historical examples matters. It is the Irish question intensity of the European division that leads to a Robert Peel like split. The deal for a proposal satisfies no one, and if implemented would have each side negotiating after the event and causing the splits to go on and on. Indeed the unravelling can happen now.

David Davis is a kind of Geoffrey Howe, as a sort of loyal dogsbody who lost much of his autonomy to negotiate to Number 10; the only difference is that May didn't criticise him through her Press Spokesman, like Thatcher did of Howe. Davis might get the votes to be Tory leader, but a good number of his party simply will not follow him. They will say he was disloyal to the Cabinet deal at best, and at worst there are more important matters to fix like a more European Economic Area solution.

With the Fixed Term Parliament Act it does not follow that May's government unravelling leads to a General Election: many MPs will think that the House of Commons is just right as it is to take a lead and go for an EEA solution. A weak government of any party or parties may simply exist to finish this particular job - with only 6 weeks of negotiating time to spare after the summer recess. If a General Election does come before meaningful negotiations, there will be a need to ram on the brakes, and that way may be the way to actually staying in the European Union. This General Election will have to be about this, with every MP putting their cards on the table.

It has always been about Tory Party politics, and Theresa May has now run out of Tory Party. Regardless of the Democratic Unionist Party propping her up, the right wing Europhobes are about to ditch her, and the Europhiles will now probably have to vote for the Customs Union aspect of the trade bill coming along.

Commentators are hardly worth the money their newspapers charge. They were saying it has been a Mrs May victory. No it wasn't and it never was. By plunging for one side, she will lose both. Harold Macmillan had his 'Night of the Long Knives' but for Mrs May it is her night of bunging up the breaks in the dyke.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

The Unending Politics of the Proposal Deal

What is it, a Combined Customs Territory? And we could have a Common Rule Book for goods and agriculture.

It's not going to work, is it, because goods and agriculture increasingly come with services, and services are excluded. Is this a plot against the City of London, to cut it down to size?

Britain was the prime country to push for a single market, at a time when the EU was more dirigiste (combination of markets and planning, and plenty of oversight manipulation). It needs free trade and free movement of people and capital. The people side of this proposal deal will also have some sort of agreement for people being able to move back and forth between the EU and the UK.

So these wheels will be reinvented as circles with square bits in them, and incomplete. The wheels on the bus will go round, hit inevitable potholes on the way, and, by construction, fall off.

In the single market you can have free movement of people, but they can be registered and after three months of no job they go home. Belgium does this. Belgium is in the Shengen area.

The immediate politics of this is that the Cabinet Ministers went to Chequers, lost their mobile phones, and around 7 pm while still inside, Mrs May was outside giving the 10 Downing Street interpretation. The taxi firm they could use had gone bust, and no ministerial cars were available for resigned Cabinet Ministers. Then Mrs may wrote to them all to say Cabinet Collective responsibility, freed up at the referendum, was now back in place - as if it had been suspended all this time!

The substantive content will be in the White Paper, out next Thursday. Who will control the White Paper: presumably the Department for Exiting the European Union, but, really, again, 10 Downing Street. But between now and then, some ministers could resign, or, if they misbehave, get sacked. Collective Cabinet responsibility is a two-way street, it only happens if the malcontents in public, who fail to promote the proposal agreement, get sacked. They might not go at the weekend, but they might from Thursday.

The wider politics is this: that the whole business started and has been all about Tory Party politics. The EU referendum was called because the Tory Party could not make up its mind and Cameron had his gamble. He lost. A referendum should only be used for confirmation of a government position on a major constitutional issue (as in Scotland, where the 'no' vote stopped independence and a 'yes' would have put paid to any more referenda).

Instead of being a considered question and advisory towards a very complex issue, the referendum result on a narrow binary majority to leave caused most politicians to give an almost sacred status to the referendum result. Nevertheless, in the Tories in particular, the division was not solved by the binary question, but it has just gone on, and every move Theresa May has made i the last two years has been based on the balance of powers, first in the Tory party and, since the General Election, increasingly in the House of Commons. She started off wishing to stay in, she then slipped into power and was transformed into a hard exiter (I never believed it: read back in these blogs), and she has since enjoyed the European Council meetings and rowed back to this point. This is where, she thinks, she can just about get away with it but for forty or so Tories. Should these Tories object she can soften further to the point where Labour MPs by and large won't object, to gain a majority a different way. She thinks. (It meets the Democratic Unionist Party test of UK wide consistency.)

We know that the Budgets have a habit of being a tremendous success and then unravelling within forty-eight hours. This could well be similar. Even if it gets past next Thursday, Tories will fidget and get exasperated. For many, this has been their life goal to get out, and get out completely, and it is slipping away. They could be very badly behaved.

Remember that Boris Johnson was never one of these: before the campaign he was umming and arring over which side to support: he took his decision partly to separate himself from David Cameron, to beat him, and he has been on this side ever since. But he may want to try and recover his falling reputation, not helped by his escape from the Heathrow expansion decision recently. I do not know yet whether fisheries fall into agriculture, but to have common standards is to also have a price system and supply control that is the Common policies for agriculture and fisheries. If so, Gove's triumphalism only this week on the British instead of the EU limiting fish catches and boats in our waters (seeking access to other waters, surely) will look hollow. Will he go? Gove is often considered one who thinks we can alter things later: but not when a treaty is signed. One detects he was behind the caveat that the Houses of Parliament can disagree on common tariffs and positions: not if there is a treaty, it cannot - the end point. This does all end in a treaty between the EU and the UK. Liam Fox will not be able to do trade deals; Canada's limited deal was because there are regulatory differences. We will be bound to EU rules in a Common Rule Book, and the EU guards its Customs Union and Single Market as single entities very jealously including the role for the European Court of Justice.

The bizarre thing is that this is unlikely to satisfy the Tory remainers anyway - simply because it is so complicated and a hotch-potch. It will take ages to set up, needing a longer transition period. The EU does not want to extend such a period either, so the hotch-potch becomes impractical - in advance.

None of this is the negotiation with the EU. This is before we even get there.

Once again, this is like Irish nationalism before partition (indeed after as well - it is the Irish Question that has derailed so much of May's fantasy sloganeering of 'Brexit means Brexit'). It would have surfaced and nobbled her even if she had achieved a majority to overcome both wings of her party. Why the comparison? Because the Irish issue kept coming back to governments this way and that, finally getting a partition compromise which, in the very long run of things, needs revisiting.

If we come out of the EU inadequately, we will have everlasting division, especially in the Tory party, between those who would go back in, and those who would come out more completely. And this would be reflected in the wider body politic. The EU issue will start to affect Labour.

And a word about the Liberal Democrats. Their policy is a referendum on the deal with an option to remain in. This is a manifesto policy for opposition. Do we really seriously believe that, say if the Tories collapsed and the Lib Dems took power, that a Liberal Democrat government would negotiate us out of the EU? Of course not. It's position to Monsieur Barnier would be so say, "Sorry for wasting your time, we wish to stay in, and we carry on as we are." General Elections trump referenda. The General Election of 2017, that no one won, changed the referendum impact: it made the softer exit more likely. A General Election can also make us stay in. Not quite sure how (beyond the political earthquake) - but some Tories and exit voters are saying that, in future, given what has happened so far, they will stop voting. Well, many others have turned eighteen, and there are people who now say we must have representation in EU-wide decisions. They say EU principles for sharing and peace are worth fighting to retain. So this tide could turn, and could do so fairly quickly. It is time for the politicians who want to stay in to step up to the plate, and point out that this 'deal' for a proposal is a dog's breakfast: if we are in, we join in with representation and decision taking.

Friday, 6 July 2018

How Leaving the EU Could be Like Peel and Ireland

Friday July 6th and the whole Cabinet arrives at Chequers at 10 am and expect to stay until 11 pm (stay overnight too, surely).

Thus the media should know about midnight what has been agreed, by official means at least, although presumably after 11 pm the Cabinet Ministers will receive back their mobile telephones.

This whole business has already reached a level of farce unseen in political decision making in modern times. It may not be the end of kicking the can down the road.

Theresa May's advisors came up with another plan. Michael Gove tore up the previous version. No one liked it, and this one has notable regulation alignment restrictions for goods if not services.

Now, last time there was a possibility of a push towards the 'soft' exit of the European Union, when reassurances to 'remainers' were followed by government betrayal, after which the House of Lords returned the Exiting the EU Bill. The remainers, instead of voting through the crucial meaningful vote amendment, voted against their own amendment on another promise. Never trust a Tory, was my reaction, although even then a few voted for this amendment.

I am unmoved, and still hold the view that this process should be stopped and Parliament has the right as representatives to do it. Armed with the facts and prospects, Parliament has the right to view the referendum as flawed (well, cheating also happened, says the Electoral Commission) and anyway advisory. New realities mean new decisions. It does not need a referendum on the deal; the proper process may involve a General Election - although it is unlikely to resolve matters given the low competence of the Labour leadership. This is a government that could not organise cups of tea with tea and boiling water available, and yet Labour is behind in the polls. No wonder when Corbyn leads all six questions on buses when critical questions face the future. Buses are important, but there is a timetable and bus stops for everything. Labour's policy on leaving the EU is its own fantasy island of 'a customs union' when there is one already.

The government's policy seems to be now wanting to leave the club while staying in, whereas Labour's policy is to stay in the club while leaving.

Jacob Rees Mogg says the government controls the House of Commons agenda, so therefore if there is no agreed government position we crash out anyway due to existing legislation and take on World Trade Organisation terms. Others say, no way, that the House of Commons will find the means, via the House of Lords too, to ram on the brakes. A House of Commons made up mainly of soft-leavers won't allow a minority to get its way on a procedural matter.

We need to ram on the brakes. Here is why.

If we leave, but are tied to EU institutions, the exiters will cry foul and won't give up pushing to leave altogether. At the same time, if we end up in crisis, or end up as this 'vassal State', the stayers will want our re-entry.

One hears some so-called remainers say, let us come out, but let us be in a position where we are the equivalent of those in the half-way house where we can apply to go back in.

One also hears some leavers say, let us at least come out, after which we can complete the job in years to come. So we come out with joint regulation and then break the treaty that would bind us.

In other words, if we come to a cabinet decision tomorrow, and it is a half-way house of some kind, the European issue will go on and on and on. Some will say that the referendum decision was ignored and there could be a crisis of legitimacy (due to misrepresenting the role of a referendum). Others will say it was Cameron's catastrophe and should never have happened.

Two possibilities to look out for tomorrow and Saturday. One is there is no agreement, and the can is kicked down the road again. The leavers (for reasons above) may be happy with this. The government can then go to the House of Commons and House of Lords and face defeat; a clever government leadership would make the House of Commons steer the ship, but it may have to become this secondary executive.

The second possibility is resignations of key exiting government ministers. Apparently, Liam Fox has been bought off already, although he has colleagues that may think otherwise. My view is let them go. The Tories might challenge the PM as leader then, but at the same time a reformed government can still introduce legislation, which may then be even softer based on a supposed House of Commons majority, although Labour leaders may not facilitate.

(This is why, if the House of Commons takes control, it is both front benches that will have to be circumvented, or forced to follow the lead of the MPS.)

Whatever happens, this is a might mess, and if the brakes are not applied, if we do not actually stay in the European Union and discuss now, this will become another Ireland, a rock on to which government after government will fall apart. The Robert Peel fashion split could well happen again, simply because everything stays unresolved.

The period of prosperity and stability that we had inside the European Union will be over, and Britain will become a very confused place. Expect then to see Scotland become independent, and the North in Ireland join a more comfortable-with-itself south, inside the EU.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

David Davis Could Start the Ball Rolling

An update follows after this post...

As I write, David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, may or may not resign very soon. It is, they say, fifty-fifty. Along with the transition, Theresa May will employ the backstop applying to the whole of the UK to preserve the no border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and other trading arrangements, until there is an agreement that creates frictionless trade. David Davis apparently needs a cut off date. The problem is that without such an agreement, the backstop could go on forever.

Now Boris Johnson has a different strategy. As well as being third rate, like pretty much the rest of them, including the Prime Minister, he is also both incompetent and care-free. On the latter, he says what he likes, and effectively tempts the Prime Minister to sack him, which she never does. Boris carries on, making an idiot of everyone. David Davis is not like this. He may have been ineffective in negotiating, he may laugh things off, as he does, ha ha, but he is capable of following collective cabinet responsibility and acting as if he has a brain. He is capable of timing. And here comes timing now.


If he is going to do it, now is the time to do it, because if he goes the whole government ability to kick cans down the road runs out. This is what Theresa May is trying to do: extend the period of trying to do the impossible. But the Brexit crowd see the time running out where extension beyond the dates becomes the de facto reality: single market and customs union by stealth.

Go now, would be the answer, whilst there still is time to avoid a complete crash. Going now starts a train of events which, indeed, could see the Tory Party split as it did under Peel, or something equivalent coming that makes the Tories like Asquith's Liberal Party. Davis won't want that, but he might fancy himself as leader to make the decisions that May cannot, and indeed consider himself as 'acceptable' in a way that Rees-Mogg would indeed cause many Tories to deny the Tory whip.

Not that Davis could control House of Commons votes any better. It is now time for the House of Commons to become, in effect, on this, the government. The majorities and minorities have to be arranged cross party by the members themselves owning and working through the various amendments. The problem with this, of course, is the pathetic position taken by the Labour Party. It is also in fantasy land regarding what is possible and not possible. It wants to leave the club, but stay within the benefits of the club and indeed have a say in what the club management wants. Er, no, it doesn't work like that. You are either in the club or you are not. Fortunately, for those who might join in the future, without time limit, you can get the benefits of the club for a payment, whilst having no place in the management. Anything else is not there, and it never was, and, as has been said, trade deals with 'most favoured nation status' like others, aren't worth the paper they are written on, and take an awful lot of paper and a long time to write.

What people are learning is that the European Union is the fact on the ground in just about everything. It is intricate to so much people value and need in every day life. The whole binary referendum was voted upon in ignorance, and has been the biggest demonstration if ever needed why we have representative and not direct democracy. We pay people to have the time to consider matters and make decisions, and this is why Parliament is sovereign on behalf of the electorate. MPs are not mandated; they are paid to consider and then decide. The House of Lords is part of Parliament, and its members are paid to consider and advise, in effect. It is time for MPs to act with sense towards the political economy and cultural life of the United Kingdom, and further, I would say, to break the mental yoke of this referendum.

Once again, referenda are only useful once a Parliament has made a decision, not instead of it making a decision. Certainly it should not come about simply as a strategy in Tory Party politics, at such reckless risk to the British Isles. It is time to say, it was advisory only, and if you don't like it, kick us out at a General Election.

If David Davis does resign, it could indeed spark events that, even via the Fixed Term Parliament Act. It is important then, especially for the Liberal Democrats, and all actual Remain MP candidates, to state that General Elections trump referenda. They do because no UK Parliament can be bound by its predecessor or anything else for that matter. So if we do come to a General Election, we have got to say look at the reality of the last two years, look at the actual cliff edge, but not just that, but look at the values the European Union expresses and how it makes a continental economy work, how we are one people across the geographical space. Let's be more like transformative Ireland.

The notion that there will be an agreement, and that Labour etc. will consider it and whether it reaches certain tests, and there will be this 'meaningful vote' just seems to be sliding away. The issue is, will David Davis set matters into motion by which this political impasse can be resolved - not just one way or the other, but in a way by which we can all breathe one huge sigh of relief.

Update!

What happened next day? Theresa May kicked the can down the road again. To stop the resignation/s (three or four, potentially) she put a cease date into the backstop document, except a cease date would stop it being a backstop. It would, if it was an absolute date, but it is a 'should' date or aspiration.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson shoots his gob off again. In an earlier night time meeting, he said the Treasury is the heart of the remain camp, that Donald Trump would have negotiated better, and that the Brexit that happens could keep us in lunar orbit of the European Union.

May didn't sack him, of course, but got on a plane to Canada. It turns out she has told remain Tory MPs not to defeat her on the withdrawal bill coming up next week in June, because on a trade bill they will be able to defeat her in July.

This reminds me of the song, "No wheels on my wagon, and I keep rollin' along..."

Sunday, 20 May 2018

The UK and the EU: Crunch Time Very Soon

It is a while since I blogged on the subject of the European Union and Britain supposedly leaving it. The reason is that the ball keeps moving, and I wait for the next development.

However, the crunch time seems to be looking very close.

Conservative Nicky Morgan recently did a presentation in a factory that needs just in time across Europe. It needs the Single Market and Customs Union. She chose in the cross-party approach two ex-politicians, Nick Clegg and David Miliband. Presumably Anna Subrey is keeping Chukka Umuna to herself (ha ha).

The idea is that this wing of the Tory Party can deliver the House of Commons, as it has already delivered the House of Lords.

Now a group of Conservatives have tried to start where they more or less leave off, and aim to go across party and exclude the more swivel-eyed leavers. They will isolate the 70 or so (maximum) fantasists that we can somehow leave without causing considerable economic and political damage.

The assumption is that Labour will not deliver a European Economic Area (EEA) solution in its voting: a solution that would keep Ireland economically united, and indeed Britain economically united with Europe. Nicky Morgan is a little disingenuous on this matter: one minute she sees the EEA as possible, but next it is clear that it is what she and the others want. Of course, she is trying not to frighten the Tory horses.

The fact that the far right in terms of leaving the EU won't get the prize they want (a sort of independent, bargain basement, economic wonderland) does not seem to trouble them. And this is because they see the whole thing in terms of the Conservatives and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) holding a majority. If Theresa May PM (I think she is the Prime Minister) goes with the new group, they will withdraw the whip from themselves and the government will lose its majority.

All this is coming close, because Theresa May is telling European leaders that the whole UK will be going for the 'backstop' in the agreement made that allowed stage 2 of negotiating to take place. The backstop keeps Northern Ireland in regulatory alignment with Ireland, but the DUP will be happy that it also keeps Northern Ireland tied to Britain. The Cabinet, we are told, has approved this, but given that her Customs Partnership plan was so publically dished by her own Cabinet members, surely some must be on the verge of resigning should this actually go into action. It means the UK in the Customs Union, or at least complete regulatory alignment - no separate trade deals.

They will, of course, given the Fixed Term parliament Act, also challenge Theresa May will a candidate of her own. No doubt she will want to avoid a loss of majority and a leadership challenge, but Tories in this initiative and to the left (closest to Europe) would say although she can be challenged and have to fight a leadership election, she would win.

Problem is, of course, that elections of all kinds get a traction of their own. She would not be sure. A leader of more close solutions to the EU, rather than her constant ambiguity, might well win.

Labour, of course, would want to take up the reins of negotiating our exit from the EU. It might try to govern otherwise too, although it is unlikely to say the least. Corbyn isn't exactly surrounded by followers, even on his own side, and his own non-EEA position hardly is going to work. Tories might sit back expecting no deal to be just as likely.

My view is that sufficient in the House of Commons facing a no deal disaster will slam on the brakes. This will mean, not transition period, not out because the EU says clear off, but in and staying in, and it may well require another Article 50 trigger.

Basically, now, the British political system is unable to deliver an exit from the European Union, not without a General Election and/ or a second referendum to shift the deadlock. (In my view referenda are unnecessary and not part of the UK constitution, except to confirm a made decision: the EU referendum was surely a lesson for that.)

We should stay in the European Union, where political representation is necessary as regards the progress of the Single Market and Customs Union. Parliament is sovereign: it makes decisions and no one parliament binds another. A General Election always trumps referenda, which can only be advisory (regarding a taken decision).

It seems to me this is a Robert Peel moment for the Tory party. This is when Peel favoured Corn Laws repeal and he split the party: in fact it gave birth to the modern Conservative Party.

The more 'moderate' Tory attempt to isolate the far right independents will inevitably gravitate to the Customs Union and even Single Market (if you are in one, you may as well be in the other). This group won't isolate those who have been doing the cross-party approach regarding the House of Commons (also seen in the House of Lords in its continuous defeats of the Government). The seventy or so who will be cut adrift will surely have their own manifesto - claiming it is the Tory manifesto, the referendum result in total victory terms. They will be tempted to field candidates: Tory against Tory. There may well be all kinds of alliances going on in constituencies up and down the land, the result being Party identity changes afterwards. It's why there does not need to be a centre party now: such a party would follow the break up or the Tories, that might split not into two but three, or at least part of it go elsewhere leftwards.

Whatever happens the crunch point is approaching, and it's just a case of when it happens. The road down which the can has been kicked is running out, and the consequences could be shattering.

Hopefully, while this unfolds, we stay in the EU: either until they can sort it out after significant political renewal or continuously.