Harold Wilson once said “a week is a long time in politics”… The weekend after Theresa May’s “agreement” on Brexit at Chequers make that sound like an understatement.
On Sunday 8 July I offered something to Liberal Democrat Voice suggesting that it’s time to switch the language on Brexit into an explicit attack on “Tory Brexit”. The resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson took that a great deal further, and left me wondering what further resignations would happen before it was read on Liberal Democrat Voice, and whether we will be in another Tory leadership contest, or hurtling into a General Election.
There’s been forceful posturing about “getting a good deal” and “how these negotiations work” and “abandonment of Brexit”. On the other side of the Commons, Jeremy Corbyn quipped that May’s Brexit deal took “two years to form and two days to unravel”.
The UK says it wants to continue use of the European Arrest Warrant, but wants out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The snag is that the two go together: Michel Barnier has said he’s happy to respect the UK’s “Red line” but the UK isn’t. What’s going on?
The bare bones are stark.
On the one hand, the European Arrest Warrant has been a remarkable success, enabling the authorities in any EU nation state to issue an arrest warrant which can be used anywhere in the EU. One of the notable success was the arrest of the people involved in the London tube bombings in 2005, and it’s widely seen as important in the fight against terrorism.
But an arrest warrant also needs some sort of judicial context so that it is possible to appeal against its mis-use. There are bi-lateral extradition agreements between countries, which need to specify where which courts have jurisdiction, but rather than the confusion of multiple bilateral agreements, the European Arrest Warrant provides for this through the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Withdrawl from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union is (apparently) one of the British government’s “red lines” in talks over Brexit. Michel Barnier has bluntly pointed out that he is willing to recognise the UK’s “red lines” and wishes the UK would do the same.
Why is it that some of the Brexiteers are acting with the stridency and anger that would be appropriate if the UK were being expelled from the EU? Is this a tacit recognition that what they have got is not, in fact, what they were asking for?
Former Science Minister, David Willetts, was strident on the Today programme, which was picked up with predictable force by The Express. His point is that the UK has already contributed a great deal to this, both in terms of money and technological skill, and would be willing to pay for continued participation.
But there is a rub. Part of Galileo will deliver satellite navigation which is available generally, but part of it will include encrypted resources for military use. After Brexit (if it happens) the UK would be a “third nation”, outside the EU. It would be crazy to think that the EU would be willing to share its defence facilities with a “third nation”, except in the sense tat a nation might share some things with allies in NATO. To give away core defence capabilities would, and should, provoke the same horror and anxiety as if (say) the UK handed over its defence capabilities to the USA.
The news that Trump plans to use trade talks with the UK to force the NHS to pay more for drugs should surpise no-one. But the fact that people thought he would do anything else exposes the fantasy of Britain as an imperial power at the heart of the appeal of Brexit.
This week a story re-appeared about Trump wanting to force the NHS to pay more for drugs, as part of a possible trade deal between the UK and the US.
His argument seems to be that putting “America first” means stopping foreigners “freeloading”. The actual point is that the NHS (via NICE) operates as a single payer, and so has more muscle than the fragmented US system, where payments are made by individual health insurance companies.
That is in stark contrast with Nigel Farage’s attempts to claim that Trump would be a president who would take the UK “to the front of the queue”.
Farage being wrong is hardly news-worthy. But this calls to mind some perceptive comments in the first chapter of Nick Clegg’s How to stop Brexit, where he points up the string of things which have led to the imagination of Britain being an exception — not least the fantasy that we alone won the Second World War (which ignores the fact that we were in deep trouble until the Americans joined in). Continue reading “Trump’s failed promises, and imperialist fantasies around Brexit”
Speaking at the Virginia Military Academy commencement, former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson’s comments on truth have been heard as a not-so veiled criticism of Donald Trump’s questionable grip on truth and the corrosive effects of that on democracy. Tillerson is right, but he also highlights a very Western approach, which is becoming a big part of the problem.
come across as wise and measured. He speaks of technology, of the need for truth, and for the protection of freedom of speech. He also speaks of globalisation and the changes it is bringing.
The crux of his comments on truth is the much-quoted phrase “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. But that quote comes from St John’s gospel. It is both a statement on freedom, and something deeply rooted in the Christian heritage of the West.
Tillerson goes on to talk about “allies who share our values” and others. Inadvertently, he highlights one of the key anxieties of globalisation. Freedom and truth are good things. Christianity is also the bedrock of Western society. But, despite the West’s now-complex relationship with its Christian heritage, religion is part of a “double inscription”: on the one hand, it shapes the way we view the world, and our experience of the world shapes our religion. It is extremely hard to step outside this. Even Westerners who reject Christianity tend to get up in the Christianity they are rejecting (or its mirror image).
Substantial Labour gains in the local elections in 1995 were the first clear indication of the landslide that brought labour into overnment in 1997. The 2018 Local elections haven’t matched that, despite the mess the Tories are clearly in over Brexit. What’s going on?
Comments since the Local Elections have highlighted the significance of Labour’s failure to make substantial gains on Thursday, which is particularly striking given the savaging that the EU Withdrawl Bill is getting in the upper house.
Lord Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) captured it sharply in a tweet as the result was sinking in:
Labour’s big weakness, & why we did so poorly on Thursday, is being a Vacillation not an Opposition on Brexit. Oppositions never win power as handmaiden of the government’s big policy. If people really want Brexit & think it is/was a success, they will mostly vote Tory
While @tony_nog was even sharper, writing on Election day:
So….will probably regret saying this….
But if Labour don’t make significant gains tonight, they’re are never going to make gains anywhere, ever, under the current leadership & #Brexit stance
Why vote for #brexit lite if Tories are offering full fat over the cliff Brexit?
I have speculated that Labour might be in a careful shift on Brexit, which could enable them to come round and bring at least some of their Leave-voting supporters with them. It’s worth hoping.
But Adonis has a point. The nature of Tory support has been changing for several decades, at least since the cultural shift when Margaret Thatcher succeeded Edward Heath. When the phrase “Basildon man” was coined, it caught a sense of traditional Labour voters switching to the Tories because Thatcherism was speaking to their aspirations. They were voting Tory out of a sense of where they wanted to be, where voting Labour would have reflected where they were.
At the end of April, the leading UK supermarkets signed up to the Plastics Pledge, which aims to have all plastic packaging capable of being re-used, recycled or composed by 2025. In itself this is good, but it also gives a snapshot of the value of the Single Market, and the other side of those maligned “regulations”
Few people can be unaware of the growing publicity around plastic in the environment. It‘s great that our plastic bags and or drink bottles don‘t fall apart on us, but not at all great when the same plastic harms wildlife in the sea or in landfill — pictures of the stomachs of dead sea birds clogged with plastic should ring alarm bells, but plastic broken into tiny pieces is a serious problem, and much harder to address.
Addressing this is problematic. For an individual supermarket chain to act means they risk pushing up their costs. It is possible to offset that by appealing to the increasing numbers of environmentally-conscious consumers, but it is still a risk.
But there would be a strong case for legislation over this, so no business has a competitive advantage from ruining the environment in this way. The problem is that, if the British government acts alone over this, it risks putting British business at a disadvantage. In effect, this is the same problem as for an individual business, but pushed up a level.
Recently, an active and experienced Liberal Democrat campaigner challenged me over the party’s messaging on Brexit. He suggested that this was coming across as confused. My first instinct was to defend what we have been doing, but on reflection, I think he has a point. The aim of this article is to ask the question a little more widely.
From the inside
My impression is that the Liberal Democrat parliamentarians and media office have been doing an outstanding job in trying to hold the government to account in the mess over Brexit, and of making people aware of this. I was in the debate at Conference which affirmed the Liberal Democrat policy of seeking a referendum on the deal, and can see the wisdom of this, but can also see that it can need explaining — which is a hostage to fortune.
From the outside
But, I’ve had people on street stalls ask me what our position is before signing a petition for a people’s vote on the final deal. I’ve had people read that text and still want to check that this means they are signing something against Brexit. That comes across as a measure of the anxiety and paralysis Brexit is inducing.
The attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal has sparked outrage, but are we in danger of responding in a way that actually does what Putin wants, the British Government needs, and helps no-one?
The bare facts of the story seem straightforward. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia were found seriously ill in Salisbury on 4 March 2018, suffering from the effects of a nerve agent Novochok, known to be made in Russia. Skripal is a former spy, in the UK after a spy swap. The strong implication is that Russia has a motive to seek his death, and used means closely linked to them (which looks as if they were not trying to hide their tracks).
The ensuing controversy has seen the death linked to Russia, with the implication that there is confidential intelligence information to support this assertion. There are parallels with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. For its part, Russia denies the claims and has taken the issue first to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN Security Council.
The storm has seen over 100 Russian diplomats expelled across the world, and the UK shift from adversarial language towards the EU to seeking help in a diplomatic response.