Fisheries Part 5:- Brexit must mean Brexit

I hate to be sounding a negative note after the euphoria of the recent Conservative Party conference, but having seen and spoken to so many people in Birmingham, from Ministers and MPs to ordinary party members and lobbyists, I got a pretty good feel as to what is developing and as far as fisheries is concerned, it could end up being a sell-out.

The party is currently on a massive high. It believes that it will be in power for years to come, but if it does not deliver a good Brexit, it could be heading for serious trouble in the not too distant future.

Mrs May stated her intention to invoke Article 50 will be invoked by the end of March 2017. The objective is that we will have left the EU before both the next European Parliamentary elections and the next UK general election. This sounds fine, but even at very senior levels, there is still considerable ignorance about the implications of Section 3 of Article 50, that the Treaties shall cease to apply the moment we finally leave.

The next Queen’s speech, which is usually delivered in May, will lay out the intention to repeal the European Communities 1972 Act, the Act which allows all EU legislation to pass into UK law, This repeal act is expected to be passed before the two year Article 50 period is up.

So far so good. This is part and parcel of Mrs May’s insistence that the UK will again be a sovereign and independent country. The problematical part is how the government proposes to address the problem of filling the holes that result from EU legislation no longer having any force because the treaties no longer apply. What about, for example, the standards for bathing water in UK beaches, which have been determined by the EU?  What of other environmental legislation which originated with the EU?

The simplest and safest models to follow are countries like Ireland and India. When Ireland beacme independent in 1922, it incorporated all existing British law into Irish law and unpicked those acts which did not suit Ireland’s interests once things had settled down. India adopted a similar policy in 1947.  Mrs May has hinted that the UK government intends to follow the same route – in other words, to incorporate the full acquis communautaire (all EU legislation), into UK law and then review everything at a later date, discarding those laws which are not in the national interest.

However, there is no reason why some exceptions should not be made and fisheries is one such area. If all EU fisheries legislation was just incorprated lock, stock and barrel into UK law, it would not only be an opportunity wasted but would create serious and totally unnecessary problems.

The Common Fisheries Policy is well known to have been a disaster both for our fishermen and for the marine environment. The beauty of Article 50 is that at the end of the two year period the Treaties and regulations cease to apply. As the CFP has relied on regulations, this means that without having to do anything at all, control of our 200 mile/median point reverts to the UK government.

Unfortunately, it appears that the government is planning to include the CFP in the overall incorporation of the acquis communautire into UK law, which means that we would continue with the CFP in all but name. This means that Parliament will continue to give our resource away and worse still, it is sending out a signal that we endorse the CFP.

By the time we have reached the proivisonal exit date, the present 10-year management derogation under which we presently operate would have been up for review if we were still in the EU, as it is due to expire at the end of 2022. If we agree to continue with what is something like the CFP, we will therefore find ourselves stuck on April Fool’s Day 2019 facing a complex set of negotiations just to determine how much access our fishermen may have to something which is theirs by right.

Under international law, the waters round the UK are as much part of our country as the Yorkshire Dales or the South Downs. Considering the tough words we heard about restricting access to our country for EU citizens, it is therefore crazy not to take the chance of restricting access to our waters by EU fishing vessels. It will be a tough balancing act if the Government is to secure sufficient access to the Single Market without having to agree to freedom of movement for EU citizens. It can be done, as Liechtenstein has shown, but even so, the repatriation of fisheries to natonal control  is far more straightforward. Do absolutely nothing during the two-year Article 50 period and the moment we leave,  the regulations cease to apply. Job done.

Unfortunately, unless we continue to lobby hard, I can envisage the UK agreeing to a fisheries policy  running in parallel with the CFP. The possibility of turning British fisheries round and introducing a sensible and sustainable model, based on days at sea rather than the flawed quota system, may well be wasted, along with it the opportunity to revitalise our coastal communities. Sadly, at conference, the only person I met who fully understood the situation as I have described it was the Scottish Conservative MEP Ian Duncan.

Unless the Conservative Party gives a clear commitment to ensuring that at the same time as the acquis is transferred to UK law, the relevant parts of UK legislation that gives the quota share-out and historic rights to the EU, is repealed, then it could result in the termination of our industry. Two generations will have gone due the the blight of the CFP and very few young people are coming into the Industry. This is our last chance to rebuild the industry. Sadly, it  became very clear as conference progressed that one has any confidence that the Conservative hierarchy has the will to take back real control of our 200 nautical mile/median line zone. The emphasis sadly seems to be on looking after our European neighbours rather than making Brexit mean Brexit.

What has changed since 1972? Just like Peter Walker, who refused to fight tough in 1982 when the first derogation was up for renewal because it might upset “our friends and partners in Western Europe“, the emphasis sadly still seems to be on looking after the interests of our European neighbours rather than making Brexit mean Brexit. Mrs May has insisted that the UK will not be a “supplicant” to Brussels  and “will negotiate from a position of strength”, but here is a case where the mechanics of the EU have dealt us a strong hand and her ministers seem intent on throwing it away.

This may seem a very downbeat assessment, but it is better that everyone is aware of the problem at this stage so that we can organise a campaign before Article 50 is invoked. As Sir Robert Worcester, the founder of Mori, pointed out at a fringe meeting, one person in a hundred switching sides during a General Election can change the result. Over 17 million people voted to leave the EU. When they realise that unless the Government give a clear commitment on fisheries, Brexit does not mean Brexit, the current euphoria in the Conservative Party could rapidly come to an end.

Re-booting our political system

By Niall Warry, Director of The Harrogate Agenda

In a recent post-mortem on the EU referendum on BBC Radio 4 entitled Two Rooms, remainers from Brixton and leavers from Boston shared their thoughts on the vote and its aftermath. There were obviously differences of opinion, but one common aspiration for both groups was to take advantage of the opening provided by Brexit to bring power closer to the people.

The Harrogate Agenda (THA) was founded in 2012 for precisely this purpose and on Saturday 1st October seven established and eight new supporters met in Warwick, in a workshop environment, to discuss the ‘Way Ahead’.  A few months ago, The Harrogate Agenda became involved, with full consent of our supporters, in the referendum campaign and along with the Campaign for an Independent Britain and several other groups, we became part of The Leave Alliance (TLA) which supported and promoted Dr Richard North’s Flexcit plan to leave the EU.

The Harrogate Agenda (THA) has six demands which, when enacted, will revolutionise the way we are governed in this country. These demands all evolve from the principle that ‘we the people’ must be recognised as sovereign. It is essential that our six demands are met to ensure we will remain outside the EU once we finally leave. At the moment, there is nothing stopping any future government taking us back in, without even consulting us. This is because sovereignty – or power – currently resides in Parliament. This makes a travesty of the claim that we currently live in a democracy, for demos means ‘people’ and kratos ‘power’. Without demos these is no democracy, but people without power is not democracy either.

The origins and location of sovereignty are rarely understood fully. In the beginning, people had power in their own hands but over time this power was eroded by sovereign monarchs whose decrees were absolute. Later, in this country, sovereignty was wrestled from the monarch to Parliament where it resides to this day.

The past and present incumbents in Westminster feel that the criteria for democracy are met because at General Elections power is temporarily handed back to ‘us’ to vote in the next government. However, our politicians conveniently overlook that they promise us the earth before an election and then happily ignore us once in power. We have little scope to hold them to account. In other words, our supposed “Representative Democracy” is a sham. The referendum result, where we voted against our government and the leaders of the Labour, SNP and Lib Dem parties, shows why things must change, with the recognition that sovereignty – and thus power – ultimately resides with ‘us’ the people. Our twenty-nine-page pamphlet which you can request from our website here explains how we believe this would work out in practise.

Our workshop last Saturday confirmed the importance of communicating our message on two established and one new fronts. First, there is the ‘bottom up’ approach consisting of any one of many possible types of meeting that can be set up at a local level. These range from organising a meeting with your own MP to giving a talk at schools or even organising meetings in village halls and similar venues. The second way of spreading the word is via the internet, including our new Blogspot, which can be accessed from our website. Also covered under this heading is the use of Social Media, especially Twitter. Third and lastly we considered the importance of working from the ‘top down’ which is currently an area that we had not previously considered. It is now our intention to create a think tank to explore the whole area of political power. This sounds ambitious and we are under no illusions that working from the ‘top down’ will take us a few years to become established and thus recognised. In the meantime, we will continue to develop our bottom up approach, using grassroots activists and the Internet to promote our cause.

So if anyone shares our desire to re-boot our country’s political system and see real power returned to the people, please get in touch with us here.

 

Yet more media muddle

As we reported yesterday, Mrs May is not giving much of her Brexit strategy away at the moment. For anyone wishing to find out more, great care needs to be taken as some reports in the press are, shall we say, somewhat less than helpful.

Writing in the Independent, John Rentoul informs us that “Finally, we know what Brexit actually means – Theresa May intends ot take us out of the single market.” Has  Mr Rentoul spotted something that the rest of us have missed? He noticed that Mrs May made it clear that “‘we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.”  He therefore concludes that, “given that the ECJ is the court that enforces the rules of the EU single market, this was confirmation that she intends to take us out of it.”

QED – except that it isn’t true. Whatever the role of the ECJ in enforcing the single market regulations among EU member states, it has no power over Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, the non-EU countries who are part of EFTA and access the single market via the EEA Agreement.  Robert Oulds’ book Everything you wanted to know about the EU explains the difference clearly (p189) :-

Whereas the European Commission and the European Court of Justice regulate the EU’s compliance with the terms of the EEA agreement, EFTA’s side is managed by its own institutions.”

In other words, Mr Rentoul is jumping to conclusions. Mrs May has said that “it is not going to be a Norway model”, but she said nothing to preclude the Liechtenstein model – in other words,. re-joining EFTA and accessing the single market via the EEA agreement but invoking Article 112 of that agreement to reduce migration from the EU.

Another piece to take with a very hefty pinch of salt is this piece in the Irish Times by Professor Vernon Bogdanor, David Cameron’s former tutor.  Entitled Why Brexit will be Margaret Thatcher’s revenge, the piece claims that “those most likely to have voted for Brexit will suffer most after Article 50 is triggered.” It goes on to say that “Contrary to popular perceptions, article 50 inaugurates a withdrawal process, not a trade agreement.” I would like to know how many people Professor Bogdanor has met who really think that invoking Article 50 was anything to do with a trade agreement. I certainly haven’t met any!

Getting off on a bad note, he then parades even more ingorance than Mr Rentoul about the EEA. “Matters would be easier, of course, were Britain to emulate Norway and join the European Economic Area, ” he writes. Excuse me! As a mamber of the EU, the UK is ALREADY a member of the EEA. What I presume he means is that we should remain a participant in the EEA by re-joining EFTA, but it isn’t what he said. He then goes on to claim that “The EEA obliges member states to incorporate not only current EU laws, but also future legislation, into domestic law, and to accept the principle of free movement.” Wrong again. The EFTA countries who are part of the EEA are only required to transpose legislation specifically marked “EEA relevant” into domestic law.  Last October, Dr Richard North calculated that only 4,947 out of 23,076 pieces of legislation – in other words, about 21% of the total Acquis – had been incorporated onto Norway’s statute books, much of it technical in nature and much of it also originating with international bodies like the WTO, with the EU merely acting as a conduit.  As for free movement, there is some freedom to restrict it using Article 112 of the EEA, as we have aready noted.

Neither Messrs Rentoul nor Bogdanor seem aware of the Norwegian veto of the Third Postal Directive in 2012, which insisted on deregulating postal services across the EEA. This proves the point that non-EU countries cannot be touched by the ECJ and thus have far greater latitude in dealing with EU legislation, even when marked “EEA relevant.”

Next comes another myth:- “Per head, Norway currently pays around 83 per cent of the British contribution.” In 2015,  Norway paid £1.66 per head of population to access the EEA. We paid about £150. Either the great Professor inadvertantly included Norway’s voluntary contribution to various EU schemes or his calculator seems to be suffering from a chronic malfunction.

He then rounds up his dismissal of any EEA-type relationship by repeating the “regulation without representation” nonsense. Dear Professor Bogdanor, please get your facts right. Norway is represented on the Committess which create EEA-relevant law, even though the country does not have a vote. Read these words of Anne Tvinnereim, a Norwegian politician, who knows what she is talking about. “We do get to influence the position,” she said. “Most of the politics is done long before it {a new law} gets to the voting stage.”

Professor Bogdanor then rejects the Swiss option, which virtually everyone else has already done, but this leaves him with only the WTO option as a possible route, something which Mrs May, by proposing the nationalisation of EU law (in other words, giving laws passed by the EU their authority from our Parliament rather than the EU via the 1972 Accession Treaty) seems to have ruled out.

He is right to conclude that newly-independent UK will be more global. “The irony is that…..leaving the EU will expose Britain to more globalisation, not less.  Brexit, therefore, will be Margaret Thatcher’s revenge. It will suit the vision of the Tory right which hopes that, outside the EU, Britain could become like Hong Kong or Singapore, a global trading hub.” However, he then falls into the common trap of saying that this is exactly what Brexit voters don’t want. Vernon, old chap, I was accused by my opponent in one debate of selling a vision of an independent UK which was just that – “Singapore on steroids” to quote his words.

There are many of us who are excited by the global trading opportunities which Brexit will provide. A recent Fabian Society report linked the Brexit vote with economic deprivation and the lack of government spending on areas populated by the white working classes, but a look at the Brexit vote map shows that this is only part of the story. Many prosperous areas in the South East also voted for Brexit. In rural East Sussex where I live, plenty of large houses, presumably inhabited by people who are not at all economically deprived, displayed large “Vote Leave” boards in their gardens and outside their gates.

On one point I would agree with Professor Bogdanor:-  “Britain….has a deep-seated skills problem…. The priority, if May’s socially responsible capitalism is to be become a reality, must be a radical skills policy. That means more resources devoted to further education colleges, currently the Cinderellas of the education service, and to university technical colleges, for those whose skills are technical and vocational rather than academic.” Yes indeed, to make the most of Brexit, our education system needs to be signficantly re-vamped from top to bottom. Last year, we published Generations Betrayed, a booklet by Chris McGovern, which shows how much the history syllabus needs to be reformed. This, however, is only one of many features about the UK education system which is unsatisfactory.

In conclusion, however, after having ploughed through these confusing articles, the abiding thoughts they leave is a fervent hope that the people who are advising Mrs May about the best Brexit route are considerably more clued-up than Messrs Rentoul and Bogdanor and actually know what they are talking about.

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Mrs May keeps us guessing

It would have been a futile exercise to report every twist and turn in the recent debate about “hard” and “soft” Brexit. Far better to wait and see what Mrs May and her collegaues actually plan to do.

Yesterday, we were given some inkling as to her future plans, although it didn’t amount to as much detail as many would have liked.

There were, however, some encouragements in other areas. She made it quite clear that there was to be no second referendum and that those who wanted to challenge the result needed to wake up and smell the coffee:- “But come on.  The referendum result was clear.  It was legitimate.  It was the biggest vote for change this country has ever known.  Brexit means Brexit – and we’re going to make a success of it.”

This has been one of Mrs May’s stock phrases since taking office.  Yesterday, we came a little nearer to knowing what it actually meant. “There will be no unnecessary delays in invoking Article 50.  We will invoke it when we are ready.  And we will be ready soon.  We will invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March next year.” Fair enough. This is a confirmation of what had widely been expected. Thankfully, business will have less than six more months of uncertainty, for as well as a date being set, it is looks likely that by then, our exit route will have been determined.

But what will that route be? We were told what it would not be:- “It is not going to a “Norway model”. It’s not going to be a “Switzerland model”.  It is going to be an agreement between an independent, sovereign United Kingdom and the European Union.” Furthermore, alongside repealing the 1972 Accession Treaty, she intends to convert the Acquis into UK law when the Article 50 period is complete, so the WTO route looks to be off the table too.

So what does that leave us with? How is she planning to square the circle between trade and immigration control? There was not a great deal of detail:- “I know some people ask about the “trade-off” between controlling immigration and trading with Europe.  But that is the wrong way of looking at things.  We have voted to leave the European Union and become a fully-independent, sovereign country.  We will do what independent, sovereign countries do.  We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration. And we will be free to pass our own laws.”

On the one hand, she was quite clear that some restriction of freedom of movement will have to be part of any deal:- “We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again” yet at the same time she insisted, “I want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here.

Still a bit opaque. The Liechtenstein compromise would fit all the criteria she listed. Another possibility would be the Australian model. In 1997, Australia’s government signed a joint declaration on EU-Australian relations, followed two years later by a Mutual Recognition Agreement. The UK could do likewise, or make a unilateral declaration, up to and including a commitment to full regulatory harmonisation. There don’t seem to be many other choices.

Mrs May is deliberately not giving too much away on the negotiating tactics, but she didn’t mince her words about the irreconcilable Remainiacs:- “When it legislated to establish the referendum, Parliament put the decision to leave or remain inside the EU in the hands of the people.  And the people gave their answer with emphatic clarity.  So now it is up to the Government not to question, quibble or backslide on what we have been instructed to do, but to get on with the job.

Because those people who argue that Article Fifty can only be triggered after agreement in both Houses of Parliament are not standing up for democracy, they’re trying to subvert it.  They’re not trying to get Brexit right, they’re trying to kill it by delaying it.  They are insulting the intelligence of the British people.”

In summary,  there were some good things in the speech and not a lot to cause major concern, although Richard North takes the PM to task for claiming we would make our own decisions about how our food is labelled, as those regulations originate with the World Trade Organisation, to which (presumably) she would still wish us to belong. That apart, it was a speech which certainly did not deserve the put-down in the Daily Mirror, suggesting that Mrs May was a prisoner of “ideological Tories who get out of bed every morning to wind back the clock to a bygone age.”  Such garbage is typical of those people who do not accept that it is the EU which is a relic of a bygone age. On the contrary, Mrs May wasn’t anyone’s prisoner. She was spelling out her own positive vision for our future in that speech. The Sun called her a “capable PM we  can be proud of.”  Well, she is continuing to wn over the doubters and  you could sense her genuine enthusiasm as she talked about her “ambitious vision” for post-Brexit UK and it’s good that she isn’t letting herself be rushed, but a little bit more detail about how we  are going to get there would be welcome.  Hopefully , we won’t have too long to wait.

Restore Britains Fish

It is vital that the opportunities Brexit offers for our fisheries are exploited to the full. In my last piece, I pointed out that we should avoid any attempt to create a shadow Common Fisheries Policy. With the treaties no longer applying once the Article 50 negotiations are concluded, the Regulations which govern EU fishing policy will therefore cease to apply as well. This means that fisheries reverts to national control. In other words, the other EU countries will have no quota whatsoever unless we offer it to them.

In this article, I want to address another important issue. It is vital that we adopt the best practises from those countries who control their own fishing. Professor Philip Booth of the Institute or Economic Affairs recently produced a paper advocating the Icelandic model of fisheries management. I would strongly advise against such a policy. There is a much better model for us to emulate which is closer to home – the Faroese. Advocates of the Icelandic model, like Professor Booth fail understand the complexities of a mixed fishery in the relatively shallow water around the UK. Our fisheries are unique. Iceland’s waters do not contain as many different species as ours. Only the waters around the Faroe Islands, which share the effect of the Gulf Stream with us, are compatible.

Another reason for avoiding the Icelandic Model is that, like the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, it operates a quota system of weight per species per vessel. Norway is similar. By contrast, the Faroese system determines allocation by the number of days at sea. This is a much better system for a number of reasons which I will set out below.

1). The problem of discarding marketable species.

Discarding, whether at sea or to landfill, is immoral. However, with the Icelandic system, unless you can give every vessel a proportion of quota for every species, which is impossible, there will be discarding in one form or another. Even if you could come up with a complete quota system for every vessel and every species, inevitably one quota will run out before others. Of course, officialdom will try to devise ever more complicated ways to prevent discarding, but it is like a dog chasing its tail. It is unworkable.

By contrast, with the Faroese system, there is nothing to discard apart from a few undersized fish. Everything is sold and marketed

2) The effects on Fishermen’s attitudes.

In Iceland as much as the EU, whatever the authorities do to stop discarding, it is impossible in a quota-based system, even though it can appear solved on paper. In a mixed fishery, there is no way to avoid hauling up the wrong species for which a vessel may have no quota or have used it up. What do you do ? There are three choices, all unsatisfactory.

i) Keep them and sell them illegally.

ii) open the cod-end and let them go dead and dying back into the sea.

iii) Land them and incur a cost

A quota system puts pressure on fishermen to cheat if they are to survive.

Under the Faroese “Days at sea” system, everything you catch can be landed to be sold without fear of prosecution.

3) The need to report the catch

Fishermen play a key part in building up scientific data. They are required to report how many of each species they catch and where they were fishing when they caught them.

The quota system, which encourages cheating and discards, will inevitably result in falsified scientific data. After all, if you end up catching species for which you have no quota, it is human nature only to record to fish which you are entitled to catch. Likewise, if you catch a species that you have quota for, but caught them in an area you are not allowed. you will steam to the area where you are allowed and say you caught them there, which screws up scientific data.

Faroese fishermen, by contrast, have no fear of criminalisation. They have no reason to be dishonest and therefore record true data.

4) Fishing effort.

As was noted under 1) above, with a quota system, a given vessel will inevitably use up its quota for one species quicker than for others. In a mixed fishery, this means that when your quota for one or more species has been used up, a percentage of your catch cannot be sold – at least legally. This means lower profitability and more fishing time, along with increased pressure on fishing grounds.

A “days at sea” system means that you can fish without looking over your shoulder. There is one downside. The limit on the amount of time spent at sea means that fishing off the harbour entrance needs to be discouraged. However, with this caveat, the “days at sea” system is much more efficient as overall actual fishing time is reduced compared with the quota system.

5) Relationships between fishermen, scientists and fishery officers.

A quota system results in constant battles and lack of trust. Co-operations between the different groups is minimal as everyone is trying to outwit everyone else. By contrast, all three groups can work in harmony under a “days at sea” system.

6) Individual fishermen’s ability.

If fishermen are given a set allocation of weight per species, it gives little incentive to be innovative, progressive, or to improve. The “days at sea” system gives far more scope for fishermen to excel, benefitting from their own endeavours and maximising profit.

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Given the overwhelmingly advantages of the “days at sea” system, let us now have a closer look at how the Faroese make it work.

  • The harvesting licence is an operating licence issued to an individual vessel. The fishing licence specifies the details of fishing activities (catch and geographical area limitations) in which the vessel is permitted to participate, as well as gear requirements, requirements for reporting of catch data and information on landings or transshipments.
  • All vessels larger than 15 GT must maintain a daily log of their activities in an authorised catch logbook which is issued for this purpose, recording data for each set or haul and they must also have functioning satellite vessel monitoring systems (VMS) in both national and international waters.
  • We are constantly being told that because of straddling stocks, an independent UK must run a parallel system to the EU, The tiny Faroe Islands, however, has no problem in deciding what is best for its own fishermen and those who are allowed to fish in its waters. Faroese fisheries in other zones and in international waters have long been an important part of total Faroese fisheries catches, both in terms of total tonnage and economic value.
  • Faroese fishermen have a long tradition of fishing in foreign and international waters. The Faroe Islands have reciprocal fisheries agreements with neighbouring countries in the North Atlantic region – the European Union, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Greenland. These involve the exchange of fishing opportunities, including offering foreign vessels quotas and access to the Faroes’ zone in exchange for equal fishing opportunities for the Faroese fleet in their zones. These agreements provide Faroese fishing vessels with the scope and flexibility they need.
  • A number of fish stocks of great importance for the Faroese fishing fleet can therefore be fished both in the Faroese fisheries zone and in the zones of other countries and international waters. Managing and conserving these fish stocks is therefore a shared responsibility requiring close international cooperation between all relevant nations in the region.

The Faroe Islands have no resources other than the marine resources, yet they, a tiny nation of only 50,000 people, have been brave enough to introduce one of the most successful fisheries management systems currently in operation. Will we have the courage to break out of the quota mindset and follow their example?

An outbreak of reality hits Labour while Mrs May’s europhile credentials are further questioned

We are hoping to offer you some informed comment about the implication of Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election in the coming days. In the meantime, however, it is encouraging to know that an outbreak of reality regarding the EU referendum has hit a number of Labour MPs.

As most readers will be aware, Labour Brexiteer MPs were very few in number. CIB’s patron Kate Hoey, who addressed our annual rally back in May, had little company on the opposition benches. However, it was Mr Corbyn’s lukewarm support for the EU during the referendum which provided the trigger for his critics to launch their leadership challenge, with his rival Owen Smith promising a second referendum if he ever became Prime Minister.

Now the dust has settled on the leadership vote, a more sober note is being sounded. In particular, Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, warned the party at its annual conference that it must not become “the party of the 48%” – i.e., solely the voice of those who voted to remain. Chuka Umunna, the former Shadow Business Secretary, struck a similar note, saying it would be “an incredibly patronising way” to treat those voters who voted to leave the EU.

While Miliband was heckled by a German national in the audience, who said she felt betrayed by the party’s opposition to a second referendum, her concerns will carry less weight among many Labour MPs than those of their constituents. Some of the highest Brexit votes came from traditionally Labour-supporting areas. In Doncaster, which includes Miliband’s constituency, over two-thirds of those who voted supported Brexit. Hartlepool, which once boasted Peter Mandelson as its MP, voted even more strongly to leave.

A survey by YouGov found that over half of Labour voters who supported the party in last year’s General Election but who subsequently supported leave would not currently vote for Labour. The party is clearly facing a challenge to reconnect with its traditional voter base.

This website is not the appropriate place on while to dissect the troubles which the Labour party is currently facing. Furthermore, the reasons for Labour voters’ disillusion with the EU have been endlessly debated elsewhere. We will say, however, that with Conservative MPs having already come together in recognising the Brexit vote (even if they are still far from united on any sort of leave strategy), it is good to see Labour MPs following suit.

There still remain a few incorrigibles, including  Lib Dem leader Tim Farron,  who pledged that his party would fight for a second referendum and Craig Oliver, Cameron’s former spin doctor who has recently published a new book  described by the columnist Dominic Lawson as a “cry of rage from an ousted establishment.” Not only does it savage Michael Gove and Boris Johnson but it also attacks the only serious  challenger to Jeremy Corbyn for the title of most unenthusiastic high-profile remainer – Theresa May.

Mr Oliver informs us that Mrs May had to be bullied by Cameron into endorsing the campaign to remain in the EU. When she did make a rather lukewarm speech, Oliver noted that “she isn’t fully signed up.” The very fact that this speech, which did include a claim that “the sky would not fall” in the event of Brexit, seemed to have kept off most people’s radars indicates just how little impact she made on the remain campaign.

Mr Oliver is therefore pretty scathing about her. For those of us willing her to make the best possible success of Brexit, however, it is very encouraging, as it shows that she was even less enthusiastic about the EU than we were hitherto led to believe.

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