An Irish version of Tony Blair?

This letter, which originally appeared in the Southern Star, a local newspaper covering the western part of Co. Cork in Ireland, was spotted by our Chairman, who considered it to be well worth reproducing.

SIR – John Bruton, former Taoiseach, appears to see himself as the Irish version of Tony Blair, telling everyone in Britain they ‘must’ stay inside the EU, regardless of the democratic vote which told John and Tony that Britain is leaving. What part of this democratic expression do they not understand?

Bruton says that the UK ‘needs another six years to reconsider voting again to stay’ within the EU shambles. Oh really?

Why would this happen, exactly, when the facts point to continuing austerity and unemployment, which for a decade has been the policies for all of us, by Brussels, Berlin and Paris?

Voting for a better way of life by the powerful population of Britain was the most sensible route to take when the very national laws of each member State in the EU is under the process of being usurped or changed by that dictatorial bloc.

In Ireland we are still blind to this, even though by us passing some EU referendums and being made to change others after we were naughty, we cannot now even hold a referendum to leave the EU. This was a clause in one of those decrees we signed up to. Where is the freedom of nations in such a regulation?

We now begin to learn that this little republic has no power or even the tiniest say in Britain’s negotiations with the EU. We do not count in all of this … and why should we?

John Bruton and his likes are just blustering has-beens who are never listened to, no matter how much they get paid to waffle on and on.

Britain has won all of their vital battles and saved Europe when it was called upon, twice in the 20th century. This is a world power which will not be pushed around by Irish-EU yabber-jabberers, or the supposed heavy-hitters in EU headquarters. Britain will be progressing long after the European Union tyranny is long gone.

The latest news from Westminister shows that pulling away from listening to all of the EU threats and demands is a real decision that may not be so far away.

Is this suitable to Mr Bruton, even when it is none of his business?

Just be quiet, sir. The British believe in the decision of the ballot box.

Robert Sullivan,

Bantry.

Photo by Horasis

Groundhog Day

If you think you have read a post like this before, you’re probably right. Another week of Brexit negotiations are about to begin which will almost certainly end with very little progress being made. A smiling David Davis will emerge in a few days’ time and give a very upbeat assessment of the talks at a press conference while Michel Barnier, in guarded but polite language, will say that actually very little has happened which will enable the UK and the EU to get down to discussing any sort of future trade relationship.

It’s rather like the film Groundhog Day where an American weatherman finds himself trapped in a time loop, repeating the same day over and over again, except there’s an important difference: in the film, time basically stands still whereas the Brexit clock is ticking away.

To be more precise, Brexit day, 29th March 2019, will take place 1,010 days after our vote to leave on 23rd June last year. In exactly one month’s time, November 9th 2017, four days after Bonfire Night, we will reach the halfway point and so far, there is no sign of any deal which will enable trade to flow seamlessly between the UK and the EU once we leave the EU.

Even the plans for a two-year transition will be going nowhere. Essentially, while Mrs May may be telling the EU that the ball is in their court, the EU is being asked to make an exception to its normal rules for the sake of a former member state which doesn’t want to be part of the club any more. It is under no obligation to say yes – indeed, it has given every indication that it is not going to. Mrs May’s speech in Florence did nothing to shift the predominant belief in Brussels and elsewhere that there was plenty of goodwill in it but little of substance which could unblock the negotiations in the three key areas where agreement must be reached before trade talks can begin – the Irish border question, the divorce bill and the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK.

It may be a case that Mrs May is being advised to take a tough line in the hope that the EU will blink first. If so, she (and her advisors) are likely to be disappointed. Even so, the fallout from Mrs May’s conference speech and the  failed attempts to remove her have left her with no option but to ensure we leave the EU in March 2019. Grant Shapps, the former Tory Chairman who surfaced as the leader of the failed coup, did not raise Brexit as an issue, but Nadine Dorries, a consistent pro-Brexit Tory MP, claimed that the plan was to take Boris Johnson down with Theresa May and install a new pro-remain leader who would stop Brexit.

We will never know the truth of what went on in the aftermath of Mrs May’s speech, but the strong support she has been given from pro-Brexit MPs conveys the implicit message that there can be no turning back,

So are we heading towards a no-deal situation when our delegation will walk away from the talks, blaming EU intransigence? Business leaders will not like this and will be lobbying hard to prevent such an outcome.

This leaves Mrs May caught between a rock and a hard place.  Maybe she (or her advisors) still haven’t grasped the political nature of the EU project. This is hardly her fault. From Edward Heath onwards, the wool has been pulled over the eyes of the UK so effectively that even serving MPs think that the EU is all about trade, which it isn’t. If we are to believe those who know her well, she is typical of many Tories who  have never been that bothered about the EU but was forced by Cameron and Osborne, along with a significant number of her colleagues, to come off the fence. One of our correspondents claims that at the dinner parties he hosted, Cameron and his henchmen described supporting leave as “xenophobic”.

Indeed, if the finger of blame should be pointed at anyone, it is the dynamic duo who headed up the administration before June 23rd last year. Cameron and Osborne held a referendum they didn’t expect to lose, trying to frighten the voters and intimidate their parliamentary colleagues  so that the result would never be in doubt. So confident were they of victory that the Civil Service was banned from drawing up any exit plan.  According to Craig Oliver, Cameron’s spin doctor, Cameron arrived at Downing Street after the result was announced on 24h June saying almost jokingly “Well, that didn’t go according to plan!”

Indeed it didn’t and nor has the first 15 months of Mrs May’s premiership. We can but hope that the next 15 months see some significant progress but as far as the current round of negotiations is concerned, few people will be holding their breath.  She has been bequeathed a very difficult task by her predecessor and it may well take some further crisis before we start to see any real developments which will prevent the “cliff edge” that draws closer by the day and rightly concerns so many.

Photo by vastateparksstaff

Brexit: what we want and what we might get

The last week has seen the publication of a number of positions papers by the Department for Exiting the European Union, covering issues ranging from trade and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice through to the Irish border. You will find articles which review each position paper on the website.

Of course, what the UK government wants and what the EU will agree to may not be the same thing. Indeed,  at least one commentator is claiming that the position papers do not yet reflect a final government position but are but one side of “an internal debate within the Conservative Party.”

But what do UK voters want from Brexit? A survey by the London School of Economics and Oxford University asked more than 3,000 people for their thoughts – including both leave and remain voters.

The most interesting finding is the unity between remain and leave voters on a number of issues. Barely one third of those surveyed are keen on single market membership, ongoing EU payments, free movement and the jurisdiction of the ECJ once we leave. Significantly, this majority includes a number of remain voters.

Although there is widespread support for a free trade agreement with the EU (88%), 69% want customs checks introduced at the borders – some what contradictory stances!

What is more significant is that this survey offers little support for hard-core remoaners and remainiacs  who wish to stall Brexit. The referendum is now behind us; the majority of the population has accepted the result and wants to see the government make the most of the opportunity leaving the EU provides.

What sort of deal we will get, of course, is another issue. Analysis of the position papers published so far  do not give us any sort of detail about how deals on many areas are going to be concluded. We have seen what amounts to a UK wish list which the EU may well decide to refuse.

Still, amidst all the concerns about the lack of progress by the Department for Exiting the European Union, one good piece of news appeared today. Net migration (immigrants minus emigrants) has fallen by 81,000 from 327,000 to 246,000 in the year to March.  The number of EU nationals coming to the UK fell while over 33,000 more additional EU nationals left the country, including an extra 17,000 from the so-called EU8, the former Soviet bloc countries who joined the EU in 2004. 246,000 immigrants still equates to a city the size of Hull or Plymouth and is well above the Conservatives’ net migration target of under 100,000. This drop is nonetheless welcome. Many individual factors no doubt contributed to it, but Brexit would indisputably have been one of the reasons. Given that one  of the reason for the Brexit vote was a desire to end free movement and thus bring immigration down, it is encouraging to see that it has already had a benign effect – and without the Government even doing anything!

Photo by dullhunk

Where does Sturgeon go now Corbyn says Brexit means Brexit?

This piece by Brian Monteith of Global Britain originally appeared in the Scotsman and is used with  permission.

The Labour leader, from his new position of strength, is revealing his true Trotskyist approach on Europe, writes Brian Monteith

It was not just the Queen’s Speech that passed last week – the greater battle of the day was on a different field altogether – it was hard Brexit against soft Brexit, and it was hard Brexit that won resoundingly. The margin of 322 against 101 was larger than even that of the vote to invoke Article 50, despite Theresa May losing her overall majority, so what have we just witnessed, what is going on?

Thursday’s vote was not just a victory for May’s proposals on how to achieve Brexit, already laid out in her Government’s White Paper, but a resounding show of strength by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who afterwards dismissed three shadow ministers who dared to break his whipping for an abstention by voting for a soft Brexit. This is a new Corbyn, a hard Corbyn willing to deliver a hard Brexit. Clearly emboldened by his comparative success in the General Election (even though he lost more seats than Callaghan or Kinnock, who both resigned as a result), Corbyn is now revealing his true self – the blood-red socialist against the EU corporate state.

Corbyn’s past shows him as a man who voted as regularly against the empowerment of the EU to the cost of the UK’s sovereignty as any Tory Eurosceptic rebel. His reasoning was different, however, believing that the development of an EU superstate would enshrine open-season capitalism behind a high customs union wall that would diminish trade with the poor of the world. The trade unions would be emasculated and British workers would be impoverished as millions who could not find work in the African states denied tariff-free access to the single market would instead supply a steady flow of cheaper immigrant labour.

At so many levels – be it the EU’s privileged elite against the masses, those inside the single market against those outside it or those in the euro against those outside it, the EU is indeed a heady political cocktail designed for the few rather than the many.

Unfortunately for Corbyn, his election as leader of his party by its members and trade unions left him at the mercy of the overwhelming majority of the parliamentary Labour Party that supported the European project with an unalloyed devotion. His first act was to ditch his Euroscepticism and play for time, so he could gain strength. Hence his tussles with his former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn. (Ironically it was Corbyn that better represented the views of Tony Benn on the EU than his son Hilary.)

The General Election has changed all of that. Now the majority of Labour MPs doff their cap to their leader, believing he has rejuvenated his party and may yet one day lead them to victory. And now from this position of strength, and with a manifesto that to all intents and purposes mirrored the Tory approach towards a so-called hard Brexit, Corbyn is able to drop his mask of europhilia and reveal his true Trotskyist approach by 
challenging once more the EU corporatist state.

Make no mistake, what this metamorphism means is that the UK is leaving the EU – and it will be Corbyn who will help the Tories do it.

Where does this leave Nicola Sturgeon when a hard Brexit is delivered? By that I mean the UK being outside the single market and customs union, with all immigrants from around the world treated equally, denying the special treatment given to people from the EU.

In Sturgeon’s own mind a hard Brexit might provide a fresh pretext for her to push once more for Indyref2 – but paradoxically it also makes the case for independence that much more difficult to win.

For an independent Scotland outside the UK but aiming to be back in the EU, a hard Brexit must mean a hard divorce with the UK, resulting in a hard border and, of course, giving up our fishing grounds that will have only just been won back.

While the newly liberated UK will be free to decide its own economic future, striking advantageous trade deals with the likes of India, China and the US (three of more than 30 already being considered) Scotland would be tied to the slowest growing economic region in the world and bound by all its growing regulation. In addition, by 2020 the EU budget will grow by more than 15 billion euros and plug the black hole of 10bn euros caused by losing the UK’s annual payment. Scotland would have to bear its share of the existing EU budget plus this additional 25bn euros.

Even a Scotland in the European Economic Area will not soften the blow. It would be like moving from the bridge to be shovelling coal in the boiler room.

Sturgeon’s Scotland will be just like Norway (in the EEA) or Poland (in the EU) – both sitting next to Russia, with border posts, different currencies and the possibility of a tariff wall – only the barriers will be between England and Scotland.

Where also does this leave the EU negotiators when they can see a more united House of Commons than even on the vote to invoke 
Article 50? Do they climb down on some of their more perverse claims? The signs are that they are already retreating on the demand for the European Court of Justice to have jurisdiction over EU citizens in the UK.

And if they do climb down and a deal is struck, where again does that leave Sturgeon? Would a softer Brexit not neutralise any pretext for a second Indyref? Will the Scottish public not ask: “Seriously, what is the problem?”

The votes on Thursday were probably missed by most people who are only given the glibbest of reports by our broadcast news, but they were momentous and have changed the nature of the Brexit debate substantially. It appears May did not need a stronger majority to deliver Brexit after all – it was Corbyn who has benefited and it is Corbyn who looks like making Brexit mean Brexit.

 

Photo by Ninian Reid

Reflections one year on Part 2: Re-kindling the radicalism of Brexit?

He’s almost old enough to be their grandfather. He’s hardly a charismatic speaker and by all accounts, something of a political anorak who isn’t very good at small talk. Yet the young people seem to love him, treating him to a hero’s welcome when he addressed the Glastonbury festival. How does he do it? What is the secret behind the Corbyn phenomenon?

The answer is that he epitomises the revolt against the “establishment” which has been such a feature of recent politics in a number of countries. A serial rebel against his own party who doesn’t have a posh voice, he chose to spent two years abroad doing voluntary service overseas during his late teens and didn’t read PPE at Oxford. He has never worked in a bank or in the City of London. He is also a vegetarian and doesn’t own a car. In summary, he is the absolute antithesis of a “Tory Toff”, although a quick glance at his wikipedia entry indicates that he was privately educated for a few years before moving on to his local grammar school in Shropshire.

Given the idealism and anti-establishment sentiment of many young people, it is perhaps unsurprising that Jeremy Corbyn has become something of a cult figure and role model – a man who has not let success compromise his radical principles.

Now I’m painting a very one-sided picture of the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition, with good reason. We need to ask why so many young people so enamoured with this anti-establishment figure when a year ago, so many of them shunned the biggest grassroots anti-establishment campaign of our lifetimes.

People will give you all manner of reasons for voting to leave the EU, but undergirding most of them was this same anti-establishment spirit. Is there anyone more “establishment” than  Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission? If politicians like David Cameron, with his aristocratic, privileged background, are widely despised for being remote and out of touch with normal people, how much more the MEPs and bureaucrats living their cosseted lives in the Quartier Européen in Brussels?

Goldman Sachs was a substantial donor to the Remain campaign and Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England also supported staying in, along with the voice of big business, the CBI. In other words, the financial “establishment” so despised by the young – and indeed, the not-so-young on the radical left – were campaigning for the same result as their fiercest critics.

The victory we won a year ago was truly a popular revolution. While we had some “establishment” figures on our side like Boris Johnson (You can’t get more “establishment” than Eton and Balliol College, Oxford!), the real credit belongs to the thousands of ordinary men and women who tramped the streets distributing leaflets, organised meetings in village halls, set up stalls in high streets  and won round their friends and relatives in conversations down at the pub or sitting round the coffee table. A handful of hard-working fishermen made a laughing stock of pop star-turned-establishment figure Bob Geldof when they sailed their boats up the Thames to the Houses of Parliament.

Yet, for all this, the images of victory which appeared in the press on June 24th were dominated by older people. One abiding memory was to hear an aged World War II veteran say ecstatically, “I’ve got my country back”, as tears ran down his cheeks. By contrast, the published pictures of despondent remainers predominantly featured the young – with the cameraman’s focus almost inevitably drawn to a group of very pretty girls!

While it was a victory over a class of people widely despised many of today’s young people, they themselves saw the Brexit vote as their future being stolen from them by their parents’ and grandparents’ generation, with their outmoded ideas and mindset.

If we are to change the mindsets of our young people, the Brexit vote therefore needs to be painted in its true colours. We fought the establishment and won. We were the underdogs. We were (and still are) representing ordinary people and fighting against substantial vested interest. Just look at the sort of people who are trying to derail Brexit – Gina Miller the investment manager,  Michael Young, the new interim CEO of the European Movement – a former senior executive of the British mining finance house and Westminster insider plus, no doubt lurking somewhere in the background is the sinister figure of Tony Blair, a man despised even more by the Corbynite left in his own party than by centre right.

I can remember lying awake at night during the Blair years shortly after being converted to the withdrawalist cause. The means of my conversion was being handed a printout of an article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, which explained that the EU was actually financed by US spy chiefs. I was worried. If our EU membership was a collusion between the UK government and the shadowy American CIA, where was my opposition to Brussels going to lead me? Prison? A mysterious disappearance? Obviously, in hindsight, my concerns were considerably overblown, but it does underline the point that I and many other supporters of withdrawal felt ourselves to be engaged in nothing less than a revolutionary campaign against a powerful élite determined to pursue its agenda come what may.

Will the Corbyn bubble burst? Predictions to this effect have been doing the rounds ever since he was first elected and have proved wide of the mark, but if our young people do become disillusioned with him, there is another group of radicals that will welcome them on board. We voted to leave the EU to give the country a new future. Certainly for myself, this means a rebooting of our failed democracy and bringing power closer to the people though the introduction of binding referendums, allowing ordinary people not just to petition the government but to shape its direction and hold our widely distrusted elected representatives to account. Can there be any more noble anti-establishment cause than this?

Photo by DavidMartynHunt

Reflections one year on from the referendum

The morning of 24th June is a day I will never ever forget. By 4AM, I had given up any idea of sleep and was watching the results of the referendum on my computer as they were posted up on the BBC website. I had always believed that we could persuade our countrymen that we would be better off out of the EU, but David Cameron had gone for a quick cut-and-run campaign to minimise our chances of success. However, as soon as I saw the relative totals for leave and remain, my heart leapt. We’re going to pull this off after all! Less than two hours later, the number of leave votes passed the crucial 50% mark. “We’ve done it! We’ve done it, We’ve done it!” I shouted at the top of my voice. It was not yet 6AM and normally I would be much more considerate towards my neighbours, but after sixteen years of campaigning for our country to leave the EU, my overwhelming feelings of joy momentarily got the better of me.

Thankfully, my neighbours have never complained. Perhaps they are sound sleepers. Perhaps the soundproofing of our late Victorian semi is better than I thought. Whatever, I don’t think I will be giving a repeat performance!

I spent much of the rest of the day in a daze. We’re really going to leave! It was hard to take it in. This was the greatest day in our country’s history since the end of the Second World War and I felt a great sense of pride in having played a part, albeit only a very small one, in achieving this memorable result.

One year on from that incredible day, the memories are still fresh in my mind, as I’m sure they are in the minds of many other leave campaigners, but in the meantime, what a roller-coaster we have endured!  There was the court case brought by Gina Miller, the uncertainly about whether Mrs May’s European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill would make it unscathed through both houses of Parliament, the sense of relief when Article 50 was finally triggered in March as the Prime Minister had promised, the reluctance of the economy to tank in spite of the predictions of George Osborne’s “Project Fear” and most recently, the shambolic General Election which was meant to increase the Government’s majority but instead left the Tories turning to the DUP in order to maintain any sort of hold on power.

In spite of the chaos, the Brexit negotiations have started and we are still on course to heave the EU in just over 21 months’ time. Media reporting seems to have plumbed new depths since the election results were announced and it has been hard to distinguish the wood from the trees. Terms like “hard” and “soft” Brexit are bandied around often without any explanation, leading some concerned leave supporters to equate “soft “Brexit” with  not actually leaving the EU at all.

From what I can gather after reading complete articles, including actual quotes, rather than just the headlines, there are very few politicians who actually want to stop Brexit. Many more are concerned about the implications for UK businesses if we don’t end up with a decent trading arrangement. Such concerns are actually quite reasonable and do not in any way imply that they want us to stay in the EU.  Soundings from Parliament after last June’s vote indicated that the overwhelming majority of MPs accepted the result and would not wish to frustrate the will of the people. The General Election has not significantly altered this.

Of course, with David Cameron not having made any preparation for our voting to leave, the government and civil service are on a sharp learning curve and we still await evidence that they have got on top of the brief which the electorate gave them a year ago. Our biggest concern must surely be a chaotic – or more likely sub-standard – Brexit rather than no Brexit at all.

The main reason why I remain confident that Brexit will happen in some form or other  lies in the nature of the Conservative Party. The Tories were given a nasty shock two weeks ago. They went into the campaign expecting to flatten Labour. Instead, they only just limped over the finishing line. Most Tory MPs voted to remain last year, but the vast majority of the party’s activists and supporters are strong leavers. The Tories  hoovered up quite a few UKIP votes on a platform of leading us out of the EU. Given these issues, any backtrack on Brexit would precipitate the worst crisis the party has faced since 1846 when it split down the middle over the repeal of the Corn Laws. They dare not go there.

What is more, the party will be keen to renew itself well before the next General Election in 2022. While removing Mrs May now would only add to the sense of  chaos which has prevailed since the General Election, it is hard to imagine she will still be in power in March 2019, perhaps not even in March 2018. If the party is seeking a dynamic new leader to revive its fortunes, given the ultimate say will lie with its predominantly Thatcherite Eurosceptic activists,  Mrs May’ successor is likely to be an MP with proven Brexiteer credentials.  The party faithful will not make the mistake of choosing another Cameron.

This will not make his (or her) task any easier, but still gives me hope that in March 2019, that historic vote which brought us so much joy a year ago will be translated into reality and we will finally achieve that goal for which so many of us have been striving for so long.