Sowing Peas in March

If Corbyn is to have a chance of leading Britain towards greater fairness, he must position himself to take charge before it is firmly committed to dropping out of the existing trading arrangements with Europe.

A few days ago, New Zealanders learnt that Jacinda Ardern, their prime minister, is to have a baby in June. Being a PM is a very tough job, but many women successfully combine bringing up a family with pursuing their careers.  There is no reason why Jacinda cannot do the same!

As a British citizen trying to produce all the vegetables we eat, I like the thought that we might have a prime minister who continues to cultivate his/her allotment and makes his/her own jam. Communing with nature provides a refreshing pause for the kind of fruitful (or, perhaps I should say, down-to-earth) reflection that is so vital but tends to be crowded out by the hectic schedules now imposed on people in high office.

Nowadays, it seems that presidents and prime ministers are expected to tweet an instant reaction to every new development – and so they communicate with their citizens mainly by Twitter. Few will be respected for their oratory. If the present incumbent of 10 Downing Street is remembered for her utterances, it will be for her repetitive use of mantras, such as “Brexit means Brexit” which can mean anything to anyone but which she seems to find self-assuring to the point that she claims, even as she wobbles, to offer us “strong and stable” government.

The “constant gardener”

We don’t have a television at home, so I don’t feel that I really know how Jeremy Corbyn talks or walks and conducts himself with others. I may be wrong, but I get the impression that he an easy person to engage in conversation, who has few airs and graces, and treats those he meets, especially if they are less exalted than him, with respect. I suspect that he is non-confrontational by nature but still firm in sticking to his principles when challenged.

Indeed, Corbyn’s greatest strength is his consistency. While other politicians, vividly exemplified these days by Gove and Johnson, are driven by undisguised personal ambition and opportunism, JC, like his mentor Tony Benn, has consistently stood up for his beliefs about social justice and the futility of war, putting these ahead of any aspiration for high office. What is interesting is that, with the passage of time, he is being proved right. The invasion of Iraq and the assumption by private businesses of many of the functions of the public sector are now being seen as disastrous. The fact that he has always had the courage to speak out against the majority views of his own party when these have conflicted with his principles is a sign of strength that shows that he has what it takes to be a leader.

I always find it strange how the word “pacifist” is so often used derogatively; it somehow implies that there is virtue in war and that those who crave for peace lack the moral fibre that some see as a trait of true British nationalism. My wife and I have huge respect for our parents’ courage in two world wars that created the basis for the peace in Europe which has lasted for most of our lives. We share a deep desire to see our children also live the whole of their time on earth in peace, and so we find it easy to admire Corbyn’s commitment to nurturing peace through dialogue rather than sabre-rattling. He is strongly criticised for his contacts with IRA members and Palestinians – to the point of being accused of anti-semitism – but I know, as he does, that brokering lasting peace can only be successful if reconciliation is based on the engagement of conflicting parties on an equal footing and on building mutual trust through frank and open dialogue. Interestingly, the EU has been successful in promoting peace in this way, not least in Ireland.

Having spent much of my life working in developing countries, several affected by civil wars, I am convinced that the main driver of future conflicts, both within and between countries, will be the widening gap between rich and poor – a gap that may have been easy to disguise or ignore in the past, but which is now so visible because of the vast improvements in communications that we have witnessed in our life-times. It is natural, therefore, that a “pacifist” should also subscribe to the goal of creating a more equitable sharing of a nation’s wealth. Interestingly, even the OECD, the richer nations’ club, now recognises that reducing inequity may lead to accelerated economic growth.

It seems to be becoming fashionable for members of the establishment to criticise Theresa May’s ineptitude but yet to support her staying on as prime minister simply on the grounds that the alternative would probably be a strongly left-wing Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn: they claim that he would launch a wave of re-nationalisation of public utilities and bankrupt the economy in the process. Put bluntly, the propping up of May is about keeping Corbyn out of Downing Street.

The challenge that the establishment now faces is that the liberal economic management system, espoused by successive Conservative and centrist Labour governments, is showing signs of having passed its best-by-date and is rapidly losing credibility.  One rescue from bankruptcy after another places impossible demands on scarce tax-payers’ funds and thousands of workers face pension losses while their bosses enjoy golden handshakes. A prolonged period of austerity has eroded public services and the benefits of economic growth have failed to trickle down to those most in need. The fire in Grenfell tower highlighted the perils of unfettered deregulation and the impotence of poor families in getting their local council to protect them from the hazards they recognised. No wonder that many people want to see change.

Although I suppose that, by the good fortune of birth and of education, I would be seen by Corbyn as a member of the establishmentI can well understand the disdain and contempt in which he – and so many people around the country – holds this informal nexus of people who have held sway over Britain almost continuously since the end of World War II. It is a loose elitist alliance of aristocracy and those who aspire to living in “higher circles”, successful businessmen including bankers, press barons and rightist politicians acting usually in the name of British nationalism and backed by a respectable but aging middle class. The EU referendum campaign highlighted their tendency to look down their noses at what they perceive as lesser mortals, including the young and, especially, foreigners unless they are millionaires or film stars.

Little time to lose

Jeremy the gardener knows the critical importance of timing of planting crops to secure a year-round supply of fresh vegetables – when, for instance, to sow his peas to plug the gap between the winter’s Brussels sprouts and the tomatoes and cucumbers that reach maturity in summer. Timing is also critical in getting his jams to set!

Whether he can defeat the current Tory government and trigger an election that he can be certain of winning is also a matter of getting the timing right. For the moment his priority must be to consolidate a wide-spectrum Labour party that stretches from the far left with whom he feels most comfortable to the more right-wing young who are disillusioned with the self-seeking behaviour of Tory leaders. Like May, Corbyn faces a difficult balancing act in holding his diverse party together, but he has the advantage that most members find it easy to jointly subscribe to the idea of a fairer society. Armed with a single sense of purpose, he must choose the right moment to emerge as the statesman who can offer voters the opportunity to create a Great Britain in which all citizens can benefit from prosperity and greater social justice.

Given the growing delusion with the incumbent government, this should already be a vote-winning formula, with or without Brexit. However, it is abundantly clear that it will be much easier to deliver on this agenda if Britain’s economy is growing robustly. All the indications are that, for this to happen, the UK must, at the very least, stay in the single market and customs union so that it can continue to trade in goods and services without friction with our European neighbours. Corbyn must realise this but is presumably waiting for the right moment to say so.

The present government aspires to stay in place until 2022, overseeing the country’s exit from the EU, with potentially disastrous effects on the economy and possibly also the environment. If Corbyn is to have a chance of leading Britain towards greater fairness, he must position himself to take charge before it is firmly committed to dropping out of the existing trading arrangements. This means allying himself with like-minded parties (duly listening and responding to their concerns) and some Conservative dissidents to defeat the government and trigger an early election. The probable return of the EU Withdrawal Bill from the Lords to the Commons could provide an opportunity for proposing a winning amendment for retaining membership of the single market and customs union. If not, another false step by May could open a new window,

Corbyn is probably now preparing the ground in his allotment to be able to sow peas in March. Coincidentally, this might be the right time for him to offer to lead Britain’s negotiations on its future relations with Europe, based on the existing trading arrangements, while not ruling out continued EU membership if he senses that this is what most British people – especially the young, who will face the consequences for the rest of their lives – really want.

Between now and then, on every suitable occasion, he must press Theresa May to divulge the Treasury’s analyses of the economic impact of the hard Brexit scenario to which she is stubbornly committed. Whether she reveals them or not, the public suspicion will be that she is knowingly driving us into a self-harming destiny so that she can continue to chant “Brexit means Brexit”.

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Gove tries to recycle himself as a green statesman but falls short

Gove tries to recycle himself as a green statesman but falls short.

 

The ways of an aspiring leader

 

Like many others, Michael Gove has seen that, if the Conservative party is to regain credibility, it needs new leadership. Not surprisingly, it looks as though he is positioning himself to assume that role.

 

Over and over again, Mrs May has failed her party and the country – by not seizing the opportunity to bridge the leave-remain gap when she became party leader after Gove and Johnson had knocked each other out as contenders; setting out red lines that would make constructive negotiations of Britain’s future relationship with the EU virtually impossible; calling an ill-judged “snap” election that led to a Tory minority being propped up by a £1,000 million allocation of public funds to the maverick DUP; avoiding all serious debate in the cabinet and parliament about future UK-EU relationships; and, just now, muddling through a cabinet reshuffle that leaves her no stronger.

 

If any credible Tory MP was waiting in the wings, May would already have left 10 Downing Street. The absence of any challenger in her own party and the real threat of Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, taking over the government allows her to muddle on in leading Britain down a dead-end road in which even she does not personally believe.

 

Precedents betray Gove’s leadership ambitions, and, like any other ambitious person, he is unlikely to have set them aside. While waiting to strike when the opportunity arises, he is trying to burnish his image as the statesman the party needs as its leader if it is to revive its credibility and as the one who can marshal more Conservative voters in any future election.

 

After ingratiating himself with pet-lovers through a few rounds of puppy-hugging (at a time when several of his fellow MPs were under investigation for unwelcome people-hugging), the self-reinventing Gove presented himself at the annual Oxford Farming Conference in early January as the visionary who would lead England’s greens and farmers into a sustainable new world, ridding them of the constraints that he claimed were imposed by the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).

 

A seemingly plausible speech

 

In a speech called Farming for the next generation, Gove began by talking about the age of acceleration and ended by slamming the breaks on the changes which he described as being so necessary. He rightly won plaudits for many of his proposals for wide-ranging adjustments in UK food management policies. However, by focusing on the long-term, he conveniently avoided any consideration of the how the food and farming sector should respond to the earthquake that would be triggered by the hard Brexit that he and Boris Johnson have been relentlessly bullying Theresa May to subscribe to, He also exonerated himself and the present government from taking any serious action to implement his new policies, claiming that farmers and land managers would need time to prepare themselves for the changes.

 

The core of Gove’s talk centred on the need to be open to change, the opportunity to move away from “the path dictated by the CAP”, and the case for improving the efficiency of his department. He then went on to call for policies that place farming within broader measures to improve “the food-chain as a whole and recognise the economic, health and environmental forces shaping the future of food”. Significantly, he made the point that we should move away “from subsidies for inefficiency to public money for public goods” – the principal public good being “environmental enhancement”.

 

Many of us would welcome this agenda for change in food management policies. It is long overdue. The UK is facing severe food management problems which it has not taken seriously. Its food policies have led to the growth of unsustainable intensive farming systems – damaging soils, fresh water and biodiversity, and contributing substantially to greenhouse gas emissions. Its farmers would mostly go bust if they were not heavily subsidised by the EU. Food chain workers, often migrants, are at the bottom of the pay scale and often exploited. Consumers bin £17 billion worth of avoidable food waste each year. The UK is also the fattest nation in Europe and will face massive future food-related health burdens.

 

Four reasons for scepticism

 

Gove’s speech touches on some plausible solutions to these complex issues. However, we cannot take him as seriously as he would hope for four main reasons:

 

First, seemingly for the purposes of buying the  support of farmers in a next election, he is in absolutely no hurry to implement his own proposals.This is strange, given his November 2016 call for a “quickie divorce” from the EU. Instead, referring to the Basic Payments Scheme, which channels £2.4 billion per year as direct payments to farmers according to the land area that they manage, he envisages “guaranteeing that BPS payments continue for a transition period… which should last a number of years beyond the implementation period, depending on consultation”.  While offering some greater certainty for British farmers who now earn almost half their net income from EU subsidies, this is a blatant open-ended commitment to prolong them  for at least another 6 years, in spite of implicitly blaming them as “barriers to progress”.

 

Secondly, though he claims that “leaving the European Union allows us to deliver the policies required … to deliver a Green Brexit”, almost all of his recommendations could be applied today in the UK through his department using its considerable existing discretionary powers in CAP implementation. Moreover, his proposals are entirely compatible with the EU’s proposals for CAP reform, prepared with British engagement and launched last November, and so their implementation would not in any way be hindered by remaining in the EU.

 

Thirdly, Gove admirably promises additional funds to help farmers move to more sustainable land management systems. Where the unspecified amount of money would come from is anyone’s guess if Britain, as he would wish, goes for a Brexit that reduces its overall fiscal resources and limits its borrowing powers. In the referendum campaign, Gove promised extra funds for the NHS but we are still to see them,Bow he expects farmers to believe his promises of more money, Can he really be trusted to deliver?

 

Finally, the Secretary of State conveniently fails to acknowledge the inherent advantages of EU membership in facilitating intense inter-country collaboration in dealing with the many cross-border trade, animal and human health, food safety, environmental and climate change issues relating to food system management. The benefits of scale and efficiency offered by the existing UK-EU arrangements are vast and would be difficult to replicate under any new relationship, especially if it excluded membership of the single market and customs union. New challenges are arising all the time, and it is in Britain’s interest to have a seat at the table when decisions are taken on how to address them.

 

Driven more by personal ambition than national interest

 

Michael Gove has made a brave attempt to convince us that he is the statesman we need to lead our country out of the crisis that he helped to create. He has set out an attractive long-term vision of how to better manage Britain’s food system, its natural resources, and the welfare of  people engaged in the food chain. But he does not have the guts to go ahead now with implementing his own proposals as a matter of urgency: instead he proposes an indefinite calendar that sadly puts his own ambitions ahead of the national interest.

 

Let us not forget that Michael Gove is a principal architect and aggressive advocate of a hard Brexit whose pursuit has already led to a massive devaluation of the pound sterling and pushed up food prices for consumers: it now threatens to undermine the smooth working of the overall food management system, causing huge uncertainties for farmers about markets and prices, standards and labour availability.

 

Maybe the time has come to elevate this wolf in sheep’s clothing to the House of Lords and let May muddle on till she stumbles irretrievably.

 

Hopefully the opposition parties can get their act together and propose policies and fast-acting programmes for bringing about urgently needed changes in the UK’s food system and environmental management, whether the country remains in Europe or goes it alone. Gove, however, has unfortunately – and, presumably, deliberately – complicated this task by promising farmers continued access to CAP-style direct subsidies with no end in sight.

 

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New Year Brexit Campaigning Update

Here is our January 2018 Brexit campaigning update.  Brexit: What a total and utter shambles.  The understaffed Civil Service is in meltdown, the Cabinet is fighting over whether to seek a Norway (Soft) or Canada (Hard) final deal and the country is not being governed at all.  Most of the Cabinet are not fit to hold their positions and many have had to resign.
Interim deal 2017
The interim deal done at the end of 2017 was simply (1) write a large cheque; (2) agree citizens rights in a fairly predictable (albeit vastly inferior to EU’s offer) way; and (3) fudge the Irish border issue.  The Irish border issue remains irresolvable- in short: there is no magic technology; there will have to be a physical border and it will have to be policed. Otherwise, the border will have to be in the Irish sea which the DUP will never accept and the government will thus lose its majority in the House of Commons.
Current economic outlook
Meanwhile, in 2018 the UK will slip to bottom of the OECD wage growth table and has moved from 5th to 7th largest economy in the world.  Food prices have rocketed and some jobs are beginning to move out of the country. We have now had the Budget prediction that, due to Brexit, economic growth is going to be below expectation not just this year but averaging 1.5% for the next 5 years in a row. They are expecting another decade of stagnant or worsening living standards.  This has not happened for over 30 years. Government figures for how much WORSE OFF families will be each year due to Brexit are as follows:
£2,600 in the case of EEA membership £4,300 in the case of UK-EU agreement £5,200 in the case of ‘No Deal’.
But don’t worry, we can have our “iconic blue” (which we thought were black) passports again.  They symbolise the stunning diminution of our right to travel, live and work freely in 28 countries to the right to do so on 1 island.  Oh and we can have another Royal Yacht for the Queen at a cost of £100 million…
Latest polling 
Public opinion is on the move towards staying in the EU.
The latest YouGov polling shows: 47% think the referendum decision was wrong and 42% think it was right.  Bregret seems to be slowly increasing. But 52% of those polled think we should just press ahead now although this also appears to be changing. Over the past few months, Remain voters’ views have started swinging back towards wanting Britain to stay in the EU. While in June a majority of Remain voters (51%) supported a “go ahead” option, by the end of September this had fallen to 28%. Over the same period the proportion of Remain voters backing an “attempt to reverse” approach rose from 44% to 61%.  There is also polling which shows that nearly 80% of Labour members want a vote on the final deal as do 87% of SNP members and 91% of LibDem members. 9 out of 10 Labour, LibDem and SNP members want us to stay in the Single Market.
In case you are worried that a second referendum is a shocking and undemocratic idea, VoteLeave originally proposed 2 referenda- one on the issue of leaving and one on the final deal.  The point is, it would be a referendum on the proposed deal, not a re-run of the first referendum.  Most commentators believe that we need some sort of additional public vote either via General Election or via a referendum on the deal (with the option to stay in the EU) if we are to stop Brexit.
Likely final FTA?
In terms of a final deal, there is no way the UK government will achieve one in 10 months.  We are likely to achieve only a skeletal outline.  David Davis says the government is seeking a Canada+++ deal but no-one knows exactly what this means and the UK is only likely to achieve a Canada deal (i.e. one with very little provision for services which make up 70% of our economy).  We cannot do better than Canada or else the EU has to offer the SAME DEAL to Canada, Japan and other third countries with which it has entered into deals.  The government is simply ignorant not to know and compute this.  Also our deal cannot threaten the integrity of the EU single market.  So, the further away from a Norway deal we move, the worse it is for our economy and the closer to a Norway deal we move, the more pointless it is to be leaving (given we will have no MEPs, free movement and no input into the laws and regulations that will govern us).  ‘No deal’ looks increasingly unlikely; a skeletal deal will be done but it will be a bad one.  It will not meet Keir Starmer’s/Labour’s red lines or any of the promises of the Leave campaign.  So then what?
Parliamentary vote Autumn 2018
Parliament is likely to be given an opportunity to vote on that deal and we should encourage them to vote it down.  This would probably lead to a change of PM, maybe a General Election- so there are lots of positives for Labour (if they can be persuaded to vote against it).  We would not crash out of the EU, we would still be members and there would be time to then regroup.  UK politician Nick Clegg says that, based on his discussions with the EU, there would be no problem getting an extension of the Article 50 deadline in those circumstances.  Also, we know it is legally possible simply to withdraw Article 50 unilaterally and stay in the EU.
How then do we persuade MPs to vote against the deal?  Labour still wants to see a bigger change in public opinion before it will change its policy to (at the very least) single market and customs union membership and/or a second referendum.  It is therefore very important that anyone who voted leave and has changed their mind writes to their MP or visits them.  If you know anyone who has changed their mind, please encourage them to tell their MP.  On Twitter, since Christmas, the hashtag #RemainerNow (for Leavers who have changed their minds) is being increasingly used which will be an important resource for politicians and the media to get an idea of what Leavers are now thinking.
How to stop Brexit
Nick Clegg spoke at a London campaigning event last week (promoting his excellent book ‘How to stop Brexit’) and his message was clear:
1. We are running out of time to stop Brexit.  We need to stop being polite about it;
2. It can be stopped if Parliament votes against the skeletal deal May is likely to secure in Autumn 2018; and
3. We therefore need vigorously to lobby MPs to stop Brexit (or at the very least secure single market and customs union membership).  The best approach is a face to face meeting (raising a personal issue of how it affects you- e.g. it affects my job or my family this way…) or a letter (rather than an email).  For people who like using the telephone, you can also phone the office of an MP and they keep a record of reasons for calling.
Letter writing
Write to your MP (repeatedly) and consider writing to support the Conservative rebel MPs who we will need if the end deal is to be voted down.  Apparently short letters are best and emails are not so good.
23 June 2018 March on Parliament
There will be another march on Parliament in London and major cities in June (marking 2 years since the Referendum result).  We need this to be huge so the government is forced to take note.
2018 is the year Brexit will come to a head and we need to do everything we can to stop it. Our country will be permanently diminished by Brexit: economically, politically and internationally.  Getting back in will be very hard and on worse terms.  The majority of the young don’t want this, so we need to stop what is an expensive, distracting, irrelevance and get on with fixing the things that are really wrong with our country. If you can spare the time to send one letter or persuade one Leave voter, please do so.
Brexit is now costing the UK £350 million a week.  Hang on a minute, does anyone have a big red bus?  
Best wishes for a happy 2018 in which we all continue to work for a better future for our children and grandchildren…

Poor David – Saddled with an Impossible Task

Poor David – Saddled with an Impossible Task

I have held very little respect for David Davis. He has come across as a bumbling and seemingly ill-prepared negotiator who is too easily pushed into a corner by a more polished Michel Barnier. He gets himself into a hopeless mess in Westminster about his department’s assessments of the sectoral impacts of Brexit when, after boasting of their existence, he had to deny this because their analyses were so dire. And then he muddles along with promises of a frictionless border in Ireland, without being able to explain to anyone how it would actually work.

Now, however, I have come to feel pity for the poor man because I realise that he has been given an impossible task and has been forced to make a fool of himself – and of us – to keep his job. The idea that Britain can enjoy all the advantages of the close relationships with other European countries that have grown up over more than 40 years without assuming the obligations that inevitably go with this is a non-starter. Yet this is what Mrs May has required him to do by her unilateral announcement, apparently not even discussed with her full cabinet, that Brexit must mean removing Britain from the Single Market and the Customs Union and excluding it from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Cooperation with neighbours – whether it is between people or countries –  can offer many mutual advantages. Above all, it contributes to peace and harmony, but it also provides benefits of scale and those attributable to pooling of efforts, greater resilience to external threats and higher levels of efficiency as well as the economies that come with these.

Successful cooperation requires the mutual acceptance of commonly accepted behaviours, progressively honed through continuing dialogue and experiential learning. And, as new challenges and opportunities arise, it calls for progressive adjustments in the topics into which cooperation is extended because there are apparent benefits that can only be attained through concerted action. In the case of international cooperation, this applies particularly to the handling of issues that have cross-border dimensions, especially those related to the movement of people, goods and services, including the assurance of fair competition. Cooperation may also be seen as beneficial if it extends to measures aimed at promoting commonly held “values” such as those that relate to a preference for democratic systems of government or respect for human rights.

Cooperation between countries – even if simply for the purposes of enhancing trade – demands agreements on standards as well as means of assuring that these are applied, including systems of arbitration to guarantee fair dealing.

Fostering and maintaining cooperation between many countries with diverse cultures, histories, languages, causes for national pride, economic strength, comparative advantages and so on, is bound to be cumbersome and to require compromises and a building of trust between participants. Sometimes, when a country feels that an agreement requires it to sacrifice national values, it has to consider whether the benefits outweigh the pain: sometimes – as Britain has done in the past – it may opt out of reforms that it feels go too far, as was the case when the Euro was launched.

Any effective cooperation between countries necessarily involves voluntarily ceding elements of national sovereignty, if only because of the requirement to adopt certain common standards and regulations. If taken literally, the mandate to reclaim sovereignty, given by the victory of leave voters in the EU referendum, is inherently incompatible with the concept of re-negotiating a new trade deal with Europe or entering into free trade deals with other countries. There is, however, space for some selective reclamation of sovereignty on issues in which regulatory authority has been extended into essentially national issues which have few implications for other countries or their citizens – for instance on building construction standards or road signs.

I suspect that, as negotiations proceed, Davis and his team of civil servants are finding that there is inherent good sense in almost all of the agreements that have been made, usually with the endorsement of Parliament, with the other members of the EU. This would not be surprising because the UK has been a leading proponent of many of the existing agreements and a founder member of most of the 40 decentralised agencies that promote cooperation on setting and enforcing standards – whether for food safety, prudent bank management, approval of medicines, air travel, crime prevention, defence, mobile phone management, control of pests and diseases, research cooperation and so on.

They may also have come to realise, as in the case of environmental standards and women’s and workers’ rights, that membership of the EU has helped to lever beneficial changes in national legislation which would have been unlikely to have come about without the external accountability implied by being part of the club.

Davis and his colleagues may also have discovered that, contrary to public perceptions, many of the affronts to nationalism that voters have attributed to the EU and its Brussels bureaucrats are home-made or self-imposed. There was no obligation for instance for the UK to abandon what May now describes as its “iconic” blue passport cover! The Scots have made it perfectly clear that it is possible to combine national pride with a strong commitment to EU membership.

They may also be seeing that, in spite of the EU’s appearance of inflexibility, personified by Barnier, there may be room for agreement on future adjustments in policies that would go a long way towards meeting British public concerns over continued membership. It would not be surprising for instance if the EU would agree to a proposal to level the internal EU migration playing field by supporting the concept of enhancing parity between countries in their social protection policies, thereby reducing one of the major drivers of internal migration.

I suspect that Davis would welcome a change of job, but, if he is not given this, he must be relieved of the impossible constraints imposed on him by a fantasy perception of a future relationship with our neighbours that would give Britain all the material advantages of remaining in Europe without accepting the obligations that this implies, and denying it a voice in future policy making.

The logical conclusion is that UK should revoke – or put on hold – its Article 50 application and its related commitment to pay an exit fee. Instead, it should enter into an informal process aimed at exploring the options for remaining in Europe while reclaiming those aspects of sovereignty of essentially national relevance and engaging in an agenda for EU reform covering the drivers of internal migration and possibly the adjustment of agricultural and fisheries policies with a focus on promoting truly sustainable natural resources management.

If the ruling party cannot bring itself to admit that it is barking up the wrong tree, then a change of government becomes inevitable. This could be hastened by a shift in public opinion about the wisdom of Brexit, driven by its already visible negative impact on their costs of living.

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