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…

My Love Letter to Europe

Yesterday I sat with a friend watching Theresa May’s speech. She indicated she wants us to leave the European single market and be a ‘Global Britain’.  She said that if EU leaders don’t give us a brilliant deal in return for very little money and no free movement, she will turn our island into a Britapore tax haven.  Whilst listening to a speech so full of huge misunderstandings about Europe, I felt a surge of love and gratitude towards Europe.

It is Europe that has directed money to projects in Cornwall, Wales and Northern Ireland (helping to stabilise peace there) when Westminster wasn’t interested. It is Europe that has enabled us to maintain an influence in the world that is greater than our size. It is Europe that has moved us from the 1970s 3 day week, no rubbish-collecting country where we bought olive oil from the pharmacy and only ate milk chocolate to the vibrant culture that we have today. It is Europe that has protected our farming industry and enabled our services industries to thrive as the go-to advisers for deals and disputes across the EU.

It is not Europe that did not share the wealth of London around our regions or to all our citizens. It is not Europe that makes up crazy laws but that keeps our laws and regulations meeting environmental protection, workers’ rights and consumer standards that we all need. It is not Europe that has failed to end zero-hours contracts in the UK.  It is not Europe that decides how much we spend on our schools or the NHS.  It is not even Europe that has set all the UK rules on EU immigration. Ok the EU is not perfect, but it is not the EU that rules us, but we who contribute to ruling our continent with others. Whatever flaws it has, it is up to us to work to correct them.

Isolationism is what Theresa May is pursuing, not some brave new world of opportunity. We could increase our trade with India, China, the USA or anywhere else within existing arrangements, we just haven’t bothered to. I am angry, I am depressed and I am -when all is said and done- heart-broken because my government is forcing me to divorce my own continent. Publicly, we are not to be married in the same deep way. In short, we are not even to be Norway; we are to be Canada. And yet, we are European and some of us will never stop loving Europe or the European Project.

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Retention of EU Citizenship: An Azure Blue and Gold Stars Plan

During one of the many arguments I have had with my mother since the UK’s EU referendum last June, we came face to face in my kitchen weighing out red lentils for a Rose Elliot lentil gratin recipe. My mother was telling me the imperial measurements while I was trying to weigh them on a metric set of scales. When I half joked that if the government decides we all have to use imperial measurements after Brexit, I am really going to lose it she said to me “I do not understand it, your mother is British, your father was British why don’t you feel British?” I replied that I feel European, and then tried to “soften” that to “I am British and European”. Both our identities are, of course, constructs, hers one derived from being born in 1940 and mine from being born in 1975.

As many commentators and politicians have accepted, the need to deliver a Brexit for 100% of the UK is critical. As AC Grayling has pointed out extensively, 63% of the electorate and 74% of the population of the United Kingdom did not vote Leave and yet leaving the European Union may well (absent specific provision in the Brexit deal) lead to the deprivation of our EU citizenship. Elizabeth Mountford QC made the same point in the Supreme Court on behalf of the crowd funded litigants. Just because the over 45s do not feel the same, they should still be encouraged to understand where the majority of the under 45s are coming from. In that way, the differences between us can be seen to be less ones of rejection or acceptance of a particular view and actually more a product of our age and identity.

At the heart of Brexit is a problem, namely that the success of the Red, White and Blue Plan requires the under 45s to get behind it and make it work. Theresa May has now made it crystal clear that she favours a hard Brexit outside of the single market. Assuming the government manages to agree a plan between themselves and then persuades the EU that it is a good one for each of its 27 Member States, then it still has to bring the working engine of the UK with it.

Many over 45s in this country do not identify strongly as being European. 56% of 45-54 year olds, 57% of 56 to 64 year olds and 60% of 65 and overs voting in the Referendum, voted Leave. Whereas, the majority of us born in particular after 1972, feel profoundly that we are both British and European and voted accordingly. This may be dismissed by those who do not share that identity and via the self-serving current rhetoric of right-wing politicians, most notably Theresa May who crowed at the 2016 Conservative party conference that “if you consider yourself a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere”. This is not, however, the vision of the majority of younger citizens in this country who can incorporate concepts of mixed nationality (both national and supranational) into their own identities. Many have families of mixed nationalities. As Kwame Anthony Appiah argued in answer to questions put to him by the audience in his BBC Reith Lecture on Country in October 2016, this is the demographic of the future and to deny it is to alienate whole parts of your population (particularly the younger population).

Neither is this an issue simply for the wealthy. Voter analysis of the Referendum demonstrates it was people with degrees and professional jobs who were more likely to vote Remain, as were people who have a passport- Earnings data also shows that areas with higher median incomes tended to lean Remain, whilst lower incomes leaned Leave but it does not mean that all lower income citizens voted Leave. Also, anecdotally, many of us know wealthy over 45s who voted Leave.

The deprivation the young feel over the Referendum result could, however, be alleviated by a plan dreamed up by the EU parliamentarians and technocrats. It is also a plan that has caught the imagination of many UK citizens. Charles Goerens, a Luxembourg MEP, proposed that UK citizens should be able to retain their EU citizenship. The limitation with this is that it requires a Treaty change. The idea has now been moved up the political agenda, however, and is reportedly to be offered by Donald Tusk as part of the Brexit negotiations. What incentive, however, does Theresa May have to accept this proposal? It is the incentive that it will heal some of the Referendum wounds and alleviate some of the alienation being experienced by the under 45s in this country who feel deprived of a birth-right by a small minority. Those who voted Leave would also have the option to retain their citizenship so it cannot be said to be divisive.

What is European citizenship? A concept introduced by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union [1992], it entails the right:
• To non-discrimination on the basis of nationality when the Treaty applies
• To move and reside freely within the EU
• To vote for and stand as a candidate in European Parliament and municipal elections
• To be protected by the diplomatic and consular authorities of any other EU country
• To petition the European Parliament and complain to the European Ombudsman
• To contact and receive a response from any EU institution in one of the EU’s official languages
• To access European Parliament, European Commision and Council documents under certain conditions

While a plan to retain EU citizenship does not do anything to limit the economic damage this country is likely to suffer if it is forced to leave membership of the single market and the Customs Union, it will salvage something for UK citizens from the wreckage of Brexit and keep the flame alive of what have been 40 years of beneficial and transformative EU membership. Many of us believe in the European project and at a time of geo-political instability and the retrenching of the USA into its national concerns, we would like the ability to bolster it in some small way with our ongoing support. You may have a Red, White and Blue Plan, Mrs May, but many of us would like to add in the colours of the European Union. We were born and live in the continent of Europe and if you want to bring us all with you, help those of us who want it to retain the citizenship that is central to our identity.

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