The Moment for Truth


Theresa May has invited Jeremy Corbyn to explore ways of jointly delivering Brexit.

Any Brexit solution puts the unity of both the Conservative party and the Labour party at risk if they go ahead with a cross-party solution. Both leaders are likely to lose their jobs and the damage to the two parties will take years to heal.

Both party leaders, however, would stand to gain widespread popular respect, as they would appeal to the middle ground, if they were to admit the truth, of which both – and most MPs – are deeply aware.

First, that they must make it clear to the nation that ‘no deal’ would be catastrophic for Britain and hugely harming for many other European countries. They must jointly request parliament to legislate immediately against a ‘no-deal’ option.

Secondly, they must publicly express their shared opinion that all Brexit options will damage the British economy and make it impossible to invest the resources needed to improve living standards. Already the uncertainty caused by the Brexit process has inflicted serious damage to the manufacturing and financial services sectors. It has also weakened the bonds that hold the Union together. Internationally, Britain’s stature has been deeply damaged. Prolonging uncertainties for several years of further negotiations on future relationships with Europe will simply make matters worse.

Neither of them wants to lead the country into a self-harming future even if this is what the 2016 referendum result effectively called for. They – and parliament – have looked at all options but in more than 2 years have failed to find a viable solution.

To make these admissions and to draw the conclusion that it is now clearly in the general public interest for the UK to formally end negotiations for exiting the European Union and to embark on a major effort to address valid domestic grievances will require guts – but that is what leadership is about!

They would, therefore, announce their intention to seek parliamentary authority for the government to revoke Article 50 by April 12. They would also agree that, should parliament recommend this, they would both accept the need for an early general election.

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…

Technology Change May Widen the Generation Gap

My father was born in 1897 and lived to be almost 90. I often marvel at the magnitude of change to which he and his generation had to adapt in a lifetime that started when Victoria was still on the throne, involved active service in two world wars, and spanned almost a century.

Many of the changes that they faced have become an accepted part of our lives, at least for us who are fortunate to live in the richer countries. As they grew up, it became increasingly normal to be able to live in a house with constant access to clean water; with electrification, first to provide light and then to power a widening range of gadgets; and with a telephone to be in touch with far-away people. Then came the growing individual ownership of cars and so a gradual expansion of the range over which it was easy to travel independently. Somewhat later, the aeroplane was invented and, within a few decades, became a hugely popular means of travel for businessmen and holiday-makers alike.

Such advances in technology had beneficial impacts on people’s lives, making them more comfortable, enabling them to travel more easily and further, and facilitating their contacts with each other. The novelties were quite easily absorbed by those who could afford to buy them.

I suggest that one of the many factors that prompted almost two thirds of Britain’s over 65’s to vote in the recent referendum to “leave” the EU could be that the pace of technology change, its increasing complexity for users and the related adjustments in behaviour are accentuating the communications gap between young and old.

The nature of technology advances in my parents’ heydays was generally quite simple and so they were easily accessible to both old and young. By this, I mean that none required any very specialised operating skills – for instance to switch on a light, to pull the plug in a lavatory, or even to drive a car.

It struck me this morning, after I had struggled for hours to get my computer back “on line”, that I was becoming increasingly hopeless in being able to keep up with the speed of change in “modern” technology.  This is hardly surprising because Moore’s Law tells us that the pace of technology generation accelerates exponentially, while, in contrast, now that I am in my mid-70s, my mental capacity to cope with complex problems may be on a downward spiral!

The very rapid changes in communication technologies, especially those relating to mobile phones, are picked up with the greatest of ease by the young and are inducing fundamental adjustments in social relationships and values within their own age groups. But for many older people, like me, the idea of plunging into the world of Facebook and Twitter and of keeping up  with a constant flow of text messages has little appeal.

It may, therefore, be that one of the reasons for the contrasting voting behaviour of young and old during the EU Referendum, is that many of us in the older generation are excluding ourselves from the electronic dialogues amongst the young that may have contributed to most of them voting “remain”.

Hopefully, the next wave of new communication technologies will come more slowly and be so simple to use that the digital divide between young and old will narrow and they will find themselves back in easy contact and hence more likely to be on the same wavelength when it comes to deciding our common future.

Rebuilding Parents’ Respect

Rebuilding Parents’ Respect for their Children’s Choices

On 23rd June, British voters were asked whether they wished to leave or to remain in the European Union.
This simple question ignited passions in our normally tranquil land at a time when we had no obvious quarrel with the EU. The murder of Jo Cox shocked everyone. Xenophobia swept across a country that prides itself on its tolerance.
The EU referendum process has split the fabric of British society. Deep divergences threaten the integrity of the Union. Long-time friendships have ended as parties found themselves on different sides of the voting fence. Most worryingly, families that had lived in harmony have been scarred as parents and children, brother and sisters, took opposing stands. Lots of people still live in fear of violence and thuggery.