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.

The Dilemma Facing Grandparents

Young people hold the key to Britain’s future, but their elders have blocked the keyhole

There are 14 million grandparents in the UK. This means that around three quarters of the 18.7 million Britons who are over 54 years old are grandparents. Since the early 1940s, when we were both born, there has been a huge change in the role of grand-parents in the family. Now that most mothers go out to work, grandparents play a hugely important function in helping in grandchild care. One in four working families depends largely on grandparents for child care, a service valued at £17 billion per year.

Most grandparents, even if they don’t take on a carer’s role, sense a  feeling of great joy when their first grandkid appears on the scene. Most of them eagerly look forward to spending time with their grandchildren. From our own experience as newish grandparents, we know what fun and how fascinating it is to watch them growing from crawling to walking and to uttering their first words; to read them bedtime stories,  to play football together. It won’t be long before our grandson makes us feel like stone-agers as he quickly becomes a master of modern communications.

Some “grans” find their new role stressful and exhausting, especially if they feel that they are being “used” as baby-sitters by their children, mainly to save money.

The bonds of affection that develop between children and their grandparents are deep and usually last for life. It is natural for grandparents, who have escorted their charges to and from school, to remain interested in their education and in their unfolding careers. One in four mortgages in Britain is partially financed by the buyer’s grandparents. Not surprisingly, many grandchildren stay close to their grandparents as they age.

Given the depth of this relationship between old and young it is surprising that each group voted so differently in the EU referendum.  Around  two thirds of the grandparent generation – the over 65s – voted to “leave” the EU, while over 70% of their voting grandchildren (18 to 24 years old) signalled their wish to “remain”. More than half of those aged between 25 and 49 – the parent generation – also voted to “remain”, presumably thinking that this would be the best outcome for millions of their children.

The fact that the “leave” camp scored most votes means that, unless there is a change of heart before a Brexit deal is sealed, our children and grandchildren will have to lead their whole lives, locked into a future that they clearly did not want.  When we look back on the close relationships we have enjoyed with our offspring, it is easy to grasp why they are now so perplexed that we who face just a few more years of life should have trapped them into a future outside the EU.

Neither protests nor incitements to violence by hot-headed young “remainers” will help to resolve the issue.

We are pretty sure that few grandparents deliberately intended to block the aspirations of their offspring to stay in the EU. Even if they wish to stick to their personal views on the issue, this should not stop grandparents from signalling their respect for the aspirations of the younger generations of their family and from admitting that greater weight should given to the expressed hopes of the young at a time when the referendum results are translated into proposed actions.

This gesture alone will go a very long way towards healing the deep inter-generational splits within families that are so disturbing to those of us who place a high value on family harmony and happiness.

Perhaps  our fellow grandparents, when they reflect on how to assure their grandchildren a fairer deal, should bear  in mind that already our children are the main contributors to our pensions and to the NHS. If we act sensibly, they may even care for us in our final days!

We owe them a lot.

Taking Back Control

A Legacy of Divisions and Uncertainties

For many of us the EU referendum vote and its follow-up have been deeply disturbing. We have had a lot of sleepless nights.

It has created huge tensions between people who voted in different directions, leaving a legacy of split families, strained friendships and divided communities.  It has stirred up resentment and distrust in our normally tolerant society.

Categorised as Families

Passing The Baton

The Future of Britain Hangs on the Younger Generations

How the British government translates the verdict of the EU referendum of 23rd June into action will have a fundamental effect on the lives of British people, not just today or tomorrow, but for many years to come.

One of the striking things about the referendum is that most older people voted emphatically to “leave” and most younger voters made it very clear that they wished to “remain” in the EU.

Categorised as Families