Category Archives: Brexit

Is it ‘a myth’ that the ‘left behind’ have been neglected?

 

Today, Times columnist Clare Foges, a former member of Boris Johnson’s mayoral team and then David Cameron’s speech writer, challenges the narrative that Brexit is down, in large part, to a high-handed and callous establishment’s neglect of the “left behind”, deploring the belief that:

”Those in poor northern constituencies and bleak coastal towns were left trailing in the gold-flecked dust thrown up by the golden chariots that bore the wealthy, the Londoners, the elite onwards — throwing back their heads to laugh heartily and pour some more Bolly down their gullets while failing to give a monkey’s about those in their wake”.

Truly, those in poor northern constituencies and bleak coastal towns were and are left trailing – but the elite do not spend time laughing at them – those people are neglected because they are simply of no interest.

She asserts that the deindustrialised towns have suffered because of globalisation or automation, not because those in government sat on their hands.

But the elite constructed, fostered and continue to be enriched by globalisation and automation – the system which impoverishes many is necessary to their lifestyle. Clare admits that “When you know that you are on the lower rungs of a socio-economic ladder that reaches, at its heights, into the realm of millionaires and sports cars and Maldivian holidays, you may well feel resentful. It must be profoundly demoralising to see swathes of your countrymen and women enjoying seemingly easy success while you struggle”.

She also concedes, “Of course there is serious poverty and inequality in our country, but over the past 20 years in particular governments have tried a thousand different policies to reduce them” but fails to mention the ways – under recent Conservative governments – in which people on low incomes and those in poor health have been harassed, ‘sanctioned’ and deprived of their due allowances, in order to make derisory savings. She adds:

“I don’t deny that the Brexit vote may have been driven in part by resentment. Yet here is the crucial point: just because people have felt cruelly neglected by the powers that be, it doesn’t mean that they actually were . . .  Let us not mistake a failure to revive left-behind areas with wilful neglect. For the most part the much-traduced “establishment” has been well-meaning and hardworking in pursuit of a fairer country.”

Yes, wilful neglect does imply a degree of awareness – the correct term is indifference; ‘left-behind’ people are simply not on the radar of the affluent, preoccupied by “sports cars and Maldivian holidays”. She ends with more burlesque:

“With a more benign and interventionist establishment at the helm, the taxes of rich people could be spread thickly all over the country with no fear that wealth will flee; billions could be borrowed for major infrastructure projects with no damage to our economy; the streets of Grimsby and Oldham would be paved with gold. By giving this impression, we are inviting people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and his fantasy economics”.

But would those in government circles – who benefit from corporate sinecures, stock exchange speculation and commodity trading – be willing to change the globalised system for one in which government invests in strengthening the economy through regional production and supply chains? Or will they oppose such changes with all their might, to maintain their current privileges?

 

 

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‘Bring back control’ to Brexit donors? Or to representatives of the people?

Today, the Times has published evidence that leading Conservative donors, who spent millions on the Brexit campaign, now believe that Britain may never leave the European Union at all.

This evidence supports Owen Jones’ view of a division in society “between a rapacious elite that has plunged Britain into economic and social crisis on one hand, and a majority that suffers the consequences on the other”.

One named donor was hedge fund manager Crispin Odey, founder of Odey Asset Management and a big financial backer of the campaign to leave the union, who has given more than £870,000 to money to pro-Leave groups, to Conservatives, Ukip and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s North East Somerset constituency in the last general election.

Odey had been betting heavily on a sharp fall in the value of UK government debt in April, according to investor documents seen by the Financial Times.

He revealed yesterday however (in the Times), that he was now betting on the pound to strengthen after Brexit failed, in the expectation that leaving the bloc would hit the UK economy hard.

Jeremy Hosking (below right), a fund manager who donated £1.69 million to the Brexit campaign and has given £375,000 to the Conservatives since 2015, said he was worried that the country would end up with something that was “not a Brexit deal at all”.

Terence Mordaunt, who donated £50,000 to the Brexit campaign and more than £30,000 to the Tories since 2003, said he feared that “we may never get out”.

He said: “I don’t think Theresa May’s deal actually fulfils what was promised in the referendum. It will take a long time and it gives a huge amount of power to Europe in the future. We may never get out.”

Billionaire Peter Hargreaves, who founded the financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown,  gave £3.2 million to the Leave campaign, the second-biggest donation, said: “I have totally given up. I am totally in despair, I don’t think Brexit will happen at all.” 

Government insists that Theresa May’s Brexit deal will give the UK “flexibility”.

Jeremy Corbyn asks:But flexibility for whom?” He suggests: 

  • Flexibility for employers to exploit workers.
  • Flexibility for big corporations to pollute our environment.
  • Flexibility for multinational giants to undercut our neighbours and drive down standards everywhere.

In the Financial Times, lawyer David Allen Green points out some of government‘s actual or planned ‘constitutional trespasses’ over the past three or so years:

  • Theresa May’s government prolonged the current parliamentary session over two years, to avoid a Queen’s Speech on which they could lose a vote.
  • The government packed the standing committees (which scrutinise legislation) with Conservative majorities by procedural sleight of hand.
  • A secretary of state repeatedly misled the House and its committees over the extent and existence of Brexit sector analyses reports.
  • The government deliberately broke the Commons’ “pairing” convention when an opposition MP was on maternity leave so that the government could win a vote.
  • The government committed itself to billions of pounds of public expenditure in a blatant bribe to the Democratic Unionist party for support.
  • The government repeatedly seeks to circumvent or abuse the Sewel convention in its dealings with the devolved administrations.
  • The government seeks to legislate for staggeringly wider “Henry VIII powers” so that it can legislate and even repeal Acts without any recourse to parliament.
  • The government sought to make the Article 50 notification without any parliamentary approval and forced the litigation to go all the way to the Supreme Court (where it lost).
  • The government employed three QCs to oppose the litigation on whether Article 50 could be revoked unilaterally (which it also lost).
  • This government became the first administration in parliamentary history to be held in contempt of parliament following its refusal to publish the full Brexit legal advice issued by the Attorney General.

He ends: “Mr Bercow did more in allowing that vote to “bring back control” than any single leave-supporting MP has done since the referendum. The press should be celebrating that an over-mighty executive was halted and that the people’s representatives got to have their say”.

 

 

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Gove ‘pledges’ cheaper, unlabelled, gene-edited food in his Brave New World

At a time when apprehensions about low-quality food entering the country post Brexit are rising, the Times reports that Michael Gove, the environment secretary has announced that “Britain will lead an agricultural revolution with the use of gene editing”.

In July, after hearing scientific evidence that gene editing “causes many profound mutations and DNA damage”, the European Court of Justice ruled that food resulting from genome editing would be regarded as genetically modified, which is outlawed in Europe.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is underwhelmed

Disregarding this science-based evidence, Gove pledged, at yesterday’s CLA meeting in Westminster, that scientists and farmers would be freed from this European court ruling. The first report seen however, makes no reference to this exciting prospect, whatsoever.

Genome editing, or genome engineering is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted, modified or replaced in a specific location in the genome (genetic material) of a living organism, unlike early genetic engineering techniques that randomly insert genetic material into a host genome.

Support from vested interests

Scientists in the industry, like the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, funded by the government’s Department of Business believe that the technique will lead to crops and animals with higher yields, resistance to disease and the ability to cope with the effects of climate change.

Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, urged the government to keep the UK aligned with the European court: “Scientific research has long shown that these new gene-editing technologies give rise to similar uncertainties and risks as GM always has. We have always been clear that these new plant breeding techniques are GMOs [genetically modified organisms] and therefore are banned in organic farming and food”.

Bloomberg reports that under the Trump administration, gene-edited foods don’t need to be labelled or regulated and that Zach Luttrell, a principal at industry consultant StraightRow LLC, sees gene-editing as a way to continue lowering costs. 

 

 

 

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Contingency plan for a no-deal Brexit: proposals to ferry in critical supplies – food, medicines and possibly car parts

The FT reports that David Lidington, Mrs May’s de facto deputy, has briefed the cabinet that under a no-deal Brexit, the Dover-Calais route could be running at only 12-25% of its normal capacity for up to six months.

“Whatever we do at our end, the French could cause chaos if they carry out checks at their end,” said one government official. “Dover-Calais would be the obvious pinch point. The French would say they were only applying the rules.” This would force Britain to seek alternative ways of bringing in “critical supplies”.

Chris Grayling, transport secretary, has discussed with government colleagues the possibility of chartering ships, or space in ships, to bring supplies into other British ports, thus avoiding the Dover-Calais bottleneck.

Government officials say they do not expect to have to use legal powers to requisition ships, although with only five months to go until Brexit on March 29, there is little time to charter ships on the open market.

According to the FT’s George Parker and James Blitz this move was greeted with disbelief at a stormy meeting of Theresa May’s cabinet on Tuesday. The prime minister announced there would now be a weekly cabinet discussion on preparations for Brexit, whether under a deal or no-deal scenario. If Britain left the EU under World Trade Organization rules, the UK and EU would be in different customs jurisdictions and would be expected to carry out checks on trade across the English Channel.

Some 30% of all Britain’s food requirements are met from imports from other EU countries; Dover is a key port of entry, with over 2.5m heavy goods vehicles passing through the port each year.

Pauline Bastidon (sic), head of European policy at the Freight Transport Association, said: “We are open to all kinds of ideas about how to keep supplies flowing in a no deal Brexit. But it’s hard to see where the extra ships would quickly be found. Nor can I see how other UK ports could possibly handle the huge volumes currently going through the Dover strait.”

The Times adds: Dover handles more than 2.5 million lorries a year and has no capacity to hold trucks waiting for advanced customs clearance. Other UK ports (Ed: see map, right) do have that capacity and could be used to take some Dover traffic. And, reassuringly:

“Ministers say that disruption would also damage EU companies and that there would be political pressure from member states for the European Commission to mitigate the most damaging aspects of a breakdown in talks”.

 

 

 

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Media 84: MSM fails to report pro EU demos: Thatcherite denial of ‘the oxygen of publicity’

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Following the rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit vision and the resurgence of young voters rejecting a chaotic separation from the EU, Britain for Europe groups from Brighton to Manchester (below) and from Whitehall to Perth rallied to show their support for continued EU membership.

MEP Molly Scott Cato draws attention to the rallies held by the non-party political campaign group, Britain for Europe. 40 affiliated cross-party local groups across the UK sent a message that support for remaining a full member of the EU remains undimmed.

Molly Scott Cato sent news of the South West rally – a display of unity against Brexit: “It was great to join around 2,500 people at the March and Rally for Europe in Exeter last Saturday, part of a national day of action with rallies across the country.

It was encouraging to share the stage with members from Labour, Lib Dems and Conservative Parties, as well as European citizens, student representatives and farmers. The event was organised by Devon for Europe, part of the Britain for Europe network of regional groups.

A full account may be read in The New European, a British pro-EU weekly newspaper launched in 2016 as a response to the United Kingdom’s 2016 EU referendum; its readership is aimed at those who voted to remain within the European Union.

After a year that has seen the value of the pound plummet and repeated warnings from business leaders, universities and healthcare officials, the government continues to hold the country to ransom without knowing their own demands.

London

Speaking on behalf of Britain for Europe’s 40 affiliated groups across the country, National Chair Tom Brufatto commented:

“Theresa May presides over a coalition of chaos. Her lack of control risks turning what was always a national act of self harm into a full-blown disaster. In the face of this, Britain for Europe stands resolute in our determination to oppose Brexit in all its forms.”

“It is now imperative – if only for the sake of parliamentary democracy, but also for our future peace and prosperity – that when the negotiated deal is put to parliament, MPs are granted a free vote which includes the option of continued EU membership.”

“We call on people to join our 30,000 members and supporters and be a part of the change our country deserves. Brexit must be stopped. By working together to hold the government to account, it will be.”

 

 

 

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After Brexit, EU/WTO rules could lead to more public contracts going to foreign companies – unless . . .

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David Allen Green, a central government public procurement lawyer, 2003-5, and part of the UK/EU team on the WTO general procurement agreement writes:

“Blue passports were supposed to be a quick win, symbolic of the UK taking back control. But they are instead an early emblem of how little control the UK government is going to have in the harsh world of the international trade in services”.

Gemalto, a Franco-Dutch company, is to produce the new blue, post-Brexit passport, disappointing the current British supplier, De La Rue. Its chief executive will now have to explain this to his Gateshead workforce, adding, “I would like to invite Theresa May or Amber Rudd to come to my factory and explain to my dedicated workforce why they think this is a sensible decision to offshore the manufacture of a British icon.”

Green (right) describes statements made by many politicians and pundits that after Brexit the UK will no longer have to award such contracts to foreign companies as “wishful thinking”.

He explains that the EU public procurement law will continue to apply in the UK during the Brexit transition period and, as the EU rules on public procurement, together with those on state aid and competition, are an integral part of the single market, Britain will have to adopt them if wants to provide services to the bloc.

Rules on public procurement are also part of World Trade Organization obligations that the UK is likely to retain after Brexit. The principle is that procurement decisions should be made on a commercial basis, without favouring incumbents or national champions, and without discriminating against better providers from overseas.

The state could provide the passports in-house, as the French do, because public procurement law does not make outsourcing compulsory – it merely lays down what happens when they are put out to tender.

As a Guardian article adds: “French passports are made by Imprimerie Nationale, the state-run French printing organisation, with the French government having made the decision not to put the job out to tender, as allowed under EU rules”.

If Britain does not choose the inhouse option, as Green says: ”Brexit may mean more foreign companies getting UK government work, not fewer”.

Article may be paywalledhttps://www.ft.com/content/7fcd730e-2ddd-11e8-9b4b-bc4b9f08f381

 

 

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FT: Populism is failing, but it is too soon to cheer: tame it and regain control!

The Financial Times’ Philip Stephens focusses on what he calls ‘populism’. He deplores the ‘electoral insurgency’ of the past few years leading to far-left and far-right parties winning significant vote shares across Europe.

After highlighting the failures and inconsistencies of the Trump government and the Brexit negotiations he warns the ‘hardliners’ in Mrs May’s cabinet that their choice is between:

  • swallowing a softer version of Brexit
  • or breaking with the prime minister
  • so risking a general election and a victory for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Adding “It is just possible that Brexit may prove too difficult to actually happen”

Last year Business Insider reported that the former head of the British civil service, Gus O’Donnell, told an LSE event that politicians need to focus on voters’ feelings of wellbeing to counter the rise of populism and win elections.

Linked to http://uk.businessinsider.com/gus-odonnell-focus-on-wellbeing-to-counter-populism-2016-12

His Times colleague, Gideon Rachman adds:The belief that the economic system is unjust has stoked the rise of rightwing and leftwing populism across the west”.

He continued by saying that until the shocks of 2008, centrist politicians in the west were able to offer a morally coherent view of the economy: a free-market economy would reward effort and spread opportunity. The creation of the global market system was reducing inequality and poverty across the world.

After the financial crisis, however, the “globalists” (to use a Trumpian term) began to lose the moral arguments and – Rachman continued – the fact that banks were bailed out as living standards stagnated, offended many voters’ idea of natural justice.

Stephens’ advice: centrist parties will win back support only when they separate populist leaders from their supporters — when they recognise that those voting for extremists are not by and large the “deplorables” described by Hillary Clinton and – belatedly – he admits those voters have real grievances — economic, social and cultural and offers a strategy to win back their lost support:

“Map an alternative route for society’s left-behinds”, not to do them justice, but because it is expedient:

Long-discarded notions should be disinterred:

  • progressive taxation,
  • active competition policy
  • and social equity

He ended lamely by asking: “And what, after all, was actually wrong with the social market economy?”

 

 

 

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EU citizens continue to be harassed despite Theresa May’s reassuring words

A few days ago, Theresa May appealed – in an open letter – to three million EU nationals, asking them to stay in the UK after Brexit. This follows the EU’s refusal to begin trade talks until progress is made on the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

A month earlier this site reported that the Home Office had sent up to 100 letters to EU citizens telling them to leave UK or face removal.

One of these was Eva Johanna Holmberg who has lived in the UK with her British husband for most of the last decade and was threatened with detention under the Immigration Act. Her story was picked up on social media and the Home Office then said the letter had been sent by mistake. When the department called to apologise it did not offer to cover her legal costs of about £3,800.

Further encouragement to stay was given to another widely valued EU citizen, who has lived and worked in this country for years; her (fortunately secondary!) bank account had been blocked.  She couldn’t access online banking nor use the ATM.

When she went in to the local branch they said it was because a bank statement had been returned.

  • She said this was impossible as she only gets online statements.
  • Response to that: “Well it must have been something you’ve done”.
  • To unblock the account she had to provide proof of ID, proof of address, confirm she had paid UK taxes etc …

This is expected to happen more often from next January, as the accounts of ‘identified’ foreign nationals will be closed down or frozen. Even if the people concerned provide a passport or biometric residence permit showing they are lawfully present in Britain, banks have been instructed that such customers should be told to take up the matter with the Home Office – clearly an intent to harass.

Will there be more ‘rebuttals and clarifications’ on the Home Office media blog, as its recent record shows clearly that it cannot be trusted to implement such systems without errors.

Imposition of the forthcoming checks will simply add another category to the stress-inducing procedures incorrectly inflicted on ‘foreign nationals’ who have every right to be in Britain.

 

 

 

 

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Brexit – advantage the already rich: John Buchan, Jeremy Corbyn and Private Eye

John Buchan, 1915: Financiers can make big profits on a falling market and it suits their books to set Europe by the ears.

Jeremy Corbyn, March 2017; the Tories’ hard Brexit’ will benefit super rich and hold back millions.

Private Eye, 6.10.17: investors could swoop on cheap assets after Brexit wrecks the British economy

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Jeremy Corbyn opened in I News:

When Pret A Manger opened its first sandwich shop in 1986, I doubt many of us would have expected well-known high street chains to end up trying to pay their staff in leftovers. But that’s exactly what’s happened. Last week, Pret had to abandon plans for a work experience scheme paying 16-18 year olds only with food after a public outcry.

A taste of things to come . . .

It was an even faster U-turn than Tory chancellor Philip Hammond’s reversal of an increase in National Insurance for the self-employed – also after an outcry. Both the Hammond and the Pret sagas look like a taste of things to come. The not-so-hidden agenda of hard right Brexiteers, from trade secretary Liam Fox to foreign secretary Boris Johnson, is to create a bargain basement economy for big business.

In 2012, Fox said it is “too difficult to hire and fire” and “intellectually unsustainable to believe that workplace rights should remain untouchable”. Employment rights under threat Now that Article 50 has been triggered, Fox has his chance to sweep away decades of hard-won employment, consumer and environmental rights enshrined in EU law. In fact that’s exactly the direction Theresa May has made clear she intends to go if she can’t get the Brexit deal she wants – and Johnson has said not getting a deal is “perfectly okay”.

The Tories are preparing a Great Repeal Bill as part of the Brexit process, and all the signs are they will try to use it to tip the economic scales even further in favour of their super-rich supporters. They have after all spent the past seven years giving them one tax break after another while imposing austerity on everyone else.

Altogether, on official figures, they will have handed out £73bn in welfare for the wealthy between now and 2022. They have cut inheritance tax, the bank levy, capital gains tax, the top rate of income tax and corporation tax – squeezing or slashing support for the NHS, social care and other vital services.

While the earnings of working people have been held back, executive pay has soared to levels beyond most people’s wildest dreams. The chief executives of the top 100 companies on the London Stock Market were paid on average £5.5m each in 2015 – that’s 183 times average earnings.

The Conservatives justify tax cuts for the richest and big business by saying they will lead to an increase in investment. But there is no evidence of that.

On the contrary, investment in the UK has fallen, leaving us with antiquated infrastructure and uncompetitive industries. The future of our country cannot be left to the free market and the whims of the wealthy.

 

 

 

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