Dominic Raab is new Brexit Secretary after David Davis quits

“The odd man out.” This is what the former Brexit Secretary David Davis said he described himself as to Theresa May at Chequers last Friday.

Speaking on the Today programme earlier, Davis claimed that he could not continue with in the role with the negotiation policy as it was, because he believed Britain was giving away too much too easily, and that it was a dangerous strategy that was weak and possibly lead to an inescapable negotiating position. He had to leave his post because he could not fight for a policy which he does not believe in. Davis specifically cited problems with the common rule book.

However, Davis does not want to run for leader, and says he does not want more resignations from other Brexiteers, claiming it is different for him because he was Brexit Secretary and he was the one negotiating face to face with the EU.

Labour have responded through Shadow Treasury Minister for Sustainable Economics Clive Lewis, speaking exclusively to TPN, stated “It’s now evident the country, again because of Tory incompetence and infighting, faces a period of critical instability at a crucial juncture in the EU negotiations. She should, in the national interest, step aside and call a new general election and let Labour do the job of ending this nightmare once and for all.”

Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, has also called for the PM to put her position to vote in parliament, but doesn’t call so far as calling for a general election, nor does John Mcdonnel, Shadow Chancellor, despite calling the current situation as a “paralysis in government.”

All eyes currently are trained on Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. It is unclear what his next move would be. It is felt that to have any credibility to be the next leader of the Conservative Party, he needs to follow Davis and resign. This would truly bring down the government but, as yet, it is still unclear whether Brexiteers have the numbers to bring May down.

Clearly however the PM is worried, as this morning it has been revealed that Labour MPs have been invited to a briefing on the ‘Chequers deal’ by May’s Chief of Staff Gavin Barwell. This is a sign that May is scrabbling around for support for her position.

Davis has given Brexiteers a rallying call which the likes of Mogg could use. However, they are still not acting as a team, and are awaiting the announcement of either a further resignation or the new Brexit Secretary before fully understanding their position.

With Theresa May teetering on the brink of collapse, its time for Labour to capitalise.

Four weeks ago I gave Theresa May six weeks left as PM. Now it looks like she won’t even get that. With the resignation of Brexit Secretary David Davis (and the subsequent resignation of the few remaining senior Brexit ministers), and the impending decision of the 1922 Committee to oust the Prime Minister, there is only one option for the country. And sadly for “Brenda from Bristol”, there has to be “another one”. In other words, we need a General Election…

For those who (rightly) thought Cameron was incompetent, Theresa May takes that to a whole new level. She called a General Election which she was confident she’d win by a landslide, lost her majority and has now seen SIX Cabinet resignations in 249 days. To quote the official Labour HQ line, “That’s one every six weeks”. Whether this is the most incompetent government in history is up to you to decide, but the Tories have been lurching from crisis to crisis ever since they were elected in 2010. Universal Credit, the Bedroom tax, Brexit and the reemergence of Tory sleaze are just some of the various scandals and messes that the Tories have managed to create in eight years.

And yet, perhaps its fair to say that the failure of Labour to capitalise on these crises epitomises what is currently wrong with British politics. Sadly for those who don’t like Corbyn or Labour, they are the only option. While you may think they’re a bad option, they’re the only option you’ve got if you want rid of Tory corruption and austerity. It was thought that in the election last year that Brexit would be the most important topic, and yet it was mostly disregarded by voters. But now, in July 2018, it is the Tory-made Brexit that is going to topple their own government.

Before Davis resigned, it was already news that the 1922 Committee already had 40+ letters out of the 48 needed from Tory Backbenchers to trigger a leadership contest. Now it would seem that the ‘Domino Effect’ will occur and see that target being reached. In this event, the Tories will elect a new leader, be it Mrs May once again, or the more likely ‘Brexit candidate’ (Rees-Mogg, Boris and Gove strike me as the most probable options). And once this happens we’ll be back to the summer of 2016, when the Tories had elected an unelected Prime Minister. And as we all know, this led to a General Election less than a year later.

This is what must happen again. As we approach the most crucial stage of the Brexit talks, we need to have an elected leader who has a mandate. Theresa May didn’t have a proper one considering her utter catastrophe of an election. The electorate should be given the choice between a Labour Brexit (whatever that is) and the equally unclear Conservative Brexit. Chances are that Brexit will once again be forgotten about in an election however, with Labour expected to fight an Anti-Austerity campaign once again. This is bound to resonate with the British people more than the Conservatives.

However, Brexit will come into it far more than last year. And this is why Labour MUST sort out its Brexit policy. While the two extremes of the argument (The Lib Dems with their campaign to stop Brexit and UKIP’s Hard Brexit) not expected to win people over, this is Labour’s opportunity to show that not only do they offer a far more “Strong and stable government” than Theresa May’s “Coalition of Chaos”, but that they can offer a compromise. Leaving the EU as an institution to please Brexiteers as much as is possible, and keeping some of the benefits to please Remainers.

But that is an issue for another day. One of the main comments I’ve had while talking to residents in my home town is “I wouldn’t vote for Corbyn” or “I don’t want Corbyn as PM”. That’s all well and good, but think of it this way. Vote for Labour because we want to properly fund the NHS with a feasible spending plan. Vote Labour to end austerity. Vote Labour to help the working class and the poorest in society, not the rich. If you don’t like Corbyn, bare in mind the alternative is the lying Tories. There is no alternative, because we live in what is effectively a two-party state. However there simply is no appetite for a new Centrist party fronted by rich ex-Tories like George Osbourne and Blairites like Blair himself. They would only split the vote and lead to more Tory government. So Labour are the only alternative to the Conservatives.

Perhaps the main issue for Labour other than Brexit and the anti-semitism issue is the fact that the aforementioned “Blairites” subscribe to the “anyone but Corbyn” view. MP’s such as Chukka Umunna and John Woodcock have opposed Jeremy Corbyn at every turn, shouting him down and effectively aiding the Tories. This has led for calls for many Labour MP’s (Woodcock and Kate Hoey in particular) to be deselected. Now, I’m a big believer that Labour is, and should remain, a broad church, with left wingers and centrists. However the key to this would be party unity, and sadly we don’t have that. If the moderates who are vehemently opposed to Corbyn actually backed him, they’d be real assets and we would be doing far better than we are. I agree that they are entitled to their views, but we must all come together as one united party. Because the real enemies here are not each other, but they are the Conservatives. Left wing supporters of the party must stop the abuse of the moderates as well. I’ve seen many examples of left wing trolls attacking our own MP’s and this is appalling. We are a movement. A community. A collective entity of passionate political activists looking to create a better world. We have a duty to this country to stick together and fight the Tories.

What the country does not need now is uncertainty and unelected leaders. The Conservatives have a duty to call an election now. Whether they will or not remains to be seen, but we need to sort out the issue of governance immediately. In Brussels right now, Barnier and co. will be licking their lips at the prospect of continuing negotiating with this awfully weak Tory government. They will be doing the same if its an unelected one should Theresa May be ousted.

Therefore, in order to get the most possible Brexit, being delivered by an elected team of competence, its time for another General election, whether people want one or not. Theresa May is finished, and Corbyn must seize this opportunity to finally rid the country of the Tories and bring about a sensible Brexit and end to Austerity.

And remember the options. Face more years of austerity, chaos and scandals with the Tories, or Vote Labour for a better future, For the Many, Not the Few.

Follow me on Twitter for more political opinion and news @James_Barber10

Hoey could be first Labour troublemaker to be deselected

Kate Hoey could be the first Labour troublemaker to be de-selected after her CLP, Vauxhall, voted to ask for an early trigger ballot beginning the deselection process.

The MP who has been a government ally throughout the Brexit process, voting in favour of the EU withdraw bill, is extremely unpopular in her constituency which voted overwhelmingly for Remain.

The early trigger ballot would allow Vauxhall CLP to move towards deselection swiftly and should it be successful this would allow for an open selection. Vauxhall CLP have asked for an early trigger ballot so that Hoey can be deselected soon before the chance of a snap election.

A local Labour party activist, who preferred not to be named stated:

Generally both the left and right factions in the CLP tend to agree that Kate should be deselected and it’s likely most, if not all, the branches in the CLP would vote for an open selection.

However, unions and societies affiliated to the CLP also get a vote and their allegiance is less certain.

The local activist also mentioned she (Hoey) may stand down before the next election, though she has said similar things before and changed her mind, if she doesn’t he expects a different person to be the Labour candidate for Vauxhall come the next general election saying:

If she doesn’t retire, I think her time’s up. Though she’s very jammy so who knows.

Hoey could be the first Labour MP to face deselection which could spark a ripple effect within the party. Many members are unhappy with the position of their MPs on many issues and how they undermine the party leadership. Namely Chris Leslie, Frank Field and Chuka Umunna.

Hoey, however, is unique in that she supports Brexit in a very remain area, leading for both sides of the party to not be satisfied with her representation.

Momentum has campaigned, since their rise to prominence, for a full and open selection process combined with mandatory deselection. Basically the abolishing of trigger ballots and a move to a system similar to a US primary for constituencies. This would give members more democratic control and representation but those on the right of the party believe it is an attempt to get rid of MPs who do not agree with the leadership.

A desire for deselection of certain MPs has grown in popularity in 2018 after attempts by rebel MPs to undermine the party throughout the spring. Many members blame such MPs for Labour’s underwhelming council election results.

 

 

Give your opinion on de-selection on WECO and help support the independent media. Every vote helps fund TPN.

People’s Vote: Marchers call for vote on final Brexit deal

IMG_2091

Chants of “people’s vote” and EU flags have filled Pall Mall today as thousands of campaigners march through London to call for a final vote on the Government’s Brexit deal.

The protest forms part of the “summer of action” as campaigners intend to increase the pressure on Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn during Brexit negotiations.

The march comes after high-profile Cabinet ministers including David Davis declared that the UK is fully prepared to leave the EU with no deal.

One of the main organisers, People’s Vote, maintain that Brexit is “not a done deal” and the people must “make their voices heard”. James McGrory from Open Britain added that there “should be a choice between leaving with the deal that the government negotiates, or staying in the European Union”.

Guest speakers will include actor Sir Tony Robinson and Gina Miller, who successfully campaigned to ensure the UK could not trigger Article 50 without parliamentary approval.

The government has already announced it is giving Parliament a say on the final deal. However, it still remains unclear what will happen if the deal is rejected.

According to James McGrory, “the most important thing is that this isn’t decided just by 650 politicians in Westminster… Brexit is such a big deal [that] it should include all 65 million of us in the country, and that’s why people today are marching for a people’s vote,”

 

 

 

 

Low turnout gives Labour trouble but they hold Lewisham East

Labour’s Janet Daby has won the Lewisham East By-election. Labour’s Janet Daby received 11,033 votes,(50.2%) the Lib Dem candidate Lucy Salek 5,404 (24.6%), and the Conservative candidate Ross Archer 3,161 (14.4%).

Daby pledged to oppose a Hard Brexit in a heavily remain constituency but Labour still saw their majority reduced from 21,123 to 5629 with the Liberal Dem vote rising by 20 points.  In her acceptance speech Daby said her victory meant “we will not tolerate an extreme Brexit in Lewisham East”.

However, the turnout was 33% less than half what it was in the General Election which will have hurt Labour’s vote and in an extremely safe Labour seat with very little at stake, the 17 point swing cannot be seen as anything but constituents voicing their dissent at Brexit.

The Liberal Democrats were keen to claim a moral victory with Vince Cable stating “the largest swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats in over a decade” something he attributed to “the failure of Labour’s leadership to oppose the Conservatives’ hard Brexit”

The by election was triggered by resignation of former frontbencher Heidi Alexander, who was often a vocal Corbyn critic. However the new MP seems to be a Corbynista saying “I voted for Jeremy Corbyn twice in the leadership election and obviously within politics not everybody will agree on everything … but we need to find a way around it that holds the Tories to account.”

Gordon Brown Calls for a Second Referendum

 

Gordon Brown has become the latest in a string of high profile political figures in the UK to call for a second referendum on Brexit. According to the Daily Express, Brown plans to ‘re-enter the political fray next week joining senior Labour figures trying to thwart Brexit‘. This move was met with suspicion from those both within the Labour Party and those outside of it; time will tell how much of an influence it will have on policy of the Labour Party and the country.

It is no secret that the former Labour leader has been a long-time supporter of the European Union and has clashed with current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, over the issue and he has previously put pressure on Corbyn to change party policy.

There are arguments that almost two years on from the Referendum, people are more aware of the complexities of the issue and many who previously voted to leave have indeed now changed their minds. The referendum itself was never legally binding and so for many, it is vital to have a new, less binary, referendum which sets out the specific areas of EU policy such as membership of the Customs Union or Single Market. However, there is criticism that even with a more detailed referendum, the outcome may not be hugely successful. Opponents of the first referendum, and indeed referendums generally, would argue that they are confusing for an electorate and such important issues should not be put to the ordinary voter.

It is perhaps true to say that a majority of British people are at this point getting rather fed up with the constant talk of Brexit. Though it is indeed a critical issue and undeniably the most important issue to face the country for years, to start the whole process again with a second referendum may be detrimental to the cause that those in favour of it are fighting for.

There are further issues with demanding a second referendum in terms of the logistics of such a referendum. Since the 23rd June 2016, there have been significant changes in the politics of the United Kingdom and, at the very least there would be questions as to who would actually lead either side of the debate. Looking at the leaders of the two largest political parties, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, who both campaigned for remain, it would be difficult to imagine them both leading the Remain campaign a second time round.

It is no secret that the Conservative Party has a considerable level of Euroscepticism within it and for Mrs May to come out and lead a campaign to remain in the European Union in 2018 could spell the end of her leadership of the Party. 

On the other side of the political spectrum, Corbyn is not the ideal candidate to lead a renewed charge back to the EU either. He and many of his vocal supporters have been Eurosceptics their entire career, and to limp back to the EU now would not suit their long-term political ambitions.

The other contender to lead the Remain side would be Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable. The Lib Dems are arguably the only completely pro-EU major Party in Britain and would be an obvious choice to lead the campaign to remain. However, they have enjoyed limited electoral success in recent elections and they are still facing the hangover from the coalition years. It is clear, that a second referendum would cause major splits in what is already a fragile political landscape.

Overall, it is not untrue to say that for many, the call for a second referendum coming from a previous prime minister is not something that will go down particularly well. Every time a political figure from previous years appears on the current political system, the British public tends to react with suspicion and often hostility. To call for a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union is a bold move for Gordon Brown. There are endless arguments against a second referendum and in the words of Brenda from Bristol, ‘Not another one!’.

Five Questions We Should All Be Asking Brexiteers

It has been nearly two years since around 17.4 million Britons voted to leave the European Union. Yet, as The People’s Vote have indicated, each one of those 17.4 million Leavers voted for a variety of reasons. There were a number of pledges made in the Leave camp, from Boris Johnson’s lies regarding extra funding for the NHS, to greater sovereignty outside European jurisdiction.

And nearly two years on, we still have no idea where the Conservative government is leading us.

Alongside this, we have a much greater understanding of the implications of Brexit than we did in the run-up to the referendum.

Overall, any form of Brexit will have a negative impact on the country. A Hard Brexit, which Theresa May has intended to deliver, looks to be economically catastrophic.

Yet, despite this, support for May remains strong. Is this a sign that a majority of the electorate demands a Hard Brexit?

If true, it is a necessity to challenge the Hard Brexiteers. I want to ask them some simple questions concerning Brexit, and I want them to clarify their reasons for their decisions.

Do you want the economy to strengthen?

If so, then we should not implement a Hard Brexit. Though a Hard Brexit means we would leave the Customs Union and the Single Market, multiple organisations have proved that in nearly every single economic scenario, Britain shall be worse off leaving the EU.  The Office for Budget Responsibility state Brexit will make the UK economy 4.8% smaller, a hit of £100bn to our economy.  

Even if we were to stay in the Single Market and keep the Customs Union but lose control over negotiating European legislation, it is an option considerably economically stronger than a Hard Brexit. However to stay in both the customs union and the EEA and lose our seats in the European Parliament would be a strange move, and at that point Remaining within the EU should surely be back on the table.

As a member of the EU, we have been given a hugely vibrant, strong European market to trade and exchange with.

But surely we can establish new trade deals with other nations? True. However, the UK could be waiting until 2045 until deals with the USA, China, India, Australia and New Zealand can be reached.

Leaving the Single Market and Customs Union will mean food prices will rise and wages will decrease against inflation. No one wants this.

 

Do you want the UK to retain a high employment rate?

Then a Hard Brexit will certainly not guarantee retaining employment levels. It is estimated that the Single Market is linked to 3.3 million jobs in the UK. But even with a diminishing economy, many more of our jobs at risk. Jeremy Corbyn is wrong to pledge ‘jobs for many, not the few’ alongside the advocation of a Hard Brexit. He needs to enforce this, or lose the next General Election and much of his youth-driven support.

Leaving the single market would threaten 1 in 10 jobs in this country, leaving it could be a fatal stimulus dropping us into recession. The uncertainty of Brexit has already seen growth slow to a near standstill, with the UK economy growing at 0.1% in the first quarter of 2018, the economic risk of clattering out of the single market should not be underestimated.

Furthermore, with the thought that May might implement a Hard Brexit, EU immigrants who help drive our economy are less attracted to coming to the UK, decreasing the capacity of a range of sectors, from agriculture to education. More than 2,300 EU academics have resigned from UK universities because they are fearful of their future. And farmers are turning to China; there is much more demand for work in China, whereas EU immigrants who work in the agricultural sector are more concerned than ever regarding their place in the UK.

 

Do you want the UK to continue to increase its funding of the NHS? New housing? The environment?

A Hard Brexit will diminish the power to do so. Boris Johnson’s unacceptable lies during the run-up to the referendum must be accounted for – there will be no more extra NHS funding, particularly as the economy diminishes. There has also been speculation that the NHS will be part of a US-UK trade deal, increasing the price of drugs supplied by the NHS.

What we have to acknowledge is, with a diminishing economy, it also diminishes our capacity to improve housing, improve the environment, improve education. We will struggle to improve anything.

Brexit is estimated to mean a £36bn hit to tax revenue. That’s nearly equivalent to the budget for education for 5-16yr olds. Brexit will only lead to more cuts and the lengthening of austerity.

The UN has stated that environmental protections will significantly weaken post-Brexit. The construction sector has been hit with a blow in Scotland due to higher labour costs. And the UK will fall in global higher education standards after Brexit.

With a Hard Brexit, we will be unable to fund and build upon the foundations of British society which urgently need attention.

 

Do you want tighter immigration rules?

A Hard Brexit might not guarantee this. Yes, the UK will have the power to restrict its net migration levels. But India has already insisted that any trade deal post-Brexit will have to include an eased restriction on Indian-UK migration. New trade deals with other nations might also include an ease on immigration rules.

However, the biggest con the leave campaign managed to pull was on immigration. The EU, in Directive 2004/38/EC gives member states the clear right to deport migrants if they do not meet certain criteria, ie if they become a burden on the state.

What this means, is that the government recognise our level of immigration as being healthy for our country. Not only towards the economy but also due to our demographic needs.

Migrants remain a net benefit to the taxpayer, which the British native is not. EU migrants are a net benefit to the taxpayer to the tune of £20bn. Reducing immigration will mean higher taxes for the rest of us.

It is also worth noting with our ageing population we need more young working taxpayers to prop up the older generation.

Migrants are a necessity to this country.

 

Do you want to enjoy travelling on holiday to Europe?

It will be much harder to do so with a Hard Brexit. Prices for holidays have risen by 6%, according to Thomas Cook, whilst we might have to pay and apply for visas if we wish to travel to Europe post-Brexit. And it was only recently that the EU halted extra roaming charges whilst abroad.

Freedom of movement is a benefit we must cherish to explore and understand new cultures. It is a benefit which we take for granted.

 

If to any of these questions you disagree, I’d like you to think again.

Look how beneficial the EU is to Britain. Look how far we will falter if we apply a Hard Brexit. Do you want this? No. No one wanted this.

We voted to leave. But with greater knowledge of the implications of Brexit, we also have the opportunity to look again and change our minds. Would you continue to proceed the purchase of a house knowing that there were major issues with it?

Leavers are adamant that life outside the EU will provide the power to change society. But they are wrong.

Their views are based upon a major misconception surrounding the source of Britain’s issues. The referendum was a chance to provide the public with change, meaning the EU was targeted as the source of our issues. This is incorrect.

Instead of blaming the EU, let us blame the Conservative governments who have been in power. We have seen a reduced annual increase in the NHS from each Tory government. Homelessness is on the rise. Wages have gone backwards under the Conservatives.

Don’t blame the EU. This is a UK, national issue.

Yes, the EU is not perfect. But, as proven, it is hugely beneficial to our society. Let us indicate that the result of the referendum was not to do with our discontent with the EU, but our discontent with issues at home – our discontent with our own government.

We must realise that we are sovereign. We are not completely ‘held back’ by the EU. We have the power to change our society, but Tory governments have stopped us from doing so.

There is a mirage around the Conservatives. Driven by economics, they pledge prosperity – which only reaches the highest earners. Yet lower income earners continue to believe that the Tories are going to make a difference…except they never will. It is this ongoing belief that those of lower income will eventually prosper due to Tory ‘promises’ which holds the Conservatives up.

Lower income earners must understand that Tory promises are lies. A Hard Brexit will not increase low-earners’ standard of living. Standards of living will continue to decrease.

So we must all speak out against the Tories. Whatever your income level, your social status, your occupation – a Hard Brexit will be hideous for all. And this includes Labour.

Corbyn has shown he is also an advocate for Brexit. It is hardly a vote ‘for the people’. His ambiguity regarding Brexit is running thin.

He is not a man of the people if he chooses to allow a Hard Brexit.

We voted to leave. But we now must realise that leaving will not be beneficial. Let us push for a People’s Vote and reject a Hard Brexit. This will be the only route to regain control of our society and allow Britain to flourish once again.

Johnson calls May’s Brexit customs union plan crazy

Theresa May’s plan to pursue a customs union deal with the EU post-Brexit has provoked a revolt from high-level members of her cabinet. Boris Johnson has labelled the plans ‘crazy’ and stated it would create “a whole new web of bureaucracy”.

The plan, which is similar to the one outlined by Keir Starmer in Labour’s Brexit plan, has been opposed by other cabinet Brexiteers.

Despite the EU apparently being open to the arrangement and it being a solution to the Irish Border problem, the hard Brexiteers within the cabinet are not pleased with the plan. They see the attempt to make the transition out of the EU and trade with the EU easier as a bad move as it will mean the UK will not be completely separate from the EU. Despite Johnson’s criticisms the Brexiteers both in and outside the cabinet have yet to suggest a realistic solution of their own to the Irish Border problem.

Nonetheless, with the feud within the cabinet becoming public, Theresa May might see her position as PM threatened. The powerful Brexiteers may use the threat of a vote of no confidence to ensure May shelves the customs union idea.

Business secretary Greg Clark has stated anything other than a close customs arrangement would risk thousands of jobs. Chancellor Phillip Hammond is also a supporter of a customs union.

These developments follow the House of Lords arranging a vote on an amendment to the EU withdrawal bill which would keep the UK within the EEA. The Brexit committee also urged the government not to rule out EEA membership and said the UK should consider membership of EFTA after Brexit.

The goings on at Whitehall have also provoked action amongst Labour supporters. Keir Starmer has designed Labour’s Brexit policy to be just softer than the government’s. This move by Theresa May may bring the supporters of EEA membership within Labour Party finally out into the open. Stephen Kinnock MP wrote an opinion in the Guardian this morning supporting EEA membership. Many MPs and a large percentage of the membership support EEA membership and with a need to retain it’s Remain voting supporters it might now make electoral sense for Labour to back EEA membership.

However, with more socialist members of the party resistant to the single market Labour might be left with an identical Brexit policy to the government. Emily Thornberry has spoken out against EEA membership telling Labour members it will not work.  She said a “British bespoke deal” was needed instead.

Nevertheless, Labour may become increasingly tempted to back EEA membership especially with the rise in support for the Liberal Democrats in the recent local elections.

Analysis from Iwan Doherty, Editor in Chief

This is now the second time Theresa May has copied Labour’s proposals on Brexit but the PM copying Keir Starmer’s work is not a bad thing. This is another short burst of realistic thinking from the government but our negotiators have really lacked creativity and we are paying the price for that.

Johnson is right. It may well limit our freedom to trade with outside nations, if negotiated badly, and create more bureaucracy but the Brexiteers have yet to make a single realistic suggestion of how to solve the problems we face as a nation. May needs to start making practical suggestions, or they will remain on the backfoot in negotiations that the EU has dominated so far.

A customs union negoiated properly that will allow us the freedom to strike trade deals with other nations but bide us to some EU regulation could be a very attractive option, if Davis and co can grind out such a deal in Brussels.

Whether the Brexiteers will allow May to pursue a customs union is another question. Without any ideas of their own, they would be left to diffuse the bomb that is Brexit with no tools and no clue and whilst they may hate the idea of a Remainer pursuing a moderate Brexit their own political survival might be important to them.

I fully expect a large faction of Labour to start supporting EEA membership, but Labour should be careful not to alienate voters outside of London who see freedom of movement as a key reason for their vote for Brexit.

We should all want Keir Starmer negotiating in Brussels

Whilst it was Jeremy Corbyn who gave the speech announcing that Labour, if in power, would seek to create a Custom Union with the European Union, the man behind Labour’s Brexit policy is the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Keir Starmer. A man who when appointed to this role was unlucky; he was a potential future leader who is now tasked to stand up and read out statements that most Labour party members hate to hear.

 

Thus far, Starmer has delivered a masterclass in skill, competence, and (mostly) political strategy. He has walked the tight rope of Brexit, balancing the realities of leaving the EU with the referendum result.

 

His proposal on a transition period made economic and political sense. Not only did it provide businesses with confidence and security, if the UK is going to be paying in to EU budgets until 2020 we might as well make the most of the EU’s Single Market. This was a proposal so good that it was immediately copied by the Tories.

 

Yesterday’s announcements marked more genius. A slight move towards a softer Brexit which would solve the Irish border problem that has confounded David Davis. This move was also welcomed by businesses; the CBI hailed the proposal a Brexit that put “jobs and living standards first”. Unions have seemed equally keen, UNITE general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Jeremy Corbyn has shown that people really do have a choice on Brexit.”

 

Starmer’s move is clearly perceived as a move that will help the post Brexit economy but critically not endanger the desires of many Leave voters on immigration and having EU laws enforced upon them. It marked for the first time in the Brexit process creative thinking by a major party of how to solve the key issue of the Irish border.

 

His realistic yet optimistic approach has yet again shown to be superior to that of the government when the EU rejected the government’s trade deal and reiterated that the UK “will only be a trade agreement” because Ms May has refused to stay in the Customs Union and Single Market.” The EU has stated that friction would be added to trade due to the customs checks on goods flowing in and out of the EU, but there could be no tariffs and quotas.

 

You can see the difference in thinking between the two parties. Whilst Davis is constrained by the fanatics in his own party the Labour leadership have given Starmer a free hand to find the best deal for all sections of the Labour Party, and the country.

 

But whilst Starmer has taken the problems of Brexit seriously on an economic level, it is party politics where he has truly done well. Labour are divided on Brexit, less so than the Tories in parliament but very much so in the polling booth. Around 35% of their voters in 2015 went on to vote Leave, yet the majority of their constituencies were supported Leave. Labour has had to satisfy Leavers who wanted controls on immigration alongside it’s metropolitan vote who were scared of the impact of losing membership of the Single Market. His tactic surrounding Brexit seems to have come from the London Underground. Clever at minding the gap between Labour’s position and Theresa May’s. This strategy has kept Leavers on side as he delivers the results of the referendum, whilst keeping Remainers, reluctant to defect to an untrustworthy Liberal Democrat resistance to Brexit, voting Labour. By caring about the views of those who voted Remain he has centre ground remainers previously reluctant or unwilling to vote for Labour supporting the party. Both the announcement of wanting the transitional deal and wanting a Customs Union prompted messages to be sent my way about how a friend or family member would now vote for them. It has truly been a master strategy.

 

When Theresa May lost her majority on June 8th, it was of my opinion that she should form a cross party negotiating team for handling the EU. It would have greatly increased the strength of the British negotiators and reduced parliamentary squabbling. It would also have allowed us to get a deal not decided by hard right Brexiteers. The remain vote, who seem to have been put in a box marked ‘not relevant’, would have some influence on their future outside the EU. However, it would allow for her party’s and perhaps won her survival in the long term.

 

Instead the Tories have made every mistake whilst Labour have outmanoeuvred them. If an unlikely general election were to come before the end of the Brexit process, getting Keir Starmer negotiating in Brussels would be one of huge positives of a Labour win.

Northern England should run scared from the Tories’ hard Brexit plan

With 10.2% of its GDP dependent on EU trade, the highest per capita EU funding in Britain and 35.5% of its manufacturing sector at risk were the UK to leave the EU, the statistics imply that Northern England would have been an ardent proponent of the Remain campaign. Yet the map above suggests otherwise; out of 125 counting areas in the North East only 11 voted Remain, with the Leave vote as high as 69.9% in Hartlepool.

This outcome was not just a vote against the EU; it was a vote for change. It was an outcry against austerity, against globalisation and against the decades of economic stagnation compared to their Southern counterparts in the capital who have flourished in the neo-liberal era. However the Northern Brexit fever was based on a lack of information, with the tabloid media overstating the responsibility of migrants in explaining the gulf between Northern and Southern prosperity whilst failing to explain the economic disaster that could ensue if the UK left the single market. And now, the North may pay a particularly heavy price.

The impact on the Northern regions is dependent on the content of the final Brexit deal, yet one fact is astonishingly clear – much opposed to the views of many of its voters, a closer relationship with the EU will be best for the North. Leaked government analysis suggested that the North East could lose 3% of its GDP under a Norway-style deal but up to 16% were Brexit to entail trading under WTO rules. Whilst the Brexiteers will rightfully rally around the fact that the claims of an imminent recession failed to materialise and so these figures should also be ignored, it is not the numbers that are important; on analysis of the Northern economy it is evident that it is far more dependent on the EU than the South – and thus regardless of the actual figures, a hard Brexit will be far more detrimental to the North than an inclusive trade deal.

The North East is the only UK region with a trade surplus with the EU, and unlike London’s global trading base, most Northern exports are shipped across the Channel. 160,000 jobs are directly linked to EU trade, largely in the manufacturing sector as with the Nissan car plant in Sunderland. An exit from the Customs Union would increase tariffs on Northern exports – raising the price for EU consumers, reducing the profits of manufacturers and encouraging relocation to the Continent to maximise sales. And despite the emphatic bellowing of Brexiteers that Brexit will free us from the shackles of the Common External Tariff to open our trade to the world, the CET is the only mechanism protecting North Eastern trade with the EU from low cost competitors in Asia, hungry to enter the lucrative European market – and so by the laws of trade, British manufacturing would be unlikely to compete outside of the continent anyway. Tariffs also raise import prices, which together with the inflationary effect of the depreciation of the pound, will squeeze stagnant real incomes in the long term. Declines in the purchasing power of workers’ wages and unemployment benefits will increase poverty rates and decrease tax revenues, necessitating further government cuts to public services that make the vision of a Northern Powerhouse an ever more distant reality.

Yet it is not just trade that creates an inexorable link between the North and its continental counterparts – the North is also a net receiver of EU capital. The £350mn a week to spend on the NHS, as championed by the UKIP parades that struck the heart of the Northern citizens who have overseen tumultuous cuts to public services under the Osborne era, pales in comparison to the inflows from the EU. Gone will be the £8.5bn, 7 year programme by the Regional Development Fund to reduce regional inequality in addition to £260mn yearly funding for North Eastern charities – and whilst the government has pledged to continue such funding, its long term commitment is uncertain. Structural funds are provided to Cumbria, Merseyside and South Yorkshire, with incomes between 75%-90% of the EU average, allocated to employment agencies and startup support to reduce the Northern structural unemployment that has failed to be addressed by the domestic government since deindustrialisation in the Thatcher era. These funds have created 70,000 jobs in Northern England since 2007 from University of Sheffield Research – sufficient proof that the EU is providing the North what the budget-constrained government cannot. This funding has been a lifeline to prevent London from sliding further ahead of Northern stagnation; against the lobbying power of the capital’s financial powerhouses, continuation of Northern funding will likely be the first to be axed if Brexit induces further pressure on the fiscal budget.

The past 30 years have seen spectacular prosperity gains in the Southern regions that have adapted to the globalised, neoliberal world economic order whilst the Northern manufacturing heartlands have slid further into stagnation. And whilst the Brexit vote was symbolic as a cry for inclusivity, Brexit will not be dictated by North-Eastern factories. Its dependence on EU trade and funding compared to more prosperous parts of Britain will not be subsidised by a budget-constrained government; the 58% of the North-East who voted Leave on the false assumption that border controls was the solution to their stagnation failed to account for the controls on goods, funding, and ultimately, their livelihoods. The economic woes of Northern public services since 2008 and its structural unemployment since de-industrialisation and plain to see, yet Brexit will not change this. The Brexit vote appears a grave mistake for the dream of a Northern Powerhouse; only a Soft Brexit can stop this vision from slipping ever further away from reality.