Will the EU Survive Another Decade?

Within the European arena, there is no doubt that the spotlight is currently on the United Kingdom as the world watches to see exactly how Brexit will unfold. The EU was originally established as an agreement to bring the diverse European nations together into a deal similar to what the United States has between its various, diverse states.

But now that the second largest economy in the European Union is soon to exit, there are serious questions as to what the future holds for the EU at large. In the past few years, the EU has seen crises in Greece, Spain, Italy, and now the United Kingdom. If political analysts feared that a crisis in Greece may bring down the Euro, it’s hard to imagine what is going through their heads right now with Brexit.

Granted, the United Kingdom never used the Euro as common currency, unlike most other nations in the EU. Now, however, there is a major upset in the political, legal, diplomatic, military, and economic status of the grand European agreement that casts light on the fact that the EU may not survive another decade.

There is already fear among investors of a global economic slowdown, there are huge disagreements over how to handle refugees and other immigrants in the EU, and with the wrecking ball of the United States, also known as Donald Trump, there is an ever-present threat of further economic isolation with his tariff policies.

To compound all of these issues, populism is on the rise within practically the entire Eurozone. France is still dealing with the yellow vest movement, now in it’s 14th week of protest. This rejection of globalist agendas such as climate change policies are a major threat to the status quo 3rd largest economy in the EU that may very well result in a situation similar to Brexit in due time.

Far-right political movements that are generally against the European Union have been gaining popularity in Hungary, Denmark, Austria, and Poland, just to name a few EU countries. A growing rejection of the current political order may spell disaster for the EU in the long run and return Europe back to a disunited group of contentious nations.

It’s tough to imagine exactly what will happen in the aftermath of Brexit. Germany now has even more responsibility in maintaining the stability of the agreement now that the second largest economy in the EU is gone. The third, France, is dealing with riots in its capital, and the fourth, Italy, has been dealing with long term economic woes for years.

With the United States increasingly closing itself off from the outside world, growing concern over Russian aggression, and further troubles in the always volatile Middle East could put enough pressure on the EU for many countries to call it quits. In particular, the smaller nations such as Hungary and Bulgaria will be greatly concerned now that the bigger countries of the EU are starting to break off.

The EU, like any political arrangement, or nation if we are to consider them as a whole, is sure to have its fair share of woes and turmoil. However, the pressure may prove to be too much if Europe faces any more crises that further splinter. Only time will tell.

Tory Civil War breaks out afresh as business minister says ERG guilty of treachery

Internal party fighting has once again broken out in the Conservative Party following the government’s defeat in the House of Commons last night.

Business Minister Richard Harrington, who is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry & Energy, in an interview with The House magazine:

“The prime minister has done a pretty good job of standing up to them up till now, but they were drinking champagne to celebrate her losing her deal and I regard that as being treachery.”

The defeat in the Commons will greatly weaken May’s negotiating stance and makes a No Deal even more likely. Reports say the EU is hesitant to make changes to the Withdrawal agreement because it believes the deal would still be voted down.

MPs voted against a motion endorsing the government’s strategy by 303 to 258, with 66 Tory MPs abstaining. ERG refused to vote for the motion as they believed it signaled that the UK was taking No Deal off the table.

Harrington who has previously warned about the dangers of No Deal to the UK’s economy and said if this displeases the PM she should sack him also stated that ERG backbenchers should leave the Conservative Party as they are not conservatives.

In the same interview with House he said they should leave the party saying:

“I read that Nigel Farage is setting up a new party called Brexit and if I were them (ERG Tories) I’d be looking at that, because that seems to reflect their views more than the Conservative party. In my view, they’re not Conservatives.

Harrington said that the PM should not give into “a minority of a minority,” which is what the ERG is.

The ERG group have come up with an alternative to May’s deal known as the “malt-house compromise”. However, the minister dismissed the plan saying:

“It’s basically regurgitated Canada-plus, which we know is not at all suited to our close relationship with the European Union, plus a bit of glorified number plate recognition kit, which they’ve got there anyway.
I think it’s just fanciful nonsense.”

The malthouse compromise is an attempt to unite the Tories around a deal that will pass the house but like most ERG suggestions it has been criticised as unrealistic.

The proposal uses unspecified technology to solve the Irish Border problem.

Harrington has declared he would be happy to be sacked if May is unhappy with him speaking out about Brexit.

May is still attempting to renegotiate her deal so it can pass the Commons but the EU is unwilling to negotiate any further with the EU meaning teh UK could crash out with a No Deal. This is expected to be catastrophic for the UK economy.

Trade with the EU amounts to 44% of all UK exports and 53% of all UK imports. Adding tariffs to this trade would hurt the UK economy as imported goods would become more expensive while British goods would be less competitive in EU markets. British exporters to the EU would be hit by tariffs of around £6bn.

Over 15 years No Deal would amount to the UK economy being 9.3% smaller than if the nation had stayed in the EU. The CBI forecasts the regions worst hit would be the North East and West Midlands due to the manufacturing industries based there. Ford has predicted the economy would be £900 million worse off in 2019 alone. 

The British Chamber of Commerce has said that thousands of British companies have triggered emergency plans to cope with a no-deal Brexit, with many preparing to move operations abroad if the UK crashes out of the EU.

Household disposable income £1500 lower today than if the Brexit referendum had not occurred.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has revealed that disposable household incomes are around £1500 lower today than they were expected to be had the Brexit referendum not occurred.

This comes in the same week in which it was confirmed that economic growth in the United Kingdom was sluggish, at just 1.3% in 2018, which by the OBR’s predictions makes the U.K. economy £23 billion smaller than the pre-referendum forecast. It comes amidst a global slowdown, as Germany narrowly avoided a technical recession, as exports slowed, one of the fundamental flaws of export-led growth.

As the economy comes stuttering to a halt, the party of supposed prosperity is being tested, the supposed trickle-down effect has failed to materialise, once again, fuelling the belief that neoliberal economics do not work. Unless your measure of success is increased inequality, low investment and increased poverty.

John McDonnell had the following to say,

“The evidence is mounting that the combination of the Government’s shambolic handling of Brexit and nine years of austerity is causing real damage to our economy.

“Business investment has been falling for months now, as uncertainty and the fear of No Deal cause immediate damage to confidence.

More concerning is how household debt is fuelling the little growth that exists, in March 2012, total household debt stood at £1,518.5bn in today’s prices compared with £1,630.1bn in 2017. This implies that U.K. households are having to borrow to fund spending, this is closely linked with the fact that real term wages rose just 0.7% over the same period. Before 2016, U.K. households were net savers, but now we are partnered only with Canada in the G7, as two countries that are net borrowers. More striking is the fact that Germany’s financial saving ratio is positive 35%.

All competing scenarios of how the political parties envision Brexit to be delivered will cost U.K. households, further still, it is yet to be revealed how May’s deal would affect economic growth. Though a no-deal scenario as envisioned by the extremist European Research Group would mean that the British economy would retract by 8% in comparison to staying in the EU.

Project Fear this, Project Fear that, the numbers are there for all to see, it is time for the people of Britain to do the maths.

Labour will back new Cooper bill that aims to extend Article 50 to stop No Deal

Keir Starmer has announced Labour will back a bill designed by Yvette Cooper to stop a No Deal and extend Article 50.

The bill would extend Article 50 to allow the government more time to negotiate the withdrawal deal with the EU and prevent the government from running down the clock and delivering a No Deal Brexit.

Cooper hopes to force a vote on an amendment on the 27th February that will force the government to give time to debate her bill. The bill would give May until 13th March to get her deal through Parliament. If this does not occur MPs would vote between a No Deal Brexit and extending Article 50.

It would be up to the government to decide how long the extension is. This is in contrast to Cooper’s last amendment that had it set at 9 months.

Cooper is proposing the amendment and the bill with Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin. Caroline Spelman (Tory) who did not vote for the Cooper amendment 2 weeks ago has announced she will back the bill.

14 Labour MPs voted against the amendment two weeks ago ensuring it passed despite Tory rebellions.

In a statement Cooper said;

This bill would require the prime minister and parliament to take crucial decisions by the middle of March at the very latest on whether the UK is leaving with a deal, without a deal or seeking an extension to article 50. It forces the prime minister to tell us whether she wants to leave with no deal or to extend article 50 if she still hasn’t got a deal in place by the middle of March. This bill creates a parliamentary safeguard to prevent us drifting into no deal by accident, and to prevent those crucial decisions being left until the final fortnight. 

The bill would be a major blow to May who hopes to use the threat of No Deal to get her own deal through Parliament. It will find support from Europhillic Tory MPs but Labour will need to do a better job at whipping it MPs in leave constituencies if it wants the bill to pass.

Other amendments that have been proposed include Geraint Davies’ bill that would see Labour MPs back the deal if it is put to a referendum. The referendum would be between Remain and May’s deal. Strangely this is not backed by the People’s Vote campaign. Latest polling says remain would win a referendum against May’s deal by a safe margin. It also includes an extension of Article 50.

Jeremy Corbyn has also tabled an amendment to the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan which would force the Government to hold a fresh vote on her deal by the end of February. This will be tabled on Thursday.

In a statement Corbyn said:

This amendment would stop the Government from running down the clock on the Brexit negotiations, hoping Members of Parliament can be blackmailed into supporting a botched deal.
“This is an act of gross irresponsibility. The Prime Minister is playing for time and playing with people’s jobs, our economic security and the future of our industry.

Labour will hope that May will switch to backing their Brexit deal that includes a comprehensive customs union with the EU post-Brexit.
Reports say Government officials have started planning for a customs Union deal for Brexit in a similar style to the proposals put forward by Jeremy Corbyn, despite Theresa May publicly denouncing the plans last week.

Government Officials prepare plans to initiate Labour’s Brexit plan.

Government officials have said that they have started planning for a customs Union deal for Brexit in a similar style to the proposals put forward by Jeremy Corbyn, despite Theresa May publicly denouncing the plans last week.

Two separate Government Departments have reportedly told Sky News that they have started planning for a Brexit Deal very similar to the Customs Union plans made by Jeremy Corbyn, indicating that Government departments may be preparing for a political cave-in to at least one of Corbyn’s “five demands” to change May’s deal.

The plan to negotiate a Customs Union with the European Union, which has been argued to solve many of the issues currently facing the Conservative Government including threats of creating a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, would see a free trade agreement set up between Europe and the UK.

Jean-Claude Juncker has also recently told Theresa May that the European Union would be open to a Customs arrangement between Britain and the EU, in order to risk the growing possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

A Customs Union Brexit has been the main political goal of the Labour Party since February 2018, and following the record-breaking defeat of Theresa May’s own Brexit Deal, Jeremy Corbyn published the Labour Party’s conditions for backing a Brext deal in a letter made to the Conservative Government.

A Customs Union allows for the UK to retain it’s economic ties with the European Union through access to the European markets without requiring a tariff on goods entering the UK from the European Union, which would be enforced if the UK were to operate under World Trade Organisation rules in the event of a no deal Brexit.

A Customs Union deal would also prevent a hard-border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which has a high probability of being a requirement under a no deal scenario and breaches the Good Friday Agreement currently set down in UK law. There are concerns that if a hard-border is created, tensions in Northern Ireland will once against increase and lead to a similar situations to The Troubles faced by the state in the late 20th century.

Theresa May responded to the letter by stating that “we’re not considering Jeremy Corbyn’s customs proposals” and that the UK “must have it’s own, independent trade policy.” However, it appears that Civil Servants and policymakers in Whitehall have begun to prepare for the possibility of the UK entering into a Customs Union.

It is becoming increasingly likely, following the defeat of May’s Deal, that there are only two options for Brexit, as the deadline of the 29th of March is looming on the May Government, whether to fully crash out of the EU and into WTO trade rules, or to arrange a Customs Union with the EU.

The former option has already been proven to have potentially disastrous consequences for the UK economy, not just out of the economic impacts of new tariffs on 53% of all goods imported into the UK, but also through reports of Government Ministers not making adequate preparations for a no-deal Brexit. The latter option appears to be the only way forward for the UK if the 2016 referendum vote is to be followed through, but any way forward for the UK would require cross-party support, and without a consensus being reached soon, the UK will crash out of the EU with a No-deal scenario.

 

 

Only Corbyn can Save Britain from a No Deal Brexit

In setting out Labour’s terms for backing Theresa May on Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn has done more to deliver Brexit than Theresa May has done for a whole two years in power. In a move Donald Tusk described as offering a “promising way out” of the current Brexit impasse, Corbyn has shown himself to be the only politician capable of saving Britain from crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Only Corbyn has shown the level of pragmatism and statesmanship necessary to deliver a Brexit which has the potential to get through Parliament. Unlike May, it is Corbyn who has recognised how Brexit requires compromise and cooperation between the country’s two biggest parties.

If Brexit has proved anything, it is that our country is divided. With little over a month left before we leave the EU with or without a deal, it is time for our politicians to come together for the sake of the country.

One clear quality which Corbyn possesses, and May severely lacks, is the ability to lead his party at a time of crisis. Having survived numerous leadership challenges and protests over the direction he was leading the party, Corbyn has proved much more resilient than many would have imagined when he came to power in 2015. He has secured support around his message of hope and managed to win over many skeptical voters.

Throughout the Brexit process, the People’s Vote brigade have been a constant thorn in his side. Despite this, Corbyn has stuck to his guns, signalling his intent to secure a workable Brexit for the country and deliver on the promises he made in the General Election campaign of 2017.

May, on the other hand, continues to believe in her make-believe fantasy that she can secure a deal that satisfies both the extreme and moderate wings of her party. In doing so, May is prepared to plunge the country into an unprecedented crisis to save her skin. She is surviving, but by no means thriving and she is taking the country down with her.

Like a child who has left all her homework from the week until Sunday evening, Theresa May’s insistence on renegotiating an un-negotiable deal instead of seeking to form any kind of cross party consensus is sure to result in the UK being cast into the infinite detention that is a No-Deal Brexit.

Brexit is a national emergency and one which requires compromise.

Corbyn has done his part, it is now time for May to decide where her loyalties really lie: with the MPs who are anxious over the prospect of us crashing out of the EU without a deal, or the ERG who continue to believe their own lies over the prospect of Britain securing a better deal.

Having rejected Corbyn’s five demands this morning, May is playing a dangerous game. However, Tory MPs have the power to take this decision out of May’s hands by rallying behind Corbyn’s proposal to deliver a manageable Brexit. 

Corbyn’s proposal offers May the chance to win over moderate Tory MPs and simultaneously meet Labour’s six key tests. There is no time for a second referendum, nor would it have any chance of getting through parliament. The failure of the Cooper amendment shows there is no support for extending Article 50 either.

It really is now or never.

By the 29th of March, if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, we will look back at Corbyn’s proposal as a key turning point; the one chance we had to rescue Britain from this mess. It is the duty of MPs from across the House to unite behind Corbyn’s pragmatic proposal to deliver Brexit and sort this mess out once and for all so we can all focus our efforts on addressing the inequalities which fuelled the Brexit vote in the first place.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP Should Quit Or Be Sacked, Says Labour

 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP has been facing heavy criticism since last year when it was uncovered that he had awarded a £14m contract to a company called Seaborne Freight. This contract had been awarded in case of a no deal. Seaborne Freight planned to run ferries between the Port of Ramsgate in Kent, UK and Ostend in Belgium. This company did not seem reliable as it was revealed that not only did they not have any ships but there was also no record of hiring them. The Department for Transport (DfT) has now confirmed that the contract has been cancelled.

A DfT spokeswoman said: “Following the decision of Seaborne Freight’s backer, Arklow Shipping, to step back from the deal, it became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the Government. We have therefore decided to terminate our agreement.”

Labour is now calling for Chris Grayling to be sacked.

Final Comment From Editor- Heidi Boahen

This is hugely humiliating for the Department for Transport and also our country. Chris Grayling MP has previously defended his decision despite the criticism received last year. He insisted that the right decision has been made. However, it has now backfired and the contract has been scrapped. Chris Grayling decision to award the contract was never going to work. This, however, has allowed discussions to be had both online and in the media to how this arrangement was made in the first place. It was also revealed in early January that Seaborne Freight has copied the terms and conditions from a food company.  

Does this further indicate that our current Ministers are incompetent in doing their job? Irrational decisions have been made in the past however, this seems to be the most embarrassing one at the moment. Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald MP has also responded to the news that the Seaborne Freight contract has been cancelled:

As we predicted, the Seaborne Freight contract has been cancelled. This cannot go without consequence. The Chris Grayling catalogue of calamities grows bigger by the day. This contract was never going to work but this Secretary of State, true to form, blunders from one disaster to another.Whilst Theresa May needs the few friends she has right now, we cannot have this incompetent Transport Secretary carry on heaping humiliation after humiliation on our country. He has to go.

It’s Time We Listened To Jeremy Corbyn

According to most reports, it is foolish. A rebellious opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, demands the House to let MPs vote on holding a second referendum and place power over Brexit away from the government, to appease vast dissatisfaction with May’s flawed, faltering Brexit Bill.

Could the opposition’s alignment with a “People’s Vote” work in practice? It is idealistic. But between a government agenda of isolationism and democratic cooperation to find a better answer, it is decidedly more true to the ideals of the “Westminster System” that the government is accountable to the people, instead of the opposite. In practice, for some time the distinction has been reversed and power has become a check and balance on the public, not the other way round. Because this dynamic may well have fueled dissatisfaction with politics that unarguably stoked support for Brexit to start with, perhaps the collapse of May’s deal, the end of Government conniving behind our backs, is the best possible outcome.

For months and years, I have been frankly baffled by Brexit despite having a politics degree, where I was taught how to make sense of complex geopolitical dynamics through procedures of reason and theory. Brexit is hard, and anyone who claims to understand it entirely talks big. Recently, the way I’ve asked what Brexit means is through holding what the government has done, is doing, will do, through the prism of democratic theory ‘s normative ideals, the “what ought” facts. Precisely because Leave invoked classic democratic values like self-determination and Democracy to justify its superiority, it surely is consistent with their principles to make sure there is due scrutiny Brexit really does satisfy the power in our hands’ agenda.

To my mind, the problem is not with Corbyn’s ideals, his vision for policy, but the practical matter of winning enough votes to control the trajectory of the House. Whether or not Labour members will provide this mandate, support their leader without hesitation to bring down the Tories, depends on to what extent they buy the media narrative on his ineptitude. He’d have to pierce through a powerful illusion of his being a politician with ideas beyond reason and aim for an informed public choice in favour of more Brexit scrutiny that would defy our political pathology of rash, biased decisions.

Should Corbyn convince the party of the need to present a united front that can persuade people it is staying true to the values that ostensibly inspired people to vote Leave, then his plan is flawless. The Progress backed PLP may not be at one with it. I do not recognise any procedural democracy in how this corporate lobby subverts the innate democratic socialism in Labour. Labour, as the people’s party, should never have been subject to corporate lobbying. But if I were a voter, I’d pause to reflect how Corbyn is returning soul and substance to a party sold out to the terms and conditions of neoliberalism, by Tony Blair.

Has The Tory Party’s Obsession With Europe Ruined Our Country?

With less than two months to go before the UK leaves the European Union (EU), the Tory party are still fighting like rats in a sack, over our exact terms of leaving the bloc. But it wasn’t always this way.

In 1946, Sir Winston Churchill, leader of the Tory party, and freshly ejected from the office of Prime Minister after World War 2, delivered his famous speech in Zurich calling for the creation of “a United States of Europe”. As Churchill urged a Franco-German partnership to lead his vision of a new Europe, he declared that Great Britain and the British Commonwealth, along with the US and USSR, should be “friends and sponsors” of the project. He did not talk of the UK becoming a member itself, though.

In 1961, Harold Macmillan, Tory party leader and Prime Minister, made a formal application to join the European Economic Community (EEC), as the EU was known in those days. The application was unsuccessful, mainly because the French President, Charles de Gaulle, was vehemently against Britain joining.

Finally, in 1973, Ted Heath, Tory party leader and Prime Minister, took us into the EEC, without a referendum either. That came in 1975 after Heath was replaced by Harold Wilson, the Labour party leader, as Prime Minister.

There were always some Tories, who were against joining the EEC, but the trouble really began in the 1980s. By this time Margaret Thatcher was Tory party leader and Prime Minister, and she managed to give the impression of being anti-EU, particularly by getting an increase in the UK’s rebate from the EU. But she was also the main architect of the European Single Market, which her admirers in the Tory party rail against now.

It is true that Thatcher was against greater political union though and famously said in a speech in the House of Commons in 1990:

The President of the Commission, Mr. Delors, said at a press conference the other day that he wanted the European Parliament to be the democratic body of the Community, he wanted the Commission to be the Executive and he wanted the Council of Ministers to be the Senate. No. No. No.

Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister later that year, after a leadership challenge by the very Europhile Michael Heseltine, when most of her Cabinet said they thought she should go, mainly due to the controversial ‘poll tax’ proposals. The right of the party blamed the more liberal wing who happened also to be pro-EU.

John Major who took over as party leader and Prime Minister, had all kinds of trouble from Tory MPs on the right, and mainly about Europe, and especially The Maastricht Treaty which he signed in 1992, which expanded the political union aspect of the EU. Major dubbed his Tory MP opponents as ‘the bastards,’ but my favourite quote at the time from Major was about one of those ‘the bastards’ Bill Cash, who is still an MP today. Major said that whenever he heard Cash’s name mentioned, the sound of white coats flapping came to his mind.

After a change to the election process for Tory leader, allowing the membership, which has become increasingly anti-EU, a final say in the election, every Tory party leader has by necessity been a Eurosceptic. David Cameron, only became the leader in 2005 by affecting Euroscepticism, although as time has revealed this was really not the case. Cameron was forced into the promise of holding a referendum if the party won power again, but he didn’t think he would have to act on this, as his coalition partners in government from 2010, the Lib Dems would block it. Surprisingly, Cameron won a majority for the Tories in 2015 and had to follow through on his promise. Of course, the referendum in 2017 went the way of the UK leaving the EU, narrowly.

It should be noted that at the time there was no clamour for a referendum on our membership of the EU amongst the public at large, only in the Tory party. Yes, UKIP were starting to take votes of Tory candidates, but they never won a single seat in Parliament, other than Tory MPs who defected to them. Then UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, tried and failed seven times to get elected to Parliament.

And here we are today. A country now bitterly divided, where supermarkets expect to run out food, hospitals run out of medicines, companies relocating out of the UK and taking jobs with them, where plans have been prepared for martial law (which has never happened before in the UK in modern history, even during World War 2), and for the Queen to be evacuated from London, should largescale civil unrest materialise after a ‘no deal Brexit.’

So much for the Tories being the ‘natural party of government’ in the UK, their obsession, nay fetishism about Europe threatens to ruin the country and its international standing. When this all goes tits up, as it surely must, I just hope people remember who was responsible for this whole fiasco.