David Snoxell: The International Criminal Court may put more pressure on the UK over the Chagos Islands

The Government’s long rearguard defence of the British Indian Ocean Territory has reached a higher theatre than I ever expected.

David Snoxell is Co-ordinator of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group.

Before Mauritian independence in 1968, the UK detached the Chagos Archipelago in 1965 to create a new colony, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), for the construction of a US military base on the largest island, Diego Garcia.

The UK promised to return the territory to Mauritius when no longer required. In 1979 Margaret Thatcher told Parliament that sovereignty would “revert” to Mauritius when the islands were no longer needed for defence purposes. That commitment has been repeated by successive governments.

In 1968-73 the Chagos Islanders were deported to Mauritius and Seychelles, although they could have remained on the 54 “Outer Islands” which have never been required for defence facilities.

It is 45 years since the last of the Chagossians living in the British Indian Ocean Territory were deported, 42 years since the issue was first raised in Parliament, 20 years since the most recent litigation began, 18 years since the High Court re-instated the right of abode, 14 years since the Foreign Secretary used the Royal Prerogative to overrule that decision and 10 years since the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group was established.

Since my last piece in ConservativeHome in December 2017 a resolution of the UN General Assembly in June 2017 referred the issue of decolonisation and Chagossian resettlement to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). I have been dealing with Chagos since 1995 and never expected it to reach the ICJ. I attended the hearings in The Hague, 3-6 September.

The Mauritian team, led by Sir Anerood Jugnuath QC, PC, former Prime Minister and President, supported by Philippe Sands QC, spoke with passion and vigour, the UK team led by Robert Buckland QC, the Solicitor General, with detached forensic analysis.

But how could the UK team do otherwise? Their unenviable task was to defend the UK’s conduct of 53 years, which continues to violate the human rights of the Chagossians and avoid a diplomatic resolution of the sovereignty question.

Mauritius and the UK were each allocated three hours on the first day; 22 states then made oral submissions followed by the African Union, representing 55 member states. The UK was supported by the US, Israel, and Australia, and on the jurisdictional point by Germany. All other states supported Mauritius. The UK and its supporters argued from technical legal grounds, leaving Mauritius and the Chagossians occupying the ethical high ground.

A Chagossian contingent was part of the Mauritian delegation. None spoke but the Court was shown a moving video of Marie Liseby Elisé, who was present, describing her experience of being deported from Peros Banhos (Outer Islands) in 1973 and the death of her baby as a result. Both the UK and US expressed sympathy with the Chagossians, the US referring to their “sufferings” and the UK to their “shameful and wrong treatment”.

As the new Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox QC, has been a member of the APPG since 2008 and Standing Counsel for Mauritius, the UK was represented by the Solicitor General. The UK arguments were predicated on four assertions: no legal right to self-determination existed in 1965 or in 1968; the people of Mauritius had repeatedly consented to detachment (“freely expressed will of the people” in UN language); territorial integrity did not exist as a concept for non-self governing territories at that time; and the Mauritian authorities were not put under duress to agree to detachment. These historical arguments were strongly contested by Mauritius and her allies.

It was unfortunate that in addressing the Court, one UK lawyer noted that it was being asked to form an Opinion “in the absence of the witnesses to the key meetings, as they have long since died”. He was standing near the only surviving politician who was at the 1965 Lancaster House Constitutional Conference, a point Sir Anerood had made in his opening address.

The UK proposition that the people gave their consent is preposterous. In 1965 few Mauritians knew about the Chagos Archipelago. There was no referendum or plebiscite and Chagossians were neither consulted nor consented. The 1967 Mauritian general election was about forthcoming independence and economic issues. And yet the UK legal team claimed that “The UK sought and obtained consent in multiple steps, with time for reflection and consultation by the people of Mauritius and their representatives”.

On duress the UK cited several comments by Sir Seewoosagar Ramgoolam, the then Chief Minister, in support of its claim. No mention was made of what he later told the 1982 Select Committee of the National Assembly that the prime reason he had accepted the excision was that he felt “he had no legal instrument to prohibit the UK Government from exercising the powers conferred upon it by the Colonial Boundaries Act 1895, which powers could not be resisted even by India when the partition of that country took place before its independence.”

The Court could decide that it does not have jurisdiction to give an Advisory Opinion. If it gives one I would expect the APPG to mount pressure in Parliament to ensure that the Government respects it. As a founding member of the ICJ and strong advocate of the rule of international law it is unlikely that the UK would ignore an Advisory Opinion.

A decision is expected before the end of March 2019. Whatever the legal outcome the profile of Chagos and the Chagossians has been raised to the international level and is back on the UN agenda after 52 years. At its 70th meeting on 10 October the APPG agreed proposals for breaking the political impasse which it hoped the Foreign Office would consider in anticipation of an Advisory Opinion.

A judicial review of the Government’s decision in November 2016 not to restore the right of abode and allow resettlement is being heard in the High Court, commencing 10 December. This will be the seventh case which Governments have contested since 1999. Had they stood by Robin Cook’s decision in 2000 to accept the High Court judgment much of this costly litigation could have been avoided.

At a time when the UK’s standing and future in the world is uncertain an ICJ Opinion offers a diplomatic way forward with the potential for compromise and negotiation.

Christmas competition How can we reduce inequality

Reducing inequality is something that all politicians even Conservatives say they are in favour of. They even produce figures to try and demonstrate that government measures are having a positive effect. The reality, of course, is that over the last forty years or so inequality has got worse particularly in economic terms. Wealth gives access […]

Reducing inequality is something that all politicians even Conservatives say they are in favour of.

They even produce figures to try and demonstrate that government measures are having a positive effect.

The reality, of course, is that over the last forty years or so inequality has got worse particularly in economic terms.

Wealth gives access to things like better quality health and education leading on to employment opportunities that the poorer in our society can only dream of.

This is combined with a trend since the Thatcher years of a decline in access to things like relatively well-paying jobs and decent, affordable housing for the masses.

Put on top of that the cuts in welfare then you reach a stage where the United Nations commissions an investigation into poverty in the nation.

Liberals have a proud history of tackling inequality the Beveridge plan of the 1940s being just one notable example and we must now come up with a new Beveridge type plan for the 21st century.

Here are some ideas;
On Work and Welfare – A Universal Basic Income for those citizens who are unable to work because they can’t find a job, are unable to work due to disability or ill health or due to caring responsibilities.

This to be set at a level that actually enables people to live a reasonable standard of life.

As technology leads to less availability of work opportunities the UBI could be extended to all.

On Education – Reform of education so that every child gets the right start in life.

Investment is urgently needed in schools to reduce class sizes.

We should also look at ways to improve parents choice and involvement in their children’s education.

On Health – Build on our current policy of more funding for the NHS by also taking Adult Social Care under its umbrella.

We should also radically reform the NHS, so it is more patient centred by reducing layers of bureaucracy.

On Housing – Measures are needed to drastically increase the amount of social housing available through a mix of local

authority and housing association development.

We can only really tackle inequality by building a society where everyone gets a good education, a comfortable home and the chance to have a decent living.

At the same time a place where those who are unable to work for whatever reason get the support they need.
A country where the Health Service is from the cradle to the grave as it was when the NHS was founded back in 1948.

A Liberal vision for a Liberal nation.

* David Warren worked in Royal Mail for more than 25 years. He is now a freelance business consultant specialising in this area and a liberal.

Reminder: Christmas Competition – deadline Monday

To celebrate and get in the mood for the festive season I thought that we could have a writing competition.  As many of you (on average at least 4,500 members visit the Lib Dem Voice site every day) write articles, read them or comment I propose a Christmas Article Competition. The proposed Competition Rules are: […]

To celebrate and get in the mood for the festive season I thought that we could have a writing competition.  As many of you (on average at least 4,500 members visit the Lib Dem Voice site every day) write articles, read them or comment I propose a Christmas Article Competition.

The proposed Competition Rules are:

  • An Article should not be more than 550 words;
  • The article in each of the specified areas will be jointly judged by representatives identified as experts in that area by Lib Dem Voice and Lib Dem editors;
  • The starting date for the competition starts as of 28th November to 17th December;
  • The title of your article for the competition should start with the words “Competition: … followed by the title of your article”

Basic criteria when assessing each article will be:

  • The originality of the article;
  • That the article is within the stipulated maximise length required (550 words);
  • Generally, how well has the article presented its argument on the subject matter;
  • We will only accept one submission for each subject area per person (as stated below);

The article must relate to one of the following areas:

  1. How can the Lib Dems further promote their Green policies;
  2. How do you propose that the Lib Dem get their message across in mass media;
  3. What are the three main messages that the Lib Dems must get across for the local elections in May 2019;
  4. How would you go about raising funds for your local party;
  5. Why be a Liberal Democrat?
  6. How can we reduce inequality?
  7. Increasingly we have a divided country, what can the Liberal Democrats do to promote more tolerance in society?

The winner will be announced before Christmas and the winning author of the article will receive a small Christmas hamper.

So good luck.

 

 

* Tahir Maher is the Wednesday editor and a member of the LDV editorial team

Newslinks for Saturday 15th December 2018

Cabinet believe May’s deal is ‘dead’ and are considering other options… “A majority of the cabinet view Theresa May’s Brexit deal as… Read more »

Cabinet believe May’s deal is ‘dead’ and are considering other options…

“A majority of the cabinet view Theresa May’s Brexit deal as dead and are openly discussing other options including a second referendum, The Times has learnt. As the prime minister faced fresh humiliation in Brussels, most of her ministers have now concluded that there is little hope of her deal getting through parliament. They are split, however, on the way forward, with rival groups planning to ambush Mrs May with opposing demands at a meeting next week. The cabinet has fractured into three camps, with one, composed of five ministers, including Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, leaning reluctantly towards backing a second referendum if all other options are exhausted… Any plans for a second referendum would face opposition from two other groups within the cabinet. Michael Gove, the environment secretary, and Sajid Javid, the home secretary, are understood to be refusing to countenance the prospect of leaving without a deal but want Brexit to go ahead. Mr Gove is thought to prefer the idea of pivoting towards a softer departure, such as a Norway-style deal.” – The Times

  • Cabal ready to swing behind second referendum – The Times
  • Scottish Tories deny claim they might back another vote – The Scotsman
  • Farage tells Leave Means Leave rally to prepare for rematch – Daily Telegraph
  • Blair tells EU leaders to be ready for another vote – The Sun
  • ‘A people’s vote is the only way out’ – Interview with Jo Johnson, The Times

More:

  • May suffers loss of confidence at home and abroad – FT
  • Rivals’ violence language hurts Tories at the ballot box – The Times

Comment:

  • Winning another referendum is possible… with Europe’s help – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

…as the Prime Minister threatens to ‘crash’ it to EU leaders…

“Theresa May on Friday threatened to crash the Brexit deal crafted by the UK and EU over the past two years unless fellow European leaders agreed to discuss changes to the withdrawal package to help her sell it at Westminster. In a frank confrontation with the EU’s high command on the margins of a European Council meeting in Brussels, the UK prime minister said if she could not win any more concessions she might as well hold a snap vote by parliament on her Brexit deal next week. Given that Mrs May aborted a Commons vote on her deal this week because she feared defeat by a “significant margin”, her comments amounted to a threat that she would let MPs kill the withdrawal agreement before Christmas. Mrs May made the threat to German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron and EU presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk as the two day Brussels summit descended into acrimony, according to diplomats. “At the point where there is no prospect of getting anything more from the EU, that’s when you would have to put the vote,” said one close aide to Mrs May.” – FT

  • ‘Begging’ premier handed worse offer – The Sun
  • Anger clear as EU leaders snub backstop plea – The Times
  • Strategy ‘brutally exposed’ by Brussels failure – The Guardian
  • DUP urges May not to ‘roll over’ – Daily Express

Analysis:

  • In the EU’s eyes, she asked for ‘fixes’ which wouldn’t fix her problems at home – Daily Telegraph
  • Brussels rebuffs May: six takeaways – FT
  • How summit leaks sank British hopes – The Times

Backstop:

  • EU bosses vow to break backstop promise – The Sun
  • QC brands Parliamentary lock on the backstop a ‘mirage’ – Daily Express
  • Gains were seen as too much, too soon – The Times
  • EU united on backstop, says Varadkar – News Letter

Comment:

  • Could a former EU president help May break the backstop deadlock? – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Book Reviews: How Dublin ran rings round May on Brexit and the Northern Ireland border

>Yesterday:

…and Mordaunt expected to unveil plan for no-deal departure

Penny Mordaunt is expected to become the first Cabinet minister to unveil detailed plans for a “managed” no deal to slash the UK’s Brexit bill in a move that will fuel leadership speculation. The International Development Secretary is set to unveil her own plans to unblock the Brexit logjam by agreeing the two-year transition period after Britain leaves the EU on March 29 to allow the UK to develop a ““maximum facilitation” scheme to trade with the European Union. This would involve the UK continuing paying £10billion a year into the EU while plans are laid for an organised exit in early 2021. A £20billion bill to take Britain out of the EU is just over half the planned £39billion “Brexit bill” which has been agreed with Brussels. Ms Mordaunt is one of a number of senior Eurosceptic Conservatives vying to succeed Theresa May as leader when she quits before the 2022 general election. She is hoping to set out her plans on Monday night on the eve of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday which is set to give serious consideration to no-deal planning.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ministers will tell the Prime Minister to make no-deal planning top priority – The Sun
  • Three factions in May’s divided Cabinet – The Times
  • The Conservatives’ 30-year war over Europe – FT

Comment:

  • Here are the three different plans ministers are drawing up – James Forsyth, The Sun

>Today: Esther McVey MP in Comment: How to deliver Brexit from here. We must prepare properly for no deal.

EU migrants may need to earn £30,000 to come to Britain

EU migrants will have to earn at least £30,000 before they are allowed to come to Britain after Brexit under a crackdown due to be announced next week, The Telegraph understands. Under the plans, which have prompted a Cabinet row, skilled migrants will be required to have a job offer and hit the minimum salary threshold before they are allowed to come to the UK on five-year-long visas. Low-skilled migrants will be able to come to the UK on one-year visas on a “temporary” basis as long as they have jobs. Once their visas expire they will be required to leave the country and unable to apply to return until a “cooling off” period of a year has passed. Government sources said there have been “significant” rows over the plans, with Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, and Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, among ministers who have raised concerns. However, Downing Street sources said the Prime Minister is determined to push ahead with the policy before Parliament rises next week in a bid to shore up her authority after 117 Tory MPs voted for her to go.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Britons will have to pay fee to visit EU countries – The Times

Labour under pressure to table vote of no confidence

“Labour has not ruled out trying to force Theresa May from office in a Commons confidence motion next week. Though in public the party says it will not table a confidence vote until the prime minister has brought her Brexit deal back to the Commons, senior figures are pushing for a vote before Christmas, The Times understands. At a shadow cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, pushed Jeremy Corbyn to call a vote before the Commons begins its Christmas recess on Thursday. The Labour leader has so far resisted, insisting that he will call a motion “when we judge it most likely to be successful”. The Labour leadership is under intense pressure from backbench Europhiles, who want Mr Corbyn to call a confidence vote so that, if it fails, he will be forced into backing another referendum instead. In a letter to The Times today Lord Bragg, the broadcaster and Labour peer, urges his party to “stop its tactical manoeuvring and go flat-out for a second referendum, and fight to Remain”.” – The Times

  • MPs ordered to cut short Christmas plans in case Corbyn makes his move – The Sun
  • What would Britain be like with Corbyn in Downing Street? – The Times

>Yesterday: Left Watch: The Prime Minister’s run-out-the-clock strategy on Brexit helps Corbyn too

Charles Moore: It’s time to stop being afraid of a clean Brexit

Even when things go wrong, as they surely sometimes will, our experience of French strikes, illegal immigration problems and bad weather have shown that supply chains never get near collapse. Operation Stack has been used 211 times. It has kept freight moving with inconvenience, but without meltdown. For Brexit, we have Operation Brock. As for Calais – a more likely source of blockages than Dover – the prefect of the region has said the “sole objective” is to ensure the free flow of goods, not least to save French business from Rotterdam, Antwerp and Zeebrugge. There will be three extra lorry lanes at Calais and scanners for trains moving at 30 mph. The border inspection post, used particularly for animals, will be 12 km away from the port to lessen queues. As for clean-water chemicals (which arrive smoothly at Immingham, not Dover) and Mrs May’s insulin and thousands of other essentials, the idea that they will be grounded for any dangerous length of time resembles wartime stories of German paratroopers disguised as nuns. Do Remainers who say these things seriously believe that the EU will attempt an illegal blockade of the essentials of human health? If they do, why on earth do they want to Remain?” – Daily Telegraph

  • How I became a Brexiteer, and realised ‘no deal’ would be no disaster – Merryn Somerset Webb, FT
  • Hardline Remainers are now the route to a no-deal Brexit – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph
  • The Prime Minister has become detached from reality – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • Westminster has known the options since 2016: what does it want? – Rafael Behr, The Guardian
  • May must face down the Brexit hardliners’ bluff – Camilla Cavendish, FT
  • Brexit’s extremists will be judged harshly by history – Brian Wilson, The Scotsman

Brady hits out at aid budget

“Apprentice star Baroness Karren Brady hit out yesterday at Britain’s “unjustifiable” £14billion foreign aid budget. The Conservative peer criticised the “arbitrary” target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income each year on aid. Karren said it was “impossible to justify” spending taxpayers’ cash on “far-flung conflicts” where it is difficult to identify their relevance to Britain. Lord Sugar’s TV co-star added: “Whenever we take on such broad and ambitious tasks, our track record is poor and we risk doing more harm than good.” She also called it an ill-thought out and poorly executed policy. Sun columnist Karren said the money should be used to boost defence spending and the British aim must be to “secure the peace” in conflict zones. Her remarks came in the annual Lords debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It focused on reconciliation in foreign, defence and international development policy.” – The Sun

News in Brief:

  • This extraordinary week has changed nothing. It’s still May’s deal or no deal – Alex Massie, CapX
  • Lucas and her citizens jury is the worst idea yet from Remainers – Charlotte Henry, Reaction
  • Brexit is about renewal, not just leaving the EU – Robert Tombs, The Spectator
  • Labour has forgotten its eurosceptic heritage and left the working classes behind – Matt Smith, Brexit Central
  • Europe’s biggest test yet – Matthew Goodwin, UnHerd

The best way to broaden access at grammar schools is to build more of them

Artificial restrictions have created huge competitive pressure on places, but lowering standards is not the answer.

Yesterday’s Times carried a story about a campaign by Birmingham parents against proposals to lower admission standards to local grammar schools.

The King Edward VI Academy Trust, which apparently runs six selective schools in the city, has unveiled proposals to give “priority to disadvantaged and local children”, rather than selecting purely on academic merit.

Such initiatives have the Government’s support. When ministers announced that existing selective schools would be allowed to expand, one of the conditions attached to the £50 million per annum fund was that they take steps to, in the Times’ words, “admit more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds”. This is presumably intended to appease those who argue that, on current evidence, grammar schools aren’t the engines for social mobility they’re often portrayed as.

However, this simply highlights the fact that the Government has misunderstood the argument for expanding grammar schools.

Until very recently, places at grammar schools were severely restricted – but, of course, highly sought after. Just as in any other market where supply is unable to expand to meet demand, competition for the scarce commodity rose and kept rising. This gave a big advantage to those parents who could afford to provide their children with extra tuition for the entrance exams. It also meant that the remaining grammars received applications from a much broader radius than ordinary schools, increasing the competitive pressure still further.

As a result, today’s grammars can look as if they simply amplify middle-class advantage. But it is a poor argument against grammar schools which can be resolved by building more of them. Expanding existing selective schools, and opening new ones, would ease competitive pressures and help “bright children living on the doorstep of the school” gain admission without cutting standards.

One of the unfortunate side-effects of Brexit has been that the energy seems to have gone out of the Government’s education agenda. Making any move on grammars was a bold choice, but as I wrote a few years ago the case to be made for them today is very different to the original ‘tripartite’ model of the 1950s. Where once children were sorted into ‘academic’, ‘technical’, and ‘miscellaneous’, modern selective schools can find their place in a diverse spectrum of specialist schools which cater to a much broader range of learning styles.

The way to solve the challenges posed by academic selection is to make sure that there are sufficient places for those that need them, and first-rate alternatives (such as the new T-Level) for those who don’t. Not to lower standards.

Esther McVey: How to deliver Brexit from here. We must prepare properly for no deal.

When I tried to focus these concerns by calling for a vote to see if this deal did indeed have the agreement of Cabinet, opposition crumbled – and my colleagues fell silent.

Esther McVey is a former Work and Pensions Secretary, and is MP for Tatton.

Resigning from Cabinet is often described as one of the most difficult decisions that a politician can make, but for me it was entirely logical.

From the outset, it was clear that the Withdrawal Agreement failed to honour the outcome of the EU referendum, secure our long-term economic independence and take full advantage of the UK leaving the constraints of the EU. How could I remain in the Cabinet knowing that?

I could not, hand on heart, sign up to a deal that sells the UK short. So keeping my job paled into insignificance compared to the enormity of the effects that this bad deal will have on the future prosperity of our country. Its effects will last far longer than any of our careers; it will shape the UK’s future for generations to come.

Concerns about the agreement around the Cabinet table were palpable, and the legal advice from Geoffrey Cox was damning.  This was the one chance that the Cabinet had to avert the UK accepting a bad deal.  But when I tried to focus these concerns by calling for a vote to see if this deal did indeed have the agreement of Cabinet, opposition crumbled – and my colleagues fell silent.

In politics, trust is paramount.  Once it is lost you cannot get it back.  Leaving the EU on the terms set out in the Withdrawal Agreement would see us lose public trust on the biggest issue of our age.  And we were risking that trust on an agreement which had zero chance of passing a vote in the Commons.

Even now, I find it hard to believe that my colleagues could not see that this deal was doomed from the outset. Since I left the Cabinet, I have watched with disbelief as events have unfolded – like everyone else.  The attempts to sell this fundamentally bad deal through a full Ministerial tour and PR campaign actually saw opposition harden.  The Government was left with no option this week but to pull the meaningful vote to avoid a defeat of historic proportions.

In her statement on the delay to the vote, the Prime Minister spoke of the need to provide ‘reassurances’ on the backstop for the Northern Irish Border.  This was a major misreading of the concerns which I and many others have over the backstop and of the deal which will see us hand over £39 billion with zero guarantees over a future trade agreement.

The Prime Minister has now won a confidence vote of Parliamentary colleagues, but it is clear there are significant concerns over what remains a bad deal for the UK.  However, rather than using this moment to reassess the Government’s approach to the terms of our exit, the Prime Minister continues to talk about seeking further reassurances.  Mere reassurances fall far short of addressing what is wrong with this deal. We need fundamental changes, including to the legally binding agreement.

The Prime Minister must now do what she should have done when it was clear that the deal she presented to Cabinet did not honour the outcome of the referendum, failed to secure our long term economic independence and risked missing the huge opportunities of leaving the constraints of the European Union.

She must use the clear domestic concerns about the agreement to push for two fundamental changes

  • That the backstop is ultimately unacceptable and must be removed and,
  • That the £39 billion must be linked to a future trade agreement.

The clock is ticking, so we simply do not have the time to pretend that, with a little bit of tinkering, this fundamentally bad deal can be made acceptable to the British people.  The more time we waste on an agreement which cannot meet the wishes of both sides, the more likely it is that we will default to an abrupt departure at the end of March.

t is better to focus our time, resources and energy on preparing a planned Brexit now and to come up with a clear plan for what will follow.  To continue with a charade that tweaking here and there and tacking on assurances will somehow make this flawed agreement better risks the Government failing properly to prepare for what comes next.

With little over three months remaining, we must pursue these two conditions with the EU and, if they are rejected, then we must accept that it has not been possible to secure a deal which satisfies the interests of both the UK and the EU.  In the event of this outcome, we must focus all our resources on securing an orderly exit from the EU.

Moving to a planned Brexit should follow these recommendations to ensure that it is as orderly as possible in the time that we have available:

  • Identify the pragmatic and tactical agreements based upon mutual interest which we can make with the EU and bi-laterally with individual member states to minimise disruption to both parties upon the UK’s exit from the European Union.
  • Put in place the contingency measures that we can begin to implement now, giving clarity to people and businesses. Immediately review all no deal planning conducted to date and scale up planning in key areas before 29 March to allow the UK to mitigate known areas of impact.
  • Negotiate a ‘no deal implementation period’, like the one in place for a deal situation, and pay the EU our membership fee during that time (circa £10 billion a per year net).
  • Identify investments in new systems, such as those in operation at the border which need to be implemented, scaled up or brought forward to support an orderly Brexit.
  • Begin immediate discussions with the Republic of Ireland on the operation of an open border post-Brexit, since both the UK and the Republic have committed to no hard border even in the event of no deal.
  • Start an immediate study of the policy changes needed to ensure the long-term competitiveness of the UK, including the reduction of burdensome regulations on business and, where required, divergence from the EU, while maintaining alignment in areas of national interest.
  • Issue immediate reassurance to all EU nationals residing in the UK to remove any doubts over their future and rights once the UK has left the EU.

Moving to a planned Brexit will allow us to reallocate the £39 billion to implement contingency measures, introduce new systems to ensure long term success and provide a cushion to those areas of the economy which need more time to adjust to the change.

It will also allow us to move beyond the discussion over the flawed backstop arrangement and look for practical solutions for the Northern Irish Border.  The EU has cynically used the backstop to leverage a deal which will allow them to keep the UK tied into their rules indefinitely.  Shifting the focus to a planned Brexit would give a clear focus on the practical arrangements that authorities on both sides of the border need to take to keep the border open.

The current Withdrawal Agreement does not fulfil our vote to leave the EU, is not in our economic interests and, ultimately, its inherent flaws mean that it increases the chances of the UK defaulting into an abrupt no deal Brexit.

It is increasingly clear that an alternative approach is required.  Some have suggested that Norway, ‘Norway for now’, Norway Plus or EFTA/EEA membership could present that alternative, yet this would keep us even more closely tied to the EU and would genuinely ensure that we remain in the EU in all but name. This is not delivering on the referendum and would destroy the public’s faith in democracy.

Without agreement from the EU that it is willing to remove the backstop and accept that the £39 billion payment must be linked to a future trade agreement, a planned and orderly Brexit as outlined above is the only option which prioritises our economic interests, is achievable within the time frame left and which actually delivers on the public vote to leave.

How Dublin ran rings round May on Brexit and the Northern Ireland border

Tony Connelly describes in painful detail the success of Irish negotiators in aligning themselves with the EU27, while leaving the Brits to flounder.

Brexit and Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response by Tony Connelly

Boris Johnson expressed enthusiasm for this book when interviewed the other day by ConHome, though I have just listened to the tape again, and find he must have done so after I turned it off.

We were discussing how much better prepared ministers and officials in Dublin were for Brexit than their opposite numbers in London.

Connelly, who lives in Brussels and has been reporting on Europe for RTE for the last 17 years, unfortunately provides ample evidence for this view. The Irish knew the referendum held on 23rd June 2016 could go either way and prepared accordingly.

I recall hearing a lucid and persuasive speech by Dan Mulhall, then Irish Ambassador in London, now their man in Washington, at an Irish Embassy reception, in which he outlined the devastating effects which Brexit could have not only on the Irish economy, but on relations between the Republic and the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland.

It was plain then that there was a conservative, or Burkean, case for remaining in the EU, as an imperfect accretion of laws and customs which although impossible to defend in strict democratic theory, were in some ways well adapted to the circumstances of Irish and British politics.

At the start of Connelly’s account, the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, tries to warn David Cameron that

“referendums are different to general elections. People don’t fear the consequences of a general election. We have some experience of this kind of thing.”

Dublin had a few years before held a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in order to undo the rejection of it in the first. Micheal Martin, the Leader of Fianna Fail, who ran the campaign in the second referendum, says they learned a lot from their exhaustive research into what went wrong first time round, and realised the message now had to be:

“We’ve heard you, we’ve listened to you, we’ve done the changes because of your message.”

It is not clear the advocates of a second referendum on this side of the Irish Sea have realised they need a message like that. If they are not careful, they will be found to be telling the British people, “We have not listened to you, and consider you to be a lot of ignorant fools who had better now do exactly as we tell you.”

After the British voted for Brexit, Irish ministers became frustrated by jockeying in London between Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis, and the consequent inability to determine the British Government’s position:

“Worse than the jockeying was the fact that they had different messages. That was of no use to us. We were trying to establish what exactly they wanted.”

There had been no preparatory analysis in London of the problems Brexit would pose and the choices which would need to be made. Nor did Irish leaders find, when they met Theresa May, that she was communicative. “She was very, very cautious,” as an Irish official puts it.

At the outset, the Irish expected to solve some difficulties through bilateral talks with the British Government, and others by negotiating as part of the EU 27 with London. But by the end of 2016, as Connelly relates,

“The Irish government was realising that if Irish and European Commission officials were working away diligently, scoping out technical solutions, looking at ways of getting around customs checks and requirements regarding animal health, food safety and rules of origin as a way to soften the Irish border, then the main beneficiary was the UK.

“Having come to this realisation, the Irish undertook a subtle distancing from London. It began at the end of 2016 and was increasingly discernible in the first part of 2017.”

The Irish stopped trying to solve the British Government’s problems, notably over the Northern Ireland border, and instead aligned themselves completely with the EU 27. As Connelly puts it,

“There would be two steps: fully apprising the EU of the complexities of the Northern Ireland peace process, and then turning the Irish position into the European position.”

Michel Barnier already has considerable experience of the complexities of Northern Ireland politics, for as an EU Commissioner he oversaw between 1999 and 2004 “the spending of 531 million euros in EU funding for Northern Ireland under the PEACE II programme, as well as tens of millions of euros in regional and structural payments”.

The EU became a kind of imperial power (not a word used by Connelly), more trusted, or at least more accepted, because it was more remote, and seemed therefore more neutral. Barnier sees himself as a benevolent proconsul: “He spoke fondly about the 13 million euro Peace Bridge in Derry, part funded by Brussels.”

The Irish are brilliant at manipulating the imperial power, while the British, having quite recently been an imperial power themselves, are enraged by its claim of ultimate authority, and have voted to liberate themselves. How one wishes the late lamented T.E.Utley, blind seer of The Daily Telegraph, could bring his wisdom to bear on these paradoxes. Who now in the London press has any understanding of, let alone sympathy with, Ulster Unionism in its various manifestations?

In Brussels, the Irish lobbied Barnier’s Task Force intensively. As a source tells Connelly,

“The Irish had privileged access… For other stakeholders the criteria had to be that it was a pan-European association… The Irish came well prepared, and with a wish-list. They were impressively well prepared… A number of them could have worked for the Task Force straight away.”

The Irish had done their homework, and knew what they wanted. The British had not done their homework, appeared to want to have their cake and eat it, and found themselves steered towards the major problem which emerged in November 2017, when they were told that in order to avoid a hard border, Northern Ireland will have to remain de facto inside the single market and the customs union.

Connelly’s book is almost 400 pages long, first appeared in 2017 and was updated in May this year. It contains some vivid reporting about the threat posed by Brexit to the Irish beef, lamb, milk, cheese, fish, mushroom, duck and racing industries. For the general reader, it contains too much.

From September 2017, “gruelling sessions” were held in Brussels to examine how the 142 different dimensions to North-South co-operation on the island of Ireland relate, if at all, to EU law. Even to read about this stuff is quite gruelling. As a reporter, one has to get to grips with at least some of the detail, then cultivate people who are prepared to tell one what it all means, and Connelly clearly has an admirable range of Irish and Brussels sources.

For the British reader, it is painful to be reminded at such length that under May’s insultingly opaque leadership, our Government has never worked out how to operate as a team, for a long time did not get to grips with the detail, and then did not realise what it meant, or at least refused to be candid about what it meant, until very late in the day, and is in many ways not being candid now.

The trouble with not being candid with the wider world is that there is then a temptation not even to be candid with oneself.

14 December 2018 – today’s press release

Curiously, only one press release today, so without further ado… ‘Nebulous’ is but one word to describe the PM Responding to the Prime Minister’s press conference, held after EU leaders withdrew sections of its draft conclusions, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said: Having watched the Prime Minister’s botched attempt to negotiate with EU leaders, […]

Curiously, only one press release today, so without further ado…

‘Nebulous’ is but one word to describe the PM

Responding to the Prime Minister’s press conference, held after EU leaders withdrew sections of its draft conclusions, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

Having watched the Prime Minister’s botched attempt to negotiate with EU leaders, people up and down the country will be more concerned by Brexit than ever before.

To come before EU leaders without any documented proposals is galling. Calling the Prime Minister ‘nebulous’ is just one word to describe her.

Brexit will make people poorer and reduce the UK’s standing in the world. It is time Theresa May, and Jeremy Corbyn for that matter, realised the only way out of this mess is a People’s Vote, including the option to remain in the EU.

For the Many End of Year Awards: Your Nominations Please…

On Sunday Jacqui Smith and I are recording two podcasts for the Christmas/New Year period, and we’d like your help. 

For the Many postcard

We’d like you to recommend subjects for us to talk about for our Review of the Year, but also to nominate winners for our For the Many Podcast End of Year Awards. Categories are below. Please leave your nominations in the comments.

 

Politician of the Year

Minister of the Year

Shadow Minister

Worst Minister

Worst Shadow Minister

Conservative MP

Labour MP

Other MP

MP to watch

Minister to watch

Shadow minister to watch

Peer

Achievement of the year

Resignation or sacking of the year

Confrontation of the year

Loser of the year

Political Journalist

Newspaper

Publication

Book

Commentator

Columnist

Broadcaster

Political TV Show

Political Radio Show

Scoop of the year

Interview of the year

Best interviewer

Lobby group

Political campaign

Communicator

SPAD

Campaigner

Best Speech

Worst speech

Pressure Group

Think Tank

Humorist/Satirist

Blogger

Tweeter

News source

Best International politician

Worst international politician

Moment of the year

Gaffe of the year

Bogeyman

Sexiest male politician

Sexiest female politician

Scottish politician

Welsh politician

Northern Irish politician

WTF moment

If you haven’t subscribed to the For the Many podcast you can do so on whichever platform you download your podcasts from.

The Awards episode will be launched on Sunday 23 December and the Review of the Year goes up on Sunday 30 December.

 

 

On Sunday Jacqui Smith and I are recording two podcasts for the Christmas/New Year period, and we'd like your help. 

For the Many postcard

We'd like you to recommend subjects for us to talk about for our Review of the Year, but also to nominate winners for our For the Many Podcast End of Year Awards. Categories are below. Please leave your nominations in the comments.

 

Politician of the Year

Minister of the Year

Shadow Minister

Worst Minister

Worst Shadow Minister

Conservative MP

Labour MP

Other MP

MP to watch

Minister to watch

Shadow minister to watch

Peer

Achievement of the year

Resignation or sacking of the year

Confrontation of the year

Loser of the year

Political Journalist

Newspaper

Publication

Book

Commentator

Columnist

Broadcaster

Political TV Show

Political Radio Show

Scoop of the year

Interview of the year

Best interviewer

Lobby group

Political campaign

Communicator

SPAD

Campaigner

Best Speech

Worst speech

Pressure Group

Think Tank

Humorist/Satirist

Blogger

Tweeter

News source

Best International politician

Worst international politician

Moment of the year

Gaffe of the year

Bogeyman

Sexiest male politician

Sexiest female politician

Scottish politician

Welsh politician

Northern Irish politician

WTF moment

If you haven't subscribed to the For the Many podcast you can do so on whichever platform you download your podcasts from.

The Awards episode will be launched on Sunday 23 December and the Review of the Year goes up on Sunday 30 December.

 

 

Labour has forgotten its eurosceptic heritage and left the working classes behind

Labour’s autumn political broadcast Our Town told viewers “we lost control” and “we’ve been sold short by a political and economic system that has been unchallenged for far too long.” Labour’s bait-and-switch broadcast was a clear attempt to reconnect with blue-collar Leavers in marginal English seats. Yet these voters are amongst those most alienated by Labour […]

The post Labour has forgotten its eurosceptic heritage and left the working classes behind appeared first on BrexitCentral.

Labour’s autumn political broadcast Our Town told viewers “we lost control” and “we’ve been sold short by a political and economic system that has been unchallenged for far too long.” Labour’s bait-and-switch broadcast was a clear attempt to reconnect with blue-collar Leavers in marginal English seats.

Yet these voters are amongst those most alienated by Labour as it cartwheels over the horizon to the left, turns its back on 70% of all Labour constituencies and elopes with the elitist ‘People’s Vote’ campaign.

Indeed the neglect of Labour’s Eurosceptic tradition shows the party has left its erstwhile working-class supporters behind.

Activists at Labour’s Annual Conference in Liverpool who agitated for a ‘People’s Vote’ seemed oblivious to their party’s history of opposition to the European Project.

The first post-war Labour government opposed participation in the European Coal and Steel Community. Labour Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin said: “If you open that Pandora’s Box you never know what Trojan Horses will jump out.” Labour Deputy Prime Minister Herbert Morrison said of the Community: “It is no good, the Durham miners will not wear it.”

Former Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee summed up Labour’s antipathy to ‘ever closer union’ when he observed: “The idea of a politically integrated Europe is historically looking backward… We have always looked outward, out to the new world, and to Asia and Africa.”

Attlee’s successor Hugh Gaitskell told the 1962 Labour Party Conference the aim of the founding fathers was federation” and “if we go into this, we are no more than a state, as it were, in the United States of Europe, such as Texas or California.” This meant “the end of Britain as an independent nation state” and the “end of a thousand years of history”.

Tony Benn called for a referendum on entry in 1970 and wrote to his constituents: “It would be a very curious thing to try to take Britain into a new political entity… by a process that implied that the British public were unfit to see its historic importance for themselves.”

Harold Wilson was forced to seek a renegotiation of Britain’s Community membership and called the European Communities Referendum of 1975. The Parliamentary Labour Party had previously voted against joining. Labour’s Conference had split two-to-one against the Common Market. Seven Cabinet members campaigned as ‘Antis’ and Wilson’s wife Mary voted out.

And under Michael Foot, Labour advocated leaving the Common Market without a referendum, a policy that subsequently became a manifesto pledge.

Fast forward to the present and the Sunday Times reported recently that Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Member of Parliament for 58% Leave-supporting Hayes and Harlington, had held secret talks with the ‘People’s Vote’ campaign and has hosted Alastair Campbell and ‘People’s Vote’ Communications Director Tom Baldwin in his House of Commons office.

National director of Momentum Laura Parker attended a rally in November in support of a second referendum.

Then The Times discovered a motion that is being circulated among Constituency Labour Parties calling for a Special Conference with one motion on the agenda for a ‘People’s Vote’ with Remain as an option.

It is ironic that the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn is slowly moving towards their third-way Blairite doppelgängers on a second referendum.

Then again, why wouldn’t they? They are equally worlds apart from these totemic figures of post-war Labour history in having no attachment to parliamentary sovereignty and little real connection to Britain’s working-class communities.

Labour is now a very different party from what it once was. The very notion of Labour as a party for blue-collar voters is a social, cultural and electoral anachronism.

Firstly, when Labour talks about “Our Town” it doesn’t really have in mind the sociology of Leave-voting Macclesfield or Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland. Labour’s imaginary ‘town’ is the parallel universe of ‘high status city dwellers’ and faux left opinion formers living in metropolitan London.

Labour is politically dependent on the metropolis. In the six months following Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, 81,000 Londoners joined his party, double Labour’s total membership in Wales. Corbyn, Starmer, Thornberry and McDonnell all sit for London constituencies (two in the London Borough of Islington alone).

They share the same geographically narrow worldview as that of Stronger In whose four principle staffers grew up in London within two square miles of each other. Two went to the same school. One was the son of a Labour Home Secretary and another was Lord Mandelson’s Godchild.

And whereas in the 1970s less than a third of Labour MPs were graduates, now 90% are. When the mask slips, it reveals a prejudice about working-class Leave voters such as when Huddersfield’s Labour MP Barry Sheerman claimed “better educated people” voted Remain and when Owen Jones talks about ‘gammons’.

Secondly, Corbyn’s bien pensant ‘Global Villager’ values don’t resonate in the Brexitlands of Wales, the Midlands and the North. Harold Wilson told Bernard Donoghue: “I don’t want too many of these Guardianisms. I want my speeches always to include what working people are concerned with.”

Yet the modern left’s disillusionment with the workers has become a post-Brexit antipathy. The social democracy of earlier generations has given way to identity politics, a political style that increasingly inflects the voice of Continuity Remain.

Consequently, the pro-EU left can’t understand blue-collar political interest in sovereignty and democratic oversight of our laws, borders, trade and money.

Thirdly, the ‘peak Corbyn’ electoral coalition was beaten by the Conservatives in C2DE vote share, prompting the New Statesman to write of Labour’s middle-class populism: “the property tycoons of Chelsea must be congratulating themselves for having seen off a threat to their children’s inheritances.”

Former Vote Leave Co-Chair and former Labour MP Gisela Stuart did her party a service when she said Brexit was a “wake-up call” to Labour. But the party’s Remainist ‘People’s Vote’ tendency would re-empower the ‘lobbyists, multinationals and Brussels elites’ Labour Leavers voted to dispossess.

Indeed, according to the British Social Attitudes survey, before the Brexit victory, nearly one in two workers felt ‘people like them’ no longer had a voice in the national conversation and Brexit won in 140 heavily working-class and historically Labour districts.

Flirting with the elitist ‘People’s Vote’ is therefore potentially disastrous for many Labour MPs. A recent IQR survey for Global Britain of the 25 most marginal Labour seats found 19 Labour candidates would face defeat if Labour attempted to frustrate Brexit and 63% of voters said MP’s decisions in Parliament should respect the result.

Labour should heed the advice of UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis who recently told Labour’s leadership to “never, ever forget your base.” Supporting a coup against five million or so of the party’s Leave voters would reinforce the perception that those who voted to take back control in the referendum would stand to lose the most control, in the political and cultural sense, from a Labour government that will only speak for Remoania.

Ironically, Labour’s Eurosceptic tradition was channelled by Vote Leave in its referendum broadcast featuring images of Clement Attlee and Nye Bevan in which voters were asked to “imagine our money being spent on out priorities”, which we could do if we voted to taken back control.

By contrast, Labour’s Our Town is part of the “give back control agenda” of a party that has long forgotten the people it was founded to represent.

The post Labour has forgotten its eurosceptic heritage and left the working classes behind appeared first on BrexitCentral.