Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Yes. There Already Is An Anti-Brexit Centrist Party

Last night, Tuesday, a journalist for the Economist, Jeremy Cliffe accidently started a political party” as he put it.

His call for interest in a “new anti-Brexit party with transformative social-liberal policies”.  Response came thick and fast.   As Jeremy observed:
 
"In the absence of responsible leadership from the Conservatives, effective opposition from Labour and a distinctive, compelling offer from the Liberal Democrats people are ready for something new. It is clear that there is a great opportunity here."

There have been several other people propose a new anti-Brexit centrist party in recent months. James Chapman, Jolyon Maugham QC, Chris Formaggia and Chris Coghlan to name just four.

But there is only one party that has been registered with the Electoral Commission.  "The Just Political Party."  That's Just is as in Social Justice. The party has two key aims:
1.    A Thriving Economy
2.    For a Caring Society

It is also anti-Brexit, as Brexit threatens the economy and therefore would starve the NHS and other public services of funds.  Further details are here and on the website.

As such The Just Party is a social-liberal party, filling the gap between the LibDems on the centre left and the Conservatives.  A true centrist party that closely matches where the majority of voters would place themselves on the left-right political spectrum, as indicated by the lines from a ComRes poll:



What the Just Party has lacked is a well-known and charismatic leader to gain publicity, and the consequent backing to make it a success.   By combining forces we can have a successful anti-Brexit centrist party.  Let's do it!


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Brexit. When Do We Need a Second Referendum?

Last year we had a Referendum on Brexit.  What mandate did it provide?  Is a new mandate needed?  When?

The Leave side aid it would be a “quick and easy” route to the sunlit uplands with more money for the NHS.  Reality is quite the opposite.  Negotiations have stalled, discussions of a trade deal still haven’t started with EU nor any other country, and the economic impact is likely to mean less money for the NHS.

On the other hand the Remain side exaggerated the likely impact of a Brexit vote in “Project Fear”.  Nonetheless there has been a dramatic drop in sterling’s value, prompting an unwanted rise in inflation, and the UK’s growth has dropped below the rest of the EU.  There is now the real prospect of a recession after actually leaving, unless something dramatic happens in the EU talks.

Leavers such as John Redwood led us to believe the UK had the stronger hand, as EU27 stood to lose more than UK if there wasn’t a good deal.  Unfortunately this overlooked that the EU have a trump card.  The EU have long said that they value keeping the EU27 together more than the loss of exports to Britain.  Whilst this position is maintained, the UK have little leverage in the talks.

Where does that leave the UK?  There is now open discussion of “no deal”, where the UK crashes out of the EU in March 2019.  That’s too soon to make adequate preparations, and would cost a fortune.    Here is a very clear statement of the implications, far more than just economic.

Last year’s referendum gave a mandate for the “quick and easy” vision.  It’s difficult to believe that many people voted with any real expectation of “no deal”.   So there is no clear mandate for "no deal".

Legally, it looks like the Article 50 notification can be unilaterally withdrawn, so the UK stays in the EU.   In any case it looks like the EU would welcome this, so remaining is a realistic option.
So far the UK has been divided.  The polls, though are now showing less support for Brexit.

Last year's referendum was based on fantasy predictions from both sides. A new mandate is required based on the reality we see.. To leave under any arrangement (and at any cost) or to remain.  When?  ASAP.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

What If “No Deal” Had Been In The Brexit Referendum Question?

Today's Sunday Telegraph front page
This coming week is the next round of negotiations between the UK and EU over Brexit.  There has yet to be any agreement on the three key negotiation topics so far.  The European Parliament has just voted that there has not been “sufficient progress” in the talks to move on to discussing the future relationship, including any trade deal.

A “major breakthrough” is needed this coming week.  The chances of that are slim, so media talk has moved to there being “No Deal”.  What if that had been the Leave option in last year’s referendum?

What if the two referendum questions had been:
1.    Leave the European Union with no deal
2.    Remain in the European Union?

Certainly all the Leave talk before the referendum was of a deal with the EU.  The possibility of “no deal” was barely discussed.

We could have debated what “no deal” would mean.  This includes:
  • No trading agreements with any other country, until they are put in place, as discussed below
  • No arrangements for Brits to travel to, work or retire in any of the EU27 countries.  Uncertainty for any Brits already in EU27.
  • No arrangements for EU27 citizens in the UK, which is already causing massive uncertainty for people in the NHS and across the economy from baristas to senior professionals.
  • Suspension of collaborations for science, aviation, security and many other key areas
  • Need to create agencies to cover administration topics currently shared with the EU27.  Costly and could take years to put in place to operate properly
  • No acceptable solution to the land border in Ireland, whoch is one of the top three issues in the initial negotiations

On trading, the thought has been that the UK would ‘simply’ fall back on WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules.  But these are highly complex where amongst other things the EU28 quotas on each product would need to be split between the UK and EU27.  The first foray into this area has just been rejected by the USA and New Zealand amongst others, with whom there has been hope for full-scale trade deals.  Not a good start.  Without WTO agreement there is simply no agreement, and agreement could take years to cover all the different products.  Agreement will also need to be made for trade with the EU!

The Port of Dover has highlighted that the delay in processing each goods lorry would mean “Operation Stack” would become the norm.  Many products are either perishable or part of a “just-in-time” supply chain. Delay would create major problems, and probably make many trades unviable.

Solving the delay problem requires major investment in infrastructure and IT systems.  But not just at UK ports.  Continental European and Irish ports too. Who is going to pay for that?  When if at all?

In the meantime the economic impact could be enormous. Importers and exporters could in many cases have to cease trading, with impact onto all their local suppliers and customers.  Difficult to assess, but those in the know suggest “no deal” would be economic suicide.

That view may or not be exaggerated. But if that’s a possibility, certainly “no deal” is not an option to be taken lightly.  Yet it was not discussed with any prominence before the referendum.

The referendum was 52:48 where the assumption was that there would be a deal.  If the question was “Leave with no deal” it is difficult to imagine that result.  Maybe no better than 30:70, with a clear win for Remain.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

Firstly the referendum does not give the UK Government a clear mandate to leave without a deal.

Secondly there needs to be a second referendum as soon as it is clear that “no deal” is likely.
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The question is how to achieve this politically?

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Brexit. What If No Longer “The Will of the People”?

What if it is no longer the “Will of the People” for the UK to Leave the EU?  What should happen then?

The referendum in June last year gave UK voters a simple choice.  Leave or Remain.  Leave won by a slender 52:48.

One argument is that the people had their say.  It is up to the Government to deliver Leave, in whatever form, come what may.

The other argument is that the result was only a ‘starting gun’ and developments should be kept under review.  If arrangements to leave are going well, and polls suggest public support, then fine.  That is still the “Will of the People”.  But what if one or more of these is happening?
  • What if the vision of Brexit that was sold is not going to be achieved? 
  • What if opinion polls are clearly against the type of Brexit that is on the cards?
  • What if the economic impact is not £350m a week more for the NHS, but less?  
We are now in that position where all three look to be happening.  Surely then the Government, or at least the MPs in Parliament as our democratically elected representatives, should call a halt?

A new deal with the EU was going to be quick and easy.  Some said the UK would stay in the Single Market.  Certainly nobody was proposing to leave without a deal.  But after four rounds of negotiations have failed to produce any substantial agreement, and trade talks will not start until they do, a “no deal” is very much on the cards.

Whilst polls asking “Leave or Remain” have moved in favour of Remain, what’s more striking is people’s attitudes to a “no deal”.  The latest poll suggests a clear 5 to 3 against a “no deal”.

The Treasury suggests “no deal” would produce a significant hit to the nation’s coffers, perhaps £15 billion a year.  That’s less money available for the NHS.

It’s clear that “no deal” is no longer the “Will of the People”.  Nor is it in the national interest.

This is an urgent matter.  We’re already seeing banks and other businesses move operations and jobs abroad.  Businesses are having to close down due to Brexit weakening the pound and increasing  their costs.  That was stated as a key reason behind Monarch’s closure yesterday, compounded by a rescue deal being prevented by the uncertainties about Brexit.

MPs should make a stand as our democratically-elected representatives.  The sooner the better to stop such losses.  Here’s how.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

How and When Will Anti-Brexit MPs Rebel?

Fifteen months ago Leave won the referendum by 52:48 over the UK remaining in the EU.  Debate still rages about the legitimacy of that referendum.  But most of the MPs who campaigned for Remain accepted the result, albeit still believing Brexit is not in the national interest.

As a result, six months ago MPs voted for the Article 50 notification to the EU that the UK wished to withdraw.

Now it is looking increasingly likely that there will be “no deal” and the UK will crash out of the EU as early as March 2019 and become a “third country” to the EU.   That would that mean extra paperwork and delays for importers and exporters across the Channel and Irish border, especially painful for the movement of foodstuffs and other perishables. The UK would also lose the EU’s trade deals with other countries, depending how quickly replacements can be put in place.  Chaos for years, and an inevitable seriously negative impact on the economy.

At what point will MPs grasp the seriousness of that prospect and say “stop”?  How will they do so?

WHERE WE ARE IN THE NEGOTIATIONS

There has now been four rounds of negotiations between the UK and EU since the A50 notification.  Three key issues have been on the table and none of them have been resolved.  Indeed the EU have stated that there has not been adequate progress on any of them to go onto the next stage of discussing a future trading relationship.  Time is running out and the two sides seem to be as far apart as ever.

The overall situation was suitably summarised by Michel Barnier, leading negotiations for the EU, in a speech he made in July.  Theresa May’s recent speech in Florence may have improved the tone of the negotiations, but that has not yet been enough.

Furthermore, fifteen months on from the referendum and the UK has still not put a credible proposal in place for how the future relationship would work.  A key issue is letting the UK control its borders instead of the Free Movement of People that the EU requires.   Can this be resolved to get a deal?  It’s looking unlikely.

WHAT DOES THE COUNTRY THINK? 

The indication from polls is that there might be a small shift so that Remain might just beat Leave if the referendum were to be re-run.  Certainly a preference for Remain compared to "No Deal". But more important is what’s behind this.  As Labour MP Angela reports from the doorsteps of her constituency that voted Leave “...there were voters who just wanted Brexit. They told me they didn’t care what it looked like or how many jobs it cost. But such attitudes were significantly outnumbered by those who made it clear they didn’t want Brexit to damage the country or their own living standards. One could feel, in fact, a sense of dismay in relation to the government’s handling of the Article 50 process so far.”  That concern is echoed right across the country by those who voted Leave or Remain, whatever the colour of their politics.

Professor Chris Grey has said "... just about everybody with any knowledge of what Brexit means, and just about everyone who has to take responsibility for dealing with it, is opposed to it. Whilst just about everybody who supports it does not have the responsibility for delivering it or the knowledge needed to do so." It’s a matter of dogma versus pragmatism.  Dogma is currently winning in government, but we must be more pragmatic in the national interest.


SO WHAT NEXT?

The UK government has just declined a second referendum, despite a petition of well over the 100,000 threshold for considering a debate.

It is up to MPs to lead the country on our behalf.  That is what they were democratically elected to do. The referendum result was a ‘starting gun', not a blank cheque to crash out of the EU.

Progress against the vision for which the people voted should be kept under review.  If the vision is not achievable, and a second referendum is not happening, shouldn’t MPs act accordingly?

How? There is already a cross-party MPs’ group called the “APPG on EU Relations”  that is campaigning for the best deal for Brexit, specifically to stop a “no deal”.  This is led by Chuka Umunna from Labour and Anna Soubry from Conservatives with parliamentarians from other parties.

The Labour Party has just held its conference, and ducked the issue of Brexit. Officially Labour still backs a vision of Brexit very similar to what the Government is pursuing.   But many Labour MPs are against that, and at the very least believe the UK should stay in the Single Market and Customs Union, even if that means continuing Free Movement of People.

A similar situation exists in the Conservative party.  As their conference starts, there is a ‘life boat’ option for MPs and others who do not support a “no deal” scenario and who would call themselves “compassionate Conservatives” nearer the centre of the left-right spectrum.  That is to form a new party in coalition with like-minded MPs and supporters in Labour:



The new party would be to the right of the LibDems which supports a rather socialist agenda, and would be unacceptable to most Conservatives.  It also would more closely match where ComRes found most voters placed themselves on the left-right spectrum:


It takes at least a couple of months to register and get approval for a new political party.  The Just Party is already registered and stands ready to be the ‘vehicle’ for the new group.

If you believe in this vision, do donate to the cause so we can better promote that vision. Up to £500 can be donated by anyone anywhere without your identity being made public..

In any case, do tell MPs who you think would be interested in making such a stand against Brexit in the national interest.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Brexit: Shouldn’t The Future Relationship Be Defined First?

Isn’t the EU putting the cart before the horse?  Surely we need to at least define the essence of the future relationship first?

That would define:
  1. How trading will work
  2. What affect that would have on people and their freedoms, both Brits in EU27 and EU27 citizens in Britain
  3. Impact on Irish border
  4. Any ongoing financial contributions the UK would make

The EU are trying to cover points 2-4 without covering point 1, the future relationship on trading.

Yet Article 50(2) of the Lisbon Treaty specifically says "...setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union...".  This acknowledges that withdrawal arrangements can only be made if at least the “framework” of the future relationship has been defined.

Businesses and governments, both sides of the English Channel, also need clarity on how trading is supposed to work:
  • To make strategic business decisions, such as where to site offices and factories
  • To design systems and processes, and then build them
Theresa May has asked for an implementation period of around two-years after the withdrawal agreement has been made and confirmed by all concerned.  That is the minimum needed to put new systems and processes in place.

Any Brexiter demanding that the UK leaves immediately or more quickly than Theresa has proposed is asking for chaos.  Not only for cross-border trade and passport control, but the UK also needs to set up various bodies which are currently covered by Brussels.

But most importantly business needs a good idea of how Brexit will work as soon as possible.

The EU must allow the future relationship to be discussed as soon as possible, so the “framework” is agreed and understood quickly.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Florence. In Which Theresa Tries To Slay The Unicorn

Today Theresa May spoke about the UK Government's vision for Brexit. A little later the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier issued a statement in response.  Has she slayed the 'unicorn' of the UK wishing for he impossible, having its cake and eating it? Let's look at each statement in turn.



THERESA'S SPEECH



I listened to Theresa May talking, live.  Her tone of voice as much as the actual words. First what was good:

  1. The overall tone was to work with the EU's negotiators for common benefit.  Gone were the strident, aggressive tones of Government representatives that have hindered the talks so far.
  2. Negotiations work best when the other side's position is understood. She specifically acknowledged that freedom of movement of people (FOM) is a fundamental requirement of the single market, and that the same trading benefits cannot be expected without the same obligations.  The new relationship outside the EU requires a new balance.
  3. She displayed a new pragmatism, especially the need for a transition period to give businesses and governments both sides of the channel time to implement the agreed post-Brexit arrangements.  Around two years was suggested.  

Two years is tight if major border and trading changes are required, and assumes sufficient detail of the new relationship is known by March 2019. Technically under article 50(2) of the Lisbon Treaty, only the withdrawal agreement and future framework would need to be finalised by then, with further detail on the future relationship potentially taking years to negotiate.  The devil's in the detail in such matters.



She also made a few specific points, especially on the three key negotiation issues that have stalled:

(1) There should be no hard border in Ireland, and nothing else to undermine the Good Friday agreement.

(2) EU27 nationals currently in UK are welcome and valued under current terms.  "Italian Continental Stores" happens to be in the heart of her constituency.

(3) Money will be available to plug any hole in EU finances, presumably during the transition period but no longer.

So far so good.  The unicorn wounded, but not slain.  

But she also said that UK must be able to control its borders.  That's what she believes was meant by the Leave vote.  For some voters it was, but for others it was more about striking further distance from the EU's intent on becoming the United States of Europe.   Fact is though, as Home Secretary she could not properly control immigration.  Being able to do so is a key factor behind her conversion from Remain campaigner to leading Brexit.

So to achieve no FOM she asks for a "creative" trading arrangement.  One that recognises the depth of the existing trading relationship, and so not like Norway nor Canada. Something new.

But she made no proposal for how that trading arrangement might look, or at least not one she is prepared to outline in public.  A vision with no clear means of achievement after all these months.  

Sadly the unicorn stands proud!

BARNIER's RESPONSE

Firstly he acknowledged Theresa's "constructive spirit which is also the spirit of the EU". He will entertain the idea of a transition period, but on EU's' terms.

Unsurprisingly he wants some "concrete" proposals on the various items.  After all it is the UK requesting to leave whilst somehow retaining a partnership.

The key issue is his brief from the EU27 to not discuss the future relationship before the existing issues such as the Irish border have been resolved.  But this is fundamentally wrong for two reasons
(1) Article 50(2) of Lisbon Treaty specifically says "...setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union..."
(2) Because the framework for the future relationship can provide the key to major withdrawal issues, such as the Irish border and monies

IN CONCLUSION

The unicorn still stands proud. The UK is still after on ongoing relationship that doesn't look achievable.

There are two key issues, one on each side, that make negotiations difficult:
(1) EU's insistence on deferring talk of ongoing arrangements when these could help resolve the withdrawal issues
(2) UK's insistence on controlling borders, without any proposal for a workable trading relationship. Probably because there isn't one that doesn't cross the EU's red lines that Theresa acknowledged today.

The EU must agree to talking about the ongoing relationship soon.   Logically the ongoing relationship should be in place before the withdrawal agreement, as article 50(2) implies.   Indeed the steps should be:
  1. Framework for future relationship (with detail to follow)
  2. Any transition arrangement
  3. Any remaining withdrawal issues
The EU is putting the cart before the horse, and that must change. 

But that still leaves the UK's FOM issue of border control.

It's like border control is the tail wagging the UK dog.  The conundrum is that Leave won because of that topic, but with it there is no clear solution to future trading and the Irish border.

Nevertheless, border control does not justify holding the negotiations to ransom:

  1. Net immigration has been consistently below non-EU migration which is fully controlled.  Employers that need workers will get dispensation anyway. Border control of EU27 nationals is therefore somewhat of a red herring.
    2. Reciprocation will mean Brits will no longer have the freedoms to live, work, travel and retire to EU countries, nor to move between them.  That is a big loss.



I can see no settlement without border control being dropped.  If explained properly in the terms above, the majority of Brits should support it.  But that would make a mockery of the need for Brexit, and leave many people still disappointed.



How about simply walking away with no deal?  Whilst the UK government still says they would do it, everyone knows they can't.  The economic consequences would be too bad, with a massive hit to public finances.  Governments don't do that.  That's why Theresa effectively pleaded with the EU27 to work together to avoid that possibility.



That then leaves only two pragmatic options:

  1. Proceed with a "soft Brexit" in which trading continues similarly to currently, with all four FOMs.
  2. Brexit is cancelled, and UK continues with MEPs



Personally I'd support either, but would be interested in a soft Brexit if well constructed. Some ideas here.

In the meantime the UK is still chasing that unicorn of an ongoing trading arranegement similar to today's but with border control.



Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Project Fear versus Project Unicorn. What Now?

Inflation up since Brexit vote
Last year we had a referendum between 'Project Fear' for Remain and 'Project Unicorn' for Leave.  Lies, half-truths and general forecasts on both sides.  The result reflected what enough people believed and hoped, both in their head and their heart.

Fifteen months on we have 'Project Reality' that's showing a very different picture.  Forecasts on both sides haven't turned out to be correct, Do we need a new vote to confirm that people want to continue with Brexit, or otherwise stop it?
  • Negotiations with the EU are not going quickly and easily as Leave supporters suggested. The UK does not hold all the cards. In particular the German car industry has again just confirmed that keeping the EU27 together is more important than their UK export market.  That means no special treatment for the UK.
  • Sterling has devalued 15-20% against major currencies in which the UK's imports of food, clothes and other products are purchased.  The result is general inflation now running at 2.9%, but food in the shops showing 10%-15% increase or more on many imported products.
  • Some investment into the UK.  But an increasing list of companies like Chubb and many in financial services planning to move their operations to continental Europe or Eire.  That's jobs lost.
  • Concern about collaborations like EURATOM and Open Skies that are non-political, and don't need the UK to have MEPs
  • Jobless figures improving but average earnings dropping. Coupled with rising inflation, that's squeezing the disposable income of most households in Britain.  That spells trouble.  Strikes in prisons and binmen in Birmingham may just be the start.
Most of these issues can be reversed by remaining in the EU, or at least remaining in the Single Market and Customs Union for economic purposes.
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So what do the people of Britain think now?  The referendum last year should be respected but was marginal and only a 'starting gun'.  What about those people in Labour heartlands who voted Leave in the hope of economic improvement, but are seeing their personal financial position getting worse?

It is clear we need another vote before proceeding any further with Brexit, by next Spring 2018 latest.  Voting on the final deal in 2019 is too late.  Businesses will have already pressed contingency plan buttons, and there will be no time for businesses and government departments to change their systems and processes.

So how to achieve a new vote?  It needs political change.  Every government aims for growth in the economy and more jobs.  This government is risking both. The best forecasters are expecting an economic hit.  Less tax receipts, more squeeze on the NHS and other public services.

So here's an invitation to MPs on all sides who understand the risks the UK is taking to join forces to take a more pragmatic approach to the UK's future in the various pan-European initiatives.



Sunday, 10 September 2017

Anti-Brexit. March and Protest. There Needs To Be Political Change Too

Photo by Christopher Dale
Yesterday was the PeoplesMarch4EU.  Well over 10 thousand people marched through central London from Hyde Park to Parliament Square.  Not just those who are pro-EU adorned in EU flags, but many others who are anti-Brexit.  Another demonstration is planned for the Conservative Party conference in Manchester in October.

Great.  They highlight the depth of feeling to remain in the EU.  But when was the last time a march changed government policy?

A far more fundamental change is needed in Parliament.  MPs from all parties who believe the country is headed for an economic disaster if we leave the Single Market and Customs Union (SM/CU) need to unite behind a new banner.  That may mean a #Half Brexit, or a complete #HaltBrexit.

The vote on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill tomorrow, Monday, is their first chance as the Bill makes its way through the Commons and the Lords. 

Many of these MPs within Labour were supporters of New Labour and are not Corbynistas.  Likewise there are Compassionate Conservatives who do not like their party’s swing to the right. 

After all, the vast majority of voters regard themselves in the centre, as the two lines below show (upper line all electorate, lower line voters, per ComRes poll late 2014).  As we heard this morning on Marr “the centre ground of British politics needs to rediscover its traction”.

Why not the LibDems?  There are very few Conservative MPs and supporters who would move to the LibDems.  The party’s background is from the left, and Sir Vince Cable’s recent leadership has underlined the party’s socialist credentials.  That is too far to the left as shown above.


A new party is required properly in the centre that would attract MPs and supporters from both the Labour and Conservative parties.  That would achieve a size and influence the LibDems have not achieved, nor will ever achieve.


The only centrist anti-Brexit party already registered with the Electoral Commission is The Just Party, shown above in cyan (light blue).  We can contest an election even if called as early as tomorrow. We therefore extend an invitation to everyone who shares our vision to join us.  Further details are here.


There's probably over a hundred MPs whose heart would back The Just Party's views on Brexit and politics generally, who just need a catalyst to come together.  Maybe the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is that catalyst.

If you were thinking of funding the demonstration in Manchester, then by all means do so. But if you really want change, then do help fund The Just Party and spread the word as well.  Here’s our GoFundMe site.

Let’s do it!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Is It Going Down The Right Path?

As Brexit rumbles on, the Commons in Parliament is today debating the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, followed by further debate and a vote on Monday.  Is the UK really going down the right path?

Outside Parliament, the majority of the debate is economic and about the risks that apply to Brexit.  Should the UK remain a member of the Single Market and Customs Union? Is that more important than restricting Freedom of Movement of People, either into the UK from the EU or indeed restricting how Brits can move around Europe?

The financial numbers at risk are huge, whether you believe the forecasts or not.  The Labour campaign for staying in the Single Market notes “the Treasury estimate that moving from the "soft" Brexit of the European Economic Area (EEA) to the "hard" Brexit of a Canadian-type deal is estimated to cost an additional £16 billion each year [in tax revenues], and that if the UK defaults to WTO trade rules, then the annual tax loss may be as high as £45 billion (four times the annual public expenditure on English GPs).

There’s then concern about specific pan-European collaborations.  Scientific research, air travel, security and several other collaborations.

But virtually nobody is saying that the UK should remain in the EU to become one of the United States of Europe, nor to adopt the Euro.  Yet that is the direction the EU is taking us.

Last June the UK electorate was given just two options in the Referendum, Leave or Remain.  Many people struggled with that choice.  We are a proud nation with an independent history.  A significant proportion of people, both Leavers and Remainers, want European trade and collaboration to continue but want to keep more of a distance from the EU's federal ambitions.

Indeed, the official policies of both the Conservatives and Labour are to negotiate a deal with the EU to preserve the benefits of the Single Market and Customs Union whilst losing some of the constraints, notably:
  • Control over the movement of people and
  • Being able to negotiate the UK’s own trade deals with other countries
The EU has made it clear that allowing the benefits of membership without being a member is not acceptable.  Even the German Motor Industry has said that preserving the EU27 is more important than their exports to the UK.   The EU simply won’t allow such a 'have cake and eat it' arrangement.

In any case, if nothing else our experience of negotiating with the much larger EU is how little leverage the UK has. That might be enough leverage when negotiating with say Australia, with whom we already do business anyway.  But the UK would have no clout with the US, China, India and the other emerging economies with much larger populations.  Those deals wold be bigger and more important.  A reasonable conclusion is we can negotiate far better deals as part of the might of the EU than the UK can do alone.  So the UK being able to negotiate its own trade deals looks to be more of a disadvantage.

As to movement of people, net immigration from outside the EU, which the UK already ‘controls’ has been running higher than net EU migration for years.  This is according to the official ONS statistics graphed below. What real difference would applying the same level of ‘control’ actually have?  Indeed, applying equivalent control seems to be a ‘red herring’.

'Controlled' net migration from non-EU higher than 'uncontrolled' from EU
When it is clear that Brits will have reciprocal controls over how we can live, work, retire and travel around Europe, restricting the movement of people is actually undesirable. That's supported by a recent poll that suggests people would prefer to remain in the Single Market, which would require keeping FOMP over restricting freedom of movement by 2 to 1.

We also have the knotty problem of the border in Ireland between Eire and Northern Ireland.  That would be the only land border between the UK and the EU.  Freedom of movement of goods, services and people across that border is a key part of the Good Friday peace agreement, which would otherwise be put at risk.  This issue is one of the three primary issues in the initial EU/UK negotiations, for which there is as yet no solution after three rounds.  Keeping the UK in the Single Market and Customs Union would solve that issue at a stroke.

WHAT ABOUT A THREE-WAY VOTE?

It is interesting to postulate how people would vote today if they were given three options:
  1. Remain in the EU entirely
  2. Remain in the single Market, Customs Union and important specific collaborations only
  3. Leave the EU entirely
From the available evidence, it looks like that would be a roughly 20:60:20 result.  In which case should there not be an effort to investigate the feasibility of the ‘Half Brexit’ idea? Perhaps with Parliament stalling the passage of the Withdrawal legislation whilst that is done?

The Just Party has proposed a specific ‘Half Brexit idea as the basis for exploration and discussion around the detail.  The concept is not just the current European Economic Area (EEA) but a bolstered EEAplus. As explained here. this would be in the best interests of both the UK and the EU compared to the UK’s complete withdrawal.  However, compromise on both sides would be needed.  The UK might have to lose its right of veto.  But is that ever used, and does it actually matter provided we have enough influence over the process?  Better than having no control at all over trade matters.

If separating out the Single Market and other important collaborations is not practical, then the UK should remain in the EU to remain in the Single Market.  Given the sums of money at risk, that is what is most important.


SO WHAT TO DO?

Both a Half Brexit and stopping Brexit is against official policy of both the Labour and Conservative parties.  The recent Labour proposal is only for a transition.  For MPs who do not believe that Withdrawal is in the best interests of the country, then how should they rebel?  One option is to join The Just Party, which is centrist in nature, and campaign freely for a sensible outcome to the Brexit situation.   The invitation is here.

Everyone else who is anti-Brexit can support The Just Party in other ways.  Do spread the word. Donations are always appreciated!

Let’s work with our fellow Europeans.  In the right way.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

How Does The Just Party Compare to Other Mainstream Parties?

The Just Party was founded with two principle aims:
  1. A Thriving Economy
  2. For a Caring Society
The party was started during the party conference season a couple of years ago when it was clear that none of the mainstream parties properly offered that combination.  It was not worth voting for any existing party, specifically because:
Under the First Past The Post FPTP system, many people are forced to vote AGAINST who they don’t want.  This isn’t good enough.  The Just Party was born with two main aims that would appeal to such people, with more detail in this link:
  1. A Thriving Economy
  2. For a Caring Society
Indeed, ComRes confirmed that this centrist position is where most voters regard themselves, as in the lines in the diagram below.  It used to in the Blair and Cameron years that Labour and Conservatives would fight over this centre ground.  But with both these main parties shifting left and right respectively, there is a massive hole in the centre where The Just Party naturally fits:

VIEWS ON BREXIT

Then along comes the Brexit referendum.  The official positions of the main parties on Brexit are effectively:
  • Conservatives:  Hard Brexit at any cost, thereby undermining their management of the economy
  • Labour:  Hard Brexit but with a soft transition. Attempts being made to change long-term policy to remain in the Single Market, but that is subject to being passed at the forthcoming Conference, which is by no means assured
  • LibDems:  Leave the EU, but making a big play on there being a second referendum on the final deal.  Too little too late
  • Greens: Support remaining in the EU, but with no hope of the power to do so
  • UKIP: Leave the EU quickly at any cost
 None of the parties have an overall position that supports a Thriving Economy for a Caring Society.  Key to this is staying in the Single Market and Customs Union, either in a specific arrangement or by staying in the EU.  The Just Party supports this, not just for the short term.  The far larger size of the EU means better trade deals can be negotiated with the US, China and the other emerging economies than the UK could possibly achieve on its own:


The Just Party has proposed a new arrangement with the EU based on an EEAplus, more than the type of EEA arrangement that Norway has.  That might satisfy a higher proportion of UK voters than the simple Leave/Remain choice which is still polling around 50:50.  But there are complications. There’s hope they can be overcome, as it is in both the EU’s and UK’s interests to do so. But if not, then the UK must stay in the full EU.  It’s #HalfBrexit or #HaltBrexit.

THE OVERALL POSITION

Overall The Just Party is positioned on the two political axes virtually in the centre, and thereby should have a ‘natural’ following far higher than any of the other mainstream parties.  That is represented by the people in the rectangle on this diagram, which is explained and justified in more detail here:


Persuading these people to vote for The Just Party is a challenge under the First Past The Post (FPTP) system. But that’s the system we have for the foreseeable future.  How can The Just Party be successful?

Money obviously, for marketing, campaigning and running the party administration.  Sums can be donated online between £5 and £500 through our GoFundMe site without your name being made public.  Higher sums by arrangement – do contact us.

In terms of getting coverage in the media, at least one MP would make a massive difference to whether The Just Party is included in political TV shows and other media coverage.  But we are far more ambitious.  We believe that at least 5 Labour and 5 Conservative MPs would be prepared to leave their existing parties and join The Just Party to deal with Brexit for the national interest.  The invitation is here.


If you believe in the need for a centrist anti-Brexit party do spread the word and donate what you can.  In any case, do let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks!

The “Labour Campaign for the Single Market”. Is There Something Better?

Last night was the official launch of the Labour Campaign for the Single Market.  Don’t be misled.  Keir Starmer’s recent announcement is only about the transition to the Hard Brexit in Labour’s 2017 manifesto

This is confirmed by the campaign website, which states “We have until September 14th 2017 to change Labour Party policy to support keeping Britain in the Single Market.”  That is for the long term, not just the transition.

The reasons are clear, as stated in the motion they are proposing each Consituency should put to the Labour party conference.  Conference motions are the principle means of setting party policy:

This Constituency Labour Party:
Notes the August publication of the Government's position papers on a range of EU withdrawal matters including future UK-EU customs arrangements;
And believes that these recent papers reveal that the current approach risks job losses, and loss of rights for workers;
Further, notes the Treasury estimate that moving from the "soft" Brexit of the European Economic Area (EEA) (which could see tax revenue fall by £20bn) to the "hard" Brexit of a Canadian-type deal is estimated to cost an additional £16 billion each year, and that if the UK defaults to WTO trade rules, then the annual tax loss may be as high as £45 billion (four times the annual public expenditure on English GPs);
And believes that Labour must urgently campaign against austerity that has harmed our public services;
and therefore calls upon the Labour Party to adopt a policy of remaining in the European Customs Union and Single Market through membership of the EEA
.”

But does this go far enough?

No it does not:

  1. They have not any public proposal as to how that might be achieved in practice, other than simply joining the European Economic Area (EEA) like Norway.  That has long been rejected as a desirable option
  2. They are not explicitly keeping the option open to remain in the EU as the means to remaining in the Single Market

So what does this mean for Brexit? If the motion is not tabled nor approved, Labour continues with its Hard Brexit policy, with all the drawbacks to the UK that the motion highlights.

If such a motion is approved, then there will be some degree of opposition to the Government on its “Brexit at all costs” strategy.

But if you truly believe in saving this country from a Hard Brexit then The Just Party is the only mainstream party to have an anti-Brexit policy of remaining in the Single Market or the full EU.  We have a specific proposal based on EEAplus, not just the Norway model. That might satisfy a higher proportion of UK voters than a simple Leave/Remain choice which is still polling around 50:50.  But there are complications. There’s hope they can be overcome, as it is in both the EU’s and UK’s interests to do so. But if not, then the UK must stay in the full EU.  It’s #HalfBrexit or #HaltBrexit.

We therefore invite MPs from all parties who believe in this vision and the need to have a Thriving Economy for a Caring Society to join The Just Party.  The invitation is here.

Reduce Inequality? Or Promote Aspiration?

As leader of the LibDems, Vince Cable has announced that “I want to lead on the issue of reducing inequality.”  In addition, “If we are serious about tackling inequality, we must tax wealth effectively through a wealth tax or combination of wealth taxes”.

The problem is that this is an attack on the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the economy and creates jobs. Aspiration is what drives us all.  If we want a better lifestyle, we must be prepared to work for it.  Perhaps start a business.  Take a massive personal risk, take on all the responsibility and worries that running a business entails, and expect to glean the rewards.  Big rewards.  In Vince Cable’s world, why bother?

Indeed, why come to the UK or stay in the UK if there are better rewards overseas?   We need to be encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit in the UK, not forcing it away.

We have a choice.  Promote equality or promote aspiration.

Aren’t the living standards of the poorest what’s most important?  Create well-paid jobs? Eliminate homelessness? Run a great NHS and have money to spend on social services?  OK, some people are richer than others.  But does that really matter? Shouldn’t we promote a Thriving Economy with a Caring Society, and making the UK a great place for everyone to live?

Yes we should. So Vince Cable’s proposition is rejected.  It should be aspiration over equality. That difference in core philosophy affects every policy.  That’s why it’s The Just Party not the LibDems.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

An Invitation To Rebel Brexit MPs

See below
Are you an MP?

Are you worried about the direction of Brexit, as embodied in the Withdrawal Bill you'll be voting on today, Monday?

Are you also concerned about your party’s shift away from the centre?

Have you answered “Yes”? Would you consider a move to a different party if that better represented your views?  Then do read on.

Both the Labour and Conservative parties are committed to a Hard Brexit, albeit with a different approach to any transition.  Are you unhappy about that vision for our country, and believe we should at least remain in the Single Market and Customs Union?

Labour has shifted left under Corbyn, and the Tories have been taken right.  Is your heart in the centre, where the majority of voters really are?

Then you have an option.  That is to leave your existing party and together with like-minded colleagues join The Just Party.  We believe in a Caring Society driven by a Thriving Economy.  We are anti-Brexit as it is clear that a hard Brexit will hit the economy for years before there might be any benefits, and therefore hit the NHS and other public services.  That is unacceptable to the majority of British voters, and they need a new party to represent them.

This is not a new concept.  Last summer the Observer published an article reporting that a group of MPs up to Cabinet level from the Labour and Conservative parties were thinking of joining into a new party.  Maybe you were one of them.  In any case now’s your chance.


The Just Party fills the gap between Labour and the LibDems on the left and Tories on the right, corresponding to where this ComRes poll in late 2014 found the electorate (top line) and voters (bottom line) believe they are on the spectrum:


In terms of electoral support, the ‘natural support’ for The Just Party should be far larger than people who directly support the “nasty party” Tories or a socialist Labour.  The LibDems have not revived, and a new option is needed.  The Just Party is already registered and able to contest elections even if called today.

This diagram plots parties according to their position on the combination of the Brexit and left-right spectrums.  The circles represent the 'natural' centre of support for each party according to their recent manifestos, and the rectangle the range of support The Just Party would naturally expect.  A far larger population than any other party, as explained here:

The Just Party has aims across a range of policy areas.  But in terms of producing a manifesto then that will up to you.  Your chance to shape a party that fulfils your political vision.

But let’s not under-estimate the challenge.  There needs to be a significant rebellion.  At least five MPs from the Conservatives matched by at least five from Labour, each convinced they would be able to win their seat back in a by-election.

You also need a dynamic Leader to lead the party.  Somebody with a clear national profile who could persuade the public they would be a better Prime Minister than May or Corbyn.  Able to bring others in to contest the next General Election, and look to win it then or within ten years.  Someone who passionately believes in the best interests of the country.  Like you do.

Looking forward to talking to you!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Here Comes The Brexit Crunch

The Brexit “Withdrawal” Bill starts it’s 2-day debate in the Commons next Thursday 7th, with the vote on Monday 11th.   Is this the chance for MPs to recognise the problem with Brexit and rebel?  How?

These were the questions at the end of the blog post earlier "David versus Goliath. How’s It Going So Far?". This was a look at the outcome of the EU/UK Brexit negotiations this week.  The EU’s chief negotiator said there had not been “any decisive progress on any principal subjects.”  David Davis retorted for the UK that “some concrete progress had been achieved”.

The British public were sold a Brexit that would be quick and easy and save the country £350m a week. The EU would roll over and agree to the UK’s demands.

Clearly all poppycock.

The Referendum was a starting gun, but that shouldn’t be the end of the democratic process.  The people voted "to take back control" and that should be by Parliament, as shown with the High Court case that forced the government to hold the Article 50 notification vote.

Starting next Thursday 7th September, with the vote on Monday 11th, there’s the 2-day debate on the "European Union (Withdrawal) Bill".  Clause one effectively gives the power of withdrawal to a Minister of the Crown, for example Boris Johnson.  Top barrister Jolyon Maugham QC has rightly suggested that this should be voted down.  Indeed the whole Bill should be voted down.

It is abundantly clear that Brexit should be stopped, or at least the UK should remain in the Single Market.  (On this point, please be aware that there is a Labour group proposing to make the latter official Labour policy, but at present Labour's policy is still a Hard Brexit like the Conservatives. Labour has suggested only a longer transition under current arrangements to that Hard Brexit.)

Polls are beginning to show the shift to Remain. There’s still massive misgivings about the EU and its political direction.  But staying in the Single Market outguns restricting Freedom of Movement of People by over 2:1 according to  a recent poll.


SO HOW TO DO IT?

The chances are that there will be a three-line whip by the Conservatives in support of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.  Labour has announced that they will oppose it.

MPs and members of the two parties will be divided.  There will be enormous pressure to split.  Will they do it?

The Just Party was formed to represent the majority of voters in the centre ground, between Labour and LibDems on the left and Conservatives on the right.  The principle aims are a Thriving Economy for a Caring Society, a vision which most people would share.  The risks from Brexit are such as to undermine that, and again most voters will want to remain in the Single Market, as shown by this recent survey.  #HalfBrexit (remaining in Single Market) or #HaltBrexit is official Just Party policy:


MPs have an option. Those who are centrist and oppose the hard Brexit being pursued unsuccessfully by the Government should combine to bring sense to the Brexit process.

How?  There is only one registered party ready and able to do so.  The Just Party. Let’s do it!


HOW CAN YOU HELP?

If you are an MP who does not want a Hard Brexit, then talk to your colleagues across all parties about rebelling by joining the Just Party.  The initial MPs will control the direction of the Party.  Talk to us.

Otherwise spread the word, especially to your MP if you know they are not Brexit supporters.

You can also donate to The Just Party funds here.  Minimum £5 and maximum £500 from anyone anywhere withojut your identity being made public.
.

David versus Goliath. How’s It Going So Far?


The Uk is less than 4% of world's economy
Yesterday there was a press conference after the third round of UK/EU negotiations.  The two speakers were David Davis leading negotiations for the UK and Michel Barnier, chief negotiator for the EU.

Barnier said there had not been “any decisive progress on any principal subjects.”  Davis retorted that “some concrete progress had been achieved”.  Who should we believe? 

Will negotiations break down completely?  Is that the UK government’s secret agenda, as some people are now suggesting?  That would force the hardest type of Brexit.

Let’s take a step back and put this all into context.  

In the lead-up to the Brexit referendum, we were told the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world.  What they didn’t say was that the UK is more usefully rgarded as second in the second division, with less than 4% of the world’s economy.  That’s after EU27, US, China and Japan.   Nor did they say that by 2050 the UK is likely to be around 10th, as emerging economies with much larger populations such as India overtake us.  

Here is an interesting analysis from the World EconomicForum, using data from the World Bank, including this graphic:

This clearly shows just how small the UK is in the international picture, and how small by comparison to the rest of the EU.  It really is David versus Goliath.  Not only with the EU but with the US and China.  With Japan too, where Theresa May was earlier this week, hearing that Japan want a free-trade deal with the EU first.  I wonder why?

The key problem with the VoteLeave stance before the referendum and the Government’s stance now is that the UK would be able to negotiate as equals with these larger economies.  Unfortunately that’s not how the real world works.

France’s economy is a similar size to the UK’s.  Imagine hypothetically if France had been the country trying to leave the EU, with the UK still in it.  Wouldn’t we expect the EU to strongly represent the UK and the others in the EU27?   David Davis has asked the EU to adopt “flexibility and imagination”.  What would we have granted to France?  David is effectively asking the EU to cross well-known red lines, notably for the UK to have the benefits of EU and Single Market membership without any of the obligations (“having our cake and eat it”).  Would we have granted that to France?  Of course not.  So why is David expecting the EU to do so for the UK?  Is he doing so solely to blame the EU for the ultra-hard Brexit he’s really seeking?

The UK is David against Goliath, but the UK does have two key things to offer the negotiations:
  • A significant trade surplus for the EU, where the EU exports much more to the UK than the UK exports back.  Many jobs in the EU depend on this, so it’s important for the cross-border trade to continue
  • The money the UK can pay into the EU’s coffers.  Not £350m a week as on the bus, but more like £120m net after rebates and what the UK otherwise gets back.

Conservative MPs like John Redwood have suggested the UK should pay nothing to the EU in future, nor anything now as part of any ‘divorce settlement’.  He’s also personally looked me in the eye and told me the trade surplus is enough to get the EU to agree to the UK’s demands.  It’s clear now, as it always has been, that he is woefully mistaken.  

So should we believe Barnier or Davis?  Will negotiations break down completely?  The EU by their sheer size frankly holds all the cards.  The little snipes by Davis are little more than David against Goliath.  If Goliath thinks there has not been “any decisive progress on any principal subjects” then in real terms there has not been any decisive progress. Negotiations could easily break down completely should the UK continue on its current path.

WHAT ABOUT PUBLIC OPINION?

Whilst the likes of the Daily Mail are exhorting today that the negotiation problems mean it is still right to leave the EU, public opinion is changing.  Increasing evidence.  For example, a holiday cottage owner in France has reported that all but one of the UK visitors over the summer who voted Leave are now regretting it, in some cases to the point of tears.

A core reason is the exchange rate.  For the Euro, sterling is still 15% down on the average rate leading up to the Referendum, and 10% down for the US dollar.  That means more expensive holidays on the continent, more expensive produce imported from Holland, and much more besides.  Inflation is rising above target level, and fixed incomes are being squeezed.  People simply won't tolerate a reduction in living standards

Some Remainers suggest that Sterling’s depreciation was correcting an over-valuation.  A small over-valuation perhaps, but the Economist last October suggested a US dollar rate of around 1.43, which is where it was on average in the weeks leading up to the Referendum.  

Let’s be clear.  The pound now buys less.  Much less.  That is due to the Brexit vote.  

For the US dollar, a 10% drop to 1.29 since the 1.43 average before the Referedum:


Similar for the Euro.  With a 15% drop to 1.08 from about 1.28 before the Referendum:
And it doesn’t stop there.  This article by a City Fund Manager suggests a “fall in sterling that we would see in response “ to a Hard Brexit.  Such as if the UK crashes out of the EU should negotiations fail. 

That’s more pain. A weaker exchange rate is the sign of a weaker economy.  Not only can people buy less, there will be less money for the NHS and other public services.

Was a David versus Goliath battle what 52% of UK voters were expecting last year?  Or had they been led to believe that negotiaitons would be easy?  Yes they had.

When will the majority of people in the UK turn against the Government?


THE WAY FORWARD

The Brexit “Withdrawal” Bill starts it’s 2-day debate in the Commons next Thursday 7th.   Is this the chance for MPs to recognise the problem and rebel?  How?   Let’sdiscuss that separately.  Another blog post will follow.