EU

Proroguing Parliament: What does it really mean for Brexit?

As predicted, Boris Johnson has decided to end the current parliamentary session (the longest in modern times), and trigger a new Queen’s Speech. Remainists are naturally going crazy, and talking of constitutional outrage.

But what does it actually mean for Brexit on 31 October? Is there time for fast-tracked, Bercow-enabled law that would either revoke Article 50, extend the deadline, or somehow prevent a “no deal”? What about passing a law that would stop prorogation itself? Is there even time left now in the parliamentary session?

We discuss all this and the finer details of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, and whether Boris has pulled a blinder.

Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/14/enacted

House of Commons Library Briefing Paper on Prorogation – https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8589

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Lib Dems and Change UK: Anti-democratic Politics in the UK

In this latest episode, we discuss the Lib Dems and their recent successes in the EU elections and the latest polls. We reason why they’ve experienced a recent uplift before discussing Change UK: The Independent Group and why they’ve seen precisely the opposite.

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Remain won, so why are we leaving?

To say this period of politics in the UK is interesting is an understatement.

Remain supporting politicians want us to stay in the EU. That much is clear.

They are also using every parliamentary trick in the book (including relying on their mate Mr Speaker) to effect their cause.

But I often think about what life would have been like in an alternative version of history. One where Leave didn’t win.

The day the result is announced, Prime Minister David Cameron resigns stating that even though he said he would stay on as leader if Remain won and enact the will of the people, he had changed his mind.

Sajid Javid becomes the leader of the Conservative Party and new UK Prime Minister, after Michael Gove declares his support for Theresa May early in the contest, only to stab her in the back later by splitting the vote in the next round.

Javid is a remain voting leaver, so remainers like him, but leavers do too for only supporting remain reluctantly.

In forming a cabinet he decides to unite the country by splitting his cabinet down the middle with 50/50 remain and leave supporters.

Leading remain supporter George Osborne is put in charge of a newly created department called “The Department For Reforming the European Union”.

Other prominent remainers are put in charge of Foreign Affairs and another new department for Global Trade.

Leading leave supporters are put in the treasury, home office, transport, health and education. (Michael Gove comes back as Chief Secretary to the Treasury after 6 months of loyal back benching).

In a surprise move, Javid delivers a letter personally to the EU Commission President triggering Article 50 and asking George Osborne to negotiate the deal that David Cameron always should have, for a new reformed relationship fit for the UK.

Javid makes a public statement on the steps of Number 10 explaining that the referendum result was so close that he couldn’t possibly ignore the 48% of leave voters and that therefore he was aiming for a specific half in/half out relationship with the EU so we could finally move on as a country.

Remain MPs are furious. Gina Miller starts legal proceedings.

The Liberal Democrats demand a second referendum even though they won the first one. They argue that a decision this big can’t be made by MPs or the government.

The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn produce 18 different policies on how the relationship with the EU should look.

While George Osborne is negotiating the softest possible deal with Michel Barnier, PM Javid announces immediate no deal preparations (with a full 20 months left to go of the article 50 process) and Dominic Raab the Chancellor of the Exchequer announces sweeping cuts to corporation and personal tax rates. In his conference speech Raab compares the UK to Hong Kong.

Steve Baker the Global Trade Secretary finds and exploits a loophole in EU law that effectively nullifies the Common External Tariff and announces an immediate unilateral reduction of all trade tariffs to zero. Countries queue up to sell us their cheap goods and envoys are sent around the world promoting the UK service industry.

The EU are furious and immediately launch a judicial review by the ECJ on the UKs actions, although this will take at least a year to resolve, during which time food and clothing prices in the UK plummet.

Along with the Raab tax cuts, the poorest in society end up proportionately being helped the most by having more cash in their pockets.

David Davis, newly appointed Minister of Deregulation, slashes red tape by eliminating 73 different quangos over a period of 6 months.

The subsequent 6 months see the largest expansion of new businesses the UK has ever seen and employment among under 45s hits 92%.

George Osborne resigns from the government along with the Foreign Secretary Theresa May a week later. In her resigning speech in the commons May sites the clear referendum result and that remain should mean remain.

The new Reforming the EU Secretary Jeremy Hunt negotiates a Free Trade Agreement with the EU and a unique Associate Membership that recognises the UKs supreme sovereignty as well as a mutual recognition of standards and regulations.

This withdrawal agreement is put to parliament but as Jeremy Corbyn can see full freedom from the EU in his sights, he announces he won’t support the agreement. In public he gives a speech stating that as a remain voter he has a duty to protect the UKs status in the EU and that the withdrawal agreement is Leave in all but name.

There isn’t a majority for the withdrawal agreement and the bill fails in the house of commons because Jacob Rees Mogg, who refused a cabinet position in order to lead the ERG leads a last minute group of Conservative MPs against it.

The UK leaves the EU, the Euro drops in value and Trump announces a trade deal with the UK that is “great, just great, huge”.

The day after, Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve join the Liberal Democrats.

Ok so that was both self indulgent and a lot of fun to write. But is it any crazier a course of events than has actually happened? I don’t think so. Yet here we are.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Withdrawal Agreement Principles and the Politics of Opposition

It was inevitable, wasn’t it? With so much going on about Brexit, we felt we couldn’t avoid it again. We do however, try to tackle it from angles other commentators haven’t discussed. This week we ask what comes first, a belief in democracy or a belief in the EU? Are the Labour Party secret geniuses or just plain stupid? And finally we discuss some good news about a local MP.

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This EU madness is nothing new

“Seldom in history can a British government have shown such feebleness in defence of Britain’s interests, securing nothing of substance in return for concessions on a grand scale.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this statement had just been written. I suppose it could have been written any time in the last year with the way the current government has been capitulating negotiating.

I suppose it could also have been written at the time of when David Cameron went cap in hand to Brussels in order to present a choice between leaving the EU and a “reformed EU”.

But this wasn’t written about the current Brexit crisis, and it wasn’t written about a Conservative government.

It was, however, written about Europe.

The writer was none other than William, now Lord Hague. Former leader of the Conservative party, former Foreign Secretary and de facto deputy to David Cameron.

But he wrote it in 2009. That’s nearly 10 years ago.

Here it is in full where he writes in reply to a piece by the then foreign secretary David Miliband on defending Labour’s record in Europe.

Hague is of course speaking about the Lisbon Treaty – the friendlier name adopted by Brussels bureaucrats and European leaders for the EU Constitution.

All three major political parties in the UK promised in their general election manifestos of 2005 to a referendum on the EU Constitution.

What a wheeze it was to rename it, take out a few bits and call it something different so that that promise would not need to be honoured.

I remember at the time of the signing of the Lisbon Treaty that all media attention was focused on the Tories. What would they do? Would they commit to a referendum still? Would they withdraw from the treaty if they came to power?

I found it odd that rather than putting the necessary pressure on the Labour Party for essentially lying to the public and taking us deeper into the EU that, because the Tories are the ones seen to be “banging on about Europe”, they were the ones who needed pressure and scrutiny.

The response was simple if a complete waste of breath.

Hague himself stood up at a press conference and said “we will not let it end there”.

Arguably they didn’t, which is why we are where we are now, but I remember feeling the start of the notion of being politically cheated.

If the UK had not ratified the Lisbon Treaty because the UK public had rejected it in a referendum, then I don’t believe we would be in the situation we are in now.

Its too simplistic to try and pin the blame on the current mess on any particular person or event.

Gove for knifing Boris in the back so we ended up with May negotiating?

Cameron for thinking his weak renegotiation would be enough to sway the British people.

Blair for reneging on his promise to hold a referendum on the treaty.

Major for promising to stay in the ERM and then leaving it only days later.

The let’s not forget Facebook’s newest employee Clegg whom I remember demanding an “in/out referendum” on the EU long before it was a commitment by the Tory party, but as soon as it was a prospect, quickly changed his tune.

Now of course all the people who didn’t want a referendum on EU membership (apart from Clegg who just fence sits whenever he can) now advocate a new referendum.

Call it what you like, a people’s vote, a politicians vote, a losers vote. You just have to look at the views of the people who want it to understand their motivations.

Their plan is straight out of the EU playbook of either ignoring the results of referenda or for repeating the question until the public capitulates.

Whatever political leaders say about the record of those they oppose, one thing is certain and that is that history shows that no British government of any stripe has successfully negotiated anything with the EU.

For those of us in the real world this not only seems crazy, but shows in stark relief that the state is incapable of any meaningful change while the current political elites are in power.

Our electoral system may protect us against extremism, but when freedom from the state is seen as an extreme view, it’s going to be hard for anyone considered to be radically liberal to get the votes needed to start untangling us from this mess.

The One Where We Ramble On About Brexit

It was inevitable.  We had to talk about Brexit again, and this week we’ve dedicated an entire edition to it.  An awful lot has happened in the last week, with Theresa May releasing a draft withdrawal agreement followed by government resignations including Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Dominic Raab.

We talk about the possible outcomes, some off the wall suggestions of what might end up happening, and whether the Walloons can scupper the whole thing.

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The Leave Campaign Needs Donald Trump – But Not The Way You Think

Many Leavers have suggested we need someone like Donald Trump in the Brexit Campaign. Someone with a strong track record in winning negotiations. Someone confident who isn’t afraid to stand up to world leaders. I can understand the appeal. The same has been said of Margaret Thatcher, suggesting she’d come back from Brussels with them paying us for the privilege of a trade deal (and not the other way around).

Whilst I can completely understand this reasoning, I think there would be a better place for him. As EU President.

Just bear with me for a moment on this. Think about it. It’s a win:win situation.

As one of the EU Presidents, say, instead of Tusk (The inferior Donald T), Trump could be amazing. Firstly, almost all of Remainers would switch sides. One of the reasons they love the EU is the big state, big government approach. What they’ve never appreciated is the EU has the potential to be led by the “wrong people”. Think back to the USA under Barack Obama. SJWs & leftists were all for state control until their party lost the 2016 election.

If Trump was in charge there’d be no more calls for a People’s Loser’s Vote. Oh no. Remainers would be trying to leave as soon as possible. There’d be marches in the streets with people wearing Never Trump t-shirts, setting fire to the EU flag, stamping on Make Europe Great Again hats. It would be marvellous.

Secondly, if, as I’ve said before, we don’t actually end up leaving, who better to lead the EU than a small state, free trade entrepreneur? He’d be slashing regulation, tearing up unnecessary legislation and breaking down trade barriers like there was no tomorrow. Now, I know Trump has put up tariffs on some items in the US, which I disagree with wholeheartedly, but the end game for him has always appeared to be completely free trade. He’s said as much himself on numerous occasions. As a fan of unilateral free trade I disagree with his tactics, but agree with his end goal.

So yes, a Trump or a Thatcher would be great on our side, but they’d be even more value on the other.

Democracy: What is it? And can we have too much?

This week, Nic asks some intriguing questions about democracy and we both try our best to find some answers.

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Why another Brexit referendum is a bad idea

There’s been lots of talk recently about a “People’s vote” or, as I’ve heard it more accurately described, a “Losers’ Vote”. The arguments are as follows:

More information has come to light since the referendum.

People should be able to change their minds in a democracy.

The first point shouldn’t really need arguing against, but I will. Of course more information has come to light! New information is known every day! Are we supposed to wait until every registered voter knows every single thing about the EU (and can prove it by passing a test) before we vote? The EU is so overwhelmingly large that no single person could ever know how it all works, so this is a problem that can never be solved.

In any referendum, you draw a line in the sand and say “We’re making a decision, now.”. This is what happened in 2016 and we should stick by it. If we have a “People’s Vote”, more information will be known the day after. Should we organise another referendum when that happens? No.

The second point is a sneaky trick Remainers use to try and con Leavers. They use weasel words and will tell you that they love democracy, which is why they want more of it. They’ll probably ask you if you’re afraid of more democracy and ask you why you don’t trust the people. Where were these people for the 41 years prior to 2016? I don’t remember any of them calling for more democracy then.

And how much more democracy do we need? How often should we have another referendum? We haven’t even had time to implement this first one. Should we have one a year? A month? How about every 5 minutes? This is another reason why democracy is a bad thing. It’s far too easy to have too much. Don’t know what I mean? Should we use democracy to decide which car we all drive? How about what clothes we all wear? And for those who don’t know my views on this, I’m not talking about replacing it with authoritarianism, but freedom. Which would of course mean leaving the EU without even needing a referendum.

SO this brings me to my main point about the referendum. If we’re going to use democracy to decide these things, then we shouldn’t have another vote until we’ve given this one a good go. I would suggest at least ten years after we’ve actually left, as that’s enough for another two terms in government.

Currently, the government is massively pro-remain, as is parliament in general. If we have referendums too often, it gives the government (and the wider parliament) the ability to screw up the implementation and ask for another vote, which is exactly what Remainers are trying to do right now.

I don’t believe that Brexit was a vote purely to stick two fingers up at politicians. Of course it’s quite nice to do that, but I genuinely think that the British People wanted to leave the European Union for perfectly rational reasons. A consequence of that was voting against the establishment. Can you imagine the precedent it would set if we let them screw up every decision we made that they didn’t like? What would it say for future referendums? You can vote any way you like, but we’ll mess things up in a such a catastrophic way that you’ll want to go back to the way things were every time.

We need at least ten years after we leave before we even think about asking the British People for another say. We need whoever is in government now , whoever is in government when we leave and whoever is in government in the term after that to make a good go of Brexit. The only ballot a politician fears more than a referendum is a general election. Politicians should fear being voted out more than they fear another Brexit referendum. The only way to do that is not to have one for a sufficient amount of time.

A competitive edge over the EU? That’s the point Mr Barnier

Who knows where we will end up in the Brexit negotiation.

There are signs that finally even Theresa May’s soft Brexit position is such that she knows she can’t go any further based on the EU’s reaction to the chequers white paper.

Early on I hoped that the EU would stand firm on their ideas of cherry picking and their supposed to freedoms.  That it would mean no matter the deal, it would have to mean an end to things “like” the current EU structures.

No single market or even something like it.

No customs union or something similar.

This would mean a clean break and the most power possible brought back to this country so that we can pursue our own policies as we see fit as a nation.

Now of course the entire project is a contradiction.

The EU breaks it’s own rules when it sees fit.

They sign up agreements, treaties and trade deals with other countries that by any definition of the term do cherry pick from the 4 freedoms.

Which is the other reason why striking a trade deal should be pretty easy, certainly based on the fact that we are already so closely aligned.

If Japan can sign a trade deal, so can we.

But here’s what I find amazing about Barnier’s response today.

He listed a number of issues he felt existed with the white papers position.

They included all manner of questions of legality, the imposition of bureaucracy and fear of fraud.

But one thing struck home to me instantly.

He said that if the UK diverged on services then we could gain a “significant competitive edge”.

How can someone miss the point so much that they let it sail by.

Of course we want a competitive edge. Of course that’s a major reason for leaving and part of everything the leave campaign spoke of in the referendum campaign.

What’s even more odd is that no one will mention that it’s a bit odd that he pointed this out. They are so blind now to the idea that whatever the EU say must be true, desirable and reasonable.

To be fair when your own government is in the shambles it’s in its its hard not to assume they must be onto a loser, but to not get that that’s what Brexit is for is just crazy.

We do want to compete. We do want to trade. We do want to be good neighbours.

But that doesn’t mean there is a problem with us having a different tarrif to the EU, which again Mr Barnier points out today.

It means finally, we as a country can pick and choose how we want to trade and what priorities we want as a nation.

I suppose if the EU 27 don’t actually understand why that is ultimately good for us and for them then that’s their look out.

And it only serves to once again point out why we don’t want to be part of that way of thinking.