Author Archives: Jack Watson

Integrating the party’s Eurosceptics

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 38 Comments

CANZUK: The next big thing?

As the UK continues to drift away from the EU it becomes increasingly important to seek out new geopolitical alliances and trading partners. The Tories have pivoted towards the US to fill this role. However, with its scepticism of globalisation and lack of credibility the Trump administration is hardly an ideal ally. Instead we should turn towards Canada, Australia and New Zealand and form a “CANZUK Union”.

The CANZUK Union would be led by a Council of Prime Ministers and built on three pillars: free trade, freedom of movement and intergovernmental cooperation. A trade deal would strike down tariffs and regulatory barriers but not create a customs union. This would allow each member to pursue its own regional trade deals. The existing travel agreement between Australia and New Zealand (1) would be extended to involve Canada and the UK. Building on Five Eyes and NATO arrangement committees of government ministers would cooperate on areas such as defence, security and foreign policy.

This new union is not intended to replace EU membership. Over 50% of our imports come from the EU, compared to 3% from Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined. Of our exports, over 40% go to the EU compared to 3% to the CANZ countries (4). Geography determines who we trade with most, and we can’t just move Britain to the Pacific. 

Posted in News | 42 Comments

Renationalising the railways is trendy but not smart

Virgin trainWho should own the railways? Both contenders for the Labour leadership, Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn, believe it should be the public sector. They point to rising ticket prices., widespread industrial action and a lack of seating (or so Corbyn claims.) as evidence that privatisation has failed. The public seem to agree, with 62% now in favour of renationalisation. But is it worth it?

It certainly wouldn’t be progressive. Households in the highest real income bracket make up 43% of yearly rail journeys, with those in the lowest income bracket making up only 10% of journeys. Nationalisation would mean that low-earners who very rarely use the train would be funding through their taxes reduced ticket prices and the maintenance of rail travel for the highest earners in the country. Such large amounts of public sector finances would be far better spent on services which low earners need most.

Nor would nationalisation eradicate large scale industrial disputes. Look no further than across the Channel: in the run up to Euro 2016 the French railways endured huge strikes. Even under a Socialist government the railways were not immune from clashes with the unions.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 91 Comments

Supporting the sugar tax was a mistake

In a new report the Taxpayer’s Alliance (TPA) described the Government’s planned sugar tax as “regressive”, saying it will “hit the poorest families hardest”. The new tax, announced by the Chancellor in his 2016 budget, will be levied on the soft drinks industry with the intention of reducing obesity.

Liberal Democrat support for a sugar tax began in 2012 when Autumn conference recommended consulting on “taxation of heavily sugared drinks”. Tom Brake MP wrote in the IB Times this year commending George Osborne’s “bravery” in introducing the levy. The Scottish Liberal Democrats’ 2016 manifesto committed to use funds raised by the sugar tax to encourage sports participation.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 35 Comments
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