Author Archives: Nick Hopkinson

Prospects for an early General Election and a referendum on the terms of Brexit  

In the previous three posts in this series, I examined the Brexit legislative process, prospects for the EU negotiations, and the state of public opinion and Labour on Brexit. Lastly, what are the prospects for a referendum on the terms of any deal and an early General Election stemming from the ongoing Brexit crisis?

Nigel Farage recently toyed with the possibility of a ‘second’ referendum. Whilst ostensibly suggesting it might settle the Brexit debate for a generation, his real motivation is to have a referendum before the poor withdrawal deal being negotiated becomes obvious to a substantial majority of voters, and while the two largest parties maintain their ‘have your cake and eat it too’ support for Brexit. Some argue, perhaps even more importantly, that a referendum allows Farage another chance to be in the national spotlight, perhaps again as UKIP leader.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | 19 Comments

Fighting Brexit: public opinion and cross-party co-operation

In the previous two posts in this series, I examined the legislative process and prospects for the EU negotiations. Our challenge is how to shape public opinion and move parliamentarians from other political parties to build an overwhelming national will to stop this Brexit madness, and in so doing attract more support for ourselves.

We can still stop Brexit. We can withdraw unilaterally our intention to leave the EU before 29 March 2019. Lord John Kerr, former head of the Diplomatic Service, has said as much, whilst Professor Sir Alan Ashwood has argued it “takes two to tango.”. UKlegalfuture

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

Prospects for the EU negotiations

This is the second part of a series Brexit is a luxury for the few. The EU is a necessity for the many. Part 1 can be found here.

The negotiations with EU27 are the point at which Brexit fantasies meet reality. Allegations that the EU needs us more than we need them have been exposed as false as the Government jettisons previously trumpeted ‘red lines’. The Phase 1 joint report of the UK and EU negotiators  shows the Government has given into virtually every EU demand.

This should be no surprise as the negotiations were never going to be one of equals. Instead of ‘winning’ 97% of votes in the EU Council, we now find ourselves alone pitted against a group 11 times our economic size. Past EU accession negotiations were similarly asymmetrical. Candidate countries wishing to join the EU had to accept some 80,000 pages of the aquis communautaire (the EU’s accumulated legislation and judicial rulings) virtually in toto. The best candidates might reasonably hope to secure were minor derogations and some longer transitional periods. Leaving the EU is the accession process in reverse.

Forecasting is a fool’s game but we can be fairly sure the UK will continue to be outgunned. There are any number of outcomes from the negotiations but arguably the leading current alternatives are extremes: Norway Plus or no deal. The EU has offered the UK either the Norwegian model (essentially Single Market including payments to the EU Budget and following EU rules but no participation in the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy) or the Canadian model (virtually no goods tariffs and limited services access but no payments to EU budget and no jurisdiction by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in areas of EU competence).

The May Government has ruled out remaining in the Single Market and Customs Union. Replicating the Canada-EU deal is problematic given services constitute 80% of our economy. So David Davis concocted a have your cake and eat it too Canada Plus Plus Plus option. For the EU, this is unacceptable as the free movement of services, capital, goods and workers are indivisible.

The Council guidelines provide the framework for the next phase of negotiations. By Easter, it is possible a transitional (or implementation) period will be agreed to the end of 2020 (when the EU’s current multiyear financial framework ends). This is slightly less than the two years the UK Government is requesting. Accepting all current EU rules and payments during the transitional period will, it is believed, be enough to prevent (at least temporarily) the exodus of more corporate operations from the UK. However, any agreed transitional period does not mean the end of the economic and regulatory cliff edge – it merely delays it if the UK opts for anything less integrative than the Norwegian model.  

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

Brexit is a luxury for the few – The EU is a necessity for the many

2018 is the year we need to #stopbrexit. Opposition to Brexit throughout 2017 was remarkably constant and evenly split. Private polling however suggests some ‘Releavers’ (effectively the softer remain half) have rejoined hard Remainers, and there is now a small percentage of ‘Bregretters’. Some leading pollsters argue 60% plus opposition to Brexit is needed for six consecutive months for enough Parliamentarians to start speaking out.

So the current direction of travel is towards Brexit even though some leading groups, notably half of EU27 ambassadors and High Commissioners in London, reportedly believe Brexit won’t happen. The May minority government has been longer lasting than many anticipated and to date has been able to progress Brexit legislation relatively unscathed. However, Brexit can still be reversed so the real question is how we might do so.

In this four part series, I shall briefly examine legislative developments and the upcoming timetable, prospects for the EU negotiations, mobilising public and political opinion against Brexit, and the prospects for a referendum on the terms.

To date in Parliament, there has been one significant victory with the narrow passage of Dominic Grieve’s Amendment 7 to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Clause 9 of the Bill is now “subject to the prior enactment of a (separate) statute by Parliament approving the final terms of withdrawal”. This presents Parliament with additional opportunities to shape the terms of departure, including possibly to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union, and to provide for a referendum on the terms. The recently relatively quiet hard Brexiters could also cause trouble for the Government on the £40 billion settling of accounts. However, it appears the ideological EUphobes are ready to accept Brexit at any price as long as they secure their long-cherished ‘Independence’ day.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 26 Comments

May’s hard Brexit is dead. Now let’s bury Brexit

Brexiters claim that 82% of voters supporting the Tories and Labour validated Brexit in last week’s General Election. This has a grain of truth in it. However subsequent polls found issues such as health, the economy, and security were more important to voters. Furthermore, the election marked a return to two party politics in which smaller parties, including ours, were squeezed. A vote for Labour was not necessarily a vote for its ambiguous Brexit stance, but arguably one for hope and an end to Tory austerity.

Shielded from many by her two former advisers and campaign managers, yet at the same time vulnerable to Tory ideological Europhobes, May’s closet premiership progressed an empty Hard Brexit. Instead of trying to unite a divided country after the 2016 referendum by reaching out to the 48% voting remain, May divided the country further by progressing a Hard Brexit which few voted for. Fully aware that half of voters wanted to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union as do most businesses, she seemed unbothered about harming the economy for the sake of meeting unrealistic immigration targets which were consistently missed when she was Home Secretary. Businesses could only engage with Government Ministers if they were enthusiastic about Brexit’s (unknown) opportunities. Her General Election bid for a personal blank cheque on Brexit (and seemingly everything else), possibly along the lines of the Canada-EU deal, left the electorate cold. So last week the people called time on her ‘bunker’ Brexit. So too it appears has business, her Cabinet, and parliamentarians.

A weakened May is now in discussion with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to prop up her minority Government. Meanwhile her Brexit secretary makes contradictory statements saying last Friday that the Government has lost its mandate for leaving the Single Market and Customs Union whilst implying the opposite on Radio 4’s Today. However, the DUP wants to avoid a hard Irish border, a demand which appears incompatible with the Tory manifesto pledge to leave the EU customs union. Similarly, the Scottish Conservatives want an ‘open’ Brexit, which appears to conflict with the Tory manifesto pledge to leave the EU Single Market. The two, with 10 and 13 seats respectively, effectively could each veto a Hard Brexit. But let us not forget the newly emboldened, but hitherto pusillanimous, pro-European Tories. Under the new parliamentary arithmetic, a handful of them could also frustrate Hard Brexit.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 19 Comments

May’s Brexit will create a weak and unstable United Kingdom

Voters in next month’s general election are being asked to support Theresa May’s ‘strong and stable’ leadership in the Brexit negotiations. What voters may in fact be choosing is a weak and unstable United Kingdom. Inflation, first prompted by the 15% fall in sterling after last year’s vote to leave the European Union (EU), will continue to erode real standards of living. The drip drip of foreign firms reallocating future investment and jobs outside the United Kingdom will continue. As a result Government tax revenue will decline and Tory austerity will last longer. The Scottish Government will progress a second …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments

The campaign against Brexit continues

So far a majority in the House of Commons supports the advice of the British people to leave the European Union (EU). The Government, elected by 25% of voters, continues to impose its destructive hard Brexit vision on the 48% and many leavers who wanted to remain in the Single Market. We also made a decision in the 1975 referendum, and then by a far larger majority, to remain. Taken together this suggests there is no ‘settled will’ as to how we wish to associate with our European neighbours and largest export market. Democracy is much more than just one or two votes. There is no finality in any democracy. When a political party loses an election, it does not stop arguing for what it believes in. Given the losers of the 1975 referendum did not stop trying to reverse that decision, why should remainers, who are also patriots, be asked to stand down now?

We have an unelected Prime Minister speaking outside Parliament proposing what she knows to be a half-baked sketch for Brexit which is not best for Britain. The White Paper isn’t a plan either – it’s a poorly drafted wish list of desired outcomes. She says she wants a good deal with the EU. Yet Lib Dems know any deal the Government does or doesn’t conclude will not be good enough. If leaving the EU were such a good policy, the Government wouldn’t have been so afraid to subject it to full Parliamentary scrutiny.

Brexiters perpetrate a misleading, if not self-delusional, narrative on the economy and particularly trade. It is true the “sky has not fallen in” on the economy. However, the past is no guide to future performance. The last 7 months is a short time frame, and shows we are still benefiting from being in the EU Single Market. But much investment in the UK is on hold, and some financial firms are already relocating some operations out of the UK. Brexiters downplay the 15% depreciation in the pound but let’s see how the Just About Managing (JAMs) and others enjoy the resulting 3% inflation, higher energy prices and forecast decline in real living standards as Brexit bites.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 37 Comments
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    Ruth Bright I dunno - was there ever a time when he was inhibited?