Brexit as political arson by David Miliband

It isn’t the done thing here to link to opinion pieces in the newspapers by Labour politicians. So much that I’m not even sure what category to use. We have LibLink for links to articles by Liberal Democrats, and we have the slightly oddly named “Independent View” for articles by non-members.

But sometimes, hang the taxonomy, this is important enough to link to anyway.

David Miliband steps away from arguments over the costs of membership and Brexit, of whether we could get back the agreements on trade, policing, etc, that Brexit would tear up, the implications, if any, on immigration. Instead he looks at the bigger picture.

Here is a strange thing: the European Union has become a far better deal for Britain in the last 30 years, yet public support has ebbed. As the gains have multiplied, so cynicism has grown.

The challenge is about security. Jihadism is a threat to life and limb from Belgium to Nigeria to the Middle East and South Asia. But there is a wider assault on the democratic norms of the post cold-war settlement. International humanitarian law is being flouted; global economic institutions are being tested to the limit; Russia has set itself up as a pole of attraction for all those frustrated by the missteps of the west; Donald Trump is arguing that Nato is obsolete.

The result is that the global commons – the physical, legal, environmental, even moral space which we hold in common– is under threat as never before at a time when the need for global cooperation is greater than ever before. So the “British question” is not only one of what we get out of Europe. It is also one of whether we want to shore up the international order, or contribute to its dilution and perhaps even destruction.

This is an extremely good argument that we don’t use enough. I encounter many moderate Conservatives on the doorstep who see Europe as socialist and the USA as capitalist and favour Brexit to realign Britain more closely to the USA. But the world has moved on. The challenges today to the world order come from Putin, ISIL, and perhaps China – not through belligerence, but through promotion of an alternative model, of capitalism without freedom or democracy, backed up by economic might and zeal.

Capitalist and socialists should agree that both the EU and the USA are both better capitalists and better socialists than any of these alternatives.

This is a time for the free world to be more united not less.

It is utterly fantastical to claim, as leave campaigners do, that the economic, security and diplomatic advantages of EU membership can be replicated, let alone improved upon, outside.

It depends which Brexiteer you ask as to whether European co-operation on crime, policing, intelligence and terrorism will continue post-Brexit or whether the point of Brexit is to get rid of all that. We would of course be “free to negotiate”, as we are already, and as we put to good use influencing and opting in to the majority of EU crime and policing measures (the European Arrest Warrant, European Investigation Order, etc), it being in our interests, and everybody else’s to catch criminals and terrorists who cross our border in either direction.

I suggest that the ripping up of agreements on crime and terror that many Brexiteers openly advocate would actually happen. Does that make me “project fear”?

If the world is increasingly divided between firefighters and arsonists then Britain has, for centuries, been a firefighter. This is no time for Britain to join the ranks of arsonists, and there should be no doubt that Brexit would be an act of arson on the international order.

Read the whole thing here.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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27 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 12th Apr '16 - 11:11am

    David Miliband was Foreign Secretary more recently than David Owen.
    There are numbers about Remain/Leave in Vince Cable’s book ‘After the Storm’, prepared by his department in government and therefore not including any financial or economic effects of DC’s tour of EU capital cities.

  • It must be miserable for you to meet so many right wing voters on the doorsteps of Hallam, Joe. Now, whilst I agree with the thrust of your article,…. to imply that Milliband D. is a socialist is stretching it a bit. He’s more of a Cleggie.

    He also disappeared like a shot from South Shields…… and his sojurn at Sunderland AFC left a bit of a bad taste as well….according to the Telegraph “David Miliband has earned £125,000 for just over a fortnight’s work at a Premiership football club, it has emerged.”

  • There have been plenty of terrorist attacks within the EU so the argument that it is stopping them is moot. Also David Milliband was a strong advocate of the kind of military interventionist actions that escalated the threat of terrorism in the first place. IMO, David Milliband is more of a fire bug than any of the so called arsonists.

    To me, the problem is very simple. For decades we’ve had too many politicians who feel that can play lip service to the concerns of the electorate, whilst basically deciding things amongst themselves. So in the wake of 2008 financial crash discontent has grown is continuing to grow because they still think it’s ok to show concern without actually doing anything about it. So it can seem to the ordinary person, as if we are paying the fire brigade to say “we understand, fires are a concern for everyone, but fires would be far worse if you lived in China and any you can’t trust anyone else, blah, blah. blah” as our collective house goes up in flames, when actually their job is to put the blummin’ fire out. The point is, this if you want people to trust politicians and to be pro the big idea you have to give those people something more than austerity and your sympathies.

  • Well that’s the problem with analogies they can start of clear and then get stretched, to, well stretching point. I didn’t t really fully the arsonist analogy in the first place, it just sounds alarmist and self justifying and so I just tried to run with it.

    But basically, all I’m saying is the electorate look increasingly irrelevant to how politics operates. In fact more than that it sometimes seems like the governed are treated as an inconvenience or even a dangerous threat to the governors. And that if you really want to change this perception, then rather than bemoaning the rise of discontent and blaming the discontent on dangerous forces, it would be better to make people more contented. In other words if you want to be elected or popular then you have to offer and deliver things that improves peoples lives. As it stands all I’m seeing is an endless attack on people’s standard of living and a lot of wailing that electorate should be more grateful for what, tax dodgers, mandarins, austerity. TTIP and backroom deals. The reason I’m toying with voting out is the same reason I would absolutely have voted for Scottish Independence. Though in most respects I’m liberal, I’m not really an internationalist and don’t feel part like a pan nationalist either.

  • paul barker 12th Apr '16 - 2:50pm

    Its my opinion that the mere existence of The Referendum is already damaging the Economy, delaying investment, undermining confidence & slowing the fall in Unemployment. And that is despite the 2:1 betting odds in favour of Remain & the fact that the real campaign has barely started yet.

  • @Glenn
    Actually, I thought it was a well made point and did understand it.
    “But basically, all I’m saying is the electorate look increasingly irrelevant to how politics operates. In fact more than that it sometimes seems like the governed are treated as an inconvenience or even a dangerous threat to the governors. ”

    Of course, this isn’t unique to the UK (see the link below), so when he states “But there is a wider assault on the democratic norms of the post cold-war settlement. “, perhaps he could also inform us how much democracy should disappear in the “New World” that he wants us to remain in?
    https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/opinion/why-we-should-ban-referenda-on-eu-policies/

  • Talking of why there is ‘anti-politics sentiment’ ….. and why we should listen to the ‘socialist’ Miliband D. the MP who disappeared faster than dust from South Shields – a few points.

    No, Joe, he was a director of Sunderland AFC drawing a salary twice as big as he got as the MP for South Shields.

    At the same time, under the Coalition government, South Tyneside has seen the steepest increase in the country in levels of deprivation over the past five years, according to Government figures. The borough has seen a 10% increase in deprivation levels, the biggest leap in England, according to the latest English Indices of Deprivation.

    At the same time, in December 2010, the Office of David Miliband Limited was formed with Miliband and his wife Louise as directors.

    According to the Financial Times, “much of Mr Miliband’s time has been spent on his lucrative directorships and speaking roles, which he would be expected to give up if he returned to frontline politics…as of January 2013, David Miliband has made just short of £1m on top of his MP’s salary since he failed to win the Labour leadership in the summer of 2010.”

    He is one of six members of the Global Advisory Board of Macro Advisory Partners, which advises multinational corporations, sovereign wealth funds, investors and governments. In January 2012, he joined the Board of Directors of Mauritius-based private equity group, Indus Basin Holdings. IBH operates Rice Partners in the Punjab region of Pakistan. It specialises in managing the end-to-end supply chain for major global users of rice.

    According to the Financial Times, “Mr Miliband’s jobs include advisory roles with VantagePoint Capital Partners, a Californian group; Oxford Analytica, a UK advisory company; and Indus Basin Holdings, a Pakistani agrochemical group. He is also a member of the advisory board to the Sir Bani Yas academic forum, which is hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates. As a speaker he commands a fee of up to £20,000. He is also on the Advisory Board of VantagePoint Capital Partners.

    I don’t know if he wears a Panama Hat….. but I don’t think he’ll swing many pro EU votes in the North East.

    PS. As an acolyte, how’s your pal getting on with his engagements as an inspirational and motivational speaker. ?

  • So, to summarise …

    Miliband doesn’t want to be like the US or like Russia.

    And the way to avoid that is to remain in the EU.

  • True and fair enough to an extent.
    But then again I’m not anti political. I was arguing with the idea that someone as dubious as David Miliband is in any way a reasonable voice when delivering missives about “moral” or physical threats and that globalism or internationalism has a deeply undemocratic dark side. This is after all is a dude who as Foreign Minister defended invading countries and killing people on the flimsiest of pretexts. My other point was that , I don’t believe that people’s distrust of business as usual governance is anti-political. I think it is the result of bad politics and complacent governance.

  • @Joe Otten
    Why do you immediately assume it is anti-politics? Perhaps people want a politics that they can trust, it doesn’t mean that they are anti-politics in general.
    Is it easier for people of a political persuasion to use this term as it means it can be written off without to much need to look at why politics is in such a state?

  • Joe Otten
    “… with the ‘straw man’ argument that because the EU clearly doesn’t prevent all terrorism, it must therefore do nothing.”
    Really? Where did he write that then?

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Apr '16 - 12:13am

    I didn’t read David Miliband’s article at first because I’m already voting to remain in the EU. Some good arguments. I was struck by the strength at which David Miliband defended Britain’s history. I would not have gone as far as saying:

    “If the world is increasingly divided between firefighters and arsonists then Britain has, for centuries, been a firefighter.”.

    Although I agree we were on the right side in the Cold War, WW2, WW1 (even if we could have handled it better) and I would also add that we were right to stop Napoleon with his global militant republicanism.

    Most of the world has already decided that they want the European Union to become like a democratic and benevolent version of the Roman Empire. People are inspired by our mostly peaceful model and it also provides us with the power to defend ourselves.

  • Joe,
    I said it was a moot point whether it prevented terrorism, which means it is debatable and why anyone should place much weight on the words of David Miliband, based on his defence of militarist interventionist foreign policy which has got people killed and hasn’t really worked out that well.
    Honestly, I really do not understand the respect afforded to the likes of David Miliband and Tony Blair. I do not see them as any different to Bush and Cheney. Now what I would say about acts terrorism based on recent events is that they seem to be harder to prevent where there are land boarders that make access to weaponry harder to control or as in America where weaponry is less restricted. Though, I would add this is plainly not the only factor because there are countries with land boarders and easier access to weaponry who have not suffered terrorist attacks, some in the EU some outside of the EU. I would also add that many of the terrorist involved seem to have been already known to various security services and still managed to carry out their attacks. Frankly, I’m a little dubious of the some of the arguments put forward by both sides of the security debate.
    As I’ve said elsewhere before, I’m a liberal somewhat left-wing small islander and perfectly comfortable with it. So to me the EU debate boils down to whether or not the economic shock of leaving outweighs the ability to shift politics away from internationalist/globalist concerns which to me lack local/national democratic control. In short I think that what you call anti -politics, I think is the result of the reduction of the role of the electorate in shaping what politics is. Fundamentally, I think the people of Britain have been turned into global peasants in a system more akin to feudalism than democracy and that you can only really even begin to address it by reasserting the power of the electorate at a national or if you prefer local level, which can’t be done within a framework that renders their votes more or less meaningless.

  • I’m not terribly interested in big projects is what I mean. I don’t think New Zeeland is a bad place because it is not in the EU and isn’t stepping up to “help” the world as part of the permanent security council or whatever. .

    As I said I’m not a pan-nationalist. or an internationalist or a globalist. I don’t look at countries that aren’t part of big global projects and think why aren’t the getting involved, they’re so selfish. I see the EU as mainly a semi-imperialist monetarist, neo-liberal, trading block with a mixed bag of results and a lack of accountability like any other super-state-like enterprise. Personally, I’m not interested in Britain as a big global player coz for me it’s just my home. I’d like a nicer home rather than a bigger more powerful one and to stretch the metaphor it’s easier to do a bit of decorating than to change the world.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Apr '16 - 4:55pm

    To reduce a discussion by a sensible and moderate fellow member , ie Joe Otten ,about a sensible and moderate former minister , ie David Milliband , to a series of pitiful swipes at the latters market value as a placeman for five minutes in a local football club, or a dig at his residing in New York , where he does happen to run a terrific charity helping refugees , is typical of the sort of internalised and bitter thinking and attitude of the leftist aspiration loathing tendency that Liberalism and social democracy is not about !If you want socialism , it is there for all in Corbynland!This intelligent article is actually about convincing reasons to stay in the EU !!!

  • Stephen Hesketh 14th Apr '16 - 6:59pm

    Lorenzo Cherin 14th Apr ’16 – 4:55pm
    “To reduce a discussion by a sensible and moderate fellow member , ie Joe Otten ,about a sensible and moderate former minister , ie David Milliband”

    Centre-right member of Lib Dems defends ‘fanatically loyal Clegg acolyte’ and Blairite ex Labourite minister.

  • @ Lorenzo Yes, …..but……. he did.

    According to what you might call ‘a sensible and moderate ‘ newspaper (the Daily Telegraph), “David Miliband earned £125,000 for only fifteen days work at Sunderland football club……….. From your point of view he was probably sensible to take it. I’ve got a different word beginning with a gr….y

    Now £ 125,000 works out at ten times the amount someone living in South Shields (his old constituency which I happen to know well) gets in a full year on the new national “living wage” – (if they can get a job). Unemployment in South Shields is twice the national average. The rate of claiming any benefit (which includes in-work benefits) is more than 25% higher in South Shields than the national average, suggesting many people may be under employed or on a low salary.

    Now sensible moderate Dave showed his commitment to South Shields by scarpering quick time to a place where he earns a million per year (plus his Commons pension) lecturing to Wall Street Corporates just like Hillary. In mitigation he does part time charity work.

    Now I’m going to vote to STAY IN – but I don’t need advice from Miliband D (late of the ‘workers party’) to convince me…… even though it comes via an angelic acolyte.
    Now don’t take my word for it. The sensible moderate ‘Independent’ headlined the story on Tuesday thus : “David Miliband says Brexit means Britain will lose its relevance. Doesn’t he realise he’s already lost his own?”

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Apr '16 - 12:46pm

    Stephen Hesketh

    I am not centre right , just because I am not on the left , I am in the radical centre of both the Liberal Democrats and the political spectrum!

    David Raw

    I have no time for people making money from unethical companies , if they do their bidding . I have no problem with people giving a highly paid talk to certain companies , especially if it is to persuade them of a good point of view !On the football club . I dislike anyone being too holier than thou , I do not have any interest in football , Milliband does , if the company Dream Works , of Stephen Spielberg , or any other in the arts and media , where I have my interest , offered me that kind f money for a couple of weeks work , of course I would take it with enthusiasm !It is only a gravy train if you dislike the payer and continue their bidding !I admire Stephen Spielberg and his work , just as Milliband likes football !

    People in glass houses should not throw stones .I do not live in one , but do not throw them anyway !

  • Richard Underhill 2nd May '16 - 6:01pm

    Ed Miliband (Labour) Ed Davey (Lib Dem) Caroline Lucas (Green) and Liz Truss (Tory) have signed a joint leaflet on Climate Change.
    Brexit supporters contain a large number of Climate Change Deniers.
    (Guardian 2/5/2016, page 10).

  • Richard Underhill 2nd May '16 - 6:03pm

    US-EU trade talks near deadlock. (Guardian 2/5/2016 page 21).

  • David Allen 2nd May '16 - 11:10pm

    Reading this old thread for the first time – What annoys me about D Miliband’s article is the overwhelming sense of complacent pontification from the grandee’s perspective. Miliband is saying “Preserve the existing world order, which keeps me in the luxury to which I am accustomed, and don’t do anything stupid, like Brexit, which could help the barbarians at the gate!”

    Well, Brexit would indeed cause a lot of instability, muddle, and uncertainty, which is a good reason to oppose it. So, I suppose I do have a modicum of common ground with Miliband D. However, I’m sure not voting Remain for the sake of Miliband’s interests! Indeed, I might have more sympathy with some of the barbarians at the gate, from outside the West, who have been harmed by the actions of Western Bushites, Blairites and D.Milibandites!

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