What does the/a customs union/arrangement mean for Northern Ireland?

It takes some resolve to keep track of the Brexit debate these days. Both government and Labour policies hinge on such nuance that creative ambiguity remains perhaps a better term than policy.

As a party, we have been clear that Labour’s recent movement on the/a customs union has been slight

and a customs union only gets you some of the way to the open border that the UK is committed to in the Good Friday Agreement

While this is all true I fear that it is going to be difficult to persuade anybody to change their minds with an argument that relies on the difference between the customs union and the single market, never mind the difference between the customs union and a customs union or arrangement. And going on about Corbyn being pro-Brexit may turn more Corbynites against remain than remainers against Corbyn.

The debate, rather, has been driven by simple, if contradictory demands: Control of borders (except in Northern Ireland) being just one of many. I am reminded of William Hague’s warnings about this before the referendum; dismissed at the time as ‘project fear’ of course but now we see Dan Hannan, Kate Hoey and Owen Paterson actually attacking the Good Friday Agreement itself – you know the one that brought an end to the troubles. It’s as if the idea of people from different traditions working together in democratic institutions rather than fighting each other was unwelcome to the Brexiters. OK, now I’ve said it, it makes sense.

But perhaps they are just following simple demands through bitter logic to the bitter end. The decision to pull out of the customs union and single market was one such step. And if the Good Friday Agreement is getting in the way of pulling out of the customs union and single market then that too must be a bad thing. This may be an application of logic but it is not intelligent or rational. The intelligent and rational thing to do is to work out all the consequences of your simple demand before you even make it.

Brexit is identified as the work of ‘facilitated‘ men by Alix Mortimer (once a wordmeister here at LDV Towers) in the sense that we have a political class that just expects little people to work out all the details, rather than bothering their heads with whether their ideas could actually work. (I must say it sounds marvellous. It is now my life goal to be a facilitated man. I’ll leave others to work out how to make it happen.)

But if you’d told me before the referendum that a leave vote would lead to both Labour and Tory politicians attacking the Good Friday Agreement, willing perhaps to reignite the troubles, just to double down on their own bloody-minded failure to consider the consequences of their actions, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s so much worse than ‘project fear’ could have conceived.

* 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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73 Comments

  • This is such a mess. Factually, we can’t be in THE customs union unless we are in the EU. We can be in A customs union. May and her mates have promised convergence between north and south of Ireland and has promised no internal border between N Ireland and the rest of UK. Therefore there will be convergence between EU/Ireland and the U.K. There will be convergence but, it seems, no Union. No deal means WTO terms and the WTO rules say that in such circumstances there must be a proper border. Brexiteers note, nothing I have said is my opinion, just fact and the application of logic (apart from the “mess” bit !!).
    Acording to Johnson and the DUP this circle can be squared by the use of sophisticated monitoring of vehicles crossing the border, without the need for actual checkpoints. Even if this were possible, it would not keep people out of the U.K. I thought securing our borders was an important issue for many leave voters, but what will stop a coach load of migrants from crossing into Norhern Ireland and then getting the Larne Stranraer ferry ?
    Corbyn and labour at least accept the need for Union, but their idea of a pick and mix deal will not be acceptable to the EU, any more than May’s will be. Of course Corbyn needs an opt out from competition rules so that he can bring in his renationalaisation program.
    A complete and completely predicable mess.

  • @Chris Cory
    I understand that it takes twelve months to become a member of the WTO, which leaves us with just 30 days to go before even this option is off the table. I hope David Davis has got a begging bowl to take to the next round of negotiations. Don’t worry, the snake oil salesman said it will cure all. It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. I would laugh if I wasn’t so angry.

  • willing perhaps to reignite the troubles

    The only people who can re-ignite the trouble are the terrorists.

  • John Marriott 27th Feb '18 - 4:38pm

    It’s being suggested that Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein MPs should take their seats at Westminster and vote down a Hard Brexit. But I suppose it won’t happen. Now Boris reckons it will as easy to collect customs duties between the North and South as collecting the congestion charge between two London Boroughs!

  • Dav: “The only people who can re-ignite the trouble are the terrorists.”
    We can make it easy for them though.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Feb '18 - 8:14pm

    Let’s not be muddled ourselves, we and the SNP are the only ones seeing the issue plainly – that we need to remain in both the customs union and the single market. And that Mr Corbyn’s concession only takes him slightly beyond Mrs May’s imagining of special arrangements just for us. He apparently reckons now that we need a special customs union custom-built for us, which as Guy Verhofstadt has remarked, is not possible. Yet, unless we stay in the customs union, the Irish open border can’t stay open. Boris Johnson’s ramblings about hi-tech whizzardry meaning no delay made me start imagining each of those cows crossing the border being solemnly clocked individually. But at least one could imagine that, not like Liam Fox’s fantasy fair-trade deals linking us with fairy lands.

  • It seems to me that mostly what leave politicians want is a greater say in the decisions that the EU makes – the item Cameron tried to put on the table before failing for the first of several times. What other nation in the world has tried to leave a union as large as the EU without any real plan for what happens next? David Cameron’s second of several errors.

  • Anthony Durham 27th Feb '18 - 11:17pm

    Johnson’s suggestion that Irish border controls could be run like the Congestion Charge sounds to me like another government IT cock-up in the making. Londoners with computer skills do not make a serious attempt to subvert or destroy TfL’s IT systems, because we do not viscerally hate TfL (however much we may sometimes dislike them) or see much money to be made from crime against them. Neither protection would apply to the Irish border. Surveillance cameras will get smashed and cables cut, even before any intelligent fraud with passwords and documents.

  • Joe Otten, Perhaps a touch of reality might not go amiss…The UK will leave the EU; the only question is how and when..’How’ will be decided by the big beasts (Tories/Labour) and the ‘When’ depends on a seemingly elastic ‘transition period’…
    Quoting Kate Hoey as an example of Labour politicians is plain silly…I note you missed Owen Smith’s denunciation of Hoey’s statement as, “”reckless & utterly wrong” and “driven by (her) blind, misplaced faith in Brexit”…

    Things are coming to a head and Corbyn is moving towards an negotiable/achievable set of aims for Brexit…Will it work; who knows? …But apart from that offered by Davis, Fox, Johnson and May it’s the ‘only other game in town’…

  • Peter Martin 28th Feb '18 - 9:17am

    I appreciate the difficulties of wanting to leave the EU/Single Market/customs union yet keep an open border with Ireland. This is clearly impossible. What Labour thinks doesn’t much matter. Their policy is still one of cherry picking the bits they like and the EU is never going to allow that. Mrs May is in charge, and she continues to flounder.

    So our current predicament is all the fault of Leavers for wanting to leave? Not really. For years those on the Remain side have played down the influence of the EU in our national affairs. Of course they don’t interfere with our laws they’ve argued. We are still a sovereign country. We are a member of the EU only through choice.

    But now it comes to leaving the argument from remainers is that we don’t have much of a choice after all. We are far too entangled with the EU to be able to leave. Even the peace process in Northern Ireland depends on it.

    Very likely we will need, at some stage, to have a new round of peace talks in Northern Ireland to establish just what is going to be possible after Brexit. We’ve really no quarrel with the people of the Irish Republic. But, the Republican side in Ireland has to respect the decision of the UK to not be a part of the EU. Just as we respected, eventually, their decision not to be a part of the UK in the 20s and 30s.

  • Johnson’s suggestion that Irish border controls could be run like the Congestion Charge sounds to me like another government IT cock-up in the making.
    It also suggests just how much he (and others) fail to grasp the real issue. The problem isn’t the vehicles crossing the border, it what is in them and its providence.

    Thanks Joe for highlighting Alix Mortimer’s article.

  • @ Peter Martin “What Labour thinks doesn’t much matter”.

    I’m afraid it does. You are talking about what will probably be the next H.M. Government of the United Kingdom – something, I’m afraid. the Liberal Democrats are not in a position to aspire to – unless they make some sort of arrangement with the Labour Party (with or without Mr Corbyn as PM) or, heaven forbid, with this calamitous Tory Government.

  • Chris Cory. It is you who are factually incorrect. There are countries that are in the customs union but not the EU and countries that are in the single market but not in the EU.
    The real question is why are we leaving both the single market and the customs union when these two provide the best basis for trading with our European Partners. In addition we are foregoing 50 plus free trade deals with third countries in order to start negotiating free trade deals with 50 plus countries through the WTO, which as has been pointed out we are not an individual member of and WTO deals can take years to negotiate.
    I’m not sure how we get this across to the public but if we don’t we face at best a number of years without the ability to trade via either the EU or the WTO. Given our reliance on overseas trade this can only be a disaster. I have no confidence whatsoever in the ability of this government to run a whelk stall, never mind negotiate free trade deals with anyone.
    And, David Raw, I have no confidence that the Labour Party could do any better.

  • It becomes ever more clear that Brexit and some degree of prosperity (and unity) are mutually exclusive if one rules out the senseless Brino-option (all obligations, no rights) i.e. customs union- and single-market membership. That is why British politics as represented by the two large parties are such a mess; it is an unsolvable dilemma. What we know for sure is that the Tories will opt for Brexit no matter what. So our only hope is the alternative.

    I still do not see Corbyn eventually opting for poverty. He does not have a militant leave-backbench, all adults in his shadow-cabinet are firm remainers, and the EU will find a way to accomodate enough of his socialist/nationalization agenda. After all, becoming like France would go a long way towards his ideals, possibly further than the British would wish to go along.

  • Peter Martin 28th Feb '18 - 12:32pm

    @ David Raw,

    I’d agree that the Opposition’s policy is normally important. But I can’t see any reason why there will be an election before 2022, and by then the die will be cast on the EU. There won’t be any way back to EU membership as we understood it before. There’ll be a choice between whatever has been agreed by the Tories, rejecting that and going to WTO terms, or rejoining as full members in exactly the same way as Germany and France are full members. So Lib Dems do need to look ahead and decide how they are going to position themselves for that.

    There’d only be an early election if there is a realignment of the parties. The pro-EU right of the Labour Party, Lib Dems and the pro-EU wing of the Tory party would first have to form a Parliamentary coalition and almost immediately call for an election which they’d of course need to win to establish a mandate to overturn Brexit. It’s possible of course! But unlikely IMO. We’ll see!

  • @Arnold Kiel – “It becomes ever more clear that Brexit and some degree of prosperity (and unity) are mutually exclusive’.

    There was a discussion on BBC Afternoon Live, yesterday, where the supporter of Brexit described leaving the EU as a political decision – one not primarily concerned with prosperity – he described others. This brings into question whether prosperity or being happy is the purpose of life [Bhutan’s “Gross National Happiness” as opposed to GDP.

    The concept of being happy through doing what is right is common in the East where a number of the religions stress the importance of rightness. The greatest example presently of choosing prosperity over what is right, today, surely must be the continued burning of fossil fuels – thereby threatening the very existence of future generations and many other species.

    This of course raises the issue – in the context of Brexit – is it right to attempt to prevent hard Brexit [the outcome the people voting to leave expected]?

  • Peter Martin 28th Feb '18 - 1:02pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    “After all, becoming like France would go a long way towards his ideals….”

    With all due respect to yourself, and French people too, we don’t wish to “become like France” or even model ourselves on France. France has huge problems. A combination of austerity economics, high unemployment, and a rise in fascist politics has turned its political system upside down. In UK terms, the Tory and Labour parties have ceased to exist. No doubt many Lib Dems would initially argue that might be a good thing, but they may change their minds about that if the far right was as influential in British politics as the FN are in France.

    Thank you for your concern, but we’ll, as always, do our own thing even if it means making our own mistakes!

  • Arnold Kiel 28th Feb '18 - 1:22pm

    John Roffey,

    acknowledging increased poverty would at least be a honest step by leavers, but not answering its moral justifiability given the already apalling degree of poverty in the UK.

    When referring to Eastern religion, Nigel Lawson’s assertion that “the NHS is the closest thing the English people have to a religion” comes to mind. Which is it, east or west?

    The burning of fossile fuels would certainly be increased by sacrificing continental for the benefit of intercontinental trade.

  • Arnold Kiel 28th Feb '18 - 2:05pm

    Peter Martin,

    I did not intend to advocate the French system. I was only referring to France to show that JC’s aspirations in terms of public sector scale and scope are entirely compatible with EU membership.

  • I was only referring to France to show that JC’s aspirations in terms of public sector scale and scope are entirely compatible with EU membership.

    Except that Corbyn doesn’t want to turn the UK into France, he wants to turn it into Venezuela, and wholesale nationalisation without compensation is most definitely not ‘compatible with EU membership’.

  • @Arnold Kiel
    Talking of poverty I was somewhat surprised to see this:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-43210596

    I didn’t realise that the use of food banks in Germany was so wide spread.

    There is so much that needs sorting out in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world for that matter. Brexit is just a complete and utter waste of time.

  • Arnold Kiel 28th Feb '18 - 2:34pm

    Dav,

    I should hope that “wholesale nationalisation without compensation is most definitely not compatible” with UK law and any future commons-majority either.

  • Peter Martin 28th Feb '18 - 2:35pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    This is one opinion. Another is that the recreation of British Rail, the renationalisation of the utilities and the Royal Mail would be outside EU rules.

    There does seem to be some problem, but the extent of it seems to vary in proportion to the euroscepticism of the interpreter!

    But it’s clear that JC himself thinks there is a problem which means that there is. At least as far as Labour is concerned.

    My opinion is that we’d probably have been OK keeping most of the nationalised industries but now that they have been privatised it is going to be almost impossible to reverse the process while we are in the EU.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/29/corbyn-reignites-labour-debate-over-eu-rules-on-state-aid-and-socialist-manifesto

  • I should hope that “wholesale nationalisation without compensation is most definitely not compatible” with UK law and any future commons-majority either.

    Well, so do I, but if Corbyn wins a commons majority then he will certainly want to try it and he won’t want the EU getting in his way.

  • nvelope2003 28th Feb '18 - 2:45pm

    For all their problems France is a good place to live and has a lot going for it. It is going down by adopting US habits not keeping to its own.

  • nvelope2003 28th Feb '18 - 2:48pm

    MacDonell has stated that any compensation for the former owners of nationalised industries will be decided by Parliament. If Labour wins a majority there will be no compensation and I think they have made it clear enough.

  • Dav 28th Feb ’18 – 2:27pm………….Except that Corbyn doesn’t want to turn the UK into France, he wants to turn it into Venezuela, and wholesale nationalisation without compensation is most definitely not ‘compatible with EU membership’………

    Straight from the Daily Mail ‘hymn sheet’…Corbyn has said umpteen times that he want a balanced economy..As far as taking energy, water, rail, back into public ownership goes, even a cursory glance at recent polls show that is exactly what the bulk of the UK
    electorate want…

  • @ Mr Dav “Except that Corbyn doesn’t want to turn the UK into France, he wants to turn it into Venezuela”.

    I have to praise your vivid imagination and penetrating political judgement, Mr Dav.

    If it really is the the case that Mr Corbyn wants to turn the UK into Venezuela it’s interesting to note that he was citing the CBI and the Institute of Directors against Teresa May at PMQ’s today.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Feb '18 - 3:15pm

    There are plenty of legitimate objections to the likely policies of a future Labour Government without making them up. (There would also be a few pluses and we shouldn’t forget that)
    Mr Corbyn certainly has a chequered past as a would-be revolutionary, but I am sure he is a democrat, unlike the so-called socialist leaders in Venezuela.
    So why not stick to attacking Labour for what they actually say or do, not for what the Mail and other supporters of the uber wealthy imagine they say? Their actions on Brexit speak far louder than any number of nuanced speeches of the ‘will he won’t he’ type.
    Wwe need to keep up the pressure on the Labour Party – and indeed the pro EU Tories – to come round to voting for the UK to remain in the single market and the customs union and ideally to staying in the EU.

  • John Roffey 28th Feb '18 - 3:18pm

    @Arnold Kiel – “acknowledging increased poverty would at least be a honest step by leavers, but not answering its moral justifiability given the already apalling degree of poverty in the UK.”

    Yes I agree, Arnold, that the government should acknowledged that the UK is likely to be worse off under a hard Brexit. However, Brexit is too complex to say very much with any great certainty and it is not the vast majority of leavers who are to blame for not acknowledging this is likely to be the case – they simply do not know. What is not known is the extent to which wages will increase because of the shortage of labour – this should be at the expense of the, generally, high profits of the global corporations and their executives huge pay deals.

    More expensive products because of tariffs will also offer opportunities to new businesses trading solely in the UK.

    “When referring to Eastern religion, Nigel Lawson’s assertion that “the NHS is the closest thing the English people have to a religion” comes to mind. Which is it, east or west?”

    I hope you will understand if I do not recognise NL as an authority on world religions. Although people in the UK have virtually abandoned any serious religious belief – this is far from the case in the rest of the free world. There is an important discussion between prosperity v happiness [through doing what is right] which has been greatly obscured since the idea that ‘greed is good’ as been adopted by so many both here and in the US.

    “The burning of fossile fuels would certainly be increased by sacrificing continental for the benefit of intercontinental trade.”

    Or reduced because of the opportunities created for new UK businesses through the imposition of tariffs.

  • Peter Martin 28th Feb '18 - 3:29pm

    @ Dav @nvelope2003 @ Arnold Kiel

    “wholesale nationalisation without compensation ….”

    Labour Govts have always paid the going rate whenever it has bought shares. But have governments of more rightish parties ever sold them at the going rate?

  • Of course, with railways, you just wait until the franchise runs out – as is the case with the Scottish Government.

    No doubt Mr Dav expects the Scottish Government will require all Scots to wear kilts, live ib caves and watch spiders.

  • Of course, with railways, you just wait until the franchise runs out

    I very much doubt that will be good enough for Mr Corbyn — after all, what happens if there’s a general election before all the franchises run out? He might not get back in!

  • Dav 28th Feb ’18 – 4:43pm….Of course, with railways, you just wait until the franchise runs out………….I very much doubt that will be good enough for Mr Corbyn — after all, what happens if there’s a general election before all the franchises run out? He might not get back in!…………..

    I wonder why those on here in favour of privatisation cry “The sky is falling” whenever public ownership is mentioned but seem content that, when private profits fail to meet expectations, they can be dumped back in the taxpayer’s lap…

  • @ P.J. and Mick Taylor

    If you go to the WTO website and find a list of members under U you will find the “United Kingdom – 1 January 1995”. Which must mean we are a founder member – https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/tif_e/org6_e.htm.

    @ Mick Taylor

    In 2016 we exported £550 billion which is 28% of our GDP of £1,963 billion. Only £240 billion (12.2%) was exported to EU countries. I don’t think anyone is saying that if we have to trade on WTO rules all of these exports will stop. It has been suggested that the value of EU tariffs on UK goods and services would be £5.2 billion [2.2%] (William Norton in an article for Civitas). The pound has devalued in relation to the Euro by about 6.6% since the referendum. The effects of trading under WTO rules may well be over stated. More worrying I think are the effects of foreign businesses choosing not to invest in the UK because we are not in the EU.

  • I wonder why those on here in favour of privatisation

    This has got nothing to do with being in favour of privatisation, it’s what Mr Corbyn would do in power. And I don’t believe he’d want to leave the job half-done.

  • Arnold Kiel 28th Feb '18 - 5:28pm

    John Roffey,

    regarding potential prosperity-tradeoffs, I wanted to draw your attention to the fact that this is not an aseptic, philosophical, or religious question alone. And the authority to make these decisions poses massive ethical questions. The correlation between wealth, education, employment, housing situation, healthcare and life expectancy are well researched (and theoretically even acknowledged, but practically ignored, by your PM). More poverty therefore directly translates in less, more disadvantaged, less healthy, and shorter lives. The 100 hard-core Brexiters in Parliament charging for “Brexit at all cost” (meaning, irrespective of the human casualties) are certainly well insulated from the hardship they insist on causing.

    And anybody who tells me that 17.4 Million Brits wanted their average life-expectancy curtailed can only be called an inhuman cynic, for lack of milder terms.

  • Peter Hirst 28th Feb '18 - 6:28pm

    I suppose solving issues like the Irish border within the context of Brexit is why we have professional politicians. It is the ability to alter your view while maintaining you haven’t that endears me so much to the political class. If it wasn’t for politicians, I’d assert there is no solution to the Irish problem as I did some years age but then I didn’t understand politicians.

  • Katerina Porter 28th Feb '18 - 6:35pm

    What about Gibraltar, and its problem with frontiers, and islands in the Caribbean, British side by side with Dutch and French that tend to depend on each other?
    Much as I dislike some traits in Jeremy Corbyn it is surely imperative to get rid of this government which has done and will do so much more damage to this country . When Mr in a speech once spoke about the Tories being called the nasty party surely she was spot on. JC maybe dreams of a true socialist country but it will not happen.

  • Nonconformistradical 28th Feb '18 - 6:50pm

    @Katerina Porter
    “What about Gibraltar, and its problem with frontiers, and islands in the Caribbean, British side by side with Dutch and French that tend to depend on each other?”

    Not sure what your point is. Yes – Gibraltar has a problem with the frontier with Spain. In what way do the British, Dutch and French territories in the Caribbean depend on each other? I don’t know about the Dutch one(s) but the French ones (and those in the Indian Ocean) are intrinsically part of France itself (with their own department numbers for postcodes etc.) rather than being independent countries or dependencies.

  • Nonconformistradical 28th Feb '18 - 6:53pm

    @Peter Hirst
    “I suppose solving issues like the Irish border within the context of Brexit is why we have professional politicians.”

    Are you implying that the UK ones supposedly trying to sort it (hopefully without wrecking the Good Friday Agreement) are in any way professional? They may be being paid by us but let’s not make out they are professional in their hadning of this.

  • Katerina Porter 28th Feb '18 - 9:17pm

    My point was that Gibraltar is in the same situation as Northern Ireland ishould they have to face a solid frontier with Spain if we dont stay in the customs union. Apparently there will be same problem for different islands in the Caribbean

  • Peter Martin 28th Feb '18 - 9:28pm

    @ Katerina,

    Gibraltar has a rather odd status. Although it is part of the EU, having joined the then EEC with the United Kingdom in 1973, it is outside the customs union, is not part of the VAT area and is exempted from the Common Agricultural Policy. It does not form part of the Schengen Area.

  • Peter Martin 28th Feb '18 - 9:44pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    ” anybody who tells me that 17.4 Million Brits wanted their average life-expectancy curtailed…..”

    Blimey! Have you been compiling a list 1001 reasons why we shouldn’t leave the EU? Life expectancy is rather scraping the barrel! There’s no real evidence that EU membership does much for longevity in any case. Germany which has always been a much more enthusiastic EU member than the UK has a slightly worse life expectancy than we do in Britain.

    Maybe the gap will be even greater after we’ve gone if you pine for us too much 🙂

  • John Roffey 1st Mar '18 - 7:55am

    @Arnold Kiel – “and anybody who tells me that 17.4 Million Brits wanted their average life-expectancy curtailed can only be called an inhuman cynic, for lack of milder terms.”

    Arnold, life expectancy in the UK is falling – this started prior to the EU Referendum – and is almost certainly the result of Osborne’s austerity measures introduced by the COALITION.

    Osborne, a frequent attendee of primarily Corporate America’s Bilderberg Meetings [along with Ken Clarke – a former member of its Steering Committee] together with Blair and Brown [both recipients of huge sums from Corporate America for ‘lectures’ – a group that Cameron has now joined] are all very vocal supporters of the UK staying ‘IN’ the EU.

    The austerity measures were primarily aimed at increasing global corporations profits at the expense of the poorest in the UK and this has been very successful – coupled to the ‘self regulation’ introduced for these monsters. Billionaire wealth [these corporations main share holders] increased by 13% each year between 2006 and 2015 – globally 6 times faster than the average worker. The 42 richest now have as much wealth as the 3.7 billion worst off.

    The power of the NRA to prevent at least some sensible gun control reminds us that the majority of US Senators are bought and paid for by Corporate America – effectively removing any real semblance of democracy in the US [and the most likely cause of Trump’s election].

    If the Party wants a ‘Noble Cause’ that is the ‘right thing to do’ [since it is partly responsible for the great suffering faced as a result of the austerity measures] – it should look to find ways to regulate these corporations in the UK along with the introduction of AI – which is going to replace millions of jobs. Also to stop trying to preventing Brexit – as we will need to be free of EU regulations – if these Global Corporations are to be regulated and their profits shared more fairly with their workers.

  • Arnold Kiel 1st Mar '18 - 8:55am

    John Roffey,

    I have bad news for you: your current living standard is largely underpinned by large global corporations who, until recently, found the UK an attractive place to do business. They are productive, innovative, pay well, and give consumers value for money. And they, quite legitimately, pay only the legally imposed taxes. And they will continue to innovate, i.e. automate.

    The US will never ask them to contribute more, the EU does, but the UK has no chance.

    After Brexit, Britain will become a less attractive place and must compensate them with additional fiscal social, and environmental concessions. This, however, would rule out any EU-UK free trade deal.

    Your idea that Brexit will enhance Britain’s leverage vis-a-vis global corporations is not even shared by the Labour left, who feel similarly about them. There is a reason they are just after naturally immobile franchises like rail, postal services, water, energy, etc. Even they understand that anything mobile must be lured to stay, as evidenced by Corbyn’s customs union decision.

  • Completely agree with you, John. Unfortunately many Lib Dems are still in denial about the impact of the austerity and welfare cut policies they supported. The terrible weather makes one fear for the rising number of homeless in our so called civilised society.

    Homelessness in England rises 54% since 2010 | The Independent : “30 Jun 2016 – Homelessness among English households has risen 54 per cent since 2010, according to government figures. … This represents the sixth consecutive annual rise, with households becoming homeless in London increasing to 17,530 (9 per cent) in the last year alone and 58,000 households …

    Until the Party leadership acknowledge this and publicly apologises then the rest is just empty words and nobody will listen to them on Brexit or on anything else.

  • @ Arnold Kiel “pay well, and give consumers value for money. And they, quite legitimately, pay only the legally imposed taxes.”

    There is something chill about this – It smacks of Big Brother and Orwell’s 1984.

    Pay well ?

    Fifth of UK’s population earns less than living wage, finds research …
    http://www.independent.co.uk › News › Business › Business News
    5 Nov 2017 – “Today’s figures show that more work needs to be done if we are to eradicate in-work poverty,” said Andy Bagnall, director at KPMG UK. “It’s unfortunate that in 2017, more than 5 million working people in the UK are earning below the real living wage and cannot enjoy the standard of life so many of us take …

  • Arnold Kiel 1st Mar '18 - 9:20am

    David Raw,

    the UK’s exceptionally large low-skill (= low productivity) service sector pays poorly. In this space, local firms are overrepresented. Global firms provide on average a higher proportion of more productive and better paid manufacturing- and high-skilled service jobs (the ones Brexit is already pushing offshore).

  • Peter Martin 1st Mar '18 - 9:42am

    There is a well worn argument, an assumption even, that we need the EU to control the power of the corporations on our behalf. Arnold Kiel’s comment that “The US will never ask them to contribute more, the EU does, but the UK has no chance” is fairly typical. We need to be a part of a larger organisation to be able to stand up to the corporations.

    This needs to be challenged. After the GFC, it wasn’t the USA or EU which put any bankers in jail. Despite having populations measured in the hundreds of millions! And yet tiny Iceland with a population of just 300,000 managed to succeed, to a better extent, where all the rest of us failed.

    The powers of the nation state should not be underestimated. We have armies, police forces, tax inspectors. We can make and change laws. We can levy taxes. The international corporations cannot.

    https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745337326/reclaiming-the-state/

  • nvelope2003 1st Mar '18 - 9:49am

    Is it true that falling life expectancy is caused by poverty ? I would suggest it is more likely to be caused by over eating, especially huge quantities of sugar and fat and the reluctance to take even the most modest amount of exercise. This is not just done by poorer people but also by the wealthy. Only a minority now walk to work or to the shops and with online shopping even that is decline hence the collapse of various shopping chains. A few used to walk to the newspaper shop but most have stopped buying them.

    As regards Jeremy Corbyn I used to think he was a sincere man and genuine in his attempts to understand the reasons behind terrorism and revolutionary movements but his continued support for the Venezuelan and Cuban regimes has caused me to worry that he would like to introduce similar systems here. Lenin promised to give land to the peasants but he had no intention of doing so and his regime confiscated the land the peasants already had and as a result there were food shortages as there are in Venezuela, and famine as there was also in Cuba. Economies are tricky things and cannot be managed by slogans.

    The naivety of so many Liberal Democrats about these things will not reassure voters anymore than they were impressed by our performance in the coalition government and hence the very low support for the party in the opinion polls which shows no sign of improving. We appear as the party of the status quo when people want change from what they perceive as failed policies, even though those policies have brought great benefits.
    There would be costs of taking back railway franchises even when they ended. Few who understand them favour renationalisation. When Mr MacDonell says renationalisation will be cost free it is because he does not plan to pay compensation. What Labour did between 1945 and 1951 is irrelevant to the modern Labour Party

  • Arnold Kiel 1st Mar '18 - 10:05am

    Peter Martin,

    jailing bankers of defunct local institutions in Island might feel good but makes nobody richer. The issue is participation in the wealth created by successful, global, and legitimate corporations that drive innovation and growth. They are mobile, and do not mind “armies, police forces, tax inspectors”, as long as they are deployed in accordance with the rule of law in a business- and capital-friendly environment.

  • John Roffey 1st Mar '18 - 11:03am

    @David Raw – “Until the Party leadership acknowledge this and publicly apologises then the rest is just empty words and nobody will listen to them on Brexit or on anything else.”

    Judging by the flurry of articles on LDV extolling the idea of a second referendum on the EU – if this is a guide – there seems little chance that the Party intends to change course.

    Such a development would need the support of Labour which would negate their plans [if it led to our staying in the EU] to redistribute wealth in the UK [hard Brexit is probably needed for these in truth] – so it is extremely unlikely.

    This approach by the Party seems to be another reckless plan to try to gain some popularity – when the reverse is the almost certain to be the case.

  • John Roffey 1st Mar '18 - 11:37am

    @Arnold Kiel – “I have bad news for you: your current living standard is largely underpinned by large global corporations”

    Have you seen George Bush senior’s New World Order speech Arnold? Delivered on 9/11 1991! Doesn’t it seem to you that this project for a New American Century is being pursued via the ever increasing dominance of the global corporations? A plan not actually intended to improve or maintain anyone’s living standards – but for a select few.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byxeOG_pZ1o

    Do you not acknowledge that it is the Oil corporations in conjunction with the Motor manufacturers who are delaying the use of renewable energy to an extent – judged by the IPCC – to risk irreversible climate change?

    It is not these corporations that we should trust with our children’s and grandchildren’s future.

  • I’m afraid I can’t go along with Arnold Kiel’s neo-liberal view that we should all docilely give thanks to our Lords and Masters, the multinational lever pullers, for the crusts on the side of their plates. It’s not part of my nonconformist radical tradition to sing the old version of ‘All things bright and beautiful’.

    The rich man in his castle,
    The poor man at his gate,
    God made them high and lowly,
    And ordered their estate.

    The difference now, of course, is that the (Sir) Philip Green’s of this world sit on their £ 100 million pound yachts in a tax haven whilst their pensioners (in Boris’s phrase) can go whistle.

  • Arnold Kiel 1st Mar '18 - 12:08pm

    John Roffey,

    o dear, where shall I start? Unfortunately, it is only entrepreneurial spirit combined with human greed that brings technological innovation, e.g. renewable energy or electrical cars, not well-meaning politicians. They do best by creating boundary conditions conducive to progress, e.g. emmission standards. You must not trust global corporations, but your wellbeing nevertheles depends on them.

    Their contribution to everybody’s wealth vastly exceeds the wealth-distribution problems which admittedly exist. It is not a select few who benefit; they produce millions of rather well paid jobs around the globe, and save consumers enormous amounts. Sensible policies can improve wealth distribution further, provided wealth creation always takes precedence over redistribution. Treating them as an enemy is a sure way to accelerated national poverty.

  • nvelope2003 1st Mar ’18 – 9:49am………………………As regards Jeremy Corbyn I used to think he was a sincere man and genuine in his attempts to understand the reasons behind terrorism and revolutionary movements but his continued support for the Venezuelan and Cuban regimes has caused me to worry that he would like to introduce similar systems here. Lenin promised to give land to the peasants but he had no intention of doing so and his regime confiscated the land the peasants already had and as a result there were food shortages as there are in Venezuela, and famine as there was also in Cuba. Economies are tricky things and cannot be managed by slogans…………………………………

    More from ‘Daily Mail’ hymn sheet… The regimes of Venezuela and Cuba are indicative of the conditions/political alternatives in those countries and have absolutely no relevance, as does Lenin’s Russia, to 21st century UK…
    By all means oppose Corbyn on facts, but just making up ‘Goblins and Ghosties’ is irrational. Corbyn, has said he wants a ‘balanced economy’ and that, and his plans for public ownership, are far more in tune with moderate voters than your ( and often Stimpson’s ) view of the UK’s future…

  • Arnold Kiel 1st Mar '18 - 12:28pm

    David Raw,

    Green is an excellent example: a purely local self-made-man without much of a professional corporate structure, exclusively (and poorly) supervised by local, British players, and acting essentially under British law. He could easily disappear on his yacht and leave scorched earth behind.

    Not so the global corporation with structural continuity, hired managers, professional supervision, the disclosure-rigour of a stock-market listing, a valuable global reputation to defend, and exposure to multiple, much more severe jurisdictions, like in the US. One very rarely hears Green-like stories about them.

  • Arnold Kiel 1st Mar ’18 – 12:28pm…

    One word (if a number counts as a word)…………….. 2008

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Mar '18 - 1:09pm

    This intelligent and divided conversation reveals precisely what is good and not about modern liberalism and politics .

    Flexibility is the core of our philosophy in my and many peoples view but where us it.

    Arnold Kiel, loathes the thought of leaving the EU but seems in love with corporations. Where are Starbucks and google and amazon in your idolatry ?! Irresponsibility , doing the minimum of what could be social responsibility, Rowntrees of old , shame this modern capitalism .

    David Raw is terrific on these things but so anti capitalist or coalition, to dwell thus is to not move on, to not profess anything but negativity and self loathing ! We cannot keep supporting a leader who was so involved in that coalition , another as deputy to some extent, and want an apology, they must see the good in what they tried to do, we must more or we might as well back Renew or , in other ways, Labour. Either give up on this party or join in with better more individual calls to move forward, as you do on Brexit, where you are liberal as in flexible, unlike Arnold!

  • Peter Martin 1st Mar '18 - 1:20pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    The standard of living in the UK is determined by what we can produce for ourselves plus what is net imported. For Germany that would read what Germany can produce itself minus what is net exported. The extent which it is all divided up amongst the population is also an important factor.

    So, yes, the multinationals are an important part of the economy. If, for example, Starbucks wants to have its operations here it has to abide by UK law. If it doesn’t then it will have to pack up and leave. That won’t mean we’ll have to drink tea! There will be other coffee shops spring up to take their place.

    “A business- and capital-friendly environment” shouldn’t mean an environment where the company is allowed to evade/avoid their taxes. But that is what the multinationals take it to mean. I would imagine Ebay could well be told after Brexit that they won’t be allowed to divert their VAT collection to Luxembourg. They may well decide the UK govt isn’t being too “friendly” by saying that. If so they’ll know what their options will be.

  • John Roffey 1st Mar '18 - 1:39pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin “Flexibility is the core of our philosophy in my and many peoples view but where is it.”

    I am inclined to agree with you Lorenzo – an apology is not necessarily the way forward. However, if the Party were flexible enough to work with the Tories on Brexit [replacing the DUP] – this might help to resolve the Irish issues – and would demonstrate an astonishing flexibility that the voters might appreciate.

    Note; I am not proposing another coalition – just confidence-and-supply

  • @ Arnold Kiel “One very rarely hears Green-like stories about them” How about Lehmann Brothers for starters, Arnold ?? Sound familiar ?? And how did Mrs. Merkel get on sorting out VW and Herr Steg after Herr Winterkorn walked off with his 28 million Euro pension pot. ? Any prosecutions yet ?

    As for Green (local boy adviser to HMG Cameron/Osborne) the Arcadia Group is listed on the stock exchange. As for employees, in 2010, it was shown Green used sweatshops abroad and factories in Britain where the workers were paid less than half the legal minimum wage. (Channel 4 Dispatches). I admire your optimism about the altruism of multi-national corporations, but I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was five.

    @ Lorenzo The first four words of your fourth paragraph are truly perceptive (!!) ……. the rest isn’t. It’s called speaking truth unto (former) power…. a prerequisite of radicalism. I’m not hostile to enlightened capitalism – I once worked for a Director of John Lewis and (and was a Lib MP) – and Dad worked for Theodore Taylor in Batley. (Theodore Cooke Taylor M.P. – Wikipedia).

    @ John Roffey You’re prescribing the political equivalent of a visit to Dignitas.

  • John Roffey 1st Mar '18 - 4:57pm

    @David Raw – “John Roffey You’re prescribing the political equivalent of a visit to Dignities.”

    Perhaps so David – but politics has stagnated in the UK at present – because of Brexit and with no sign of resolution. This is not a healthy state for any nation. The Party has claimed it went into coalition with the Tories before ‘for the sake of the nation’ – such an act is needed far more now – than it was then.

    It should not be so difficult if it is accepted that there will be a Brexit of some kind and the Party’s wish to stay in the EU will not be forthcoming. If part of the deal was that the Tories did take action to alleviate some of the worst suffering at present – it should redeem the Party, to some degree, in the eyes of many voters.

  • John Roffey 1st Mar ’18 – 4:57pm……………………It should not be so difficult if it is accepted that there will be a Brexit of some kind and the Party’s wish to stay in the EU will not be forthcoming. If part of the deal was that the Tories did take action to alleviate some of the worst suffering at present – it should redeem the Party, to some degree, in the eyes of many voters……………….

    Another coalition with the Tories????????????? It’s March 1st; not April 1st…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Mar '18 - 6:14pm

    David

    Not that you shouldn’t revel in me blowing a trumpet in your direction, you could at least once in a while say what you agree with, is much, of the rest, here too, as you see on corporations , we have similar feelings on the greed.

  • John Roffey 1st Mar '18 - 6:53pm

    @expats – “Another coalition with the Tories????????????? It’s March 1st; not April 1st…”

    Ha, ha – not coalition though – just confidence-and-supply. I think a reasoned argument could be made for this option – but obviously not one that could overcome the emotional barrier of members.

  • Lorenzo, I’m really sorry if saying I didn’t believe in Santa Claus upset you – but I’m sure you’ll get over it.

    I do believe in radical social liberal values though (as I have done for sixty years) but
    find it more productive working with certain charities these days….. many of the recipients being victims of said Coalition welfare ‘reforms’.

    Have you looked up Theodore Cooke Taylor on Wikipedia yet ? I certainly believe in what he did (as did your hero C-B). I was on the works trip to Blackpool to celebrate his 100th birthday – and met him when I was 8. Lovely old man and a proper Liberal. He kept Dad’s job open until he came back from the war and paid half his wages to help Mum. Great man and a shouldn’t be forgotten Great Liberal.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Mar '18 - 7:38pm

    David

    I just looked him up and would say thanks for introducing me to a terrific man.

    I am a great adherent of Samuel Morley’s inspiration, and Anthony John Mundella, so many along with Rowntree.

    Morley as a Liberal mp and businessman and philanthropist, as with Mundella as first education minister and he the son of an Italian refugee.

  • Katharine Pindar 1st Mar '18 - 7:44pm

    To me, Lorenzo’s contribution at 1.09 pm today is the most helpful in this latest interesting debate, in seeing all sides and wanting to move things forward. There are no trolls here, just everyone contributing to Liberal thinking, and concerned for the poorest – for as Arnold wrote, ‘more poverty inevitably translates to lesser, more disadvantaged, less healthy and shorter lives.’

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Mar '18 - 11:41pm

    Katharine

    Shakespeare was right about the terrific Kate, one of his best characters, but wrong thinking any of the name, a shrew, every one of you seems the reverse, measured, sensible marvellous, you here and Catherine Jane, my favourite women in public life and culture, Princess Katherine, Katie Melua, the remarkable Katie Piper, even Katie Price was good in the commons committee on the subject , here, trolling !

  • nvelope2003 2nd Mar '18 - 11:42am

    expats: I do not read the Daily Mail but get my news from the BBC, Guardian, Independent on line, Times and sometimes Morning Star. Politicians say whatever they think will put them in power and then do whatever they want. That is why the public have become disillusioned and voter turnout has fallen. Corbyn is no different but the present Labour Party is not controlled by the same people that it was before so we have to be watchful.
    The situation in Venezuela is very relevant and so is Cuba and Russia. They are places with immense resources but the benefits were unfairly distributed and it seemed that nationalisation was the solution, but it did not work. Cuba has to import 70% of its food despite having large amounts of fertile land because there is insufficient incentive to work it. There have been some attempts to restore a degree of private enterprise but it is resisted by those who benefit from the Communist system.

    Venezuela has 13000% inflation because of attempts to destroy the free enterprise system and rely on oil which has created shortages and exports of subsidised goods for sale abroad. Not very wise and nor is the use of slogans like Daily Mail hymn sheet to those who do not read it and do not care for what they understand to be its views.

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