Hard-Brexiteers in disarray – but so is Labour

December 20, 2017 at 2:54 pm (Anti-Racism, Brexit, Daily Mail, Europe, internationalism, labour party, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, Tory scum)

Mail and Express

By Martin Thomas (this article also appears on the Workers Liberty website):

In mid-December, Theresa May agreed to keep British economic regulations “aligned” with the EU, thus opening the way to talks on a transition period and a Brexit trade deal. And rebellious Tory MPs defeated the Government in the House of Commons, to limit the Government’s ability to legislate by decree over Brexit.

The hard-Brexit press, the Mail and the Express, backed the “alignment” deal, but were furious at the Tory rebel MPs. On 9 December the Mail‘s headline was: “Rejoice! We’re On Our Way”, and the Express had: “Huge Brexit Boost At Last”.

On 14 December the Mail‘s front page accused the Tory rebel MPs of “betraying their leader, party and 17.4 million Brexit voters” and opening the way to “a Marxist in no.10”. The Express said: “Outrageous! Rebellion by 11 stubborn MPs threatens Brexit chaos”.

The hard-Brexiters are in disarray.

In 2016 Brexiters claimed that their choice was democratic because it would “take back control” of British affairs from the EU authorities. Now they assent to Britain being “aligned” with EU regulations in which, after Brexit, it has no say, but rage against Parliament saying that the Government cannot use the June 2016 referendum result as a mandate for autocratic powers to do what it likes.

The EU Single Market is a system of “regulatory alignment” within the EU to ease trade. No more, no less. If Northern Ireland remains sufficiently “aligned” with the EU to allow everyday free movement across the border within Ireland, and also “aligned” with Britain, then Britain must remain “aligned” with the EU.

Norway and Switzerland opt out of some Single Market provisions (on fisheries for Norway, for example), but in return comply with the rest, in bulk, without having any say in them. “Alignment” means Britain being either a Single Market member, or an associate of the same sort as Switzerland or Norway.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s talk of Britain being in “a single market” with the EU, but not “the Single Market”, is obfuscatory.

In contemporary neoliberal capitalism – which, despite what its champions say, is a regime crammed with regulations and codes and box-ticking – easy trade involving rapid movement of relatively small items requires agreement over regulations. If you want to trade with the EU, with EU regulations.

A British government could change the Single Market from the inside, but it can’t change the structure from the outside into a different single market.

Before June 2016 Brexiters talked of making many new trade deals which would allow a Britain outside the EU wider world trade. There is no movement on that front. The chances of a big deal to speed trade between Britain and the USA (by far the UK’s leading export destination after the EU) are slight in the era of Trump.

So the Tory government, pushed on, no doubt, by big-business lobbyists who want the trade routes open, is edging crabwise towards some sort of “soft” Brexit. The explicit hard-Brexiters are on the back foot.

Even Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the few right-wing Tories who openly criticised the “alignment” agreement, is reconciled to May’s way. He said on 17 December: “She has to stay until Brexit is completed”.

In some ways all this is to our advantage. It means that the Tories are constrained to deflate, bit by bit, the hopes of those who really expected good things from Brexit. The evidence is that most Brexit voters didn’t really expect good from Brexit, but rather voted to express “identity” and “values” and hostility to immigration; still, those who did expect good face discredit and demoralisation.

The Tories will still be avid to limit the rights of people wanting to move from EU countries to Britain, but are likely to settle for much looser limits than Ukip types would want.

All such advantages could however prove slight or entirely illusory. Mishaps and crises in the Brexit talks, causing higher barriers than any rational capitalist calculation wants, remain likely.

Needed, in order to give substance and sticking-power to the advantages, is a solid positive campaign for free movement, for keeping borders low and easy, for solidarity and social levelling-up across Europe – and, in fact, to give people the democratic right to a second verdict on Brexit when the shape of any deal emerges. Labour should be waging that campaign.

Instead, it is still equivocating. On 17 December, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who spoke up occasionally for free movement in the months after the 2016 referendum, and had said in a constituency newsletter that the electorate should have the right to vote on a final deal, backtracked and said: “The Labour party does not support a second referendum”.

John McDonnell is taking refuge in obfuscation about “a” single market and “the” single market. Labour still rules out continuing free movement, though front-bench Brexit spokesperson Keir Starmer has talked vaguely of “easy movement”.

All that must be turned round. Support the Labour Campaign for Free Movement!

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Lexit going to plan!

December 19, 2017 at 2:13 pm (Brexit, Europe, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, Tory scum, workers)

The Sun thinks it’s great:

The Mirror doesn’t like it:

Theresa May refused EIGHT times to rule out scrapping vital workers’ rights after Brexit

The 48-hour week and paid hols are under threat in a plot by Brexit-backing Tories to axe the EU’s Working Time Directive

By Dan Bloom Political reporter,  19 DEC 2017

Theresa May has refused to commit to upholding the vital protections (Image: AFP)

The 48-hour week and paid holidays are under threat in a plot by Brexit-backing Tories to axe the EU’s Working Time Directive.

Over the weekend reports suggested Brexiteers in the cabinet will demand the scrapping of the vital protections in order to agree a phase one deal.

Labour’s Wes Streeting said: “Today has underlined how weak Theresa May really is. She is at the mercy of the Brextremists in her own party.

An economists’ study says Brexit is already costing Britain £350 million a week in lack of growth, investment and output.

Remainers were quick to point out the figure bore a remarking resemblance to the figure that certain pro-Brexit campaigners suggested would be available for the NHS after the UK’s departure.

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Labour: time to end Brexit evasion

December 17, 2017 at 1:14 pm (Brexit, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, labour party, MPs, reformism)

Jeremy Corbyn campaigning for Remain
Corbyn campaigned for Remain, but has equivocated ever since

Theresa May has finally managed to cobble together a form of words with Jean-Claude Junker, allowing talks to begin on a trade deal.

But still the Tories remain hopelessly divided, with the ultra-right hard-Brexit fanatics opposed even to vague talk of “regulatory alignment” (something that’s essential if a hard border in Ireland is to be avoided).

So far, Labour’s stance of calculated ambiguity has served it well. The party fought the June election with a manifesto that accepted the referendum vote, but was evasive on just about everything else regarding Brexit. Labour reassured leavers in the Midlands and the North that it would not undo the referendum result, while cultivating remainers whose priority was thwarting May. Since then it has continued with one message for older leavers, another for young remainers. In parliament, Labour’s response to May’s European chaos often sounds more like commentary than combat.

Until November 2016 Corbyn defended free movement across European borders, and said that Labour would vote against Article 50 unless the Tories committed to staying in the Single Market. Then he bowed to Labour’s right wing and some of his own advisers, who subscribe to the Stalinist “Lexit” fantasy (an exit from the EU shaped by the left, to the benefit of workers — advocated by some on the left, such as the Morning Star and the SWP. It was always an illusion. It is obvious now that it’s an illusion. No-one on the left now seriously argues that pressure on the Tories can shape Brexit to be positively advantageous to workers. The only way Brexit damage can be minimised is by minimising Brexit, by keeping the barriers between Britain and the EU as low as possible).

When Theresa May brought Article 50 to parliament in February, making clear that she wanted a “hard Brexit” taking Britain out of the Single Market and (for most purposes) the broader Customs Union, and refused accountability to parliament on the negotiations that would ensue, Labour imposed a three-line whip on MPs to vote with the Tories. 47 of Labour’s MPs defied the whip and voted against.

After the Article 50 trigger vote in Parliament, the headlines could have read that Labour opposed Brexit, a Brexit in which the Tories’ policies and approach will dominate. Instead, Labour’s amendments were a damp squib that were scarcely noticed by most voters, including Labour supporters.

Shadow EU-exit minister Keir Starmer has said that Labour will refuse to back an exit deal unless it meets six tests. These are: 1. Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU? 2. Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union? 3. Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities? 4. Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom? 5. Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime? 6. Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK? The tests say nothing about the “management of migration” being fair to migrants and their families.

Last week Labour voted with pro-EU Tory rebels demanding proper parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit. This marks a small step forward: Labour had previously voted to authorise the Tories to negotiate without provision for checks or vetoes by parliament, and on the final deal to offer only an “our way or no way” vote – either the Tories’ formula or a crash exit with no deal. And when the SNP put an amendment calling off Brexit if parliament fails to approve the exit deal, Labour MPs were whipped to oppose it. (19 Labour MPs defied the whip and voted for the amendment).

Labour cannot lurk in the shadow of Tory disunity and incompetence forever. The negotiating timetable for the second phase of Brexit negotiations will force choices on Downing Street and Corbyn will need to respond. But Labour has come to rely on ambiguity as a way to avoid confronting the fundamental issues.

John McDonnell revealed the essence of the party’s convoluted Brexit calculations when he said Labour prefers to talk about “a single market” as distinct from “the single market”. There is only one single market under discussion in the real world: the UK can be in it, as most Labour MPs, Labour members and trade unions would like, or out of it, which is the government’s goal. McDonnell’s use of the indefinite article demonstrated not political cunning, but hopeless incoherence and evasion.

As a result, Labour’s stance looks both vague and pernickety – focused on the terms and conditions without describing the actual product. This has blunted attacks on a prime minister who doesn’t appear to know what she is buying but ticks the T&Cs box regardless.

Labour ambiguity works as long as the government is also hiding from tough decisions. But May’s Brexit path will, inevitably, become clearer as the second phase of negotiations proceed. Then Labour will have to stop its European prevarications. The options will be fewer and simpler: follow or lead.

Labour’s job should be to keep open the option of staying in the EU, making labour-movement links across Europe, and fighting for free movement, social levelling-up and working class solidarity. All of which means coming out plainly and aggressively against Brexit.

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Arrogant Brexiteers better get used to the Irish standing up to them

December 6, 2017 at 10:38 am (Brexit, Europe, Ireland, nationalism, posted by JD, Tory scum)

Superb commentary by the Irish Independent‘s Colette Browne (5 Dec 2017)

 Theresa May and Leo Varadkar

The UK government’s arrogant colonial mindset, and its patronising belief that it knows best when it comes to Ireland, is the reason the Brexit negotiations are such an unmitigated omnishambles.

When the UK voted to leave the European Union, there was lots of frenzied waving of Union Jacks, lots of teary-eyed reminiscing about the glory days of empire and lots of fanciful bravado about the economic heights the UK would soar to – now that it wouldn’t have to carry the dead weight of the world’s biggest free market round its neck.

Some of its more zealously frothing-at-the-mouth pro-Brexit newspapers spent months fantasising about being able to change the colour of UK passports and commissioning a new Royal Yacht Britannia to cross the seas and provide a “showcase for everything that is best in Britain”. They’re going to call it Brexit-annia, by the way.

So much time was spent on fripperies and jingoistic fantasies that precisely zero thought was given to the messy mechanics of Brexit. How on earth could 45 years of ever-closer union be unwound in just two years?

Even less consideration was given to the Irish question. There was lots of talk about German cars and French wine – but the fact that an entire country was inconveniently affixed to one of its borders didn’t warrant any consideration from any of the geniuses who promoted Brexit.

In recent weeks it has become apparent why so little thought was given to Ireland by the current Tory government – most of its members couldn’t find it on a map and are embarrassingly ignorant about our people, our politics and our culture.

The Little Englanders who comprise the UK government didn’t think about Ireland because they don’t care about Ireland. They didn’t think that we’d dare to give them any trouble. They thought we’d doff the cap, raise them in salute and let our betters dictate the terms of any deal.

They articulated their vision for Brexit – a brave new world in which all of their fervent nationalistic delusions would become reality – and expect the Paddies to simply roll over and let them get on with it.

The wails of despair you now hear from senior Tories and their supporters, as the reality of securing Brexit proves much more difficult than merely holding a referendum, is the sound of those dreams dying.

For the first time in our long history with the UK, the supplicant has become the master – and the former master doesn’t like it.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, having barely had time to wipe the egg off his face after he suggested last week that the reason the Irish were being so intransigent was because of an upcoming presidential election that no one else knew about, boldly went on the record again yesterday to lambast our government’s obstinacy.

“I don’t see what we have got to sign up to. We have given them all the reassurances they have asked for. If Ireland wants to block us from going on to discussing trade, we will just get on and leave on World Trade organisation terms,” he told the ‘London Evening Standard’.

If you look closely at that statement, the visceral contempt for the Irish daring to protect the interests of its citizens actually drips from the page.

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson was so enraged by the Irish Government’s rigidity that he threatened to veto any Brexit deal involving any reference to ‘regulatory alignment’ in Stormont – appearing to forget that there is no Stormont Assembly at the moment so the DUP can’t veto anything there.

Historians will look back on these botched Brexit negotiations as a case study of what happens when one side abandons all reason, logic and rationality as part of its negotiating strategy.

If anything, after the bedlam on display yesterday a deal enabling the British to move on to phase two of Brexit negotiations is further away than ever.

As soon as details of the proposed agreement with the Irish Government leaked out, that there would be regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the Republic, the Scots, the mayor of London and the Welsh were all clamouring for similar deals.

In order to gauge the true extent of the dystopian nightmare that this creates for long-suffering British Prime Minister Theresa May, it is necessary to consider that the Welsh, unlike Scotland and the City of London, actually voted to leave the EU – but now apparently want a Brexit deal that entails them remaining, for all intents and purposes, in the single market and the customs union.

Faced with revolt from all corners of the UK, Mrs May did what she has become adept at in recent months – ran for cover, prevaricated and finally reneged on the agreement, with the result that nobody is happy.

Now, the true horror for Mrs May really begins, as she attempts to cobble together a deal that simply doesn’t exist – simultaneously keeping an open Border on this island while Northern Ireland moves, with the rest of the UK, outside the single market and customs union. Even European President Jean-Claude Juncker felt some sympathy for her predicament as he tried to cover her blushes, in a press conference yesterday, praising her as a “tough negotiator”.

There was no such sympathy on show in Dublin, where a blunt Leo Varadkar stated he was “surprised and disappointed” that a deal, which he was led to believe had been signed off, suddenly evaporated.

Embarrassingly for Mrs May, the man who turned up to Government Buildings yesterday morning wearing a crimson singlet and shorts ended the day looking more stately than she could manage.

Over the coming days, as the deadline to the December 14 date when a final decision will be made by the EU on the ability of the UK to proceed to the next phase of the Brexit talks approaches, expect lots of vitriol and venom to be spewed at the Irish from incensed Tory grandees and their Brexiteer chums.

They may not like this new assertive Ireland, but have only their own ignorance, pomposity and pretention to blame for the position they now find themselves in.

Ireland is a sovereign country intent on defending her interests. They better get used to it.

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Brexit and Ireland: DUP sabotages May’s deal

December 5, 2017 at 6:32 pm (Brexit, Europe, Ireland, Jim D, nationalism, sectarianism, Tory scum)

 
“I have in my hand a piece of paper”; cartoon: Martin Rowson (the Guardian)

Until the DUP vetoed it all, May appeared to be on the verge of putting the interests of the British people and the majority of Irish people, North and South, ahead of placating a minority of bigots in Northern Ireland and in the Commons (on both the DUP and the Tory benches).

In her response to the briefings coming from Brussels yesterday afternoon, DUP leader Arlene Foster restated that Northern Ireland “must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom.”

The problem, as the DUP well knows, is that Northern Ireland is already an anomaly in all sorts of regards. (The DUP has, for example, been at the forefront of pushing to lower Northern Ireland’s corporation tax rate from the UK’s 18 per cent rate to match the 12.5 per cent found in the Irish Republic).

But the Brexiteers weren’t having it: if Northern Ireland is heading for a soft Brexit, they reasoned, what’s to stop the rest of the UK?  Paradoxically, but entirely logically, on this point, anti-Brexit people immediately agreed.

So May, in thrall to the DUP and her own hard-Brexit fanatics, has chosen ignominious capitulation to the DUP and the likes of Rees Mogg, risking the disaster that would be a hard border in Ireland. So much for taking back control.

All of which makes this article, first published back in in January by Workers Liberty, all the more prescient:

Brexit and Irish borders

By Micheál MacEoin

As the House of Lords EU Committee put it, with considerable understatement recently: UK-Irish relations “are often overlooked on the British side of the Irish sea”. Both before and after the EU referendum, the consequences of Brexit on Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic have been an afterthought in the public debate. Often there has been no thought at all.

After the referendum result, Theresa May was quick to reassure Stormont that “nobody wants to return to the borders of the past”. Yet, under the pressure from the Tory right, and despite quietly believing in a Remain position during the campaign, the drift of May’s policy, however muddled, seems to be heading towards a so-called “hard Brexit”. Britain could, at the very least, leave the single market. From the Tory right in the cabinet, there have even been suggestions about leaving the customs union — a call which, when it came from Liam Fox in July, caused tension with Dublin government, which proclaimed itself “very surprised”.

The effect of leaving the single market and the customs union would be to entrench the border between the Republic of Ireland and the North. As a recent House of Lords EU committee report stated, “the only way to maintain an open border would be either for the UK to remain in the customs union or for EU partners to agree to a bilateral UK-Irish agreement on trade and customs.” The latter will not be forthcoming without some special dispensation for the Republic of Ireland during the negotiations between Britain and the 27 EU countries and, without it, some system of customs checks would seem inevitable at the border. Moreover, the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the UK and the Republic of Ireland would be cast into doubt. One legal expert has suggested that: “In the event of a UK withdrawal, much would depend on the terms of its subsequent relationship to the EU. To the extent that customs checks applied to goods moving across the border on the island of Ireland, or to traffic between the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, there would be pressure for controls on the movement of persons as well.”

Even if the CTA provisions, which have existed in some form or other since the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922, are preserved, there will at least be some change to the ability of EU and Swiss/EEA citizens to move between the Republic of Ireland and Britain. Ironically given that the largest Unionist party, the DUP, supported British withdrawal from the EU, one option could mean border checks to enter Great Britain — not at the Irish Border but at ports and airports both North and South. It is this sort of Brexit which Irish capitalism fears most, as the UK is Ireland’s second largest EU trading partner after Belgium, and its key market for exports in the crucial agri-food and drinks sector. This is not to mention the potential complications for the close family and cultural ties between millions of workers in Ireland and the UK, and the position of Irish workers and students living in Britain.

The position of Northern Ireland is, typically, a complicated one. Economically, in the agri-food sector, £700 million of its annual £1.15 billion exports go to the Republic, and customs duties would reverse the moves towards greater economic integration since 1998. Perhaps the only growth industry from a return of a customs border would be organised criminal diesel smuggling. In an atmosphere of fiscal retrenchment, with no appetite for further funding for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, the effect would be to accelerate the Stormont Executive’s attacks on public sector workers, benefits and services, in a region that is already suffering from high levels of deprivation. Of importance, too, would be the effect a tangible border would have on politics in the North. In the short-term at least, it would puncture the optimistic nationalist assumption that economic growth plus demography would deliver a united Ireland. The almost invisible border, diminished in relative importance by its contextualisation within Britain and Ireland’s shared EU membership, would suddenly become a presence in everyday life once more.

This should worry Sinn Fein, which is already losing some working-class support in republican areas to People Before Profit on account of the Executive’s austerity measures. Part of the party’s appeal and prestige lies in its all-Ireland organisation, and the ostensible momentum towards Irish unity generated by its expanding vote share. Brexit could arrest this forward movement. At the same time, a majority of Northern Ireland voted to Remain, creating the potential for discontent with Brexit and with England as there has been in Scotland.

Those unionists who absurdly contend that Northern Ireland is straightforwardly a part of the UK will confront the fact that the six counties is near the bottom of the British government’s list of priorities. Many commentators have expressed alarm about the impact on the “peace process”.

Socialists should of course welcome the cessation of sectarian violence, and the opportunities it opens for the elaboration of working-class and socialist politics. The Good Friday Agreement itself, however, cannot be politically endorsed, as it fails to tackle the roots of the national question and has institutionalised sectarian politics at Stormont. Nevertheless, we should not be complacent about its incidental undoing in the maelstrom of a turbulent and unpredictable Brexit. Down that road lies potential sectarian polarisation and further attacks on workers, as the capitalist class off-loads of the cost of economic disruption. Rather, the overthrow of Stormont should be the positive work of conscious political forces: a working-class movement which, in advocating its replacement with a federal united Ireland with a measure of regional autonomy for Protestant-majority areas, would have the potential to unite workers across the sectarian divide.

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The Torygraph spells it out: Brexit means appeasing Trump

December 1, 2017 at 11:02 am (apologists and collaborators, Brexit, enemy intelligence, fascism, Jim D, nationalism, populism, Racism, Torygraph, Trump, United States)

We’ve spelled it out before, but recent events are making it ever more obvious: Brexit necessitates appeasing the likes of Trump, Xi Jinping and Erdogan .

If the UK leaves the EU on a ‘hard Brexit’ (which it will, if the Tories have their way) then grovelling for some crumbs at their tables is all Britain will be good for.

And that is the question Corbyn, Watson and McDonnell have to answer. If Brexit goes through, who should the UK deal with in trying to get good trade deals? How would a Labour government be able to do it whilst simultaneously making clear its distaste for Trump and other racist and authoritarian leaders and regimes ?

If you oppose Trump, you have to oppose Brexit.

Today’s editorial in the Brexit propaganda sheet known as the Daily Telegraph, spells out the inexorable logic from the perspective of the most reactionary (ie: pro-Brexit) section of the UK ruling class, who think May’s mild criticism of Trump has already gone too far:

Trump-bashing will get May nowhwere

It goes almost without saying that Donald Trump was wrong to share anti-Muslim tweets by an extremist British group. But what should the government have said and done about it? Theresa May was right to call Britain First a “hateful organisation” and to correct the false premises behind the tweets. But to personalise her response by adding that Mr Trump “was wrong” was a mistake. A good relationship with America is the very definition of the national interest. To reply to a president’s undiplomatic act with direct criticism may win easy political points. But such virtue signalling is itself hardly the act of a winning diplomatic strategy.

Worse, Mrs May yesterday seemed intent on deepening, not healing, the rift with our greatest ally. “The fact that we work together does not mean that we are afraid to say when we think the United States have got it wrong and be very clear with them,” she said, casually dismissing the special relationship.

There are numerous ways for Downing Street to signal displeasure to our friends in Washington. Almost any of them would be more effective than engaging in a public slanging match. What, really, is there to gain by meeting an emotional and ill-thought-through presidential outburst with its prime ministerial equivalent.

Nuance and subtlety in such matters are not beyond our international partners. French President Emmanuel Macron famously snubbed Mr Trump at an international summit by swerving out of his way, a video clip of which delighted anti-American voters back in France. But that did not stop the savvy Mr Macron from welcoming the American leader to Paris as soon as practically possible, and treating him to the greatest Gallic hospitality. This does not represent hypocrisy so much as political sophistication.

Such things matter. How is it possible that the American president has visited France and Japan, but has yet to make an official trip to Britain? Instead, we were treated yesterday to the spectacle of a House of Commons in which MP’s of all stripes queued to outdo each other in their condemnation of the leader of the free world. This passes dangerously close to the instinctive anti-Americanism that is such a dark element of the revolutionary left. That already has too firm a grip on one side of our politics. It must not infect Conservative benches too.

  • PS: never forget this, either.

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That UK-Irish border problem: the zeppelin solution

November 28, 2017 at 9:33 am (Beyond parody, Brexit, comedy, Europe, fantasy, Ireland, Jim D)

Above: one possible drawback

Zeppelins are part of a proposed solution to the UK-Ireland border problem after Brexit.

An influential British think tank has suggested that drones or airships could be used to monitor the Irish border after Brexit.

The Legatum Institute raised the possibility of patrolling the skies in a paper entitled Mutual Interest: How the UK and EU can resolve the Irish border issue after Brexit”. In the paper, they also suggest ground-based solutions, such as unattended ground sensors, cameras, and ground-wave radar. The think tank is considered influential with some government ministers, according to the BBC.

It states that “persistent surveillance of the border region” could be achieved through patrols by unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) or deployment of aerostats (airships or hot air balloons).

But it concedes “that these solutions are subject to a number of limitations, not least weather and cost”.

Still, it remains the most practical solution yet put forward by the British side, who after all, created the problem in the first place.

Other possible solutions include fairies.

H/t: Marina Hyde of the Graun (for the Zepplins) and Colin O’Driscoll (for the fairies)

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The Irish border problem: the dogs in the street know who’s to blame … but not Her Majesty’s Loyal Communist Party

November 20, 2017 at 9:10 pm (Brexit, CPB, Europe, Ireland, Jim D, nationalism, stalinism, statement of the bleedin' obvious, Tory scum)

 The highly fortified police station in the border village of Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland, in 2005. ‘Given that the border could not be secured with army watchtowers during the Troubles, it is not at all clear how a new policing operation will work.’ The highly fortified police station in the border village of Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland, in 2005. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Irish have an expression, “even the dogs in the street know…”, meaning a statement of the bleedin’ obvious.

Well, when it comes to the potential disaster that is the likely imposition of a hard border within the island of Ireland, the dogs in the streets of both parts of Ireland, know who to blame: the arrogant, careless Tory government and the lying Brexiteers who don’t give a toss about the Irish people, North or South.

If Theresa May had not given in to the Brexit-fanatics and, instead, made it clear that Britain would remain in the single market and/or customs union (a mix of the Norway and Turkish options), the Irish border problem and the threat to the peace process would not have arisen. But this has been ruled out by the UK government.

Which leaves just two further possible options for avoiding a hard border:

1/ A border down the Irish Sea, giving the North special status  with the single market and customs union. This is anathema to the DUP and unacceptable to the British government as it would be seen as dividing the UK .

2/ The Hammond plan for  the UK to remain within the single market and the customs union for a two year  (or longer) transitional period. But this is unacceptable to the Brexit-fanatics within the cabinet and the Tory party, although the Irish government strongly favours it.

These realities, and British (well, English) culpability for jeopardising the peace process, have been spelt out time and again, for instance by the respected Irish commentator Fintan O’Toole (here and here).

The people of Ireland, North and South, Protestant and Catholic, Loyalist and Republican, know this and overwhelmingly oppose Brexit. The dogs in the street know it. Only the Tories and their Brexit-fanatic press deny this reality (or simply choose to ignore it). Oh yes, and the Morning Star, mouthpiece of Her Majesty’s Loyal Communist Party, who dutifully toe the Tory /English nationalist line and manage to blame “Brussels”:

Border threats from Brussels


Nov
2017
Saturday 18th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

IRISH Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney insist they will obstruct the next phase of London-Brussels negotiations without a British government assurance.

Varadkar told Theresa May: “Before we move into phase two talks on trade, we want to take off the table any suggestion that there would be a physical border, a hard border, new barriers to trade on the island of Ireland.”

His stance is shared by Sinn Fein, whose leading MEP Martina Anderson held recent meetings with EU negotiator Michel Barnier and European Parliament co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt.

She told them that the Leave agenda pursued by the May government is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement, especially in view of the Tories’ dodgy deal with the DUP.

But where is the evidence that the British government or any significant player in either Britain or Ireland wants to change current Irish border arrangements?

What the Fine Gael-led Dublin government and Sinn Fein omit to mention is that the demand for a hard EU border comes from the EU Commission itself.

Brussels wants to site that border not on the already existing demarcation between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic but between Northern Ireland and Britain.

It insists on a special arrangement for the six counties to place it inside the EU single market and customs union, effectively extending the EU in defiance of the UK leave vote.

Britain’s refusal to accept this formula is portrayed as a dangerous provocation that could scupper the Good Friday Agreement and reignite sectarian hostilities.

It is understandable that Sinn Fein, a party with Irish reunification at its heart, should adopt an EU ploy to effectively detach the six counties from the UK, but Fine Gael has a diametrically opposed historical record.

This EU negotiating ploy gives added strength to the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) view that “Irish interests are being used as a pawn in the ‘talks, no talks’ saga.”

While equally committed to the goal of a united Ireland, as is the Morning Star, the CPI monthly journal Socialist Voice reminds readers that the core tenets of socialism and republicanism are independence, sovereignty and democracy.

It points out that Ireland “cannot be a sovereign country under any imperialist apparatus,” whether dominated by Britain, the EU or the US.

“In the context of Brexit, to campaign for a united Ireland under the pretext of the six counties rejoining the EU shows the lack of ideological opposition to imperialism.”

The clear thinking of Irish communists, shared by their comrades in Britain, is in stark contrast to that of others on the left in both countries who see in the EU, through rose-tinted spectacles, an international co-operative body based on solidarity and respect for workers’ rights rather than a bloc devoted to the interests of transnational capital.

There is no truth in the EU assertion that having different tax systems in the two parts of Ireland makes a hard border inevitable.

The republic and the six counties already have different levels of corporation tax and VAT, but this has not prevented smooth cross-border trade.

Those flagging up future difficulties, which, given goodwill, are quite easily surmountable, do so to bolster different political ambitions.

UK voters have made their choice and will not favour efforts to thwart it just as the people of Ireland on either side of the currently hassle-free dividing line will not welcome duplicitous attempts to reintroduce a hard border.

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Diana Holland on the Brexit threat to Unite members

November 13, 2017 at 9:36 am (Brexit, class, Europe, Unite the union, workers)

This week all Unite sectors are holding their conferences in Brighton. Each sector conferences determines a sector’s own industrial policies provided that they are not inconsistent with the general policy and objectives of the union – so they cannot deal with general policy or rules issues.

Each Regional Industrial Sector Committee (RISC) and National Industrial Sector Committee (NISC) is entitled to submit two motions to its sector’s conference.

The timetable for the conferences is as follows:

  • Sunday 12 Nov: Retired Members. Docks, Rail, Ferries & Waterways
  • Monday 13 Nov: Civil Air Transport. Passenger Transport. Road Transport Commercial, Logistics & Retail Distribution. Food, Drink & Agriculture. Service Industries. Government, Defence, Prisons & Contractors
  • Tuesday 14 Nov: Local Authorities. Energy & Utilities. Education. Health. Community, Youth Workers & Not for Profit. Unite Construction, Allied Trades & Technicians. Finance & Legal.
  • Wednesday 15 Nov: Aerospace & Shipbuilding. Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Process & Textiles. Automotive Industry. Graphical, Paper, Media & Information Technology. Metals (including Foundry). General Engineering, Manufacturing & Servicing.

Diana Holland, Unite assistant general secretary (transport & food sectors and equality) describes the background to the conferences, with particular emphasis on the threat to workers posed by Brexit:

Transport and food workers are under pressure – but are pushing back


Brexit, automation and digitalisation are intensifying uncertainty among workers, says DIANA HOLLAND


MENTAL health and stress in the transport and food workplace are right at the top of our agenda.

Pressure to win contracts through undercutting in the relentless “race to the bottom” translates into intense pressure on transport and food workers throughout the supply chain.

This means hard-fought-for working conditions, stability and security are constantly threatened and eroded, with pressure on pay, pressure on pensions, pressure on working time, on safety, training and equality.

Permanent contracts are being replaced with bogus self-employment, agency workers doing the same work on worse terms and conditions and a two, three and even four or more-tier workforce artificially dividing workers — all leading to isolation, a feeling of powerlessness, a climate of fear and even to trafficking and modern slavery.

Decent working hours so you can earn enough and have a family and personal life are having to be fought for, rather than accepted as the starting point for negotiations.

The growing uncertainty in the transport and food sectors over the impact of EU exit, automation and digitalisation is intensifying this pressure.

Decisions in financial markets, hedge funds, technology companies and immigration policy are creating enormous pressures on workers in transport and food sectors across the world, threatening their livelihoods and the services and businesses they sustain, without the workers ever being at the table, or even considered.

Proud professional workers and decades of achievements are bypassed at the click of a button; again artificially dividing the current and future workforce, and young and older workers. No way to run a safe, accessible, integrated, sustainable transport service. No way to securely, sustainably and safely meet the food needs of the country.

Faced with this onslaught, Unite’s broad industrial strategy for secure work, a strong union voice and decent pay, and an equality strategy for workplaces free from discrimination, violence and harassment, underpin everything we do.

Across transport we are building alliances and prioritising cutting diesel emissions, mental health first aid and ending the “race to the bottom.”

We have launched a diesel emissions register to record exposure, we have engaged all the major road transport and logistics employers in action on mental health and set up union industrial hubs in ports and airports, linking up workers.

In food, drink, agriculture and retail, we are calling with others for safe, healthy food and high-quality jobs, negotiating for the living wage and quality apprenticeships as a minimum, protecting the gangmasters licensing regime and monitoring the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board in England compared with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And we continue to campaign for reinstatement of the rights of migrant domestic workers.

These are the basics we want to build on. But right now the shambolic Tory approach to Brexit is threatening every single one in so many ways.

Seventy per cent of the raw ingredients relied on by the food and drink sector come from the EU and 29 per cent of the workforce are non-UK EU nationals, including 90 per cent of the vets in meat hygiene.

The sector is worth £27 billion to the UK economy, a major employer in every part of the UK. So the impact of Brexit negotiations is critical. And yet, as a result of a freedom of information request, Unite has uncovered that the government is refusing to publish a report on the impact of leaving the EU on food prices and possible food shortages, let alone the impact on workers and standards in the sector.

In aviation, if the UK does not retain access to the Single European Sky agreement, no flights to 27 EU member states and 47 nations with EU agreements will be possible. Tickets are sold in advance, so this is a threat to the whole industry.

UK membership of the European Aviation Safety Association is vital, and as employers relocate their registered headquarters, Brexit must not bring into aviation the “flags of convenience” model already devastating the shipping industry.

In road transport — buses, lorries, coaches, trams, taxis — EU legislation protects UK workers and communities — qualifications, licensing, drivers’ hours, tachograph standards, vehicle standards and roadworthiness — all must be retained into UK law.

In the logistics sector there is a skills shortage, and the industry needs to be able to retain and access the best talent, including protections for EU workers currently employed, alongside new investment in training.

Of course we can reform standards for the better, and Unite is up for that, but right now we must not let Brexit be used as an excuse to turn the clock back.

In ports, we cannot have new layers of customs clearance, in rail manufacturing technical specifications need protection, as does funding from the EU for next generation passenger vehicles and biofuel projects.

Nor can we let Brexit further undermine municipal buses, rail public ownership, control and reregulation of key transport infrastructure.
And finally, this year, on November 25, UN Day to End Violence Against Women, Unite is strongly supporting the call for a powerful new ILO core labour standard on violence and harassment in the workplace. No worker should be living in fear. Violence, harassment and discrimination are not “part of the job.”

Unite’s message is clear: “You are not alone. Join the union. Get involved. Together we can make a difference.” We need to — and we do.

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Enough equivocation: the left must campaign to Stop Brexit!

October 20, 2017 at 11:35 am (Anti-Racism, AWL, Brexit, campaigning, Europe, labour party)

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DMVt6zWWsAEquYe.jpg

Illustration: John Rogan (via Tendance Coatesy)

By Martin Thomas (this article also appears in the present issue of Solidarity and on the Workers Liberty website)

Opinion polling on 10-11 October showed 64% saying that the Tory government is doing “badly” in negotiating Brexit, and only 21% saying it is doing “well”. 47% said that, with hindsight, they thought the vote for Brexit in June 2016 was wrong, 40% that it was right.

Only a small minority say that Brexit will make Britain better off economically — only 23% overall, and only 12% of Labour voters. 44% think Brexit will make Britain worse off. 39% expect Brexit to be bad for jobs, just 22% think it will be good. 31% expect Britain to be bad for the NHS, 25% good. Among Labour voters, 51% expect “bad for the NHS”, 17% good.

Meanwhile the Tories’ talks with the EU are going badly. On Thursday 19th and Friday 20th ministers, and then chiefs, from the 27 other EU states will hear a report from Brexit negotiations after five rounds of talks. The EU 27 are insisting that the UK must promise a clear list of closing-the-account payments before they will even start discussing a new deal on trade. That new deal itself will be difficult. Canada’s trade deal with the EU, with much less baggage to impede it, took eight years to negotiate and ratify, and nearly collapsed.

There is no sign of progress towards the trade deals with other countries which the Brexiters airily promised back in 2016. With right-wing nationalists like Trump gaining ground in many countries, the terrain is more difficult for such deals. All that should be a signal for the left and the labour movement to start a drive to stop Brexit.

We should oppose and harry the Tories at every point. We should demand — as some pro-EU Tories are already demanding — that any exit deal must be voted on by Parliament. Not just in the my-way-or-the-highway alternative the Tories are offering — their deal or a crash exit with no deal at all. And not just by Parliament.

The June 2016 referendum had the defects of all referenda — a poor form of democracy. It was biased because 16-17 year olds and EU citizens resident in Britain were denied votes. It was run in a way which artificially limited the mass media debate to a Tory-vs-Tory contest. And on top of all that, it was a one-off vote about a very vaguely-sketched alternative.

Democracy means stopping elites like the Tories grabbing full power to make and shape things to their own liking from such vague mandates. The populace must retain its say. Minorities must retain a chance to become majorities. Given we’ve already had the first referendum, probably the only way to stop the Tories trashing people’s rights is a second referendum.

“A Labour MP”, quoted by the Financial Times on 17 October, said: “the public would need another vote on whether to go ahead, given that the Leave camp had offered a more positive manifesto [than any possible exit deal] in June 2016… It would be a ‘final say’ now that we know the facts. The people would want to have the final say over all of this”. That MP also told the FT: “this would not be a ‘second referendum’, despite all appearances to the contrary”. Huh? It would be second, and it would be a referendum, wouldn’t it?

In any case, the MP is right. We didn’t want the first referendum, but now it’s happened we must demand a “final say” for the populace. The alternative is to let the Tories have their way unchecked, to let them cancel the rights of EU citizens and of British citizens to be able to work and study in the EU, to let them make difficult-to-reverse decisions, all on the authority of an old referendum and the Parliamentary majority of a moment. Our basic guideline should be working-class solidarity and social levelling-up across borders. Immediately, we should also be backing French workers in their battle against the very pro-EU but anti-worker Macron government.

Also, however, we cannot let the immediate issue of the re-raising of economic and social barriers, and the suppression of rights to free movement, wait on the general and longer-term issue of reorienting the labour movement towards a workers’ Europe. “Stop Brexit” and “Second referendum on any exit deal” should be immediate slogans, alongside “Freedom of movement”.

On 12 October, Jeremy Corbyn said that he would vote Remain in a second referendum, but in these terms: “There isn’t going to be another referendum, so it’s a hypothetical question but yes, I voted remain because I thought the best option was to remain. I haven’t changed my mind on that”.

Last week I met by chance, on a bus, a member of Corbyn’s inner circle, someone I’ve known for decades. I can’t quote him by name, because it was a conversation on a bus, not an on-the-record interview. But those who have followed Labour statements on Brexit will recognise his responses as only a snappier and more candid rendering of the official line.

What should Labour do about Brexit? Response: oppose the Tories, criticise the Tories at every step, wait and see, and avoid further commitment. What if the Tory government falls before it can complete a deal? Won’t Labour then have to say something definite? Response: long silence. Then: “That would be very difficult”. The Corbynista insider was sure of one thing: Labour cannot, must not, come out for stopping Brexit. Labour must equivocate in order to keep both its pro-Brexit and its anti-Brexit supporters on board.

This craven, manipulative approach to politics is incompatible with socialism, and unlikely to work in the long or even medium term. Tens of thousands joined a “Stop Brexit” march at the Tory party conference on 1 October in Manchester — some of them chiming in with pro-EU Tories like Stephen Dorrell, some of them going on to join the anti-austerity march the same day.

So far there’s still a majority for the resigned view: Brexit will be not very good, or positively bad, but now we just have to go through with it. That majority is beginning to break up. Probably it will wane and wax in the next months and years as the talks between the Tories and EU go worse or better. A determined drive by the left and the labour movement can and should turn the majority into a minority, and stop Brexit.

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