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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Eminem on Trump: “Fuck walkin’ on eggshells, I came to stomp”

October 15, 2017 at 10:12 am (Brexit, culture, Europe, populism, posted by JD, protest, rage, Trump, United States)

Not being particularly au fait with the world of rap, I am indebted to the Observer‘s splendid Catherine Bennett for alerting me to this entirely appropriate response to that piece of shit, Trump:

Bennett’s piece, entitled It’s time we stopped being so polite. Let’s start stomping, laments the politeness of Brit protests against Brexit (the UK equivalent of Trumpism, as all but the most bone-headed ‘Lexiters’ must by now surely realise), and is well worth a read:

If public protest is any guide to public feeling, what can we learn from the Autumn of Discontent? That, for anyone in doubt, is the series of anti-Brexit demonstrations that began in London in September, and were due to continue on Saturday with regional rallies in each of the UK’s 12 European parliament constituencies.

For sense and civility, the remainers’ approach has, as always, much to teach the idiot rhetoricians of Brexit, recently heard blithering about a “tiger in the tank”. The latest round of anti-Brexit rallies will, say the organisers of the Cambridge event, “send a message to all our political representatives that the time has come to rethink the damaging path that the UK is now on, and say to them that we can and we must stop Brexit”.

Presumably, political representatives who insist that 52% of an advisory vote on an unknown outcome represents the settled will of the people are nonetheless believed – if they notice it’s happening – to be capable of a rally-induced epiphany. Possibly, even without the added magic of an Alastair Campbell or an AC Grayling, regional rallies can change hearts and minds. Perhaps the sort of people who have committed to this catastrophe could still contemplate a mild-looking crowd with interesting banners and feel something other than relief, that British disgust for irresponsible leadership expresses itself so differently from Eminem’s.

Is this the worst that can happen? Not Eminem’s “Fuck walkin’ on eggshells, I came to stomp” but, in the words of the remainers’ self-styled saviour Vince Cable, “We accept the negotiations are taking place, but at the end of it we want the British people to have a say.” Not “I’m drawing in the sand a line: you’re either for or against”, but a sequence of walks with a title referencing the opening line of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

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“Effectively we are looking at a ten year recession” An honest Brexiteer writes …

October 11, 2017 at 11:14 am (Brexit, economics, enemy intelligence, Europe, identity politics, nationalism, populism, posted by JD, privatisation, reblogged, truth)

From Peter North’s blog (9th Oct 2017):

I don’t like this Brexit, but I will live with it

Now that we know there isn’t going to be a deal we can at least narrow down some of the possibilities of what post-Brexit Britain looks like.

In the first year or so we are going to lose a lot of manufacturing. Virtually all JIT export manufacturing will fold inside a year. Initially we will see food prices plummet but this won’t last. Domestic agriculture won’t be able to compete and we’ll see a gradual decline of UK production. UK meats will be premium produce and no longer affordable to most.

Once food importers have crushed all UK competition they will gradually raise their prices, simply because they can. Meanwhile wages will stay depressed and because of the collapse of disposable income and availability of staff, we can probably expect the service sector to take a big hit thus eliminating all the jobs that might provide a supplementary income.

Across the board we will see prices rising. There will be some serendipitous benefits but nothing that offsets the mass job losses. We will see a lot of foreign investment dry up and banking services will move to the EU. Dublin and Frankfurt. I expect that house prices will start to fall, but that’s not going to do anyone any favours in the short to mid term.

Since a lot of freight will no longer be able to go through Calais we can expect a lot more use of the port at Hull so we may see an expansion in distribution centres in the North.

All in all we are looking at serious austerity as it will take a few years at least to rebuild our trade relations with third countries. If we go down the path of unilateral trade liberalisation then we will probably find it hard to strike new deals.

Meanwhile, since tax receipts will be way down we can expect major cuts to the forces and a number of Army redundancies. I expect to see RAF capability cut by a third. Soon enough it will become apparent that cuts to defence cannot go further so we can expect another round of cuts to council services. They will probably raise council tax to cope with it.

After years of the left bleating about austerity they are about to find out what it actually means. Britain is about to become a much more expensive pace to live. It will cause a spike in crime.

Interesting though will be how rapidly people adapt to it and habits will change, thus so will the culture. I expect cheap consumables from China will stay at low prices and they manage to circumvent the taxes and import controls anyway.

What I do expect to happen is a lot of engineering jobs to be axed since a lot of them are dependent on defence spending. It will kill off a number of parasitic resourcing firms and public sector suppliers. Basically it will wipe out the cosseted lower middle class and remind them that they are just as dispensable as the rest of us.

We can the expect to see a major rationalisation of the NHS and what functions it will perform. It will be more of a skeleton service than ever. I expect they will have trouble staffing it. Economic conditions more than any immigration control will bring numbers down to a trickle.

In every area of policy a lot of zombie projects will be culled and the things that survive on very slender justifications will fall. We can also expect banks to pull the plug in under-performing businesses. Unemployment will be back to where it was in the 80’s.

The London economy will also change. Initially we will see an exodus back to the regions until rental prices normalise to the new conditions. Anyone who considers themselves “Just about managing” right now will look upon this time as carefree prosperity. There are going to be a lot of very pissed off people.

This will see a revival of local politics and national politics will become a lot more animated. I expect the Tories will be wiped out and we will have to put up with a Corbyn government for a while, but they will be tasked with making all the major cuts. We’ll soon see how far their “compassion” really goes. Even if Corbs does manage to borrow, it won’t go very far. It won’t plug the hole.

Eventually things will settle down and we will get used to the new order of things. My gut instinct tells me that culturally it will be a vast improvement on the status quo. There will be more reasons to cooperate and more need to congregate. I expect to see a cultural revolution where young people actually start doing surprising and reckless things again rather than becoming tedious hipsters drinking energy drinks in pop-up cereal bar book shops or whatever it is they do these days. We’ll be back to the days when students had to be frugal and from their resourcefulness manage to produce interesting things and events.

A few years in and we will then have started to rebuild EU relations, probably plugging back into Euratom, Erasmus, and a large part of the single market. It will take some time to plug back into the EU aviation market. The EU will be very cautious about what it lets us back in on.

Effectively we are looking at a ten year recession. Nothing ever experienced by those under 50. Admittedly this is not the Brexit I was gunning for. I wanted a negotiated settlement to maintain the single market so that we did not have to be substantially poorer, but, in a lot of ways I actually prefer this to the prospect of maintaining the 2015 status quo with ever degraded politics with increasingly less connection to each other.

I’m of the view that in recent years people have become increasingly spoiled and self-indulgent, inventing psychological problems for themselves in the absence of any real challenges or imperatives to grow as people. I have always primarily thought Brexit would be a reboot on British politics and culture. In a lot of ways it will bring back much of what is missing. A little austerity might very well make us less frivolous.

What I do know is that the banking crisis of 2008 set in motion a series of events whereby much of the corrective potential of it was dissipated with debt and spending, largely to preserve the political order. The disruptive potential of it was barely felt in the UK. Ever since we have stagnated and though the numbers on screen may tell a story of marginal growth, I just don’t see it reflected in the world around me. I still see the regions dying out and London sucking the life and vitality out of every city, including Bristol. It reminds me that the wealth of a city is its people, not its contribution to GDP.

Ahead lies challenging times. It will not be easy. Those who expected things to improve will be disappointed. But then I have a clear conscience in this. I never made any big Brexit promises. I never said there would be sunlit uplands. I did not predict that the government would make this much of a pigs ear of it, or that we would be looking at the WTO option. I expected parliament would step in to prevent that. That it hasn’t tells you a good deal about the state of modern politics.

And so with that in mind, as much as I would have had it go a different way, I think, given the opportunity to vote again I would still vote to leave. Eventually it gets to a point where any change will do. I prefer an uncertain future to the certainty I was looking at.

451 Comments

JD adds: the comments are well worth a gander

This is what Mr North wrote the next day (10 Oct) following the attention his post received in the Graun and elsewhere:

“explaining yesterday’s post which seems to have cause something of a stir. The short version is that I do see quite a lot of potential in Brexit to reboot British politics, not least because a trashed economy would finally settle this stagnant politics of ours. It would be the final big push to wean the British off the state.

“I suspect the reason the post went viral is because it’s probably the first time Grauniad hacks have seen honest Brexit motives out in the open. I see Brexit as taking toys away from spoiled toddlers – and if we can’t stop a hard Brexit then there is still a lot to be said for going the full monty rather than preserving the dismal status quo of retail politics. I can see how it will culturally reinvent Britain.”

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Morning Star letters page: a “total waste of space”

October 9, 2017 at 7:42 pm (Beyond parody, Brexit, comedy, conspiracy theories, CPB, Europe, Jim D, nationalism, plonker, publications, stalinism)

Image result for picture Morning Star EU

The letters page of the Morning Star is not somewhere I’d normally recommend for either political enlightenment or a good laugh.

But following the super-patriotic Daily Mail of the Left‘s  decision to publish a token anti-Brexit letter last week, various rancid old Stalinists and Little-Britain nationalists have been spluttering with rage. One Mike Magee, for instance, fulminated in hilarious cod-Marxiese against the publication of any such “ignorant and ill-founded” letters from unbelievers (I personally just love the claim that such letters might “confuse” those who are “already unsure of which line is correct”).

As letters do not appear on the M Star‘s website, I feel it’s a public service to republish Mr Magee’s stern missive, followed by a straight-faced riposte from a splendid husband-and-wife team, who (not for the first time) bring some much-needed sanity and decency to the paper’s letter page.

Don’t add to the EU confusion
MANY readers will want to reply to Alan Yearsley’s letter (M Star October 4) criticising the Star for not giving equal coverage to the Remainers protesting at the Tory conference that Brexit is a monstrosity. I would direct a contrary criticism to the Star.

The paper’s editorial line is based on sound factual evidence as exemplified by left-wing anti-EU campaign Lexit, including now the referendum result, whereas Mr Yearsley and his Remainers simply “believe” (imagine, presume or surmise without credible evidence) we can reform the EU from inside.

 He cites a couple of “benefits” which do not require membership of the capitalist club, and there are many more such examples of collaboration across borders that do not require a corporate state to exist.

 The EU is an oversized homunculus which no amount of reforming surgery can beautify – 45 years inside prove it.
The Star’s editorial line is Marxist even though the rest of its content is directed at a wider left-leaning readership. Marxism is a scientific outlook formed from careful study and analysis of human society throughout history, and our modern day observation and experience of it.

 Neither science nor Marxism relies on human hopes and fancies but on human experience.

 My point is that publishing ignorant and ill-founded letters is not part of the Star’s remit. It only serves to confuse further those who are already unsure of which line is correct.

 An aim of the capitalist media is to obfuscate reality and thereby confuse the mass of the people. It is not the function of our paper to add to that confusion.
MIKE MAGEE Frome

The Star’s letters page is total waste of space
Mike Magee is absolutely right (M Star October 8-9), and Alan Yearsley is quite wrong (M Star October 4) in his criticism of our paper

There is no place in it for ignorant and ill-founded letters, which only serve to confuse.

In fact, discussion of difficult and complicated political questions like Brexit is best avoided altogether.

Our paper’s editorial line is there to be followed. What else is it for?

Come to think of it, do we really need a letters page? It merely provides space for arrogant readers who think they have all the answers to lay down the law to the rest of us.

If we scrap the letters page, that would allow more space for news reports and the all-important Star comment, which tells us what to think and saves us the trouble of thinking for ourselves.

Of course a paper like the one were are suggesting would lose a lot of its present readers, so a very much larger Fighting Fund would be needed. We are sending a small cheque to help.
BETTY AND CHRIS BIRCH London SW6

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