3 September 2019

An actual plan.

I may not be in any position of great (or even little) authority have a plan to resolve Brexit.

Jump to TL:DR or read on.

Before I expose it to the harsh criticism of your judgement though let me set the scene a little, as I see it.

In many respects it feels like the Brexit end game has now begun.

The Tory's are descending in to civil war and Boris Johnson has launched an all out assault on parliamentary democracy, trying to carve out a new place for the executive, unshackled from parliament (where the public's representatives sit and both give any exec its authority and hold them to account on our behalf) taking a leaf out of the old Nazi playbook and claiming to be directly plugged in to the 'will of the people', painting themselves as a defender of that will against a malign and self-serving parliament.

fascists and dictators are big fans of the gov alone deciding how to discharge the 'will of the people'

The hypocrisy of the most self-serving and amoral man in British politics claiming this is pretty nauseating, even without the dark undertones of fascism lurking within such moves. It's also absurd for him to be suggesting that no deal, which could see citizens die from lack of medicines, see  that will place further burdens on people already unable to afford to live right now - let alone when prices rocket as goods become more scarce, a plan that would have been called fear mongering during the referendum of 2016 if anyone had actually considered suggesting that our position would ever become so desperate (they didn't - no one entertained the idea of leaving without any deal at all back then)... that this plan could ever be considered an expected consequence of the vote to leave the EU. 

And, if MPs are self-serving, or incompetent (or both) at least they are accountable to us. And really, who's fault is it they are there; who elected them? We did. Maybe we should pay more attention to who we elect. Johnson is completely ignoring the fact that holding our MPs in parliament to account is our job, not his, and he has no right to appropriate it.

In other ways it feels like just another groundhog day, another cycle of the endless repetitive loop that exists because the public voted for a product that was impossible to deliver (a Brexit which makes us better off) and because MPs actually do have a duty, a primary duty, to the best interests of this country and believe it or not, underneath all the party politics, many still take that duty seriously.

Partly the reason for this nightmare deja vu is that Boris Johnson is really just repeating everything Theresa May did, and whilst it may feel like there is more 'oomph' to it, there isn't, he's just running the same record on a faster speed, making it more grating and jarring than it previously seemed.

But, the other reason it feels like just another spin cycle is that one fact hasn't changed: neither side has any real solution. 

Team Johnson and the radicals still have their disastrous non-plan of just crashing the UK (you could say crashing the UK out of the EU but really the last few words are superfluous to describing what it'll do). We could play the game of pretending to believe them that they want to negotiate a deal (something almost no one really gives credibility to, and there is zero evidence of), but even that is just another snake taking us right back to the 'there are no alternative solutions to the backstop' square of 2018.

Team Remain, well... it isn't really team remain it's 'team anti- no deal' (there is a team remain, but it's smaller than the group currently opposing Johnson), doesn't have much of a plan either, they have a life raft. It may, as Ian Dunt believes, be a well crafted life raft but it's a life raft all the same. It's not a plan to get us to safe harbour. As Ian Dunt also says: "It's a first step".

That is what I want to set out here: a plan. An actual plan.

Firstly this plan will take time, more time than the 'rebel alliance' current proposal to buy time until January 2020 by blowing up his no-deal deathstar. We have to be realistic about this - any sensible route out of this Brexit quagmire requires more time, because despite all the time we have already had, we have spent it all chasing will-o-wisps round and round in circles.

No doubt the more radicalised leavers will scream about this, whilst the majority of the nation will utter a weary sigh. But, the leave campaign said during the ref that leave may well take 10 years to achieve so they can hardly act surprised, and the majority of sane citizens can take some comfort that a genuine way forward is, at last, being presented, and one that will, if not take Brexit out of the news, at least provides something to report other than the bitter and pointless partisan posturing that has been the endless staple of media coverage to date.

There are two ways of achieving this extra time: extension, or revocation. Both have challenges.

Another extension is only partly in our hands; it requires the EU to agree to it. The EU are no doubt getting less and less willing to do such a thing every time we keep telling them that we haven't done our homework yet and can we please have a bit more time, then watching us spaff that time up the wall (to borrow a reprehensible phrase from  the reprehensible PM). On the plus side this would be a concrete proposal we could make to them to ensure we don't do the same thing again. because of this necessity an extension is likely to put more a of a time constraint on what we need to do. On the plus side doing this within an extension would mean that this plan could reasonably be put to leavers as a 'put your money where your mouth is' way forward (you'll see why). This is the option if parliament seeks to find a way forward that avoids any new election. Its the more 'compromise' position. It may also serve well as a red line for any Remain alliance working together with Labour after a General Election.

Revocation would give us more time to do it properly, but the obvious downside is the howls of outrage and opposition from the Brexit radicals, who would no doubt paint it as some kind of trick to keep us in (some might even pull out the old ridiculous 'it wos the EU wot forced us to stay' nonsense). Still, revocation is something we know we can do unilaterally, so it remains a last resort and makes any crashing out without a deal a deliberate choice by the UK not to revoke.

This is the direction I would see a remain alliance taking as the outcome of them being the largest group after a general election. It would certainly make sensible Liberal Democrat policy on Brexit going in to any General Election. Probably only a General Election won by a remain party or alliance could do this with any real sens of respecting democracy. That said, if the radical leavers, or the EU rejecting an extension, bring things to a direct choice between revocation or no deal, then this proposal could make revocation a more tolerable alternative for some.

The other issue with revocation is compatibility with EU law. There will no doubt be people who, reading this, have legitimate concerns that revoking A50 to carry out the above process may meet challenge in the EU about whether we genuinely intend to remain (a condition stated by the CJEU when they determined the UK had the right of revocation). That's a fair concern and this route does mean that question changes from 'should we still leave' back to 'should we still remain'.

This is why I think revocation to carry it all out would have to be after a remain alliance, or even party, winning a General Election. A remain alliance would have enough credibility, politically, to say they can implement a remain option... however, to defuse the time-bomb of leaver anger, to stabilise that decision and to address the democratic deficit of just cancelling the whole thing it would be imperative to go through with something like the below plan. I think it could be argued that not leaving is genuinely the government position, but that it needs ratification. There has also been some speculation that if we did revoke and then later chose to leave again, the EU would simply restart negotiations where we left off - this solution has already built that in to the proposal.

At a push I would hope the EU/EU members would be pragmatic enough to hold back any challenge, being presented with a far better position than we are all in right now.

Even utilising revocation it is important to point out that the proposal is very different to the current mess in setting out a clear alternative to being a member; fundamentally, however we get the extra time people will still be being given something new, something defined, the choice of "this relationship, or that relationship", and that choice will be one they helped to shape.

Enough of how to get there... what is the plan!

Let's look at some problems first (sorry, plan later).

1. Both sides make bold claims about what people voted for. Neither side actually knows (and the answer is manifold  anyway). Remain wants another referendum, but don't really know on what. Leave have appropriated brexit votes to support whatever type of exit they want (and have steadily been dragging that towards a more and more extreme position as it becomes more apparent all forms require compromise and cooperation of some kind). It is legitimate to point out the referendum vote cannot be taken to support any old Brexit, but it is also legitimate to ask what another vote would actually be based on... what, really, is different now?

2. Which leads us to: the Withrawal Agreement doesn't actually settle any of the big questions about what we want for the future. It deals with divorce matters, sets out a transition period (to transition to... something...), gives some limited assurances to EU27 nationals in the UK and provides a fail-safe for the Good Friday Agreement. The Political Declaration is non-binding, and really doesn't say anything anyway. It really isn't good enough that we are considering walking away based on so little certainty about the future, and it's hard to argue we are in a better position to have a new vote.

3. No deal is unconscionable, no democracy should allow a radicalised minority to inflict such a thing on the whole country, our parliamentary democracy exists to prevent such travesties happening. Similarly simply cancelling Brexit outright really is a democratic outrage now the referendum has happened. Both of these are the two extreme positions that could be taken (as an aside it is ridiculous to paint those arguing for another referendum as somehow being extremists, saying "maybe the people should get another go at it" is not an extreme remain position - it's barely a remain position at all, and it certainly isn't if you really believe people haven't changed their minds). Neither is acceptable.

4. It is clear that the extremists like Farage will claim any deal agreed between the UK and the EU is a betrayal (this all started with a claim of the UK being betrayed by being in the EU, and that narrative is not one that is going to be let go of any time soon). If a referendum is put to the people between a deal or remain, then they will shout betrayal. This won't be a majority of people, but it'll be enough to poison our politics and without taking the wind out of it's sails could just hijack every election for decades to come.

The 2016 referendum was the start of a policy, a huge policy, an era defining policy. It started with an overly simple question and to make matters worse the two sides advocating the answers failed abysmally to set out what it meant. Parliament (wrongly in my view) abrogated that question to the people, yet didn't ask for anywhere near the level of information to take their answer and do anything meaningful with it and allowed the leave campaign to present Brexit as something totally undefined and abstract; this is why they are in such a total mess now. MPs are guilty of the mess we are in, but not because they can't agree what to do now, that's expected given the horrendous mess left by the referendum, how can you take an abstract concept which was many things to different people, and rejected by nearly half of them, and find a way forward for the country? They are of creating that mess in the first place.

It's time to put that right. It's time to invite the people back in to the process. This is what should always have happened. It's an outrage that the public were excluded after being required to make such a momentous decision, with so little to go on. It's time to get them to give some clarity to the 2016 vote that only they can legitimately give.

I don't mean we should just give them another vote. I think one clearly is needed and it's natural that the end of the process is also a decision point. First we have to define what that vote is on.

The big problem we have had is that this has been carried out by politicians. It has been subject to partisanship, hidden (and not so hidden) agendas, spin, spin and yet more spin, toxic nationalism, outright deceit and the marginalisation of expert advice. Nobody trusts anything anyone is saying, and both sides have lost any credibility with the other. Both sides claim to be on the side of the people, yet neither can make a convincing case for being so. It doesn't help that opposing this policy, something that is a normal part of democracy, is now seen as unthinkable by many, just because it was instigated by a referendum vote.

We need a new deal. That much is patently obvious, but what kind of deal?

The Withdrawal Agreement is not really about a deal, it's about separation, closing off things we are currently doing with the EU. It contains some (disgraceful emphasis on some) surety for EU27 citizens, a transition period to implement... something, and it provides a fail safe for protecting the Good Friday Agreement. Despite the protestations of the leavers, and the obsession of our media, there really isn't anything worth discussing even if it were re-opened. Everything of importance is kicked in to the future negotiations, even the Irish protocol (backstop) is simply there as an insurance against those future talks failing to find a better solution and doesn't kick in until after the transition period. The arguments over it are a total red herring.

The Political Declaration should be where it's all at, except it isn't. The difficult negotiations are yet to come and they are so difficult that even the document that is supposed to provide a framework for them hasn't been able to get agreement for anything more than a vague "something, something, good will, something, something, close relations, something, something". It's total rubbish. It's an abrogation of responsibility to let us relinquish our current relationship with so little known about what our future one will be.

This is actually the reason a number of MPs are opposed to May's deal and voted it down... but of course we never hear about those ones, the government, and media attention, always focuses on those who oppose the backstop. It's a deliberate strategy to continue to airbrush out any sane voice or hint that people might 'want' to stay in a close relationship with the EU. It's always ignored that there is another way to passing Brexit, which is to actually soften the approach, rather than harden it beyond the point of reason.

I digress, so straight to it. What we need is a citizens assembly. I know this has been mooted before, but I've never seen it laid out as part of an actual plan. We don't just need a citizens assembly, we need to use it to create a 'peoples deal' that can then get approval from the whole public, or rejected meaning the end of Brexit. Either way it provides much more certainty than accepting the current WA and PD does.

The proposal is thus:

Extend or revoke (as discussed).

We take the Withdrawal Agreement and we accept it as PART of the solution. Firstly this takes the hard work done to date, whilst getting us past the 'no reopening the WA' block. It's unnecessary to reopen it anyway, there is no issue which limits our future except the backstop, which we'll deal with below.

We convene a citizens assembly with the express purpose of looking at what our future relationship should look like. We must make all the advice and evidence that the government has available to them. We must give them access to the necessary experts, and provide opportunities

This should definitely include looking at the solution to replace the backstop, and this should include actual visits to the border, meetings with the communities who live there and the organisations who represent Northern Irish businesses, farmers and industry. If they can't find an alternative then we have to accept that: 1. the Good Friday Agreement doesn't have an 'exit clause' and the UK is bound by it, and that it is both immoral and unethical to undermine it by reimposing border infrastructure. If they find an alternative, great the UK can start to look at implementing it. If a solution is seen, but, as is almost certainly likely, the timescale can't be guaranteed, then the Assembly should give their opinion on whether it'd be better to ask to extend the transition period, or to implement the backstop.

Other key decisions they should consider are: Freedom of Movement - should it end? Should we join EFTA (permanently, because we are talking about our actual future relationship)? What other initiatives should we seek to be a part of (and they must be able to access good advice on the likelihood of being accepted in to these, along with the consequences of doing so).

It should be made clear that this Assembly is seeking to find a future relationship outside the EU. Some may feel that remaining is the best option, and any final conclusion from them could contain such a statement from those who do, but it is important they reach a conclusion on what a non EU member UK should look like.

These recommendations should then go to a cross party negotiating team to flesh out the Political Declaration with the EU. It would really help if there was a government of national unity at this stage, but it's not necessary so long as parliament has oversight and the government chooses, or is made to properly facilitate it.

This deal will have been shaped by the public. It will therefore be much harder for the the likes of Farage and Rees-Mogg to shout down (although no doubt they will try).

Somebody has to then sign this off. It seems insane to bring the partisanship and parliamentary poison back in to things after all that, and whilst the Citizens Assembly will be kind of representatives of the wider public, they shouldn't have to carry the responsibility of having made the final decision. This deal should go back to the public to vote on. It's right that it does. It has always been right that the public gets the final say, having been forced to have the first one. Rejection of this Brexit, the only one that can genuinely lay claim to being what people may have voted for in 2016, should lead us back to the status quo, to remaining a member, either by revocation, or by not seeking to leave again (depending on how we dealt with the extra time).

There is no doubt the above is still going to be divisive, I don't think anyone can see any options now that are not. Despite it all though I still trust the people of the UK, even those I have bitterly fallen out with over this, when actually sat down together and going through the documents, advice and direct conversations with those affected, to get to grips with the reality we face - to be pragmatic and realistic, to be humane and considerate. I trust them much more than a government led by proven liars, or the unknown agendas of many of our politicians. More than that I think we need to take the partisanship and political agendas, the vested interests and the insulation many MPs (especially those on the leave side) have from any of the effects of Brexit due to their substantial wealth. Who else, really, do we have to turn to? The public's apathy and inclination not to engage with politics may just be the antidote we need right now.

It's time we demanded that politicians put there money where their mouth is. If they really believe that they are pursuing their Brexit solutions in the name of the people, then they must let the people in to the process, to give them control over their future... as they once promised to do.


1. Extend or revoke A50 to give us time
2. Accept the WA as a starting point and...
3. Convene a citizens assembly to look at the future relationship,. including what alternative will/can replace the backstop. Give this assembly access to all the expert advice currently being horded by ministers, or filtered through partisan politics and a sensation seeking media.
4. Trust people.
5. Negotiate a more substantial Political Declaration based on the citizen's assembly advice.
6. Put this, the peoples deal, a real, concrete proposal, built on public engagement and not the screaming partisanship of politicians or hidden agendas, to the public to ratify. After all no one else knows whether the public will think it's still worth it and it is fundamentally democratic that the option to say 'screw that let's just not do this' is always an option... just as it is for every policy that gets introduced in to our parliament.

28 August 2019

Accidentally backing Boris

Can I vote for the Prime Minister?

Its a simple question, and our Parliament's website has a simple answer:

You cannot vote for a Prime Minister. Which means a PM is not elected by the public and as the clip above shows, not even by those who live in the constituency they are standing.

So, how do they get elected? They don't. The position of PM is a function of parliament.

According to the parliament website again, by convention the leader of the party who wins most seats is 'usually' appointed PM by the Queen. That 'usually' is hardly conclusive... so how does the Queen (or future otherly gendered monarch) actually decide who to appoint?

Royal.uk has the answer for us:

The position of PM is a function of Parliament, of who MPs are willing to accept as PM. This is true not just after a General Election, but at any point during a parliament's term when a new PM is needed.

Faced with this people will often claim that a PM gets a mandate from the people during an election for their manifesto. This is a pretty spurious claim for a number of reasons:

  • First, a party can win the most seats without getting the most votes. Thanks to our lovely First Past The Post voting system they can do this even if they win a majority of seats.
  • Second, no manifesto can predict what the future holds. We have no idea at an election what challenges will confront parliament which either require some unforeseen action, or put an end to a predicted one. At best it is a vague guess at what a party would like to do. It tells us a bout a party's values and ideas, but it can't tell us what they will do in gov.
  • Third, the final decision to implement any policy is not actually up to the government. It's up to parliament. Parliament gets to amend and vote on every policy, and they can reject it if they don't like it. No manifesto can prejudge what parliament will look like, or how it will vote.

In all respects the PM, and the PM's government (entirely appointed by the PM, with no real say for parliament, let alone the public) gets what authority they have from parliament, they are reliant on them for passing laws, they are held accountable through parliament's committees, and ultimately by being always subject to the possibility of a vote of no confidence - a kind of reversal of the procedure by which they were appointed, where the parliament advises that the PM no longer commands their confidence.

Having confidence is important because the Govs job is to manage the day to day mechanism of government, to put proposals to parliament that are in line with what they believe parliament want to do see done, and ultimately execute the decisions made by parliament about those proposals... hence the fact that they are called the executive. This is also why manifestos are useful, because they help understand what MPs desires are.

It is not the PMs job to decide what parliament - what the public's representatives - want to be done for them. Even if it is written down in a manifesto, people can, and do, change their minds after consideration and under different circumstances (and sometimes just because they want to).

Why am I writing about this? Because, right now it is desperately important we understand the relationship between ourselves, parliament and the PM.

The PM, Boris Johnson, is about to suspend parliament to avoid them legislating against crashing us out of the EU with no deal.

Let's be clear: without a parliament there is no democracy. It is parliament that we elect and it is parliament that speaks on our behalf. You can have a government without democracy (just look at China). It is the democratically elected parliament, and its role in decision making, which makes us a democracy.

If parliament is denied the ability to decide how to deal with failing to reach a deal with the EU by the 31st of Oct, then probably the biggest constitutional change in the modern history of our country will be decided by a PM who has shut down democracy to do so. And there is a choice, several:

  • Leave without a deal
  • Ask for an extension
  • Revoke A50
All are feasible solutions, and any decision should be decided democratically - which means by our parliament.

Even if you believe that the referendum was binding (politically - if you think it's legally binding then you are just plain wrong) then that binding is on parliament, not the PM. It is parliament who are answerable to the public. All of parliament. Every single MP. It is they who must bear the responsibility of making that choice, because only they have democratic legitimacy to do so. It is not for the PM to decide to remove that responsibility from them.

Parliament represents the public. The whole of parliament represents the public, not just those MPs from the governing party (or parties). The public has many voices many different opinions and many varying needs. It is parliaments job to represent the public as best it can and find a sensible path through those differing opinions and needs. It is not the governments job to do this, although, when they are not behaving like egotistic clowns they are supposed to govern in the country's best interest. In essence it is because there is no such thing as "the will of the people" that democracy rests in the hands of MPs in parliament, not in any one manifesto, or party leader, or specific election.... or vote.

This has, rightly, sparked outrage (though strangely less so amongst leave supporters, who claimed that we had to leave the EU to assert parliamentary sovereignty), but unfortunately has also increased the number of people making the argument that Boris Johnson is an "unelected" PM. Well, yes he is, but so are all PMs. They need to stop doing this.

I'm not (just) saying this because I'm a tedious political nerd who thinks we should get things right; I'm saying it because they are unwittingly shoring up PM Johnson's key argument about Brexit.

Johnson claims that he has a mandate from the British people to enact Brexit, come what may, hell or high water, do or die, etc etc. He claims this mandate from the referendum - a public vote.

By arguing that the PM is illegitimate without a public vote, we are saying that the office of PM gets some legitimacy from the public, that without a public vote the PM has less legitimacy. We are feeding the myth that the PM is elected by the people. We are placing the office of PM on an equal, if not higher, standing than parliament. This is dangerous. If the PM can get legitimacy from a General Election Vote, why can he not claim legitimacy from a public referendum vote, especially when he led the "winning" campaign?

By relegating the role of parliament in being the body to empower the PM, we also help legitimise the idea of the PM shutting down parliament. By tying the selection of a PM/Gov to elections we encourage people to think that the PM is somehow part of the embodiment of our democracy. They aren't. But Johnson wants the public to believe they are. And by doing that it stops people understanding the full import of what shutting down parliament actually means.

In a way the fact Johnson is an unelected PM does make this attack on parliament worse... but it's not because Johnson is unelected, it's because all PMs are unelected. Let's be clear and stop feeding his narratives. Let's tell people that it is THEIR parliament that THE government is trying to shut down.

8 December 2018

Responding to the response

So following various correspondence to my MP Jo Churchill over Brexit (you can read my open letter here), I have finally received a reply. It' a stock response, but I expected something generic - MPs are busy, I understand that. Sadly it doesn't address a single issue I have raised, it simply regurgitates the same rubbish we have been hearing from Theresa May over the last couple of weeks.

If you want to read it it's basically just a cut down version of her post here.

It feels wrong calling this a counter-response, as I can barely call the dishonest and innacurate nonsense I got as a response in the first place, but here we go.

To start with:
It is clear from conversations and correspondence I have had with residents and businesses that people want Brexit to be settled and for us to focus on other issues.
This frank admission that your constituents believe that other issues are more pressing is totally at odds with the rest of your email, and your full statement, but I'll come back to that later.

Theresa May's deal is the polar opposite of settling this. Every difficult decision has been kicked in to the future negotiation - something that is plain to see by the almost complete absence of substance in the Future Relationship document. Nothing about our future relations with the EU has been settled. This debate will rage on and on, with a new crunch point in April 2020, over extending transition, and another in 2022 over the end of transition and the backstop.

That backstop will no doubt be a sticking point,  again - because those who fervently back Brexit refuse to acknowledge the reality of what Brexit means in Ireland, or of how the Good Friday Agreement works. Our Gov is incapable of standing up to them. This is why all the decisions which affect it's necessity remain undecided.

If we can get past that then we come to the real core of the decision ahead of us (still). Something talked about endlessly over the last two years, but never with any sincerity because of the magnitude of admitting it exists to a public that has been so comprehensively lied to about it - the decision over how much 'control' vs 'the economy'.

This will be the defining feature of our future relationship negotiation.
In the EU we have both a significant say in the rules of the market (and the whole EU), and full access to it. Outside we must choose which we wish to give up - it's a scale, with control on one side, and market access on the other and we get to choose how much we put on each side. Of course the same is true with FTAs with other big economic powers like the USA or China. The more control we put in to the EU deal, the less we have to surrender to the Americans. We will need this much more to do deals, because the backstop will leave us little room to negotiate on the basis of tariffs.

The world tends to align around either EU or USA regulatory systems. It makes total sense for us to align with Europe (of course one might argue it actually makes sense to be inside this system setting its rules) - it's closer, we are set up for it, we trade more with them. But people like Liam Fox want to push us towards the more predatory American system, and have shown they will fight tooth and nail for the ability to do so. As I've said, this issue will rage on, and doesn't just affect our EU FTA but with so many deals to do it will come back again, and again and again.
It is also important to recognise these negotiations have not been straightforward and there are diverse views on the matter.
Did you really believe negotiations would be straight forward? That was perhaps on of the more egregious lies of the leave campaign, that all this was simple and could be wrapped up easily, to our benefit. Not sure how involved you can have been when you campaigned for Remain if you think this is true.

Of course it hasn't helped that your own colleagues from the leave campaign have frustrated the process at every turn by insisting on impossible red lines, and Theresa May has failed to point out to them, and the country, the realities we are dealing with. Now that failure comes back to haunt parliament, as leave voters are being led to think that this poor deal is all the PMs fault for failing to 'properly do Brexit', instead of seeing this miserable little compromise as the natural result of chasing the hard Brexit fantasy itself (someone should point this out to Corbyn too).

If the gov knew there were diverse views, why on earth has it consistently acted as if no opinions but those of the 37% of the electorate who voted leave exist? Instead they've insisted they had to deliver 'what the country wanted', pretending we all wanted one thing (which happened to be whatever they said it was) and that nobody voted differently, or didn't think it worth voting at all. This simply demonstrates that there is never such a thing as 'the will of the people', that instead 'the people' are a complex mix of different opinions?
My postbag has been enormous and has reflected every view from 'Remain within the EU' to 'Crash out with No-Deal'. Our constituency voted 'Leave' in a referendum with a record voter turnout and I see no evidence from correspondence to suggest that this view has changed.
How many are supportive of this deal if I may ask?
I'm willing to bet, not many. And that is a key point isn't it. This deal is something no one actually wants and it is certainly not a compromise between our positions. We all differ in our opinion over why (and let's be honest, these differences are currently irreconcilable), and that difference should be able to be addressed properly, by the usual democratic means - campaigns and a vote. It should not be resolved by stitching us up with something everyone hates, by a government that has no idea what we all actually think now anyway.

'Leave' is not a view, as you've said there are many varied views. What view exactly is it you feel hasn't changed? Leave was a word in a referendum question, not a view in itself.

Are you suggesting by this that you have to be directed simply by the word 'Leave'; that's bonkers. Taking a result and detaching it completely from the campaigns and promises made to achieve it, frankly leaves the result meaningless, incapable of being assessed in any way to work out how to deliver on it. I look forward to the next general election where you claim to have "delivered for Bury St. Edmund's" purely on the basis that you were voted to be our MP for the last parliamentary term, and that is what you have delivered us. Maybe we might ask just 'what' you actually delivered as MP?

It's pretty clear from a range of polling that views across the country have changed and it would be naive to believe this hasn't happened at all in your constituency. I would hope you recognise that MP's post, like the comments in an internet forum, are hardly likely to be representative of the wider public (or constituency).

What were people promised and what do they expect? Are you achieving this? If you aren't, or you don't know then you have no right to claim to be delivering anything that is based on the referendum. I don't see how you can know without actually asking them all - and there is really only one way to do that.
However both the EU and the Government are clear that this is the only deal on the table.
As you say it is the only one on the table.
Not because it's the best we could achieve, or because it's some kind of compromise trying to genuinely address a near 50/50 split in the result and a deeply divided public.
No, it's the only deal on the table because it is the inevitable position that would be reached when the PM adopted the hardest possible Brexit position, and then Leave politicians, mostly your colleagues, spent the last two years fighting the government like cats in a sack refusing to admit the inherent contradictions of these red lines..

And, now that time has run out, and we have this malformed deal. As you say, the only one, but by no means a good one. Let me remind you, people were told in the 2016 ref, in no uncertain terms, over and over again, that we would get a good deal. Not a deal. A good deal. You are not delivering on the referendum by passing this deal.
The other options is a No-Deal Brexit
I see you said options... perhaps you forgot to complete the sentence (or did someone edit it out for you?), because as it stands this is simply a lie. The other option, as set out by your own Prime Minister and backed up by Donald Tusk is no Brexit. The CJEU's Advocate General has clearly shown that, should our sovereign parliament require the government to do so, it can withdraw A50 unilaterally.
I campaigned to 'Remain' as did Ken Clarke, an arch Europhile. He is committed to support the Prime Minister and in conversations with him I have been impressed by his reasoned arguments for accepting the deal.
Unlike Ken Clarke though, you still refuse to be honest with us about what this deal means - a poorer, diminished Britain. I can understand the position of weighing up the threat of a catastrophic no deal against the more manageable loss of this deal, but to pretend it is delivering anything that people actually want beggars belief.

He acknowledges that the agreement that has been reached is a compromise, but that is the very nature of negotiations.
Absolutely. The end point of the Brexit process (although this is really a mid-point, but an important 'point-of-no-return' one all the same) was always going to be a compromise. It was never going to look like the vagueries of the referendum, so how can you support the idea people voted for this thing in particular? Nobody could have known this point in advance. How can you know they still prefer the result of the choice that they made over two and a half years ago? Whilst the alternative still remains, are you really saying you must deny people that choice because they have 'made their bed and must now lie in it'? Sure, if we leave, if the old bed is broken up in to little pieces that will be the case, but right now we still have the option of sleeping in our old, comfy, bed.
Over the weekend this view was echoed by several Government Ministers
And opposed by several as well - in fact those who echoed it were very much in a minority.
while it may not be the perfect deal, it is the best on offer and allows for a degree of certainty.
The barest fraction of a degree I'd say. It guarantees three things only: first that we have a (limited) transition) and do not fall off a regulatory and trade cliff edge on the 29/3/2019; second that we don't completely screw the peace process in Ireland and third that EU27 citizens have a couple of extra years to try and apply for 'settled status' and become 'only' second class UK citizens rather than lose all their rights. These frankly should never, ever have been on the table in the first place. For the gov to try and claim credit for spending two years fixing the dangers they allowed to become a possibility is just too much.

No deal was never acceptable, no one wants to inflict on us. The EU does not want to see it happen. It is unacceptable to threaten us with that choice now. If we end up there it will not be because the deal is rejected, it will be because parliament and the government failed to take action to stop it. Neither parliament nor the public should be bullied in to accepting a bad deal because the gov and the Brexit fanatics fed the monster of no deal to try and push us in to it.

Beyond this the deal guarantees nothing else. There is no guarantee we won't simply be facing the same regulatory and trade cliff edge at the end of transition. The 'deal' doesn't lay any groundwork for our future relationship negotiations. Without knowing where we are going we cannot start preparing for it.

There is no guarantee we will be able to reach an agreement on that by the end of transition. In fact everyone who actually knows about trade negotiations thinks it is highly unlikely we will. We could have had more time, but again the PM caved to the hard liners in your party who demanded we kept transition as short as possible. We are faced with a transition period which we use to decide where we want to go, and no time to actually put in place everything we may need to transition to that point.

And all that is before we consider the very high probability that the ERG will move to throw the country in to turmoil by unseating the PM as soon as we pass the point of no return. Safe in the knowledge it'll be too late to turn back they can push the hardest Brexit they want, undoing any good intentions (for that is all they are right now). They are already perfectly happy to rip up the Good Friday international agreement, I see no reason to believe they would hesitate to try and rip up the Withdrawal Agreement too.

As for EU27 citizens - the way they have been and still are being treated is an utter disgrace that shames our country. I notice your email very sensibly cut out the bit from your statement on this. But, did you think I wouldn't read it? Let me just address it, and I'm afraid I can't be polite about this bit.

You said in your statement:
We will control our borders, ending free movement. The Government will construct an immigration policy driven by the needs of our economy and based on the skills someone has, rather than the country they are from. We will continue to be the welcoming country we have always been.
Your government chose to make this a red line, they chose to make it THE central issue for their Brexit. They did this without any mandate at all, without any suggestion this was a majority view - as if majority views are any excuse for stripping people of their rights, demonising those who have done nothing but enrich our country, or for acting with intolerance and prejudice.

How dare you now present ending Freedom of Movement as a positive when it has done so much for our country and our citizens alike. When it is something integral to the lives millions of people here in the UK, and who's removal has brought pain, chaos and turmoil to their existence. How dare you present it as delivering what the people wanted when there is no evidence to support that. How dare you paint us as being so lacking in empathy and so short sighted.

How dare you repeat the lies of the leave campaign about not controlling our borders - when we have never been prevented from doing so. When, in fact, our security cooperation in the EU has given us vital intelligence to do so. Border control is about security, not about who has a right to come here to live, work, or just holiday. This was a deliberately emotive game played by the leave campaign to present migration as a security risk. A message that is as toxic as it is wrong.

How dare you parrot May and insinuate that EU27 citizens have somehow cheated others out of a place here - it is our draconian immigration policies that keep non-EU citizens out, and nothing else. There was no queue, no quota, just people deciding they could make a life here and in so doing contribute to the UKs success, and a heartless Home Office deciding others would be denied that right, edespite being wanted and needed, or had partners here.

How dare you suggest that immigration is only about what we want, that it is ok to discriminate against citizens from other countries based on qualities we feel they must contribute. The sheer arrogance of saying we will tell people what skills we allow and they will just flock here, that everyone else who dreams of making a life here will be discriminated against because they don't have the skills we deem to be suitable and that's ok.

The last few years have definitely not shown that Britain is a welcoming country. It has shown us as a nasty intolerant, inward looking country. We may pretend it is just EU27 citizens who might take grievance at this, but it has been noted across the world and by all those who chose to come here - Britain no longer respects the contribution people from outside the UK make to their country and society. It is going to take decades to undo that damage. You can set all the qualification requirements you like, but if people do not want to be here, they won't come.

It really says something about this deal that you have to invoke the nastiest aspect of the leave campaign to try and drum up support for it.

As I've started, let me just address a few more points from your full statement.
The offer is good for businesses, protecting the economy and jobs.
How? The agreement does nothing except provide a couple of years of transition certainty. Beyond that it says nothing. Time enough to implement their emergency plans (plans some are already implementing). We'll come out of transition just as our businesses are in a full scale retreat. A double whammy of economic pain.

It most certainly doesn't protect the economy, or jobs. At best it can be considered palliative care, hoping (against the odds) we find a solution before time runs out.

On the backstop, your full statement says:
The reason I believe any usage of the backstop would indeed be temporary or that it would not be used at all, is that if it were used the UK would get all the benefits of the Single Market with no cost and not having to sign up to Freedom of Movement. This is a situation the EU clearly would not countenance and I believe would drive both parties to seek a free trade agreement. As the Attorney General said during his statement to the House of Commons on 3rd December 2018, “this (the backstop) represents a sensible compromise”.
Sorry, but there is no chance we won't be in backstop territory at some point. All expert opinion points to it taking much longer to simply negotiate an FTA, let alone for the UK to ramp up it's regulatory bodies, or to create the new ones needed to replace those we share in the EU, and to be ready to transition to that new arrangement. The backstop simply replaces a no deal cliff edge. It's not as bad, but it's still bad.

The backstop is nothing like all the benefits of the single market - it is totally dishonest to present it as such. The UK as a whole (and therefore most of the businesses in the UK) would not be in anything like either the current Customs Union, or the Single Market.

The backstop sees the UK as a whole enter a Customs Arrangement. This would see the UK align it's tariffs to those of the EU. The UK could still do separate trade deals, but, it would lose the trade deals we currently have as an member of the EU with 99 countries (including the EU27), however we would still have to reduce our tariffs to those countries, removing one of the negotiating levers we have to re-negotiate a trade deal with them. It is entirely uncertain whether they would have to lower tariffs to us as well. We could do trade deals, but we are starting from a position where most countries already have zero, or near zero tariffs with us already, so we will need to make even greater concessions in other areas to do our deals.. The UK of course would have no say, as we currently do, in what those tariffs were. This does remove customs checks between the UK and EU, but at a huge cost to us. Still, even then the price for peace in Ireland is worth paying. Of course it doesn't end there, in return we agree to abide by EU state aid, financial regulation and various other laws we will no longer have any say over.

Only Northern Ireland gets to be in the Customs Union and Single Market, and then for goods only. The rest of the UK is outside it. This means regulatory checks at ports for UK products, and, as the Attorney General outlined, between the UK and NI. The UK is outside the Single Market completely.

This is a disaster for businesses, as they have been repeatedly telling your government for the last two years. Not to mention the 80% of our economy which is services - not covered at all by any part of the backstop. And that includes the financial sector which contributes a hefty part of the government's coffers.

Theresa May has said that we may unilaterally choose to follow EU regulations - but without a formal agreement to do so (which has been ruled out) that means nothing. If we are free to change them unilaterally, then the mechanisms for dealing with different regulations will need to be in place. No country, or group of countries, is going to allow another to undermine its ability to ensure the goods that come in to it's country do not meet their regulations (unless it's a UK under Jacob Rees-Mogg, who wants to just not bother with border control. I'm sure that contradicts another claim somewhere...)

Perhaps you think I'm being unkind - but based on the governments handling of things so far, the complete lack of comprehensions shown by anyone who might take over (either an ERG hard liner, or Jeremy Corbyn with his continuation of the 2016 fantasy we can have all the stuff we like and none of the bits we don't with no backstop to boot), I think I'm probably being too kind.

When you say it would drive both parties to seek an FTA, again, you are misleading people. An FTA is already the proposed next stage, but that doesn't negate the backstop. In fact the future relationship document says we will 'build on the backstop arrangement' to agree an ambitious FTA. The backstop is necessary to ensure the protection of the GFA. The GFA is not resolved by a FTA alone, which doesn't address customs - having zero tariffs with the EU doesn't resolve when we both have different tariffs with other third countries. It doesn't resolve regulatory differences - no FTA fully aligns regulations, and if we somehow miraculously managed to agree full alignment on regulations and avoid it being scuppered by the Mogglodytes, addicted as they are to an ultra hard, no trade Brexit, how on earth is that better than being in the EU, following the regulations but actually having a say in what they are?
Finally, the UK will no longer be contributing vast sums of money to the EU, freeing up more money for domestic priorities.
Let me offer some advice on how to spend this "Brexit dividend":
  1. We should  pay for all the new regulatory bodies we will require to take over from those we currently share in the EU, or to bolster those we already have who share this task with other EU bodies.
  2. We should pay for all the new border infrastructure we are going to need to carry out regulatory checks. There's a lot of it. We will also need to employ staff to manage it and of course there will be ongoing maintenance and running costs.
  3. We will need to pay for a large increase in the civil service - the 30 staff in Liam Fox's dept. is not going to be enough to renegotiate dozens of FTAs, not to mention new ones and fighting the legal challenges already lodged against us in the WTO (EU trade negotiators number 682). Of course, the global shortage of trade negotiators might bump the price up a bit.
  4. If there is any left after that then I suggest we 'spend' it by starting to plug the massive black hole in public finances that your own Government and treasury predictions show will result from the deal.

Our net contribution is less than 1% of overall public spending. The money returned is an absolute pittance set against the financial loss of Brexit. To pretend that it will mean more money is hugely dishonest. It's exactly what the leave campaign said to hoodwink the public. It has been roundly debunked as such and by raising it here you really undermine any credibility of your claim to have looked seriously at this issue.

Anyway, back to your email.
The vote on the 11th December relates to the details namely the withdrawal and transition, not our future trading arrangements.
So how does this square with your 'findings' that most people just want it done with? The only route that doesn't lead to years more negotiation is to let people decide if they want to end it now and revoke A50. If they want years more of this then that's fine, but I think, if people are telling you thy don't, you have a duty to give them the option to end it all now.
This is the most difficult decision I have had to make in my parliamentary career as there will be many constituents from both sides of the debate who feel let down.
Thank you for the frank admission that you are more worried about how your constituents view your decision than in how it actually affects the country. I would however suggest that maybe some things are more important than winning the next election.
The primary issue was always going to be how to deliver a workable solution to a binary question; to Leave or to Remain.
I find it amazing you are able to sum up the problem, yet so completely fail to address it in any meaningful way. The complexity of this issue deserves better than simply trying to find a way to deliver on a simple phrase, or word, on a ballot. Perhaps now that we can (nearly - Jacob Rees-Mogg notwithstanding) all see the complexity that exists in this decision, it would be better to outline that complexity to people and ask them if they are sure they want to go ahead with this ill-fitting solution, or have a rethink on the whole thing.

Again I would note that no one on 'my side' is asking you to 'betray Brexit' or to stop it yourself. We are simply asking for the courtesy to be allowed the chance to go to the people and argue the case, democratically, that this thing we now have, this thing which is the result of pursuing a Brexit shaped by the red lines of those who campaigned to leave, is not what was promised, is not worth pursuing, and is not what we should be doing.

Ask yourself this, if this deal came to you in parliament and there had been no referendum, would you support it? Because that is the job we pay you to do. To be a representative, to use your judgement to decide complex issues knowing you are paid to have the time and resources to investigate them sufficiently and decide what is in the best interests of us and the country.

You are not a delegate. Hiding behind our referendum vote to excuse voting for this deal is cowardly. If you think this deal is better than all the three options, then have the courage to say so and accept the blame when it is shown to be wrong.

We, as a country, as your constituents do not have to accept this deal, or no deal. We have another choice, to reject Brexit, even if you feel that third choice has been taken away from you by the 2016 referendum you still have to accept the reality that those options exist. If you want, or feel you have to, delegate your responsibility because of the referendum to the views of your constituents then may I suggest you should actually do that, by giving them the ability to directly express it at the ballot box. Don't pretend you have the ability to divine what we think from a bag of mail; this isn't the 15th century.

In all honesty your whole response feels like it was lifted straight from Theresa May's Brexit deal script. It mirrors all the desperate attempts she has made to breathe life in to tired and demolished leave arguments. It mimics the disgraceful references to Freedom of Movement and EU citizens. It includes the same outright lies about what her deal achieves. If this is your genuine explanation for supporting the deal, it is a very, very poor one.

I don't see any free agency in your response, just the government line. I don't see any evidence that you genuinely have tried to understand the huge issues at the heart of Brexit. It feels like, like your constituents, you just want it to go away. On that at least we agree.

Open Letter to Jo Churchill MP

Dear Jo,

I am writing to you as a very worried and concerned constituent about Brexit. Let me be clear from the start, I am not asking you to stop Brexit.

I am asking you to support the People’s Vote campaign - something which is not at odds with respecting the 2016 referendum, but merely seeks to reinstate some democracy in to the process that it triggered.

I won’t fill this letter with all the reasons why Brexit is of such concern to me as I am sure many people have already done so and I suspect you have been keeping up with things (unlike some of your colleagues in the House of Commons). I would like to highlight one aspect that is close to me.

I work as an architect and you may not be aware of the Royal Institute of British Architects ‘Global by Design’ report on Brexit, in which they warn of cancelled projects and a talent exodus. The report highlights:

74% of architects state that frictionless access to the European single market is a priority for expanding international work.

Over two thirds (68%) of architects have reported projects put on hold, and more than two in five (43%) architects have seen projects cancelled since the EU referendum

Architecture is often seen as a bellwether for the economy, being at the forefront of the construction industry which is the first to see a downturn.

60% of EU architects have considered leaving the UK since the EU referendum (a significant increase compared to 40% in 2017).

This is truly horrifying. In all the practices I have worked in I have been privileged to work with a large number of fellow EU27 nationals. They play a vital role at many levels. The Architects Registration Board reports that applications from EU27 countries are down by over 40%. Our sector will sorely feel these losses..

Just last month 37 of some of the UKs highest profile architects wrote to the PM to highlight their grave concerns about the impact of Brexit and the government’s proposed new immigration rules.

Architecture is one of those professions at the heart of Britain’s thriving services sector and I would urge you to read these documents.

I would also point out that British architecture’s success is actually built on its international success and reputation more than its domestic output. A look at the top architects practices across Europe shows that British born architects have been very happy to make use of the reciprocal rights Freedom of Movement has given them. The loss of this right will only make our industry poorer in every respect - and that diminishes our country as a whole.

If Brexit cannot be delivered democratically, then it has no right being delivered at all.

As well as the impact on my profession, I am also deeply concerned about the democratic deficit in the way Brexit is being carried out.

I moved here earlier this year and did not have the opportunity to choose who is now my MP in 2017. But as you know you still represent me and my interests. This is a crucial aspect of our democracy - that no matter how we vote, or don’t, in elections, our voices are still continuously represented in the process and decisions of our parliament, by our curent MP. We vote for who represents us, not who is represented.

Brexit has been pursued solely in the interests and with consideration for those who voted to leave only. The government has very deliberately shut down anyone who dares suggest that other points of view should direct the process too. 37% of the electorate (or 24% of the country) has been rounded up to 100%.

The referendum has broken our representation in parliament.

When it comes to Brexit the judgement of all MP’s is being constrained by a choice made by 37% of the electorate. If any MP feels the Brexit being pursued isn’t in our interests they no longer have the right to stop it, as they would in any other circumstances, on any other issue. 

Our representation in Brexit has been reduced to a single point in time. Over two years ago. They say just a week is a long time in politics...

Where too is the accountability?

There are now multiple legal investigations in to the leave campaign, and fines levelled on both sides. The amount of misinformation thrown around was overwhelming, and deliberate. No one in their right mind would describe the referendum as a shining example of British democracy.

We cannot fully know the impact that any of this may or may not have had (does the breaking of electoral law really only matter if it can be shown to have had an impact?) but are we honestly saying it couldn't possibly have had any effect whatsoever?

We also know that promises made have been broken and that the final deal will look nothing like the better future that was sold to the public back in 2016.

How will Brexit be held to account? By the next general election it will be done, too late to be undone. The promises made and the campaigns were not run by political parties. They have vanished like smoke. We have only the Brexit deal itself left to hold to account - and accountability is only possible if you can affect a meaningful change.

I appreciate you and your fellow MPs are in a very difficult position. None of the above provides anything concrete to act on and the referendum is a concrete thing, hanging over parliament like a Damocles sword.

This one thing has been used by your government and the Brexit hard liners to silence any challenge or scrutiny to not just Brexit as a whole, but any of the priorities chosen by them. In short, it has been used to abuse democratic process, not contribute to it.

None of us can, or should ignore the 2016 referendum, & neither can we simply revisit that earlier decision. Time has passed and it is not possible to rewind the clock - the country has moved on. Like I said, I am not asking you to try and stop Brexit.

But, how can we ignore the shadows cast over the referendum by the wrongdoing that has come to light? How can we dismiss the broken promises? How do we hold to account the result of this process?

The Brexit that is being shaped by negotiations and will in turn shape our country lacks the people’s voice and lacks accountability.

Parliament started this by delegating their judgement to the people. The arguments & promises were put directly to us. The priorities and expectations of Brexit are in our hearts and our minds. We have not been consulted on what our priorities are, our MPs have not been allowed to debate and shape them on our behalf. With respect, I don’t think MPs can now judge for themselves whether our expectations have been met or not.

It would be wrong for Brexit to be concluded without finding this out. It would be wrong to end the process with no ability to hold it to account.

Please support a People’s Vote which would reinstate representation and accountability.

We need to reassert our democracy. We need a referendum on the deal once we know what Brexit will actually look like. We need the final decision to be put to the people for their judgement. And, we need to have the option to remain, because we cannot hold Brexit to account when the only options we are given are Brexit, or Brexit.

Our democracy must not be weakened on the most crucial issue facing our country in generations - if anything the democratic mandate of such a decision must be put beyond question, and there are currently many questions indeed.

You can read my reply to her rather inadequate response here

14 January 2018

Framing Brexit

The Remain narrative failure..

I can hardly believe this is one of only a handful of my blog posts about brexit. Maybe it's always felt too big a subject with so much that needs saying. Possibly it's because so many fantastic people are already saying much of what I would, and saying it better. Maybe it's that I spend too much time on Twitter (@Untidy_mind) arguing about it. But, there is one aspect I don't see much comment on that really needs saying.

It's this: the Remain campaign is widely criticised for having let the other side control the narrative (amongst other failures). So why are campaigners still doing this?

The fight to try and change direction from that set in June 2016 continues to make the same mistake.

Remain campaigners continue to boost the Leave narratives.

This post looks at one example of this - the financial settlement. The point applies more widely.

When the government announced it had reached an agreement on the financial issue, there was a lot of noise from Remain campaigners. Did they point out that common sense had prevailed? Some did, but not many. Did they point out how this should have been settled ages ago and only wasn't because of delusions of the Brexit cheerleaders? Again, some did but it wasn't the over-riding message.

No, the most common refrains we heard were "we were told Brexit would make us richer, but it is now costing us billions" and "the UK has caved in to EU demands. So much for they need us more than we need them!".

Why was this wrong?

"Brexit is now costing us money." The leavers have always claimed that the EU cost us a lot and wasn't worth it. This was always a load of crap. Why then would we feed the narrative of the EU being an unecessary cost - even when we try to leave?

"We caved in to their demands." The other Leave narrative was a warped portrayal of sovereignty, of being bullied and told what to do by the EU (rather than participating in it's decisions as an influential member). I really don't think I need to point out how the 'caving in to demands' response feeds in to this narrative.

The worst thing about all this is that is that the response just doesn't match reality. So how should we have responded? 

What narratives do we want to create?

This agreement is a massive "well, about time." The delusion and lack of understanding of the hardline Brexiter's (who have led team Brexit) were the only reason why we hadn't.

Leave's leaders need to be discredited - and it shouldn't be that hard to do! On this issue it starts by challenging the flawed narrative of an exit 'bill'. There is no 'bill' to leave, and this is what the brexit headbangers never understood - they were stuck in a victim mentality of their own creation. 

A cost to leave was never being discussed, that our media has continued to call it this and failed to explain what was, is a huge failure of journalism. The discussion was about what happens with the existing funding agreements that the UK had already signed up to.

This is about money that was always committed to EU projects, whether we leave or not. It is not due because we are leaving. The reason this agreement was inevitable is because the UK is not a crackpot country that refuses to follow through with its commitments, not because the UK is at the mercy of a bullying EU.  We made commitments to our partners, and breaking them would damage our reputation internationally. Brexit is damaging this enough already.
Leavers who argued for no financial agreement should be mercilessly criticised for trying to destroy our international reputation. No matter what your politics, nearly everyone sees the UK as (or wants the UK to be) a mature, responsible member of the international community.

The damage being done to our global reputation by Brexit and it's leaders is real and must be our message.

So, there is no playground bully demand from the EU for money to 'get out'. There never was. But, more importantly this is not a competition between UK and EU negotiators. They are (or should) be looking for the least worst way of the UK leaving. That is how the EU negotiators, diplomats and member state leaders constantly describe it. There may be a time, if we become a third country, where we will be competitors and not partners, but that is all down to the UK and our choices.

We must highlight how these negotiations are all about damage limitation. There is no positive outcome for anyone.

The idea that the EU 'got it's way' is wrong. We all lose from this. The agreement is the least worst option for both the UK and EU. We agreed to continue making the financial contributions we have already agreed to. We will also continue to benefit from the programs that this money funds. We make the agreed payments, we play by the already agreed rules (which are themselves a benefit to business), and continue to realise the value of our investment. The agreement is about continuing a positive decision we made: it needn't be the last time we do so.

Remainers should have used this as an opportunity to highlight the value of our EU contributions.

And, that is the point. Our EU payments were always a valuable investment. This was a chance to show that our collaboration with EU partners is beneficial. The EU and the UK agreed to continue, for a bit longer, it's mutually beneficial arrangements; we could choose not to end them at all.

Lets not collude in the fictitious narrative of the bullying EU.

We must avoid feeding the Brexit monster . 

14 April 2017


So looking through old emails I found a copy of this, which I sent to my then employer about their decision to ask us all to participate in a an MBTI test as part of a team-building exercise.

Having read about, and discussed this with people in the past, and come to the conclusion it is a load of old rubbish, I was naturally slightly disappointed, and disinclined to participate.

I thought my response was interesting enough to share here with people, so here it is.
Note. The company name has obviously been removed - but they were very understanding of my position - though no doubt felt I was making a big fuss about nothing and went ahead anyway - without me of course. Also, the last sentence is meant as an ironic joke... just in case you thought I was being hypocritical. 

7 March 2017

Dubbed up

I've given my MP a hard time previously for how she has voted in parliament and her explanations after the fact. (here, and here). So it's nice to be able to applaud her.

5 March 2017

Inhumane shield

screamed the news (and screaming is usually the right adjective for the news these days) after the House of Lords voted for an amendment to the government's article 50 bill. But was it really?

23 February 2017

Lording it up

The Lords are at it again - sticking their unelected noses in to the business of the Commons. How dare they oppose the elected chamber. Well, so those who support Brexit-at-any-cost will tell us - ironically most of which are the same bunch who had no interest in, or actively opposed, changing the unelected nature of the Lords.

But this isn't going to be a Bexit post. Nope, there's so much that could be said but I'll leave that for another day. No, what's bothered me here is the number of people who have yet again come out of the woodwork to talk about the importance of the House of Lords as a 'place of expertise' who's role is to scrutinise and amend government policy, but to leave the job of challenging government policy to the elected House of Commons. Both of these assertions bother me, but for reasons which are not necessarily the ones often mooted.

10 February 2017

Heidi shambles - a follow up

So following my last post about Rt. Hon. Heidi Allen's rather poor (IMO) response to concerned constituents, the Article 50 bill and her intentions towards it things have moved on and we now know how the Commons reacted. So where do we stand in relation to what I had said before?