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?

7 February 2017

An open response to my MP, Heidi Allen

My MP, the Rt. Hon. Heidi Allen, recently posted this response to herviews on the vote for Article 50 (she voted for it) and begin the process of leaving the EU. This is a standard response she has been sending out to anyone asking her about her position on Brexit and A50 - and I have to say, one I find woefully lacking and rather confused.

12 July 2016

General Election logic - the Bad and the Good

So Theresa May has won the leadership contest with support from just a tiny tiny minority of the British public - specifically those who are Conservative MP's. Like all good believers in democracy I should by all rights be outraged that she will now become our new Prime Minister on such a flimsy election process (if you can even call surviving just a few rounds of political 'it's a knockout' an election process). Like many I should be crying that it is undemocratic, that she has 'No Mandate' to be PM!

But I won't be. For a very good reason.