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‘European Union’

Why has no one asked David Davis to ensure free movement for ferrets?

Ferret

A European ferret. Source: Wikipedia. © Creative Commons Alfredo Gutiérrez

The detail to be covered in Brexit negotiations is the stuff of nightmares. But sometime an MP,  is bound to table a Commons question, at the behest of constituents, on the free movement of ferrets.

Every year some 250,000 pets cross the Channel under an EU agreement. I have been unable to locate statistics showing how many of them were ferrets but most were dogs and cats.

Originally ferrets were excluded from the Pet Passport scheme but after a lot of squealing by ferret lovers in England the European Parliament voted in 2003 to extend the rules.

According to the Daily Mail in 2003: ‘The new law will make it easier for British male ferrets to meet French female ferrets,’ an EU spokesman said.

According to Politico.eu the EU chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, is aware that Pet Passports is one of the issues that will have to be settled. There is no evidence that even he is aware of the effect on ferrets.

But we don’t even know if David Davis is aware of the issue. When he gets down to details of Brexit I just hope he does a reverse ferret.

 

Mail and Express seeking to push UK over the cliff edge

On the day two British newspapers – the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, who else – celebrate the triggering of Article 50 with front page splashes picturing of Nigel Farage, beer glass in hand, perhaps we should remind ourselves of his image in Europe.

The two papers appear to be set on ensuring Brexit takes the UK over the cliff. And it is a safe bet Theresa May will utter not a word of criticism of the Daily Mail: she never does whatever the paper says.

This video of Farage at work in the European Parliament demonstrates his determination to insult the European Union.

Swift reactions suggest Article 50 letter was not given enough thought

Annotated letter

What TM wrote and what she means. Politico.eu has its interpretation.

That Theresa May’s Article 50 letter has been so quickly seen as a threat over European security co-operation suggests the drafting may have been hurried and not subjected to sufficiently rigorous checking in Downing Street. The alternative – that it was a deliberate threat – is worse.

The point was picked up immediately by LibDem leader Tim Farron who said Theresa May has delivered a “blatant threat” to the EU 27 by threatening to withdraw security co-operation if we do not receive a favourable trade deal.

Others in the UK and across Europe followed with similar comments.

Politico.eu has produced an annotated version of the letter and had this to say on the security issue:

WHAT SHE SAID:
“In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.”

WHAT SHE MEANT:
If you want access to our superior intelligence on international crime and terrorism you’d better do us a deal on the stuff we want too. Just think about that.

Reactions to other parts of the letter were also swift. The Independent reports:

Angela Merkel has dealt an instant blow to Theresa May’s plan for Brexit by rejecting the PM’s plan for trade talks to take place at the same time as Article 50 secession negotiations.

Britain will be put into the slow lane for discussions about any future trade deal with the EU following an intervention by the German Chancellor, who intervened just hours after the UK invoked Article 50.

Was all this what Downing Street expected and wanted from the letter or is it a mark of poor drafting and hurry. They have had months to prepare the letter but it does not look like it.

The fight against Brexit starts today

The fight-back against Brexit starts today as the triggering of Article 50 opens negotiations on our future. For me the European Union is not only an economic union but a social and political alliance formed after World War II to ensure a peaceful continent.

This has been my conviction for a long time. At the age of 17, in 1959, I spoke in a debate on Europe and said we should not forget that Europe reached to the Urals. Long ago I realised I would not see that youthful dream come true, but I don’t want see what has been achieved thrown away by English nationalists.

I am angered each time Mrs May talks about representing everyone in the United Kingdom as she did this afternoon. That is not true. She does not speak for me. She has declared war on everything I believe.

There is no inevitability about what happens in the next two years. The EU will undoubtedly change in the next 18 months and such reforms will be the priority of the 27 countries remaining: the UK will have no influence but they could make Europe more acceptable to some here.

As the Brexit negotiations develop there will be changes in public feelings here. We simply cannot guess what will happen in the talks or how people will react. It maybe that a deal which would keep the Northern Ireland and Scotland within the UK could be reached or it could be going over the cliff edge.

My objective is to see the Article 50 letter revoked and the UK remaining a member of the EU. The argument that this cannot be legally done is fallacious. The law has not been tested and at some stage the European Court is likely to rule on this. There are plenty of people both here and in European countries believe it can be done.

But, in the end, it is a political matter. If both side in the negotiations wanted it to happen the law would not stand in the way.

I am optimistic because I don’t think Mrs May will want to go down in history as the prime minister who took England and Wales out of both the European Union and the United Kingdom.

 

Is there a real difference between Trump and May policies on controlling borders?

There is not a lot of difference, at heart, between Theresa May’s “we will have control of our borders” after Brexit and Donald Trump’s pre-election rhetoric about controlling US borders to create more jobs for US citizens and to keep out terrorists.

Now we are seeing how Trump sets about delivering on his promises — the Mexican wall and restrictions on entering the USA — we should focus on what May’s statements really mean.

While May and Trump use very different languages the intent is similar.

The protests about Trump’s executive orders are largely coming from the East and West coasts. Anyone who has travelled inland from New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles or San Francisco know that you enter a very different county: Trump’s moves will be supported by a large proportion of the US electorate.

They are also welcomed here by the likes of Nigel Farage, the UK constituency that terrifies May.

Implementing May’s “control our borders” policy would be fraught with difficulties in meeting the wishes of her right-wing and liberals, business people and academics. We need to know how she plans to do this, before she makes an Article 50 notification to the EU.

The idea that May is a careful Prime Minister who thinks matters through before committing herself is rapidly turning to dust. Her reluctance to condemn Trump’s immigration order and her offer of a State Visit to the UK by the US president, suggest she was totally unprepared for the consequences. If she was prepared, her actions are even more terrifying.

 

Trump victory will make Brexit even more painful

The Iberian peninsular breaks away from the mainland and heads towards America before eventually returning to Europe, in The Stone Raft, a wonderful novel by José Saramago.

It feels today as if the United Kingdom will start a similar journey into dangerous waters when the decision to leave the EU is made irrevocable by signing Article 50. But the far coast is much less attractive with a protectionist Donald Trump in the White House.

While the political establishments in both the UK and the USA have miscalculated the anger of many electors the similarity of the Brexit and Presidential votes ends there. The consequences are very different.

As the Economist comments:

Brexit is a giant shock to Britain’s place in the world. It will sever old links and require new ones to be forged. As some of its keenest proponents concede, this transition will bring painful costs. Most of all it demands lots of good will and flexibility on all sides. In so far as Mr Trump’s win means a meaner, more fractious, more volatile global order, it raises those costs and shrinks that space for compromise and consensus essential for a smooth Brexit.

It seems to me that we now need, more than ever, to be a part of strong European Union and its trading bloc.

When judges are called ‘Enemies of the people’ I am afraid for our future

The language being used today following the High Court ruling on the use of the royal prerogative to trigger Brexit is frightening. The headlines in at four national newspapers effectively seek to undermine the rule of law.

The Daily Mail: Under pictures of the three judges who made the ruling is: ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE.

The Sun shouts WHO DO EU THINK YOU ARE.

The Daily Telegraph cries: The judges versus the people.

The Daily Express evokes Churchill’s fight on the beaches speech with its headline, WE MUST GET OUT OF THE EU, printed over the Union flag.

The Guardian has a measured headline, Turmoil for May as judges rule that parliament must decide on Brexit. But its first paragraph starts: “Theresa May is heading for a rebellion over her Brexit strategy…” I can find no justification for the use of the word “rebellion” in following paragraphs.

The front pages can be seen on the BBC website.

For the record, the judges’ ruling was about the process of Brexit not about whether the UK should leave the EU. The ruling upholds sovereign power of the legislature: it supports our MPs and restates the separation of powers between the parliament and the executive. That is something I thought every democrat supported.

The language reflects a very nasty country which is emerging. It is empowering those who feel they can abuse women wearing a head-scarf, those speaking another language and those they think do not look “English”.

A friend told me yesterday of an incident in a pub. He was talking to another friend about Brexit when he felt someone poking him on the shoulder. He turned to be told: “I don’t agree with what you are saying.”

My friend responded that he was having a private conversation and was not talking to the man who had prodded him who then said: “I am Anglo-Saxon, pure Anglo-Saxon.”

My friend rightly ignored this although I would have been tempted to point out that the man was clearly descended from Germanic immigrants.

It is not just in this country that the language of political discourse is being debased.  The United States presidential election has descended into a slanging match between the two leading contenders. Russia sounds increasingly bellicose. In Turkey academics, journalists and civil servants are arrested or arbitrarily sacked. There are more examples.

We are seeing something of the language and attitudes which allowed Mussolini, Franco and Hitler to rise to power and was also heard in Britain before the Second World War.

It is frightening. I woke this morning thinking I was less afraid for the future during the Cuba missile crisis 50 years ago.

 

 

 

East of England hospitals will be among the worst hit by Brexit

Hospitals in the East of England are among those most likely to be affected by Brexit, according to a new study by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES). NHS Trusts in the London, Thames Valley and the East of England regions are the most dependent on the recruitment pipeline from Europe, says the report on How Brexit will affect the NHS.

Researchers at the  IES say: Nurses from the European Economic Area (EEA) currently make up 4.5 per cent of the total nursing workforce in England. The figure it masks huge geographic differences between NHS Trusts, with some much more reliant on this recruitment pipeline from Europe than others because of current nursing shortages. Brexit threatens this labour supply because of the continuing uncertainty surrounding the status of EU workers in England, which makes it harder for Trusts to recruit from Europe as well as to retain current EEA nurses already working here who might well be questioning their future prospects in the UK.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn has seen the most rapid increase in numbers of nurses from other parts of the EU in recent years. In 2009 only 1.3% of nurses at the hospital were from the EEA. The figure has now risen to 18%, one of the highest in the country. The national figure is a quarter of that.

The report authors say:

The most sensible solution now, particularly post Brexit, would be for the government to act now to ensure that we have a ‘homegrown’ domestic supply of nurses. This will require adequate and sustained investment in workforce planning to address the potentially gaping hole in our future nursing workforce. For too long now, there has been a lack of long-term, strategic workforce planning that offers oversight, coordination and alignment of the different dimensions of the nursing workforce (financial, education, employment and international recruitment).

The price of Brexit starts to emerge: Ford estimates cost at $1bn in two years

The Financial Times (paywall) says: “Ford is considering closing plants in the UK and across Europe in response to Britain’s vote to leave the EU, as it forecast a $1 hit to its business over the next two years.”

The price of cars in the UK will also rise before the end of this year, according to Ford.

One of the problems is the fall in the value of the pound which will increase the price of imported cars. Ford now has two factories in the UK, at Dagenham and Bridgend which makes engines which are exported to European assembly plants. Complete cars, including the British made engines, are then imported into the UK.

Manufacturers like Ford have very complex supply chains which move components around European single market freely without restrictions. The possibility that the UK would be outside this market is naturally spooking businesses like car makers whose manufacturing strategies are based on the free movement of goods.

Other car makers are likely follow Ford when it raises prices. General Motors which owns Vauxhall has said the fallout from the referendum vote would cost it $400m this year.

The FT says:

Questions have been raised over the prospects for the UK’s car industry in the wake of the Brexit ballot, with analysts questioning whether the plants can win fresh work during a period of uncertainty over trade and the country’s position in the single European market.

For the sake of the country, Jeremy Corbyn should withdraw from leadership race

The overriding political concern at present is to ensure that there is a functioning opposition in the House of Commons. It is clear that, given the hostility of the parliamentary Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn cannot provide the leadership needed.

At the same time it is far from clear that an Owen Smith leadership would be as effective as it should be with rebellious  party membership snapping at his heels.

The majority of members of the PLP accuse Corbyn of a failure of leadership but is that the result of so many refusing to be led? The real facts are hard to find.

Today on Twitter there is a lot of noise: a strange coalition of journalists and Corbynistas coming together to rubbish the PLP’s Unity candidate. And very little sign of those who nominated him providing support.

If Corbyn really aspires to lead he should have asked his party to abstain on the vote on Trident arguing that more debate was needed. The range of possibilities from direct replacement, an alternative ever-ready system, or possession without deployment to nuclear disarmament could be considered. In those circumstances Labour MPs voting for Trident would have been the disloyal ones.

The moment when I decided Corbyn could not deliver the opposition needed was when he moved quickly after the referendum vote to accept it and urge early triggering of Article 50. This immediately left opposition in the hands of the SNP, SDLP, Lib Dems and the solitary Green with Labour only able to oppose at the edges of the debate.

What made Corbyn decide on this course is a mystery. The only account of events I can find is from a speech to constituents by Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood:

… I sat at the Regional Count with Glenis Willmott the Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, my friend, a fellow trade unionist from the East Midlands doing media duty for our Party.

And as we left at 5am, defeated and in despair, we finally got sent lines to take from the Leader’s office. Acknowledging Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart for their work in the Leave campaign. Their work in direct opposition to Labour Party policy.

And shortly after we heard Jeremy calling for the immediate triggering of Article 50. Without any discussion with the Shadow Cabinet or the Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party.

Think about that. The country had just voted to leave the EU after more than 40 years and Jeremy made a major announcement on the Party’s position without waiting to discuss it with the Shadow Cabinet, without even consulting the leader of our MEPs in Europe.

It was the call for early triggering of Article 50 that decided me that Corby should not remain the Labour leader.

Overall, Corbyn’s policies were unexceptional. Indeed, Theresa May’s speech on the steps of Number 10 echoes much of his thinking. Few would oppose them. During the referendum campaign his defence of free movement of people was brave.

So who should lead the party. The choice now is between a man who lacks (or is prevented from using) leadership skills, or another man who would lack the support of a large part of the party.

The best solution would if Jeremy Corbyn stood down from the election because, even if he wins the election, he cannot command the loyalty needed to lead the parliamentary opposition the country needs so badly.

The result would still be unsatisfactory, a split would remain on the cards, there would be a lot of anger but there may be a functioning opposition. The referendum felt too much like an argument within the Tory party:  we cannot afford to let the same thing happen to the Brexit negotiations.