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Referendum’

The silence of Teresa May and her ministers acquiesces in attack on judges

Silence is acquiescence. The silence of Theresa May in the face of yesterday’s newspaper attacks on the British judiciary tells us much about our prime minister and her cabinet.

The silence of her Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, has come under attack from a former Lord Chancellor, Charles Falconer, in today’s Guardian, pointing out that she has a constitutional duty to defend the judges. He writes:

 She needs to make it clear immediately that the government has no quarrel with the judges and has total confidence in them. Disagreement with the judges is dealt with by appeal not by abuse. So far Truss has been completely silent, no doubt waiting for guidance from a prime minister who appears so mesmerised by the fear of what the public may do or think that she is willing to throw constitutional propriety overboard.

Truss’s silence feeds the sense that the government is either hopeless at avoiding conflict or couldn’t care less about the constitution.

That a national newspaper, The Daily Mail, can run a front page with pictures of three judges over the headline “Enemies of the people” without being criticised by the government is extraordinary. That our government is failing to defend the separation of powers between the parliament and the judiciary, one of the corner stones of our constitution and democracy, is more extraordinary.

It is as if our government, many of its supporters and much of the official oppositions (the Labour Party) are rabbits caught in the headlights of the hard brexiteers steam-roller.

But not all. Dominic Grieve, a former Tory Attorney General, has done what Truss should have done yesterday. His analysis was forthright and the story in the Huffington Post starts:

The criticism of the judiciary over the recent Article 50 ruling is “chilling” and reminiscent of “Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe”…. He also described attacks the judiciary as “chilling and outrageous” and “smacking of the fascist state”

The Huff Post report on the silence of Theresa May continues

Bob Neill, the Conservative chairman of the justice select committee, said the attacks were “threatening the independence of our judiciary” and had “no place in a civilised land”.
He told The Times: [pay wall] “Some of the things which have been said about the court’s judgment by politicians have been utterly disgraceful.
“All ministers from the Prime Minister down must now make clear that the independence of the judiciary is fundamental to our democracy. You have to respect that even if you think they have got a decision wrong.

Anna Soubry, a remain campaigner said media reports were “inciting hatred” and continued: “I think we have to call this out and say ‘not in my name’.”

Stephen Phillips, the Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, a brexit campaigner, who resigned his seat yesterday, said in his letter to constituents:

It has been a great honour to serve the people of Sleaford and North Hykeham for the last six years, but it has become clear to me over the last few months that my growing and very significant policy differences with the current Government mean I am unable to properly represent the people who elected me,

That goes to the heart of the problem. Too many MPs feel cowed by brexiteers to be “delegates” rather than fulfilling their constitutional role as “representatives”.

Those parliamentarians  who have spoken out against the attacks on the judiciary emphasises the silence of Theresa May, Liz Truss and other members of the Government.

 

 

 

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.

Pro-European national weekly newspaper launches from East Anglia

Archant, the Norwich-based regional publisher, is to launch a pop-up newspaper aimed at the 48%, the remain voters. The first issue will come out on Friday and will be distributed in the areas with the strongest remain votes.

The company with a turnover of £122m a year is the fifth largest regional publisher in the UK. While Norwich voted remain, its East Anglian stronghold, where it publishes both the Eastern Daily Press and the East Anglian Daily times, voted 56,5% leave and 435% remain.

The launch of the New European is clearly to test the market with four weekly editions (Archant is a very commercial company) and will only continue if there are sufficient sales. The launch indicates that there are people in the company who believe our future is in the European Union and are prepared to put in put in the money need for the test marketing.

Here is the press release:

The New European, a weekly newspaper aimed at people who voted Remain, is being launched by Archant on Friday 8th July.

The paper will offer those feeling dismayed and disenfranchised by Brexit a non-political focal point, bringing together the extraordinarily broad spectrum of people who feel a real sense of loss after the Leave vote victory.

Conceived as a “pop-up paper” aiming to capture the zeitgeist and act as a chronicle for the extraordinary events of the summer of 2016, the title will be delivered to market faster than any other British newspaper in history – just nine days from concept to newsagent.

The New European represents both a markedly different approach in terms of content and readership, but also a wholly new business model for print and its place in an increasingly digital world.

The newspaper will initially run for just four issues, with any subsequent print runs being decided by reader interest. Every issue will be a collector’s item. After the fourth issue, every week’s sale will be a referendum on the next.

Available nationwide via the website, the paper’s retail distribution will be focused on London, Liverpool, Manchester, the south of England and other strongly remain voting areas.

The first issue will contain exclusive articles from leading voices in the UK and Europe, including:

  • Tanit Koch, Editor of Bild, Europe’s most-read newspaper
  • Saul Klein, leading European VC and partner with LocalGlobe
  • James Brown, former Loaded and GQ editor
  • Wolfgang Blau, ex editor of Zeit Online and former digital director of The Guardian
  • Simon Calver, partner with BGF Ventures and former CEO of Mothercare and LoveFilm
  • Annabelle Dickson, leader of the Westminster political lobby for regional newspapers
  • Football writers Steve Anglesey and Paddy Davitt
  • Peter Bale, CEO of the of the Centre for Public Integrity who broke the Panama Papers global exclusive
  • Ahmed Osman, renowned European fashion writer

Matt Kelly, Chief Content Officer and launch editor of The New European, said: “We are currently in an extraordinary period of time in the UK, with all of society seemingly in a state of flux and turmoil. I believe the 48% who voted to Remain are not well served by the traditional press and that there is a clear opportunity for a newspaper like The New European that people will want to read and carry like a badge of honour.

“We value expertise and have some of the world’s best brains in their areas writing for us. And it is also a politician-free zone. They are banned.

“It will be an eclectic and energetic mix of content – not just about the Brexit issue, but a celebration of why we loved Europe so much in the first place. There’ll be plenty of humour in there too – god knows we could all use a laugh these days.”

Will Hattam, Chief Marketing Officer, said: “This isn’t just another national newspaper, it’s a new type of publishing product. As a pop-up publishing project this is a truly innovative approach to reaching new audience segments by extending our established expertise in creating high-quality, engaging content into new areas.

“What’s exciting is that the story of this paper isn’t yet written – its sprung into life, driven by the events of the last few weeks, and will continue to serve its audience as long as they want it to. There’s no ongoing commitment, just an opportunity to explore new boundaries in newspaper publishing.”

The New European will be published by Archant and will be priced at £2 per issue.

More details are available here.

I will be asking my newsagent this morning to reserve my copy.

Guardian too quick to accept the inevitability of Brexit

I am disappointed by the Guardian’s editorial position over the aftermath of the referendum. It has effectively thrown in the towel and accepted Theresa May’s “Brexit means Brexit” line. Here is an extract from today’s leader:

Almost half of those who voted sought to continue our membership. The Guardian was one of the most determined voices on this side of the divide. But we, like the rest of the 48%, must now respect the verdict that we dreaded. You assumed that British pragmatism would triumph….

…we need time. Britain voted against membership; we did not vote for an alternative. The public has not fully confronted the choice it faces between turning its back on the single market, or accepting continued EU migration in whatever form.

This effectively leaves the 4,109,592 people (many of them Guardian readers) who have signed the parliamentary petition for a new referendum  without a voice in mainstream media.

We can respect the vote but it is not binding on parliament or the prime minister, whichever has to decide. The decision is a sovereign one and it has not been made yet as David Cameron has kicked the can down the road to his successor.

Nick Clegg has called for an election before Article 50 is triggered in an article for the Guardian today.

On another page, the paper reports an anonymous group of clients has instructed solicitors at Mishcon de Reya to try to ensure article 50 is not triggered without an act of parliament. It reports:

One of the grounds of a likely challenge to the referendum is that it is merely advisory and the royal prerogative cannot be used to undermine parliamentary statute.

Another legal challenge is being crowdfunded. It very quickly hit its target and is not accepting further money at the moment.

Tony Blair also weighed in yesterday suggesting the will of the people could change. This is the Sun’s view:

REMINIAC SNEERING Tony Blair sparked fury yesterday by hinting Britain should be allowed a second Referendum because people are entitled to change their minds.

Ten days after the referendum there is a growing realisation that the alternative of remaining in the EU is a viable option. The decision on triggering Article 50 has not been made and if parliament is truly sovereign  it may never be made.

The Guardian has called this one too early.

Boris Johnson and the Poisoned Chalice

Slowly the shape of what will happen after the Brexit vote is emerging. There are unlikely to be any negotiations before Article 50 is triggered and the leaving talks can start only then.

The EU will make a take-it or leave-it offer on future arrangements which must be approved by all EU members. The words coming out of Europe suggest this will, at best, be along the lines of those given to Norway. They could hardly offer anything better so the UK could be faced with probably making a similar contribution to EU funds and joining the Shengen area.

The alternative would be operating outside the free market on WTO rules which include tariffs.

If those options continue to look likely there is one other course the new prime minister could take: an announcement that Article 50 would not be invoked. Some in Europe might not like that very much but it would preserve the status quo, albeit with less bargaining power than before.

It was noticeable how often David Cameron answering questions in the Commons this afternoon said: “That will be a matter for the next prime minister to decide.” You could almost hear him adding “thank God”.

Whoever becomes prime minister will be accepting a poisoned chalice. Is Boris Johnson up for that?

Is Merkel trying to give UK time to reconsider Brexit vote?

I may be reading more into the words coming out of Berlin this morning than are really there but they seem to hint that Angela Merkel want’s to give the UK a chance to reconsider Thursday’s Brexit vote.

This comment is from Peter Altmaier, Mrs Merkel’s chief of staff (Guardian):

Should we just be saying: we’re sad that the referendum has ended this way, but now you have to go? I am not sure that would be the right step. Because at this referendum something has happened that I never imagined: on the hand, the sad result is that there were 52% of said they wanted to leave.

But on the other hand –and that’s something that I as a European find deeply moving – even in this country that we often thought of as deeply eurosceptic and not truly European, there has been an incredible turning towards Europe by millions of people … As a European, I feel a responsibility towards those people.

This contrasts with the draft resolution to be put to the European Parliament which demands immediate triggering of Article 50.

Personally I am not turning towards Europe because I have always faced that way. I just hope everyone in the UK we will have time to reflect on the implications of the referendum result. For some reason many went into the polling stations without realising they were partaking in one of the most momentous decisions in British history.

Will Article 50 ever be triggered?

It is understandable that David Cameron felt he had to announce he would resign after his gamble of appeasing the Left of the Conservative party by calling a referendum had failed. He could not continue to govern with any credibility.

Yet he has also left a country, more divided than at any time since the English Civil War, with a rudderless government without authority for three crucial months in the history of the United Kingdom. That is hard to forgive.

And in making his announcement he reneged on his intention to immediately trigger Article 50 which creates a vacuum in which anything could happen. While in doing this he was accepting what Brexit campaigners wanted, the new prime minister could find that the remainder of the EU has already reached a consensus on the terms of a settlement it is prepared to offer the UK.

It also allows more time for remain campaigners to further question the validity of the referendum vote. As I write 3,167,000 people have signed the petition to parliament calling for a new referendum with more stringent rules. Those signatures come predominantly from England.

There are grounds for the argument that the referendum was neither democratic nor valid because voters were misled by lies and guesses during the campaign. Three months before the possibility of triggering Article 50 is time for these concerns to grow, especially if more businesses shift jobs to Europe and investment in industry and commerce stalls.

The Scottish government is confident that Brexit is an area which requires the Edinburgh parliament to give consent to Westminster legislation. Nicola Sturgeon made this clear talking to Robert Peston on ITV this morning: it would be likely to lead to a constitutional clash.

Another factor will be the Conservatives finding a new leader who can command the confidence of the House of Commons. This may be difficult and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, also on the Peston show, ruled himself out of the race but had a person spec for a new prime minister: it amounted to Brexit-lite. Others in his party have very different ideas. It could be difficult to form a new government.

What will happen is impossible to predict: there are too many variables. But one possibility, opened up by Cameron’s decision not to invoke Article 50 immediately, is that it will never be invoked.

Note: Pure coincidence but this post was published half-an-hour before the Guardian article with an identical headline. John Henley raises the same question but with very different text: well worth reading.

 

 

The media as well as politicians need to reflect before the referendum campaign resumes

Today is a time for reflection by everyone in the UK but particularly those involved in the referendum campaign. The media here today is quiet, rightly not rushing to conclusions, but in mainland Europe  newspapers have been less reticent in linking the murder of Jo Cox to the referendum campaign.

Whatever the outcome of police investigations there is the perception of a link and that for the moment is what matters. As Alex Massie put in the Spectator blog yesterday:

When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged.

The media as well as the politicians need to reflect. Have editorial decisions to concentrate on the nasty parts of the campaign, the playground shouts of “liar” and the racist undercurrents, contributed to polarisation?

News value is an assessment of what will interest the readers modified by the concept of “public interest”. The question is whether the interests of the readers were subjugated to the interests of journalists living and working in the Westminster bubble?

My impression is that the coverage has inhibited public debate. Where I live in rural Suffolk I have heard no-one talking about the referendum. Is as though everyone is avoiding the subject to avoid being drawn into the nasty debate and falling out with neighbours. There are some “leave” and “remain posters in the countryside but in the village itself few are prepared to declare their allegiance so publicly. There has been no real grassroots debate.

The coverage by political journalists has been so much more like a report of a playground squabble that I have found myself turning first to the financial pages for reasoned information.

Jeremy Corbyn’s attempts to get away from the fighting mentality and have a more reasoned and politer political debate have been scorned by political journalists who would rather see blood on the floor. It is not just a tactic of the Labour leader: I sense there are many on both sides of the house, probably the majority, who would be much happier without tribal battles.

The media cannot get away from the fact that they have sustained the most unpleasant aspects of the referendum by providing the publicity which has sustained the nastiness.

 

 

 

10 reason to vote “remain” and the question of how we identify ourselves

Ten reasons to vote to stay in the European Union:

  1. To help maintain peace in Europe. The treaty of Rome resolved that by pooling resources they would “preserve and strengthen peace and liberty, and calling upon the other peoples of Europe who share their ideal to join in their efforts”. This was signed after two world wars which had engulfed Europe.
  2. Protect the benefits the UK has gained from the free trade area. In addition to easing trade in goods and services this has encouraged investment in the UK by international companies wanting to serve the whole of Europe.
  3. The freedom to live and work in any part of the European Union and cross borders without delay or showing a passport.
  4. The freedom of people to come and live, work or study in the UK benefitting our economy and society in many ways from filling jobs which people here will not do (eg in horticulture) or boosting the standing of our universities.
  5. Law enforcement co-operation including the European Arrest Warrant which has made it much more difficult for British criminals to spend their ill-gotten gains on a Mediterranean beach or elsewhere in Europe.
  6. Structural funds which help more deprived areas including parts of of the UK. £6bn in the next five years for England, Scotland, Wales and Northen Ireland.
  7. Retain our influence the rules of trade and social policy by which we would still have to abide even if not a member of the EU.
  8. A stronger voice in the world that comes from part of a larger bloc which can meet and negotiate with China and the United States  as an equal partner.
  9. To safeguard workers’ rights not to be exploited. This includes working hours and holidays.
  10. Maintain a level playing field when British firms bid for contracts in Europe

Those are solid reasons for remaining but above these is the question of identity. Do I feel European: Yes.

For a couple of years I lived in southern Spain. Outside public building three flags flew — those of Andalucia, Spain and the EU — signifying a broader concept of identity than that which seems to drive the Brexit campaigners.

I was born in England and lived most of my life in England, but my mother was Irish and my father identified himself as Scottish. Like many children I wrote my address on the flyleaf of an atlas: New Street, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, England, British Isles, Europe, the World.

My father told me not only about the Act of Union but the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France and its continuing influence.

I don’t want my multi-tiered identity torn away by a vote for Brexit by English voters.

I could do something about this. By virtue of my mother’s birth I have dual citizenship and can get an Irish issued European passport. But I would much rather that the vote is to remain in the EU because I believe in ideals of its founding fathers.