“No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime, imposed externally without any democratic control over the laws applied, nor the ability to decide to exit the arrangement.” – Dominic Raab in his resignation letter as Brexit Secretary.
I pity the journalists who have to do this kind of thing for a living. Especially the ones who have to wait several hours before seeing their article in print. A week is a lifetime in politics. Today, an hour merely felt like one.
The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has finally been agreed between the EU and UK negotiating teams. It has also been agreed by the Cabinet of the government – albeit only “collectively” (read: not unanimously – merely by majority. Rumours speak of an 18-11 vote). It now needs to be passed by the UK and EU Parliaments and then it’s done. So…what could go wrong?
So, what’s in it and what has happened
“There will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside” – David Davis, October 2016
“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” – Apocrypha, commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette
I hesitated to write this article. Why, shall become clear in the reading but the short version of it is that this is not just a sensitive topic but the mere act of talking or writing about it may provoke the negative effects discussed.
I am talking about the recent stories that as we enter the “kinetic phase” of Brexit, beyond which any meaningful control of the course can be made, it is looking increasingly likely that the negotiations will conclude without a deal. The UK’s own red lines are insurmountable and are themselves incompatible with the EU’s red lines.
“I think it would be a good idea” – Apocrypha attributed to M. Gandhi on his being asked what he thought of Western civilisation.
The UK Government’s handling of Brexit continues to be veer somewhere between being a shambles and a criminally negligent disaster.
From its position on customs which remains something like “We have no idea what we want and we’re damn sure we’re not going to lift a finger to plan for it.”
Through its tearing away from anything even remotely connected to the EU – including Euratom (which means good luck running a nuclear power plant or obtaining a medical radiological), the Gallileo satellite system (to which the British response was a petulant “We’ll build our own…somehow”) and fundamental human rights which protect us all from the whims of governments that act a bit like the current UK one does.
“Sooner or later every war of trade becomes a war of blood.” – Eugene V Debs
This past week has been an interesting one in terms of international trade news. President Trump announced, via a Tweet, that he was slapping import tariffs on Chinese steel and that “trade wars are good, and easy to win“.
The ripples of this announcement are still spreading but already countries and trading blocs like Canada and the EU are considering retaliatory tariffs.
The thing is, China isn’t even a particularly major player in US steel imports. It barely factors on any of the top fives by specific products.
“Cut the EU red tape choking Britain after Brexit to set the country free” – The Telegraph
The EU (Withdrawal) Bill is currently moving through Parliament. The purpose of this bill is to transfer the laws currently governed by the EU into UK law so that there are no breaks or holes in legal competence once Brexit happens. Of course, there are also opportunities to make changes, big and small, to the laws being transfered as they come in and when something of this size comes through there is precious little time for detailed oversight of the process and the opportunity for some of these changes to fit ideological ends can become irresistible.
For example, last night Labour put up an amendment which would have ensured that the EU’s “precautionary principle” over environmental legislation would be protected and the Tories voted is down 313-297.
This represents the clearest sign yet that the Tories are planning a post-Brexit regulatory slash-and-burn.
It’s important to consider just what the precautionary principle is and why it is important.
“Britain is not Great. Britain is Weird”
On the 4th of November I spoke at the Scottish Independence Convention’s Building Bridges to Independence conference. As with my SIC talk in January, it fell to me to be the one with the graphs and statistics – this time on the topic of public finances and the impact of independence on Scotland’s budget.
The livestream of my talk can be viewed thanks to Independence Live and is the first talk in this segment.
Below the fold are copies of my slides with comments drawn from my talk and references to the points made. The slides can also be downloaded here.
“It’s a Common Weal program for government.” – In an email sent to Common Weal today.
Today saw the return of the Scottish Parliament for the 2017/18 session and the opening speech by the First Minster introducing her program for government. You can watch the full speech below.
After far too long of what seemed like the political doldrums of a couple of fairly drab elections and the ever endless string of intentionally depressing political headlines, this speech was a remarkably refreshing change of pace with some fairly strong statements of intent in several areas.
Notably, Common Weal appears to be finally having a significant influence on the political direction of government with several of our policies now being talked about openly or outright adopted as policy.