Monday, 1 February 2021

It was never 'just about trade'

It was one year ago that Britain left the European Union, and one month ago that we also left the EU’s Single Market and customs union.

So far, NOT so good.

Putting up costly and complicated barriers to trade with our most important customers and suppliers in the world is causing enormous headaches and losses for our businesses, without any apparent benefits.

The government has announced that the UK is applying to join a trade bloc thousands of miles away – the Asia-Pacific free trade pact, or CPTPP, of 11 countries.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said:

“One year after our departure from the EU we are forging new partnerships that will bring enormous economic benefits for the people of Britain.”

But in the EU, we already enjoyed comprehensive free trade agreements with three of the big economies in the CPTPP – Canada, Japan and Singapore.

And in any case, our exports to the CPTPP countries only account for around 8% of UK exports – tiny, compared to the 43% of all our exports that go to the EU, more than any other destination in the world by far.

▪ MISSING THE POINT
Anyway, all this misses the point.

Being a member of the European Community was never just about trade. It was always about peace, first and foremost.

And attempting to increase trade with countries thousands of miles away also misses the point.

Most countries do most of their trade with their neighbouring countries – for good, practical reasons.

Also, in a world attempting to tackle global warming, doing more trade with countries thousands of miles away isn’t going to help. It will make the problem much worse.

▪ BREXIT AND VACCINES
Some newspapers are attempting to justify Brexit because of the EU’s failure to secure vaccines in time, compared to Britain’s success.

Supply problems, especially with the AstraZeneca vaccine, have indeed hampered the EU – which was slower than the UK in securing contracts with pharmaceutical companies.

That was a serious mistake, as was the European Commission’s knee-jerk reaction on Friday to invoke Article 16 of the Brexit agreement, which would have put a border on the island of Ireland specifically for vaccine exports.

But within hours, the Commission realised its error and rapidly climbed down from its threat of invoking Article 16 (which, incidentally, Boris Johnson also threatened to invoke just two weeks ago).

If only our government was more willing to promptly acknowledge its errors of governance, that have resulted in over 100,000 Covid-19 deaths, the worst in Europe and close to the world’s worst, and contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds going to mates of government ministers, without any proper tendering process or accountability, and resulting in the NHS either not getting PPE, or else receiving unusable PPE.

Vaccine supply problems in the EU, although of course a major setback, will be resolved soon.

And as I explained in my feature article yesterday, the EU’s model of purchasing vaccines as a bloc for 27 countries, will probably have to become the model for the planet’s acquirement of vaccines in future global pandemics (as for sure, more are on the way).

The UK is proud to have, so far, vaccinated more people than any other country in Europe.

But as the World Health Organization pointed out yesterday, ‘vaccine nationalism’ will only prolong the pandemic.

Until all the world becomes vaccinated, rather than just richer countries, there is the danger, says WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, that:

“the faster the virus will take hold, the potential for more variants will emerge, the greater the chance today’s vaccines could become ineffective, and the harder it will be for all countries to recover.”

So, the only way to beat the global pandemic is for countries to work together, not apart, and to ensure that treatments, tests, and vaccines are equitably and widely distributed to all countries world-wide.

▪ UK NATIONALISM

Countries working together is also the way to ensure peace, prosperity, and security for our continent of Europe – the very reason that the European Community was established in the first place.

In the long run, UK nationalism – of any kind – is not going to work. We need to be a part of our European family of nations, and not apart.

No longer having any say in the running and future direction of our continent represents a loss of British sovereignty.

In time, the country will discover that Brexit means going backwards, not forwards. We will need a new democratic opportunity to reconsider Brexit, although that may be some years away.

In the meantime, please share the 8½-minute video embedded below as widely as you can. You might already have seen it, but many haven’t.

The video explains why Britain joined the European Community in the first place. The very same reasons why Britain is likely to want to join the EU again, one day in the future.

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Sunday, 17 January 2021

How Cameron, May and Johnson let down Britain with Brexit

 

The three Tory Prime Ministers of this millennium – David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson – could have been the solvers of Brexit if only they’d been wiser, magnanimous and acted in the national interest.

▪ WISER – by realising that an advisory referendum, with such a narrow win for Leave, did not mean having to cause damage to the country. The referendum did not dictate what kind of Brexit Britain should have.

All three Prime Ministers know in their hearts – and heads – that all versions of Brexit cause damage to Britain. Wisdom would have dictated different courses of action to the ones they took.

▪ MAGNANIMOUS – The country was literally split in two by the EU referendum. The margin win for Leave was wafer thin, and only 37% of registered voters voted for it.

Most voters either voted for Remain or didn’t vote – but the three Prime Ministers acted as if Leave had won 100%. They forgot the Remain voters, and those who didn’t or couldn’t vote.

The three should have shown more magnanimity towards the majority who didn’t vote for Brexit, and those greatly affected by Brexit but who were denied a vote.

▪ ACTING IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST – none of the three Tory Prime Ministers have acted in the national interest. They put themselves and their party first, above all other considerations.

All three at one time or another – and more times than another – clearly stated that leaving the EU is not in our nation’s interests and will not solve our problems.

On the contrary, all three have said that Brexit will cause harm to Britain.

Prime Ministers are not supposed to be puppets. They are supposed to be leaders.

▪ DEMOCRATIC DECISION

Yes, the referendum was a so-called “democratic decision”, albeit only won by a wafer-thin margin, and with the use of lies and illegalities on a significant scale.

That certainly didn’t mean having to go ahead and do damage to Britain that all three Prime Ministers had previously warned that Brexit would do.

They could have argued the case for a re-think, especially as no particular version of Brexit was decided by the referendum, which was an advisory poll only.

There was no mandate on the way Britain should leave the EU.

YES, as I have written previously, it was bloody stupid of David Cameron to have promised an EU referendum in the first place.

Especially one in which Leave was never defined.

(That’s why we spent over four years arguing about what kind of Brexit we should have – as this simply wasn’t even discussed, let alone agreed, in the referendum).

▪ PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY

In the UK, we have a system of representative Parliamentary democracy that has served the country quite well for hundreds of years.

In Parliament, decisions usually involve many debates and votes, often over several months, with updated information provided throughout the process, and during which the ‘decision’ can be amended or abandoned at any time.

Compare that to the referendum where we, ‘the people’, only had one vote, on one day, on the choice of just two words, without sufficient information (on the contrary, a lot of misinformation) and without any opportunity to amend or reconsider the ‘decision’ in the light of updated information.

If he had been wiser, Mr Cameron should have understood that the way we do ‘advisory’ referendums in the UK had the potential, especially on the topic of the EU, to undermine the sovereignty of our Parliament and severely damage our established system of democracy.

Pitching ‘the people’ against Parliament with an advisory referendum on such a complicated issue was asking for trouble, and Mr Cameron should have known that.

It was also disingenuous of Mr Cameron to tell the nation that this was a ‘once in a generation’ vote. That’s not how democracy works.

In a democracy, any vote can be undone by a new vote, at any time.

After all, the decisions of any democratically elected government can be reversed by the decisions of a new democratically elected government.

Mr Cameron knew that, but he wasn’t honest about it.

He also didn’t explain to the nation that the referendum was an advisory poll only and that, in the end, it was for Parliament to decide.

In addition, his conceit, and arrogant certainty, that Remain would win led to a lacklustre and ineffective Remain campaign.

Mr Cameron and the official ‘Stronger In’ campaign were entirely unprepared for the scintillating and charismatic campaign launched by Leave – albeit founded on lies and misinformation.

It was also stupid of Mr Cameron – and of Parliament – to agree to a referendum in which a minority of voters, by such a slim margin, could be allowed to impose on the majority a permanent change to the country.

▪ DAVID CAMERON SHOULDN’T HAVE RESIGNED

But even after such grotesque stupidity resulting in an entirely flawed referendum, Mr Cameron could have redeemed himself if only he had acted with more wisdom after 23 June 2016.

He should NOT have resigned.

Instead of retiring to his garden shed, on 24 June 2016 he could have stepped outside 10 Downing Street and said to the nation:

“The country has voted for Leave by a very slim margin, but we have not actually defined what Leave means, or what kind of Brexit may be in the country’s best interests.

“So, I am now going to instigate a Royal Commission to investigate and report on the different versions of Brexit that may be available to the country.

“Our Parliament will then debate and vote on these options.

“I then propose that we will have a new referendum in due course based this time on a choice between a fully defined version of Brexit, or remaining in the EU on our current terms.

“In a democracy, taking several careful steps before reaching a final decision is not unusual. We even do it in our own lives when making big decisions.”

Mr Cameron didn’t do that.

But the next Prime Minister, Theresa May, could have done.

She didn’t. Instead, she tried to define Brexit in her own strict and restricted terms and could not get agreement. She made things worse and widened the divisions in the country.

The next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, could have done what Mr Cameron should have done. But he didn’t either.

He made things much worse, agreeing to a Brexit deal that was not as good as Theresa May’s deal, and one that will – and is – causing huge problems for Britain that will make us poorer and isolated.

And by allowing Parliament only one day to debate and vote on the details of the deal, he has connivingly imposed on Britain a harsh version of Brexit that nobody in the country actually voted for – and most likely would not have voted for if the details had been known on 23 June 2016.

▪ ANY of the three Tory Prime Ministers of this millennium could have become among our best Prime Ministers if only they had acted with magnanimity, and most of all wisdom, in the national interest.

Unfortunately, the opposition leaders have been no better.

Instead of robustly challenging Brexit and questioning the result of a referendum that was pervaded with serious illegalities, irregularities and probable Russian interference, Labour leaders Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer have let it happen, facilitating its every step.

Now, Keir Starmer says that even though the Brexit we’re getting – that none of the electorate specifically voted for – is ‘thin’ and will especially hurt our services industry upon which the country’s wealth largely depends, he accepts it and won’t change it if he becomes Prime Minister.

▪ THE BOTTOM LINE?

Unfortunately, the issue for Britain is not so much Brexit. It’s that we have the stupidest political leaders any of us can ever remember.
  • 2-minute video: Why Remain lost and how Rejoin could win

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Sunday, 13 December 2020

The day England turned blue

 

It was in the early hours of that Friday 13 December 2019 that we learnt the results of the third general election in four years: the Tories had won a landslide, with an 80-seat majority.

Friday, 11 December 2020

The gap

 

Is there really something so exceptional and special about Britain that makes the requirements of our country so different to all the other countries of Europe?

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Britain’s Brexit negotiator warned against Brexit

 

Before the referendum, David Frost, Britain's Brexit negotiator, advised that remaining in the EU would be better than leaving. 

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Dying from Covid-19 mostly depends on your government


Whether or not you die from Covid-19 depends not so much on your age or vulnerability, but mostly on which government runs your country.

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Britain is naturally a pro-EU country

 


Although hard to believe now, for most of the UK's four decades as a member of the European Union, Britain didn't want to leave. On the contrary, most Brits wanted us to stay.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Brexit forgets history

 

This month 59 years ago – on 13 August 1961 – Berliners woke up to find that a wall was being built to split their city in two. To say it was a huge shock is an understatement.

Monday, 17 August 2020

Refugees are innocent

The BBC calls them ‘migrants’; the prime minister and some other media call them ‘illegal’; some Tory MPs and Nigel Farage call them ‘invaders’. They are none of those.