The Moronathon goes Mainstream. A bit.

Apologies for the lack of attention to TGBM blog for the last few months.  Thanks to the help and encouragement of many people, I’ve been contributing elsewhere on Brexit recently.  This is mostly thanks to  Anand Menon and Jonathan Portes from UK in a Changing Europe UK in a Changing Europe.  They commissioned the first article, which was based on a Twitter thread that caught their eye, and they kindly published it jointly with the LSE and The New Statesman.  Adam Payne’s interview with me for UK Business Insider also brought in a lot of requests.  In case of interest, here are links to articles that have been published elsewhere while I’ve been neglecting the blog.

Most of these articles had their genesis as Twitter threads, so do please follow me there. I’m @guitarmoog.

The Guardian Opinion (24/10/17):

Brexit ultras are distracting us from the harsh realities facing the UK

The New Statesman (13/10/17):

Why the EU should let the UK revoke Article 50

The Independent Voices (25/07/17):

As a British EU negotiator, I can tell you that Brexit is going to be far worse than anyone could have guessed

Jointly published with UK in a Changing Europe: UK in a Changing Europe

There was also an associated Independent article by Ashley Cowburn:  Former British EU negotiator says Brexit was a ‘terrible idea’ and even the Government doesn’t understand how bad it will be 

Interview by Adam Payne for UK Business insider (19/07/17):

Former UK-EU negotiator: May is handling Brexit in the ‘absolute worst way’ possible

The LSE Brexit Blog (12/07/17):

Brexit can be stopped – but the window of opportunity is closing fast

The New Statesman (The Staggers) (22/06/17)

To this former EU negotiator, the UK’s chance of a good Brexit deal looks slim

Published jointly with UK in a Changing Europe  and the  LSE Brexit Blog

Incidentally, this made the Indy100

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Why May’s “Bloody Difficult” approach to Brexit Negotiations is so wrong

This was originally posted on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/GuitarMoog/status/875807980041752577

A re-written version is available here: UK in a Changing Europe

and here: The New Statesman

A rambling, disorganised thread on negotiations with the EU and why May’s “bloody difficult woman” approach is so wrong.  This is from direct experience as 1st/2nd Sec Development in UKREP negotiating for the UK in EU Council working groups.  And from working in the Commission’s External Relations DG (Now the External Action Service).

Being ‘tough’ can work, but only if it is used properly and deployed sparingly at strategic points in negotiations.  Being ‘difficult’ never works. It breaks trust, & creates resentment, and a justifiable unwillingness to compromise in your opposite numbers.  Negotiation is not, contrary to popular belief, about barging in, thumping the table and demanding you get everything you want.  It’s also not about undermining your opposite numbers, or insulting their intelligence by making outlandish and untrue claims.

The first key to a successful negotiation is trust. Both sides must know that the other is negotiating in good faith, and want a reasonable outcome.  Both sides know that walking away is an option in extremis, but openly threatening this undermines the trust that a solution is being sought. Compromises and concessions can only be given on the basis of this trust and good faith.

The Second key is understanding the process and your opposite numbers’ properly. The process, in this case, is fixed by one side.  That is the process that UK signed up to when they signed the treaties. Fighting it is counter-productive. Understand the process and use it.

Understanding your opposite numbers (oppos) is essential. They also have constraints and expectations placed on them by their stakeholders.  Understanding this and their position allows you to identify solutions that satisfy their concerns and meet your objectives.  If you have put yourself in the position that your line is fundamentally incompatible with that of your Oppos, you have already lost.

But their opposition may, for example, be about the way in which something is done, not the thing itself. Is it the wording, but not the meaning that is a problem? Suggest alternative wording. be constructive.  If it is the mechanism, be flexible on the outcome. Is it for optics? Could something else replace it?

Only be ‘tough’ or angry when you judge it will actually bring about the outcome you want. Shows of strength for their own sake don’t work.

This leads to a third key point. Flexibility must be built into your position from the start. You cannot get everything.  Everything cannot be a red line that you’ll die in a ditch for, or you may as well go home before you start.  Don’t deploy red lines casually or widely. Oppos respect genuine red lines – they have them too – but claiming everything is a red line will make them disregard the real ones.

Your position should be clear and prioritised. Everything that is not a red line should have a fall-back position built in.  This means you have to manage expectations at home. Everyone wants their priority to be your No1, but they can’t all be.  You should also have a rather complex web of what can be traded-off for each of the biggest priorities.

The pre-negotations have already been a disaster, with UK govt first trying to divide the EU27, and then, when that didn’t work out, deliberately breeding resentment and mistrust.  One of the complaints about the EU as a negotiator with 3rd countries is that it is too inflexible. Everything has to be agreed at council, and negotiating mandates cannot be changed on the fly.  The UK Government knows this though, so pretending the EU27 side was posturing over sequencing, citizens’ rights etc. was absurd and made UK look like it was not a serious negotiator.

And then the ill-fated No Deal Better than Bad Deal rhetoric, which has had a disastrous effect.  EU27 does not want UK to walk away – it will cost them – but they will deal with it if needs be. The EU itself is more important to it.  And it would cost UK an order of magnitude more, & both sides know this.

So this line was effectively bringing a knife to a gun fight. It served only to reduce trust and again make UK look like it was not a serious, constructive negotiator looking for a mutually beneficial outcome.

Throughout, the UK govt. has acted as if EU27 do not have access to UK news, playing solely to domestic opinion.  The EU27 know that UK has backed itself into a corner on the exit bill, ECJ, Freedom of Movement etc.  They know that this govt will find it impossible to go back with a big bill (>£30bn?) or accept FoM or ECJ jurisdiction over anything.

Ruling this out publicly, instead of explaining and managing expectations at home, again weakens UK.  It gives credence, again, to the view that UK is planning to walk out, but, even worse.  It shows UK govt to be either willing to lie to their people or ignorant of the realities.

In conclusion, whatever the preparation that the civil service has been doing behind the scenes, UK has approached this appallingly.  Its naive attempts to show strength have served to undermine their case and strengthen EU27’s resolve.

Its open, unapologetic lying to the UK public about what they will get has reduced EU27’s respect for them.

Its posturing and threats have sown mistrust and undermined them as a serious negotiator looking for a real outcome.

And they have backed themselves into corners with unforced errors on ECJ, Single Market, the exit bill and FoM.

Finally, it really helps to be right in negotiations. To have the arguments, facts and moral high ground on your side.  UK showed again and again, but especially in its treatment of EU27 citizens, that it has none of these.  The threat to bargain over security cooperation, over terrorism and the life & death of citizens, was a moment of appalling moral weakness.

So, in my view, the chances of this govt getting any deal, let alone a good one, in only 21 months, are minimal.  But I think they know this. The level of complexity is too much, the preparations too poor, the messaging self-defeating.

So I think the plan remains to walk out of negotiations, which will, of course, be a catastrophe for the UK. And all for want of a little humility, trust, honesty, organisation and understanding. But they just couldn’t help themselves, could they?

There are only 4 options for Brexit, and only one of them actually works

This was originally a Twitter thread here: https://twitter.com/GuitarMoog/status/874680793460813825

There are 4 options available for Brexit. Anyone who tells you there are others is, I’m afraid, mistaken or lying. They are:

A. Walk out with no deal, as I’ve no doubt Davis et al are more than willing to, plunging UK off a cliff;

B. Agree divorce agreement and then attempt bespoke CETA-style FTA or Ukraine-Style association agreement (Note that EU27 really are not joking about the sequencing BTW. Divorce settlement first, then trade deal. Latter conditional on former);

C. Accept EFTA/EEA largely as is, at least on the main principles. Of course details will be negotiated, but rules, incl FoM will stand;

D. Attempt to withdraw Art50. Will probably still just about get away with it, with agreement to drop a few current UK perks in next MFF.

A is obviously absurdly catastrophic. B will, as Ivan Rogers rightly noted, take at least 5-7 yrs of uncertainty with no guaranteed outcome or end.  C is reasonable, and would reduce harm compared to A & B, but requires UK accepting ‘Laws by Fax’ with little or no say in them.

Which, of course, leaves us with D…

I should also add a note on ‘reforming’ SM or Freedom of movement, which seems to be Labour policy.  Why would the EU27 possibly be interested in changing a cornerstone of the Treaties, a fundamental principle, just because it’s UK’s preference? Particularly when it is in the UK’s power simply to ask to remain in the SM and accept the conditions of it like Norway and others do? Opening this would obviously lead to calls from EFTA/EEA members for the same deal for them. Switzerland tried this, and had to concede.

UK will not dictate terms, the EU27 will. The EU27’s concession is that, despite the damage already caused by UK, SM is still on the table.

Please vote. Please vote tactically

A few people have asked my advice on how to vote tomorrow. Here’s my EUR 0.02:

This is the most important election you will ever vote in. Please vote.

A Conservative government with an enlarged majority will be a disaster for the UK. There is a very good chance that May is planning to walk out of Brexit negotiations, leaving the UK in a catastrophic no-deal situation. I cannot emphasise enough how bad this would be for every person in the UK. Plans were leaked yesterday of massively increased cuts to the NHS, including reducing staff and abandoning many waiting-list targets. Human rights legislation which protects all of us from harm by the government will be abandoned under the guise of anti-terror measures. This from a Home secretary who cut police numbers and accused the police of ‘crying wolf’ over the terror threat.

The best outcome by far is a hung parliament, with Labour being propped up by the SNP/LibDems/Greens in exchange for a referendum on the Brexit deal including an option to remain.

So, how to vote:

1. Ignore any party affiliation you might have. It hurts, but this is too important.

2. Vote for the pro-EU candidate in your constituency that the best chance of winning. In Scotland this will almost certainly be the SNP candidate. Elsewhere it is likely to be LibDems or Plaid Cymru, and in a few places, Green.

3. Check the Wikipedia page for your constituency. If the pro-EU candidate’s party came a very distant third (e.g., 7-8,000 votes behind second place) or worse in the last two elections, they are likely to have little chance. In this case, vote for the candidate that has the best chance of beating the Conservative candidate. In practice, this probably means voting Labour in a marginal Labour/Cons seat.

4. Do not waste your vote by voting for your preferred party where it has no chance at all of winning. We can go back to normal politics later, but the focus must be on tactical voting this time.

5. Watch out for UKIP voters. Many will be moving their support to the Tories, so seats with a couple of thousand majority over the conservatives but where UKIP got a few thousand last time may be under serious threat.

So, in summary, vote for the Pro-EU candidate with the best chance of winning, and, if they have no chance of winning, vote for the candidate with the best chance of beating the Conservatives.

Why the May-Juncker dinner can be a turning point.

It’s now clear from reports of the May-Juncker dinner that May’s big plan is to walk out of Brexit negotiations, leaving the UK with no deal. With the General Election election looming, there is an opportunity for the exposure of this to be a turning point for Remainers, who can use it to help defeat or weaken the Conservatives, and force Labour’s hand on a 2nd referendum.

You will have no doubt seen that senior Commission Officials briefed the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on May’s utterly disastrous dinner with Juncker and Barnier last week.  The contents of this are really the very first thing to genuinely shock me since the EU referendum itself.  There are lots of excellent summaries available on Twitter, but the one by Jeremy Cliffe, head of The Economist’s Berlin Bureau, is very good:

There is also a good report from The Independent here: Independent Report

It’s also worth reading this excellent thread of commentary:

(click dates above to go to Tweet)

I’ve been surprised and angered by a lot of things since the referendum, but this is in a totally different league. This is actual shock. Clearly Olly Robbins and Tim Barrow are not speaking truth to power, or else we actually have a PM that refuses to listen or is too thick to understand the reality facing her. Perhaps she just doesn’t read her briefings, but she is known for being meticulous, so I doubt that.

This leaves only two possibilities. May genuinely does not understand the situation at hand, or she is planning to walk out of talks anyway and is therefore just playing to the UK audience. Whichever it is, and I think it is the latter, Juncker now believes there is a greater than 50% chance of the UK leaving with no deal. This would be bad for the EU, and is certainly not what they want, but they would live with it, and contingency planning for it is already in place. It would however be utterly catastrophic for the UK in every respect. The benefit for May though is that it would provide crisis cover for her to do essentially anything she wants for the next 4-5 years.

I think this is potentially a turning point. May’s case for re-election rests entirely on “strong and Stable”, “Getting the best deal” etc., and this is obviously crumbling. Even the BBC ran with this, so people are finding out that a dirty Brexit is a very real possibility, and that their strong and stable PM actually has very little grasp of the realities of the situation she finds herself in.

While the hard-core levers might want a car-crash/dirty Brexit with no agreement (there is nothing clean about it, believe me), most leavers do not. A large proportion of Leave voters wanted a soft-Brexit (EEA etc.). Most of these will still accept a hard, negotiated Brexit. But a much larger proportion of leavers either want or accept a hard Brexit, but utterly oppose a dirty Brexit. I still have people telling me on Twitter that I’m being hysterical and that a decent, mutually beneficial deal is bound to happen, as that’s what markets and companies want. As they realise that this is not only not what is going to happen, but not what is planned by the vicar’s daughter, their support will wane.

We are already seeing the Tories lead in the polls cut, and this could happen at the same or an increasing rate for the rest of the campaign. Don’t forget the Electoral Fraud allegations which the CPS is going to make an announcement on before the election. The triple-lock fiasco was very damaging, and May has refused to rule out tax increases. All very bad for key tory support. Her trip to Scotland was a total disaster, actually undoing some of the small popularity Ruth Davidson has somehow managed to drum up in between supporting UK Government cuts and the Rape clause. So the 8-10 seats some were predicting for the Conservatives in Scotland looks increasingly unlikely.

At the same time, Corbyn is at least looking better on Health and Education, and has made some decent speeches. Starmer is on to the FAZ story, and looks like he’s going to run with it. Labour have still not completed their manifesto, so something that does not plan for, but does not rule out, a second ref is still possible. Lots of members and back-bench MPs want this.  It is very unlikely that Labour can win outright from here, but it is looking possible that one of the following situations could happen:
1. Tories win with a tiny majority. Idea of a new, bigger mandate shot down in flames. Pro-EU rebels suddenly in a position of power, loony-right-rees-mogg lot creating division and disunity, May pulled this way and that by her own party.  Then endless pressure, resulting in another U-turn (it’s an addictive habit) and a 2nd ref. Notable that Davis’s position is very shaky after he openly took the piss out of May losing at the ECJ in front of Juncker. Disgraced former minister Fox is an obvious liability. Axing them may become inevitable, and this would lead to further disunity as the hard-right snowflakes throw their toys out of Nanny’s pram.

2. No Tory Majority. This would put the 60-90 SNP/LibDem/Green MPs in the position of power brokers with Labour. Labour’s non-mental wing would be pushing for either a coalition, or, if not, a mutual support agreement. SNP and LibDems offer support, but not a coalition, in return for 2nd referendum pledge. SNP agrees to put plans for IndyRef on hold for 5 years if UK remains, Labour agrees to back the IndyRef if UK doesn’t. LibDems stay out of government, and agreement is made that they can both revolt on individual measures without breaking the pact.

If we have learned anything from 2016, it should be that massive swings towards otherwise apparently unlikely outcomes are possible. This time though, it has to be Remainers that make it happen.

Many parties but only 2 sides: Remain and Leave

Theresa May has called a snap General Election for 8th June.  While many are predicting a landslide Conservative win, it does not have to be this way.  It should not be a source of dismay for the majority of the electorate that did not vote for Brexit, let alone for the appalling, fuck everything whatever the cost hard Brexit that the May government has been pursuing (or a catastrophic no-agreement Brexit that is perhaps the real plan),

Remainers, and the Remain movement more widely, should see this as a massive opportunity.  If the last year has taught us one thing, it’s that huge swings and against-prediction results are genuinely possible.  In this case, the only objective can be to ensure that the Conservative party does not get an overall majority.  A hung Parliament would give anti-Brexit parties massive leverage, and, if they can unite, potentially the balance of power.

For it to happen, we all need to be very clear that there are many parties, but only two sides in this election – Remain and Leave.  We need to campaign, whatever our party affiliations, tirelessly on this basis, and this means tactical voting.

Anyone who wants to stop a hard or no-deal Brexit should vote, and encourage others to vote, for whichever candidate, regardless of party, that is standing in their constituency and pledges to oppose Brexit. Where there is more than one such candidate, we should vote for the one with the best chance of winning.

This of course means each of us may have to swallow some electoral unpleasantness, depending on your affiliation:

1. Anti-Brexit Tories effectively don’t exist.

There are a few pro-EU Tory rebels who have continued to campaign against a hard Brexit with some gusto.  Ken Clarke, of course, has, but he is not alone.  Anna Soubry, and a few others have provided some serious internal opposition within the Conservative party, for which they have my moral support.  However, all but Ken Clarke did in the end vote for the unamended Article 50 bill.

What this tells us is that, despite very good intentions on their part, anti-Brexit Conservatives are, when it comes to voting in the House of Commons, willing to vote for Brexit in any form.  Tory Party discipline is fierce and coordinated, so this is understandable.  Nobody should be under the impression though that a vote for any Conservative candidate in any constituency will be an unconditional vote for Brexit at all costs.  It’s a great shame, but it it the truth. Voting Conservative at this election is voting for the most damaging, ill-judged, and badly negotiated, Brexit possible. Don’t do it unless you want that.

2. Forget Labour

Unless you are in a constituency that is represented by one of the 47 Labour MPs who defied the 3-line whip to vote against the unamended Article 50 Bill, the current Labour party is now very clearly a pro-Leave. The leadership may have a preference for a slightly less damaging form of Brexit, but trying to sell EEA membership, which requires implementation of 80-90% of EU law with no say in it, is a pointless exercise.  It is made still more pointless by the simple fact that Labour are not going to win a majority in this election.  If you think they will, you are beyond help.  If however you are a Labour voter or supporter who cares more about the future of the country than you care about expressing your party preference, you have to ditch them, just for this election.

Labour have said, of course, that they will hold the government to account, and ‘may’ even oppose a final deal that doesn’t meet their criteria for success. So what. They are not going to form a government on their own, and their form on this has been to table amendments, have them ignored, and then side with the government in votes.  Unfortunately, and with deep regret, the Labour party in its current form is effectively pro-Brexit in whatever form the Tories see fit.

It’s not easy to ditch a political allegiance, but this is too important to throw good votes after bad.

There is a case of course for supporting one of the 47 rebels if they are in your constituency, and it is a straight Labour/Conservative fight.  Only if the individual MP pledges to vote against Brexit when given the opportunity though.

(list of Labour rebel MPs here: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2017/02/mps-who-voted-against-article-50 )

3. England

Aside from in the constituencies of the Labour rebels, the only real anti-Brexit parties in England are the LibDems and the Greens.

There are potentially a couple of constituencies where anti-Brexit Green candidates would have a better chance than LibDem candidates, but on the whole, pro-EU Green supporters in England need to vote LibDem.  The First—past-the-post system means that even a few hundred pro-EU votes for a green candidate could be enough to allow a Conservative win.  If they have any sense, the LibDems will not stand a candidate in Brighton, leaving Caroline Lucas as the main anti-Brexit candidate.  Even if they don’t do this though, any pro-EU Green voter in the rest of England will be wasting their anti-Brexit vote if they stick with Greens.  Please vote tactically!

4. Scotland

Forget Unionism vs. Independence. It’s pro-EU vs. Tory Brexit.

This election is about the EU and Brexit.  Yes, the SNP will, and should, call a new Independence Referendum if the UK pursues the hard Brexit that the Government has said it will pursue.  I’ve written elsewhere about why, by any measure, the only reasonable response to the Tory Brexit for Scotland is to try and save itself by becoming independent, and, full disclosure, I am now a member of the SNP. (https://thegreatbritishmoronathon.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/why-i-have-joined-the-snp/ ).

For unionists in Scotland though, pretty much the only way to avoid a new Independence Referendum is to avoid Brexit, particularly the vicious one planned by May et.al.  The Scottish Government’s White Paper ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe’ made it absolutely clear that an Independence Referendum would only be held if the UK government refused remain in the single market, or attempt to negotiate so that Scotland could.  There is no reason to think that this would not still stand were an anti-Brexit government or coalition elected in Westminster.

It is a fact that in almost all of the constituencies in Scotland, the SNP candidate will have the best chance of winning, let alone the best chance of the anti-Brexit candidates.  Anti-Brexit Unionists in Scotland, of any party, need to bite the bullet and vote SNP on anti-Brexit grounds.

This is particularly hard for LibDems of course, who have their own anti-Brexit party in Scotland, and are also largely unionists.  Splitting the anti-Brexit vote will however only risk allowing pro-Brexit candidates to have a chance.  Personally, I believe that the best route would be for the two parties to make a loose electoral pact, but I understand that the LibDems in Scotland have previously ruled this out. It is therefore down to voters to do this job for them, and ensure anti-Brexit candidates succeed whatever party they are from.

5. Wales

Wales again has 2 main anti-Brexit parties, with Plaid Cymru joining the LibDems.  In Wales, the choice between them is a question of which one is most likely to win the seat.  I’d again urge both parties to enter into an electoral pact, but if they do not, make sure your vote, and your anti-Brexit campaigning, is directed towards the candidate with the best chance of success.

6. What if there’s no chance in my constituency

In the case where there is no serious anti-Brexit contender, we should still campaign and vote for the best-chance anti-Brexit candidate.  Nothing makes an MP think harder than a slim majority, and this is a chance to cause them upset, even if the result can’t be an upset. Every anti-Brexit vote counts.

Conclusion

This is a real opportunity, but only if every anti-Brexit voter is willing to put aside party loyalties for just one election.  It’s not even enough just to vote tactically.  Campaign tactically as well.  We must swallow our pride, and campaign for whichever anti-Brexit candidate is most likely to win. This chance to avert catastrophe is a rare one.  If we really see that there are only 2 choices though – pro-and anti- Brexit – this appalling act of self-immolation can be avoided, and we can all go back to our usual affiliations.

Theresa May’s Plan for Britain Speech with Subtitles set to “Truth”

Edited to add the video with subtitles:

Theresa May today released possibly the most vapid speech by a Prime Minister in living memory. It was a poorly composed melange of vague promises, worn platitudes, and genuinely baffling committee-drafted nonsense.  The original speech is here.

Here is a transcript with subtitles in italics for those who don’t speak Mayist doublespeak:

There are times in the life of a nation when the choices we make define the character of our country.

It turns out that we hate foreigners and have a non-existent grasp of the modern world.

Times when people stand up and demand real, significant change.

People were conned into thinking that our own failings are the fault of others.

This, is one of those moments.

I appear to be stuck with this shit-fest.

As we leave the European Union, we have the chance to shape a brighter future for Britain.

Look, this is appalling, and we’ll all be worse off, but what can I do?

And I believe we have the vision and the plan to do it.

I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen next.

That is why I have set out myyyy plan for Britain.

But I’m going to pretend I have a plan for Britain (despite the name of the state being the United Kingdom)

It is a plan to make the most of the opportunities ahead.

It’s not really a plan as such, more some vague ideas and platitudes to distract you from the impending act of national self-immolation.  There will be no opportunities, at least not for you and your ilk.

A Plan to make Britain stronger, fairer, more united…

We’re Trump’s poodle in foreign policy now. We also cut benefits to bereaved children and the disabled, demonise half the population and ignore two of the countries of the UK (not Britain, it’s the UK).

…and more outward looking than ever before.

No foreigners will ever be allowed in the UK, but the jam market in New Zealand is massive!

It is a plan for a global Britain.

We have retreated into our shell like a mollusc confronted by a nasty European shark.

We will forge a new deep and special partnership with the EU.

We know we’ve done wrong. Please don’t hurt us. We’re cool. Brit-pop, the city. You love us. Please give us a deal. Please!!

…that gives control of our borders…

But no freedom of movement. That’s not a problem, right? Screw you if it is.

…while trading beyond Europe

Jam to the commonwealth, weapons to repressive regimes.

…shaping decisions across the globe

Shaping decisions about when and where the White House wants us to send or not send our Foreign Minister

Working to make the world a safer place

Working to make it easier for repressive regimes to violently suppress opposition.

It is a plan for a stronger economy

As I said, it’s not really a plan as such. 

Where everyone plays by the same rules.

We will not accept EU rules or standards, or ECJ jurisdiction.

So we will fix broken consumer markets so people keep more of their money

I realise this makes no sense. There was an internal disagreement about his part of the text, and this is the rather unsatisfactory compromise that emerged. 

And we will crack down on individuals and businesses that abuse the system.

You might not even know what you’ve done wrong, but, trust us, we are coming for you.  Yes, you.

And we will deliver a modern industrial strategy…

[Note, find way to include the words ‘industrial strategy’  here. Maybe also use the word modern. That polls well.]

That spreads prosperity across the country…

We know that you know that we don’t believe this, but you’ve fallen for it before, so you might again.

…while continuing to bring the deficit down…

More austerity. That’s what we need. More austerity. Probably won’t reduce the deficit, but, still, more austerity.

So we live within our means

Your means are going be significantly reduced for at least a decade

It is a plan for a fairer society…

We are working on dividing society into clearly delineated groups, and openly victimising the some of them.

…where success is based on merit, not privilege

In the unlikely event of anything we could possible call success happening, you, normal folk, won’t see bit of it.

So we will provide a good school place for every child.

We will use schools and their pupils to hunt down immigrant families.

Deliver more affordable homes

The deportations will help to ease pressure on housing stock.

…and put record investment into the NHS…

We will privatise the NHS

…and we will make sure we have a welfare system…

We will not have a welfare system

…that rewards work…

Wages will be the only possible source of income. If you are unemployed, or the wages are not enough, you will have to go to the new Group 4 poor houses.

…as well as tackling historic injustices like racial and gender discrimination…

(Note: put something in here about racial and gender discrimination so that our supporters have something to use when they are accused of promoting racial and gender discrimination)

…and it is a plan for a united nation…

We will not surrender our colonial possessions such as Scotland. (Sheesh, will this sentence ever end? I’m trying to imply semi-colons in the delivery, but it is still very lengthy.)

…that our children and grandchildren will be proud to call home.

Our children and grandchildren will not be permitted to travel abroad. We will make sure that all they know is this place, and teach them to fear the other.

We will strengthen and protect the precious union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish people want is a total irrelevancy to us. England owns them, and we will make them do as they are told. The savages.

While acting for the benefit of all the cities, towns, villages and communities across the country.

We have a list of where voted leave and where voted remain. Traitorous Remain voting areas have officially ceased to exist as far as we are concerned. We are concerned only with patriotic Leave voting areas. Unless they are in the North, then they can fuck off as well.

That is my plan for Britain

I have no plan, and I absolutely refuse to refer to the state of which I am the Prime Minister by its correct name because ‘Britain’ poll’s much better among the Leave demographic.

A plan to get the right deal for Britain abroad…

The people I am real speaking to believe that ‘Abroad’ is a totally homogeneous place, full of disgusting foreigners desperate to buy our jam and guns.

And a better deal for ordinary working people at home…

You are, on average, going to earn a lot less, but, on the bright side, things will be more expensive.  If you cannot work, you will be blamed for the above.

…to make the most of the opportunities ahead…

There is literally no upside to all this.  Zero.

…and to make Britain a country that works for everyone.

MUST NOT SAY UK. MUST NOT SAY UK.

Not just a privileged few

The only people who will benefit are already vastly wealthy.  Now get back to fucking work and do as you’re told.

Ten bad reasons why MPs may vote for an unamended Article 50 Bill and one good reason why they shouldn’t

1. I must respect the will of the people.

It is every MP’s sacred democratic duty to hold the government to account and to act in what they believe to be the very best interests of the country as a whole.  No MP should ever vote for something that they know is damaging to the country and its people.  This responsibility stands above all other considerations, be they political or personal.

This is an opportunity to prove to the population that MPs are not merely lobby fodder, whipped to vote as their party tells them, and expected to acquiesce unquestioningly.  It is an opportunity to show that individual MPs will act according to what their conscience and intellect tell them is in the best interests of their country and people, without thought for any personal cost.

2. My constituency voted Leave. I must respect the will of the people.

It is every MP’s sacred democratic duty to hold the government to account and to act in what they believe to be the very best interests of the country as a whole.  No MP should ever vote for something that they know is damaging to the country and its people.  This responsibility stands above all other considerations, be they political or personal.

This is an opportunity to prove to the population that MPs are not merely lobby fodder, whipped to vote as their party tells them, and expected to acquiesce unquestioningly.  It is an opportunity to show that individual MPs will act according to what their conscience and intellect tell them is in the best interests of their country and people, without thought for any personal cost.

3. My constituency voted Remain, but the country voted Leave. I must respect the will of the people

It is every MP’s sacred democratic duty to hold the government to account and to act in what they believe to be the very best interests of the country as a whole.  No MP should ever vote for something that they know is damaging to the country and its people.  This responsibility stands above all other considerations, be they political or personal.

This is an opportunity to prove to the population that MPs are not merely lobby fodder, whipped to vote as their party tells them, and expected to acquiesce unquestioningly.  It is an opportunity to show that individual MPs will act according to what their conscience and intellect tell them is in the best interests of their country and people, without thought for any personal cost.

4. I might lose my seat at the next election.

It is every MP’s sacred democratic duty to hold the government to account and to act in what they believe to be the very best interests of the country as a whole.  No MP should ever vote for something that they know is damaging to the country and its people.  This responsibility stands above all other considerations, be they political or personal.

This is an opportunity to prove to the population that MPs are not merely lobby fodder, whipped to vote as their party tells them, and expected to acquiesce unquestioningly.  It is an opportunity to show that individual MPs will act according to what their conscience and intellect tell them is in the best interests of their country and people, without thought for any personal cost.

5. My party leader insists I vote for the Bill.

It is every MP’s sacred democratic duty to hold the government to account and to act in what they believe to be the very best interests of the country as a whole.  No MP should ever vote for something that they know is damaging to the country and its people.  This responsibility stands above all other considerations, be they political or personal.

This is an opportunity to prove to the population that MPs are not merely lobby fodder, whipped to vote as their party tells them, and expected to acquiesce unquestioningly.  It is an opportunity to show that individual MPs will act according to what their conscience and intellect tell them is in the best interests of their country and people, without thought for any personal cost.

6. My party may withdraw the whip if I vote against it.

It is every MP’s sacred democratic duty to hold the government to account and to act in what they believe to be the very best interests of the country as a whole.  No MP should ever vote for something that they know is damaging to the country and its people.  This responsibility stands above all other considerations, be they political or personal.

This is an opportunity to prove to the population that MPs are not merely lobby fodder, whipped to vote as their party tells them, and expected to acquiesce unquestioningly.  It is an opportunity to show that individual MPs will act according to what their conscience and intellect tell them is in the best interests of their country and people, without thought for any personal cost.

7. I would have to resign as a minister or shadow minister.

It is every MP’s sacred democratic duty to hold the government to account and to act in what they believe to be the very best interests of the country as a whole.  No MP should ever vote for something that they know is damaging to the country and its people.  This responsibility stands above all other considerations, be they political or personal.

This is an opportunity to prove to the population that MPs are not merely lobby fodder, whipped to vote as their party tells them, and expected to acquiesce unquestioningly.  It is an opportunity to show that individual MPs will act according to what their conscience and intellect tell them is in the best interests of their country and people, without thought for any personal cost.

8. I would be trashed by the right-wing press.

It is every MP’s sacred democratic duty to hold the government to account and to act in what they believe to be the very best interests of the country as a whole.  No MP should ever vote for something that they know is damaging to the country and its people.  This responsibility stands above all other considerations, be they political or personal.

This is an opportunity to prove to the population that MPs are not merely lobby fodder, whipped to vote as their party tells them, and expected to acquiesce unquestioningly.  It is an opportunity to show that individual MPs will act according to what their conscience and intellect tell them is in the best interests of their country and people, without thought for any personal cost.

9. It won’t make a difference anyway. Other MPs won’t do the same.

It is every MP’s sacred democratic duty to hold the government to account and to act in what they believe to be the very best interests of the country as a whole.  No MP should ever vote for something that they know is damaging to the country and its people.  This responsibility stands above all other considerations, be they political or personal.

This is an opportunity to prove to the population that MPs are not merely lobby fodder, whipped to vote as their party tells them, and expected to acquiesce unquestioningly.  It is an opportunity to show that individual MPs will act according to what their conscience and intellect tell them is in the best interests of their country and people, without thought for any personal cost.

10. I voted for the Bill last time round.

It is every MP’s sacred democratic duty to hold the government to account and to act in what they believe to be the very best interests of the country as a whole.  No MP should ever vote for something that they know is damaging to the country and its people.  This responsibility stands above all other considerations, be they political or personal.

This is an opportunity to prove to the population that MPs are not merely lobby fodder, whipped to vote as their party tells them, and expected to acquiesce unquestioningly.  It is an opportunity to show that individual MPs will act according to what their conscience and intellect tell them is in the best interests of their country and people, without thought for any personal cost.

Ten reasons why it is not undemocratic for The House of Lords to amend the Article 50 bill

…or to vote against it if amendments are rejected.

  1. The House of Lords exists as a check on power, and to make governments think again where they may be acting precipitously. Lords have a duty to do what they think is right and in the best interests of the UK.
  2. The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto was clear that whatever happened, the government would protect the UK in the single market, which is not the government’s plan.
  3. The referendum was not an election, the result of which could be reversed at the next general election. This is the sort of irrevocable constitutional change that the HoL is there to ask for reflection on.
  4. Democracy does not begin and end on a single day.  People change their minds in light of new information and it is childish to hold them to their first answer like gameshow contestants.
  5. Large numbers of people were denied the right to vote in the referendum.
  6. The referendum result was close, and insufficient for such a large, irrevocable constitutional change.
  7. Parliament had clearly decided that the referendum was advisory.
  8. It was and is unclear what leaving the EU would mean. People were forced to vote blind.
  9. Two of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and the UK leaving would amount to them being dragged out against their democratic will.
  10. The electorate was misled. Deliberately and repeatedly misled.

Detail

1. Lords have a duty to do what they think is right and in the best interests of the UK.  

  • It is not democratic for a Lord to vote in favour of something they believe or know to be damaging to the UK and its population.
  • To do this would be an abrogation of their moral and constitutional duty.
  • If this results in a reform of the House of Lords, then so be it. Lords should be proud to have done their duty, not scared of reform.

2. The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto was clear that whatever happened, the UK’s position in the single market would be protected.

  • The government has said clearly that it will not honour this commitment.
  • The House of Lords is not bound to accept legislation that is contrary to the manifesto of the Government.

3. The referendum was not an election, the result of which could be reversed at the next general election. 

  • It is also not a standard piece of legislation that can be revoked by future parliaments
  • Leaving the EU will be irrevocable and will affect every person in the UK for the rest of their lives.

4. Democracy does not begin and end on a single day.

  • It is not clear at all that, as the realities of the UK leaving the EU become apparent, it would continue to be the will of the people to do so.
  • It is patronising and childish to deny people the right to change their mind in light of new information.

5. Large numbers of people were denied the right to vote in the referendum

This included:

  • EU citizens permanently resident in the UK (3 million approx);
  • 16 and 17 year olds, who had been eligible to vote in the Scottish Independence referendum in 2014, and who the Government said it would have been “too complicated” to allow to vote in the EU referendum (1 million approx);
  • and UK citizens living in other EU Member States for more than 15 years, including those employed by the EU institutions (1 million approx, though possibly many more).
  • 6. The referendum result was close, and insufficient for such a large, irrevocable constitutional change.

6. Of those eligible to vote, only 37.5% voted to leave the EU, meaning 62.5% did not vote to leave.

  • While people on both sides talk about the 17 million for, or the 16 million against leaving, the reality is that only 1.3m people out of a population of 64.1 million effectively decided the entire future of the UK.
  • Almost all other countries require either 50% of the electorate or 60% of those who vote for major constitutional change.
  • The reason this was not required in this case is because the referendum was advisory, and it was therefore unnecessary.

7. Parliament had decided that the referendum was advisory.  

  • The legislation passed by Parliament was clear on this. The referendum has no constitutional status in the way that it would in, for example, Ireland.
  • MPs and Lords were made aware of this by House of Commons briefing papers before passing the Act, and this is in the public domain.
  • MPs and Lords could have chosen to make the referendum binding, as, for example, the Alternative Vote referendum was, but they chose not to.

8. It was and is unclear what leaving the EU would mean. 

  • It could mean anything from being in the EEA and EFTA, which would require freedom of movement and EU laws, but would be less economically damaging, to a complete break (‘hard’ or ‘dirty’ Brexit) which would not require freedom of movement, but would be extremely economically damaging.
  • Those who voted Leave were therefore voting for a very wide spectrum of possible outcomes, not a single one.

9. Two of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and the UK leaving would amount to them being dragged out against their democratic will. 

  • In the case of Scotland, this may be contrary to the Act of Union of 1707 which formed the UK, and, in the case of Northern Ireland, will undermine the Good Friday Agreement, which is an international treaty with Ireland which rests on EU law.
  • It may also lead to the new EU external border between the UK and Ireland becoming a hard border, contrary to this agreement.

10. The electorate was deliberately misled.

  • Serving Government ministers and MPs from both major parties in the Leave campaign, including the current Foreign Secretary, repeatedly and knowingly lied to voters on many aspects of the EU.
  • This included the famous £350m claim, but also many others such as claims that the UK did not control its own non-EU immigration, that the EEA could be joined without agreeing to free movement of people, and that trade deals with third countries and even with individual EU Member States could be entered into immediately after the vote.
  • When consumers are misled, the law seeks to protect them and for restitution to be made.  We do not blame them for believing untrue claims, and nor do we tell them that they are stuck with the product they bought under false pretences.

 

Why I have joined the SNP

I joined the SNP on 1st February 2017, just after the vote in the Commons on invoking Article 50.  I’ve no doubt this will irritate some of my friends (who are members of other parties) and baffle others (I’m English and live in Belgium).  Here’s why I have done it.

Firstly, I love Scotland. I studied at Stirling University and lived there for 8 years. I have close family and some of my closest friends in Scotland.  Two of my teenage nephews are Scottish. Their future is my concern.  Contrary to the expectations of some, Scotland welcomed this Englishman wholeheartedly, and I would now like to help it.

I’ve never been member of a national political party before.  I’ve never wanted to, even though, or perhaps because, I studied Politics, and then worked in government, for a combined 20 years.  To be honest, I’ve never understood how someone can have loyalty to a voluntary organisation to the point that they can defend it even when they know it is wrong.  I’ve also always considered the blind adherence of Members of Parliament to a party line to be something that fundamentally cheapens representative democracy and undermines the quality of public discourse.

Although I now believe very strongly in the need for an Independent Scotland in the EU now, I haven’t always.  I lived and studied in Scotland from 1995 until 2003, and voted in the Devolution referendum in 1997.  I thought devolution worked pretty well in its early years. Not being born and raised in Scotland, I had no emotional attachment to the idea of Independence.  The same could be said of the Union mind. I didn’t have strong feelings either way.

The early years of the (reconvened) Scottish Parliament were a great success, with Sheridan’s Private Members’ bill to ban warrant sales, and the devolved tail wagging the central dog by ending Clause 28 (Clause 2b) before it had even crossed the Westminster government’s mind to do so.  My friends Peter Lynch and Steven Birrell have written about how the then new Scottish Parliament’s petitions system revolutionised public participation in the political process in Scotland. (https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2001/may/07/guardiananalysispage )

So why the SNP, and why now? Because the Westminster government and Parliament dragging Scotland out of the EU against its will is a travesty.  Not only that, but the refusal of both to support, or even seriously examine the Scottish Government’s very reasonable compromise proposals on remaining in the Single Market was nothing less than a clear “Fuck Off” to everyone in Scotland, and to the UK’s constitutional settlement as a whole.  And this was on a compromise which the Scottish Government itself said was nowhere near their preferred option.

Anyone who has not read the Scottish Government’s White paper “Scotland’s Place in Europe” should do so, even if they are not in Scotland.  It sets out clearly that this horrible car-crash Brexit that the government is planning, and the opposition are supporting, does not have to happen.  It sets out that even if Brexit did have to happen, its effects could be mitigated for Scotland.  In fact, it could be mitigated for the whole of the UK.  All opposition parties should have got behind this. http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/12/9234/downloads

Last night’s vote in the Commons on Article 50, was a pathetic abrogation of duty by all but a hundred or so MPs.  There is nothing democratic about MPs voting for something they know will damage their country and its people.

Nicola Sturgeon, Angus Robertson and SNP MPs have shown fortitude, rationality and leadership while the official UK opposition party have floundered, and ignored their principles to court potential UKIP voters in an ill conceived attempt to shore up support for a party that almost everyone now sees is failing.  While Labour was trying to work out how not to alienate ignorant xenophobes, Nicola Surgeon was reassuring EU citizens and refugees alike that they were welcome in Scotland.

I have considered myself to have been a natural LibDem voter my whole life, and I think they are certainly a force for good in England and Wales.  In my ideal world, The SNP and the LibDems would be in alliance in Westminster elections. I have even hovered over the ‘join now’ button on their website many times since the referendum. The lack of support for the Scottish Government’s Brexit response however has shown that the Scottish LibDems clearly put petty party politics and blind Unionism above both the will and the interests of Scotland.  This is a betrayal of the LibDems fundamental pro-EU and democratic principles.  Also, Norman Lamb.

It is therefore clear now that, not only is the UK ruled by a government that at best ignores and at worst hates Scotland, but that the official Opposition has much the same view.  It is equally clear that an independent Scotland in the EU is the only option for Scotland.  It may be too late for England and rUK, but I believe it is not for Scotland.

It can be done. Sentiment among the EU27 and the European Parliament is pro-Scotland, and there is wide recognition that the situation is substantially different to 2014.  Spain’s attitude has softened considerably as it recognises that Scotland is now in the same boat as the Remain-voting Gibraltans. There are several options, some of which may avoid Scotland ever having to leave the EU, but a pre-accession transition arrangement while the final touches are put to an independent Scotland’s accession process would be standard accession methodology, particularly as Scotland already implements vast swathes of EU law in full.

So I have joined the SNP to show support and offer my assistance to the Scottish Government’s attempts to avoid being ripped out of the EU against its will, and to avoid its citizens being stripped of their EU citizenship against their will.

Scotland must get itself away from those in Westminster who ignore, belittle and abuse it, and find a future in a friendly, pro-Scotland EU.  I will do anything I can to help it do so.