Westminster

The Brexit Plan

Hello readers! After a week away, it’s time to refresh ourselves of events this last fortnight…

 

Of course Brexit dominates the headlines once more as the government announced a possibility of the UK retaining links with EU. The government has said it will end the “direct jurisdiction” of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in UK cases after Brexit, although the influence of the court will not be curbed altogether. In a paper published last Wednesday  a set of alternative models were proposed for settling legal disputes with the EU that would replace the current role of the ECJ, offering Theresa May greater room for manoeuvre in Brexit negotiations than her previous commitment to leaving the ECJ outright. In January, May pledged in her Lancaster House speech:

“We will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the [ECJ] in Britain. Leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster… and those laws will be interpreted by judges not in Luxembourg but in courts across this country.”

 

Justice Minister Dominic Raab has stated the resulting divergence of case law between the EU and the UK would require the UK to keep “half an eye” on ECJ rulings, and for the EU to do the same in return. 

The plans came after the Home Office had mistakenly sent around 100 letters to EU citizens living in the UK, telling them they are liable for “detention” if they do not leave the country. There have been calls for Home Secretary Amber Rudd to apologise to those affected and reimburse any legal costs incurred.

With such mistakes, it is no wonder why those against Brexit hold doubts over the lack of influence from EU courts, particularly in cases affecting human rights where UK laws.

 

As the third round of Brexit negotiations continued in Brussels this week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker  said none of the papers published by the British government setting out its Brexit plans are “satisfactory” and that a vast number of issues remain unsettled. Speaking to a conference of EU ambassadors, Juncker accused the UK of being “hesitant in showing all its cards” and of failing to offer solutions to the issues of the Northern Irish border and the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. He also reiterated that no trade negotiations will take place until these questions are resolved.

One of the said issues which is yet to be resolved is the lack of agreement between UK and EU officials on the amount to be paid by the UK as a so-called “divorce bill”, which could total as much as 1bn (£92bn). The constant lack of progress makes us wonder whether Brexit will be achieved by the target of March 2019!

As the latest round of negotiations stalled, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said Britain must not allow itself to be blackmailed over its Brexit settlement bill in order to start trade talks. Without an agreed figure, the EU will not allow talks about Britain’s future trade relationship with the bloc to begin. Fox’s warning came after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said there has been no “decisive progress” on the terms of Britain’s exit and accused the UK of demanding the “impossible”.

 

Meanwhile, The Labour Party announced its own plans for Brexit with some senior Tories fearing it may gain support from their own MPs. The announcement, made by the party’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, details the party’s continued support for membership of the single market as it bids to present itself as the party in favour of ‘soft Brexit’ (Scroll down for a quick breakdown of soft/hard Brexit).

Labour’s policy shift aims to establish a clear dividing line with the Tories on Brexit for the first time.  So what are these new plans?

  • Labour will support full participation in the single market and customs union during a lengthy “transitional period” that it believes could last between two and four years after the day of departure
  • Under a Labour government the UK would continue to abide by the EU’s free movement rules, accept the jurisdiction of the European court of justice on trade and economic issues, and pay into the EU budget for a period of years after Brexit
  • Permanent long-term membership of the single market and customs union would only be considered if a Labour government could by then have persuaded the rest of the EU to agree to a special deal on immigration and changes to freedom of movement rules.

Pro-EU Tory MPs, who also support remaining in the single market, will be put under intense pressure by Labour to fall in behind its position and rebel against their own party. If significant numbers were to do so, Theresa May’s already shaky grip on power would be seriously threatened. For these Tory MPs, they would have to decide between adhering to party lines or committing to their own positions as instructed by their constituents.

Now for a quick breakdown of soft/hard Brexit….


Soft Brexit
: –

This approach would leave the UK’s relationship with the EU as close as possible to the existing arrangements, and is preferred by many Remainers.

The UK would no longer be a member of the EU and would not have a seat on the European Council. It would lose its MEPs and its European Commissioner. But, it would keep unfettered access to the European single market.

Goods and services would be traded with the remaining EU states on a tariff-free basis and financial firms would keep their “passporting” rights to sell services and operate branches in the EU. Britain would remain within the EU’s customs union, meaning that exports would not be subject to border checks.

National models for this sort of deal include Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, which are not members of the EU but have access to the single market by being part of the European Economic Area.

 

Hard Brexit: –

Favoured by pro-Brexiteers, a hard Brexit arrangement would likely see the UK give up full access to the single market and full access of the customs union along with the EU.

It would prioritise giving Britain full control over its borders, making new trade deals and applying laws within its own territory.

Initially, this would mean the UK would likely fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules for trade with its former EU partners.

 

Also This week, Kezia Dugdale, leader of Scottish Labour resigned from her role with immediate effect. Writing to the chair of the party, Dugdale said she believed her party needed a new leader with ‘fresh drive’. Her full resignation letter can be viewed here.

 

Whilst one leader quits, Theresa May has insisted that she will lead the Conservative Party into the 2022 General Election contradicting reports she planned to stand down in 2019 when Britain leaves the EU. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, May said she wants to look beyond Brexit negotiations and hopes to tackle “long-term” issues within the UK, such as “social justice”. he Prime Minister made the comments as she arrived in Japan for a visit intended to boost diplomatic ties and lay the ground for a potential post-Brexit trade deal between the nations. Taking into account the continued riffs amongst Conservative ranks, May’s announcement risks reigniting anger among Tory MPs, many of whom have been dissatisfied with May since the party unexpectedly lost its majority in June’s vote. However, it also comes as many within the party and beyond feel there isn’t anyone at the moment who could be a real contender against May.

Can May’s leadership withstand all the trouble and strife that comes with Brexit and the internal backlash from her own party? It wasn’t long ago even her own ex-colleague, George Osborne, had called her a “dead woman walking” so how confident is the Prime Minister in her leadership? Only time will tell.

 

Other things you may have missed…

Councils have been ordered to reduce the number of people remaining in hospital beds when fit for discharge by as much as 70%, or face a withdrawal of social care funding. Councils responsible for delivering social care have received a letter from the Department of Health warning funding could be slashed in the 2018 Spring Budget for areas with continued high rates of so-called “bed-blocking”, which saw patients in England experience 177,000 days worth of delays in April this year. Council leaders have described the targets as “virtually undeliverable” and warn that withholding funding will only increase pressures on care services, whilst Labour’s Shadow Minister for Social Care, Barbara Keeley, has accused the government of an “overly simplistic and ill-judged” response to the situation.

 

Net migration to the UK in the last 12 months to end of March 2017 is down 81,000 to 246,000, with the net migration of EU citizens having fallen by 51,000 to its lowest level for three years, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). A spokesperson for the ONS has said the data – which shows a spike in departures of citizens from the central and eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 – may indicate Brexit is now a factor in people’s decision to move into or out of the UK. 

The figures follow years of heated debate over immigration – a key issue in last year’s referendum – and the Conservative Party’s 2010 promise to reduce net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ .

 

On the topic of immigration, this week Prime Minister Theresa May faced calls to apologise for the five-year-long Home Office crackdown on non-EU students overstaying their visa, as official figures revealed that just 4,600 a year remain in the UK after their visa expires. Previous estimates cited by the Home Office had put the number at 100,000.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, who described the Home Office figures as “distorted and wrong”, has joined a chorus of politicians and think tanks calling for students to be exempt from migration statistics, a move the Prime Minister has repeatedly rejected. It is argued the focus on overstaying students has been a waste of government resources and has led the Home Office to downplay the economic importance of higher education. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced an expert review into international students’ contribution to the economy.

 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy launched its plans to force all publicly listed UK companies to reveal the pay ratio between their chief executive and their average British worker from next June. Under further proposals aimed at improving workers’ representation in the boardroom, firms must assign a director to represent employees or create an employee council to help advise the business.

However, the new corporate governance code will operate on a “comply or explain” basis, allowing companies to opt out of the measures if they can offer a justification – contrary to a pledge made by the Prime Minister during last year’s Conservative leadership contest. This perceived watering-down has triggered condemnation from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and trade union leaders, who have branded the plan a “feeble proposal”.

 

Former Conservative Cabinet Minister Iain Duncan Smith has voiced opposition to government proposals to cut support for marriage and relationship counselling. Writing in an article for the Conservative Home website, Duncan Smith revealed officials have been instructed to draw up plans to scrap £10m of public funding for relationship counselling – a move he has condemned as a “retrograde step” that would worsen the “damaging effects of family breakdown”. He also argues the cuts would have an adverse effect on the economy, as the cost of family breakdown has been estimated to be £48bn a year.

 

The Conservative Party announced its new campaign ‘Activate‘, the right wing equivalent to ‘Momentum’. The grassroots campaign launched by affiliated Conservatives aims to “engage young people with conservatism”. It has close links with senior party activists, and is chaired by former Tory campaign manager Gary Markwell, a councillor in West Sussex. A Conservative spokesman said Activate was “not officially linked to the Conservatives and it receives no party funding”. The group’s constitution says it will be independent from the party, though all members are expected to be members of the main party. Although it has not officially launced, it has already received backlash on social media and mocked by those on the left.

What do you think, will you be joining Activate? Or are you more of a ‘stick to the party, not affiliated groups’ kind of person?

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Government in May-hem

This week has been plagued by trouble and strife for Prime Minister Theresa May as she has had to put her ministers in their place as Parliament goes in to recess for the summer.

It all started with a leak from last week’s cabinet meeting in which Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond allegedly said public sector workers are overpaid. Umm….

Hammond had argued public sector workers are on average better compensated than their private counterparts due to receiving better pensions, and refused to deny reports that he told cabinet colleagues public sector staff are “overpaid”. Hammond’s comment on pay was the subject of one of two leaks from this week’s cabinet meeting, with the other alleging the Chancellor said driving modern trains is so easy “even a woman can do it” – a claim he has strongly denied.

When asked if he believes public sector workers are overpaid, the Chancellor said it was a “relative question” but “very generous” public sector pensions put these workers “about 10% ahead” of private sector employees. The comments come amid growing calls to lift the 1% pay cap on public sector pay, with concerns it is preventing the NHS from recruiting and retaining staff. Of course his comments were met with much controversy as in-work poverty has affected many public sector workers (including teachers and NHS staff) have felt the burn of the Tories austerity programme.

In an article in the Guardian, columnist Zoe Williams writes:

The chancellor might be a Brexit pragmatist (a Bragmatist?) but his sound economic sense only extends so far. He understands that maintaining links with our largest trading partner is preferable to suicide, and that’s good; but he doesn’t seem to have given any serious thought to what it’s like trying to live through seven years of “pay restraint”, what ramifications it might have for one’s ability to eat, pay rent and enjoy fripperies such as holidays, and raising children.

Hammond suggested the leaks over his supposed comments in cabinet were more motivated by differences over Brexit, saying “some of the noise is generated” by ministers who disagree with his aim of prioritising the economy in leaving the EU.

It’s no secret that the issue of Europe (Brexit) is divide the Conservative Party but these leaks could just be the tip of the iceberg. Some Conservative MPs are indecisive about May’s future as their leader and PM, with some looking towards other alternative leaders including Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Jacob Rees-Mogg. However, with the loss of the majority in the recent General Election, surely the Conservatives would want to stand united, now more than ever?

All cabinets leak but they mostly do it officially in the form of “guidance” to the media. But cabinet ministers leaking against one another is relatively rare. When it happens, it is almost invariably a sign of deep prime ministerial and cabinet weakness. It demonstrates May’s inability to keep her cabinet in check to respect and adhere to cabinet responsibility* as well as the elephant in the room – ministerial divisions over Brexit. A fragile majority, divisive issues, a weak prime minister and mischief-making ministers always make an unstable mix.

Cabinet Collective Responsibility: a constitutional convention in governments using the Westminster System, that members of the cabinet must publicly support all governmental decisions made in cabinet, even if they do not privately agree with them.

Some cabinet ministers believe the Chancellor is deliberately trying to ‘frustrate’ Brexit as pro-leave cabinet ministers seek to undermine, if not oust, the man they see as the biggest obstacle in the path of a hard Brexit.

“What’s really going on is the establishment, the Treasury, is trying to fuck it up,”
Unnamed minister tells the Telegraph

Pro-Brexit campaigners such as Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson regard Hammond as an irritant. On the one hand Hammond wants a sane Brexit but on the other hand they want the freedom to drive off the cliff at top speed and to do as such, they need him out of the way. With the chancellor removed, there would be no ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ to moan about the need to prioritise jobs and the economy; they could put slashing immigration first and indulge the ideological fetish that demands the eradication of the European court of justice from every last corner of British national life.

Following all the cabinet leaks and public back-biting, Prime Minister Theresa May has warned ministers that their continued bickering and divisiveness could result in Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn winning power. The speech was made at a summer reception for Tory MPs in which she instructed her party to have a break over the parliamentary summer recess and return to Westminster ready for “serious business” with “no backbiting” or “carping”, telling Cabinet ministers to show “strength and unity”.

Reports have also circulated a group of Tory MPs are planning to launch a leadership challenge against May in the autumn, with a letter of no confidence already in circulation but with only a small number of signatures so far. I guess George Osborne was right in calling Theresa May a ‘dead woman walking‘…

Former deputy Prime Minister, Michael Hestletine summed up the situation facing the Conservative Party in an interview with the World at One:

“This is a government without authority. This is a deeply divided government and what they know, what the Europeans know, and what our national press knows is every day there’s a more depressing headline.”

Let’s just hope the public isn’t surprised with yet another impromptu General Election after the summer break!

 

Another Brexit update

Brexit negotiations continued in Brussels this week and one thing everyone noticed was Brexit Secretary David Davis’ lack of paper work compared to his European counterparts.

 

 

david-davis.jpg

PA Images

Well at least he’s demonstrating why we’re leaving, it’s all that bureaucracy!

Davis has called on both sides of negotiations on the UK’s departure from the EU to “get down to business” as the second round of formal talks began. The Brexit Secretary has said his priority is to “lift the uncertainty” for EU citizens living in the UK and Britons living in Europe, and the EU has also demanded there must be substantial progress on this issue – as well as on a financial settlement the UK must pay to the bloc and the question of the Irish border – before trade talks can begin. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier gave an update on the progress of talks in his closing speech, welcoming Britain’s detailed position. He indicated that both sides are now moving in a common direction, although there remains disagreement on points such as how to guarantee these rights, what rights future family members should receive and whether social benefits can be exported.

As one would expect, more volatility and areas of compromise are yet to come; Barrier highlighted the first round of talks was about organisation; the second about presentation; the third will be about clarification.

 

Also in Parliament…

The government has announced the increase in the state pension age from 67 to 68 will be brought forward by seven years to 2037, with the changes set to affect everyone born between 6th April 1970 and 5th April 1978. So much for early retirement then. Well at least it doesn’t affect the young(er) generation!

Announcing the plans yesterday, Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke told MPs the rising UK life expectancy means those affected can still expect to receive more over their lifetimes than previous generations, and insisted the government has a “responsibility” to balance pensions funding and being fair on future generations of taxpayers.

However, Shadow Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams has condemned the change, which would save £74bn by 2045/46, as “anything but fair”, while the charity Age UK has accused the government of “picking the pockets” of millions of people in their 40s.

The state pension age for men and women will be equalised at 65 at the end of 2018, before rising to 66 in 2020 and 67 in 2028.

 

Other things you may have missed…

Education Secretary Justine Greening has promised an extra £1.3bn in funding for schools in England over the next two years, after complaints from Conservative MPs who believe Theresa May’s failure to deal with concerns about struggling schools cost the government its majority in the General Election. However, the money is being diverted from other parts of the education budget, particularly from free schools and new buildings, rather than coming from extra cash from the Treasury.
Robbing from one hand to give to the other, no?

The Education Secretary was forced to argue in favour of the extra funding in cabinet meetings after reports of some head teachers begging for extra money, cutting lunch breaks and dropping less popular subjects.

In a partial compromise, Greening has also announced a delay in the full implementation of the controversial new national funding formula, which will see some schools receive more money and some lose funding per pupil.

 

Experts from the Commonwealth Fund health think tank have judged the NHS to be the best, safest and most affordable healthcare system of 11 countries ranked, just ahead of Australia and the Netherlands. It is the second time in a row the study, which takes place every three years, has found the UK to have the top health system. Of the 11 nations, the UK put the fourth smallest amount of GDP into healthcare, with just 9.9% invested compared to the 16.6% spent by the US. The news comes despite the NHS suffering the longest budget squeeze in its 69-year history, with the service suffering serious under-staffing problems. Nothing quite beats the NHS eh!

 

Former coalition Business Secretary, Vince Cable has become the oldest leader of a political party since Winston Churchill after being elected unopposed to lead the Liberal Democrats. Cable was the only candidate on the ballot paper when nominations closed at 4pm on Thursday.
Other possible contenders, including Jo Swinson and Norman Lamb, ruled themselves out prior to nominations closing, paving the way for the recently elected Twickenham MP to succeed Tim Farron, who resigned after the General Election.

At the age of 74, Cable is the oldest politician to lead the LibDems in its 30 year history but his election only opens up long-held debates over why we fail to see more young people, women and ethnic minorities being elected to such positions. And it goes even further – why aren’t these groups putting THEMSELVES forward in nominations? We always argue politics is always dominated by the pale, male and stale elite but is there any wonder when young people, when women and ethnic minorities aren’t putting their name on the ballot paper? Of course, there’s the issue of gaining support but surely in nominating yourself, we may then begin to see support for a number of candidates, especially those who have potential to be great political figures? It seems we still have a long way to go before we see true diversity across the political spectrum…

 

“Give our public sector workers a pay rise!”

The big news this week in the world of British Politics has been over the 1% pay cap on public sector workers. If you’re wondering what the heck is a 1% pay cap, take a seat while this blog post gives you the lowdown…

What is the 1% pay cap on public sector workers?

The cap, first introduced by then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, in 2013 replaced a two-year pay freeze as part of a wide-ranging austerity package introduced by the coalition government. What this means is many public sector workers since the introduction of the pay cap have not seen a rise in their wages as the cap permits a 1% per cent annual increase in public sector pay. However the wages of those in the private sector has increased ever so slightly in comparison. Take a look at the diagram below…

AVERAGE EARNINGS GROWTH: 

AVERAGE EARNINGS GROWTH: 

Graph depicts percentage changes between the private and public sector. Source: Source: ONS – Annual % changes in three month average regular pay

 

So why all the fuss now? 

In line with recent tragedies in Manchester, Westminster, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and the fire at Grenfell Tower, our emergency services have been praised by politicians and civilians alike. Everyday and especially in dire times, our public servants go above and beyond which is why many politicians have called for their hard efforts to be recognised by lifting the 1% pay cap to ensure all public servants receive a pay rise.

Senior MPs such as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary, Michael Gove are amongst many Conservative cabinet ministers and backbench MPs  who are calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to consider lifting the 1% pay cap for public sector workers. Although Johnson and Gove did not out-rightly suggest the cap should be lifted for all 5.1m public sector workers, they have encouraged Theresa May to listen to an upcoming report by pay review bodies, which most likely will recommend the government lift the cap when it is published later this month. In the  Conservative Party manifesto, they had committed to keeping the cap until 2020.

The Labour Party  have also called for the cap to be lifted as they proposed an amendment to the Queen’s speech calling for an end to the pay cap, however it was rejected by 323 MPs in a vote in the House of Commons as the DUP voted in line with the Conservative Party as part of their informal coalition. In response to Labour’s defeated amendment, the leader of the Party, Jeremy Corbyn, commented:

“Tonight, the Conservatives had an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, by ending cuts to our police and fire service and lifting the public sector pay cap.

“Although government ministers said they had learned the lessons of the general election and were listening to voters, it is clear that nothing has changed.

They had the perfect opportunity to walk the walk, but instead they marched through the lobby to show Tory austerity is business as usual.

While the money is there when the Conservatives need it to keep themselves in office, the rest of the country now face more devastating cuts to our emergency and other vital services.

The Conservatives clearly plan to keep working for a privileged few. Only Labour is ready to form a government that will work for the many.”

 

Despite pressures from the two major political parties, No. 10 Downing Street (where Prime Minister Theresa May resides) have confirmed there will be no changes to the pay cap. The Prime Minister’s spokesman has said they are “working through recommendations” from the public sector pay review bodies and would respond to those recommendations “in due course”.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that increasing public sector pay in line with the private sector would cost an extra £6.3bn a year. Some might say if Theresa May can find an extra £1.5bn to keep her position as Prime Minister, she could surely offer the same courtesy and allow public sector workers to have some stability through their pay. But hey, it’s not like we don’t have nurses and teachers leaving the profession, seeking employment across the pond and risking the future of our younger generation…

In addition to the 1% annual rise, some NHS staff also get gradual increases in their pay as they progress in their roles.

The public sector employs millions of people both within central government and local government. This includes:

  • NHS workers (domestic staff, porters, administrators, nurses, doctors etc)
  • Teachers and those who work in education
  • Law enforcement and security
  • Social Services
  • Armed Forces
  • Police
  • Fire Service
  • Justice

And many more…

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the pay review bodies should consider a pay rise for public sector workers in line with the rise in average earnings across the economy.

Other things you may have missed…

Along with Brexit negotiations, the UK government has decided to pull out of the London Fisheries Convention which allows foreign countries to fish in British waters. The Convention was signed in 1964, before the UK joined the EU; withdrawal will take two years. Under the convention, vessels from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands are permitted to fish within six and 12 nautical miles off the UK coastline. British vessels will also lose the right to fish in the waters of other nations. Environment Secretary Michael Gove says the withdrawal will let the UK “take back control of our fishing policies”. But Greenpeace UK warned the move alone would not deliver a better future for the UK fishing industry. Looks like the UK really is ‘taking back control’…

 

On the subject of ‘taking back control’…

The government has reportedly dropped its ‘have cake and eat it‘ approach to Brexit, as ongoing negotiations have caused the Department for Exiting the EU (DexEU) to now accept that Britain must choose between privileged market access and political control in Brexit talks with the European Union. This change of thinking within the government represents a clear departure from the early negotiating position set out by the Prime Minister in her Lancaster House speech in January. May suggested that Britain would be able to negotiate a Brexit deal based on full access to the European single market without concessions over immigration and payments to the EU. Civil servants have reportedly since told government officials they face a choice between a deal based on preferential access to the single market but surrendering demands for independent immigration and leaving the ECJ, or a “taking back control” agreement cutting all ties with the EU but with a less favourable trade deal.

 

Pensions minister, Guy Opperman, has been criticised for his suggestion that millions of women under the age of 60 who face cuts to their state pension should take up apprenticeships in order to re-enter employment. His comments were made at a debate in Westminster Hall to discuss the changes to the law which will mean the state pension age will rise from 60 to 66 by 2020, delaying access to pensions for women born in the 1950s. SNP minister, Mhairi Black has campaigned frequently against the change in law and had told MPs if the Conservatives could find £1bn to strike a deal with the DUP, they could afford to give women the pensions they are due. Despite many ministers across the political parties arguing the changes are unfair, Mr Opperman says the government is committed to “life-long learning” and will make no concessions.

 

The German Green party, which had pushed for LGBT rights for decades, finally got their victory after the German parliament voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage by 393 votes to 226 with four abstentions. As it was a free vote, lawmakers were permitted to vote according to their conscience rather than obeying party lines. The vote which permits LGBT people to marry and adopt was called by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition allies the Social Democrats (SDP). However, Merkel voted against the move. Congrats Germany! 🇧🇪🌈

Who says this blog only comments on British Politics eh! 😉

Owen Smith outlines his policy ideas

This week, it seems Labour aren’t the only political party in a leadership crisis as UKIP’s former deputy leader, Suzanne Evans gave up her leadership fight following Farage’s resignation.

PM Theresa May and Enida Kenny, PM of Italy held a news conference talking about the next steps for brexit. May continues her European tour as she tries to get the best deal for the UK during negotiations on Brexit.

In the theme of leadership…

Labour leadership candidate, Owen Smith held a leadership conference in Oregreave in which he outlined his policy proposals:

  • Public sector pay freeze; scrap zero hours contracts – replace with minimum hours contracts which inform workers when and what hours they are working and what they expect to get paid;
  • Would guarantee rights for information and consultation with work places with more than 50 employees – highlighting importance of Trade Unions.
  • Would repeal Trade Union’s Act
  • Wants a return of Wages Council to boost pay
  • Ensure big businesses pay a fairer share of taxes
  • Decent class sizes
  • Protection of the NHS – NHS needs a 4% per annum rise to sustain the service – states under Tories, there is currently a 1% rise. Would spend an extra 4% per annum.
  • Would introduce a 50p rate for people earning over £150,000 a year.
  • Reverse Tory cuts on capital gains tax & introduce a wealth tax, raising an additional £3bn
  • Investment – Pledges to introduce a British New Deal – a £200bn promise to borrow funds at lower rates to rebuild public services and infrastructure that ‘has been allowed to languish’ – a historic period of borrowing rates; investment into Northern England, not enough to rely on London (economy far too London-centric)
  • Will build 300,000 more houses to ease the housing crisis

Radical but doable policies. Investment not cuts, Prosperity not austerity. National collective purpose to rebuild Britain. Labour needs a revolution, not one where we return to a socialist nirvana, but a cold-eyed practical revolution.

– Owen Smith, 27 July 2016

Click here for in-depth coverage of Smith’s speech as it happened.

Meanwhile, current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn won the High Court battle as to whether his name could be on the ballot for the upcoming leadership contest. Turns out he didn’t the support of 51 MPs after all. Huh.

Since this Labour coup started over a month ago, there have been ‘rumours’ as to what will happen if Corbyn is re-elected, with people speculating a split. Surely not another SDP!?

This is what Jezza had to say about the so-called rumours…

So what’d you think? Is this the beginning of the end for the Labour Party as we know it? Will the party ever be able to get on with its job as the opposition party? Who knows. Drop your comments below and share with your fellow comrades.

 

 

MPs support Trident; Labour Leadership strife continues

At the start of the week, MPs voted on Trident renewal and it (as anything in politics) caused much heated debate. But what exactly is Trident and why does it matter?

Well, Trident (since 1969) is a British submarine carrying nuclear weapons and has always been on patrol, gliding silently beneath the waves, somewhere in the world’s oceans. The aim of Trident is to deter any nuclear attack on the UK because, even if the nation’s conventional defence capabilities were destroyed (you know, the army, guns, grenades, that sorta thing), the silent submarine would still be able to launch a catastrophic retaliatory strike on the aggressor, a concept known as mutually assured destruction.

The submarines carry up to eight Trident missiles. Each can be fitted with a number of warheads, which can be directed at different targets. Each of the four submarines carries a sealed “letter of last resort” in the prime minister’s hand, containing instructions to follow if the UK has been devastated by a nuclear strike and the government annihilated.

But seriously, how likely is this to happen? Given the last time the world faced near nuclear oblivion.  Bear in mind, each Trident warhead is eight times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima.

During the debate in the House of Commons on Monday, MPs voted on the motion put forward by PM Theresa May:

  • The government’s assessment that the UK’s “independent minimum credible nuclear deterrent” based on continuous at-sea deployment will remain essential to the UK’s security;
  • The decision to take the necessary steps required to maintain the current posture by replacing the Vanguard Class submarines;
  • The importance of the replacement programme to the UK’s defence industrial base and in supporting thousands of highly skilled engineering jobs;
  • Government commitment to reduce its overall nuclear weapon stockpile by the mid-2020s and press for “key steps towards multilateral disarmament”.

You can watch the full debate below:

In case you can’t be bothered to watch the 2 hour video, here’s a brief summary of the arguments for and against Trident renewal:

Arguments in favour of Trident renewal:

  • The UK faces an uncertain “future threat environment” – Andrea Berger, Royal United Services Institute.
  • In an uncertain future and the resurgence of aggressive Russian policies, the UK needs to ensure it is taking decisions now which mean that in future decades we have options available for defence and deterrence.
  • Maintenance – work on a replacement could not be delayed because the submarines alone could take up to 17 years to develop.
  • Threats from rogue states and terrorist groups could emerge at any time and a minimum nuclear deterrent is needed to help counter them.
  • The nuclear defence industry is also a major employer. Some estimates suggest that up to 15,000 jobs may be lost.

Arguments against Trident renewal:

  • The UK should never be a country that is willing to threaten or use nuclear weapons against an adversary, even in the most extreme circumstances, especially when the cost to life would be unfathomable.
  • The UK should not be spending possibly £40bn on a programme that is designed for uncertainty and indeed that an “uncertain future threat environment” may mean no threats arise and so £40bn would have been spent unnecessarily.
  • No legitimate purpose: their use would be illegal under almost every conceivable circumstance, as huge numbers of civilian casualties would be unavoidable. That is why the International Court of Justice ruled in 1996 the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law.
  • The Government’s National Security Strategy identifies international terrorism, cyber-attacks and natural hazards as greater threats than nuclear war.

At the end of the debates, MPs were given the opportunity to cast their vote. The motion was supported by 472 votes to 117, approving the manufacture of four replacement submarines at a current estimated cost of £31bn.

To see how your MP voted, click here.

This week, May chaired her first cabinet meeting in which she stated she wants her government to be ‘defined by social reform, not brexit’. Erm, that might be a tiny bit hard Mrs May, considering your Brexit minister has predicted it could take up to the end of your premiership for Britain to eventually leave the EU.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May (C) holds her first Cabinet Meeting at Downing Street, in London July 19, 2016. © Dan Kitwood

Prime Minister Theresa May chairs her first Cabinet meeting on 19th July 2016

It seems there will be no escaping brexit as the team tasked with triggering Article 50 will be situated at No. 9 Downing St, right next Mrs May’s new residence.

May opened the meeting by warning her ministers the “decisions we take around this table affect people’s day-to-day lives and we must do the right thing, take the right decisions for the future of this country.”

She added: “We have the challenge of Brexit, and Brexit does mean Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it. It will be the responsibility of everyone sitting around the Cabinet table to make Brexit work for Britain.

“Brexit does mean brexit” – the slogan to define May’s premiership?

“And it will also be their duty to deliver success on behalf of everyone in the UK, not just the privileged few. That is why social justice will be at the heart of my government. So, we will not allow the country to be defined by Brexit, but instead build the education, skills and social mobility to allow everyone to prosper from the opportunities of leaving the EU.”

The Eagle has crashed

As the leadership strife in the Labour Party continues, things were made tiny bit simpler when Angela Eagle decided to step down, leaving Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn to go head to head.

As you’ll recall, last week Owen Smith launched his leadership campaign; this week it was the turn of current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. At least there were plenty of journo’s to ask him questions. Sorry Eagle.

As party members, supporters and MPs continue to debacle over who is best suited to leading the party, many will be focused on the policies of the two candidates as well as their appeal-potential, particularly within those heartlands who voted brexit just last month.

Let’s take a look at the two candidates and what they have to offer:

Owen Smith

  • Proposal for a British New Deal, which would be a £200bn investment plan to renew our country. Investing in tackling our housing crisis, modernising our transport networks, as well as investing in people through areas like Sure Start and social care.
  • Commitment to an ethical foreign policy with a War Powers Act. This would allow Parliament to properly scrutinise the Government of the day.
  • Smith was elected as an MP in 2010 and most recently served as Shadow Work and Pensions secretary

Jeremy Corbyn

  • Elected as Labour leader last summer with the largest mandate of any Labour leader with over 60% share of the vote.
  • Turned back the Tories cruel tax credit cuts that would have meant millions of families this year being over £1,000 worse off. And turned back £4 billion of cuts to disabled people – at a time when the government billions in cuts to big business and the super-rich.
  • Jeremy’s vision is built around an economy that delivers for everyone, in every part of the country. That takes a Labour government making decisions in that leaves no one behind, and no community behind.

For more information on the Labour leadership and the two candidates, visit the Labour website.

So what’d you think? Should the Labour Party continue its leadership under Corbyn or does the party need (another) new direction?

 

Useful Sources:

Trident Renewal – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13442735

CNDUK, No To Trident – http://www.cnduk.org/campaigns/no-to-trident

MPs support Trident renewal –  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36830923

 

May-Day! May-Day!

Andrea Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative Leadership race this week, leaving Theresa May as sole contender and the new owner of the keys to No. 10 Downing Street.

It may or may not have come as a shock to some of you, but Leadsom did come under a lot of pressure for her remarks on her suitably as PM last week. But, there are now some disputes (as there always is in politics) over the way in which May has become PM, questioning democracy in Britain. Bear in mind even Conservative members have not had a say in May’s sudden leadership, never mind the electorate. This causes some to question whether we should have an emergency general election to legitimise May’s premiership?

Let’s take a look at Theresa May’s policy record:

 

At least Cameron seems happy.

On Tuesday, Cameron chaired his last Cabinet meeting, with May taking over the reigns after Wednesday’s PMQs.

Labour’s leadership battles continue – with Angela Eagle launching her leadership bid. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depends on your stance) was overshadowed by the Leadsom’s decision to stand down from the Conservative leadership race. Poor Eagle was left in an almost-empty room with journalists fleeing her leadership launch to attend to Leadsom’s front steps as she announced her resignation, thus making Theresa May the Prime Minister-in-waiting.

Oh dear oh dear. What an awkward sight. If things weren’t already awkward for the leadership hopeful, on Tuesday evening, it was announced that Jeremy Corbyn WILL in fact be on the ballot in the Labour leadership contest. Has the #chickencoup failed? Well with thousands of Corbynistas and Labour’s increasing membership (again, Corbynistas perhaps?) it is likely that Mr Corbyn may be elected with an even bigger mandate, a way to show the Blairites within the party that ‘New Labour’ is well and truly dead.

If divisions within the party weren’t prominent before, they sure are now. With Eagle’s constituency office vandalised and Owen Smith also launching his own leadership campaign, it is an understatement to say the party is going through one bumpy ride. The question is, what happens if Corbyn is elected with a much bigger mandate? One alternative scenario is ‘Momentum’ becomes a new party in itself, with Corbyn as its leader and thus rival to Labour centrists. But let’s not speculate eh.

Needless to say, May’s cabinet reshuffle did gain a lot of attention, with Boris Johnson being brought back into the limelight with his appointment as Foreign Secretary. Yes, BoJo is now the man who will represent the UK to the rest of the world. Hm. May’s other cabinet appointments include:

It is important to note the new role of ‘Brexit Secretary’ held by David Davis – the creation of a new department suggests May’s intention to act swiftly in Britain’s negotiations to exit the EU. Mr Davis, a firm brexiteer commented that Article 50 could be triggered as early as next year, allowing the UK “to negotiate free trade deals with the world’s biggest economies could allow the public to see some of the economic benefits of Brexit before the likely date for withdrawal from the EU around the end of 2018”.  If you were hoping for a second referendum, then you’re out of luck i’m afraid.

 What will May’s leadership bring over the next four years (that’s if she lasts that long the way British politics is going!)? Is this the beginning of the end for the Labour Party as its internal woes continue?

After yet another week of speedy politics, sit back, relax and reminisce over Cameron’s legacy as leader of the Conservative Party for 11 years and PM for 6 years. How will you remember him?

Conservatives and Labour in leadership turmoil

In the week where Nigel Farage handed in his resignation (again), Michael Gove was eliminated in the Conservative leadership election and Angela Eagle announced she would stand against Corbyn.

On Monday morning, Nigel Farage resigned, stating he wanted his life back, after the brexit campaign.

But is this truly the final goodbye? As some of you would remember, this is not the first time Farage has attempted to exit from the political stage:

Could his resignation have to do with the fact he would never be able to have an input in the brexit plan? Well there has been some outrage in that he was the man who had prompted the EU membership debate and after his campaigning, has left everyone else to pick up after the mess he created. Exactly the same way last week Boris Johnson had failed to stand as a candidate in the Conservative leadership election.

Talking of the Conservative leadership…

Tory Leadership Update:

On Tuesday evening:

  • Theresa May in the lead, followed by Andrea Leadsom. Liam Fox eliminated on the first round of voting on Tuesday evening.

During an interview looking at the results of the selection, Ken Clarke made a remark which certainly turned a few heads:

  • Rising star, Stephen Crabb who was one of the first ministers within the party to make his leadership pulled out of the contest after coming fourth in the first ballot. He has since stated his support for Theresa May.
  • In the second and final round later in the week, Michael Gove was eliminated, leaving May and Leadsom as the two candidates who go head to head to become Britain’s second female PM.

As their leadership campaigns begin, Andrea Leadsom’s remark on her being a mother and thus giving a better chance at winning caused controversy this week:Screenshot 2016-07-11 at 00.21.28.png

To be honest, a lot of the things Leadsom says causes controversy. You only have to take a look at their political history – Leadsom vs. May – to see the controversy their stance on policies has caused. If the Tories weren’t right wing before, they sure will be now, no matter which one of these women win the leadership contest.

It is likely that votes that would’ve gone to Boris if he had stood would now go to Leadsom – is she the underdog we should watch out for? Although Theresa May is a firm favourite, with the direction politics is going at the moment, we shouldn’t rule out anything, including Leadsom being PM.

Labour in crisis?

Whilst the Tories remain fixed on their leadership/brexit woes, with current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn standing his ground, the coup continues as Angela Eagle announced late in the week that she would stand against Corbyn in a leadership contest.

There is also some disputes over whether Corbyn would automatically be on the ballot if a leadership contest was called. The rules (or points of debate) can be found here.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that there will be some unhappy people within the party, calling into question whether there would be another breakaway party. Corbyn seems unfazed and actually, you cam admire the man: after all the stick he has been through especially these last few weeks, he remains defiant to continue the true fight which is that against Tory austerity.

With all that is happening in British politics today, it is important we don’t forget what is really happening, the lives who are affected by government policies and the video below of Jeremy at  a recent rally really nails the issue on the head. The pressure politicians face is nothing compared to those who barely live on the bread line. On a final note, watch the video below and you can make your own minds about the current political climate.

 

As ever, drop your comments below, like and share this post! Until next week comrades.

Life after Brexit…

Another week full of drama in the world of politics. After the electorate went to the polls on Thursday 23rd June, the results were shocking as the UK voted to leave the European Union. What followed the #brexit result was celebration on the leave side, heartbreak and turmoil for remainers and uncertainty as the UK market fluctuated mirroring a roller-coaster.

The results which came out on the early hours of last Friday morning shocked Britain, and undoubtedly the rest of the world as it was announced 52% of British public has voted to leave the European Union. Of course, many had rightly predicted the result would be close, however with the remain vote just standing at 48%, it wasn’t the result some had predicted or wished for.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and London were the only regions to overwhelmingly vote remain whilst the rest of the UK, including Wales and the rest of England voted to leave (quite strongly – see above for stats). There are many reasons as to why a majority of Brits have voted to leave the European Union, but the one topic that comes up time and time again is immigration. We’ll back to that in a bit, but it is also important to highlight other factors which altered the referendum result, including the generation gap and social cleavages – those belonging to the working class especially, may have voted to leave as a protest against the establishment. Take a look at the data below…

Source: YouGov – https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/06/27/how-britain-voted/

So what does the referendum result mean? Well since Britain has decided to leave the EU, steps will now be taken to terminate the UK’s membership of the Union. To do so, Article 50 – Lisbon Treaty, needs to be triggered which states:

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.

The question on everyone’s lips now is who will lead the discussions for our #brexit now David Cameron has resigned? His resignation last Friday sparked rumours and debacle over who would next replace him in October, but more on that later.

Now, back to the topic of immigration. During the referendum campaign, the ‘Leave’ campaign had talked a lot about the need to limit free movement, arguing the alleged £350 million paid into the EU could be better spent on public services such as the NHS and building new schools. However, just days after the referendum result, members of the leave camp have already regressed on this debate, the very same debate in which some voters based their decision on.

In life after #brexit, there was also some concern for Chancellor George Osborne who was not seen since the day of the referendum, but don’t worry, he finally emerged on Monday during his treasury speech. The brexit vote had plummeted the UK’s shares in the stock market, leaving many economists and business owners concerned – his treasury speech aimed to halt their concerns and give us all a sense of hope. Needless to say, he tried.

Remember the debacle within the Conservative Party? Well it’s about to get a whole lot complicated. Not just over our EU membership, oh no. There are now questions as to who will now replace David Cameron as leader of the Conservatives, and thus Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Favourite to win the leadership contest was Boris Johnson (supported by Zac Goldsmith no less!), but you’ll all be pleased (or not, depending on your take on things) to know that Michael Gove, who campaigned alongside BoJo has decided to run for the leadership after claiming Johnson hasn’t got what it takes. Ouch! Talk about backstabbing your mate!

Jeremy Hunt had also stated he would run for the leadership race but it seems he missed the deadline so we can all breathe a sigh of relief there. Also vying for the leadership contest is Theresa May, Liam Fox, Stephen Crabb and Andrea Leadsom. For more information on the candidates, click here.

According to Conservative Home, as of July 2nd, the running tally of Conservative MPs who are supporting the various declared candidates for the Party leadership is as follows:

  • May – 102
  • Gove – 21
  • Crabb – 21
  • Leadsom – 21
  • Fox – 8

Does this Home Secretary Theresa May is set to become Britain’s second female Prime Minister? It certainly looks promising but as the Conservative Party try to fix their own internal problems, it seems the opposition, the Labour Party haven’t had it easy either.

Following from the Brexit result, members of the Labour Party, including the Parliamentary Labour Party, have called into question the role and future of their leader, Jeremy Corbyn after many of the party’s heartlands, including Wales and the North East of England voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU, despite the party’s position to remain. As a result of the shocking outcome, former Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn had voiced his concern to Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn in which he was then sacked. What followed was a series of resignations from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet

These resignations were not helped by the vote of no confidence motion passed by Dame Margaret Hodge and the PLP in which 170 Labour MPs who voted they had no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership. Whilst many in and outside of the party have called for his resignation, especially with speculation over an upcoming general election as early as October once the Conservatives have elected their new leader, it has called into question Corbyn’s ability to hold onto power and re-inspire core voters in the very same heartlands that had voted to leave the EU. Corbyn has remained defiant that he will not be resigning as party leader – it is worth noting that Corbyn has the highest mandate than any other Labour Leader in the party’s history with just over 60% of party members. After the shadow cabinet fall-out, Corbyn appointed a new set of shadow cabinet ministers in the hope of allowing him to carry out his role as leader effectively. Well as much as he can given the bias by our *liberal, non-bias* media. With talks of another Labour Leadership contest and Corbyn promising to stand as a candidate against possible front runner, Angela Eagle, it won’t be easy for those wanting to get rid of the man who can’t be moved. There are some questions that do need to be answered, for instance:

  • What happens if Corbyn is re-elected with a larger mandate in another leadership contest?
  • Will the Labour Party split (again)?

Maybe George Galloway is onto something…

Back to the Conservatives. It is safe to say Cameron is now sitting duck as we await to find out who our next PM will be come October. Bit rich for him to call for Jeremy’s resignation then huh?

Since the referendum results were announced last Friday, it has been a hectic week for British politics; uncertainty as to when or if Article 50 will ever be triggered, will a general election be called in the Autumn? Will the Labour Party survive? Although EU members want the UK to trigger Article 50 pretty soon, it will take a long time yet; there are also questions on whether discussions around Britain’s departure from the EU would be cross-party – could you envisage Corbyn working alongside a Tory? Just look what happened in Scotland over #IndyRef…

With all this uncertainty and tension within the two main political parties, it seems Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) is the only British political leader to have a plan following Brexit. The leave campers did not expect to win and have thus left the country in a mess.

 

Nevertheless, it’s an understatement to say that the #brexit vote has caused divisions within the UK, not just within our political parties but amongst the people themselves, with many regretting their decision…

…and others even signing a petition calling for a second referendum! Oh, and lest we forget the effect the result had on the stock market.

The rapid changes to the political sphere have caused many, including Labour MP, David Lammy to consider Parliamentary intervention to overturn the referendum result. Constitutionally (or unconstitutionally rather, considering our’s is unwritten), Parliament remains sovereign and the PM has prerogative powers – what this means is that the PM has the power to implement policy, or in this case, a referendum result. A referendum is essentially a means of asking the electorate about their opinion in order to make a final political decision; as such, the narrowly close 52% of voters who chose to leave doesn’t have to upheld. But of course, this would cause an uproar if it wasn’t. Maybe democracy shouldn’t be about sitting down and doing as you’re told. That’s tyranny, no matter who and how many people are expressing it.

Whilst it is unfortunate to see Nigel Farage being all smug in his first speech in the European Parliament after the referendum…

It’s good to see politicians like Alyn Smith who do not stoop to the (albeit low) standards upheld by Farage.

The next chapter ahead is not only uncertain, but bleak; when even our own elected politicians are unable to stay united, what hope does the rest of society have? It is disappointing to see a rise in the number of xenophobic incidents since #brexit – is this the legacy of the ‘Leave’ campaign? Let’s hope not. Whilst the result may not have been what you may have hoped for, we must remain comradely. Let’s not hurl racist, fascist abuse at our fellow citizens, no one is above anyone, no matter someones race, religion or immigration status. The arguments put forward by the Leave camp should have been more about immigration and maybe the Remain camp should have addressed the topic of immigration even moreso. Nevertheless, what’s done is done and it is now about moving forward, ensuring that negotiations are fit for purpose and benefit not only us but future generations.

And with that, i’ll leave with a quick summary of events this last week. As ever, drop a comment, or tweet a topic you’d like covered in the next blog post.

Useful Links:

The EU Referendum: All you need to know – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/labour-heartlands-give-huge-backing-8271074

Labour Heartlands support Brexit – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/labour-heartlands-give-huge-backing-8271074

Corbyn’s Cabinet: Who’s in & who’s out – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/sacking-backing-cracking-jeremy-corbyns-8286407

Consequences of Brexit – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2S_5jIovXk

 

 

 

To leave or not to leave, that is the question

Hello readers and fellow bloggers! It’s been a while (six months to be exact) since i last posted – apologies for the absence. I know a lot of you have been wondering where i’ve been but as i’m sure you’ll understand, i’ve been very busy with uni life and personal responsibilities. But with all that aside, Britain has also been busy in the world of politics, and yes, i am talking about the upcoming EU referendum. Now a lot of people have asked for my input on the matter or to explain to them what the referendum is actually about. This blog post will (hopefully) answer all your questions about the referendum, and as ever if there is something i have not addressed, feel free to comment.

So, what is this whole referendum about you ask? Well, arguably, it boils down to debates around immigration and the anti-immigration stance proposed by the ever growing popular UKIP party. The argument is that Britain should stay true to its power and sovereignty and should (in the words of the Vote Leave campaign) take back control not only of its borders but also of its economic management.

voteleave

The official ‘Vote Leave’ campaign logo

During the 2015 General Election, David Cameron had promised to offer the electorate a referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union if he won the election. But why now? Last time the electorate had a say on our membership in the EU was in 1975 under the premiership of Labour leader Harold Wilson. Of course since then, a lot has changed and many on the Leave side, including Nigel Farage have argued the EU has gained too much power in controlling people’s lives. Hence Cameron calling for a referendum as a means for the British public to make a decision and settle the ‘European question’ – should we stay or should we go.

As you can imagine, there are several debates on both sides as to why we should remain and why we should leave, but first of all, let’s establish what exactly is the European Union and why this debate is so important…

The European Union (EU) was established after the second World War in order to create an economic and political union to prevent further international conflict. At the time of its creation, it was believed that countries which trade together are more likely to avoid going to war with each other. It has since grown to become a “single market” allowing goods and people to move around, as if the member states were one country. It has its own currency, the euro, which is used by 19 of the member countries (Britain uses the pound), its own parliament (we elect MEPs who sit in the European Parliament) and it now sets rules in a wide range of areas – including on the environment, transport, consumer rights and even things like mobile phone charges. The video below explains a bit more about the workings of the EU:

Why are we being asked to remain or leave the European Union? Well, it is partly democratic – as mentioned before, Britain has not had a say on our membership of the EU since 1975. It is thus very important, particularly for the young generation to participate in the debate and ultimately vote. The referendum question being asked this Thursday, 23rd June is as follows: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”.

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Make sure you have your say this Thursday, 23rd June!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last few months, it’s been very difficult to establish the key arguments – with too much focus on immigration and not enough on the actual democratic make up of the European Union, it’s been hard to distinguish the advantages and disadvantages which would occur if Britain were to leave. Here are a few pointers to help you make an informed decision on referendum day:

The argument to remain

  • The official campaign –  ‘Britain Stronger in Europe‘. There are other campaign groups supporting remain, including ‘Labour In‘ and ‘Another Europe is Possible
  • Led and supported by senior politicians across the political spectrum, including Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon.
  • US president Barack Obama also wants Britain to remain in the EU, as do other EU nations such as France and Germany.
  • Those campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU we get a big boost from membership, making it easier to import and export goods to other EU countries.
  • The flow of immigrants, most of whom are young and keen to work, fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services.
  • Britain’s status in the world would be damaged by leaving and that we are more secure as part of the 28 nation club, rather than going it alone.

The argument to leave

  • The official campaign – ‘Vote Leave‘. Of course, there are other campaign groups supporting leave, including ‘Leave.EU‘ and ‘Grassroots Out (GO!)‘.
  • Led and supported by some senior politicians across the political spectrum including Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith.
  • Those campaigning for Britain to leave the EU argue we are being held back by the EU, which they say imposes too many rules on business and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return.
  • They want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of migrants coming here to live and/or work. One of the main principles of EU membership is “free movement”, which means you don’t need to get a visa to go and live in another EU country. The argument made by leave campaigners is that the influx of migrants puts a strain on our public services, notably the NHS.
  • Leave campaigners object to the idea of an ‘ever closer union’, arguing if we remain in the EU, it would lead to a United States of Europe.

As the EU debate has mainly centred around the issue of immigration, it has led some to argue whether this is referendum is really about conflicts arising out of the right-wing political parties such as the Conservatives and UKIP rather than what would be in the best interest of the British people and the future generation. The EU debate not only affects the ‘everyday’ electorate, but also those who own big and small businesses. Here’s what some entrepreneurs have said…

[there are] “no credible alternatives” to staying in the EU” – BT chairman Sir Mike Rake

“an EU exit would allow the UK to negotiate trade deals as our country “rather than being one of 28 nations” – Lord Bamford, chairman of JCB

Although it is uncertain what Britain would look like if it left the EU, it is important to note the negotiations Cameron made way back at the start of the year. This was done to silence the growing number of MPs from his party who he feared would defect from his party to UKIP (as was the case with Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell). But, the reforms made were also proof that Cameron was serious about addressing the immigration rhetoric which had been floating in the air for so long. The deal made will take effect from when (or should i say if) Britain votes to remain in the EU, but in summary they are:

  • Child Benefit – Migrant workers will still be able to send child benefit payments back to their home country but the payments will be set at a level reflecting the cost of living in their home country rather than the full UK rate.
  • Migrant welfare payments  – New arrivals will not be able to claim tax credits and other welfare payments straight away but will gradually gain the right to more benefits the longer they stay, at a rate yet to be decided.
  • Pound v. Euro – Cameron has said Britain will never join the euro. He secured assurances that the eurozone countries will not discriminate against Britain for having a different currency. Any British money spent on bailing out eurozone nations that get into trouble will also be reimbursed.
  • Sovereignty – For the first time, there will be a clear commitment that Britain is not part of a move towards “ever closer union” with other EU member states – one of the core principles of the EU. This will be incorporated in an EU treaty change. Mr Cameron also secured a “red card” system for national parliaments making it easier for governments to band together to block unwanted legislation. If 55% of national EU parliaments object to a piece of EU legislation it will be rethought.
  • Economic Security – Safeguards for Britain’s large financial services industry to prevent eurozone regulations being imposed on it.

 

Ultimately the decision as to whether Britain should remain or leave the EU comes down to YOU, the electorate. What do you think would be better for Britain? Should we remain in our role as key influential players, or leave, uncertain of Britain’s future outside a union we’ve been a member of since 1975? It’s a tough choice but it is one that has to be made.

The last few days has been tough, with the passing of Jo Cox MP and the recent divisive, racist propaganda published by UKIP. Let’s try to educate ourselves rather than scaremongering people into voting a specific way. Britain’s public services are not put under strain by 15% of migrants who seek residence here for a better life, it’s the 1% who fail to pay their fair share of taxes but think it’s right to scrounge off the system because they hold a red passport. It’s our elected politicians who fail to invest in the services that truly matter and instead invest in unnecessary wars. It is a shame that this referendum has not covered the democratic functions and practices of the EU as a body but hopefully this blog post has done its part by showcasing what the EU is and the different debates that have emerged.

On a final note, in the words of the late Jo Cox MP:

                “We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us”

RIP. X

Useful Links:

For a more detailed overview of how the EU works – http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zgjwtyc

To leave or not to leave? – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32793642

EU FAQs – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887

Scotland Votes No

For the last two years, both the Yes and No campaigns have tirelessly tried to persuade the people of Scotland to either back independence or the union. From numerous debates and watching polls with tension, in the last few weeks before the announcement of the results, it looked like Salmond was to achieve his lifetime goal of independence. However, it was all too good to be true as the referendum result was a No majority, with only 3 cities in Scotland, including Dundee and Glasgow, backing the Yes campaign. Could the last minute intervention from Gordon Brown have helped? Possibly.

End of an era: Alex Salmond looking defeated as the election results were announced on Friday morning

But at least the Queen is happy. I mention HRH because last week  (or should i say for quite a while), there was a debate as to whether she should state her views on the Scottish independence issue or not. Of course many thought she shouldn’t as she is not elected by the demos (that’s us) and thus can not influence such a political matter. However she did make a slight comment in which it was interpreted as her backing the No campaign as she hoped voters would “think very carefully about the future”. Of course she would make some intervention. Protecting her role as Queen and the 300 year old History between the two countries, how much more traditional can you get!?

So what happens now? Well firstly Alex Salmond has announced he is to resign as First Minister 😦

My first thought was why resign? I mean yes, his campaign didn’t succeed but is that the message of a leader – when we fall at the first hurdle we should give up? His resignation also shocked me because as a man who has always stood up to the ‘demons’ of Westminster, by resigning is he not just giving central government the satisfaction, Cameron included? It may have been inevitable that a No vote would have resulted in Salmond not returning to Westminster, especially after all the backlash which occurred during the tv debates, but isn’t that what politics is all about? Like i said, i was very shocked and to some extent disappointed in that Scotland’s First Minister has decided to reign in the ropes but with Nicola Sturgeon, his second in command, being his most likely replacement, i’m sure she will be a great person for the job.

Now back to Scotland as a nation. Well, since they ditched the idea of independence, the No campaign did promise more devolved powers and it seems that’s what they’ll get – devo max. What this means is that Scotland can control its own affairs in terms of policing, and taxes, including its economy. But what is devo max exactly? It is being posed as the biggest constitutional change since Ireland got home rule as Cameron promised an extension of powers to Scotland over taxes, spending and welfare policy. However, this also opened up the ‘West Lothian’ question – that is whether English MPs should only vote and make decisions on matters on, you guessed it, issues primarily concerning England. There has also been an expanision of this idea if you like to cities such as London. That is whether City Hall, the body which represents the capital, should be given more powers to better represent the ever-growing population in the capital city. Although in theory it may sound like a good idea, there comes a point where one may debate the need for Westminster politicians. Could this be the way forward for British politics? Despite huge focus being on Scotland in the last few years, there is no doubt that the referendum result has got people thinking about the way we demonstrate our democratic abilities, both us normal folk as well as politicians alike.

Unsurprisingly, Salmond disagrees, believing No voters had been ‘tricked’ by the Better Together campaign.

Whether it’s the sound of a desperate man or an attempt to tell the No voters ‘I told you so’, it may seem the SNP leader has a point. This is because at present, all three main political parties still disagree over the process in which devo max will be laid to Scotland, but do agree that it will happen. So not another empty promise it may seem? Let’s hope so anyway, for the Scots sake.

If anything, the referendum has showed Britain that political participation is still present today, despite austerity and lack of representation. With the stakes high for politicians as the general elections looms, i’m sure we will be hearing much more about devolved powers being transferred not just to Scotland but major cities as well such as London.

British politics and our constitution could change, possibly for the better but will it be sustainable? Is the union as safe as we may think despite the No vote? Just a penny for your thoughts.

For more information on devo max, click here and for latest developments on Scotland post referendum, click here