A year ago I was in tears

brexitI had been up all night at my local Referendum Count watching the votes pile up for committing national suicide. However, I didn’t think the rest of the country would follow suit.

After I got home, watching TV as the other results come in from around the country, I was shell shocked and heartbroken at what the lies and deceits from the Leave campaign had done, compounded by the Tory Party Leadership who had chosen to endanger the country’s future to fight an internal party power struggle and by a Labour Party that sat on its hands too scared to frighten voters away.

As the next few days unfolded, it became clear that many of the politicians who had supported Leave had not got a clue what pulling out of the EU really meant, that they were as shocked and bewildered as the rest of us, that they were trying desperately to row back on the lies and false claims they had made. All the while the Pound plummeted against the Euro & Dollar and it became clear that, far from the Project Fear, the Remain campaign had, if anything, understated the effects of what a Leave vote would mean.

Today, a year on, we are still no nearer understanding what form Brexit will take. Our Government is limping along, fatally wounded by calling an unnecessary General Election and carelessly losing its majority.  The Official Opposition now cares more about ousting the Government that saving the country. Both are still wedded to ideas of Brexit that have now been shown to be impossible and the nation limps onwards to a cliff edge Brexit on March 29th 2019, out of the EU, out of the Single Market, out of the Customs Union but with nothing ready to take their place.  In short, a complete disaster awaits us.  To cap it all, we have seen Government ministers saying it is “unpatriotic” to question what is going on

Already we can see investment into the UK is down, the Pound is still down, EU citizens coming to work in hospitals & fields is down, and only inflation is up.  Companies big and small are looking to move as much of their operations as possible into Europe to be sure of staying in the EU’s Single Market.  Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer is admitting that a Hard Brexit, of the type his Government is perusing, will make life harder for many in the UK as the economy suffer is at least the short to medium term.

So, one year on what can we do?  I honestly don’t know the answer except to keep on telling the truth about Brexit.  What I do know is that I, and many others who think (over 48% last year) that we are better off in the EU, will not stop keeping on about it.

Those who lead the Leave campaign, those who pretended to want us out of the EU, would like nothing more than for people like me to shut up, accept the Referendum result and ignore the mess it has landed us in.

Well I am not shutting up.  What is more with every price rise in the shops, with the growing staffing crisis in the NHS & in Social Care, with the absence of people to harvest the crops in the fields, more and more people are now seeing Brexit for what it is.

Together we can stop this madness.  Already we are seeing cracks appear in the big political parties as they realise that their position on a hard Brexit is unsustainable, already we can see those who still want us out of the EU making ever more implausible statements or simply attacking those that tell the truth.

If we keep up the pressure now then the truth will slowly dawn that Brexit will not only be economic suicide for the country but also political suicide for the politicians & parties that force it on us.

Save the NHS, reject Brexit

nhsTheresa May is leading us towards a Brexit that will mean we are exchanging the shared sovereignty of the EU, where we are equal partners in shaping the future of our continent, for being a protectorate of the USA, so dependant that we are will to destroy our institutions like the NHS for a few crumbs from the great table.

Outside the Single Market (a British initiative under Thatcher) & the Customs Union, we will be at the mercy of a rampant nationalist America under a President (at least until 2021) who is open about only signing Trade Deals that are skewered in the USA’s direction.

Already May has indicated her willingness to allow US Companies to take over parts of the NHS, what else will she allow in her desperate attempt to get a fig leaf of a Trade Deal?

Meat from animals grown using growth hormones, Chicken washed in chlorine, GM crops are all currently banned for the UK under EU rules but are common in the US.  It is likely that any Trade Deal with the US will mean having to accept them into the UK.

Given that our Trade Balance with the USA is currently in our favour, I can’t see Trump wanting to let to many more UK goods or services in to the USA without the USA getting even better access to UK markets, which will mean weakening our regulations that currently exclude many American products,

When I, along with many others, warn that this was the likely outcome of Brexit, it was labelled “Project Fear” by the Leave campaign and we were told it would never happen.  Now it is becoming all too real if Brexit becomes a reality and yes, it is frightening.

What can we do now?  The Government’s mean little Bill to give May the authority to invoke Article 50 without any further need for Parliamentary scrutiny is up for debate next week.  Jeremy Corbyn has waved the White Flag and said he will demand all Labour MPs vote for it  but all is not yet lost.

You can write to your MP to ask him to vote against this Bill unless there are safeguards added to give at least Parliament (better still the British People) a chance to give its assent to any agreement with the EU on Brexit.  There is an excellent app to help you do this.

Regardless of how their Constituency vote and regardless of how they are told to vote by their party, Members [of Parliament] have a general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole; and a special duty to their constituents.  Brexit is rightly being dubbed Wrexit as it will be an economic and probably a social disaster for the UK so MPs must vote against it regardless of a “black and white vote on a rainbow of issues” last June.

May is leading us to economic suicide

10-theresa-may-gettyToday, Theresa May will announce that she has decided that the UK will commit economic suicide by not only leaving the EU (which is bad enough n it’s own right) but also say she will drag us out of the European Single Market and it’s Customs Union.

This will mean that all import of goods from the EU & our exports to it will not only be subject to tariffs & quotas but have to undergo customs inspections at EU borders (including when being transported in or out of the Irish Republic).

The consequences of this are that costs to industries that import raw materials from the EU will rise, our exports to the EU will become more expensive and therefore less competitive and the prices in shops on any goods brought in from the EU will go up.

Inevitably, this will lead to inflation in the UK at the same time as wages will be squeezed as companies try to mitigate cost rises elsewhere.

It also means that companies like Toyota, BAe, Bomdardier and many others who have multiple facilities across the EU will not be able to move parts in or out of the UK as easily as they can now with a knock-on effect on jobs here.

Sterling has already taken yet another dive in the Currency Markets because of leaks from May speech, adding to inflationary pressures here in the UK

What May is proposing is economic madness and only those who are ideologically blinkered over the EU will welcome it.  For most of us it will signal her intention to inflict a long, hard period of economic hardship on the British people.  We must stop her.

Where are we now with Brexit?

brexitIt is now 6 months since that fateful day in June when the unimaginable happened & this country vote, by a small majority[i], to leave the UK, something even many in the Brexit camp did not think would happen[ii].

Here are some of what has become clear since then:

  • These who lead the Leave Campaign had (and still have) no real idea of how a post-Brexit UK will be able to function as a Trading Nation outside the EU, forced to use the WTO standard Tariffs regime.
  • We can’t start to negotiate any Trade Deal with the EU (or anyone else) until after we have left the EU[iii]
  • Just voting to start the process of leaving the EU has had a devastating effect on some businesses and on many University Research groups who rely on ERC grants[iv].
  • Many who voted Leave in June did so to give Cameroon & his Tory Government a bloody nose not expecting the Leave campaign to win[v]
  • Tariff-free access to the Single Market & the EU Customs Union (vital for many UK industries) will not happen without accepting the Freedom of Movement of Labour
  • The EU-27 do not need us more than we need them.
  • Theresa May, David Davies, Liam Fox & Boris Johnson (the people in charge of negotiating the agreement with the EU over the UK leaving the organisation) are completely clueless in what need to be agreed, how to come up with a sensible (realistic) negotiating position and why keeping on good terms with those we need to negotiate with is vital in achieving anything like a good outcome.
  • Many of our brightest & most dynamic young people are looking to make their life elsewhere as they do not see a future for them or their children in an impoverished (economically & culturally) post-Brexit Britain.

So where do we go from here?  Do we plough on with the process of invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty regardless?  Do we simply ignore the reality of the situation and the effect on the UK economy that leaving the EU?  Or do we take the brave decision that, notwithstanding the Referendum result, we need stop this head long rush towards what will be economic suicide?

The New Year is always a good time to take stock of where we are and how to go forward, a time to look back at where we have been successful and where we have made mistakes during the last 12 months.

So now is a good time for our politicians to say that there is no realistic chance of a good deal on Brexit that will satisfy the needs of the British ecomomy and that we have to accept the Referendum was result was gained by a Leave campaign that was based on a false manifesto, one that simply cannot be made into reality.

So now we must either have a second Referendum or a General Election to reverse the June result, otherwise the future of this country does not look bright.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_European_Union_membership_referendum,_2016#Result

[ii] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/nigel-farage-blames-britains-youth-8270754

[iii] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/brexit-britain-fined-negotiate-trade-agreements-deals-before-leaving-european-union-commission-a7314816.html

[iv] https://fpoglobal.com/control/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Post-referendum-crisis-for-UK-researchers.pdf?ftcamp=crm/email//nbe/Brexit/product

[v] http://metro.co.uk/2016/10/16/number-of-people-who-regret-voting-leave-is-greater-than-brexit-victory-margin-6195403/

 

Letter from Bassetlaw – July 17th 2016

2016-07-17 17.25.38For once, we have had good weather for our Bassetlaw & Sherwood Liberal Democrats Summer Barbecue.  In the past few years we have had to cancel as the weather turned against us but today we had glorious sunshine as met up for a few hours of chat over burgers, sausages & some drinks.

Being in the Lib Dems is not all about elections (both for public office & internal positions) and earnest policy discussion.  While we never lose sight of the serious purpose behind what we do, making the lives of those around us better, we also know that if we are not having fun being Lib Dems, then we won’t have members and volunteers willing to give up their time and energy to help us achieve our aims.

One of the features of our current spectacular growth in members has been the number of “Lib Dem Pint” (or variations on the theme) events that have been held across the country both to welcome new members and to re-enthuse existing members.  Our barbeque today was along similar lines as will our own Lib Dem Pint next Saturday afternoon (23rd July) at The Admiral Rodney in Calverton, come and join us for a drink and a chat.

In this summer of political surprises one amazing fact is that in Tim Farron, the Lib Dems now have the longest serving Leader of any national political party.  Not only do we have the doyen of party leaders, but we also have a united party, with a definite idea of what we want to achieve (keep the UK in the EU) and lots of new members engaging with us to help do justthat.

Who would have thought that after leading his party to a surprise win at last year’s General Election, David Cameron would be gone within 15 months?  Last year I published a post here on what happens after unexpected election wins (The unintended consequence of election surprises) and nothing that has happened since May 2015 has made me change my mind.

I wish Theresa May well in her new job, trying to find a way through the impasse the Brexit Referendum has left us in will be difficult.  Will she invoke Article 50 to start the 2-year countdown to leaving the EU, which will almost certainly cause a deep recession in the UK or will she find a way to renege on the Referendum decision? Either way is fraught with problems and dangers.  Perhaps the best way is to call a new General Election and get fresh mandate from the public when she has a better idea of what terms we may get if we leave the EU.

Meanwhile, Labour seem intent on pulling itself apart, with its members intent on keeping a leader who not only cannot command the respect of his party’s MPs but is just about unelectable as a potential Prime Minister.  The divide in Labour is getting deeper as each day passes and looks like it will end in a split with both sides fighting to be the ones who can keep the name & organisation of the party.  Meanwhile, they ate leaving the country with a disorganised official opposition that is not holding the government to account.

Finally, a few words about the massacre of innocents in Nice on Bastille Day.  Yet again we have witnessed an attack on people innocently enjoying themselves.  I don’t know what was in the mind of the person who drove the truck, just as I can’t know what compelled the former soldier who shot 5 policemen in Dallas a couple of week ago do what he did, or the “quiet, retiring” gardener who murdered Jo Cox in Birstall last month.  All I do know is that such violence solves nothing and only causes more hurt.

When I hear of such events (and they are occurring far too often in recent months all around the world) I often turn to a song by Nick Lowe sung by David Broza on his album East Jerusalem / West Jerusalem, called (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.  The video explains much of why this version of the song means so much to me with my connections to Israel and to the village that David Broza’s grandfather, Wellesley Aron, helped found in the Judean Hills near to the Kibbutz I lived on 30 years ago, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salem.  The song’s title says it all, what is so funny about peace love & understanding?

 

Letter from Bassetlaw – July 3rd, 2016

EaMiLD Conf 15-A 1So a week has passed since the Referendum and, to be absolutely honest, we are no nearer working out if we should trigger Article 50 of the European Treaty or not, whether once they have been selected, the new Tory PM should call a General Election to secure their mandate or not, whether the Labour Party’s MPs is going to depose Corbyn or not or, in the event of a Brexit, the Scottish Government will trigger a second Referendum of their own to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom and into the EU.  Even UKIP seem to be on the cusp of expelling its only MP because he has had the temerity to disagree with Farage.

There seem to be two certainties in British Politics at the moment, firstly that we are in for a few months of uncertainty as to what will happen over the possibility of Brexit and secondly that there is only one national party that has a leader the party is united behind, only one party that is clear on what should happen next and only one party with the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said.

The Liberal Democrats under Tim Farron have shown the principled leadership needed at a time of crisis.  While respecting the result of the Referendum and those that voted to leave the EU, we also recognise that the Leave campaign sold the British public a false prospectus, full of misinformation, and downright lies, which is now unravelling.  It would be a dereliction of our duty to the British public is we did not carry on pointing out the perils of Brexit and demanding a General Election before triggering Article 50.

 

One effect of the vote to leave the EU which is disturbing is the rise in anti-immigrant abuse both vocal & physical.  The attack on the Polish Community Centre in West London is especially disturbing to me as it is in the area I grew up in.  The Polish community there dates back to the Second World War when many Polish airmen contributed to the war effort (there is a famous memorial to their contribution next to RAF Northolt) and were not able to return home after the war.

I am sure most people will join me in condemn this hatred towards people who have come to live and contribute to society here.  This makes the headline story in the Worksop Guardian this week “IMMIGRATION: LET’S MANN UP” (sorry not up on their website yet) all the more disturbing.  I have written a letter in response which I hope will be published in next week’s edition but, given the Worksop Guardian’s record on publishing letters from me, I am not hopeful.

I am reminded of the lines Martin Niemöller, a German pastor wrote just after World War Two

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

If we substitute in immigrants, for one of these categories, then the danger in the current wave of anti-immigrant hatred, and especially when some in the establishment continue to (falsely) blame immigration for problems in our county, become apparent.  We all must stand up and raise our voice against it.

 

Finally, a few words on the current problems in the Labour Party.

I am fed up with the cowards who make up most of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

If they want rid of Corbyn, do the deed and trigger a leadership election or simply shut up and let him get on with his job.

To me, as an outsider, it seems that they want Corbyn to go but don’t want to be seen to push him out. Instead, all they are doing by dragging the attempted coup out interminably is making the Labour Party a laughing stock and showing that it is unfit to be an opposition let alone a government.

We need a strong voice in Parliament and out of it to oppose the Tory party, especially at a time when they look to be ready to elect a new leader who will take the party even further to the right.  If Labour are not up to the job (and the evidence is that they are not) then it fall to the Lib Dems to to do it.

 

 

Letter from Bassetlaw – June 12th 2016

Leon Duveen 140920aMost weeks, I like to start these letters with a few words about what I have been doing or with another topical comment.  However, this week I want to go straight into the theme of the this letter, the risk of Brexit for ordinary people here in Bassetlaw

2½ years ago, during the last European Parliament Election campaign, I wrote this post to explain why I am pro EU – Why i am pro-EU.  While the stats may be a little out of date, the sentiments I expressed then still hold true today.  If anything, the campaigning & research I have done in the last 9 months has made me even more committed to keeping the UK in the EU.

In my opinion, leaving the EU would be an unmitigated disaster for this country, a disaster that would take decades for the county to recover from, a disaster that will blight the future of our children & grandchildren, a disaster made all the worse because it is so avoidable.

Last night I wrote a long post on Facebook (We face a crisis in our public services, but it isn’t caused by immigrants) about how those wanting us to leave the EU are desperately trying to blame the EU & immigrants for all the problems of the NHS & other public services rather than face up to the real causes, which are entirely home grown.  Of all people it was Boris Johnson who, in 2013, correctly diagnosed the problem when he said “If we left the EU, we would end this sterile debate, and we would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by “Bwussels”, but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and underinvestment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure.”[i]  How right he was and how despicable has been his behaviour in the last few moths

If it didn’t have such potentially tragic consequences for everyone, the petty greed, the naked ambition & the disregard of any facts or opinions that show Brexit id not a good idea being displayed by those leading the Brexit campaign would be comic.

Can anyone really believe that Gove, Farage, Johnson and the rest of the Troy clique trying desperately to drag us out of the EU would give a penny of any money saved through Brexit to the NHS?   John Major had it right when he said “The NHS is about as safe with them as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python,”[ii]

Can anyone not be sickened by the sight of Labour politicians campaigning for Brexit in the knowledge that one of the first things a Tory Government lead by Johnson or Gove would do is to repeal all the EU Social Chapter legislation that protect workers & consumers in the UK, the so-called “Brussels Red-tape” they claim is holding back UK Industry?

Can anyone seriously believe that Brexit will “restore control!” to the British Public?  It was Rupert Murdoch when asked by he opposed the EU said “That’s easy, when I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”[iii]  I am sure the other media owners, the Barclay Brothers (owners of the Telegraph), Richard Desmond (owner of the Express) and Viscount Rothermere (Owner of the Mail), have similar sentiments as to why the oppose the EU even if they don’t express them quite as flagrantly as Murdoch.

No, Brexit is being sold to the public on a misleading manifesto, an attempt to con the British public into surrendering our future so a few (like the hedge fund managers who are backing Brexit) can make massive profits out of it[iv] or so some can keep their control of or politicians.

Some people call the Remain campaign “Project Fear” because we have tried to tell people the truth about what Brexit would mean.  Well I will say openly that I am not just afraid of Brexit, I am petrified of it and what will happen if it becomes a reality.  For me there is only one way to vote on June 23rd.  For all its faults (and there are many), for all its perceived remoteness (although it isn’t as remote as many thing nowadays, you can follow much though the Internet), being in the EU is the only way we can protect our future, protect our children’s future, protect or public service, protect our hard won employment right, protect Britain from a bunch of Tory politician & media owners who want it as their toy, we have to vote Remain!

[i] http://wwwer.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10052646/Quitting-the-EU-wont-solve-our-problems-says-Boris-Johnson.html

[ii] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/05/john-major-nhs-risk-brexit-pythons-johnson-and-gove

[iii] http://indy100.independent.co.uk/article/this-terrifying-rupert-murdoch-quote-is-possibly-the-best-reason-to-stay-in-the-eu-yet–WyMaFTE890x

[iv] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/nov/06/why-are-hedge-funds-supporting-brexit