Tag Archives: Europe

There is a path to a second referendum – and only Labour can win it

It would be great if this Brexit nonsense could be stopped, but I am not very hopeful. A lot of people seem to think that we will suddenly be in some sort of “little England”  eutopia.  I will be the first to congratulate them if it works out that way but I don’t think it will.

Why are we cutting ourselves off from the rest of Europe and its moderating effect?

Powered by Guardian.co.uk

This article titled “There is a path to a second referendum – and only Labour can win it” was written by Tom Kibasi, for The Guardian on Monday 31st December 2018 15.47 UTC

If it was the season of peace and goodwill towards all, then politics failed to get the memo. Not only did hostilities continue through the Christmas period, some of the main protagonists announced in advance that they were incapable of taking a break. If anything, the holidays provided more opportunities for irate, booze-fuelled Twitter rants. One particular object of ire was Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-Christmas interview in the Guardian, where he appeared to dash the hopes of many on the left that Labour would immediately become the party of remain.

As the political class sobers up in January and returns to Westminster, it will become apparent that little has changed. The size of the majority against the prime minister’s deal will have diminished but – as No 10 briefed in the run-up to the internal confidence vote in her leadership – it only takes a majority of one. Bizarrely, Downing Street has chosen to amplify the threat of no deal by announcing more money and even the deployment of troops. But this strategy seems set to backfire: it will only give comfort to the European Research Group hardliners that there can be a soft landing to jumping off the cliff edge.

It makes sense that Labour should seek a general election because its critique of the government goes well beyond the handling of the Brexit negotiations. From an electoral perspective, there are more marginal constituencies that backed remain than marginals that supported leave. It is an open secret in Westminster that a new centrist party is readying to launch and, together with the Liberal Democrats, could form a repository for enough remain protest votes to deny Labour a majority if it were to go into a general election promising to deliver Brexit. It has never been apparent why Labour should fear losing leave voters to the Tories more than losing remain voters to other parties.

While it is true that many Labour constituencies voted to leave, for many of these voters Brexit is a far less important issue than stagnant wages, large class sizes and lengthening NHS waiting times. Moreover, many of these areas are strongly tribally Labour, and what has changed since 2016 is that Brexit is now “owned” by the Tory party. Crudely, many of these voters hate Tories more than they want Brexit. For all these reasons, it is inconceivable that Labour would go into a general election without a promise of a further referendum with a remain option.

Yet in all likelihood the government would win a confidence vote even if it had lost the vote on the deal. With May’s deal defeated, a general election ruled out, and no deal a calamity, there would be few options left. One option could be for a renegotiation of the political declaration (rather than the withdrawal agreement) but a closer economic partnership would probably see May lose as many Tory MPs as she might be able to persuade opposition MPs.

Even if the political declaration were to be tweaked, it would not be binding on May’s successor—making it politically dangerous for Labour to endorse.

So after the meaningful vote, Labour may be confronted with a choice between no deal and a second referendum. In all likelihood, pro-European MPs will put down an amendment to the finance bill requiring a referendum as a condition of the government collecting tax. Labour may have little option but to back a second referendum if it is to protect the country from no deal which it rightly believes would be a disaster. In this scenario, Labour will want to remind the public that they are being forced to the ballot box again as a result of May’s failure to negotiate a deal that parliament could support, not because of the choices made by the opposition.

That’s why there have been many credible reports of No 10 and Conservative central office ramping up preparations for a second referendum. Paradoxically, it may be that Downing Street is talking up no deal precisely in anticipation of a second referendum – so that it can claim that it was willing to go ahead with no deal but that Labour forced a second referendum. Whatever the manoeuvres, the public are likely to conclude that the government is responsible for the failure of the Brexit project.

With more than 80% of Labour members wanting to remain in the European Union, Labour would plainly back remain in a future referendum. While the remain and leave blocs have proved more resilient than many anticipated, there has been an important shift towards remain, and even more so when offered against the specifics of either May’s deal or no deal rather than the undefined leave option. Corbyn has been repeatedly criticised for his lack of enthusiasm for the EU; but this may prove to be a decisive advantage. It is mildly Eurosceptic voters who need to be persuaded, and Corbyn could speak authentically to this group about the balanced case for voting to stay in the EU.

Crucially, the most significant group of swing voters in a future referendum are working-class women – this group has been hit hard by austerity and Brexit is not their top issue. These are precisely the same voters that Labour needs to win a general election. If Labour’s second referendum message of “vote remain, let’s rebuild Britain instead” can convince them in 2019, it could build the momentum for a Labour victory in the next general election too. And it would smash the generational project of the right, leaving conservatism in disarray.

If there is a second referendum, only Labour can win it – and winning it might be Labour’s path to power. All of this will be determined in the coming weeks. It’s time to take a deep breath.

• Tom Kibasi is director of the Institute for Public Policy Research. He writes in a personal capacity

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Article 50 could be reversed, government may argue in Brexit case

Interesting. So we can leave then change our minds?
This should be fun then.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Article 50 could be reversed, government may argue in Brexit case” was written by Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent, for The Guardian on Saturday 12th November 2016 06.40 UTC

Government lawyers are exploring the possibility of arguing in the supreme court that the article 50 process could be reversed by parliament at any time before the UK completes its exit from the European Union.

Prominent academic experts have told the Guardian they know the government’s legal team has sounded out lawyers about the potential change of tack, which some argue would lead to a victory in the case brought by Gina Miller and other campaigners.

Prof Takis Tridimas, an expert in EU law at King’s College London, said: “I know that the issue of revocation is a live issue in terms of the supreme court hearing.” He had heard that the government had commissioned research on the subject, he said.

Earlier this month, the high court ruled that the government could only invoke article 50, which begins the EU exit process, through a parliamentary vote. The case was decided on the basis that, once article 50 was triggered it was irreversible and British citizens would inevitably lose rights granted through the 1972 European Communities Act.

Royal prerogative powers – the government’s executive authority – cannot be used to repeal rights granted by parliament, the three high court judges concluded in their ruling, which was sharply criticised by several tabloid newspapers, including the Daily Mail which described the judges as “Enemies of the People”.

If the government argued that MPs could vote to revoke article 50 during the exit negotiation period, some academics say, the outcome of the government’s appeal to the supreme court would be different, because it would imply that the sovereignty of parliament had not been removed.

Dr Eirik Bjorge, a senior law lecturer at Bristol University and an expert in EU law, said: “If the government decides to – and is allowed to – argue that the article 50 notice can be revoked, then it is all but sure to win in the supreme court. In those circumstances it cannot be said that, once the trigger has been pulled, the bullet will inexorably hit the target and expunge our rights under the European Communities Act 1972.”

   <figure class="element element-video element--supporting" data-canonical-url="https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2016/jun/29/what-is-article-50-brexit-video-explainer" data-short-url="https://gu.com/p/4mqd2" data-show-ads="true" data-video-id="2578097" data-video-name="What is article 50? – video explainer" data-video-provider="guardian.co.uk"> <video data-media-id="gu-video-577251eee4b030d83eb4b037" class="gu-video" controls="controls" poster="">  </video> <figcaption><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2016/jun/29/what-is-article-50-brexit-video-explainer">What is article 50?</a></figcaption> </figure>   <p>Tridimas is one of those who believes the article 50 process could be reversed before the UK’s exit from the EU had been completed. “My view is that it is reversible,” he said. “There’s nothing in the wording of article 50 which says that it cannot be withdrawn. The Vienna convention on the law of treaties says that they can be reversed unless they state otherwise. The point of no return is two years after notification has been given [to the EU].”</p> <p>Prof Paul Craig, an Oxford University expert on both EU and constitutional law, said the triggering of article 50 should be revocable by parliament. “It is a cardinal legal principle that a party is not bound by a contract or treaty until agreement has been reached,” he has argued in a blogpost. “The consequences of not being able to revoke would be particularly severe: withdrawal would have to proceed even if invocation of article 50 triggered an economic meltdown in the country.”</p> <p>However, Craig said, enabling parliament to give its approval at an early stage might have dangerous consequences for democracy later on: “There is a deeper paradox in this litigation.” <br></p> <p>He said the claimants, who he said would like Britain to remain in the EU, were “willing to risk everything for some parliamentary voice at the trigger stage”, but this could result in a decisive parliamentary vote to invoke article 50, which would be difficult to undo subsequently.</p> <p>“The government wishes to exit the EU. It conceded the article 50 point knowing that it might then lose the immediate battle, and would therefore have to seek parliamentary approval, but was confident enough that this would be forthcoming, and that thereafter the war was won, since the triggering, once done, was irrevocable.”</p> <p>The government has already submitted its initial grounds for appeal at the supreme court. The papers do not indicate any shift of emphasis so far in the way the case will be presented, although it is possible that could change before the hearing in December.</p> <p>A government spokesman said: “Our position is clear: the country voted to leave the EU and we will respect the will of the British people. The government told the high court that as a matter of firm policy, once given, the article 50 notice would not be withdrawn. Because legal proceedings are under way it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

France wants to outlaw discrimination against the poor – is that so ridiculous?

I like this idea, but i don’t think we will be seeing a UK version anytime soon.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “France wants to outlaw discrimination against the poor – is that so ridiculous?” was written by Frances Ryan, for theguardian.com on Monday 27th July 2015 17.03 UTC

In France it could soon be illegal to discriminate against people in poverty. Under proposed legislation – already approved by the senate and likely to be passed by the chamber of deputies – it would be an offence in France to “insult the poor” or to refuse them jobs, healthcare or housing.

Similar laws banning discrimination on the grounds of social and economic origin already exist in Belgium and Bolivia, but the French version is said to be the most far-reaching. Anyone found guilty of discrimination against those suffering from “vulnerability resulting from an apparent or known economic situation” would face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of €45,000 (£32,000).

It is easy to judge the proposed French law as showing the worst excesses of the state, or to bemoan the practicalities of how difficult it could be to implement. But most of us are content to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, or sex. Is it so ridiculous to add poverty to that list? And if it does feel ridiculous, why is that?

Whether it’s the discrimination of people in poverty or how government should respond to it, this is not a problem just for other countries. “People think that because we are poor, we must be stupid,” Oréane Chapelle, an unemployed 31-year-old from Nancy, eastern France, told Le Nouvel Observateur. Micheline Adobati, 58, her neighbour, who is a single mother with no job and five children, said: “I can’t stand social workers who tell me that they’re going to teach me how to have a weekly budget.” One study reported by The Times found that 9% of GPs, 32% of dentists and 33% of opticians in Paris refused to treat benefit claimants who lacked private medical insurance. Doctors say they are “reluctant to take on such patients for fear that they will not get paid”.

Does any of this sound familiar? These are attitudes – and even outright discrimination – that have been growing in Britain for some time. You can hear it in stories about local authorities monitoring how much people drink or smoke before awarding emergency housing payments. Or when politicians respond to a national food bank crisis by saying the poor are going hungry because they don’t know how to cook. It is there in the fact that it’s now all too common for landlords to refuse to rent flats to people on benefits. Britain is front and centre of its own discrimination of the poor – whether that’s low-income workers, benefit claimants, or the recurring myth that these are two separate species.

Economic inequality cannot survive without cultural prejudice. The media and political rhetoric surrounding the new round of cuts – from the benefit cap to child tax credits – shows this well enough. Benefit claimants “slouch” on handouts as hardworking taxpayers toil away to pay for them. Families on benefits should reproduce – or “breed” – as little as possible. Benefit sanctions – a system in such dire straits that Iain Duncan Smith’s own advisers have warned that it needs to be reviewed – are based on the very premise that the feckless poor need an incentive to get themselves out of poverty.

It is reflective of the success of the demonisation of people on low incomes or benefits that discrimination against these people could be seen as less damning than when it happens to other groups. Equally, to believe that “the poor” do not deserve protection from such prejudice buys into the myth favoured by our own government: poverty is a personal choice that the individual deserves to be punished for.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

The Guardian view: Britain needs a new direction, Britain needs Labour

Fingers crossed that we can move forward. 


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The Guardian view: Britain needs a new direction, Britain needs Labour” was written by Editorial, for The Guardian on Friday 1st May 2015 12.15 UTC

The campaign is nearly over and it is time to choose. We believe Britain needs a new direction. At home, the economic recovery is only fragile, while social cohesion is threatened by the unequal impact of the financial crisis and the continuing attempt to shrink the postwar state. Abroad, Britain remains traumatised by its wars, and, like our neighbours, is spooked by Vladimir Putin, the rise of jihadist terrorism and by mounting migratory pressures. In parts of Britain, nationalist and religious identities are threatening older solidarities, while privacy and freedom sometimes feel under siege, even as we mark 800 years since Magna Carta. More people in Britain are leading longer, healthier and more satisfying lives than ever before – yet too many of those lives feel stressed in ways to which politics struggles to respond, much less to shape.

This is the context in which we must judge the record of the outgoing coalition and the choices on offer to voters on 7 May. Five years ago, Labour was exhausted and conflicted, amid disenchantment over war, recession and Gordon Brown’s leadership. The country was ready for a change, one we hoped would see a greatly strengthened Liberal Democrat presence in parliament combine with the core Labour tradition to reform politics after the expenses scandal. That did not happen. Instead the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have governed together for five difficult years.

That experiment has clearly run its course. The outgoing government proved that coalitions can function, which is important, and it can be proud of its achievements on equal marriage and foreign aid. But its record, as our recent series of editorials on detailed themes has shown, is dominated by an initial decision to pursue a needless and disastrous fiscal rigidity. That turned into a moral failure, by insisting on making the neediest and the least secure pay the highest price for an economic and financial crash that they did not cause. The evidence is there in the one million annual visits to foodbanks, a shocking figure in what is, still, a wealthy country.

David Cameron has been an increasingly weak prime minister. On issues such as Europe, the integrity of the United Kingdom, climate change, human rights and the spread of the low-wage economy, he has been content to lead the Tories back towards their nastiest and most Thatcherite comfort zones. All this is particularly disappointing after the promise of change that Mr Cameron once embodied.

The union at risk

The Conservative campaign has redoubled all this. Economically, the party offers more of the same, prioritising public-sector austerity which will worsen life for the most needy – imposing £12bn of largely unspecified welfare cuts – while doing little to ensure the rich and comfortable pay a fair share. Internationally, the party is set on a referendum over Europe which many of its activists hope will end in UK withdrawal. It’s also set on an isolationist abandonment of British commitment to international human rights conventions and norms, outcomes which this newspaper – unlike most others – will always do all in its power to oppose. At the same time, the Tories go out of their way to alienate Scotland and put the UK at risk. The two are related: if a 2017 referendum did result in a British exit from the EU, it could trigger a fresh and powerful demand for a Scottish exit from the UK. The Conservative campaign has been one of the tawdriest in decades.

The overriding priority on 7 May is therefore, first, to stop the Conservatives from returning to government and, second, to put a viable alternative in their place. For many decades, this newspaper’s guiding star has been the formulation offered by John Maynard Keynes in a speech in Manchester in 1926: “The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty.” The task on 7 May is to elect the parliament and government that will come closest to passing Keynes’s triple test.

Some despair of the whole system, believing a model created for two-party politics is now exhausted, failing to give adequate expression to the diverse society we have become. We are hardly newcomers to that view: we have demanded electoral reform for a century and believe that demand will find new vigour on 8 May. But for now, this is the voting system we’ve got. How should we use it?

To the charge that they enabled a government whose record we reject, the Liberal Democrats would plead that they made a difference, mitigating and blocking on issues such as Europe, the environment, child benefit and human rights, without which things would have been worse. That adds weight to the view that the next Commons would be enhanced by the presence of Lib Dem MPs to insist on the political reform and civil liberties agendas – as they did, almost alone, over Edward Snowden’s revelations. Similarly, it would be good to hear Green voices in Westminster to press further on climate change and sustainability. Where the real constituency choice is between these parties and the Conservatives, as it is between the Lib Dems and the Tories in the south-west, we support a vote for them. But they are not the answer.

In Scotland, politics is going through a cultural revolution. The energy and engagement on show are formidable – and welcome. The level of registration is an example to the rest of Britain. If the polls are right, and the SNP is returned as Scotland’s majority party, we must respect that choice – and would expect all parties that believe in the union, and the equal legitimacy of all its citizens, to do the same. We do that even as we maintain our view that, whatever myriad problems the peoples of these islands face, the solution is not nationalism. Breaking apart is not the answer: not in Europe and not in the UK. We still believe that the union rests on something precious – the social and economic solidarity of four distinct nations – and that is to be nurtured and strengthened, not turned against itself.

A sense of what is just

Which brings us to Labour. There have been times when a Labour vote has been, at best, a pragmatic choice – something to be undertaken without enthusiasm. This is not such a time. Of course there are misgivings. The party has some bad instincts – on civil liberties, penal policy and on Trident, about which it is too inflexible. Questions linger over Ed Miliband’s leadership, and whether he has that elusive quality that inspires others to follow.

But Mr Miliband has grown in this campaign. He may not have stardust or TV-ready charisma, but those are qualities that can be overvalued. He has resilience and, above all, a strong sense of what is just. Mr Miliband understood early one of the central questions of the age: inequality. While most Tories shrug at that yawning gap between rich and poor, Labour will at least strive to slow and even reverse the three-decade march towards an obscenely unequal society. It is Labour that speaks with more urgency than its rivals on social justice, standing up to predatory capitalism, on investment for growth, on reforming and strengthening the public realm, Britain’s place in Europe and international development – and which has a record in government that it can be more proud of than it sometimes lets on.

In each area, Labour could go further and be bolder. But the contrast between them and the Conservatives is sharp. While Labour would repeal the bedroom tax, the Tories are set on those £12bn of cuts to social security, cuts that will have a concrete and painful impact on real lives. Even if they don’t affect you, they will affect your disabled neighbour, reliant on a vital service that suddenly gets slashed, or the woman down the street, already working an exhausting double shift and still not able to feed her children without the help of benefits that are about to be squeezed yet further. For those people, and for many others, a Labour government can make a very big difference.

This newspaper has never been a cheerleader for the Labour party. We are not now. But our view is clear. Labour provides the best hope for starting to tackle the turbulent issues facing us. On 7 May, as this country makes a profound decision about its future, we hope Britain turns to Labour.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.