Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


Immigration, immigration, immigration – it hasn’t gone away you know.

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

Immigration was one of the major issues in the referendum debate. The influx of several million Europeans coming to a country which had made no serious effort to accommodate its biggest ever increase in population changed the political landscape and enabled in no small way the decision to leave the EU.

Since the vote the immigration issue has appeared to become less important. In part this is because immigration from Europe has reduced in the last two years. Improved wages at home, exchange rate movements and a perception of a colder welcome have all did their part in making the UK less of a favoured destination for Europeans.

With the issue now off the political hot list the UK’s politicians have marched off to the Westminster trenches to fire the minutiae of Parliamentary procedures and personality failings at each other.

In the wider world however things are different. This month the UN met a Marrakesh to approve a new compact on migration, something which has received little coverage in the UK media. The compact is wide ranging in its aspirations and inevitably has controversial parts most noticeably in blurring the status of legal and illegal migrants. A short overview of the compact can by found clicking here.

Across the world positions are being taken. Trump unsurprisingly wants no truck with the deal, Frau Merkel is all for it; the populist versus internationalist fault line is once again opening up. In Belgium the government has lost its majority and is wobbling, the Eastern half of the EU has rejected signing up to the deal.

This creates once more the scene for an EU clash between Merkel who wants to push her immigration problem on to the rest of Europe and a nationalist Europe which says no.Once again immigration is climbing back up the political agenda, climbing at a time when economies are running out of steam. 

For the UK little of this has yet hit the public consciousness. The government has said in principle it will sign the pact but what does that mean? Having seen immigration fall down the list of voter concerns the prospect of seeing it come back to life can’t be excluded.

In the Brexit mire where all sides look for reasons to open new lines of attack re-invigorating a touchstone issue is a real risk. If this does happen then the battle lines will be imported from a debate the UK simply is not taking part in.

Merkel and the Commission versus Trump and the Italians – the prospects are grim this won’t be debate but two tribes going to war. With mobile populations in the EU the UK cannot just expect to watch from the sidelines. Brexit aside the UK remains a favoured destination for people across the globe.

So time to for our politicians to do the boring stuff. Time to explain what we are signing up to, how it impacts us and what will be done about it, because if they won’t, the agenda it will be shaped for them. There are some imports we are better off without.



So TMay wins 200 to 117 – but is the margin enough?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

The Tory Brexit dilemma goes on

Mike Smithson


How people would feel if the government cancelled Brexit & Britain stayed in the EU?

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Trying to measure the “betrayal effect”

Interesting polling out today from YouGov which could just become increasingly important.

My initial reaction is that the 24% saying they’d feel betrayed is much lower than I’d have thought and puts into context some of the assertions from the ERG gang as they try to argue for a hard Brexit.

That such a smallish percentage say they’d feel berated if Brexit got cancelled does not quite fit with some of the rhetoric that we have been hearing. In any case the chances of Brexit just being cancelled are zilch. A u-turn like this really does require another vote.

Mike Smithson


As the big vote gets delayed the betting on 2nd referendum gets tighter and tighter

Monday, December 10th, 2018

..the ex-Mayor is once again favourite to succeed TMay

..and TMay becomes a 28% chance to go this year

Mike Smithson


The betting markets now make it a 61% chance that Brexit won’t happen on March 29th as planned

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Could this make it easier persuading hardline MPs?

This morning’s ruling by the ECJ that Article 50 can be revoked unilaterally changes the Brexit Debate at a critical time with MPs due to vote on the deal tomorrow evening.

The reaction of punters has been that the UK leaving the EU as planned on March 29th as planned is less likely. Currently it is now a 61% chance that this will not happen. On December 5th the Betfair exchange had this at 50-50. On the second referendum before end of 2019 market this has now moved to a 44% chance. A month ago this was at 27%

My initial thought is the ruling could make it a tad easier for Theresa May and her team as they try to bring on board wavering Conservative MPs.

    The risk to hardline Brexiteers now is that that leaving the EU is seen as just possibly less likely to happen. Far better to go with TMay’s compromise solution, you can hear the whips saying, than risk no Brexit at all.

I’d expect that the ECJ ruling could also reinforce those pressing for a new referendum to stop Brexit and might help bring LAB MPs sitting on the fence into the second referendum camp.

As we have seen one of the key arguments from loyalists is that the chances of a No Deal are substantially increased if the current plan is rejected.

A critical part of the ruling is that the terms under which the UK is in the EU would not be affected in Article 50 was revoked so the status quo would be retained.

Mike Smithson


BACK TO THE FUTURE – Part 2 The past is a foreign country – Remainers and Leavers are in for surprises

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

In the previous article I highlighted how UK politicians have become so entrenched in their  insular debate that they are effectively ignoring the significant changes sweeping Europe.

One can argue that our MPs primary focus has become to smash the other side rather than look at what is best for the country. So perhaps they should take some time to look beyond these shores and see how the politics are lining up.


Congratulations! We are staying in! Enjoy the champagne because tomorrow a decades long hangover begins.

The UK can expect few favours

After the initial euphoria of Remain the long slog begins. The EU will be happy with those individuals who fought for it but the UK as a whole can only even be viewed with suspicion, non U,  a country on the periphery.

Only the big jump to Schengen, currency and total integration can change this and perhaps not even then, we are gens non grata. Much as Remainers like to tell Leavers they own Brexit, Remainers will now own Bremain. That will not be a comfortable position especially as the rest of the EU will be telling you to be on best behaviour and not let the side down.

Someone will have to sell an unpopular  dish

For a start off the core countries and the Commission will continue to push for more integration irrespective of British sentiment.  It is inevitable that at some point the nation’s sacred cows will be ordered to the abattoir something a surly unbelieving electorate will baulk at. 

This will be worse if the EU follows its normal modus operandi of ignoring dissent or judicial sleight of hand.  The EU has few active advocates in our political classes and lots of foot dragging ones.  Remain will not stop the Europe headaches it will simply spread it across the political spectrum.

Europe has been made an issue

52% of the population voted to Leave. If the politicians reverse that choice British politics will change. This was one of the few times the have nots beat the haves. The establishment threw everything into its campaign and lost now they will have fixed the outcome. 

This is not healthy. UK politics will be faced with a discontented disengaged electorate which treats politicians with contempt and which like the Continent, finds itself increasingly attracted to non-traditional politics. UK politics may become more European but not in a good way

European politics is in flux

And that bad way might just be the future. Across Europe the voters are not happy; a much larger Eurosceptic bloc seems on the cards for the next EU parliament. Traditional parties are struggling to maintain support even in national elections, in a protest vote for Europe this could get much worse.

Ironically in remaining, a sceptical UK vote could make this problem even more acute. Already the ghosts of Nigels past are stirring and they have been presented with a rich new seam of discontent to mine.   

Summing up if Remainers get their wish they will need to work hard to keep the public on side this is an uphill and thankless task. They own all the problems and get little thanks for the successes.


Commiserations! You snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  But cheer up there has never been a better time to be in Europe. You can party like it’s 1945.

British Eurosceptics are no longer alone

The days when the EU Parliament was filled with project zealots may soon be coming to an end. In just about every European country there is now a sizeable bloc of Eurosceptics.  The days when sceptical Brits were something of an oddity are behind us. To succeed however Leavers need to understand European Eurosceptics quite often like the EU.

What they don’t like is the commission and its incessant need to boss countries around. If Leavers understand that, then major reforms of the EU may at last be possible and the Commission and its desire for closer union brought closer to the will of European electorates. Even   in the core countries politicians are struggling to stay the pace with Macron’s France looking the weakest link. The inevitability of Union is no longer quite so inevitable.

Leavers will have a warmer welcome than Remainers

The European parliament will in all events get a meaningful opposition rather than the traditional stitch up between the EPP and the Socialists. Now oddly might just be the time to have the UK at the centre of those countries who wish to change direction. While Remainers from UK are beyond the pale to core countries, in scepticland Leavers have kudos from having upset the whole apple cart. 

One thing the sceptics can be certain of is that the commission will continue to feed them issue that upset the voter. Partly it is what comes with having to govern but it is also the style of an establishment that has been used to getting its own way. Time to buy a yellow jacket.

Leavers mount a credible threat to the EU

Finally the leavers may just be able to protect the UK national interest assuming our politicians don’t give it away. A large curmudgeonly member state  who has previous for leaving might just make European politicians think let the sleeping dog lie. This approach will never work with a Remainers PM but with a Leaver that’s a different call. In as much as the UK has been through mangle on Brexit, the EU is in poor shape to kick the problem off again, it has too much else on its plate.

So summing up Leavers may actually have an easier time in the EU than Remainers. The winds of change are blowing and suddenly there are more like minded people to work with. If Leavers combine with others Eurosceptics there may actually be a chance to reform the EU. No the same as leaving of course but perhaps more liveable nonetheless.

Whether Remain or Leave though the UK has yet to take full account of the changes of the last two years. Europe will remain a dividing issue more so as the political class has invested so much emotion in to the issue. Time to stop our insular spat and look at what the neighbours have been up to.



BACK TO THE FUTURE – Part 1  Europe has changed – We can’t put  Humpty together again.

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

In the first of a two part series, Alanbrooke looks at our relationship with the EU.

As the Brexit debate rolls on the recent ruling by the ECJ Advocate General that the UK can unilaterally revoke article 50 brings a new angle to proceedings. Suddenly it is a lot easier to stay in.

The uncertainty around how to stay in the EU and under which terms looks a lot clearer and in some ways simpler. So set aside the mechanics of how, what would remaining actually be like ? This is a two part post – the first looks at the changes in Europe since the leave vote and the second looks at how remaining will impact Remainers and leavers.

There is a certain irony to the UK remaining, in that events in the EU are largely being ignored, Europe is little more than a bit player in the UK debate.  Really only Ireland has had much coverage in the UK’s internal wrangle and that as a convenient pool of mud to fling at the other side. 

So first let’s refresh ourselves on the Europe we voted to leave. At the beginning of 2016 the advocates of international liberalism were in firm control of the West. David Cameron had just been re-elected; Mutti Merkel presided over a successful Germany and a recovering EU led by her placeman Jean Claude Juncker. In the USA Obama looked ready to hand over to America’s first female president while a twitter happy property developer showed just how out of touch the opposition were.

That world has all gone.

And by gone it’s not just the personalities, but the assumptions and policies which backed them. 2016 is in some ways as significant a year as 1989, a year when the mould broke.  And break it did, first with Brexit and Cameron’s departure and next with Trump; worse in the following year Frau Merkel became a casualty as her electorate tired of her. Suddenly all the old certainties were gone and the peasants were revolting across the Western World.

And that revolt was triggered by much the same factors in all countries.   Stagnation in standards of living for ordinary people, the impact of globalisation on jobs and on job security ; then add in immigration and  a political class which had lost touch with voters. In essence a system which worked well for those at the top of society was not working at all for those at the bottom and they made their discontent known.

The reaction to the referendum result in the UK was shock. Remain didn’t expect to lose nor Leave to win. Then all hell broke loose, the PM resigned, a snap election, a messy result : the body politic turned on itself and the UK settled down to two years of trench warfare with neither side conceding much bar  introspective wrangling over Brexit minutiae to the exclusion of everything else. And that’s the weakness of the UK’s position. A world has changed around us and we are not giving it much thought

The lie of the land in Brussels today is  of both the familiar and the new.  A UK staying with the EU will face several key factors

The will of the commission and the ”core” is for ever closer union

There still remains at the heart of the EU project the will to make a union with all the infrastructure of a state – currency, parliament, army, taxes – controlled by a central body. British politicians howl at this prospect and ridicule it, but the trend of the EU has only ever been in one direction, few powers are ever handed back. This will remain a constant feature of staying in the EU a steady creep of centralisation pushed by core countries.

Long Term the Euro is unsustainable in its present form

This might sound like a side issue to a country outside the Euro but the Euro is probably one of the largest risks in staying in the EU. The severe imbalances within the currency are creating the conditions for the Union to fall apart. Previously within the ERM there was an adjustment mechanism which allowed imbalances to be corrected. Now values are fixed which gives a huge advantage to the Germanic countries while impoverishing the Latin south. Something must give or the Union wort work and if it breaks the UK will be dragged in to the maelstrom.

Perfidious Albion

Staying in, leaves the UK in a slightly awkward position. A large and important member but one which can never quite be trusted. If things were a little terse before the vote they will be even more so when staying in. All talk of influence and soft power should be forgotten as someone once said can you imagine an EU with a British President?

The old problems are still there

The cocktail of issues which in the UK led to Brexit are still present in the EU and if anything greater. Immigration, the impact of globalisation, political alienation are all core issues across Europe. The UK  debate ignores that these are also the conditions  in Europe and this will lead to a very different political climate in the next decade. What if post the EU Parliament election in 2019 we are not returning to a government of Macron Merkel and  Juncker  but of Le Pen, Farage and Salvini ? Whatever way you look at it, it is hard to see how the next EU parliament  will not be a very different creature. We have given this very little thought,

These are the realities of the EU today. One side of the EU is desperately seeking to hold together a model it has pushed for years while the other is seeking a completely new model. In between there is a struggle for what Europe is about. But the hard fact remains we can’t go back in time and even a child could tell us it is too late to put Humpty back together. 



The first months of a Corbyn government

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

It’s objectively clear that there is a genuine possibility of a Corbyn government within months, possibly even weeks. That might be after an election, or it might be simply that the Conservatives lose the will to govern: there is a limit to how long governments can function with every vote at risk of failure, and yielding to a minority Labour government which is also subject to hostile majorities at every turn may seem a lesser evil.

But there’s been very little discussion of how it would pan out. The 30-35% of the population who really like him and/or are simply Labour expect it’ll be wonderful, interestingly without many specifics. The similar number who intensely dislike him or Labour think it’ll be Venezuelan chaos. The reality is as usual likely to be somewhere in between.

The obvious question is Brexit. Depending on the circumstances in which Labour took over, there might be some tweaking of the Withdrawal Agreement – notably getting rid of the red-line objection to permanent customs union and quite possibly signing up to something close to free trade.

And even if the WA has passed, there are years of negotiation to come on the political agreement. I’d expect the end result to be something that feels like membership while being formally outside. A big difference is that Labour will want the issue settled, whereas the Conservatives seem willing to discuss it indefinitely.

Like most new administrations, Corbyn could expect a honeymoon period, reinforced by the hysteria of some of the accusations. Merely by being polite to the Queen, refraining from doubling taxes and not declaring war on Israel, he can clear the “not as bad as they said” bar fairly easily.

Moreover, Labour has had its internecine warfare phase that the Tories are having now, and nobody enjoyed it. Few MPs, however privately sceptical, will want to be the first to move to overthrow the new government. Ostensibly, there will be a period of relatively stable government, and nearly everyone will find that a blessed relief.

Problems will arise with the first Budget, which on any reasonable reading will need to have Lib Dem and SNP consent, not to mention quietly dissident Labour MPs. Looking ahead to that is making McDonnell, who is the key policy strategist, so markedly pragmatic. He will benefit from the fact that expectations are both fairly low and quite inchoate.

Nobody has wet dreams about immediate water nationalisation, nor is any other single difficult policy a must-have-now priority with most Labour voters. Higher taxes for the very rich, easing of austerity at the bottom and the shareholding scheme (which has significant benefits for public finances) will be enough the first time round. Add the first steps to state ownership of water and some pointed distancing from the excesses of Mr Trump, and most supporters will feel it’s a good start.

What then? Another election, I’m afraid. I can’t see a loose coalition carrying on indefinitely, and going for a majority in the honeymoon period, while the Tories are still trying to decide what they’re for, makes sense. If Labour gets it, though, the time for excuses will be over, and supporter expectations of nirvana will start to collide with reality.

I don’t expect it to be easy, but nor is it likely to be chaotic. A seriously left-wing government which is also cautious is unusual, and it’s hard to predict how much rope supporters will give it. But the number of people of any persuasion who expect the current Government to survive indefinitely is small.

So we’re probably going to find out.

Nick Palmer

Nick Palmer was Labour MP for Broxtowe, 1997-2010.