Brexit: the game is up on this outdated idea

One view of our divided country is that it was always a land of potential Leavers and Remainers, the rift being merely exposed by the referendum. On this theory, Remainers were born rather than made and Leavers, like leopards, will never change their spots.

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Yet the truth is that Leavers comprise all sorts of people, as do Remainers. They are not a different species.

I am coming round to the view that our current turmoil is not the fault of the people themselves, so much as the power of a virulent ideology that has flooded the country like a tsunami, sweeping away common sense, but which is now slowly evaporating.

It has happened before: ideas have taken hold with a force disproportionate to their merit, and caused mayhem.

Brexit and other cults

Remember the Moonies? If you were around in the 1960’s like me, you probably will. So called after the founder, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the Moonies, or the Unification Church to give it its official title, were said to be a sinister cult who seduced people away from their families, promising salvation through sex and free love.

The nearest I got to that was driving around in a flower power van, but more impressionable youngsters were turned against their families and brainwashed by the cult’s teachings, whilst being fleeced of any money and possessions. Desperate parents, grieving for the loss of their loved ones, attempted to locate and “deprogram” their sons and daughters, often with limited success.

What the cult of the Moonies had in common with Brexit Britain was the isolation and impoverishment of its victims. It was dressed up as a spiritual movement, but its ulterior purpose was the amassment of huge wealth by its founder. In the same way, Brexit has been dressed up as a patriotic protest, but its true purpose, as Nick Clegg made clear, is to make the very rich very much richer, by removing the protections and regulations of the EU.

Today, our continental neighbours are doubtful whether they can persuade us to remain within our European family. And with some justification, for to deprogram people like Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May or Jacob Rees-Mogg would be a challenge indeed. Nevertheless, they would welcome us back with open arms if we turned up on their doorstep.

So what happened to the Moonies? They faded from the limelight amid scandal and disillusion, though the Reverend Moon retained considerable political power and influence until he died in 2012.  These cults are no fleeting fads or fashions, they can last quite a long time.

How long will the Brexit fad last?

Brexit is an edifice of fantasy resting on no solid foundation, which is already crumbling at the approach of reality.  The game is up on this expired idea, which is just waiting to buried. The earliest time for another vote will be December 2018 – not too long to wait.

Some fear that even if we win, a second referendum will inflame the divisions further, leading to a civil war between Brexiters and Remainers. However, it is more likely in my view that the situation will stabilise, and instead of the armies of Brexiters, there will be just normal people again, like before David Cameron’s ill-advised referendum.

When the Second World War put the final nail in fascism, an improbable number of French people claimed they had been fighters in the resistance. And when Brexit is finally nailed, a fair few soft Leavers will discover they had been Remainers all along, because everyone likes to be on the winning side.

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by John King

Insufficient and ambiguous: The PanEuropean opinion on the citizens’ rights agreement

The Brexit deadlock was finally broken last Friday, when the EU agreed that ‘sufficient progress’ had been made on citizens’ rights, the Irish border, and the divorce settlement. But has the deal on citizens’ rights provided enough clarity to the millions of UK and EU immigrants affected by it?

David Davis and Michel Barnier

EU citizens in the UK

The main takeaway for both sides was that they would keep their current rights: EU citizens who have lawfully lived in the UK for a minimum of five years will be granted ‘settled status.’  The UK government has said this will be a straightforward process and cost no more than a British passport (£72.50). They will retain access to tax credits, universal credit, healthcare, pensions, etc., and can be away from the UK for up to 5 years and still retain this status. Children born in the UK to parents from an EU country will automatically become British citizens. Irish citizens will not have their rights affected by Brexit and will be able to work and travel in the UK without hindrance.

UK citizens in the EU

Likewise, UK nationals that are legally living in one of the 27 member states will be allowed to stay (though some countries will require an application process to secure this). If they have been living in the country for five years they will be entitled to ‘permanent residence’ or the chance to apply for it. Again, they can be away from the host country for 5 years and still retain permanent residence. If they have a pension, it will increase every year just as it would in the UK.

UK nationals will remain eligible for free healthcare in the EU under a continuation of the EHIC scheme, and if working in several European countries, they will maintain the right to work in all of them.

In addition, close family members (spouse/direct ascendants/direct descendants) will be able to join them if their rights are protected under the withdrawal agreement. Children of British nationals are also protected under the withdrawal agreement if the parents are protected or nationals of the host country.

What’s been left out

For those that have no desire to move and meet the requirements for settled status, this agreement is probably satisfactory.

But it is likely that the EU will adopt a constitutive system – meaning that British immigrants will have to apply for a new status (as EU citizens will be expected to do in the UK).

This process is unlikely to be uniform and each country will have slightly different requirements. Individuals will be asked to provide comprehensive documentation to prove they have lived in their respective host country for 5 years, and this may not be easy to find. Besides, bureaucracies can make mistakes, as the UK home office has proved.

Theresa May has made no illusions: the British PM seeks to create a ‘hostile environment’ for undocumented people living in Britain illegally. We have already witnessed the consequences of this draconian policy on European citizens who have lived lawfully in the UK for over 15 years.

‘What will happen to EU nationals who move to Britain post-Brexit? Will they require work permits? How is the UK government planning to register 3 million EU nationals before Brexit?’

The fact that the continuation of free movement was not even discussed is a worrying sign. It may well come up during the next phase of negotiations, but there are no guarantees, thus it is imperative we pressure both British and European parliaments to make sure this issue is not sidelined. Freedom of movement is vital, whether we are officially part of the European Union or not. Associative European citizenship must be made available to those who either wish for or need it.

Furthermore, there are a number of grey areas within the agreement: what will happen to EU nationals who move to Britain post-Brexit? Will they require work permits? How is the UK government planning to register 3 million EU nationals before Brexit? After the UK has regained control of its laws, what safeguards are in place to protect EU citizens?

These questions will be an afterthought in the second round of negotiations, which will focus primarily on the future trading relationship between the two parties. Given that the UK and the EU already have differing interpretations of what that relationship should look like, it is unlikely that we will see further clarification on citizens’ rights in the foreseeable future.

Essentially, we feel that European and British nationals have been largely ignored. Though there have been some assurances made by European leaders, it seems citizens’ rights are more of a hindrance to the UK and the EU to negotiating more important aspects of the deal.

 

Michel Barnier

Brexit: Michel Barnier questions U.K trade stance and warns against ‘no deal’

BRUSSELS – Michel Barnier has given ‘a stark warning’ that the U.K won’t benefit from “frictionless trade” with the bloc after Brexit, said The Wall Street Journal.
Michel Barnier
EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, ‘the most dangerous man in Europe.’

In an ‘unusually blunt and detailed public discussion,’ the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator told trade unions and businesses that he wasn’t sure the EU position was “fully understood across the channel.”

“I have heard some people in the U.K argue that one can leave the single market and build a customs union to achieve ‘frictionless trade,”’ he said.

‘That is not possible.’

His comments come after a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday (07/07) that the U.K government is seeking a free trade and customs deal that allows “for trade that is as frictionless as possible.”

“I have to work with the U.K government as it is today and based on what it is telling me,” said Mr Barnier.

In the first round of talks in June, Brexit Secretary David Davis confirmed to Mr Barnier that the U.K wants to leave the single market and the customs union.

‘Divisions within the U.K government have emerged in recent weeks on this issue,’ and Mr Barnier has said the EU are preparing “for all situations,” in case the British position changes.

He also announced that the EU would not be preserving its special ‘passporting’ arrangement with the British financial sector whereby U.K-based banks can operate in other EU countries.

Mr Barnier also made it clear that Mrs May’s idea that “no deal would be better than a bad deal” would be disastrous.

Without a Brexit deal, he explained, trade between the EU and the U.K would be dictated by World Trade Organisation rules.

“In practice, ‘no deal’ would worsen the ‘lose-lose’ situation which is bound to result from Brexit,” he said.

“And the U.K would have much more to lose than its partners.”

 

‘Globalisation is not dead’ and the EU Japan trade deal is proof

‘Two of the world’s biggest economies are poised to prove that globalisation is not dead,’ said The FT, ‘and that the populist antipathy to free trade has not yet triumphed.’
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President Donald Trump talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, January 2017. © Shealah Craighead

After four years of trade talks, and several recent negotiating breakthroughs on the ‘sticky questions of cheese and car parts,’ a ‘sweeping’ EU Japan free trade agreement is expected to be completed ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg on Friday.

European farmers are set to ‘win prized access’ to the Japanese agricultural market, while Japan’s carmakers will no longer be hampered by EU import tariffs.

“We will have full duty free access for almost all agri-food exports,” said one EU official. “Some of the transitions are longer than we would have liked, but in the end it will be fully duty free.”

Crucially for campaign groups, the EU has also said there will be no “investor-state dispute settlement” mechanism in the accord. The format has been widely criticised for allowing multinationals to ‘ride roughshod over local regulations.’

The EU Japan free trade accord is both a ‘powerful rejection’ of Donald Trump’s aggressive protectionism – on the eve of his arrival in Hamburg – and confirmation that a hard Brexit would leave some UK companies on ‘worse trade terms’ with their European neighbours than ‘Japanese competitors halfway around the world.’

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Protesters in Hamburg ahead of the G20 summit.

The accord with the ‘fourth-largest import market in the world’ will be a boost for European farmers, cheese-makers and vintners ‘at a time when rural communities on the continent are being courted by populist forces.’

In Japan, the free trade agreement will be a victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The agreement will ‘force change on unproductive parts of the Japanese economy, particularly agriculture.’

Mr. Abe had originally hoped the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership would fulfil this function until Donald Trump scrapped it.

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President Barack Obama, who championed the TPP, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mrs. Akie Abe at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, April 2104. © Pete Souza

In the long term, the EU Japan deal ‘may increase pressure on Mr. Trump to reconsider his anti-trade animus.’

His ‘suspicion of globalisation’ focuses mainly on China, a country he casts as ‘keen to dominate the west.’

30 years ago, the US and Europe characterised Japan in exactly the same way.

‘That Japan’s commercial hegemony never materialised, and that it is now a welcome trade partner, illustrates how badly protectionist arguments age as the global economy moves on.’

While the US and the UK, the two countries who ‘built the global liberal trading order,’ turn inward, Japan and the EU ‘must continue to lead.’

Shinzo Abe and his government must maintain good relations with the countries remaining in the TPP agreement, and Europe must look to deepen trade with other markets, such as South America and Mexico.

‘As the rest of the world comes together, the UK and the US risk being left behind – or forced to rethink their repudiation of the global order they built.’

Snap election theresa may

Brexit: the snap Election and the changing face of UK politics

Theresa May’s snap election gamble has turned out to be one of the biggest blunders in British political history.
Snap election theresa may
Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip outside 10 Downing Street, London, after meeting Queen Elizabeth II and accepting her invitation to become Prime Minister and form a new government.

To the surprise of some (but not all) pollsters, Thursday’s (08/06) vote resulted in a hung parliament. The Conservatives ended up with the most seats, 318, followed by Labour on 262, which meant no single party won a majority in the House of Commons.

But what exactly does this mean for the Brexit process going forward?

According to CNN, there is frustration among EU leaders and officials that three months have passed since British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, and no progress has been made on Brexit negotiations, with the snap election provoking yet more political turmoil.

Arlene Foster, the leader of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), suggested her party’s ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Tories was far from a settled:

The Prime Minister has spoken with me this morning and we will enter discussions with the Conservatives to explore how it may be possible to bring stability to our nation at this time of great challenge.”

Arlene Foster snap election
Northern Ireland former First Minister, and leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster.

If an informal deal is done “Mrs May will face an almighty struggle to pursue the policies set out in the Conservative manifesto” according to The Telegraph.

The slim majority of Commons seats will leave to Tories vulnerable to defections, and it’s not clear what legislation the DUP will commit to support.

The government is now also more facing possible rejection of legislation by the House of Lords, with major amendments almost a guarantee.

And while the ‘Salisbury Convention’ means the House of Lords don’t normally block proposed legislation, minority governments’ have minimal authority. Peers may be another thorn in May’s side.

The current political climate has a significant effect on Brexit bills. The government plans to propose a “Great Repeal Bill” that would transpose 40 years of EU law into sovereign UK law, as well as other Brexit-related legislation. But in this new political environment, the opposition parties – possibly with the help of Conservative defectors – see an opportunity to block such bills and perhaps pass their own amendments.

Whilst there are not enough MPs willing to demand a second referendum on the terms of the final Brexit deal, there could be enough in favour of forcing the government to pursue some form of interim participation in the European single market, pending negotiation of a subsequent post-Brexit trade deal.

Doubts have risen over the position of the Conservatives’ new bedfellow, the DUP, as the latter is keen on maintaining a ‘frictionless’ border with the Irish Republic. This would require some form of treaty with the EU that would have to be settled as part of the overall Brexit deal.

May – who yesterday parted ways with her controversial advisors, Fiona Hunt and Nick Timothy, the pair seen as the driving force behind her hard-line Brexit approach – has insisted that the Brexit negotiations will start in a week’s time, as planned.

This was confirmed yesterday (15/06) by EU Brexit coordinator Michel Barnier and British Brexit secretary David Davis despite widespread calls for a rethink on the drastic Brexit stance adopted by May’s government, with several tory backbenchers going public after the snap election result.

A ‘softer’ Brexit is now supported by a majority of the MPs in the House of Commons.

British Prime Minister Theresa May

May: UK will ‘rip up human rights laws’ to tackle terrorism

British Prime Minister Theresa May says human rights laws will be changed “if they get in the way” of the country’s fight against terror.
British Prime Minister Theresa May human rights
British Prime Minister Theresa May

In the aftermath of the London Bridge terrorist attack that left eight dead, May said she would seek to introduce longer prison terms for those convicted of terrorist offenses and make it easier to “deport foreign terrorist suspects.”

The British PM has previously called for closer regulation of the Internet to tackle extremism, and criticized social media firms for not doing enough to police their platforms.

According to CNN, “British security services already possess wide anti-terrorism powers that have been denounced by Amnesty International as among ‘the most draconian’ in Europe.”

However, the shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has said Britain’s human rights law does not prevent the successful capture and prosecution of terrorists, warning that hard-won freedoms should not be traded unnecessarily.

Starmer – a former director of public prosecutions who oversaw numerous terror cases – considered May to be misguided when focusing on human rights law rather than police cuts.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Kier Starmer human rights
Shadow Brexit Secretary Kier Starmer

May has been facing significant pressure over her record as Home Secretary, as well as questions over intelligence failures following terror attacks earlier this month in the London and Manchester.

The Independent reported that Starmer was not in favour of Britain introducing that state of emergency – similar to that in France – which has allowed the state new powers of detention for terror suspects and potential associates.

May could also attempt to increase the period for which terror suspects can be held without trial – currently 14 days – a move that proved unpopular with civil liberties campaigners when Tony Blair attempted it after the July 7th 2005 attacks.

One of the most vocal opponents to the change at the time was David Davis, now the Brexit secretary.

In the past, May has called for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and replace its human rights protections with a British “bill of rights.”

In the lead up to the snap general election, the Conservatives have promised not to withdraw from the ECHR during the next Parliament but they could begin to try to replace or amend parts of the Human Rights Act after Brexit.

Before becoming Prime Minister last summer, May spent six years as Britain’s home secretary, meaning she was responsible for law and order, immigration and security in England and Wales.

Remain French Nationality

Opinion: Time to get over Brexit?

Is the British public done with Brexit?
Remain

A recent YouGov poll shows that – 11 months after the referendum – growing numbers of Brits believe that the government is duty-bound to leave the European Union. The ‘pro-Brexit electorate’ reportedly now stands at roughly 68%.

And the two UK-wide parties campaigning for a referendum on the Brexit deal, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, are currently polling at 10% and 1% respectively.

So, with just over two weeks to go until Britain goes to the polls, is it time for remainers to let go of Brexit?

Brexit Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson announces he will back Brexit, London. February 21, 2016.

The Brexit Election. With the Lib Dems scoring poorly and the collapse of UKIP, two-party politics seems to have returned to Britain, and neither the Conservatives nor Labour are standing in the way of Brexit.

The Tories – unflinching in their belief that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ – are currently polling at 43%. In recent weeks Prime Minister Theresa May, herself a former Remain campaigner, has struck a markedly more belligerent tone towards the European Union.

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Labour, led by the (not-so) closet Euro-sceptic Jeremy Corbyn, have decided not to oppose the referendum result either, to the dismay of some of its MPs. Their Brexit plan – to retain access to the EU single market and the customs union while taking no further part in freedom of movement – looks completely unfeasible, especially given that European Parliament has made the indivisibility of the four freedoms (labour, movement, goods and services, and people) one of it’s ‘Red lines on Brexit.’

But that doesn’t seem to matter. Labour’s manifesto pledges ­– to scrap tuition fees, tax the rich, and nationalise industry – have proved very popular, and the party has climbed to 38% in recent polls.

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Besides, Brexit is no longer headline news. Even before the terrorist attack in Manchester, the national conversation had turned away from our split with the European Union.

Understandably, Theresa May’s ‘dementia tax’ U-turn and Labour’s £48bn worth of spending promises feel far more relevant than something that’s been kicking around for almost a year.

The Brexit debate feels like old news – Labour MP Jess Phillips recently said that her constituents were more concerned about ‘gogglebox.’

The options. Apart from the SNP in Scotland, the only UK-wide parties campaigning to give the British public the final say on the Brexit deal, via a second referendum, are the Lib Dems and the Green Party.

The Greens – with joint-leader Caroline Lucas their lone MP – are polling at 1%. Lucas was impressive in the recent ITV ‘leaders debate,’ it’s just a shame no-one was watching.

Brexit Green Party
Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas MP, the joint-leaders of the Green Party.

The Lib Dems – who were hoping to corner the pro-EU market by putting their second referendum promise front and centre – aren’t doing particularly well either.

Polls have the so-called ‘Remain party’ on 10%, despite having cast themselves as the only party that would stand up to the Tories’ Brexit plans. Either the appetite’s not there, or traditional party loyalties are keeping people from voting Lib Dem.

The fact is, even the staunchest remainers may find it hard to vote for the Lib Dems. Their collusion with the Tories in the 2010 coalition government still hangs over the party, and potential voters may have been put off by the furore surrounding Tim Farron’s views on gay marriage.

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It’s not hard to make a case for moving on from Brexit. Everyone else has, so let’s stop banging our heads against a wall, and save ourselves the headache.

Hoping for anything other than a hard Brexit – with Theresa May likely to strong and stable her way to victory – is altogether too painful.

British Prime Minister Theresa May Brexit
British PM Theresa May in her previous role as Home Secretary.

But it’s not all as bleak is it seems.

For a start, YouGov has been criticised for the ambiguous wording in its ‘Re-leaver’ poll, casting doubt over statistics that have been widely used as evidence for the public’s acceptance of Brexit.

People that chose the following option were classified as ‘Re-leavers’:

‘I did not support Britain leaving the EU but now the British people have voted to leave the government have a duty to carry out their wishes and leave.’

‘Note the subtle “I did not” versus “I do not,”’ said Helen De Cruz, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Oxford Brookes University. ‘What if people still do not support [Brexit] but think it’s inevitable?’

This feeling of inevitability breeds despondency, but it needn’t.

Even if reversing Brexit seems unlikely, several campaigns have sprung up to fight the so-called ‘hard Brexit’ pursued by the Tories, assuming Theresa May is still PM on June 9th.

Open Britain – a pro-EU campaign launched in the aftermath of the referendum – has drawn up a Brexit ‘attack list’ of 20 seats held mostly by pro-Brexit Conservative MPs in districts that voted Remain.

They are urging ‘anyone who opposes a hard Brexit’ to campaign for the candidates they have endorsed in these constituencies, in the hope of having as many pro-EU voices in Parliament as possible.

Ed Davey Brexit
Ed Davey, former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the Lib Dem-Conservative government, is one of the candidates supported by Open Britain.

Best for Britain has gone one step further.

Set up by Gina Miller, who successfully challenged the government’s right to invoke Article 50 without Parliamentary consent, the campaign has set up a tactical voting platform to encourage people to vote strategically in their local constituencies.

So far, they have used crowd-funded money to back 16 candidates, including Nick Clegg and Caroline Lucas, and will be visiting marginal constituencies and advertising in seats where progressives may pip the Tory candidate.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, one of the remain politicians back by Best for Britain

Many of the candidates supported by Open Britain and Best for Britain are Labour politicians who have vowed not to tow the party leadership’s official line.

With candidates more likely to campaign according to what their constituency voted in the referendum, the Parliamentary Labour Party’s disunity should benefit remainers: a vote for a Labour candidate does not necessarily mean a vote for a Corbynite view of Brexit.

The Labour leader has so far rejected the notion of any sort of official ‘progressive alliance.’ Tim Farron has also voiced doubts.

Brexit Jeremy Corbyn
The leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn

Remainers would do well to adopt the ethos of these campaigns and vote for the local candidate most likely to knock David Davis down a notch next time he airs his distain for the EU.

For some, this may mean moving beyond party allegiances, but if ever there’s a time to do so, it’s now. Every Remain MP in parliament will be another dissenting voice.

A vote for a Labour candidate does not necessarily mean a vote for a Corbynite view of Brexit.

Regardless of media narratives and polling figures, for the millions of people whose future will be dictated by the Brexit negotiations, this is still a one-issue election.

‘The wound is healing’ wrote Anne Perkins in a recent Guardian article, and in part she’s right – some remainers have chosen to move on. For sanity’s sake – if nothing else – that is, perhaps, the sensible thing to do.

But many others haven’t moved on: Brits who live on the continent – many of whom weren’t allowed to vote in the referendum – who are ashamed by the jingoism of the Brexit negotiating team, business owners who rely on trade with the EU, the of thousands of European nationals working in the NHS, the vast majority of young people who voted to remain and are worried about what U.K-EU relations will look like when the people who instigated all this are dead and gone.

To these people – who are directly in the firing line – there is one fundamental issue going into this election that frames everything else.

They are not over Brexit; they may never be.

That, more than anything, will determine who they vote for on June 8th. And so it should.

British Prime Minister Theresa May

UK Election: Conservative manifesto unrelenting on Brexit

Like it or not, the Conservative party look set to win the British general election on June 8th.
British Prime Minister Theresa May Conservative
British Prime Minister Theresa May

If they do, the manifesto released today will serve as a blueprint for the next five years of Tory rule.

Pledges include balancing the budget by 2025, a commitment to bring net immigration down to ‘tens of thousands’ per year, means testing the ‘winter fuel allowance,’ scrapping the pensions ‘triple lock,’ and a vote in the House of Commons on whether to repeal the ban on fox hunting.

Fox hunting conservative therasa may

But with Theresa May strapped in for five more years in the hot seat, how exactly would the Tories deliver on their promise of negotiating a Brexit that ‘works for all’?

At today’s manifesto launch in Halifax, May emphasised her need for the ‘strongest possible hand’ in the Brexit negotiations in order to ‘take back control of our money, border and laws’ and to ‘forge a new deep and special partnership with Europe.’

The manifesto also states the Conservative party belief that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal for the UK.’

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The manifesto pledges to:

Leave the European Single Market and Customs Union.

Seek a free trade and customs agreement with the EU.

Evaluate whether to stay in specific European programmes and, if so, continue to pay for membership.

Agree the terms of Britain’s future partnership ‘alongside our withdrawal,’ concluding all talks within the 2 years allowed by Article 50.

One of the European Parliament’s ‘Red Lines on Brexit’ is that the UK can not negotiate trade terms before finalising the terms of the split with the EU.

Enact the ‘Great Repeal Bill,’ allowing laws to be made in the UK.

‘Convert EU law into UK law,’ giving British courts the right to amend or repeal.

Cut immigration to under 10,000.

‘Bear down’ on immigration from outside the EU.

Introduce an policy to control immigration from inside the EU.

The Conservative party has been criticised for not fully costing their Brexit plans, with Defence Secretary Michael Fallon admitting on BBC Newsnight that the plan to reduce immigration to ‘tens of thousands’ hadn’t been costed.

He went on to say that it was an ambition, not a proposal, but that the target would be easier to achieve once the UK isn’t constrained by freedom of movement, which currently means that ‘anybody in Bulgaria and Lithuania can up sticks and come here.’

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‘Toughen visa requirements for students.’

‘Expect students to leave the country at the end of their course, unless they meet new, higher requirements allowing them to work in Britain.’

Increase levies on British companies for employing ‘other workers’ where British people could be hired.

Continue to include overseas students in immigration statistics (unlike Labour).

Have ‘as frictionless a border as possible’ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.’

Defend Gibraltar as a British overseas territory.

‘Seek to replicate all existing EU free trade agreements.’

‘Support the ratification of trade agreements entered into during our EU membership.’

‘Introduce a Trade Bill in the next parliament.’

‘Create a network of Trade Commissioners to head nine new regional overseas posts.’

‘Reconvene the Board of Trade to ensure an increase in exports from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England.’

And finally, maintain the UK’s commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament.’

British Prime Minister Theresa May
British Prime Minister Theresa May

‘I can get a deal that works for all.’

In today’s speech, Mrs. May emphasised – as she has done throughout the campaign – the importance of her own personal role in the fate of the country.

‘Brexit will define us’ opens the Conservative manifesto, but most of all it will define Theresa May, and her legacy as Prime Minister.

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UK Election: Lib Dems commit to second Brexit referendum

Call them the Remain Party. 

Today the Liberal Democrats published their manifesto for the upcoming general election. In it, they pledged to legalise cannabis, raise £6bn to be spent on the NHS, social care, and public health, and to hold a referendum on the Brexit deal.

Labour’s manifesto, which was published yesterday, stated that they wouldn’t fight the referendum result, but would campaign for a ‘Brexit that works for everyone.’

The Lib Dems, however, are unequivocal in their desire to remain in the European Union.

In a campaign video released today, party leader Tim Farron addressed the British public: ‘if you accept [the Brexit] deal, then that’s what Britain gets, and if you don’t, you should be entitled to vote to remain in the European Union.’

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With the Conservatives ‘take it or leave it’ approach to the Brexit talks, and Labour’s acceptance of the split, the Lib Dems are not only trying to appeal to remainers, but also to the leave voters who they believe are disillusioned with Theresa May’s tough Brexit stance.

vote leave Lib Dems

They are hoping to build on their 9 MPs in parliament by harnessing what they see as the untapped pro-EU sentiment and embodying ‘Remainia.’

However, a recent YouGov poll showed that growing numbers of Brits feel the government has a duty to leave the EU, 23% more than in last years’ referendum in fact. ‘Forget 52%,’ this new demographic – knows as ‘Re-leavers’ – means the ‘pro-Brexit electorate’ now stands at 68%.

In what has been dubbed the ‘Brexit election,’ the success of the Liberal Democrats’ campaign to replace Labour as the UK’s official opposition rests largely on their Brexit stance.

Vote Leave Lib Dems

Brexit Britain.

In the manifesto, the Lib Dems clearly state their belief that ‘Britain is better off in the EU: it has led directly to greater prosperity, increased trade, investment and jobs, better security, and a greener environment.’

In the aftermath of Brexit, they say, ‘the value of the pound has plummeted, inflation has risen, growth in the economy has slowed, and the government is already borrowing billions more to fill the gap in lost tax revenue.’

And to make matters worse, the message being sent to young people is that their vote counts for nothing, while priority issues – ‘such as the future of the NHS’ – have been put on the back burner as the government concentrates on leaving the EU.

According to the Lib Dems, the Conservatives campaign for a ‘Hard Brexit will make all these problems worse.’

So what are they proposing?

Fighting a hard Brexit.

During Brexit negotiations, the Lib Dems say they will commit to using their ‘strength in Parliament to press for keeping Britain as close as possible to Europe,’ and will fight to:

Hold a referendum on the final Brexit deal, ‘with the alternative option of staying in the EU on the ballot paper.’

Protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in Europe, and simplify the requirements for EU nationals to obtain permanent residence and British citizenship whilst urging European leaders to do the same for Brits living abroad.

Maintain membership of the EU Single Market and Customs Union.

Support Freedom of Movement – ‘to abandon it would threaten Britain’s prosperity, and reputation as an open, tolerant society’ – so Brits are able to live and work in the EU.

Protect Erasmus and other EU-schemes aimed at young people.

Preserve EU-derived social rights and equality laws such as ’52 weeks’ maternity leave and rights to annual leave.’

Cooperate as closely as possible on climate and energy policy with the EU, which has ‘the highest environmental standards in the world.’

Maintain ‘maximum cooperation’ with Europol, continue sharing police databases, and retain the European Arrest Warrant.

Safeguard support for British industry, such as ‘farming, tourism and the creative industries,’ and ‘regional support for deprived areas.’

Allow London to retain its ‘full rights in EU financial markets: The City of London is Europe’s financial capital.’

Reject any decrease in investment in UK universities, and campaign for their right to apply for EU funding.

‘Retain traveller and tourist benefits such as the European Health Insurance Card, reduced roaming charges and pet passports.’

And finally, the Lib Dems say they will ‘oppose any moves that threaten’ Northern Irish political stability, and ‘campaign to protect the rights of the people of Gibraltar.’

Gibraltar Lib Dems
The re-enactment of the Ceremony of the Keys at Casemates Square, Gibraltar.

The Lib Dems increased their vote share from 7% to 18% in the recent local elections.

But they also lost 28 seats, and the growing ‘Re-leaver’ trend is cause for concern. In the run-up to the elections on June 8th, the last thing that the Lib Dems want to hear is that Remainers have moved on.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell

UK Election: Labour Manifesto outlines Brexit policies

Today, at the Labour manifesto launch, leader Jeremy Corbyn announced that his party had a plan to make ‘Brexit work for ordinary people.’

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell

British voters must choose, he said, between two very different types of Brexit: a Labour Brexit ‘that puts jobs first, or a Tory Brexit that will be geared towards the interests of the City of London and risk making Britain a low-wage tax haven.’

Many undecided voters on the left are weighing up a different choice, however, between voting for Labour and voting for the Liberal Democrats.

While the Lib Dems have come out in favour of holding a second referendum on the final deal, Labour have been criticised for their unclear stance on Brexit, the defining issue of this election.

The proposals outlined today have the potential to make or break the Labour campaign.

So, in amongst the scrapping of tuition fees, tax hikes, and nationalisation of industry, what is Labour’s Brexit strategy?

We have distilled all the relevant pledges from their manifesto – which is the 3rd longest in the party’s history – so that you don’t have to.

Negotiating Brexit.

Labour won’t fight the referendum result, but will seek to build a ‘close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations.’

They plan to:

‘End Theresa May’s reckless approach to Brexit’ and instead prioritise ‘retaining the benefits of the Single Market and Customs Union.’ (Remember this for later).

Guarantee ‘existing rights’ for EU nationals in Britain, and ‘secure reciprocal rights’ for Brits living in the EU.

Reject ‘no deal’ as an option in the Brexit talks.

Continue to work with European nations on climate change, the refugee crisis, counter-terrorism, and other cross-border issues.

Maintain the UK’s ‘leading research role,’ and retain membership of European organisations such as Euratom and the European Medicines Agency.

Seek to ensure British students continue to participate in the Erasmus scheme.

Maintain food quality and welfare standards to keep Britain from being ‘flooded with cheap and inferior produce.’

Replace the Conservatives ‘Great Repeal Bill’ (link) with an ‘EU Rights and Protections Bill’ to safeguard ‘workers’ rights, equality law, consumer rights and environmental protections.’

‘Power can feel just as remote and unaccountable in Westminster as it does in Brussels.’ 

Protect the EU-derived laws that benefit the UK, such as ‘workplace laws, consumer rights and environmental protections.’

Legislate to ensure that national security and criminal justice provisions are not jeopardised by Brexit.

Retain membership of Eurojust and Europol, and carry on with European Arrest Warrant Arrangements.

Negotiate a Brexit that benefits the whole of the UK by introducing ‘presumption of devolution,’ whereby EU powers will be devolved ‘to the relevant region or nation,’ because ‘power can feel just as remote and unaccountable in Westminster as it does in Brussels.’

Ensure no part of the UK feels the strain of the withdrawal of EU funding for the rest of this Parliament.

Labour would guarantee Parliament ‘a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.’

Make sure there is ‘no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and that there is no change in the status or sovereignty of Gibraltar.’

Welcome scrutiny, working with, not against Parliament. ‘On an issue of this importance the Government can’t hide from the public or Parliament,’ by guaranteeing it a ‘meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.’

Immigration.

Labour says it aims to prioritise ‘growth, jobs and prosperity’ in trade negotiations, and ‘makes no apologies for putting these aims before bogus immigration targets.’

Britain’s immigration system must change, Labour claim, but they will ‘not scapegoat migrants nor blame them for economic failures,’ while stating that ‘freedom of movement will end.’ (Remember this, too).

Nigel Farage
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage in front of his controversial anti-immigration poster during the Brexit campaign.

They also aim to:

‘Implement fair immigration rules, and put an end to ‘indefinite detentions.’

Work with businesses to ‘identify specific labour and skill shortages’ and create new ‘migration management’ systems. This system could include ‘employer sponsorship, work permits and visa regulations.’

‘Refugees are not migrants. They have been forced from their homes, by war, famine or other disasters.’ 

Protect the immigrants already working in the UK, raise their vocational skills and training, and end the migrant labour and workplace exploitation that ‘undercuts workers’ pay and conditions,’ by ‘cracking down on unscrupulous employers.’

Ring-fence public services instead of ‘pretending cuts are a consequence of immigration.’

Continue to welcome international students – who generate billions of pounds of income and help boost the economy, without including them in immigration numbers.

‘Uphold the proud British tradition of honouring international law and our moral obligations by taking our fair share of refugees. Refugees are not migrants. They have been forced from their homes, by war, famine or other disasters.’

Labour go on to say that they ‘values [migrants’] contributions, including their tax contributions.’

International Trade.

‘The UK’s future prosperity,’ says the Labour manifesto, ‘depends on minimising tariff and non-tariff barriers that prevent us from exporting and creating the jobs and economic growth we need.’

Scottish Labour Party leader Kezia Dugdale and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn the day before the Brexit vote.
Scottish Labour Party leader Kezia Dugdale and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn the day before the Brexit vote.

Labour plans to:

Hold a ‘national debate’ on Britain’s future trade policy, making sure ‘transparency and parliamentary scrutiny are part of all future trade and investment deals.’

‘Retain unrestricted access for our goods and services.’*


*This would be a real bone of contention for the European Parliament, who stressed the ‘indivisibility of the four freedoms’ (freedom of movement, goods, trade and services) in their recent ‘Red Lines on Brexit’ statement. 

This sentiment has also been echoed by Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Labour, however, wish to end to freedom of movement but keep the benefits of the Single Market, the Customs Union, and the same terms regarding goods and services.


They also plan to:

‘Work with global trading partners to develop free trade and investment agreements that remove trade barriers and promote skilled jobs and high standards.’

‘Build human rights and social justice into trade policy.’

Put an end to dumping on British markets.

Provide grants, as well as an ‘export incentive scheme,’ to help Small and Medium-sized Enterprises grow.

‘Boost British exports and support priority industrial sectors’ using ‘export credit, finance, insurance and trade promotion tools.’

Grow the digital economy and easy ‘cross-border data flows’ whilst ensuring national and personal data protection.

Invest in ‘new green technologies and innovative low-carbon products.’

Incentivise investment into the UK.

And finally, review international investment treaties and oppose ‘parallel investor-state dispute systems for multinational corporations.’

Funding. In total, the Labour Party has vowed to spend £48.6bn (BQ) in its new manifesto, which would be funded by extra tax revenue.

Theresa May has described the plan to finance the pledges as ‘nonsensical,’ saying the sums sounded like they had been ‘dreamt up by Diane Abbott.’

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But perhaps we should move beyond this ‘accountancy’ approach, says Torsten Bell of the Resolution Foundation.

‘This manifesto is really about significantly increasing the tax take to spend significantly more, but rather than getting our calculators out, we should really be debating the desirability or otherwise of a larger state.’

‘The election itself will tell us whether or not it proves popular with the electorate, but there is at least a clear debate to be had. And you don’t need a calculator to have it.’