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Brexit reds… July 5, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Not often you’ll hear any praise for Keir Starmer on this site but, perhaps two cheer for him recognising reality – at least as it pertains to the English polity (and I say English deliberately). For he has stated:

Keir Starmer has thrown Labour back into the Brexit debate by ruling out any return to the single market or customs union, but arguing he could remove trade and travel barriers as prime minister because the EU would trust him.

In a speech on Monday evening that ended Labour’s habitual silence on the subject since the referendum, Starmer pledged to tackle what he called a “fatberg of red tape and bureaucracy” caused by Johnson’s Brexit deal.

Starmer cast himself as an “honest broker” able to reach better compromises on key areas of disagreement with the EU such as the Northern Ireland protocol.

…But the Labour leader argued that the big questions over EU membership, notably over the single market, customs union and free movement of people, were “arguments of the past”, and could not be revisited.

Although always arguing for Remain prior to the referendum it’s always been clear that from the point the referendum was passed, flawed or not, that Britain was not going to rejoin the European Union for decades. Simply put there was no appetite to do so and no political formation capable of bringing together the necessary strands of public opinion in the face of the democratic legitimation that the vote, however close, signified. 
And while it was arguably inevitable that the Tories – being in power, would champion the hardest possible Brexit, it always seemed to me that had Remain and soft Brexit managed to carve out common ground there would have been some scope perhaps to mitigate the worst of the Tory efforts. 

Well, that didn’t happen and we are where we are. And so Starmer is simply acknowledging reality. Notable are the pro-Remain voices falling into line with this approach. And perhaps a certain degree of utility in the line that he is taking.

Although both sides wanted to reduce trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, the government’s approach had “eroded” trust in the UK, Starmer told the Centre for European Reform thinktank.

“Labour will change that,” he argued. “We will be the honest broker our countries need. We will get the protocol working and we will make it the springboard to securing a better deal for the British people.”

If this is indeed a case of making Brexit work, well, good luck to the LP on that score – and I meant that sincerely because the current path is disastrous. Private Eye had a scathing piece in last week issue with regard to the Tories approach over the Northern Ireland Protocol noting that the OECD has joined the IMF in predicting economic stagnation in the UK in 2023, that the ONS has revealed the UK economy shrank in April, and the Centre for European Reform had calculated that the UK economy is already down 5.2% since Brexit. This is, as PE notes, in line with UK government predications in 2028, with a 4.9% hit predicted long-term if it was a hard Brexit.

As PE notes:

The fallout from reneging on the Protocol might well lead to something approaching [a no-deal Brexit which was predicted by the UK government to result in a 6.3-9% long term hit] implying yet more serious economic pain. Still, that’s only lost jobs and further erosion of income in the midst of a cost-of-lving crisis. A small price to pay to appease the headbangers on whom Boris Johnson depends for a few more months at No. 10.

So if the British Labour Party can craft something better from the ruins good for it. That said, what is there that can be ameliorated? Other than the Protocol it all feels a little weak.

The Labour leader set out a series of proposals to “make Brexit work”, notably over Northern Ireland, including a new veterinary agreement for agri-product trade, and a system for low-risk goods to enter Northern Ireland without checks.

Other proposals include a scheme for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications with the EU and a new policing and security arrangement with Brussels.

But let’s keep in mind this is an English solution for an English problem, because this following has it right:

In contrast, the SNP said Starmer “has strengthened the case for independence by embracing the Tories’ hard Brexit”…

What might be useful for England is of little utility for a Scotland that is on a distinctly different path and might in its implementation show up the very real limits of the Union (and the British Labour Party too, come to think of it!).


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