Saturday, 23 January 2021

Brexitwatch: stop treating pro-EU voters as unpeople - my reply to Labour

On 17 January, I posted Labour's reply to my emails asking Sir Keir Starmer to keep his promise and vote against Boris Johnson's Brexit deal. Here's my response:

Dear Sir Keir,

I was disappointed when my emails urging you to oppose Boris Johnson's catastrophic Brexit 'deal' were responded to by someone identified just as 'Lee from the Labour Party'. Is this taking a leaf out of the Tory playbook, where comments come from an anonymous 'Downing Street source'?

It is such a completely unsatisfactory response that I do not have time to respond to all its inadequacies, so here are a few:

1. The 'old divides of Remain and Leave' are not 'over'. It is true, of course, that there are no more 'Remainers'. We have been dragged out of the EU against our will, so we cannot 'remain'. But the division between pro and anti-EU voters in the UK is at least as deep as ever. All polling suggests that pro-EU people are in the majority, and among Labour voters, they probably outnumber anti-EU by around 3 to 1. In spite of that, Labour has decided to ignore pro-EU people because it seems to believe the only way to election victory is by winning anti-EU votes in the so-called former 'Red Wall' seats.

I can tell you that we who are pro-EU are sick and tired of being treated by Labour as though we are unpopular relatives, who unfortunately have to be invited to the party because you want our votes, but who are expected to sit in a corner trying to make ourselves invisible and under strict instructions to shut up.

2. If Labour had voted against Johnson's deal as I urged, it would still have passed comfortably, so the 'it was the only way of avoiding no deal' excuse won't wash.

3. Every day new Brexit disasters appear: fishermen who can't sell their fish, hauliers who bypass the UK, companies who give up exporting, consumers facing huge price rises, etc. If Labour wants, it can go around saying: 'nothing to do with us, guv, even though we voted for it. It's all that Boris Johnson's fault.' We'll see whether the voters buy that line.

4. As you voted for the 'deal', Lee's comments about how useless it is are irrelevant.

5. Lee says: 'Labour are focussed entirely on making this the best country to grow up in and the best place to grow old in.' This is the kind of vacuous drivel I expect from the Tories. You don't make a country better by making it worse - by making its people poorer, by stripping them, their children and their grandchildren of their rights, by making their country weaker and more divided.

Labour's performance on Brexit has been shameful. Half-hearted on opposing it in the referendum campaign, voting to trigger Article 50 when the government had no credible plan, turning a blind eye to the cheating, lying, gerrymandering and possible foreign interference that won the vote for Leave, etc., and now treating pro-EU voters as unpeople. Labour may want us all to go away, and let you have a quiet life in which no one ever says a bad word about Brexit. But we're not going anywhere.

Lee says Johnson's deal is no good, so let's see Labour fighting to tear down the barriers it has put up. Where's the campaign to rejoin Erasmus, to restore freedom of movement for musicians, artists, technicians, and what about the many others in less glamorous jobs who would like to go on working in Europe, where's the demand to get mutual recognition of professional qualifications? Why hasn't Labour set up a forum with business to find out what are the barriers stopping them trading with Europe, and working with them to get them removed?

Yours sincerely,

John Withington

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Brexitwatch: a (sort of) reply from Sir Keir Starmer

The story so far: I wrote to Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, who is also my MP, urging Labour to oppose Boris Johnson's disastrous Brexit 'deal', because supporting it would mean Labour would be tainted with its damaging consequences and would be disqualified from complaining about them (see my posts of 6 and 27 December). As you know, Labour whipped its MPs to support the deal and the vast majority obeyed. The main excuse being that if Labour opposed it, there was a danger of 'no deal', even though the deal would have passed comfortably without Labour votes.

I have now finally received a reply - not from Sir Keir, but from 'Lee' of the Labour Party. I will be responding but I would be interested in any thoughts readers have before I do. Here it is:

Dear John,


Thank you for your email to Keir Starmer MP in relation to Britain’s withdrawal from the E.U. At this point in time, Keir’s mailbag is so full that he has asked me to respond on his behalf. I’m very sorry for the delay in getting back to you.


Your strong views, arguments and observations have been duly noted and shared with the relevant policy teams.


The old divides of Remain and Leave are over. We now have two options: Johnson’s flawed trade deal with the EU, or the chaos of ending the transition period with no deal, which would mean substantial tariffs and barriers to trade. Neither one is ideal. Neither one will deliver for jobs, business or the economy.


We have always said that to crash out with no deal would be unthinkable. It would have created enormous uncertainty, endless negotiations and inflicted huge damage to businesses in highly exposed sectors, including manufacturing and farming.


With no option of renegotiating left, that is why we voted in the national interest by rejecting no deal.


Voting for this deal does not mean we welcome it: it is a choice between this and no deal. This is the better option for business, supply chains, the economy and jobs. This deal will provide some stability and certainty for businesses. Without it, we would have had no deal which would have meant investment and jobs lost across crucial sectors.


But, this is Johnson’s deal. He and his Government will own it and they must take full responsibility for their slowness and lack of preparedness – and for the promises they make and break. There was no reason that a deal this unambitious for the UK had to be left until the final days of the transition period. The decision to delay this deal has already done unnecessary damage to businesses and the economy.


Moreover, this deal falls far short of what the Government promised. It neglects services, which account for 80 per cent of our economy, and weakens our security measures. There was very little time for Parliament to scrutinise the deal properly because of the speed it must be passed as to avoid no deal. So much for ‘taking back control’ – this Government is arriving at the last minute with a deal that is more ‘be grateful you’ve got anything’.


More holes will be exposed in the coming weeks and months which must be mended in the future. Labour in Opposition and government would focus on improving and building on it and standing up for the country’s interests. This Government must now get into action and properly support British industries adjusting to new trading rules, building up local supply chains and expanding in to new markets, instead of casting them to one side as they have over recent months.


Labour are focussed entirely on making this the best country to grow up in and the best place to grow old in. This biggest challenges facing our country and our planet require co-operation and international solutions, and a Labour government will work with others with shared values to tackle those.


However, with the trade deal agreed, the task of securing the economy, protecting the NHS, and rebuilding the country will only have just begun. A Labour government will build on the foundations of this deal, stand up against any Tory attempts to dilute workers’ rights and environmental standards, and make the United Kingdom the best place to grow up and the best place to grow old.


Best wishes,  



Membership Services and Correspondence 

The Labour Party 


Sunday, 27 December 2020

Brexitwatch: Write to Labour again!

Disappointing to have had no reply to my email to Sir Keir Starmer (who happens to be my MP) urging Labour to vote against any Tory Brexit that fails to fully satisfy Labour's 6 tests. (see my post of December 6.)

So I'm having another go - see below. If you don't want Labour to back a Tory Brexit and be disqualified from complaining about its damaging effects, you should write to Sir Keir and your Labour MP if you have one.

Dear Sir Keir, hope you had a good Christmas. I am disappointed not to have received a reply to my email of 6 December (see below) particularly as I keep reading that you are going to instruct Labour MPs to support Boris Johnson's dreadful Brexit 'deal'. 

Every day, new details emerge of how it will damage people's lives, but if Labour votes for it, you will be disqualified from criticising its effects. Imagine the scene :

'He used to be Captain Hindsight, Mr Speaker. Now he's been demoted to Sgt Turncoat! Just a few days ago, he and the party opposite voted for our historic agreement with the EU. Now they're against it! I know he's a lawyer, who changes his brief as often as he changes his briefs, Mr Speaker, but he's no leader. Britain needs leadership, and the party opposite have shown once again that they're shallow, unprincipled opportunists, who have nothing to offer our country.'

In 2018, you promised me Labour would vote against any 'deal' that did not satisfy all its six tests. This one comes nowhere near. You should keep you promise and urge Labour MPs to vote 'no' to Johnson's deal.


John Withingon

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Brexitwatch: WORLD EXCLUSIVE! that historic Johnson-Macron phone call.

 'Bonjour Emmanuel, j'ai un peu de difficulte, Brexit-wise, avec les tete-bangeurs de l'ERG.'

'Very good, mon ami, but let's parler anglais. You'll find it easier.'

'Right, well, look, You know that I know as well as you know that Brexit is a merde-show, and that no-deal is even merder. But if I do a deal, those ERG-ers are going to come looking for my guts pour faire les garters.'

'Ne t'inquiete pas. I have an idea. We give them a petite saveur.'

'Of what, French cooking? I can't see how that'll work. Still, I suppose anything's worth a try. But no garlic.'

'Non! Non! A petite saveur of no-deal!'

'You mean confront them with reality! Mmmm, never thought of that, but how?'

'Well. This new variety of the Covid virus that is making you British get your culotte un peu twiste par le present. What if I were to use that as an occasion pour fermer the border. Proteger la France! Take back control, as you might say.'

'Mmmmm, yes. Lorries grind to a halt, park on every verge and pavement in Kent, village gardens turned to public toilets, impenetrable tailbacks miles long! Any Brits not driven mad by Brexit might start wondering if the ERG-ers are barmy!'

'And the opposition to a deal va disparaitre dans les airs.'

 'Vanish into thin air! Like Brexit promises the morning after the referendum. Brilliant! Why hadn't I thought of that?'

'Do you want me to answer that question'

'Er, no. Tu m'as sauvee la vie! Ferme la porte, et les ports, of course. Merci, Emmanuel.'

'Je t'en prie. Bye, bye no-deal. Hello surrender, er, pardon, world-beating agreement. Au revoir.'

Monday, 14 December 2020

Brexitwatch: the last days of cake-and-eat-it?

I explained in my last blog (12 December) how Brexit is actually quite simple, and the consequences that flow from that for the UK are simple too.

Once we decided to leave, we could try to stay close to the EU, which would mean obeying most of its rules. Or we could have a more distant relationship which would make us poorer.

Boris Johnson and the Conservatives did not find this a very attractive choice, and have tried to shirk it for the last three and a half years by claiming there was some kind of magic have-our-cake-and-eat-it solution.

Johnson’s dishonesty, short-termism and general fecklessness has now left him painted into a very fight corner where the choice is between a rotten deal that makes trade with the EU a lot more difficult and the UK a lot poorer, and no-deal which makes trade even more difficult and the UK even poorer.

(Theresa May’s deal would have made us about 3% worse off than remaining; Boris Johnson’s deal (if he could get it accepted by the EU) would make us about 4% poorer, while no-deal would carry an eye-watering 8% penalty.)

He was supposed to finally take a decision between these unpalatable options yesterday, but once again he bottled it. But the decision and the abandonment of cake-and-eat-it can’t be put off beyond 31 December, unless Johnson takes another unpalatable action: seeking the extension to transition that he said would never happen ‘in any circumstances’, and which would enrage the Brexit fanatics who maintain him in power.


Saturday, 12 December 2020

Brexitwatch: understanding the 'negotiations'

 'Miss! The EU's being mean to us!' Of all the Brexit bleats, is this the most pathetic, and the most demeaning for Britain?

For a start according to Brexiters, the EU can't be mean to us. 'We hold all the cards, they need us more than we need them, the German carmakers will make the EU give in,' and all the other Brexit lies you know and hate.

Unless you don't want to understand, Brexit is actually pretty simple:

The EU didn't throw us out. We, foolishly in my view, left.

The EU doesn't owe us a trade deal or anything else.

If the EU believes a deal with us is in its interest, we get one.

If it doesn't, we don't. 

The EU gets to decide what's in its interest, not us.

That was always the way it was going to be. Isn't it weird how those Brexiters who are most fanatical about standing up for what they claim to be the UK's interests in the 'negotiations' are the most outraged when the EU stands up for its interests?

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Brexitwatch: it's time Brexiters respected the referendum result

As a Remainer, I got plenty of abuse for allegedly refusing to 'respect' the result of the 2016 referendum. Let's leave aside for a moment the fact that the referendum was advisory not binding, that it had a gerrymandered electorate, that it was won by lying, cheating and possibly Russian interference.

What I wonder is why Brexiters aren't required to respect the referendum result? During the referendum campaign, they promised that 

we would stay in the Single Market 

we would be richer, with more money to spend on the NHS 

we would not in any circumstances leave without a deal 

we would get to vote on any proposed deal before we committed to leaving

there would be no border between Northern Ireland and the UK

there would be no disruption to trade

we would have a whole stack of new trade deals to start the day we left the EU etc, etc

With just 14 working days to the end of transition, we still have no idea whether we will get a deal or not. What we do know is that any deal we get will bear no resemblance to what the Leavers promised. The referendum was won by the deal the Leavers promised, not the lousy deal or no deal we are being offered today.

I want the referendum result to be honoured. I want delivery of the Brexit that was promised. If that can't be delivered, there is no justification for leaving the EU.