Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Brexitwatch: the bent referendum. A letter to the Prime Minister


Most MPs know Brexit will damage the UK. They have been proceeding with it only because of the referendum result. 

But we now know the referendum was won illegally by the Leave side, who broke spending rules. So why isn't Brexit being stopped? That is the question I have asked the Prime Minister:


'In view of the revelation that the Leave campaign won the Brexit referendum illegally, I am surprised you have not already been in touch with the EU to withdraw Article 50.
When do you plan to take this action?'

Monday, 14 May 2018

Brexitwatch; the referendum was won illegally. What is your MP going to do about it?


So the referendum WAS bent. The Leave campaign spent more than was allowed, and have been fined £70,000 by the Electoral Commission. The police are now also investigating.

So the result is null and void, of course? With that surrealism that has become typical of Brexit, the first reaction of MPs seems to be to ignore this inconvenient fact, and hope it will go away or that no one will notice.

This is not good enough. All the evidence suggests leaving the EU will damage our country, and to continue with it because of an illegally procured referendum result is inexcusable. The only justification advanced for Brexit these days is the so-called 'will of the people' argument (see my post of of 15 December 2016) and that has now been blown out of the water.

Theresa May should by now have withdrawn Article 50. As she has not, MPs should be forcing her to. This is what I have written to mine (Labour's Brexit spokesperson, Sir Keir Starmer):


Dear Sir Keir,
I saw you on television yesterday admitting that there are no benefits to Brexit. I have written to you on a number of occasions urging you and the Labour Party to oppose this act of national self-harm. You have always maintained we have to do it (e.g, in your email of Jan 3, 2017) because people had voted for it.
As you know I have always rejected this, as Parliament itself ruled the referendum was 'consultative' only and not binding on MPs. Now, however, we also know that the referendum was ILLEGALLY won by the Leave side.
So what is Labour going to do about it?
I look forward to hearing from you,
Yours sincerely,
John Withington

Monday, 7 May 2018

Brexitwatch: Labour too cowardly to have an opinion. My letter to the party's Brexit spokesperson


A crucial vote comes up in the House of Lords tomorrow, with a decision on an amendment that would require the UK to Remain in the EEA, meaning we would stay in the EU's Single Market and Customs Union.

And Labour's view? Incredibly Jeremy Corbyn has ordered Labour peers to have no view - to abstain - just as they did over an amendment to guarantee us all a vote on any deal agreed with the EU. The result was a win for Theresa May's extreme right wing Tories and their extreme Brexit.

My MP is Labour's Brexit spokesperson. This is what I have written to him. Do you know a Labour lord to whom you could write something similar?

Dear Sir Keir,
'Staying in the EEA could preserve our rights to live and work in 27 countries, stop our economy being destroyed, preserve peace in Ireland, and, of course, it wasn't mentioned on the referendum ballot paper, so any 'will of the people' arguments are irrelevant. What does Labour think?'
'Er, we don't really have a view.'
How on earth do you expect to be taken seriously as a potential governing party when you are too cowardly or too clueless to take a position on the biggest questions facing our country?
I was horrified to see Labour sabotaging the chance of a referendum on any Brexit terms by ordering its members in the House of Lords to abstain, so ensuring the most reactionary Tory government I have ever seen would get its way. Now you are planning to do the same on the EEA vote. 
This is inexcusable. I urge you at this late date to change your mind and just for once, put country before party. Every Labour lord should be urged to support the amendment.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington

Sunday, 6 May 2018

The Brexit Tax: how much are you prepared to pay?




Nobody much now believes the biggest lie in British politics: that leaving the EU would produce an extra £350 million a week for the NHS. It is now clear that ANY arrangement that follows us leaving the EU will make us worse off - apart from a few of the hyper-rich non-elite who may be helped to avoid tax.

An assessment that Theresa May tried to keep secret shows that if we get a Norway-type deal of leaving the EU, but staying in the Single Market (the kind Nigel Farage used to favour but now considers insufficiently extreme) we will all be 2 per cent worse off. 

With a Canada-type free trade deal, we will be 5 per cent worse off, and if we go for the no-deal scenario favoured by the Brexit fanatics, which Theresa May is keen not to rule out, we will all be 8 per cent worse off. So instead of being paid, say, £30,000, you will get £27,600.

But it gets worse. Because we will all have less money, the government will get less from taxes to pay for the NHS and other public services. By 2033, the Norway model will leave a Black Hole in the public finances of £20bn or about £300 for every man, woman and child in the country; the shortfall for a Canada arrangement will be £55bn, or about £850 for every man, woman, and child in the country, while having no deal would cost about £80bn, or £1,230 for each of us.

Interestingly surveys on how much people are to pay for Brexit usually come up with the answer: £0.




Saturday, 21 April 2018

Brexitwatch: Letters to Lords and Ladies - a referendum on any Brexit terms


The House of Lords has already done important work in trying to stop Theresa May from dragging us out of the EU Customs Union, with all the disastrous effects that would have on our economy and on peace in Ireland.

Over the next few days, the Lords will consider another amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill requiring the government to hold a referendum on any terms agreed for leaving the EU, with an option to stay if the leaving terms are not good enough.

This is the letter I have sent to three members of the Lords - Baronesses Browning and Warsi, and Lord Bridges. If you wish to write to members you think are persuadable, please feel free to borrow from it or adapt it.

I am writing to you to ask you to support the amendment “Parliamentary motions on a referendum” to the EU Withdrawal Bill so that there will be a public vote on any final Brexit agreement reached with the EU.
This is essential because it is plain that the Brexit people were persuaded to vote for in June 2016 cannot be delivered. We were promised that we would be able to stay in the Single Market, that we would be able to leave the EU but keep all the benefits of membership, that leaving would have no cost for our economy, that it would be child's play to reach new trade deals to replace those with 70 countries that we tear up when we leave the EU, that the UK government would save money, etc etc. It is plain now that none of this will happen.
It is also essential because the referendum electorate was gerrymandered to exclude huge numbers of people likely to vote Remain - many UK citizens living in the EU, 16-18 year olds, EU citizens with long residence in the UK. In spite of that, and a rabidly anti-EU press, the Leave campaign was able to win by only a tiny majority. (And I haven't even started to discuss the questions of dishonest financing and foreign interference on the Leave side.)
All respectable predictions say leaving the EU will damage our jobs, businesses, savings, public services, standing in the world etc. Before we take such a fundamental and damaging step, it is essential we know that it really is what people want. 
The 2016 referendum was ADVISORY, and not binding on Parliament. This is absolutely clear from the legislation itself and from the pronouncements of government ministers advocating it. If we leave the EU, therefore, the consequences will be the responsibility of Parliament. I do not think historians will be impressed by its performance so far. Supporting this amendment gives Parliament a chance to start to repair the damage it has done.
Please vote for the amendment.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington

Friday, 20 April 2018

Brexitwatch; what Labour really thinks about Brexit


Somebody called Barry Gardiner is apparently Labour's 'shadow international trade secretary' A couple of weeks ago he was secretly recorded saying worries that peace in Ireland could be threatened by the re-introduction of a border between north and south after Brexit were just a bit of flimflam concocted by the Irish Government and Sinn Fein. 

As for, Labour's Brexit tests, designed to try to prevent the UK being completely destroyed by leaving the EU, they were 'bollocks'. 

When front bench spokesperson Owen Smith said that as the Brexit people had voted for could not be delivered, there should be a referendum on any actual terms negotiated, Jeremy Corbyn sacked him for not following party policy. Barry Gardiner is still in his job.

I don't think he should be, and this is what I wrote to my MP, who happens to be Labour's Brexit spokesperson, Keir Starmer:

Dear Sir Keir, 
I had to cover the Birmingham pub bombings as a tv reporter. I have lived through a series of IRA bombing campaigns, and I have relatives in Northern Ireland and the Republic. I am horrified that Barry Gardiner is prepared to jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement in order to pursue his fantasy of a Brexit that everyone who has given it a moment's thought, knows cannot be achieved. That alone should have been enough to get him sacked from the Shadow Cabinet, as Owen Smith was.
Now I read that he also rejects the key basis of Labour's Brexit policy - the six tests - though he did not have the guts to say so publicly. Why is he still in his job?
Yours sincerely,
John Withington

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Brexitwatch: fighting Brexit at the local elections on May 3



In my post for April 8, you can see a letter I sent to my (Labour) councillors asking for their advice on who I should vote for in the local elections in view of my belief that Brexit is the worst problem facing local government.

Below is a councillor’s reply, and my reply to him. As you can see, his response has convinced me that it would be wrong to vote for Labour (or any other Brexit-supporting party, e.g. Conservative) at the local elections.

Dear John,

Apologies, but I had to forward this to my personal email as we cannot use council emails for party political purposes. 

I agree that the impacts of Brexit will be signficant. Particularly for our poorest communities in the UK. Ironically, often where the vote for Brexit was the strongest. 

In Camden we have thousands of non-UK EU citizens who live and work here. I’m extremely proud of this fact, and to have a number of non-UK EU citizens as fellow cllrs. Camden has the gateway to Europe, via the Eurostar. And a large number of public services and sectors (like the tech industry) rely on the benefits we have through EU membership. 

Our manifesto which will be published Tuesday will make a strong statement, that Camden Labour will campaign to protect the rights of EU citizens, and to have the strongest possible links with Europe. 

In terms of practical measures, we will produce advice and support to citizens living here, work with the Mayor and continue to lobby and campaign so that no deal can be agreed without it having democratic legitimacy. 

Angela and I voted Remain, and believe strongly in the benefits of EU membership, economical, politically and socially. 

Best wishes,

Danny 

Dear Councillor Beales,
Thank you for your very prompt response. I have thought carefully about what you say, but I will not be voting Labour at the local elections, nor at any other election until the party starts wholeheartedly opposing Brexit.
The measures you outline are essentially designed to mitigate the worst effects of Brexit, but any Brexit of any kind will be less good for the people of the UK (with the possible exception of a small number of the very rich) than remaining in the EU, and, as you yourself, admit, the people who will be most damaged are those Labour is supposed to care most about.
The only way to 'have the strongest possible links with Europe' is to stay in the EU. 
I'm quite old, and UK politicians have made plenty of mistakes in my life time, but Brexit is by far the worst. Labour is making a terrible mistake by not fighting this act of national self-harm. If it does not have a rapid change of heart, historians of the future will treat the party very harshly, and rightly so.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington