Thursday 28 December 2017

Brexitwatch: we don't want a 'second referendum'....

In the EU referendum of 2016 one choice was a reality: remaining a member of the EU (though constantly misrepresented by those who control 80 per cent of the national press by readership). The other – leaving or Brexit – was a fantasy – a great empty screen onto which everyone could project their fantasy: an extra £350m a week for the NHS, less immigration, no immigration, keeping all the advantages of EU membership without having to obey any of the rules, signing up trade deals with major countries all over the world in the blink of an eye, etc, etc.

No wonder many people were frustrated by a debate from which reality seemed generally absent.

If we were to have a referendum on any agreement Theresa May manages to negotiate with the EU, or on her failure to reach one, that would be a very different matter. Yes, the extreme right wing press would continue its distortion, but it would be a choice between two realities – accepting the Leave terms negotiated or withdrawing Article 50 and staying in the EU.

It would be a ‘second referendum’ only if the Brexit deal fulfils all the promises made by the Leave campaign, and even the Brexiters themselves are now admitting this will not happen. We should stop talking about a ‘second referendum’. We haven't had the first one yet, unless you count the one that produced a two-to-one majority for staying in the EU.

Sunday 17 December 2017

London: Bethnal Green tube disaster memorial unveiled

A memorial has been unveiled to the 173 people who died in one of London’s deadliest single disasters of World War Two.   

On March 3, 1943, the BBC reported a 300 bomber raid on Berlin, and Londoners braced themselves for retaliation.   As sirens sounded, people headed for the shelters.   Then 500 yards from Bethnal Green tube station (pictured), a new battery of anti-aircraft rocket launchers opened fire.
There was a rush for the steps leading down to the station, and close to the bottom, a woman stumbled.     Others fell over her, and a deadly crush began.    Altogether 173 people were suffocated or crushed to death, including 62 children, and another 100 people were injured.    In fact, no bombs fell on the East End of London that night.
A survivor who was 8 at the time, said at today's ceremony that it was 'fantastic' to see the memorial finally unveiled 73 years after the event. He spent nine months in hospital after suffering injuries to his spleen, legs, neck and arms.

For more, see London's Disasters from Boudicca to the Banking Crisis. 

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Brexitwatch: write to your MP NOW. Support amendment 124 TOMORROW and keep us in the Single Market

Staying in the Single Market is the 'will of the people'. It is also the least damaging form of Brexit, and it solves the otherwise insoluble Irish border problem. This is what I have written to my MP.
Dear Sir Keir,
I know from your previous emails that Labour believes it has to support the Tories on Brexit, however damaging it may be, because it is the 'will of the people'. As you know from my previous emails, I disagree.
However, if you want policy to be dictated by the 'will of the people' that also means we must stay in the Single Market. Every Tory MP elected in 2015 stood on this promise and throughout the Referendum campaign, Leave campaginers such as Boris Johnson, Owen Paterson, Daniel Hannan, Arron Banks, even Nigel Farage, were falling over themselves to assure us we would stay in it.
With such a narrow majority for leaving the EU, it is plain there was a majority for staying in the Single Market. Happily that is also the kind of Brexit that will do least damage and it will solve the otherwise insoluble Irish border problem.
I know that amendment 124 is not a Labour amendment, but on this occasion, I trust you and your Labour colleagues will put country before party and vote for this amendment.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington

Brexitwatch. Make sure MPs get a MEANINGFUL vote on any Brexit deal

Theresa May's government still wants to present Parliament with only a take-it or leave-it vote on any Brexit deal with the EU. MPs will have to accept the deal she has made however bad it may be, or crash out with no deal - almost universally recognised to be a disaster.

Tomorrow MPs who support Parliamentary sovereignty rather than government dictatorship will try to pass Amendment 7 to the EU Withdrawal Bill to ensure MPs get a meaningful vote. Even Brexiters are supposed to support Parliamentary sovereignty - indeed they told us that is why we are leaving the EU.

Write to your MP and demand they support Amendment 7. This is what I have sent to mine, Sir Keir Starmer:

Dear Sir Keir,
I am bitterly disappointed that Labour is still in coalition with the Tories on Brexit. I had hoped common sense would have prevailed by now. 
However, if you are still determined to block a referendum on the final deal (or lack of one) with the EU, I trust you will at least ensure that MPs get a meaningful vote.
It is crucial, therefore, that you and ALL Labour MPs back Amendment 7 to the EU Withdrawal Bill. History will not forgive those MPs who fail their country in this dark hour.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington

Monday 11 December 2017

Brexitwatch; THIS AFTERNOON. MPs vote on giving us a referendum on terms of any Brexit deal

The debate is 1630 this afternoon. MPs have been forced to consider giving us a say on the terms by a petition signed by more than 130,000. Write to your MP to demand they support a referendum.

This is what I have sent to mine, who happens to be Sir Keir Starmer:

Dear Sir Keir,
In this afternoon's debate, I trust you will be supporting the demand for a referendum on any 'final' Brexit deal with the EU.
In spite of all the obfuscation from most Tory, and sadly some Labour, MPs Brexit could do terrible damage to our country. In the 2016 referendum, it is plain that many, if not most, voters had no real idea about its implications.
It is, therefore, vital that the British people are given a REAL choice rather than the fictitious one they were offered last year.
Yours sincerely,
John Withington

Saturday 9 December 2017

Brexitwatch: at last - a defeat for the fanatics!

Nigel Farage really hates it. So there must be something good about the deal Theresa May has done to allow the UK to, probably, move on to the real Brexit negotiations.

Of course, all she has actually done is to kick the can down the road. As to what trade deal we can get with the EU, what transition arrangement there will be to stop the UK economy collapsing in March 2019, how the unicorns can be persuaded to fly in formation so that there is no border at the border between the EU and the UK in Ireland – all these issues and many more have simply been deferred.

But at least the head-bangers, the Brexit fanatics, did not get their heart’s desire of a suicidal, no-deal walk-out. And that probably represents the first time Theresa May has stood up to them.

People voted for Brexit for many different reasons – a lot of them contradictory and irreconcilable. Now there is a chance to drive a wedge into perhaps the most important fault-line – the one that divides the fanatics of UKIP and the Tory right who couldn’t care less how much Brexit damages the economy and just want to leave whatever the cost, and the more pragmatic Brexit-ers who believe, wrongly in my view, that leaving the EU will somehow make us more prosperous.  

There is a long way to go, but this is an important setback for the fanatics.