Liam Fox can complain as much as he likes about EU “blackmail” around Brexit negotiations, but his posturing simply shows how little he and the Government understand about the mess which Brexit is becoming. The clue is in the definition of “negotiate”: it is about reaching a compromise which is acceptable to both sides. The Brexiteers continue to believe that they will simply get what they want, and fail to understand the points of principle on which the EU is founded and not willing to compromise.
The “position papers” issued by the UK Government over the summer, which were claimed to provide clarity to the process, have done nothing of the sort and simply reinforce a notion of UK ignorance and intransigence. It is now very clear that no one in government had thought properly of the key issues before triggering Article 50 (the customs union, single market, citizens’ rights, the Irish border, Gibraltar, to name just a few), far less had tried to consider after the referendum whether leaving the EU was in fact the right thing to do.
What the Government needs to do now is to be honest with the British people: to explain why, in its view, it is right to follow the referendum vote; what the impacts of Brexit at all levels will be (and not hide the answers); and why leaving the jurisdiction of the ECJ is worth more than all of the downsides of extricating ourselves from all of the other elements of the EU. Of course this should have happened immediately after the vote, but it didn’t and leadership is still the commodity most noticeable for its absence. But until it does happen, confusion will still reign.
Meanwhile we are continually told that the prize of Brexit is that we can negotiate free trade deals with other countries. Here too no one has explained why on earth we have to renounce membership of the single market, which is so much better for trade than any free trade arrangement can be and which from its size outweighs all other potential deals which might exist elsewhere, only to seek to negotiate a “similar” status with the EU afterwards. Or why, for example, the EU does not already have free trade deals with USA, China, India, etc? Perhaps because acceptable terms have not yet been offered by the other sides? As the fantastic Mr Fox will find out, negotiating “free trade” with Trump’s America First USA may well mean having to accept for example cheap and industrialised foods which fall well below our standards; or with China or others it may well mean accepting steel at dumping prices which will kill off the rest of our own fragile industry; the point is that the UK no longer has the economic strength to hold the upper hand on its own in dealing with big economies like these, and any such deals will not make us, a net importer, stronger either. The reality is that we will undoubtedly be better off in the long term only as part of a bloc.
It is still not (quite) too late to come to our senses before long-term damage is caused to our economy and all of our livelihoods. But for that we need a government which can treat its people with honesty and integrity, and not with the shambles and delusions which we are being offered now.
More people need to speak out about Britain’s economic situation
Well done the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rest of the IPPR’s commission for speaking out about the dire situation the country is in, with worse to come (Britain’s economy is “broken” and failing to tackle inequality, says major new report). That a “radical new approach” is essential is something that needs to be repeated, and the more it is said by dignitaries like archbishops, judges, lords and business leaders, and even celebrities. The more publicity is gained, and the more likely the public and their politicians are to respond.
Challenging our Government, which has the nerve to say it is “proud of its record”, when the Brexit talks are at a standstill, there are drastic shortages of teachers, GPs, nurses, midwives, police and prison officers, building and food inspectors, carers and many more, when real wages have declined, business pay ratios often obscene, and the austerity policies continue to attack the least fortunate, cannot just be left to a Labour opposition which frequently gets a bad press in the right-wing media.
At a time when the “austerity chickens” are coming home to roost, and more and more people are appalled, it’s time a few more influential people made their voices heard. It wouldn’t hurt if that included some royals, and if protocol or custom prevented that, how about some well-publicised royal visits to food banks and hostels for the homeless?
We must go veggie to protect the planet
After the devastating Hurricane Harvey the US is now bracing for Hurricane Irma. It is obvious that Mother Earth is in a precarious state because of decades of abuse. In pursuit of short-term gains we have put in jeopardy our lives and lives of future generations.
One of the biggest causes of climate change is billions of animals raised for human consumption. Deforestation, the degradation of soil, the massive amount of chemicals seeping into rivers and oceans all are a result of billions of intensively reared animals. Such is the insatiable demand for animal feed that poor countries are roped in into growing soya to export to European countries at great environmental cost. Our planet is simply not big enough to sustain a human population of 9 billion and an animal population of 120 billion to feed it. A return to a plant-based vegetarian and vegan diet will replenish the planet and restore it to robust health but we are running out of time.
An alternative answer to the North Korea problem
With the many threats by the international community against North Korea – from intensifying sanctions to military action – let us remember that those who end up suffering the most are the millions of North Koreans who already have a bad time, have no say in the government policies and no means of leaving.
If the present nuclear powers feel justified in preventing North Korea from joining their club, I suggest that they swamp North Korea with American consumer products – from hamburgers and fizzy drinks to smartphones and internet pop music – all free. True, we may question the value of such consumerism, but it is probably not as bad as being starved or bombed.
Kim Jong-un is not the only isolationist leader
It has been reported that May called Trump to discuss North Korea’s “illegal acts” after latest nuclear test. Politicians are fond of calling North Korea’s activities illegal. Please could someone explain exactly what laws North Korea is breaking? There is no world government – only the United Nations and a network of treaties, to which I doubt the DPRK is party. May often refers to the need for the UK to regain its sovereignty; Trump tears up treaties. North Korea is not the only state that frets at external restraints.
A new space-saving idea for Ryanair
Hearing that Ryanair have cut carry-on luggage allowances apparently “to reduce flight delays”, it makes me think that they have really missed a trick.
Since it follows that luggage and passengers (or shouldn’t that be “customers”?) are an essential combination, why not completely ensure that flight delays are minimised by going the whole hog and ban passengers?
Brexit will mark the creation of the 51st US state
Andreas Whittam Smith’s commentary on ‘Michel Barnier’s comments about educating Britain..’ (5 September) lacks a staggering irony. Leaving aside the French-bashing – and the topping of ‘who won the War, then?’ – that is the default mode for the tabloids and the few anti-Brexit papers alike, it omits any mention of the Brexit mirror image: Britain turning to the US while France turns to Germany (but to discuss EU reforms).
The trade-off for this Government and the hardcore Brexiters who are calling its shots is that Britain rejects Brussels in order to move closer to Washington, reinforcing a relationship only our mandarins call special, but which looks like that of first lapdog. Macron rushed to Berlin to see Merkel, says the article. Yes, and May dashed over the Atlantic to see Trump, while her stumbling troika of Brexit, trade and foreign ministers seem to spend more time in the US than in Europe. Her Government is painting Britain into a corner: abandoning Europe and abdicating any independent British foreign and defence policy to Washington, at a time when the US President’s reckless unpredictability is alienating many mutual allies and could lead us down any garden path. Why the unquestioning support for his North Korea stance, for example?
So much for “taking back control”. Maybe there should be a second Brexit referendum, after all – to ask whether British voters wish Britain to become the 51st state.