The EU referendum was not intended to be advisory

I contend that, contrary to the claim that the EU referendum was intended to be advisory, it was in fact the clearly and repeatedly stated intention of the government to honour the result of the EU referendum, that our Parliamentarians knew this was the intention when they passed the legislation and voters were told clearly that this was the case in the campaign itself.

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It seems unlikely to me that Brexit will lead to Scottish independence

One the 23rd June, Scotland voted 62% vs 38% for remaining in the EU, which is of course at odds with the overall UK vote of 52% vs 48% for Leave.

Since then, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government have been quick to put the option of holding a second referendum on independence on the table, but Sturgeon has so far fallen short of saying it would definitely happen, and talked about looking at all the options for Scotland to remain in the EU.

With the SNP taking 56/59 of the Scottish seats at Westminster in 2015 and forming another administration at Holyrood, with the help of the pro-independence Scottish Green Party, and with the vote to leave the EU being explicitly one of the options Sturgeon had mentioned that might trigger a second independence referendum, many are now talking about the possibility of that happening and thus of Brexit leading to the breakup of the UK.

However despite these poll results, it seems to me rather unlikely that Scotland will become independent in order to become an EU member.

The reasoning for this is simple

  • I expect Scotland to end up outside the EU, having to apply to join, if she obtains independence from the UK.
    • It seems to me most unlikely that Scotland will be able to remain in the EU as the rest of the UK leaves, it is highly speculative as to how it would work and it requires cooperation from the EU and the UK to happen, and it’s not clear why either the UK or EU would entertain the notion.
  • Voting to leave both the UK and the EU means voting for a double dose of economic uncertainty, an extra dose on top of that caused by Brexit itself. It thus seems to me that an independence referendum with that as the choice will be even harder for the SNP to win than the 2014 referendum was. Questions about how the deficit will be dealt with, what currency option will be pursued, etc will be even more stark than they were in 2014.

Additionally, I note that a recent opinion poll did not favour Scottish independence in the event of Brexit.

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It’s too early to assess the impact of Brexit

Since the vote to leave the EU on the 23rd of June there have been a number of reports in the media on the state of Britain’s economy.

On the positive side, the reports have included:

On the negative side, the reports have included:

I have a few problems with these reports:

  • We haven’t left the EU yet! The indicators at best indicate what the impact of the vote to leave has been, and will in fact be some combination of that and other factors. To the extent they reflect the impact of the vote, they will be indicating the uncertainty that has arisen as a result of the vote but prior to even the beginning of negotiations which won’t start until 2017.
  • Some of the indicators are likely to be lagging indicators that will not yet show the impact of the June vote, e.g. figures relating to employment/unemployment will be showing mainly the impact of pre-vote decisions/factors.
  • There’s huge amount of uncertainty that will persist until we know what the outcome of the negotiations with the EU will be.

To claim that predictions about the impact of Brexit, whether positive or negative, are now being proven true (or false) is thus extremely premature.

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Corbyn refuses to say if he would honour Nato’s mutual defence pact

At a Labour leadership hustings in Birmingham, Jeremy Corbyn was questioned about whether he would come to the aid of a Nato country that was invaded by Russia. After Owen Smith said we would have to go to the aid of such a country, when pressed on this issue Corbyn said:

That’s in the NATO treaty. I would hope we that could strengthen our relations and activity within the OSCE, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation within Europe, which includes Russia and every other state. We cannot allow a military build-up which is going to lead to some calamitous, incredibly dangerous situations…

[he’s interrupted by the interviewer here, who presses him again on the scenario]

I would want to avoid us getting involved militarily by building up the diplomatic relationships and also trying to not isolate any country in Europe to bring them up.

[Corbyn is pressed further by the interviewer at this point]

I don’t wish to go to war, what I want to do is achieve a world where there is no need to go to war, where this is no need for it, that can be done.

The problems I have with this response are that:

  • he has not actually answered the question of what his response as British PM to a Russian violation of sovereignty of a Nato country would in fact be.
  • he appears to think he can avoid the scenario ever rising through diplomacy and through avoiding any kind of military build up, but surely whether or not Russia (or any other country) will decide to invade another state is not under Corbyn’s control. Even if his approach to diplomacy might work to achieve a world where we there is no need to go to war, he’s assuming he’ll have time to put it in place after being elected PM before being faced with such a scenario.
  • it may be Russia’s (or another country’s) intent to invade an allied country regardless of any dialogue or diplomacy,
  • Corbyn seems unwilling to let us know whether he would or would not take military action in these circumstances, but this is surely an important thing we need to know for a would-be Prime Minister.

I conclude that Nato members cannot rely on a Corbyn government to honour the mutual defence pact should the need arise.

 

 

 

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Labour’s dilemma regarding Corbyn

With Labour MPs voting 172-40 for a motion of no confidence in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Corbyn resolutely staying put, citing his solid majority when he was elected leader by Labour party members,¬† we have a stand-off between the leader and the party’s MPs when unity is needed to form an effective opposition and to fight the next general election properly.

On one side we have the bulk of Labour MPs who say they’ve lost confidence in Corbyn, accusing him of a lack of leadership, and who are afraid Labour will lose¬† the next general election with Corbyn at the helm.

On the other side we have Corbyn and his supporters claiming that he has the backing of the party’s membership, that it would be a betrayal of the members for him to step down and that his opponents within the Parliamentary Labour Party have organised an unconstitutional coup against him.

This conflict can only be resolved if one side concedes defeat to the other, and the longer it continues the less impressed voters are likely to be with the party. How might a stable resolution of this conflict come about? I see only the following possibilities for a stable solution:

  1. Corbyn resigns, opening up a new leadership contest. For this to happen, Corbyn and his supporters would need to be convinced that he would lose if he were to contest a leadership election should one be forced on him. In this context, this means that there would need to be solid evidence presented that the party membership has deserted him. How that evidence would be gathered without a leadership election is unclear.
  2. Corbyn contests a leadership election and is reelected with a solid majority, ideally (for Corbyn’s side) with an increased majority of the party’s members. Those seeking to oust Corbyn would then have to concede defeat at least until the next election. It would however make for a difficult period for the party, as it would open the party up to attacks from the media and the government based on the fact that the bulk of the PLP have expressed no confidence in Corbyn.
  3. Corbyn contests a leadership election and is comprehensively defeated. This would allow the party to unite behind a new leader and put the Corbyn era behind it. But if Corbyn is correct about his support amongst the members how likely is it this will happen?
  4. The PLP decide not to mount a challenge to Corbyn’s leadership after all and to back down and see how he does at the next election. This will leave those MPs looking foolish and weak. Corbyn’s position in the party would be stronger, but he wouldn’t have an effective parliamentary team – who’d take them seriously?

Only possibilities 1 and 3 would really minimise damage to the party. 2 would at least make it clear Corbyn has the confidence of the party at large, but would leave the parliamentary party with a bit of a credibility problem or alternatively might see the party split in two. 4 would be leave the parliamentary party looking like a complete joke.

Any outcome that doesn’t comprehensively resolve the issue would mean the battles will rumble on.

This conflict thus risks the party splitting as it did in the 1980s or otherwise being seriously damaged, but with greater peril since this time round Labour’s already lost Scotland and has UKIP breathing down its neck in both England and Wales. If there is a leadership challenge and a resulting election fails to produce a decisive majority either way, that could actually make things worse.

I conclude therefore that it is not looking good either for Labour or for Corbyn.

 

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Can the Scottish parliament veto Brexit?

In short: in my completely non-expert opinion, based on plain reading of the Scotland Act and the evidence used to suggest this in the first place, no.

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Boris Johnson: I am not bothered with civil liberties stuff for terror suspects – Telegraph

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Johnson said: “In many ways the guys who did this kind of thing are very often at the fringes of criminality, lured into terrorism by very cynical and clever idealogues. In many ways they are vulnerable to all sorts of criminality.

“You have got to have a very tough security solution, to be absolutely determined to monitor these people, know where they are, know who they’re talking to.

“I’m not particularly interested in this civil liberties stuff when it comes to these people’s emails and mobile phone conversations. If they are a threat to our society then I want them properly listened to.

via Boris Johnson: I am not bothered with civil liberties stuff for terror suspects – Telegraph.

If someone’s a genuine threat then I want them listened to. Surveillance targeted at those the authorities have reason to believe pose a threat is fine, but we should not be engaging in mass surveillance of the general population, and that’s why I oppose the snooper’s charter.

 

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