Posts Tagged ‘post-Brexit relationship with Europe’

Time for a second referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union — End the politics of grievance — Former British foreign minister David Miliband

August 13, 2017

Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Former British foreign minister David Miliband called on Saturday for voters to be given a second referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union.

Writing in the Observer newspaper Miliband, foreign minister under a Labour government between 2007 and 2010, called Brexit an “unparalleled act of economic self-harm” and said there should be another public vote once the final terms of Britain’s exit are known.

Although no longer a serving British politician, Miliband – brother of former Labour leader Ed Miliband – is still seen as an influential centrist voice.

His criticism joins that of a growing number of pro-EU figures from across the political spectrum who say Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy is economically damaging and that voters should be given a chance to halt the process.

Reporting by William James, editing by David Evans

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Tory Brexit policy is chaotic: the fightback against this stitch-up must begin at once

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Democracy did not end in June last year. It is essential MPs have a say on the future or the country may be driven off a cliff
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David Miliband

David Miliband says Brexit was an “unparalleled act of economic self-harm”  GETTY IMAGE

For many years Britons and Americans have been proud of the quality of their governance. Yet today our politics and government are setting new standards for dysfunction. Rather than stability and global leadership there is confusion.

The US is suffering from a serious inability to legislate. There is a genuine risk of the country defaulting on its debts. Jeb Bush called Donald Trump the “chaos candidate”, but as the American writer Jonathan Rauch has pointed out the Trump candidacy was the product of political chaos – in campaign finance, for example – not its cause.

Meanwhile, Britain is suffering its own governability crisis. Leaving the EU was mis-sold as a quick fix. Now it looks like a decade-long process of unscrambling the eggs of national and European legislation. Ministers cannot even agree among themselves the destination, the route map or the vehicles to get us there.

This transatlantic malaise has a common root: politics based on what you are against, not what you are for. Look at the campaigns against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and against the EU. There is a common trope: the politics of grievance.

Complaints about individual policies became attacks against a whole institutional architecture. There were outright lies in both campaigns. And there was a complete (and effective) refusal to describe, never mind debate, what would replace the status quo.

Healthcare makes up nearly a fifth of the US economy – about $1tn larger than the whole UK economy. Support for Obamacare is growing, dramatically, because the alternative has finally been spelled out. It turns out that populism is popular until it has to make decisions.

In Britain, the implementation of the EU referendum decision has been rash and chaotic. The timing and content has been governed by factions in the Tory party. Our negotiating position is a mystery – even on immigration.

So the fightback against the worst consequences of the referendum has the opportunity and responsibility to get its bearings fast. Recent calls from Stephen Kinnock, Heidi Alexander and William Hague for Britain to embrace the European Economic Area are sensible. Nick Clegg’s point that a reformed Europe centred on the euro implies outer rings which Britain should consider also makes sense.

I never thought I would say this, but the chancellor, Philip Hammond, is also playing a valiant role. The transition he supports is vital. However, a transition postpones a rupture rather than avoiding it. Slow Brexit does not mean soft Brexit. Steve Baker, minister in the department leading the negotiations, has been refreshingly honest in saying the transition period is a “soft landing for a hard Brexit”. We have been warned.

The case against the EU depends on avoiding a discussion of the alternative. It is the equivalent of voting to repeal Obamacare without knowing the replacement. It is a stitch-up. That is one reason it is essential that parliament or the public are given the chance to have a straight vote between EU membership and the negotiated alternative. That is a democratic demand, not just a prudent one.

People say we must respect the referendum. We should. But democracy did not end on 23 June 2016. The referendum will be no excuse if the country is driven off a cliff. MPs are there to exercise judgment. Delegating to Theresa May and David Davis, never mind Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, the settlement of a workable alternative to EU membership is a delusion, not just an abdication.

Brexit is an unparalleled act of economic self-harm. But it was a big mistake to reduce the referendum to this question. The EU represents a vision of society and politics, not just economics. We need to fight on this ground too.

The Europe of Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel stands for pluralism, minority rights, the rule of law, international co-operation – and not just a single market. In fact, the real truth about the single market has been lost in translation.

It is not just a market. It is a vision of the good society. Rights (and holidays) for employees, limits on oligopolies, standards for the environment are there to serve the vision. The single market stands against a market society.

This is all the more important in a world where autocratic leadership is on the march. This is not just about China or Russia. The democratic world is itself splitting into authoritarian and pluralist camps. We can see Venezuela has taken a repressive turn. Within the EU, there is a battle to hold Hungary and Poland to their commitments, and Brexit weakens that effort.

And the US is not immune. John Cassidy of the New Yorker has coined the notion of “democratic erosion” – gerrymandered congressional districts, voter suppression and attacks on the media. Half of Republican voters say they would support the decision if President Trump postponed the next election.

The EU is not just a group of neighbouring countries. It is a coalition of democratic states which pledge to advance human rights, the rule of law and democratic rules. That is not a threat to Britain; it is the team we should be in.

So Britain’s choice about its institutional future is not just about pounds and pence. I favour the closest possible relationship with the EU, not only for economic reasons. The EEA does not just make business sense. Europe represents a vital and historic alliance of democracies, founded on the idea that social, economic and political rights go together and that countries best defend them in unison not isolation.

History makes the point. The post-second world war commitments to rights for individuals have their immediate political origins in the Atlantic Charter, agreed between Churchill and Roosevelt in Newfoundland in 1941. It set out the terms of postwar peace – notably human rights, national self-determination and international co-operation. It was called the “birth certificate of the west” by the former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer.

The insight was simple. Globalisation without rules and institutions would not mean more control for ordinary citizens. It would mean less. And less control means more risk to the living standards of those in greatest need. International co-operation was and is a force for social justice and against turbo-capitalism.

President Eisenhower said when you had an insoluble problem, enlarge it. The debate about transitional arrangements and institutional design of our relationship with the EU craves a broader framework. There is nothing more fundamental than the economic, social and political rights that looked like the norm at the end of the cold war. Now they are in retreat. Europe is their bastion. And that is the side we should be on.

David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid, relief and development NGO based in New York. He is writing in a personal capacity

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/12/david-miliband-tory-brexit-policy-chaotic-fightback-must-begin-at-once

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Britain Back in Brussels For Brexit Talks — ‘We Are Ready’ Says Britain, Launching Push to Break Brexit Stalemate

August 13, 2017

LONDON — Britain says it is ready to move to the next phase of Brexit talks and set out details of the future relationship it wants with the European Union.

Opening rounds of talks with Brussels have made little headway, with EU negotiators demanding greater clarity from the British delegation. The EU has warned that an already-tight timetable could be delayed ahead of a scheduled March 2019 exit.

Britain is keen to start talking about its post-Brexit relationship with Europe, wary of the need to reassure anxious businesses, citizens and investors. But, Brussels has insisted that progress must be made on divorce arrangements first.

“We’ve been crystal clear that issues around our withdrawal and our future partnership are inextricably linked, and the negotiations so far have reinforced that view,” a source in Britain’s Brexit department said.

Britain said it was preparing to publish several papers, including plans for a new customs arrangement and a proposal on how to resolve the difficulties of a non-physical border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“These papers show we are ready to broaden out the negotiations,” the source said.

The next round of talks is due at the end of the month, with both sides looking for progress towards a solution to three of Brexit’s thorniest problems: how much Britain should pay to leave, what rights British and EU citizens will have, and how to manage a land border to the bloc in Ireland.

The decision to announce the publications indicates Britain’s desire to counter criticism from Brussels about its approach to the talks.

In July, EU officials said progress was difficult not because Britain had unacceptable demands, but because it had no position at all on many issues.

A British paper focused on “issues unique to Northern Ireland and Ireland” is expected ahead of the talks, but no further details of the proposal were provided on Sunday.

Separate papers would also address “Continuity in the availability of goods for the EU and the UK” and “Confidentiality and access to official documents”, the Brexit department said.

Eager to push talks past the opening divorce issues and on to the future trading and legal ties to the bloc, Britain also promised a series of “Future Partnership” papers in the run-up to October’s European Council.

The first will be a proposal for new customs arrangements.

(Editing by Stephen Powell)