Nick Palmer: Anna’s Notorious Tweet – and a Brexit Plan

Nick Palmer writes: Anna Soubry has started her campaign inauspiciously, with a tweet that is flatly untrue. She said that Greg Marshall had been imposed on Broxtowe Labour over me. As I said here (and I’m sure she’s read), I withdrew my application, because on reflection I felt that Greg would make a better candidate, not least as he’s much more on top of local affairs than I am now. What’s more, I recommended his selection to the party.

So I politely tweeted back to Anna asking her to correct her tweet. As far as I know, she hasn’t, and is presumably relying on social media to keep passing on fake news. LibDem David Watts crafted his version a little more indirectly, saying: “The Labour party chose not to reselect Nick Palmer” – this is true, but only in the silly sense that they didn’t reselect me because I wasn’t seeking reselection. Duh.

People would respect politics more if we simply said what we stood for instead of wasting time with this sort of innuendo. So let me take my own advice. Liberated from the task of chasing votes, I’d like in the coming weeks to discuss some national issues which will come up during the campaign. What I want to do is discuss them as objectively as possible and help assess what we think of the different parties’ stance.

First, Brexit. There are two incontrovertible facts. We have voted to leave. And we have no real idea how the negotiations will turn out.

My starting point is that although I voted Remain and I think we will come to feel that Brexit was a mistake, we need to make an honest effort to make it work – democracy requires nothing less. Equally, if it clearly isn’t working out and most Leave voters change their minds, then it’s not undemocratic to foresee thinking again.

So the sequence needs to be this:
1. During the coming election, parties need to state clearly what their priorities are for the negotiations, and how they will let Parliament respond to the outcome.
2. After the election, whoever is elected needs to negotiate honestly and in good faith on that basis, making compromises with the lesser priorities as needed to reach a deal.
3. If a deal is reached, it needs to be put to Parliament. If MPs approve it, we’re out. If they don’t, then the Government needs to go back and try to renegotiate the issues that worried MPs most.
3A. If the renegotiation fails, then MPs need to go back to the voters to ask if they still want to leave in view of the failure.
3B. If the renegotiation succeeds and Parliament now approves, we’re out.
4. If a deal is NOT reached, then 3A applies, except that there is no longer an option to “accept the bad deal”.
The party positions at present are:

The Conservatives are giving priority to restricting immigration. They are tacitly accepting that we will have restricted access to the Single Market, and seem open to a compromise on the money to be paid to the EU to cover our past commitments.

Labour are giving priority to Single Market access and employment rights. They recognise that some compromise on immigration may be needed,.

The LibDems want a fresh referendum, regardless of the negotiations, essentially to ask voters “Are you sure?”
UKIP reject any deal that involves compromising on immigration or paying significant money to the EU.
Unsurprisingly, I prefer the Labour position here (I know that Greg Marshall agrees although I know that he extends his “red lines” to include rights for EU nationals & expats, workers’ rights and strong environmental protections. He certainly doesn’t support Teresa May’s apparent drive for a low wage, corporate tax haven for big business.

Greg says:
“It is important our liberal democracy is upheld and this is a primary factor. Our citizens via the referendum said we should leave the EU. Theresa May expects Britain to leave while paying nothing, and she expects the talks to remain secret, most possibly to hide the financial objectives of the City of London although Europe’s response highlights these expectations as illusory. Labour’s position is clear: it would not walk away without a deal. Specifically, Brexit negotiations need to reinforce single market membership matching today’s benefits”.

There isn’t any doubt at all that restricting Single Market access will do serious damage to our economy – we can’t hamper trade with all 27 of our immediate neighbours without consequences. I think that the temptation for a Conservative government to take the chance to water down employment rights must be resisted.

I don’t think that simply asking voters to think again before the negotiations would be either democratic or sensible. But should we be willing to reconsider Brexit if it all goes pear-shaped? Yes – just like a General Election, a democratic decision must be respected but not treated as final and forever – as the economist Paul Samuelson said, “When events change, I may change my mind. What do you do?” A decision to leave regardless of whether it looks disastrous would not be democratic but pig-headed. In that situation, voters should be asked if they still want to leave.

The political problem is that if the Conservatives get a huge majority than we will indeed leave regardless of the outcome, without any fresh chance for voters to assess the situation. Even pro-Remain MPs like Anna Soubry have turned out to fold or abstain in the interest of party loyalty when it comes to actual votes in Parliament. When you come to vote, it’s worth considering if you really want to vote Conservative and help create that unthinking huge majority?

Best wishes


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5 Responses to Nick Palmer: Anna’s Notorious Tweet – and a Brexit Plan

  1. Mike H says:

    Please, in addition to the above note that…
    Brexit will take away your European Citizenship and associated rights and privileges.
    What could these be?
    In my case I believe they include; provision of a European passport and driving license, the right of my wife to travel to see her sister, the right of my daughter’s husband and children to stay in the UK, and for his employer to trade in the UK, the right of my son’s business to sell into European markets on the same basis as his European based competition (getting this wrong this puts 30 jobs at risk), the right of UK based airlines to use European airspace, the right for UK Universities and industry to participate in collaborative research projects, the requirement for goods and services and employment to meet standards that protect consumers and employees, that aim to minimize pollution, sustain fish stocks, ensure a continuing supply of safe food, sustain hill farmers, and, the right to access to the European Court to ensure that requirements such as those above are enforced. The right to seek collaborative EU-wide solutions to climate change, the continuing march of automation in eliminating jobs, energy shortages, the unchecked rise in national debt and many of the other urgent problems that my grandchildren face.

    What do I get in exchange for giving up these things? I can’t think of much, and, it seems,Theresa May won’t tell me ….I suppose we won’t have to pay MEP’s salaries and expenses… anything else?

    .., I am aware through these pages there those of us who think Brexit has happened .. I should warn them it hasn’t started yet…..also… . it seems that our negotiators believe our interests are best served by trading threat and insult … is that really a good way for us to get an advantageous deal I wonder?

  2. Fred R says:

    Thanks for the reasoned and reasonable article, Nick, and now that you’re a ‘free radical’ I look forward to others in the same unrestricted vein 🙂

    Your points about Brexit negotiations are sound, and in any rational political context should and would be taken on board by the political classes. Regrettable, we do not live in a rational political context. The election is about one thing, and one thing only: power. It was unsurprisingly called – bookies were offering a best-priced 6/4 against a 2017 election way before the announcement. The guff about it being to strengthen Herself’s hand in EU negotiations is clearly window-dressing. She has the chance to cement Tory rule for at least a generation, and is taking it. Any rationality in Brexit negotiations will be brought about behind the scenes by senior civil servants, quietly and despite the Britannia image being projected by Big Sister who’s developing quite a wee personality cult with the active support of the Tory media.

    IMO there are two major factors which will need to be resolved, one short term, one long:

    1. The position of EU workers in England. Even putting aside morality and justice, from a purely amoral self-interested viewpoint their position has to be clarified toot sweet. The future of the NHS and UK Higher Education, to name but two sectors, depends on it.

    2. The longer-term position of the younger generation, whose ability to move and work in Europe would be seriously curtailed once May’s Curtain comes down and the borders are closed. Youth voted 2-1 to remain, and it’s they who will have to live with the consequences of a vote by their elders. As, indeed, will the nation – if young people are not afforded opportunities they will go walkies, and an increasingly elderly England needs a young, working and breeding population to keep it going, particularly as immigration won’t be allowed to take up the slack. If we don’t want a brain drain of young people, we need to give them a reason to stay, and in the next year or two.

    • Ian Blakeley says:

      I’ll be very surprised Fred if the (problem) of EU citizens working here, and vice versa, isn’t resolved within an hour of talks commencing. The status quo will remain as is, end of.

      Personally I think that in the main, people are coming here have job offers whether they be casual agricultural working in Lincolnshire and the like, or skilled people taking up jobs that cannot be filled locally.

      I also think that most of the people whose main reason for voting leave was immigration weren’t thinking a lot about EU citizens but of restricting entry to people from outside of the EU. The huge problem that we have with immigration isn’t the people but rather that of ‘where are they going to live’. At the moment, discounting breeding and death, the population of Britain will increase by 1 million roughly every 3.5 years and we cannot decently house the population as it is thanks to ‘nimbyism’ and fannying around by local councils.

  3. Barry Morrison says:

    It seems to me that the business of EU workers in this country and British workers in the EU is being made to sound a lot harder than it actually is..Here’s my take on it and these are facts..In 1961 the Vienna Convention outlawed forced repatriation among the six member countries at the time..Over the years EEC membership increased and in 1993 the EU was formed and the previous law regarding repatriation was adopted into EU law which meant it was enshrined into, and superceded British law…Teresa May has already said she ain’t gonna start unpicking EU laws already adopted by the UK so why does such a big fuss seem to being made of it,?. As Ian says it won’t take ’em long to agree on this one

  4. Steve Carr. says:

    Someone is going to make a decision whether to accept the final deal. The Liberal Democrats believe the electorate should make that choice. That’s liberal democracy not the socialist interpretation. The logic of Greg Marshall’s ascertions is that when Labour lose the General Election,bwhich they will, they will then shut up for the next 5 years! Democracy does not stop after an election! People have every right to continue to campaign for what they believe is correct.

    I will never forgive the Labour Party’s capitulation on this issue. The enormity of this, the future of our younger generations and their lack of clarity and opposition makes our tuition fee moment pale into insignificance.

    The Tories are leading us up the garden path and Labour are giving them directions.

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