Author Archives: Rebecca Taylor LibDem

GE2017: Theresa May promises to make the UK weak and unstable

Tory(kip) PM Theresa May is preparing to throw the country off a cliff to save her political career and she doesn’t care if that makes the country weak and unstable as long as she’s still in charge. Whatever you think of Mrs May, she’s not stupid….

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Brexiters still pushing EU – UK trade myths

The Brexiters are continuing to push the lie that “A bad trade deal will hurt the EU more than the UK”. 

They often said during the referendum campaign that “they sell more to us than we do to them”. That’s true because (rather unsurprisingly) 27 countries sell more to 1 country than 1 sells to 27, but total volume is less important than what proportion of trade that represents.

1% of China’s trade is a huge volume, but if 99% goes elsewhere, the country to which China exports 1% won’t hold much sway. In 2016, 46% of UK exports went to the EU and 8-17% (depending on how it’s measured) of EU27 exports went to the UK.

If there is no trade deal, the EU27 lose access to or (more realistically) get increased cost & hassle with ONE country. The UK on the other hand loses access/gets increased cost & hassle with 27 countries plus EEA/EFTA countries and all the 50 countries the EU has trade deals/arrangements with e.g.Canada, Mexico, Chile, Turkey etc.

Germany is the EU’s biggest exporter to Britain. In November 2016, a spokesperson for the BDI (German CBI) said that while 7.5% of German exports go to the UK, 92.5% go elsewhere, mostly to other EU countries hence the first priority for German businesses is to defend the single market. 

Yet still today, the Brexiters talk about German businesses putting pressure on Merkel to give the UK a good deal. It’s not going to happen; while they would prefer it to be otherwise, German businesses are resigned to the fact that exporting to the UK is likely to get more difficult and expensive.

Sadly, the UK has much more to lose and the government knows this. This is why they are already pushing the “punishment” narrative. Blaming the EU is the only way the government can avoid being blamed for failing to deliver a have-your-cake-and-eat-it EU trade deal that has been promised by both David Davis and Theresa May.

The EU has no desire to punish Britain, but it will defend the interests of its remaining 27 member countries. That means the UK cannot have more advantageous trade arrangements outside the EU than as a member, which should be mind numbingly obvious. But watch and see how anything less than the rest of the EU bowing down to Britain and allowing us to cherry pick the trade deal we want, will be sold by the government and pro Brexit media as “punishment”.

Had the government taken a more realistic and collaborative approach, the chances of a good (as in least worst, not better than we have now) trade deal would be much much higher. Whether you voted Leave or Remain that the government is behaving in a way that makes a good trade deal with the EU LESS LIKELY should anger you!

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Mrs May and her Brexit crew are panicking

They’ve realised their have-your-cake-and-eat it EU deal can’t be delivered

There have been suggestions from various sources including blogger JJ Patrick (see: tweet stream below) that Theresa’s May already plans to walk away from the negotiating table without an agreement with the European Union on Britain’s future dealings with the world’s biggest trading bloc and “blame EU intransigence”.

This means a cliff-edge Brexit i.e. WTO tariffs, no trade deals with any country in the world, which would according to the leaked Treasury report leave the UK with less access to the EU single market than Afghanistan or Yemen”. Not a pretty picture and certainly not what Leave voters were promised.

So why on earth would a government inflict such an economic disaster in waiting on their own country? The answer seems to be “if they’ve realised they haven’t got a hope in hell of delivering the land of milk and honey they promised and think the only way out is to shift blame on to someone else”. The someone else of course being Theresa May’s favourite culprit for her failure, the European Union. 

Mrs May has form on blaming the EU for her own failure as she did when she couldn’t achieve “net migration in the tens of thousands”. Although non EU migration (100% in her control as Home Secretary) was HIGHER than EU migration, she blamed “uncontrolled” EU free movement. The EU free movement, which had controls she chose NOT to use. 

And then there’s the fact that the Brexiters should be at their happiest now, they’re in power, they’re polling well, the main “opposition” party isn’t opposing much, and has an ineffective leader, so why are they all so grumpy, angry and nervous? Because (as Nick Clegg puts it very well in the Evening Standard ), their Brexit #ProjectFantasy has just collided with #ProjectReality and they’re starting to panic.

Nothing else can really explain why Theresa May’s control-freakery has gone into overdrive. Not only does she not want Parliament to have any say (parliamentary sovereignty my foot!), but she wants to silence anyone who dare even question what she’s doing, never mind oppose it. Take her sacking of Lord Heseltine from his non-remunerated adviser roles (he’s over 80 and was working 3-4 days a week for free!). The pro-European Tory grandee’s politely put and reasonable views wouldn’t have ended up plastered across national print and broadcast media so widely had he been ignored and not sacked.  

In some of the numerous media interviews he undertook, Lord Heseltine also noted that many Tory MPs feel “appalled and betrayed by Theresa May’s handling of Brexit”. Another reason for nervousness, control freakery and undue haste. And that was before Nicola Sturgeon called a second independence referendum for Scotland.

Those of us who still believe Britain would be better off inside the European Union can perhaps take heart: this Tory Brexit government is nervous because they know they have to deliver the impossible to avoid public opinion and their media baron bosses turning against them. Pro-Europeans must hold our nerves because the war for the very soul of our dear country is not over yet.

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Let’s have a bit of British fairplay for EU citizens living in the UK

Whether you voted Remain or Leave, please be aware that the Home Office are using a little known rule about health insurance to refuse official permanent resident status to EU citizens who have lived, worked and paid taxes here for many years. Th…

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The Brexit vote & migration – Dreda Say Mitchell, you’ve been betrayed already

In her Guardian comment piece, author Dreda Say Mitchell, a Brexit supporter, says that she and other BAME Brits who voted leave did so partly because they wanted a fairer migration system for the UK, one that did not favour EU citizens over non EU citizens. She goes on to say that if Mrs May will not deliver that fairer migration system, then many BAME Brits who voted leave will feel betrayed.

Unfortunately, that betrayal is already evident. The vote in favour of Leave has been interpreted by Mrs May as a mandate to cut immigration and to reach that magical (mythical?) figure of 100,000 net migration per year. 
Non EU migration has been consistently higher than EU migration and the most recent figures put it at 170,000. So even if EU migration was stopped entirely (rather unlikely), the government would need to cut 70,000 from non EU migration and it appears they have every intention of doing that.  

Some who voted Leave believing it would make non EU migration much easier have already realised they were betrayed. For example, curry house bosses promised easier visas for curry chefs by Tory Leave campaigner Priti Patel MP have already realised they were deceived and are quite angry about it. And just in case there is any doubt, Labour MP Rupa Huq asked a question in parliament and was told there were no plans for the “curry chef visas” Ms Patel promised voters.

In criticising EU free movement, Ms Say Mitchell does not acknowledge that it is RECIPROCAL and that millions of Brits have gone to live in other EU countries. In addition, there are of course millions of BAME EU citizens and some of them have even come to live in the UK (I’ve met Germans of Turkish descent, Danes of Iranian background, Swedes of Korean background, and French citizens of North African heritage, to name but a few). There was and still is nothing preventing the UK government from having the same freedom of movement with non EU countries.

In addition, Ms Say Mitchell has also (like millions of people in this country to be fair) fallen for the lie that EU free movement was “uncontrolled” or even “uncontrollable”, which is patently false. EU free movement is conditional and the UK government could have chosen to impose those conditions, but never did.

Mrs May had six years in the Home Office to implement a system of control of EU free movement as other EU countries do (I experienced it myself as an EU migrant in Belgium), but she chose not to do so. 

I strongly suspect that Mrs May actively chose not to control EU free movement so she could use it as an excuse for her failure to get net migration down to 100,000. It also allowed Leave campaigners to claim that EU migration was “uncontrolled”, that non EU migration had been hit as a result, and that voting Leave was the only way to remedy the situation. 
From her comment piece, it seems that Dreda Say Mitchell was convinced by that argument and believes that many BAME Brits who voted Leave were similarly convinced. She also gives the impression that this may have been decisive as she warns that BAME voters may “switch sides” if the promised fairer migration system is not delivered. 
Unfortunately, as far as the government and Leave campaigners are concerned, it doesn’t matter if Dreda Say Mitchell and millions of other Leave voters now decide to “switch sides” because promises made (fairer migration, £350m a week for the NHS etc) are not delivered. The government has decided that the (second, non-legally binding) referendum on EU membership is set in stone and unlike other democratic decisions, it cannot be  revisited.  As a Liberal Democrat Remain campaigner, I disagree; any democratic decision that cannot be challenged through democratic means isn’t democratic at all.
Mrs May’s renewed emphasis on cutting immigration at any cost is perhaps an attempt to atone for her previous failure at the Home Office. And while it was clearly not intended as such, Ms Say Mitchell’s vote has greatly helped Mrs May in her endeavour.

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Smell the coffee: Leave vote to be used to deliver Taxhaven Sweatshop Britain dream of ToryKip fanatics

I said many times during the EU referendum campaign that the real agenda of many ToryKip Leave fanatics was to turn the UK into Sweatshop Britain – a tax haven with low levels of worker’s rights and minimal safety and environmental standards.This was often dismissed as (guess what?) “scaremongering”.

But the warning signs were clearly there:

Leaving aside how you can threaten others when the gun you’re holding is pointing at your own head, take heed of what is said including:

  • Cutting corporation tax 
  • Changing the UK’s economic model 
  • Moving away from European style social model (tax funded healthcare & social security?)


But wait a minute, didn’t PM May claim a (non-existant) mandate from the EUref ballot paper, namely that of delivering “change” in order to make Britain “a country that works for everyone”?

Turning the UK into a tax haven sweatshop is the very antithesis of country that works for everyone; it’s a country that enables big corporations to call the shots and exploit workers. This is most definitely NOT what many Leave voters thought they would get from Brexit. In fact it seems like the opposite of what was promised.

It’s also the antithesis of what Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party claim is their vision for Britain. Will this be the moment when the Labour party wake up from their Tory Brexit cheerleading and join the Liberal Democrats, Greens and SNP in opposing this Torykip government and its damaging plans for the country? 
The battle for the soul of Britain has begun, and it’s one we can’t afford to lose!

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Radical idea on EU free movement: use conditionality that already exists!

I’ve got a radical idea on how to amend EU free movement in the UK: let’s use the conditionality that already exists!

Despite many Leavers insisting that the referendum was about sovereignty and taking back control and not immigration, it appears that the only thing that Theresa May’s government believes people want to take back control over is EU free movement. All you Leavers out there who disagree with the government on that and e.g. think the Single Market is important; you’re being AWFULLY QUIET.

Now it appears that many in the Labour Party and even one former Liberal Democrat MP, Dr Vince Cable (who fought against illiberal/ideological immigration policy while Business Secretary in the Coalition government) agree with the government that EU free movement has had a negative impact on the UK (evidence that even Migration Watch can’t produce, see below), and has to change or be scrapped. So UKIP’s view on EU free movement (EU migrants are to blame for EVERYTHING!!) now appears to be shared by others, despite the lack of evidence, which is quite frankly A DISGRACE.

But what NONE of these converts to the anti-free movement cause mention is that there is considerable conditionality to EU free movement that the UK HAS NEVER BOTHERED TO USE. And No Vince I’m not talking about transitional controls when new countries join the EU.
This is one reason David Cameron struggled to persuade other EU leaders that the UK needed special conditions for EU free movement. That and his utter failure to unearth ANY evidence whatsoever that free movement had a particularly negative impact on the UK. Even the anti-immigration pressure group Migration Watch when asked to help Number 10 could only come up with one local newspaper article about pressure on a hospital in Corby! (see article here and scroll down to the paragraph “evidence what evidence?”:

So here is the conditionality that EU law already allows countries to implement (except the UK doesn’t):

  • Allow EU citizens to freely circulate in the UK only for 3 months and then require them (should they want to stay longer) to show they are working (employed or self-employed), a registered student or have sufficient resources (pension, savings) to support themselves and comprehensive sickness insurance e.g. valid European Health Insurance Card enabling the NHS to claim back the cost of treatment or private health insurance.

It can’t be that bloody difficult given that other EU countries manage to do this! So Vince Cable, Keir Starmer, Andy Burnham etc, stop pandering to UKIP/anti-immigration sentiment and instead make some suggestions as to how existing free movement conditionality could be implemented in the UK.  
Addendum: How Free Movement is managed in Belgium*

  • Any EU citizen intending to stay in Belgium longer than 3 months has to register with their local council.
  • The local council will only allow you to register if you meet the conditions outlined above about being in work/being able to support yourself and having sickness insurance. (I showed my employment contract and my registration with a Belgian mutual health fund).
  • Without being registered, you’re not in the Belgian system, so ineligible for social security, unable to get any credit, unable to sign a rental lease etc. etc.
  • After an initial 3 month residence card, you go back and get a six month card (assuming you can still prove you’re working/can support yourself etc.) and after six months you can get a five year residence card. Once you have a five year residence card, then you’re pretty much treated as a Belgian.

* I lived and worked in Belgium from 1998 to 2009 (long before I was an MEP) so I have personal experience of this process. 


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LibDem victory in Richmond by-election: more significant than the Brexiters will admit

As a Liberal Democrat who went down to Richmond Park and North Kingston on a number of occasions to help Sarah Olney’s campaign to unseat Zac Goldsmith, I am of course delighted that she became the constituency’s new MP on Thursday. 
First is first, kudos to the Greens and the Women’s Equality Party for not standing candidates and for supporting the LibDem campaign. Also a big thank you to all the non-partisan pro-European activists who came to Richmond to help. 
The idea that this was merely a strong Remain voting constituency having a chance to reiterate their 23 June vote is a simplistic and somewhat lazy interpretation.
Britain’s relationship with the EU wasn’t the only issue the LibDem campaign highlighted. The Libdem very long term (over 20 years) opposition to a third runway at Heathrow airport and our criticism of Tory underfunding of the NHS also featured heavily.
And while the LibDem campaign deliberately chose not to mention it at all, Mr Goldsmith’s horrid divisive London mayoral campaign against Sadiq Khan didn’t do him any favours. Some voters did raise it on the doorstep and it was never in a positive light.
I would imagine that the nasty anti-foreigner rhetoric coming out of the Tory party recently e.g. naming and shaming companies that employ non Brits etc will have been similarly received in Richmond as Mr Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign. Perhaps the UKIP-isation of the Tory party will lose more moderate Tory voters than it will gain rabid Brexiters back from UKIP? And you can guess where I think those moderate Tory voters will head. 
Even on the issue of Brexit, it isn’t as clear cut as the anti-Europeans would have you believe. Liberal Democrat canvassing shows that some Tory Leave supporters voted for Sarah Olney on Thursday. If you live in a very pro-Remain area like Richmond and you voted Leave, then you must have been pretty convinced about it. Yet less than 6 months later, some of those people decided to vote for an unashamedly pro-European Liberal Democrat?
The Brexit tide is turning, albeit very slowly….

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What are the Brexiters scared of?

No-one can have failed to notice that many Brexiters are getting nervous. You’d think that having “won” and being convinced that Brexit will be a rip-roaring success with no downside (as Brexit Minister David Davis said), they’d rise to the occasion an…

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What are the Brexiters scared of?

No-one can have failed to notice that many Brexiters are getting nervous. You’d think that having “won” and being convinced that Brexit will be a rip-roaring success with no downside (as Brexit Minister David Davis said), they’d rise to the occasion an…

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