Mike Vickers' Blog

November 10, 2016

The UK and Scotland post Brexit

Filed under: Brexit, DHI SPIF, Europe, Ireland, Politics, Scotland, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 8:23 pm

A seminar given by Lord Gus O’Donnell to the David Hume institute on Tuesday 8th November and chaired by Charlie Wood.

Just in case you didn’t know Gus O’Donnell was Cabinet Secretary to the Westminster Parliament from 2005 t0 2011 covering three Prime Ministers, Blair, Brown and Cameron.

O’Donnell spoke at a rate of knots and assumed we all know Westminstereese; which I for one don’t!

That said the points I did capture were:

  1. David Hume’s much quoted ‘Reason is the slave of the Passions’
  2. Cameron made a big mistake on launching the Referendum
  3. Take Hard Brexit with a pinch of salt
  4. Migration problems are all over Europe – it is / will be a massive matter
  5. The UK will not adapt the Norwegian Solution to interfacing with the EU: it will be bespoke and will cost.
  6. Very little progress will be made during 2017; There will be Transitional Arrangements to cover the negotiation gap
  7. The funding gap left by the absence of UK revenue contribution will need to be made good by the remaining 27 members; they are not happy
  8. It will be difficulty for Teresa May to ensure Cabinet Collective Responsibility; it has already failed with Heathrow
  9. Effects of Brexit
    1. The Paris Climate Change agreement is in danger
  10. Limiting Migration into UK
    1. There is a Global shortage of skilled labour
    2. Canada is already enticing Finance Professionals from London
  11. The Single Market is essential
    1. Accommodation to maintain
  12. Productive in UK stopped in 2008
    1. Scotland is 2% to 5% lower than rUK
    2. 5% down on Assets
  13. Scotland will have 40% more control over the levers
    1. ½ Scottish revenue to be raised locally
  14. Sturgeon’s 5 tests
    1. O’D has a good opinion of Sturgeon
  15. Independent Scotland: O’D stated that in his experience from Canada and Quebec, independence is going away as older people die
  16. The terms of trade will not change for the UK after Brexit. They will be the same with the WTO – GATT rules will prevail
    1. The UK will not be able to pick and choose eg no separate agreement for Cars eg Nissan or for Finance
  17. The EU rules of the Single Market go way beyond CETA
  18. To trade in the EU after Brexit the UK will still have to follow the EU acquis
    1. The Great Repeal Bill will be no more that the UK importing the EU acquis into UK Law
    2. Regulation will not disappear; merely EU Regulation repatriated
  19. The UK government will be fully involved in the Brexit follow up to the detriment of Health, Education, and Public Services.
  20. The UK financial position distorted by Quantitative Easing: Deficit still too large, Rich people favoured. Need for special taxation
  21. Fundamental Alternatives are required. The Treasury has a host of plans but they will be ignored by the Westminster Government
  22. Article 50 is not neutral, it favours the rest of the EU
    1. It will be like 27 people playing one person in a game of chess
    2. The rEU very upset with the UK
    3. The trade-offs will be difficult to achieve
  23. It would have been better to trigger Article 50 this Autumn
  24. Vote Leave correlated with Inequality
  25. Brexit very different for Ireland and for Scotland. There must be Public Debate
    1. Agriculture is a nightmare
    2. Finances not easy
    3. Fisheries
    4. Energy easier and should be targeted
  26. Devolution while grudgingly given proved a useful experiment
    1. Westminster incredibly centralised
  27. Sturgeon is right on migration
  28. In response to Jeremy Peat, O’D agreed that Social Media could be the death o0f Rational Decision making. Democracy is in peril
  29. The Westminster Parliament has accepted Robots for manufacturing but has failed so far to considered for office working
  30. Gus O’Donnell’s family moved from Ireland in 1852 and he is going back for a visit.
    1. He cares enormously as to what happens in Ireland
    2. He praises the work done by Blair
    3. A disaster if border reintroduced following Brexit
    4. But believes a solution will be found.
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September 28, 2016

Casting Off – Susan Watkins – editor – New Left Review

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, History in the making, Left Politics — derryvickers @ 8:16 pm

More a history leading up to Brexit

But a couple of snippets from the end of the article:

‘The May government is faced with a vast project of legal disentanglement, with ramifying contractual implications, grinding against the inertial interests of Whitehall and entailing huge headaches and years of thankless work to produce an outcome probably not so very different to today’s. Trade negotiations are notoriously long drawn-out and bad tempered; no less so in a cartelized world economy, glutted with over-capacity and surplus labour, and sliding into a China-led slowdown. The UK has no unified strategy, no agreed negotiating priorities to help steer between the many, highly technical trade and immigration options—customs union, single market, EEA, à la carte—nor any fully legitimate constitutional process: government diktat, parliamentary sovereignty, second referendum?’

 ‘May has divided responsibilities for Brexit between three ministers—Johnson at the Foreign Office, Liam Fox for International Trade, David Davis to head a new department to engage with the Commission—which means that, in reality, she will decide herself. That also makes her the universal target.’

‘The City has lobbied behind closed doors and seems sanguine about the outlook for its big firms and banks.’

‘Whether or not Britain does finally leave the EU, the ironies of the referendum will remain. Culturally and ideologically, the victory of British (read: English) nationalism has revealed the emptiness of its symbols: Rule Britannia, Mother of Parliaments, Royal Navy, Going It Alone, Dunkirk Spirit—all that has gone. The UK has grown accustomed to serving as a semi-sovereign state, its foreign policy dispensed from Washington, its domestic regulations sketched in Brussels. Sub-national fissures have been deepened, with the wishes of Scotland and, most acutely, Northern Ireland, pitted against the course steered from London.’

 

You can find the whole article at

https://newleftreview.org/II/100/susan-watkins-casting-off

Scotland and Brexit – a conference

Filed under: Brexit, DHI SPIF, Europe, Politics, Scotland, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 6:56 pm

Scotland and Brexit

A conference organised by the Centre for Constitutional Change – 19 September 2016.

The Conference was divided into four sessions:

  • Panel of MSPs from the Scottish Government’s European and External Relations Committee
  • Academic Panel: What does ‘Brexit means Brexit’ actually mean
  • Academic Panel: Brexit, devolution and Scotland’s Constitutional Future
  • Meetings message to the European and External Relations Committee.

The conference was chaired by Henry McLeish

The Panel of MSPs were Joan McAlpine (committee convenor), Lewis MacDonald, Jackson Carlaw, Ross Greer and Tavish Scott.

JMcA frankly admitted that the Committee were unclear as to the role that Scotland has in the Brexit negotiations. Scotland needs to target a different relationship that would maximise the benefit to Scotland but how.  As to the arrangement of the UK to the external world, the WTO may be at least the short term option.

All agreed that the maintaining the Single Market should be a priority but, other than JC, they expressed the view that the UK still didn’t appear to have yet any Brexit strategy.

RG stressed that freedom of movement is economic rather than political. He believes that it is time to get young people involved.

TS made the point that the UK Government was shaken to the core by Brexit. He pointed out that there is a lot happening in Europe over the next couple of years that have nothing to do with the UK and Brexit: Elections in Austria, Hungary, Germany; nevertheless Brexit will have bad economic consequences for both the UK and Scotland.

In questions, members of the Committee felt that Brexit negotiations would still be going on well into 2019; all agreed that ‘it was all going to be very messy’ but the ‘Single Market’ may be some sort of a red line. The obvious question came up as to whether there would be a 2nd Indy referendum by then but the Panel gave no clear answer other than the general feeling that a 2nd Indy referendum is ‘on the back burner’.

The Academic panel: What does ‘Brexit means Brexit’ actually mean were Laura Cram, David Bell, Christina Boswell and Michael Keating.

LC felt that we are in turbulent times and everything is up for grabs so let’s make the best of it and be creative. She saw the EU, now 27 members, in Bratislava as symbolic: see the Bratislava Declaration and Road Map.

DB equates the Single Market with Free movement – this is an impasse but he noted that there are lots of different positions in Europe. He was critical of the Norwegian situation as ‘uncomfortable’, the EU is unhappy with Switzerland and Canada (along with its Quebec aspect) is too different for a UK solution. He sees the devil in the detail: specific items like steel, public procurement, customs, rules for business support and how to resolve disputes. He is not keen on TTIP as it is in his view, undemocratic.

CB concentrated on immigration a ‘7 year stop’ might be proposed but unlikely to be political acceptable. In any case if the UK leaves the Single Market it is unlikely to halt immigration at least for business reasons. So far targets for non-EU states have failed. The only way to reduce immigration is to remove the need for labour migration, which implies a weaker economy.

MK made some basic statements. One needs to separate political union from economic union; sub-state governments cannot be members of the EU; no half way house ; No ‘Reverse Greenland’ with Scotland and Northern Ireland taking decisions for England and Wales – not going to happen. England is suffering from an identity crisis. A number of matters will revert to Scotland, those not ‘Reserved’, so Scotland has the opportunity to work with EU on these matters – move in parallel with the EU. Focus on specific businesses.

  • The EU is market based – it is not political
  • The UK will no longer be for China a platform to Europe.
  • Globalisation is a root of discontent, but ‘sovereignty’ is overstated; however Europe hasn’t connected with ‘nationalism’. There is pressure to ‘go back to basics’.
  • Instead of focusing on the ‘Single Market’, look to the wider issues; what kind of union do we want – a social union featuring welfare? There are many different reasons for joining with the 27 and do any they apply to Scotland?
  • It is unclear how Article 50 negotiations will proceed; Brexit means that the UK position is weak and getting weaker as time goes on with the EU losing patience, bearing mined all their other major issues.

The Academic Panel: Brexit, devolution and Scotland’s Constitutional Future were David Heald, Alan Page, Ailsa Henderson and Nicola McEwen.

DH was unclear on the effect of Brexit on Barnett; will the UK position with more or less austerity and more or less regulation; finance will be hit if non-passporting; migration has a differential effect; there could be more focus on England. Would the UK Government replace EU subsidies on agriculture and university research and if so where will the cash come from. What effect will there be on VAT which is euro regulated. Scotland has a very small income tax base, 9% Tax payers provide 50% of Corporation Tax and is therefore vulnerable.

AP, a lawyer, considered that Brexit has huge implications; the distribution of powers will remain but will require law making which currently rests with the EU; EU law in Scotland would cease to apply; there is the prospect of divergence within the UK, leading to the possibility of Devolution being re-examined.  Removal of EU restrictions may be significant. Acts of the Scottish Parliament no longer open to challenge.

AH was concerned with attitude to risk and research had shown an imbalance in the general and specific risks. In comparison to the long campaign up to 2014, the 2016 referendum was short; there was no white paper and only limited engagement; no losers assent (cf Independence Referendum) . What are the options even now to make it better?

NMcE felt that we need to look again at the Devolution Settlement eg employment law – the SNP want EU social protection but this would lead to ideological divergence and increased tension. Scotland needs more workers. Scotland needs to be free to do deals. She recognises that by taking Independence off the table, Scotland’s negotiating position is weakened (Remember May’s comment re- guaranteeing EU members the right to remain in the UK). Northern Ireland is a special case.

To Questions: border agreements important for both Scotland and Northern Ireland but different. The UK government will just impose its will; Scotland is unlikely to have a say. The UK regards tax rush to the bottom ‘as policy’ which will have a bad effect on Scotland and Northern Ireland. The importance of agriculture is recognised but not obvious ‘the money is where the mouth is’

Meetings message to the European and External Relations Committee

NMcE asked groups of the audience to write down what they believed the European and External Relations Committee should review and take forward. A few groups presented their views and all groups’ inputs were collected.

Henry McLeish summed up. He also expressed a personal view that the Tory Party had taken the Country into the Referendum merely to tackle its internal issues without any consideration as to the consequences for the Country as a whole.

Where to now – my view

Taking Laura Cram’s thesis: everything is up for grabs, a thesis supported by Michael Keating and we should ‘think out of the box’; what does Scotland want by continuing with the 27 and how should it establish the right workable political as well as economic structures to do so. We can only hope that the Scottish Government is now working away in the background to come up with such structures (is this the role of Nicola Sturgeon’s special group headed by Prof Drew Scott?). Unfortunately this is not obvious from the points made by the members of the European and External Relations Committee at the meeting, who seemed generally defensive and focussed on ‘we don’t know what the UK will do re Brexit’.

August 21, 2016

After Brexit – What next for the UK and Scotland

Filed under: Brexit, DHI SPIF, Europe, Politics, Scotland, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 11:30 am

After Brexit

Chaired by Ray Perman DHI

Panel: Michael Keating, Kirsty Hughes, Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Brian Monteith

  1. MK
    1. Reason for leaving – Europe holding us back, or Against Globalisation,
    2. Desired – Market but No Migration
    3. Government to make up its mind
    4. Scotland position in UK and Europe negotiable vis Cyprus
      1. Scotland and N Ireland allow migration while England and Wales not
    5. UK focused on Trade
  2. SDS
    1. UK Constitution not made for Referendums
    2. UK doesn’t have a Constitution
    3. Article 50 requires a Parliamentary vote
      1. Royal Prerogative doesn’t apply
      2. Nothing democratic about Westminster Cabinet
    4. Scotland formally has no legal position to affect the outcome
  3. BM
    1. Accept Brexit but Scotland to seek benefits from agreeing with Westminster
    2. Remove all Reserved Items – have I got this right?
    3. Sturgeon made a tactical error with her Capitals visits
    4. No functioning Opposition in Westminster
      1. Loss of faith in British Politics
    5. Cameron EU Negotiations was a failure
    6. Remain ‘dropped the ball’
  4. KH
    1. Comprehensive EU / UK deal will take 5- 7 years
    2. Reconcile with WTO
    3. Scotland should go for 2nd Indy Referendum NOW before UK leaves EU
  5. Someone
    1. For EU Brexit just one of many problems
      1. Refugees
      2. Turkey
      3. Lack of Solidarity
      4. EU Summit Autumn

Summary

  1. No clear position coming from the Panel
  2. ‘Brexit means Brexit’ but the Panel were unable to illuminate
  3. Ray Perman – ‘Watch programme of Festival of Politics next year’
    1. Will the position be any clearer next year?

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