Time for the return of the Court of Blair to the public arena. Like ducks in a row, on the subject of the EU, Blair, Mandelson, Campbell weighed in with all the wisdom of the most successful Labour Government ever.
There is plenty on what Blair said elsewhere, and was well summed up by Patrick Kidd in The Times:
The trouble is that Mr Blair’s tribe — those of the Essex estuary and the Kent marshes who thought that things could only get better — have taken a different road. They voted to leave the European Union last June. It is Mr Blair’s mission now to persuade them that they were wrong.
Mr Blair also retains the marvellous ability to say two contradictory things at once. “I make no personal criticism of the prime minister,” he said, yet only three sentences earlier in his speech he had accused her, if not by name, of “hideously abusing the mantle of patriotism” with her conference line about citizens of the world being citizens of nowhere. Two-faced Tone is back.
Mandelson of course believes that voters feel ignored over Brexit, which, given that the No campaign focused a great deal on the point of ‘voters feeling ignored’, kind of doesn’t make sense if this was an appeal to CDEs but might be relevant if he is talking to those who understand perfectly, as he does, and may fill Tony’s coffers to support the cause – Think Tank to follow.
Then there is Mr Campbell, who set out a challenge to ‘Brexiters’ to answer 48 questions! Had Mr Campbell brought these questions in the context of experience – that incomplete information leading to action where there was no plan as to what happens next – then perhaps his questions would have carried greater significance. Oh that he should be ever so humble.
Have to admit at this point that, having looked at the 48 questions and thought ‘ is there a 45 minute time limit’ on this task, it seemed like there were so many better things to do.
Helpfully a friend, Dominic, decided to make a stab (though not spend too much effort) on the 48. So here is his quick fire response to the 48. I’ve added a few minor points (red) as short comment where I would have perhaps added a little more, had I been bothered to do the initial graft.
So, apparently, according to Alastair Campbell I *need* to answer 48 questions. Alright, I’ll play along.
1) Do you accept that many people who voted Leave did so without knowing the full terms of Brexit?
Yes – and so did many people who voted Remain, or who vote in just about every election ever!
2) Do you accept that it is open to the people to change their minds if they decide Brexit will in fact harm their own and the country’s interests?
Of course, we can all change our minds at any time. However, that doesn’t change the outcome of the Referendum.
3) Do you accept that there is no monopoly on patriotism and that there might be a patriotic case for wishing to reverse the referendum decision, if enough people feel it will be damaging to the UK?
What’s your point here? There are all sorts of reasons to hold whichever view. Moot point.
4) Do you agree the government approach can now be defined as ‘Brexit at any cost’?
No. We are only just starting to outline the negotiating positions for Brexit.
5) Do you accept that people are entitled to be concerned at the scale of that cost, economically and politically?
People are ‘entitled’ to be concerned by whatever they want. That doesn’t change anything. Again, a moot point.
6) Do you accept that the financial cost of withdrawal, the UK having to pay for previous EU obligations but not benefit from future opportunities, could be as high as £60bn?
In other words, about six years’ worth of of our ‘net contributions’ as part of EU membership? What’s your point?
7) Do you agree with the Prime Minister’s and the Chancellor’s former views that maintaining our partnership with the biggest political union and largest commercial market on our doorstep fulfills rather than diminishes our national interest?
Again, what’s your point here? We will continue to trade and work with the EU.
8) Is there not something surreal about the Prime Minister and Chancellor now claiming hard Brexit is a huge boon for the country when during the campaign they said the opposite, in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s case with real conviction?
Perhaps some people learn from their mistakes, particularly when faced with evidence to the contrary. Or maybe they simply recognise that the biggest ‘boon’ is our attitude, and that whinging about how bad things are isn’t going to help anything.
9) Do you accept that politics, not economics or the genuine national interest, is now driving the hard Brexit chosen by May?
Brexit has always been a political discussion. As rightly it should.
10) Are you seriously saying the PM’s vision of Britain as a ‘great open trading nation’ is best served by leaving the largest free trading bloc in the world? Might her vision of Britain as a bridge between Europe and the US be more realistic if we remained part of the EU?
Yes, and No. We are best served by leaving the EU, and no, we do not need to be within the EU to have a realistic role as a bridge between the US and Europe.
11) In what way will her call for a fairer capitalism be met by moving to a low tax, light regulation economy?
What’s the question?
12) Do you accept that if the right-wing ideologues pushing a hard Brexit so Britain becomes a low tax, low regulation, offshore hub have their way, we will need huge tax and welfare changes? Were they voted for in the referendum?
Again, what’s the question? Doesn’t even make sense.
13) Will this approach in fact lead to less not more public money for the NHS? Less not more protection for workers?
The NHS needs reform and restructure. If leaving the EU helps to bring this about, then all the better.
14) Is it not the case that the UK government could make these changes now, but wouldn’t because they know they do not have public support for them?
What changes, exactly, are you talking about?
15) Is there any chance at all that Brexit will lead to £350m a week more for the NHS?
It will reduce our ‘net contributions’ to the EU to the tune of something like £200m/week (subject to the point at which you pick the exchange rate). What the government decides to do with that at the time remains to be seen.
16) Please define the ‘big argument’ that Tony Blair says is missing from this pursuit of hard Brexit, and how it will benefit Britain economically?
If Tony Blair things a ‘big argument’ is missing, then it’s his job to define it. Not mine.
17) Do you agree that of the many arguments put forward for Leave in the referendum, only immigration and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) are still really being pursued?
No. Again, this is the start of negotiations. Anyhow, I thought you were arguing for continuing trade with the EU?
18) Do you accept that the Leave campaign deliberately conflated the ECJ and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)?
There were a lot of confused and conflated arguments during the campaign – many of which continue on today.
19) Can you confirm that that ECHR is not and never has been a EU body?
Yes, it is a separate body.
20) Can you name any laws the UK government has not been able to pass because of the ECJ?
I would expect that it seldom gets to that stage, rather it is something which inhibits our MPs range of options. Additionally, the impact of the ECJ lies in the difference between common law and civil jurisdictions. The ECJ often post-defines a directive, in keeping with civil law tradition of the courts being able to interpret meaning from principle. UK courts can only interpret what is before them, strictly in law. This is a fundamental issue that cannot be reconciled while the UK stays within the EU.
21) Can you confirm that of net immigration into the UK in 2016, over half was from outside the EU?
I don’t know the exact numbers, sounds about right.
22) Do you accept that as May wants to keep those EU immigrants who come with a confirmed job offer, and students, this leaves around 80,000 who come looking for work without a job?
Again, I don’t know the exact numbers. What’s the point?
23) Do you agree that of these 80,000, roughly a third come to London, mostly working in the food processing and hospitality sectors; and that the practical impact of Brexit on our ‘control’ of immigration is on analysis less than 12% of the immigration total?
Again, what’s the point here. If something is addressing one specific aspect of an issue, then that’s how it should be assessed. One size doesn’t fit all.
24) Do you agree that most of the immigrants we are talking about in this 12% work hard and pay their taxes?
Immigration isn’t the issue for me. It is ironic that the issue of migration is largely the outcome of the Blair Government’s failure to assure transitionary arrangements with the accession of the most Easterly European states. This was compounded by the EU refusing to address David Cameron’s concerns in his ‘negotiation’ in respect of free movement; the EU only accepting the very broadest interpretation of free movement. The issue became primarily ‘control’ of the rules regarding immigration/migration. Remember, “Take back control.”
25) Do you think the biggest constitutional, political, economic and social change of our lifetime is merited by such numbers as set out in questions 23 to 26?
I don’t think the previous two questions are relevant to anything. Also, you don’t seem to be able to count: *this* is question #25.
26) Do you accept that the immigration most people worry about – that of people determined to challenge our security and way of life, in the name of a perverted view of Islam – is not affected by Brexit?
I don’t know what sort of immigration ‘most people worry about’.
27) Do you agree that the post Article 50 negotiations are going to be as complex as any we have experienced, covering a vast number of areas?
Yes, extricating from the EU will involve broad and complex negotiations.
28) Do you accept, as a matter of fact, that the Single Market covers around half of our trade in goods and services?
It’s about half of our Imports, less so our Exports. And the significance of the EU is diminishing for both Import and Export.
29) Do you accept that leaving the Customs Union may adversely impact on trade with other countries like Turkey?
It *might* adversely impact such trade, or it might not. Depends on both the Brexit negotiations to come, as well as the way the global economy develops over the years ahead.
30) Can you confirm that we will need to negotiate the replacement of over 50 Preferential Trade Agreements we have via our membership of the EU?
We won’t necessarily *need* to renegotiate them.
31) Do you accept that EU-related trade is actually two thirds of the UK total?
What? Are you not satisfied with the “around half” from above (Q28), so you’re inflating the numbers?
32) Do you accept scientific research and culture are both going to suffer as a result of Brexit, and indeed already are?
No. I do not accept that at all. Scientific research and culture do not require the EU. Yes, there may need to be some readjustment in funding models, but that’s just a temporary issue – and a reason to get on with Brexit sooner, rather than later, so that we can establish the new basis.
33) Are you content to have the WTO as a fall back strategy should we fail to reach a satisfactory deal within two years?
34) Do you accept this too has enormous complexity attached to it; that we would need to negotiate the removal not just of tariff barriers; but the prevention of non-tariff barriers which today are often the biggest impediments to trade?
Yes, there are complexities. What’s your point?
35) Do you agree that the fall in the value of sterling against the euro and the dollar as a result of Brexit is an indication that the international financial markets believe we are going to be poorer?
36) Do you accept that therefore the price of imported goods is up and so will be inflation?
The BoE target rate of Inflation is 2%. We are still well below that.
37) Do you agree that the Single Market and enlargement were huge foreign policy successes for the UK?
There have been benefits and disadvantages from it.
38) Do you agree that the Single Market has brought billions of pounds of wealth, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and major investment opportunities for the UK?
It’s the political union I object to, not the Single Market.
39) Do you agree that enlargement has enhanced EU and NATO security?
Enlargement of what?
40) Do you accept that in the early 21st century, most countries are seeking to forge rather than break regional and economic alliances?
Regional and economic alliances are not a political union. Just because another country – and under entirely different circumstances – wants to do something, doesn’t mean we need to copy them, under different circumstances.
41) Do you agree we can do more on issues like the environment with others than alone?
I agree that cooperation amongst countries is generally beneficial overall. We don’t need a political union to achieve that.
42) Do you agree that the route taken on and since June 23 has helped revive the argument about Scotland leaving the UK?
No. While some people who supported both Remain and Scottish Independence are trying to bang that drum, it’s ringing hollow for the majority. Is there anything that the SNP or nationalists elsewhere wouldn’t find to be a reason to bang their drums?
43) Do you accept that the failure to address the question of how to maintain EU freedom of movement without a hard border between Ireland and the UK is destabilising the peace process?
No. We’ll figure out the border issue soon enough. How is it ‘destabilising the peace process’? How? The only thing destabilising is the use of the term ‘threat’ to the peace process without any explanation of how or in what way this is the case. The only threat is the idle and irresponsible histrionics of politicians, who have bigger more local issues to address that they’d rather not just now, *talking* us back into conflict. It is as true today as any time that ‘idle talk costs lives’.
44) Do you accept the government is obsessed with Brexit, and has no choice but to be so?
No. It’s actually the media and Remain camp who are obsessed with Brexit, not the government. On the other hand, it is right that Theresa May, and her government are focusing significant attention and resources on the issue.
45) Do you accept that the scale of government focus on Brexit is having a detrimental impact on their ability to deal with other issues, such as the NHS, education, the new economy, crime, prisons – and, er, immigration policy?
I agree that other matters are no longer as high of a priority. But if we want to talk about having a detrimental impact, that is squarely you, and the Remain camp who keep trying to revisit the outcome of the Referendum, rather than moving on.
46) Do you accept there is a cartel of right wing newspapers skewing the debate in the broadcast media, and whose support for May is contingent on her pursuing a hard Brexit policy?
Load of BS conspiracy theories, which should be beneath even you! If you want to talk about cartels of media outlets, the media as a whole is still disproportionately Remain. Your argument is invalid. Bit of a Trump one here. Actually, this argument is to be expected. It’s all about the media, fake news etc. Really?
47) Do you agree that had the business survey mentioned by Tony Blair said the opposite – namely huge confidence in Brexit – it would have led the news because the cartel would have splashed on it, not ignored it?
There is no shortage of surveys, saying pretty much whatever you want them to. People will choose to focus on the ones which conform with their existing biases.
48) Do you accept Brexit has divided the country across its nations, regions and generations, contrary to May’s claim to have 65 million people behind her?
No. Brexit hasn’t divided the country – the only thing doing that is sore losers harping on about it. If you are so petty that you genuinely want to see Theresa May fail because you disagree with her opinion, then I don’t really care to hear anything else you have to say. Theresa May has moved on in respect to the referendum result. Others need to look forward at what is best for the UK rather than constantly re-running the referendum campaign over and over.
The problem with all of this is that as in the referendum campaign, the emphasis is on why the Leave voters were wrong. What characterised the Remain campaign was that no-one was arguing in favour of the EU; the emphasis wholly on a reformed EU that Cameron’s failed ‘negotiation’ had showed was highly unlikely. If the Remain campaign believes it has a case to make then it needs to work out what the EU offers positively, that overcomes what was broadly believed by the majority of the voters last June. So far, that hasn’t even started.
The tide isn’t turning.