David Davis’ Vienna Speech was bland and lacking in detail

Brexit Secretary, David Davis, today delivered his Vienna speech outlining that the UK is in the best possible shape to make Brexit work. So confident was he that he promised that the UK won’t plunge into a dystopian Mad Max style world. Any such claims are unfounded, he said.

He went on to dismiss such suggestions stating it was based on nothing: “not our history or our shared interest.” But overall his message appeared to be the UK Government wants (and expects to get) its cake and eat it. Davis also asked for the UK to be trusted, but that trust is not in great supply at the moment – and as we all know trust is an important currency.

Davis’ speech continued by rejecting the idea that leaving the EU will mean a race to the bottom, in terms of workers’ rights and environmental protections.

However, while Davis delivered his speech, the Dutch Government announced it was activating plans for a ‘hard Brexit’ due to the lack of clarity from the UK which, it said, is “impeding negotiations”.

The Dutch Government is right, there is both a lack of vision and planning for the task ahead. This is an accusation the UK is unable to deny, and is the reason Theresa May is convening her Cabinet to discuss the future direction.

The Dutch Government is, unlike the UK, prepared. It understands what is required to ensure the impact of Brexit is kept to a minimum. For example, in readiness for the new rules on trade the Dutch Government is preparing its infrastructure by employing 1000 extra customs officers, so it can cope with the additional burden that will result from the border checks. In other words, they have a clear understanding and recognise precisely what it means to leave the European Union.

In contrast the Home Office has been very clear that it’s not anywhere near ready to put in the border checks or the additional immigration checks which are going to be required. In a word, it’s just chaotic.

Davis says we will work with other EU countries to drive standards, but this is muddy at best. The UK is not only unclear about what it wants, but much of what it wants is impossible to achieve.

Let’s not forget the words of EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier who said last year: “The UK wants to take back control, it wants to adopt its own standards and regulations. But it also wants to have these standards recognised automatically in the EU. That is what UK papers ask for. This is simply impossible. You cannot be outside the single market and shape its legal order.”

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Gerard Batten is a thoroughly nasty man

As UKIP selects its new interim leader, I have issued the following statement.

“Gerard Batten purports to be a London representative yet his views couldn’t conflict more with the majority of people in multi-cultural, diverse London.

“I don’t like Batten and I don’t share his views which I believe to be inflammatory, divisive and morally reprehensible.

“He has been known to wear a Union Jack style jacket in the European Parliament and into the chamber, UKIP is only group to behave like this and its only purpose is to goad other MEPs.

“I have endless examples of some of his more extreme views. Within the last 24 hours alone he has been forced to explain previous claims, which include him suggesting Islam is a “death cult”, saying the comments were “factually and historically true” (reported in The Sun).

“He also stated, in yesterday’s interview with Sky News, that: “No foreign money should be allowed to fund extremist mosques and imams.”

“I have a further list of some of his outrageous opinions which include: suggesting that killing prisoners will save money, voted against supporting EU wide domestic violence programmes.*

“Unfortunately, he is now in a position where his voice will undoubtedly be heard with increasing regularity, whilst his views remain completely at odds with so many of those who I (and apparently he) represent.”

* Links to Gerard Batten’s views:


How killing Prisoners will save money:


Voted against combatting domestic violence using EU initiatives:


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Boris’ speech will not win hearts or minds

They say you should kill them with kindness – and its precisely what Boris Johnson will try to do in his speech today on, ironically, Valentine’s Day when he attempts to win the hearts of pro EU campaigners.

But it will likely fall flat if he insists, as the leaked transcripts suggest, that he “cannot and will not allow Brexit to be reversed.” Just a minor detail but clearly, he didn’t get the memo- it’s not completely within your power to decide this Boris!

Attempting to thwart any mobilisation of opposition Boris will, as Paul Waugh writes, attempt to “love bomb” his critics. But even before his speech, has been made critics have accused him of hypocrisy. He was, after all, central to the Vote Leave campaign which as we all know exploited fears on immigration and on government spending on the EU.

In his attempts to supposedly win over pro EU supporters he will warn that Brexit is not grounds for fear but hope. He can’t possibly be taken seriously- his leading campaign slogan was to promise voters vast sums of money for the NHS post Brexit, and we all know how that turned out.

Not only that but by preaching that he is right and dismissing the prop European campaign he is doing the very thing he claims he isn’t. Typically muddled.

As Chukka Umunna said in an interview with Huff Post: “Boris Johnson is totally unqualified to preach about the perils of fear and betrayal when he engaged in disgraceful scaremongering with his ridiculous assertion that Turkey was on the verge of joining the EU and he has already betrayed millions of people by going back on his pledge to secure £350 million extra per week for the NHS. This is hypocrisy of the highest order.

“He has so far failed to explain why he is campaigning in Cabinet to take the UK out of the Customs Union when there is no other solution to the Irish border issue and it will jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement settlement.

“Boris Johnson needs to come clean and concede that we cannot have our cake and eat it when leaving the EU. His speech is on Valentine’s Day, not April Fool’s Day.”

The Government is deluded if it thinks that, Boris, of all people will be the one to win over the hearts and minds of pro Europeans. He doesn’t know how to reach out to anyone who doesn’t believe in ‘Boris-ology’ or who refuses to be part of the campaign to further his own political career.

The only sensible option is to go back to the electorate and ask them if it is satisfied with the deal the Government negotiates- if it ever manages it.

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The Economic Reality of Brexit

The Independent reports today that a majority of voters believe the economy will be negatively affected by Brexit.

The last few months have proven difficult for the Government’s economic policy, with Philip Hammond engaging in what appears to be damage limitation, rather than enthusiastically embracing the so-called “opportunities” which Brexit promised. However, last week was when the economic impact really began to hit home.

Firstly, it emerged that there was no guarantee that Britain’s membership of some 65 EU trade deals would roll-over during the transition phase, potentially leaving the UK subject to EU trade rules without any of the benefits. Indeed, some non-EU member states such as Chile, who would have to agree to the UK remaining in trade deals, are already demanding concessions from the Government on issues such as agriculture.

On Monday, stock markets tumbled with the FTSE 100 falling 1.9%. Most economists indicated that this was a correction and not a cause for concern in itself, given recent market stability. However, it could indicate a more volatile global economy in the future with some alarm bells already sounding.

On Wednesday the Government’s regional impact assessments of Brexit were leaked, revealing an 8% drop in GDP if we crash out of the EU with no deal, and a 5% drop under the Government’s preferred option of a bespoke trade deal. Even leaving the EU and remaining in the Single Market will cost us 1.5% of GDP. To give you an idea of what this means in reality, UK GDP growth hit -2.5% at its peak during the 2008/9 recession.

Of course, these impact assessments are based on models, predictions and assumptions. However, most Government policy, especially economic policy, takes into account an impact assessment so that ministers can make an informed decision about what is likely to happen as a result of said policy.

A responsible Government would not push ahead with any economic policy when faced with such dire numbers, especially when the global economic outlook is somewhat less certain than it was in 2016.

It’s time for the Government to come clean about the true cost of Brexit, and let voters decide for themselves whether it is really worth it.

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The Holbeck experiment was ill fated

I was interviewed once again over the weekend about my views on the the ill fated Holbeck experiment which took place in Leeds, it was I said doomed from the start.

We know that shortly after the trial began a young lady, 21-year-old Daria Pionko, was viciously beaten to death. Yet the local authorities, the police and other agencies hailed the trial period a success.

Councillor Mark Dobson, who at the time was Leeds City Council’s executive member for Safer Leeds, was quoted as saying: “The evidence is clearly suggesting the pilot is worthy of continuation.” How?

It’s does these women a huge disservice to think that by sending them into so called “managed zone” they are safe. If anything, they are even more vulnerable because by giving them a designated area it risks normalising prostitution- and everything that comes with it. Making them so vulnerable is in no way helping them. It’s criminal that they are offered no real protection or help to move out of their predicament, instead are sent off to an area where they seemingly don’t disrupt the rest of the community.

The truth is these women have not been given extra support or protection. I have heard, anecdotally, how the area is completely void of police presence. Residents are both nervous and angry at their roads have been ghettoised in such a way.

What is even more appalling is that other local authorities across the country are looking to adopt a similar pilot because they have been told the Holbeck experiment was a success, yet they need only to carry out a simple google search to see there is a darker more sinister side to the designated safe zone.

Prostituted women can never be safe, the very nature of what they do carries great risk and to truly protect and support them to move away from prostitution then the local authority must invest in sensible programmes. The overall aim should be to reduce prostitution.

Many of those who fall into prostitution are dependent on drugs, have precarious housing, emotional and physical illness’ and need help to find employment. But with the right kind of investment they could be truly helped and given real opportunity not sent off to a ghettoised area masquerading as “safe zones” where they are vulnerable have no protection or hope to move on from their lives.

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Equality between men and women means supporting the EU

Having a statue of the formidable campaigner Mary Wollstonecraft in London is long overdue and I fully support the campaign to commemorate the first public feminist in this way. It is, of course, true that Mary Wollstonecraft had been ignored by history. Her ground breaking book Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in 1792 is nothing like as well- known as it should be. Mary deserves much more recognition than she gets.

I was, therefore, pleased to see Labour’s Leader Jeremy Corbyn endorsing the campaign for her to have a statue, citing the statistic that 90 per cent of statues in London were men. I even thought Jeremy may have been converted to the cause of women’s rights.

Then I stopped to think. Jeremy is, to say the least, lukewarm about Britain’s membership of the EU. This matters as for the past seven years most of the official work relevant to the UK on women’s rights has been done by the European Parliament Women’s Rights Committee of which I am Vice-Chair. (I do not mean to take away from the excellent work done by sisters such as Harriet Harman, Stella Creasy and Jess Philips, but most of their contributions have been their own work not that done by the Government or even the Opposition).

The European Parliament Women’s Committee has worked on the gender pay gap, violence against women and sexual harassment, stereotypes of women in advertising and the media, as well as sexual health and reproductive rights and work-life balance.

Since its founding treaty in 1957, the EU has maintained a commitment to gender equality. As we celebrate the centenary of women gaining the vote in Britain, we would do well to take stock of where we are now. The UK is not in the forefront for gender equality across the EU and were we to cease to be in the European Union British women would be worse off, possibly even losing maternity pay and leave, the right to equal treatment between women and men at work and the EU legislation that means the burden of proof for cases of sex discrimination lies with the employer not the female victim.

Jeremy Corbyn, if you really believe in equality between women and men you need to come out strongly in favour of Britain staying in the EU. If you fail to do so, millions of women in Britain will suffer.

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EU negotiations facing further fragility

The Financial Times reports that the already fragile EU negotiations are in further jeopardy. Concerns have been raised after the European Union announced it was to publish the legal text of December’s Brexit divorce agreement which will stipulate unambiguously how it sees its future relationship with Northern Ireland i.e. how it would align with the Union’s single Market.

I’m sure we all recall the furore between Theresa May and the DUP’s Arlene Foster who four days before the meeting on the 8 December rejected language which was to be used in the Brexit Divorce meeting which would essentially see Northern Ireland remain under the EU’s regulatory orbit- and it was this which was wholly unacceptable to the DUP.

Admittedly May was in a rock and a hard place politically – to avert the walkout of the DUP (an alliance Theresa May rely on to ensure she has a parliamentary majority) some wording was hastily drawn up and vaguely agreed. However, it was as the FT article reminds us, somewhat of a fudge – the wording was deemed so ambiguous as to not have any real meaning and it is unlikely to be coherent enough to be replicated into a final legal document concerning the UK’s withdrawal.

The publication of the official legal text in the next few weeks could seriously hamper the situation domestically. But May will not be able to advance on the next stage of negotiations concerning the transitional period either unless the UK Government is prepared to fully accept that which was agreed on the 8 December – as we know this was a pre-condition to moving to the second stage.

The problem with the legal document which is set to be published imminently is that it will contain much of the detail, something that the UK Government has so far avoided where possible! This is such a delicate and fragile situation that it risks jeopardising many areas politically and May really must tread very carefully.

You can read the excellent full and detailed article here.

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