The People’s Vote March through the Streets of London

Labour Party

On Saturday we took to the streets, over 100,000 of us marching in central London to demand a final vote on any UK Brexit deal. It was also the second anniversary of the Brexit referendum.

Speakers called on Theresa May to do the right thing – “demand a people’s vote”.

Young and old travelled the length and breadth of the country to protest- Wiltshire, Liverpool, Kent, Nottingham, Suffolk are just a few of the places I heard people say they had travelled from that morning.

It was fantastic to see such a mix and varied group of people united in a common cause.
The march is so important – I hope it will help to shape how the next stage develops.

There is no agreement on what Brexit could look like so it’s only right that we have a second vote to canvass opinion.

Further marches are planned for the autumn. I hope you will join us. More information on the People’s Vote and how you can join in the campaign is available here.

Mary Brexit March

Leaving the European Arrest Warrant is a huge mistake and will have significant operation consequences for law enforcement

Labour Party

The UK will be kicked out of the European Arrest Warrant if the government’s Brexit strategy goes ahead, the EU chief negotiator has warned.

Incredibly the Government wants to remain part of the system but has not yet grasped that to remain part of it, it cannot leave the European Court of Justice or the free movement scheme.

It’s astonishing that while on the one hand the Government recognises the importance of staying within it meanwhile it is doing everything it possibly can to sabotage our ability to remain part of it.

The European Arrest Warrant (EAW) is a hugely important mechanism whereby EU member states can request the detention of criminals and is able to do so without having to apply for extradition which s a lengthy and bureaucratic process.

Instead of the UK being part of the EAW Barnier has suggested that the UK and the EU may be able to establish a streamlined extradition process. But this is reliant on several factors including agreement from all 27 EU member states, and it won’t be nearly as effective as remaining part of the EAW which is an efficient and effective system.

This is an incredibly serious situation which inevitably will have operational consequences for UK law enforcement. The UK will only have very limited access to analysis and to data produced by Europol relating to live criminal investigations. However, it would not be able to shape the direction of the enforcement agency or have any further input.

The BBC reported: “Successive UK governments have remained strong supporters of the European Arrest Warrant – which came into force in 2004 – despite calls from some Tory MPs for it to be renegotiated or reformed.

“According to the National Crime Agency, other EU members requested the arrest of 14,279 UK-based suspects in 2015-6, up from 1,865 in 2004. The UK made 241 such requests in 2015-6, leading to 150 arrests.”

Being forced to leave the European Arrest Warrant will only serve to make the UK increasingly vulnerable.


MPs must pass the ‘meaningful vote’ amendment

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The House of Lords has voted in favour of an amendment which will give Parliament a meaningful vote if the Government fails to reach a Brexit deal.

The House of Lords voted through the amendment and it was supported by Tory Peers including Michael Heseltine, Chris Patten and Syeeda Warsi who rebelled against their government to vote Dominic Grieve MP amendment through.

The amendment was tabled following news that the Government had reportedly reneged on an agreed compromise made with Grieve in which he was promised a meaningful vote.

It’s disgraceful that the Government knowingly misled one of its own MPs by not only failing to deliver the promised meaningful vote if Brexit fails, but worse still the Government went onto adopt a position which it knew made it impossible to have such a vote. The Government knew this wouldn’t be possible!

The revised amendment will be voted on in the Commons this Wednesday. Currently sources say the Government is confident that the Tory rebels don’t have enough support for it to pass. Once again, I urge all MP’s to search their moral compass and do the right thing and vote in favour of the amendment, so that Parliament is able to play a proper role.

The new amendment stipulates that “ministers must update parliament by 21 January 2019 if there is no prospect of a deal with the EU and then have two weeks to return to the House of Commons with a statement on how the government plans to proceed. MPs would then be given a vote on whether to approve the action in statement.”

If the proposals are so deeply flawed and unworkable then it is only right that Parliament can provide additional scrutiny; it has a duty to resolve the stalemate.

Remain Tory MPs must vote with their conscience

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“Ignore the will of the people at your peril” is the full-page headline in the Daily Express today, with the union flag emblazoned behind it. The Sun asks if it will be “Great Britain or Great Betrayal”.

The headlines concern the 12-hour debate of the 15 amendments from the House of Lords which will take place inside the House of Commons over the next two days.

Of the 15 amendments the Government is to accept one (a completely tokenistic) amendment which states the UK will be able to choose to stay in EU agencies after Brexit. On three further amendments it is offering compromises and the remainder it will simply vote down.

But the area of paramount importance and which is to be debated this afternoon concerns whether Parliament should have a ‘meaningful’ vote on the final withdrawal agreements.

Pressure has been applied to pro remain MPs who have threatened to vote against the Government. They have been warned they face jeopardising May’s negotiating power in Brussels by both colleagues, and the press (see two of the headlines above). And May issued a final plea calling on them to not undermine her negotiating clout.

The Sun’s rather menacing headline suggests that pro remain MPs would be responsible for an apoplectic situation should they seek to secure Parliament the right to a meaningful vote. They claim it would be a ‘great betrayal’.

I can imagine the pressure the pro remain MPs are under. But a vote that doesn’t involve Parliament in a meaningful way is not sufficient and is not acceptable. It is crucial that Parliament has a role on one of the most important decisions the UK is going to take in the immediate future.

Furthermore, the kind of promises that were made in the campaign can’t be met. No discussions currently hint at a deal which will match up to what was promised. So, in such circumstances the House of Lords is right to insist there must be a serious parliamentary debate.

The conclusion to this debate might be that the Government seeks an extension to the negotiating period or that the question should be put to the people again or that it withdraws notification of the intention to leave the European Union which can be done up until the 29 March 2019. All of these scenarios are entirely plausible.

Whatever happens in the next two days Parliament must get its say before the die is cast.

All MPs must search their conscience and do the right thing so that Parliament has a sincere voice and the authority to scrutinise the negotiations going forward.

London’s TV Broadcasters will be forced to relocate by a hard Brexit

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Last week’s announcement that the Discovery Channel will be closing its European hub in London may be the start of a much larger trend, if the government continues down the road to a hard Brexit and fails to secure the same terms for EU-wide broadcasters that we currently enjoy.
As an EU member state, TV broadcasters in the UK have benefitted from EU country of origin rules since the 1990s. Put simply, this rule means that if a TV company is licensed by one national authority, in our case OFCOM, it can broadcast to all EU Member States.
The vast majority of international TV companies have their European bases in London, including Discover, Disney, 21st Century Fox, and of course BBC World News. The concentration of creative talent and the ability to do business in English, has attracted US TV  companies in particular to London. Currently OFCOM estimates that over 400 TV broadcasters are licensed to broadcast across the EU from London.
It would therefore seem nonsensical that the government’s position, as set out by Theresa May in her Mansion House speech in March, is to end the UK’s participation in the Country of Origin regime. Instead, the government hopes to secure mutual recognition of broadcasters in much the same way as they want to achieve this for the banking sector.
It is likely that the EU side will see this as cherry-picking. The government wants to end free movement and the jurisdiction of the ECJ, two key pillars in the functioning of the single market, and yet maintain a preferential arrangement for key sectors such as television and banking.
Discovery, for their part, has stated that their decision to close their London base has nothing to do with Brexit uncertainty. However, their motivation to “move to a more agile operational technology model” most likely shows their real intentions. In the absence of commitment to the broadcasting sector from the government, they have put their contingency plan into action.
The government continues to live in fantasy world, negotiating with itself between options which are completely unacceptable to the 27 EU Member States. Until the government comes up with workable solutions, Discovery will not be the only TV company looking into contingency plans.

Max-Fac customs model could cost UK business £20bn

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The customs model favoured by Brexit Secretary, David Davis, and other senior Government ministers could cost business as much as £20bn a year the head of HMRC has warned.

The Government department said, during a hearing at the Treasury Select Committee, that the so called “Max-Fac” model-which relies on technology to carry out border checks-is a significantly more expensive option than the alternative.

It is yet another blow for the divided Government, and perhaps in an attempt to ‘shrug some embarrassment, senior cabinet figures claim they were never briefed by HMRC that the cost could be so high.

Meanwhile Theresa May’s partnership model, the alternative model, has come under fire from within her own Government and those such as Johnson, Gove and Rees-Mogg have reportedly applied pressure on the Prime Minister to press ahead with the Max-Fac option instead. And far from denying the £20bn claim Downing Street said it had asked for more work to be done on the various customs models. In other words, the Government isn’t certain about which model it should propose.

Either way Jon Thompson advised that it would take around “three to five years to begin implementing the UK’s new customs arrangements, depending on which of the two options were decided upon by the government.”

It is yet another example which reveals the Government is lacking credible evidence for it to make any decisive decisions relating to how it should proceed on this matter. And despite explicit warnings from a senior civil servant, some senior cabinet members maintain that the “Max-Fac” model, which will be prohibitively expensive for many businesses and is therefore hardly viable, is still favoured.

Government must pay attention to security and intelligence services warnings

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The head of MI5 stated intelligence sharing has never been more important than in today’s uncertain world in a speech today.

MI5 Chief, Andrew Parker, said that cooperation between the UK and other intelligence agencies in the EU is crucial to effectively fight terrorist threats from across the globe. “Europe faces an intense, unrelenting and multi-dimensional terrorist threat… in today’s uncertain world we need that shared strength more than ever,” he said.

MI5, MI6 and GCHQ are concerned not to affect the close working relationship that has developed with European colleagues. The services insist that maintaining it at the same level it exists today is crucial.

The MI5 head described how the work of the Intelligence agencies is unrecognisable today from five years ago. This can be directly related to the work of one of the main terrorist fighting platforms, the Counter Terrorism Group (which is made up of all 28 EU member states along with Norway and Switzerland.)

Andrew Parker went on to describe the Counter Terrorism Group as the “largest multinational counter-terrorism enterprise in the world” where “real-time intelligence sharing” involves “thousands of exchanges on advanced secure networks every week”.

It’s not difficult to see judging by his comments today how important Britain’s relationship and cooperation is with European counterparts. It is so obviously dependent on strong relations and partnerships with these agencies to continue to successfully fight terrorism here in Britain.

Some commentators such as the Guardian’s Ian MacAskill have already flagged how leaving the EU would “throw up some problems, with the UK, in order to continuing sharing data at a European level, almost certainly needing new legislation to ensure it stays in line with the European legal framework on privacy and data sharing.”

But it’s not only in the areas of counter terrorism that such partnerships are necessary to expose criminal activity. I already outlined last week how important EU partners are to continue to fight trafficking. Over the weekend the National Crime Agency (NCA) warned that Brexit will provide criminals greater opportunity to launder money in the UK”.

“UK-based companies looking to increase trade with countries outside the EU are more likely to come into contact with corrupt markets, particularly in the developing world,” the NCA said.

The report described how a re designed customs set up in Britain would make the country vulnerable by allowing criminals to take advantage of the customs situation.
If all the security services are raising similar concerns, then it would be irresponsible for the Government to not pay attention to their consistent warning and advice.

The fight against trafficking could be jeopardised by Brexit

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Some 16000 men, women and children were registered as victims of human trafficking within the EU between 2013-2014, according to the European Parliament Research Service. I tweeted this earlier in the week because facts and figures get banded about day in day out, but this is about people, real lives. These are people who have been identified because of dedicated and professional work of agencies across the EU who work to rescue victims of trafficking.

At the same time as these statistics were revealed, the news information service Reuters published research from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) which suggested Britain’s exit from the EU could hamper the fight against human trafficking.

It’s work to tackle forced labour, slavery and trafficking is under jeopardy because the picture post Brexit is so unclear. Its main concern is that the sharing of intelligence could be compromised. The GLAA’s report states: “Dependent upon worker restrictions, there may be a drop-in intelligence flows as EU nationals will seek to remain under the radar of any law enforcement/immigration activity”.

As the use of encrypted social media makes it easier for traffickers to operate covertly it becomes ever more critical to ensure effective communication and cooperation is carried out among agencies across the European Union.

Europol, has also said that the use of social media for trafficking purposes is making their work harder. It’s therefore imperative that all our agencies have the access they need to continue the fight against trafficking. The effect of a break down in intelligence flows would have a catastrophic effect on the ability to save the lives of thousands of vulnerable people who are used in this dreadful way.

Brexit plans in tatters after Government faces further defeats

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Theresa May’s Brexit strategy has been left in tatters following another shock defeat in the House of Lords. MPs will now be able to vote on whether the UK should remain in the European Economic Area following the Lords vote.

I’ve lost count how many votes the Government has lost on Brexit, it’s around 13. It would be easy to dismiss the actual figure, but it is symbolic because it shows the Government simply isn’t yet able to move forward with Brexit plans.

It’s not ready to meet the 29 March deadline and consistent defeats in the upper chamber along with open criticism from within her own cabinet (even before the vote yesterday, Boris Johnson called his own Prime Ministers proposals for a customs partnership “crazy”), illustrate that May really has not got a full grasp on Brexit.

Formal moves to remove the official 29 March exit date from the bill are sensible. If Brexit plans continue then a huge amount of work is required to sort out ‘macro’ problems, such as the customs union and single market – of which most of us are familiar with and understand their significance. Despite this the Government has continued to underestimate the level of detail required and the length of time such negotiations take.

And even if they do end up being resolved it’s just scratching the surface. EPLP leader Richard Corbett, MEP, has recorded an extensive list of what he calls “a long list of little things”, which, if Brexit goes ahead, “will impact ordinary people in a remarkable wide number of areas – and mostly things we didn’t know about or weren’t told about) at the time of the referendum,” he says.

His archive charts everything from holidays, to sport and health among other matters. You can read about it in more detail here.



UK’s relationship with WTO unclear following Brexit

Labour Party

The complex process of understanding and moving through Brexit negotiations knows no bounds. Every day a new issue arises. Some of the problems are so grand that it’s difficult to know where to begin, trying to untangle the intricate web of complex legal and political ramifications.

One area I’ve recently been drawn to is the position of the UK and its membership to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) post Brexit.

Of course, currently our membership to the WTO is as part of our relationship with the EU.

If Brexit progresses, then obviously our membership with the WTO will naturally cease to exist. Some probably dismiss the problems of re-joining the organisation and believe the UK’s re admission would be a straight forward process and the UK’s wishes will be accommodated.

However, those who believe it to be so straightforward are completely misguided. They either ignore or are ignorant of the way business is conducted at WTO. Around 162 countries are members of the WTO and it conducts business by way of consensus rather than by strict voting. This can lead to all sorts of issues, chiefly that matters may not be resolved or at least this can’t be guaranteed.

Precisely because the WTO operates by way of consensus just one objection from any country will further stall the UK’s ability to re-join. As such ongoing disputes we have with other WTO states, an obvious example being Russia, could jeopardise the UK’s future position. Either way it won’t be a quick or simple process.

By the end of last week, a joint proposal for future membership between Brussels and the UK had broken down. Despite this the UK plans to speak during its 21-month transition period with an independent voice at the WTO table; a move the European Commission is resisting.

How the UK’s membership to the WTO will be resolved is an ongoing question and is just one example of the very many complexities surrounding Brexit.