A new centrist party?

With little political news over the Summer the media have entertained themselves with talk of new political parties. I have awaited the first poll to ask how people would vote if there was such a party with some trepidation. thus far it hasn’t turned up. Depending on how it is worded a poll question could either suggest triumph or disaster for such a venture. Either case should be ignored – polls asking about how people would vote in hypothetical situations aren’t particularly useful.

Back before the election YouGov asked a couple of questions asking how people would vote if the Labour party split into a centrist party and a Corbynite Labour party. That found Labour voters splitting fairly evenly between the two parties, with little impact elsewhere (a result that under FPTP would likely have delivered a Tory landslide). Of course that was a new party explicitly framed as a split within Labour. It it had been presented as a split from the Tory party, I expect it would have taken most support from them. A new party might actually seek to present itself as being made up of the centrists within both Labour and the Conservatives (though more important is how it would be seen by the public – how a party describes itself is not necessarily the same as how the public sees it), in which case it would have ambitions to take support from a wider pool.

As an explicit anti-Brexit party the first place to look for what support an anti-Brexit might receive is the EU referendum vote. 48% of people who voted in 2016 wanted to Remain. In more recent polls that group splits pretty evenly between Remainers who still think Brexit is a bad idea but that it should go ahead now the people have spoken, and Remainers who think that Brexit should be resisted and overturned. Some have suggested that this means the pool an anti-Brexit party is fishing in is only about 25%. I’d be less sure – at the moment we’re in a political situation where the political class has largely accepted the principle of Brexit and is arguing about the form it will take. Were that to be shaken up, were there a significant political force arguing for changing our minds, perhaps more of those who voted Remain would see it as something to be fought rather than accepted. Who knows?

A more negative consideration is what one thinks a new anti-Brexit party could offer that the Liberal Democrats aren’t already offering. Normally when there is speculation about new political parties it’s because there is a chunk of the electorate who support a political viewpoint that no party is representing – UKIP wanted to leave the EU when no other party did, the Greens offered an emphasis on the environment and anti-austerity that the other parties weren’t. We don’t have to ask hypothetical polling questions about how people would vote if there was a centrist, liberal, pro-European party standing…we already have a perfectly serviceable party of that description and they got 8% of the vote at the general election.

Ah, you might say, but this new party wouldn’t have the baggage of coalition that the Lib Dems have. Or it would have a better known and more substantial leader than Tim Farron. That may or may not be true, depending on who ended up being involved -serious political figures like Tony Blair or George Osborne would bring their own baggage. On the other hand, a new party wouldn’t have the local government or organisational base that the Liberal Democrats do.

The real difference between a new anti-Brexit party and the Liberal Democrats would be the political context and narrative. It is this that makes it impossible to predict from polling how any such party would do. If a party was set up by a couple of whohe’s it would likely sink without trace – if one looks through the register of political parties at the Electoral Commission you’ll find several new parties set up as pro-EU vehicles, and that none have had any impact. In contrast were twenty Conservative MPs and twenty Labour MPs to defect and form a new party, it would create a huge media buzz, there would be a lot of fuss and attention (needless to say, it would also deprive the government of a majority) and that would give it the potential to get a fair amount of support.

In judging these sort of hypothetical questions, I always look back to the polls we used to see in the final months of the Blair government, asking people how they would vote if Gordon Brown was leader. They would invariably show that Labour would perform less well under Gordon Brown. In the fullness of time Brown did take over, and Labour shot into a double digit lead as all the newspapers treated Brown like the second coming. The problem with those pre-Brown polls was that people couldn’t predict that wave of excitement and positive media coverage, couldn’t predict how they would react to it. Given the right people and media coverage, a new party could succeed to some degree (certainly the currently arithmetic in the Commons would make it comparatively easy for a party with Conservative defectors within it to make an impact). Whether it could be successful enough to actually retain or win seats and have a long term future is an entirely different matter – FPTP does not forgive smaller parties without concentrated support, the anti-Conservative vote is already split and the most pro-remain areas tend to be held by Labour.

In short, it could work in terms of upsetting the current narrative if not necessarily in electoral terms… or it could fall flat, but treat any polling questions asking how you would vote if X party existed with a huge pinch of salt. Without the context of the people involved and the political narrative around it, they simply aren’t good predictors.

699 Responses to “A new centrist party?”

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  1. I always find the use of language by partisans in politics interesting.

    All sides in every controversy use the same terms in different ways, and that semantic difference simply obfuscates, rather than illuminates debate.

    Trump’s latest idiocy – in equally blaming the White Supremacists (using Spencer’s term “alt-right”, which is a synonym for White Supremacy for the US Nazis/KKK etc) and the totally meaningless term “Alt-Left” for those who disagree with that racist stance – is an extreme example.

    Sam mentioned that “whataboutery” is the term in NI (it’s the same in Scotland) for those who try to divert criticism of their own position by suggesting that their opponents are “just as bad”.

    Trump rather reminds me of violent adolescents who justified their vicious assault on another pupil because “s/he looked at me that way”.

    Giving a petulant adolescent control of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal may not have been the cleverest thing that the US electorate have ever done.

  2. Anyone know if the current UK Government is also withdrawing us from the EU Centre for Disease Prevention & Control?

    Might be something worth knowing.

  3. When is the govt going to make a statement about the events in the states and the president’s reaction to it? It’s really causing a stink but I guess world leaders, ours included, don’t really want to be seen to be interfering with the internal affairs of the US. Especially when the US has nuclear weapons and a mad person in charge

  4. What? Nobody on here knew anything about the EU Centre for Disease Prevention & Control? Neither did I till a short time ago.

    Seems a rather useful body for all of us though


  5. CR

    ” I guess world leaders, ours included, don’t really want to be seen to be interfering with the internal affairs of the US. Especially when the US has nuclear weapons and a mad person in charge”

    Although the US and other leaders had no problems in commenting about internal UK affairs in 2014. Presumably because the UK Government was begging them to do so, and the then PM was just incompetent, rather than mad.

  6. OldNat

    On Trump

    It’s an old story, and very much the story of the intelligentsia. Well, their self-excuse. The SS-lad and the resistance fighter are the two sides of the same coin. Do not fall for the evil, violence is just the expression of our time (if you read early existentialist literature, you will see it, even if many didn’t go as far as Heidegger, taking his students to vote for Hitler, and then rewrite half of his work after the war, so it would suit one side of the victors without ever mentioning what he needed to rewrite).

    For the time being the intelligentsia are pretending to be terribly upset, but it’s only because they dislike the turbulence to their life. They will make a peace (which means taking sides with the SS-lad) with it. They are experienced.

  7. Oldnat

    Should have waved your nukes at them

  8. Oldnat

    Oops, that’s a sore point

  9. An islamaphobe, a white supremacist and a sexual predator walk into a bar. The barman says “What’ll it be Mr Trump?”

  10. Laszlo

    Your own language usage is interesting!

    “Intelligentsia” (I think) had a particular connotation in the Hungary in which you grew up.

    I’m not sure that it translates very well into 21st C Scotland!

    However, if you are implying that I’m intelligent, then I’ll happily take the compliment. :-)

    If, on the other hand, you are suggesting that there is a moral equivalence between those who demand supremacy for a particular group of people, based on nothing other than bigotry, and those who disagree with that stance, then I must disagree with you.

  11. CR


  12. The BBC is reporting the Governments proposals on the Irish Border post Brexit….

    Looks like it’s been written by Donald Trump.


  13. OldNat

    The usual shorthand … When one assumes that the terminology used is commonly understood, and understood in the same way, so, my error.

    Intelligentsia – not purely Hungarian, but perhaps Central European, although a Frenchman wouldn’t find it alien. Or for that matter an American, although he or she would express himself differently (The Revolt of the Elites, for example). Anyway, it is a social class (or rather social stratum) that for various reasons have social responsibilities, but refuses to take them on and finds a refuge in positing it as an ethical problem. While Trump is not a member of this stratum, he used the same argument.

    I don’t know if Scotland is an exception, but I’m quite sure that in most countries the social stratum defined above would find sufficient excuse NOT to resist the evil once it is a real question ,although individuals may step out of it.

    I also think that unike in the 1930s, the notion of intelligentsia is a useful terminology in England – we have a wide range of opinion-formers by trade and their influence is quite substantial.

    If course, I consider you intelligent, you show this in your posts, and even more in your probing, in your questions.

    My comment (while agreeing with you) was expanding on the president’s statement – that it is not particularly new, and common with classes that have a preference of discussing events in terms of moral dilemma (and then Hungary’s history is rather relevant).

  14. Laszlo

    Thanks for the response.

    I don’t think Scots are “exceptional” nor any other group of people – the “exceptionalism” being trumpeted by Brexiteers in UK, White Supremacists anywhere, or some of my nuttier fellow Scots 9whether Scots or Brits) are ludicrous rather than dangerous – except when they manifest themselves in actions.

    The Nazi salutes being used by the Yoon hate mob in George Square in 2014, the dramatic rise in racist hate crime in England since the Brexit referendum, terrorism in any of its manifestations, all suggest that some people are persuadable that their particular version of humanity is better than that of others.

    If “intelligentsia” is just being used to mean “opinion formers” then in the UK that actually means journalists/columnists that have found favoured status with media owners.

  15. lec
    “44% of UK exports go to the EU, while just 8% of EU exports come here. In relative terms, which is what matters here, the UK stands to lose far more than the EU from any disruption to trade, because that’s what the economic numbers say.
    This is a point made repeatedly by very sensible posters and commentators on here and elsewhere, and then ignored completely by some seemingly very unintelligent responders. Time and time again.”

    Perhaps, but Remainers never mention the massive contribution the UK makes to the EU budget (2nd highest after Germany). After we leave the EU will have to retrench, and it seems likely that either some net beneficiaries will have to become net donators, or EU expenditure will drastically reduce.
    G’night all.

  16. Mitt Romney on Trump’s “moral equivalence” between racists and non-racists –

    “No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes.”

  17. TOH
    ” What is boring and predictable is the endless posts by Remainers speculating about Brexit.”

    Think again, Howard. It and its implications for the UK’s relationship with Europe, with the rest of the world,, and for the EU’s own management of the economies of its erstwhile 28 members, of trade and secure relations between them, and for any undamaging outcome of the decisions of UK politicians and 52% of the population to leave towards the rest of us, have the greatest impact and potentially the greatest cost of any international event since WWII.
    Those of us writing do not class ourselves primarily as”Remainers” – which is a dog whistle phrase unworthy of adult debate – and mainly not by party either, but as conservative or radical in using our voice in preserving or changing the structure and history of the EU and thus our own societies – I emphasise the plural – and economies,, and thus the well being of ourselves and our children, but also those of the other member states and their populations.
    We tend to do so with some dismay at the quality of information and persuasion which led to voting in the referendum, and that which continues to inform debat,e and potentially the part which decisions on Brexit and their outcome play in an important pending general election.

  18. LASZLO
    “I don’t know if Scotland is an exception, but I’m quite sure that in most countries the social stratum defined above would find sufficient excuse NOT to resist the evil once it is a real question ,although individuals may step out of it.”
    That’s a very big statement, and demands an understanding of how ‘speaking truth to power’ works on both sides of the equation and of its motivations and its social and personal consequences. E.g. Chayanov, my lodestar and mentor, arrested in 1930 and shot in 1935, had no intention of opposing collectivisation. He wrote from empirical research in an area in which the reality and rationality of the sustained maintaining of agriculture by peasants and kulaks had no meaning at that crucial moment in history for the communists running the state. But it is his work and teaching which have survived and informed revolutions against the laetefundia of Latin America and state land grabs in SE Asia, and are at the muddled heart of western development economics.

  19. Customs Union and NI.

    So that’s two position papers now, both of which essentially say we really would like to leave things as they are please, and EU could you please just let us.

    I was genuinely looking forward to this, but realise now that our side hasn’t a clue how to proceed, and falls back on the anything is better than nothing approach, an interesting take on no deal is better than a bad one.

  20. Old Nat
    This was raised last year during the campaign but I presume people dont like listening to experts.

  21. alec

    Another mistake that some on here, as well as elsewhere, make is to to think of the EU as a homogeneous body when comparing their position to ours.

    So, re trade, which you sensibly converted from money to percentage terms, it is how it will compare for every single one of the 27 members that will matter, not the total group comparison.

    This is – obviously – because, unlike with Scotland, Wales etc, each one has a legitimate and hugely important voice in the final decision.

    Although there is clearly an enormous downside for the EU, the idea that the balance of trade means we have the upper hand is misconceived.

    As a general point though it is ironic that the whole thing is now being likened to a “divorce” because, as occasionally happens in real ones, one partner has no real interest in it actually happening.

    [Even more unusual though is that the one who does supposedly want the divorce, and who initiated proceedings, is in at least three minds about it: yes: no: you keep the children and I’ll keep the pets. etc etc etc etc etc etc.]


    “TOH isn’t a small mammal is he?”

    Depends what you mean by small mammal. He is five foot eleven inches tall and weighs 14 stone. He has two allotments and the work involved helps to keep him fit. The fresh produce produced is delightful to eat IMO. He is very happy we are leaving the EU although the exit is taking too long. How about you? Are you a mammal? :-)


    Even better than yesterdays effort. LOL again

    Have a good day all

  23. John Pilgrim

    I am a Leaver because, after careful consideration over many years I believe the UK will be better off outside the EU. I voted to leave to give my children and grandchildren a better future in every way. I believe the European experiment is ultimately doomed to failure and I don’t want to see us drawn into the mess which will follow the breakup.

    As you can see there is more than on vision of the future John.

  24. This:


    is outrageous and an indictment on the obsession with privatisation.

  25. @toh

    @Alec’s point that it is the percentage trade figures for the UK and EU which are material in assessing the relative strengths and vulnerabilities of the negotiating parties seems entirely reasonable to make and self evident.

    You are entirely free not to engage in discussion about Brexit as you repeatedly say is your wish. However, to then engage by simply using the patronising “LOL” to a serious contribution seems to me to want the best of both worlds.

  26. Does anyone else find it surreal that the former political editor of the daily mail is being lauded as a “centrist” cos forgive me if I am wrong aren’t the daily mail on the hard-right of British politics? Constantly anti-immigrant and anti-EU? Wasn’t he the political editor who commissioned and published the anti-semitic attack piece of Ralph Miliband (“The Man Who Hated Britain?”) and who published articles saying the reason Jo Cox was murdered was due to immigrants occupying homes in Birstall?

    Same with George Osborne, 7 years of austerity and the human carnage it produced all seemingly forgotten about in an instant.

    Politics is just a Parlour Game for so many in the media. No consequences for them so it’s all a big old jolly club with no hard feelings mutual backscratching. Disgusting

  27. “polls asking about how people would vote in hypothetical situations aren’t particularly useful.”
    does that extend to “if there were a general election tomorrow” ?

  28. THE OTHER [email protected] Pilgrim
    “I am a Leaver because, after careful consideration over many years I believe the UK will be better off outside the EU. I voted to leave to give my children and grandchildren a better future in every way. I believe the European experiment is ultimately doomed to failure and I don’t want to see us drawn into the mess which will follow the breakup.
    As you can see there is more than on vision of the future John.”

    I’m sure there is Howard and, for myself, I perfectly respect different views.

    However, your continuous “lols” and rather condescending, “I was amused”, “I’m still smiling” etc etc, at the opposing views of members of this site, in my opinion, somewhat demeans you.

    Alec, for example, actually raised some serious points and, if they really caused you to “laugh out loud” as you suggested, then I would suggest that it would have been more useful [as well as polite] to actually engage with them and – presumably – rebut them.


    I am constantly reminded of te argument about Iraq in 2003. I remember passionately arguing that firstly Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction because he had destroyed them and that it was certified by the UN. The US intelligence was being manipulated to allow regime change. That there was no plan for peace after the war, indeed the war was to be fought with a very light manpower footprint and that the US Army in particular wanted more troops. That no account had been taken of Iran and the fact that the Iraq was 60% Shia.

    All of these issue were dismissed and those that dismissed them could rightly argue that we don’t know what might happen.

    I could not prove any of the assertions about my view of the iraq war conclusively to many people that I discussed it with and indee it is rarely discussed now. What I fear is that whilst I am not expecting a bad a scenario as some remainers may project. I personally cannot see much in the way of upside.

    What I fear is that we have placed so much on brexxit that no matter what happens it will disappoint all of us. I am minded that there is no EU directive to not invest in housing such that we build enough to cover the population. (we currently don’t build enough to cover replacement on a 250 year timescale.) FTA do not make good and services that people buy. I think that whilst we will keep discussing this issue as it seems to be the be all and end all of our politics I fear we are going to lose sight of why people were disaffected.

    The disengagement of the issues is often because our beliefs rational and otherwise are just that beliefs one can argue the rationality of the beliefs but it is still beliefs. I fear that people will just double down on beliefs until it is no longer a belief and then we would have moved on.

    As I pointed out in the post above electorates perceptions are all that count. Despite sometimes the opposite being placed in front of them.

    March 2019 will be a day when we will make a judgement, one of many milestones as with iraq each side will sell their ‘story’ it could be mission accomplished as per Iraq or It would be something akin to the successful intervention in Sierra Leone. We will then haev other milestones until such time the world will become the new normal.

    I campaigned against the Iraq war because I felt it would be a disaster and that we will be paying a price that now we seem to just accept but given the chance again we may make very different decisions. I voted remain for essentially the same reasons many have voted leave for exactly the same reasons I have voted remain as they see staying as disaster (or leaving an opportunity)

    At some point we know as reality does take care of itself

  30. Alec: Brexit grinds on, with the trade paper today signalling a significant new low in the UK government’s approach to this. …. We don’t yet appear to have reached the point where Brexiters understand what is happening, and as a result they seem incapable of framing any kind of useful response. All this, and we are a quarter of the way through the A50 period.

    The Other Howard: Alec – Even better than yesterdays effort. LOL again

    Alec’s point demonstrated on cue.

  31. TOH
    ” after careful consideration over many years”
    My concern is that you and a hefty body of opinion and of the voting public, mainly in an older demographic, may have been considering the same ideas year in year out since settling into a comfortable, unconcerned and unread middle age.
    Migration alone, to take a central aspect of the debate over Brexit, has been a process in the developing countries reflecting population displacements the effects of improved health services on population increase,and exponential growth of cities and failure to match it and unemployment among educated youth, and the pull effect of economic development and the demographic effect of ageing in the UK and the rest of Europe. All of these ongoing factors demand a radical change in migration policy here and in the EU, most carefully researched as the basis of the Agenda Programme advocated by Juncker.
    I’ld be more impressed by your preference for leaving the EU, and your and the Government’s apparent belief that net migration can be reduced to below 100,000, if I thought that you and the concerned politicians had read the research and understood its implications.

  32. Ireland (long post warning)

    1. The current position can be divided into two: people and goods.

    a. people from the roi have free movement without restriction into the uk and visa versa; EU citizens from other EU countries and non EU persons can enter the ROI in accordance with ROI rules and then can move freely into the UK but then have to conform to UK rules on employment and status etc .

    b goods. Free Movement within internal market and customs union and tariff entry/exclusion from third countries

    2.The starting point post brexit is that there should be a customs border for goods between ROI and NI unless there a no customs arrangement between the EU and the UK.

    3. The logical place for that border is the border and the only true effective border for the UK ,the ROI and the EU generally is a hard border that deals with goods and people.

    4.The logical and effective solution is made complicated by a number of factors:

    a. That a common travel area existed pre EU which would cease to exist with the above;

    b. That the imposition of the above would either breach the GFA or at the very least a risk of rekindling political troubles;

    c.That the political parties both sides of the border do not want such a solution

    d. That there would be local difficulties around such a physical border.

    e. Other solutions are also deemed at present politically unacceptable to NI and the DUP who just happen to prop up the Tory Government and incidentally do not have a government of their own.

    what are the possible solutions? the schleswig -Holstein question looks easy compared to this.

    1. The UK remains in the internal market and the customs union or in a equivalent that is so close to them that it makes no odds. There would in such circumstances be no need for a goods hard border and the people issue would be effectively the same as at present. That is i am afraid unrealistic but forms the basis of government thinking. The only way it could work is if the UK does not have trade agreements on
    its own account and would be subservient to EU policy without having any say in the construction of that policy. A Vassal state if ever there was one. Brexit would not mean Brexit.
    2. A hard border for people and goods at the border of the ROI and NI Logical, practical and enforceable.Clearly not going to happen( i would hesitate to say for precisely those reasons;)
    3. A hard border on the UK side of the Irish Sea for goods and people;
    4. A hard border on the ROI points of entry/departure for goods and people;
    5.No hard border for people. This is the present position and would maintain the CTA and as at present mean that immigration is dealt with in the mainland UK;subject to review if abuses occur.The DUP would not be offended by this either it seems to me. Call it mini schengen or whatever.A hard border for goods.This could be in three places but logically it can only be in one place and that is the UK side of the Irish sea because most of the eU-Irish trade travels through the uK. this would have the following consequences:

    a. It would create an Irish economic micro climate. It would be an area where no tariffs existed or customs arrangements were necessary for trade between an EU country and part of a third country. Eire and the uK would probably be content with that. The DUP might not because NI trade would be subject to Customs checks on the mainland UK border. On the other hand it would not effect people and if it could be shown to be good economically combined with a financial package it might pass muster. Certainly worth talking about.
    b. The EU.The only down side for the EU apart from principle is economic contamination. Thus, it would need to protect itself from the situation where Ireland is used as a tariff free/customs free port of entry to the uK and a UK tariff free/customs free entry to the EU for both uK goods or goods from other third countries. in other words that Ireland could be quarantined within the system.

    It there fore seems to me that the simple brexit position is a hard border at the border.The problem is how to avoid that practical,effective and enforceable solution and replace it with an alternative that is not unsatisfactory to all the parties. I think that the only realistic solution apart from the above is no border for people and a hard border for goods on the UK mainland side.

  33. The unwillingness of most commentators on the brexit side to engage substantively with reasonable and persuasive arguments stems, I think, simply from the fact that the overwhelming balance of evidence points in one direction. The only way to counter that is to fall back on emotive appeals and slogans. Or to keep schtum.

    So, for instance, I asked one pro-brexit commentators several times to suggest a list of those countries with which we could expect future trade deals to produce a net benefit to the UK ie an improvement in relative trade flows compared to the current situation. Response: nil.

    I was struck by this from Rafael Behr in today’s Guardian:

    “The honest revolutionary argues that trauma is unavoidable, but necessary for the ultimate goal: the appetising allure of the omelette justifies the breaking of eggs. But ideological leavers (including, perhaps, Corbyn, whose ultimate ambition on this front is opaque) do not make that case. Instead, the whole business is shrouded in the dank mist of false moderation: a polite avoidance of hard questions, and the passive aggressive cult of “keep calm and carry on” – of which May was briefly the exulted incarnation.”

  34. So effectively, the Government’s position on the Irish border is “We’ll probably have tariffs with the EU, but not Ireland, and trust people not to smuggle”. Ho hum.

    Little mention of how it effects movement of people, so presumably the assumption must be that a work permit system for EU citizens will be considered sufficient?

  35. Regarding customs controls after Brexit, i can’t see the Governments suggestions being accepted, without some financial agreement with terms being agreed with the EU.

    It does seem to be an exercise in justifying the original ‘cake and eat it’ ideal position that Government wanted to pursue. They want all of the current benefits of EU membership, without anything they don’t like.

    This seems very unlikely and no matter how many papers UK Government issues, the EU are likely to stick to principles that they have agreed through current treaties.

    I can see the EU saying in October that not enough progress has been made in Brexit talks to continue to the next stage and asking the UK to go back to think about they want to do.

    Brexorcists might believe that Brexit is definitely going to happen because of 17 million votes. But this seems to ignore the complexity of the issues that need to be agreed before November 2018. It needs to be agreed by then, because it has to go through the EU and all other Parliaments by March 2019. This timetable is what is currently agreed, but i can see an extension being agreed with all interested parties.

  36. @Paul Croft

    The Learn Direct scandal is absolutely appalling and a complete repudiation of the idea that privatising something automatically makes it better. The reduction in transparency that privatisation allowed has led to this.

    The whole apprenticeship agenda is foundering at the moment because of cynical gaming going on by both providers and by certain elements (not all) of the political establishment.

    I have mentioned him before, but Neil Carmichael, the former Tory MP for Stroud who lost his seat recently, was very vigorous in trying to bring this sort of thing to light in his role as head of the Education Select Committee and although his replacement in Stroud, David Drew appears to be a good fellow and a decent MP (and Corbyn has done sensibly in promoting him to the Shadow Farming and Rural Affairs brief), Carmichael is a loss to Parliament and a loss to learners.

    I am not Neil Carmichael’s mum.

  37. @BARNY

    The option of a free for all was the one that I thought the government would basically go for. Essentially they said meh, we just ignore it.

    I suppose essentially that is the only way to please unionists and fulfil their idea of an invisible border basically have no border control at all at the NI border and no Border control at the Irish seas basically the UK government position is effectively a fudge.

    As to FoM everyone will be tourist from now on and we will have the equivalent of tier 1,2,3 and 4 visas for EU workers

    it will be interesting as to what the EU does I have just come back from a contract in Germany and it appears that everyone is waiting for the system that the UK will create.

    There is some feeling that the EU will still allow Free movement of labour without visa requirements from UK but it is not clear


  38. @TOH – LOL indeed.

    As time goes by, you become less and less impressive as a poster on here. As many others have pointed out, there is a genuine issue here on the relative impact of any trade disruption following Brexit. Those who base their claims on the gross numbers are demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue, and just laughing at this doesn’t do anything other than suggest that your views are based on prejudice, rather than evidence.

    @S Thomas – re the Irish border issue, if you really think that a hard border between NI and ROI is ‘enforceable’, I really do wonder where you have been for the last half century or so. Are the minds of Brexiters so single tracked and incapable of analytical thought that they can’t imagine a populist nationalist campaign to overcome border restrictions?

    Does it not strike you as an ideal way for militant nationalists (and not necessarily just the violent ones) to garner widespread political and financial support by organising smuggling and illicit border crossings? Is the world of Brexit so bereft of intelligence that it’s proponents can’t see the huge dangers of a hard border to the integrity of the UK?

    LOL, as some might say.

  39. S THOMAS

    One little problem with your scenarios may be the Belfast Agreement’s [p3], where the issue will be one of consent, saying as it does:

    The participants endorse the commitment made by the British and Irish
    Governments that, in a new British-Irish Agreement replacing the Anglo-
    Irish Agreement, they will:
    (iii) acknowledge that … it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people.

    With Stormont not in place, a local NI-only referendum would seem to be needed to obtain that consent.

    It will be interesting to see, once HMG’s NI proposals are published later today [no sign on gov.uk yet], whether the Belfast Agreement gets a mention.

  40. For reference, the Belfast Agreement is available from HMG here.

  41. The remarkable story of UK’s Labour Market continues. The tipping point at which low unemployment starts to move pay up seems to have been reached.

    “The employment rate April/June 2017 (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 75.1%, the highest since comparable records began in 1971.

    The unemployment rate (the proportion of those in work plus those unemployed, that were unemployed) was 4.4%, down from 4.9% for a year earlier and the lowest since 1975.

    The inactivity rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive) was 21.3%, down from 21.6% for a year earlier and the lowest since comparable records began in 1971

    Latest estimates show that average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain in nominal terms (that is, not adjusted for price inflation) increased by 2.1%, both including and excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier.
    Latest estimates show that average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain in real terms (that is,adjusted for price inflation) fell by 0.5%, both including and excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier.”



  42. On the mechanics of the Irish border question, I can’t see anything in the UK position that is remotely credible, other than their oft stated mantra that there won’t be a hard border between NI and ROI.

    This leaves effectivey three options.

    Firstly, EU and UK stay in a full customs union. The UK has rejected this, so on that basis we have to assume this won’t happen. Therefore there has to be a hard border somewhere.

    The second option is for that hard border to be between ROI and the EU. The ROI government has rejected this out of hand, and while there is a point to be made that the massive disruption to the Irish economy from a hard border could lead them to rethink this if the wider negotiations don’t go well, it’s genuinely very hard to conceive of the Irish people supporting the concept of an Irish managed UK border on Irish soil. Given the politics and the raw emotions of history, I just can’t see this happening.

    So that leaves us with the third option, which is a hard border between NI and the UK. This would be a political godsend for nationalists, and would effectively normalise a border distinction between NI and the UK, and as a result would be a humiliation for the unionists.

    On the nature of the border itself, the movement of people issue is something of a red herring. We already have visa free travel with dozens of countries in and out of the EU, with the real controls meant to be exerted at the places of employment or state service provision. Brexiters have long held an apparent fantasy about ‘secure borders’ which appears to revolve around massive fences, gates and armed guards at all points of entry, whereas in reality people will continue to move freely in a plethora of ways, in accordance with our various travel agreements, with the controls theoretically exerted within the employment, health, welfare and other sectors. Sectors where, in the main, Brexiters are also very keen to cut spending so there is less resource available for checking and monitoring.

    The passage of goods is where there will have to be a hard border. If Brexiters wish to have the right to secure our own trade deals outwith the customs union, then the EU will have no choice but to insist on some form of hard border. There is no way around this. We could, theoretically, initiate a system where the UK gathers external tariffs for goods bound for the EU when they arrive in the UK, and then hand these over to the EU, but would this system be trusted by the EU, and would it be acceptable to Brexiters? Would the EU just sit back and allow the UK to negotiate whatever trade deals it wants on this basis, or would they insist on some say on these deals, in return for avoiding a hard border?

    With Ireland, the issue that has been raised repeatedly, and either ignored or fudged by Brexiters, is the simple fact that once we leave the customs union, there is a massive problem with the ROI/UK border.

    This is why Brexiters mantra of ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is so intellectually bereft. There are literally a thousand and one ways to leave the EU, and the childish simplicity with which the combined impact of the trade arrangements and the implications these have on future management of borders is another area that amply demonstrates the intellectual paucity within the Brexit campaign.

  43. @passtherockplease

    Essentially it’s the perfect solution – IF we manage a free trade deal with the EU.

    If we don’t, it’s a smuggler’s dream.

  44. @Colin – “The remarkable story of UK’s Labour Market continues. The tipping point at which low unemployment starts to move pay up seems to have been reached.”

    And – “Latest estimates show that average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain in real terms (that is,adjusted for price inflation) fell by 0.5%, both including and excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier.”

    I’m afraid it doesn’t take s tatistical genuis to understand that these two statements are completely contradictory.

    A 0,5% annual fall in real wages is a pretty hefty fall, so I don’t understand the point about having reached a tipping point? Workers are still becoming worse off.

  45. Colin

    It’s strange that we aren’t running a humongous surplus when

    1) spending has been cut since 2007
    2) taxes have increased
    3) employment is at record levels

    Something doesn’t add up

  46. alec

    i am glad that you came to the same conclusions .people are free to re-write my posts if they wish. However, i do take issue with you saying the hard border is not enforceable. Unless you are suggesting that some billions of pounds of trade move down a back road the vast majority of trade will be regulated. Ther may be some small scale cross border smuggling but that is true if every border wherever it is profitable to do so.
    there are enough difficulties without making them up.

  47. @Alec, Colin

    It is very clear that there is ongoing substitution of better paid intermediate skill roles for lower paid, lower skill roles and as a consequence we have both more people in work, and lower pay (and so more people in work but also in poverty).

    This is a very difficult issue. A 0.5% fall in real wages with inflation at over 2% is not good at all.

    It does people no good to be in work if that work does not pay them enough to live. It causes disillusionment with the idea of employment as a worthwhile endeavour and with the current economic model as being unable to supply working people with the basics.

    The failure of LearnDirect is actually a symptom of the problem – there is not enough attention being paid to the supply of skills to the labour market.

  48. ALEC

    You do try hard I must say-and I can only marvel at your determination to see the worst in UK’s economic prospects. As for those of the EU-we here little opinion from you :-)

    However-to your response.

    A statistical novice-let alone genius , would of course have done what you did not do-read my words.

    I did NOT say that pay was rising at a greater rate than inflation…………..which was why I took care to specifically quote ONS thus :-

    “Latest estimates show that average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain in real terms (that is,adjusted for price inflation) fell by 0.5%, both including and excluding bonuses, compared with a year earlier.”

    What I sought to do was suggest that the ever decreasing rate of unemployment might be tipping the point at which employees have been willing to price themselves into jobs; to a point at which their purchasing power is pushing pay up.

    If you read Fig 8 & 9 on P 17 & 18 of UK labour market: August 2017published by ONS today you will perhaps be able to follow this train of thought.

    Alternatively you could read the very interesting commentaries which are currently available on the sectoral labour shortages developing in UK at present.

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