Brexit, buttons and seeds

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25 January 2021

I campaigned against Brexit and continue to think we should have stayed in the EU. I also think the deal that the Prime Minister concluded with the EU on 24 December was a very poor deal.

The ramifications of Brexit are huge – they crop up all over the place. They will have an enormous impact on the residents of Bucks, many in ways which are hidden or overlooked. Here are just two small examples.

I enjoy knitting which is an increasing popular pastime during lockdown. I now buy all my knitting supplies from specialist online companies, some of which are small, local companies. They normally offer an amazing variety of products from all over the world – wools, synthetics and buttons. But not this week. This week I found many of the lines of yarn were out of stock and there were virtually no buttons for sale.

So I asked why and the companies were very prompt in telling me. Understandably there has been a global slowdown in the manufacture and shipping of their stock due to COVID. But on top of that there are also problems caused by Brexit with some of their European suppliers. Many of the buttons – including the ones I wanted – apparently come from Germany.

Now it’s perhaps no bad thing that my choice for yarns this week was largely restricted to British yarns – some excellent yarns are made in Yorkshire. And perhaps there are some British button manufacturers who will gear up production. But, this week, for lack of the buttons from Germany, I couldn’t knit want I wanted – and the sale was lost.

I now assume that when those German buttons arrive, they will cost more – as will happen for many EU imports.

But the big question I am left with is how on earth is the UK going to export balls of yarn to the EU when many British yarns are made from a mixture of materials from all over the world? Material of animal origin (wool, silk), of vegetable origin (cotton and bamboo) combined with synthetics? The same goes for the export of clothes, textiles and carpets made of British wool from British sheep, perhaps mixed with foreign material and synthetics? How will these manufacturing and retail companies sell to the EU?

But let’s turn to seeds. I also enjoy gardening, also very popular during lockdown. Again, I now buy my gardening supplies from online UK companies. I have just bought my vegetable and flower seeds from a small company based in Bucks. It employs about 15 people.

I noticed when I bought my seeds that their website says the company had stopped accepting orders from Northern Ireland and countries outside of the UK; further clarity was needed about the situation post Brexit.

The same thing goes for other gardening websites in the UK, including small nurseries in Bucks. None of them seem to be delivering seeds or plants to the EU and Northern Ireland because of the requirements arising from Brexit including new plant passports from 1 January 2021.

The Royal Horticultural Society says “the UK has a global reputation as the gardening capital of the world, known for its landscape designs, gardens and innovative green infrastructure, for which it should be proud.”

Truly world beating.

Ornamental horticulture and landscape industries’ total contribution to UK GDP is about £25 billion. It supports over half a million jobs. The industry like many others has been hit hard by COVID.

On top of that, because of Brexit, many British horticultural companies cannot send plants or seeds to Northern Ireland or export to the EU.

Buttons and seeds are only two small examples of the impact of Brexit. There are thousands of such examples right across every sector. And all having an adverse impact on Bucks.

Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust refuses to release its risk assessments on the impact of Brexit

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10 March 2019

In January, I was concerned about the apparent lack of preparedness for Brexit by the Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust (see blog of 26 January below). So I wrote to the Trust asking what the Trust was doing to mitigate the impact of Brexit on its operations.

I also wrote to Bucks County Council’s Select Committee on Health and Adult Care asking if it had scrutinised the NHS's preparedness for Brexit in Bucks or had plans to do so.

I didn’t receive any response.

So last week I reminded both bodies about my request.

The Trust said it had already sent me the information about a month ago. I searched on my computer but couldn’t find it. However, the Trust provided me with a copy. Pity it was just one of those meaningless replies. The text is below in red for information.

I did notice however that the Trust had completed “assessments around the seven areas of the Department of Health’s Guidance”. So I asked for the assessments.

Within a few days, the Trust came back saying the assessments were exempt under the Freedom of Information Act because their release could “prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs”.

Then I started to wonder what on earth that meant.

I found out that these seven areas are:-

1. Supply of medicines and vaccines;

2. Supply of medical devices and clinical consumables;

3. Supply of non-clinical consumables, goods and services;

4. Workforce;

5. Reciprocal healthcare;

6. Research and clinical trials; and,

7. Data sharing, processing and access.

Trusts are required by the Government to look at the local risks for these key areas of Brexit, including a no-deal Brexit.

Now, I assume if the risks of a no deal Brexit were insignificant for the NHS in Bucks, then there would be absolutely no problem in giving me the assessments – indeed I assume the Trust would get them out in a press release. So I can only conclude that the risks of Brexit to the NHS in Bucks are serious.

Presumably, the assessments, if published, would make a lot of us very worried. Particularly those of us who are ill or vulnerable. Is the Trust scared that patients will panic if they knew what the assessments said? Perhaps stockpiling medicines and adding to the crisis?

And whatever happened to transparent government?

Meanwhile, I had a response from BCC with an apology for the delay. Its Select Committee had already heard from the local pharmaceutical committee.

The accompanying papers about the national position were pretty worrying. For example they suggest the additional 6-week stockholding of medicine would not be sufficient in the event of a no deal Brexit.

Nevertheless, the Select Committee was reassured that locally “planning was underway for a smooth transition of medicine supplies to ensure minimal impact on patient healthcare”. And that “pharmacists had always dealt with shortages very well and this was an ongoing scenario in community pharmacy”.

I would like have preferred some reassurance that the planning would actually work – and the “on-going scenario” didn’t mean a disaster.

But the Select Committee thought it was OK – and don’t propose any more scrutiny on Brexit.

I really, really, REALLY hope that Parliament votes against a no deal Brexit next week.

“The Trust is complying with the various elements detailed in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) EU Exit Operational Readiness Guidance, published 21 Dec 2018 and previous requirements and requests to help mitigate any EU Exit impacts on the Trust.

The Trust is in the process of planning for any and all potential eventualities relating to the local impacts of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. This is a dynamic and ongoing process. This includes the reviewing and testing of existing business continuity and incident management plans.

The Trust has completed assessments around the seven areas detailed in the DHSC EU Exit Operational Readiness Guidance of Dec 21 2018. The Trust has enhanced its BCP group with a specific EU Exit team looking at all aspects of the EU Exit process for the Trust.

The Trust continues to work closely around EU Exit mitigation with local health economy partners and Integrated Care System colleagues as well as through regional fora such as the Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum to ensure all elements of the current guidance is followed in preparation for a ‘no deal’ EU Exit scenario”.

Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust’s response to Brexit – do nothing and wait for direction

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26 January 2019

So how is the Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust doing i.e.the organisation that manages the hospitals in Bucks?

Well if you want to know, the papers for the Board meeting next week should tell you. Mind you, the papers are over 200 pages long.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Trust provided a summary for the public?

The Trust used to prepare a handy “floodlight” report showing on one page in red, amber and green whether the key performance indicators were being met.

But no more. The floodlight report is now 20 pages long with loads of charts and acronyms and wholly unintelligible to the layperson.

However, there is no doubt that the indicators are still flashing red on the things that worry people – like the length of time patients have to wait for treatment and at A&E (yes I know the indicator is formally on amber but that’s only if you include the minor injuries units).

The indicators are also flashing intense red on the money side. The Trust has a statutory duty to keep within its budget. But like previous years it is seriously adrift, forecasting a deficit at the end of the year of £25.4m.

However, just for a change, I decided to see what the Trust is doing about Brexit.

Well I looked .. and I looked .. and eventually I found a mention of Brexit – on page 195 at the end of the Risk Register under “Horizon Scanning”.

Now I don’t like to worry the Board, but Brexit isn’t about “Horizon Scanning” anymore; there is a pretty high chance of Brexit happening in 2 months, either with a deal of sorts or by falling off a cliff. In case they haven’t noticed, we are due to exit the EU on 29 March, 2 days after the next Board meeting.

And this is what the mention of Brexit says: There is an “uncertainty about the potential impact of Brexit on the Trust's ability to deliver objectives in the coming year”. It adds that the way to minimise the risk is to pay “close attention to direction from the Department of Health and Social Care”. There are “no specific actions at present except to acknowledge the risk”.

Brexit wot Brexit?

Now I don’t like to worry the Board again but surely the Trust should be doing a little bit more than waiting for direction from the Department. Shouldn’t there be the tiniest degree of urgency about the planning? Perhaps just a little bit of proactivity? Like a few pointed questions to the Department if no direction comes?

And shouldn’t there be a bit more information to the Board (and the public) about the impact of Brexit on the Trust?

How many EU citizens work at the Trust and in what positions? How many EU citizens have already left and how many are forecast to go? What is the impact so far and what is the assessment of the impact in the future?

What will happen if the UK can no longer participate in the Erasmus Programme and the Trust can no longer recruit in the EU?

What about the supply of medicines, materials and equipment?

I understand a contingency group has been established but is it doing anything?

Won’t it be good for us to know that the planning was in safe hands?

Well maybe I’ve missed the information going to the Board. So I’ll ask. Perhaps I’ll get something back before we fall off the cliff.

It would be good to know that BCC were also on top of the issue and were scrutinising the Trust’s preparedness for Brexit. I’ll ask BCC too.

When are the Bucks MPs going to explain the PM’s Brexit deal to their constituents?

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1 December 2018

This is the email I sent to Mr Lidington, my MP, today.

 

"Dear Mr Lidington

Last week the Prime Minister wrote me a letter promising “a new chapter in our national life” after Brexit. She appealed to me to support her deal with the EU. She asked me to write to you, my MP, to put pressure on you to vote for the deal in Parliament.

[To be completely honest, she said her letter was addressed “to the nation” – but that’s me isn’t it?].

The Prime Minister also said she would carry out a tour of the UK to sell her deal directly to the public. The tour seems to consist of three short, carefully arranged visits to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland with invited audiences. It doesn’t look as though she is going to come to England, let alone Bucks.

However, when Channel 4 asked her the point of her tour, she said she needed to hear the public’s view. So perhaps she would like to hear from me?

I also understand that she is urging Conservative MPs to hold public meetings for their constituents to explain and sell her deal. I’m sure you would like to do what the Prime Minister requests. Are you holding any public meetings? If so, I would really like to come.

I always like to be helpful, particularly if it’s the Prime Minister asking. So I am

a) writing to you with my views on the Brexit vote in Parliament;

b) copying those views to the Prime Minister; and

c) asking you to hold a public meeting to explain the Prime Minister’s deal.

As I missed out on the Prime Minister’s tour, I will also watch her sales pitch on the television debate – if it ever takes place.

There – you can’t say I’m not doing my bit.

As to my views, I’ll keep it brief.

I voted remain in 2016 and I am even more convinced now that we should remain in the EU.

I believe, more than ever, that the UK belongs in the EU.

The world is increasing unstable and hostile. We have wars in Syria, the Ukraine and the Yemen and dictatorships over large areas of the world. We face the problems of mass migrations and climate change. Do I need to mention that we now have a US President who appears to side with Russia rather than his traditional allies in the West?

Our neighbours on the continent aren’t perfect but they share our values. Together they are powerful and influential providing an international voice of sanity and decency.

As a part of the EU, the UK makes a major contribution to upholding those values (as well as benefiting economically). The EU also provides protection for its members.

If we leave the EU, the UK will be vulnerable – politically and economically. We will be desperate to negotiate trade deals, and countries like America, China and India, not to mention the EU, will have us over a barrel. We will get screwed.

If you don’t believe me, look at the withdrawal deal the Prime Minister got from the EU.

The deal is called a compromise. Well it might be a compromise between the warring factions of the pro- Brexit parts of the Conservative party but it is no compromise between the parties who negotiated the deal i.e. the UK and the EU.

The EU set out its negotiation objectives nearly 2 years ago and they have got pretty well everything wanted. And the UK has had to concede on pretty well every point.

Leaving the EU will leave us vulnerable in other ways.

Scotland will once again seek independence. Ireland will seek unification. Spain will demand joint sovereignty over Gibraltar as a part of any EU trade deal.

In the meantime, none of the domestic problems with healthcare, education, housing, transport and poverty will get the attention, let alone the resources, they need.

So, I would like you to vote against the Prime Minister’s deal. You won’t, but the Prime Minister did ask me to write.

I want you to vote against any proposal to leave the EU.

I want you to vote for a second referendum which gives the public the chance to have their say in the light of better knowledge of what leaving the EU will entail.

Kind Regards 

Linda Derrick"

Brexit – what Bucks really thinks

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11 November 2018

On 5 November, a Channel 4 programme discussed the results of a survey it had commissioned from a company called Survation. The survey was the largest independent survey of attitudes towards Brexit since the referendum in 2016. The link to the programme is below.

Survation also published a breakdown of its results by local authority area.

The survey showed a majority of voters in all the local authorities areas in Bucks would now vote Remain.

I will let the Bucks MPs know.

Here are the detailed results for the four local authority areas in Bucks.

The main question asked was:

“If there was to be another referendum tomorrow on whether the UK should remain a member of the EU or leave, which way would you vote?”

Nationally the survey showed that the British public would vote to Remain by 54% to 46%, after voting to Leave by 52% to 48% two and a half years ago.

In Bucks the survey showed:

                             Leave vote 2016   Estimate Leave vote 2018   Change

Aylesbury Vale   50.5%                      46.4%                                       -4.1%

Chiltern                45.0%                     41.4%                                       -3.6%

South Bucks       50.7%                      46.7%                                      -4.0%

Wycombe           48.0%                       43.8%                                      -4.2%

 

In 2016, a majority of voters in only two out of the four local authorities voted to Remain. Now the survey shows a majority of voters in all the local authorities in Bucks would vote to Remain.

The change of about 4% is smaller than the national average. In general, the higher the vote to leave for an area in the referendum, the greater the change. The vote in Bucks in the referendum was marginal (except in Chiltern where there was a clear majority for Remain).

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/brexit-what-the-nation-really-thinks

Open letter to Steve Baker, MP, about the Irish border and Brexit

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13 September 2018

An open letter to Steve Baker, sent today:

“Dear Steve Baker  

As you probably know, I take a keen interest in Brexit.  You and I debated the issue during the referendum – on opposite sides of course. 

So I was looking forward to finding out how you are going to resolve the problem of the border between Northern Ireland and Eire; you are an active member of the European Research Group (ERG) and it set out its proposals yesterday.

I think that's Steve Baker in the background giving a presentation

If you remember, I raised the Irish problem during the debates and you thought it was not important.  By now you will have realised how critical this issue is and will have had time to come up with solutions.  You have after all had the benefit of some months as a Minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union.

However, despite all the news cover yesterday I’m afraid I still don’t understand what you and the ERG propose.   The press refer to an ERG paper but I couldn’t find any such publication; in fact I couldn’t find an ERG website.  As the ERG is partly funded by taxpayers’ money I think it would be a good idea if it was easy for the taxpayer to see what ERG is spending our money on.

Do you think you could send me a copy of the ERG proposals on Ireland?  That would be very helpful.

In the meantime, I had to rely on what the media says which, as you might imagine, varies depending on their political stance.  So I thought a look at the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and the BBC might provide some balance and in-depth analysis.

But it looks as though the media is stumped.  The Mail for example believes you are advocating “flying squads of tax inspectors”  “roaming Northern Ireland”. Surely this can’t be right?

I negotiated on behalf of the UK in Brussels for many years on a range of issues and have some idea of how the EU works.  I did try to get to grips with your proposals but I too am completely stumped.   

So perhaps you could answer a few questions and make it all clear.

 

1.     The ERG says there should be a buffer zone of 20km each side of the Northern Ireland/Eire border and the inspection posts for goods and livestock crossing the border should be outside this buffer zone.  The European Commission has rejected this idea. 

 

However, that suggests there would be three borders – a hard border between NI and the 40km buffer zone; a soft international border between NI and Eire; and another hard border between the buffer zone and Eire.  How does it help having two hard borders?

 

2.     Jacob Rees-Mogg said the UK could use existing border technology and he cited the Polish/Belarus border.  I did check and it looks as though this border has border posts which are heavily guarded and give rise to long delays. 

 

How is the Poland/Belarus border a model for NI/Eire?

 

3.     Your proposals seem to cover goods but not people. 

 

Can people just walk across the border or will they have to go to the inspection posts outside the buffer zones?

 

4.     Does this all assume the UK has regulatory alignment with the EU?  If so, what’s the point of Brexit?

I know the Chequers’ plan is pretty confusing and has been turned down by the Commission.  But you said you could do better.  However, I find your proposals just as confusing as the Government’s.  So perhaps you could clarify the ERG proposals.

Kind Regards

Linda Derrick”

 

 

Did Steve Baker know how Vote.Leave’s money was spent?

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29 August 2018

Previous blogs have set out Steve Baker’s involvement with Vote.Leave, an organisation which campaigned for Brexit and broke electoral law, including overspending by about £500,000.  Steve Baker was on Vote.Leave’s governing body that met weekly during the referendum campaign to set its campaign strategy.

Because Vote. Leave broke the law, the validity of the EU referendum is now being challenged in the High Court. 

This blog is about how Vote Leave spent its money.  The issues are complex and I have tried to keep it simple.

Vote.Leave spent about £3.4 million (45% of its budget) commissioning work from a company called Aggregate IQ (AIQ).  AIQ was a small company with about 20 employees which operated out of a small office in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. 

AIQ used a technique called microtargeting.  It analysed data to predict the behaviour, interests, and opinions held by specific groups of voters and then gave them messages, mainly on social media, that the voters were most likely to respond to positively.     

There’s nothing particularly wrong with this – it’s what many politicians do.

However, there are a number of allegations made about AIQ:- 

Ø  That AIQ was in practice run and controlled by the same group of people who ran and controlled a company called Cambridge Analytica – and Cambridge Analytica supported extreme right –wing causes and had very dubious, if not illegal, business practices.

Cambridge Analytica was founded by Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer. 

Steve Bannon is an extreme right-wing activist who was the chief executive officer of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and was President Trump’s chief strategist for a few months.  He has supported various populist nationalist conservative movements around the world including France's National Front and the Italian Northern League. 

Robert Mercer is an American hedge-fund manager who supports many politically conservative causes.

According to its CEO, AIQ used honey traps, bribery stings, and prostitutes in carrying out research into their clients’ opponents.  One of Cambridge Analytica’s clients was Donald Trump.  Another was Leave.EU, an organization campaigning to leave the EU, this time fronted by Nigel Farage.  

Cambridge Analytica and its parent company filed for insolvency proceedings and closed operations this May.

Ø  That AIQ illegally obtained and used data from Facebook and other data bases. 

It was alleged that Cambridge Analytica illegally obtained the personal details of some 87 million Facebook users, most of whom had not given permission to access this data.  It is alleged that a substantial part of this data was provided to AIQ. 

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport also found evidence that AIQ used an app that could “scrape” user profile data from LinkedIn. The app searched LinkedIn user profiles, scraping their contacts, and all accompanying information such as users’ place of work, location and job title.

Facebook suspended both Cambridge Analytica and AIQ from using its platform while it investigated. 

Ø  That AIQ, like Cambridge Analytica, targeted voters and, to quote the Select Committee, “relentlessly with hyper-partisan views, which played to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans and their behaviour”.  And that some of these views were racist.

According to Channel 4, there were 1200 different types of Vote Leave online ads.  They were targeted via Facebook and other social media sites to voters who might be influenced by that particular type of ad.

For example if AIQ held your personal data and your profile showed you lived in Yorkshire and might be affected by flooding, you might have received the ad 1 below.     

Or if your profile indicated you were interested in wildlife, you might have received ad 2.   

Ad 1

Ad 2

However, 45% of the online ads were solely about immigration.   The message was overwhelmingly about the threats of EU migrants.  Ad 3 is one of them. 

Ad 3

Part of the difficulty about these “dark ads”, as they are known, is that they may be false or highly biased but no-one except the sender and the voter know about them.  They therefore cannot be challenged.   They can be sent out in vast numbers relatively easily and cheaply and may not make it clear who is sending them or paying for them.     

So what’s happening on all of this? 

In the UK, the Information Commission and the Select Committee continue major investigations into AIQ, Cambridge Analytica, and their activities.    

In the US, the Mueller investigation is also looking at Cambridge Analytica, including the alleged influence of Russia on its activities.   

Questions for Steve Baker

Which raises some questions for Steve Baker, who sat on the governing body of Vote.Leave:-

1.     Why did he agree that Vote Leave should spend such a large proportion of its budget on a small company in Canada? 

2.     Was he aware of AIQ’s connections with Cambridge Analytica and the latter’s  extreme right-wing background and dubious business practices? 

3.     Did he know how AIQ got its data? 

4.     Did he approve the ads they ran? 

Or didn’t he have a clue what was being done in his name?

 

 

Does Steve Baker MP condone the outing of a homosexual Muslim by No 10?

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13 August 2018

My blog below (dated 4 August) explains Steve Baker’s involvement with Vote Leave, an organisation which campaigned for Brexit and broke electoral law, including overspending by about £500,000 

 

 

Shahmir Sanni

Much of the evidence for these convictions was provided by a whistleblower called Shahmir Sanni.  Mr Sanni is a 24 year old Muslim whose family comes from Pakistan.  Some of his family, including his sister, still live there. 

Mr Sanni became a volunteer with Vote Leave straight from university.  He was asked to move to BeLeave and became its secretary and treasurer.  He was therefore in a key position to know that BeLeave was effectively controlled by Vote Leave.  He provided a dossier of evidence demonstrating this control to the Electoral Commission when he realised what had gone on was illegal.  

Part of Mr Sanni’s evidence showed that Stephen Parkinson, the National Organiser in Vote Leave, had funnelled £675,000 to BeLeave and controlled what BeLeave did with it. 

Mr Parkinson had had considerable experience with previous political campaigns, having been a special advisor to Theresa May, an advisor to David Cameron on media appearances and a lobbyist with Quiller Consultants, “an insight-driven consultancy committed to achieving commercial advantage through reputation, strategy and insight.”

By the time Mr. Sanni blew the whistle, Mr. Parkinson had returned to Downing Street as the PM’s Political Secretary.   From No 10, he issued an official statement saying he and Mr Sanni had been in a homosexual relationship and he could understand “the lines became blurred for Mr. Sanni.”

Mr Sanni’s family and many of his friends did not know he was homosexual.  He said the news put his family in Pakistan at risk; he would also be at risk when he went to his sister’s wedding in Pakistan.

Mr Parkinson was heavily criticised for outing Mr Sanni, particularly as he would have known the risks to Mr Sanni.  It was seen as a deliberate attempt to silence the whistleblowing.  He was also heavily criticised for outing Mr Sanni via an official statement from No 10. 

When challenged by MPs the Prime Minister said “What I want to see is a world where everybody is able to be confident in their sexuality and doesn’t have to worry about such things.”

When asked to sack Mr. Parkinson she said “he does a very good job”.

There’s not a word from Steve Baker about any of this. 

Steve Baker is the MP for a large number of Wycombe residents who are Muslim and whose families are from Pakistan.  He should know how difficult – and dangerous - life can be for Muslims who are homosexual and from Pakistan. 

But presumably he condones No 10 outing Mr. Sanni - a very brave young man.  

 

 

Steve Baker’s brilliant idea for evading electoral law

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4 August 2018

Some of the readers of my blogs have asked me to cover the possible involvement of Steve Baker, Wycombe’s MP, in various illegal and undemocratic practices exposed by the national press and TV.  

I will do my best.  However, it’s complex so I will do it bit by bit. 

 

This blog is about Steve Baker’s involvement with Vote Leave, an organisation which campaigned for Brexit and broke electoral law.  

Steve Baker was a member of the Campaign Committee of Vote Leave.  Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were the main spokesmen for Vote Leave and were also on the Campaign Committee. 

The Campaign Committee was the governing body that met weekly during the referendum campaign to set the campaign strategy for Vote Leave.

The Electoral Commission designated Vote Leave Ltd as the lead campaigner for the Leave campaign.  As such, it was allowed to spend up to £7 million on its campaign under electoral law.    

Others were campaigning for the UK to leave the EU.  Veterans for Britain registered with the Electoral Commission which allowed them to spend up to £700,000 under electoral law. BeLeave, a youth group, didn’t register and was therefore only allowed to spend up to £10,000.  

In July, the Electoral Commission published the conclusions of its investigation into campaign spending by Vote Leave, Veterans for Britain and BeLeave. 

BeLeave had declared a donation of more than £675,000 from Vote Leave which it spent on work from a company called Aggregate IQ.   The Commission found evidence of joint working between Vote Leave and BeLeave and that this spend was incurred under a common plan.   In effect, BeLeave was an arm of Vote Leave. 

This meant the £675,000 should have been declared by Vote Leave.  This meant Vote Leave exceeded its legal spending limit of £7 million by almost £500,000.  This was an offence under electoral law.

Vote Leave also returned an incomplete and inaccurate spending report, with nearly £235,000 reported incorrectly. This too was an offence.

Vote Leave also failed to co-operate with the Commission’s investigation and did not comply with an investigation notice.  This too was an offence.

Meanwhile BeLeave had spent way over its spending limit of £10,000, wrongly reporting the £675,000 as BeLeave’s spending.  These were offences.

Finally, Veterans for Britain wrongly declared £100,000 as a cash donation.  It was actually a payment by Vote Leave for work done by Aggregate IQ for Veterans for Britain.  This was an offence.

Vote Leave and the ‘responsible persons’ for Vote Leave, BeLeave and Veterans for Britain broke electoral law.  Vote Leave and the responsible persons for BeLeave and Veterans for Britain were fined £61,000, £20,000 and £250 respectively.  

The Electoral Commision said it “found substantial evidence that [Vote Leave and BeLeave] worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits. These are serious breaches of the laws put in place by Parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums….

“Vote Leave has resisted our investigation from the start, including contesting our right as the statutory regulator to open the investigation. It has refused to cooperate, refused our requests to put forward a representative for interview, and forced us to use our legal powers to compel it to provide evidence.”

So where you may ask is Steve Baker’s involvement?

Well back in February 2016 a few months before the referendum, Steve Baker MP wrote to his Vote Leave colleagues about a loophole he believed he had uncovered.   He said Vote Leave would be able to spend £7 million and added “

“It is open to the Vote Leave family to create separate legal entities, each of which could spend £700,000: Vote Leave will be able to spend as much money as is necessary to win the referendum”.

We now know this is not a loophole; it is a way of trying to get round electoral law. Vote Leave tried Steve Baker’s way of evading the law, got found out and has been fined.

What we still don’t know is:

1.     Did Steve Baker ever take proper legal advice on his brilliant idea for evading the law?

 

2.     Did he, as a member of Vote Leave’s Campaign Committee, know:

 

a)     that there was joint working between Vote Leave and BeLeave;

 

b)     that this meant the £675, 000 transferred to BeLeave should actually be included in Vote Leave’s spending; and  

 

c)      that the inclusion of the £675,000 in Vote Leave’s spending pushed Vote Leave over its spending limit and meant it was breaking the law? 

 

3.     If he did, what did he do about it?   Did he:

 

a)     challenge the joint working or try to ensure Vote Leave complied with the law? Or

b)     encourage, or get actively involved in, the joint working between Vote Leave and BeLeave, despite knowing this would lead to Vote Leave breaking the law?

  

4.     If he didn’t know about the joint working or that it pushed Vote Leave over the legal spending limit, why not?

 

5.     Does he agree with the way in which Vote Leave has broken the law in failing to co-operate with the Commission?  

The Commission has now referred the investigation to the police. 

Not a word from Steve Baker.

 

 

Is Bucks prepared for Brexit? I wonder who’s doing the Bucks contingency planning

21 July 2018

 

Follow me @LindaDerrick1

 

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit had rather a long list of questions yesterday about the Government’s proposals – rather important questions like were the proposals lawful, or practical, or in the interests of the EU?

 

He said again that the only trade arrangement which would not cause disruption and allow “business as usual” was “Norway plus” – UK membership of the single market and customs union.  (It’s nice to know Mr. Barnier agrees with me on this.)

 

The UK Government has rejected this option so we have an impasse - and both EU and UK are stepping up their preparedness for a no-deal Brexit.   

  

So I wondered whether anyone in Bucks was preparing us for Brexit and doing the necessary contingency planning for all the scenarios.   I wondered whether I should start stockpiling food or just assume it will all be alright on the night. 

  

Well I’ve tried to find out but if anyone is doing Brexit preparedness in Bucks, they are doing it very quietly. 

  

All I could find was a report by Bucks County Council called “Brexit in Buckinghamshire – Shaping the future, harnessing growth”.  

  

If I was being polite, I would call it an aspirational document.  It contains some analysis, a large number of suggestions for further work but mostly optimistic assertions about the place of Bucks in the global economy.   

 

For example, here’s what it says about agriculture, environment and the rural economy:-

“Buckinghamshire is a rural county and it is hoped that future UK agricultural and environmental policies will promote environmental efforts and be able to ensure targeted subsidies can benefit British agriculture and allow it to become more competitive, productive and innovative, … 

 

Buckinghamshire is a net importer of food.  With over 70% of food imports currently coming from the European Union, it is important that customs systems post-Brexit minimise disruption and delays, especially for products with a short shelf-life…..  

 

Brexit provides the UK with a once in a generation chance to reform and improve Britain’s agricultural.”

 

Mmmmm.  But what if these targeted subsidies don’t happen?  Or the post-Brexit customs systems don’t minimize disruption and delays….?    Where are the contingency plans??

 

The report also suggests businesses in Bucks, most of which are small or medium sized companies, should

 “consider the impact of World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs on international trade and explore alternatives if affected”.    

 

Well we could all do that in our lunch break, couldn’t we? 

 

And here’s a flavour of the conclusions:-

“Buckinghamshire is well placed to succeed in a post-Brexit world, with one of the country’s most productive economies and with its strategic location within the Golden Triangle…  near Heathrow, the UK’s gateway to the world which is only likely to become more important following its proposed expansion. …. 

 

Brexit is also a great opportunity for businesses and partners in Buckinghamshire to take a proactive approach to ensure future success and post-Brexit prosperity in the ‘Entrepreneurial Heart of Britain’.  …. Brexit provides the opportunity to evaluate how things are done and become more agile and innovative, ready to harness global opportunities post-Brexit.”

 

I just love it when politicians get lyrical.  But what about the Government’s analysis which says that any Brexit, hard or soft, will damage the economy?   And how is Bucks doing on preparedness?

 

The report was launched last December at a Brexit Summit for employers.  Steve Baker, MP, Martin Tett, Leader of BCC and a speaker from the Institute of Directors gave presentations.   

 

I don’t know what Steve Baker said but presumably he explained his Brexit Masterplan (described yesterday by John Crace in the Guardian).

1.      Tell the EU to sod off.

2.      Take back control

3.      So there.

4.      Panic.

 

It doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. 

 

And that’s it folks.   A 2017 summit of employers and a report seems to constitute Bucks preparedness for Brexit.  

 

I wonder what food I should be stock-piling?

 

P.S. If you want to compare the informative, professional, business-like approach of the EU Commission with the fantasy land of Bucks County Council, the links are below, plus the John Crace article.  

 

https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/communication-preparing-withdrawal-brexit-preparedness.pdf

 

https://www.buckscc.gov.uk/media/4510923/brexit_in_bucks.pdf

 

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jul/19/enter-dominic-raab-a-veritable-chip-off-the-old-brexit-block

 

 

 

Brexit – is it worth it?

27 February 2018

Last night I was asked to speak when the anti- Brexit bus came to Wycombe.  I was asked for the text of my speech and here it is.   

 

“Brexit – is it worth it?  Before we can answer that question, we have to know which Brexit we are going to get.    

You can listen to a lot of people in the UK and get very confused.    

 

The Prime Minister has given her version of Brexit – and she is going to do it again on Friday.  I believe her version of Brexit is something called Managed Ambitious Divergence.  It would allow us to trade seamlessly with the EU and negotiate trade deals with India/Australia and the rest of the world.  It would be the best deal for the UK.  It would be a bespoke agreement.   It would led us into a golden sunset.  It is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it Brexit.   

This is what she says she would negotiate successfully with the EU.  

 

Jeremy Corbyn told us something different this morning.  His version of Brexit is a comprehensive EU-UK custom union plus an arrangement instead of the single market which would protect workers, allow nationalisation and allow the Government to provide state aid.   It is another kind of bespoke agreement.  Another kind of best deal for the UK.  Another have-your-cake-and- eat-it Brexit. 

This is what he says he would negotiate successfully with the EU.  

 

You have to ask whether either of these leaders could negotiate their version of Brexit successfully.  

I’m afraid my money’s not on Teresa May nor on Jeremy Corbyn.  My money’s on the EU.  At every stage in the negotiations, it is the EU which has determined the outcome.  It’s the EU that calls the shots.   

 

If you remember, the UK wanted to start negotiations before we had legally triggered our exit from the EU.   The EU said no – it would only start negotiations after the formal announcement by the UK.    And what happened?  There were no EU/UK negotiations before we triggered Article 50.

So the UK said it would start negotiations with individual member states – and arranged visits to Germany, France and the other 27 member states.  And the EU said no – there would be no negotiations with individual states – all negotiations on Brexit would be with the EU Commission.  And what happened?  All negotiations have been with the EU Commission.    

Then the UK said well OK, we have now triggered Article 50.  We will negotiate the divorce settlement but we also want to start negotiations at the same time about a future trade deal with the EU.  Remember David Davies saying he was going to have an almighty row if the EU didn’t agree?     

And the EU said no – there would be no negotiations on a trade deal until there had been significant progress on the divorce settlement. And what happened?  The divorce settlement has come first.   

The UK also said it wanted to start negotiations about future trade deals with other counties like America, India and Australia.  Remember Liam Fox jumping up and down about this?  The EU said no – there would be no trade negotiations with other countries while the UK was in the EU.  And what happened?   There has been no trade negotiations with other countries.  

The EU set the agenda for the divorce settlement – the divorce bill, the rights of EU citizens and Ireland.   And that is what the UK had to discuss until we agreed to pay the money, conceded the role of the ECJ and agreed no hard border with Eire.

The same is happening with the negotiations on the transition period – what the EU says is on offer is, more or less, what we are going to get. 

 

The hard reality is that, in the negotiations, the power lies with the EU; what the EU says is going to happen, happens.   This is not a pleasant reality for anyone in this country to accept.   But if you want to know what is going to happen, you need to look at what the EU says is going to happen.  Because it has an impressive track record.    

So what sort of Brexit is the EU prepared to offer? 

The EU has said there are two options on offer - the Norway option or the Canada option.  But there will be no bespoke deal, no have-your cake-and eat-it deal. 

Now unless the UK can find a way of having an invisible border with Eire on goods, we have to stay in the customs union.   And unless we can find a way of having an invisible border with Eire on people, we have to stay in the single market.  It means the Canada option is out.

Which leaves the Norway option. 

Norway is a member of the European Economic Area option.   For us, this basically means the status quo - staying in the customs union and single market, accepting the vast majority of EU law, ECJ oversight, free movement of people and paying for access to the single market. 

It would cost us about 5% of GDP.     

But the only real change is that we would no longer be taking decisions as part of the EU.

The bizarre effect of coming out of the EU, and taking the only real option on the table, is that we would change very little but would actually lose some of our sovereignty and would lose control.

So the question we all have to ask is whether the Norway option is worth it?"

 

Steve Baker – “Idiot savant or just an idiot?” John Crace’s not quite sure.

31 January 2018   

You couldn’t make it up.

Last year, Steve Baker said the Government was carrying out “an extensive programme of analytical work that will contribute to our exit negotiations with the EU.”  The Government said it had prepared detailed assessments of the impact of Brexit on 58 sectors in the UK.  

The Government could not disclose the assessments on the grounds this would be detrimental to its Brexit negotiating position.   

Trouble was Parliament disagreed with Steve Baker and, when it forced the Government to disclose the 58 impact assessments, it found they did not exist (except possibly in the form of a post-it note on Steve Baker’s fridge).

Now we have a real impact assessment prepared this month by civil servants.  It was leaked.    

This assessment says national income will be lower when we leave the EU than if we had stayed - 8% lower under a no deal scenario, around 5% lower with a free trade agreement with the EU and about 2% lower with a soft Brexit option of single market membership.

Now, that’s not what Brexiteers like Steve Baker believe so he was at the dispatch box yesterday trying to explain it all away.   

First, he said all economic forecasts are wrong – which makes you wonder which Minister commissioned this assessment and why the Government employs economists at all.  Won’t it be better if Ministers sacked all the economists and just put their fingers in the wind? 

Second, although Steve Baker says the forecasts are wrong about the UK being worse than if we stayed in the EU, they are right when they say we will be better off than now.   So we can believe all the good bits – it’s just the bad news about Brexit that’s wrong.   (Although even the good bits aren’t that good as we are now bottom of the G7 economic league). 

Third, those civil servants who prepared the assessment deliberately forgot to do the calculations for the Government’s favourite scenario.   That’s the “have-your-cake-and- eat-it” scenario where the UK gets its own special deal with all the benefits of trading in the EU without any of the downsides like freedom of movement of people and complying with EU law.

This is, of course, the scenario that the EU has said repeatedly won’t happen.  And you might have noticed that when the EU says something is not going to happen on Brexit, it doesn’t happen.    

Steve Baker’s refused to release this assessment on the grounds that it would damage the UK’s negotiating position.  We will see whether Parliament disagrees with him this time again.

In the meantime, enjoy John Crace’s Parliamentary sketch

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jan/30/well-rewrite-brexit-studies-until-we-get-the-right-result-says-mp

 

The dog ate my impact assessments

 

7 December 2017

David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, appeared before the Parliamentary Select Committee yesterday.   You might enjoy John Crace’s account:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/06/david-davis-excuses-missing-contingency-brexit-impact-plans-hilary-benn-committee

Mr. Davis told the Select Committee that, contrary to what he had previously told Parliament, the Government had not carried out any studies to assess the impact of Brexit on any sector of the economy.   

It seems almost incidental that Mr. Davis has misled Parliament and the public for months in saying there were impact studies of 58 sectors “in excruciating detail”. 

Perhaps more to the point, the Government is conducting one of the most critical negotiations for this country in decades without any understanding of the consequences of any of the possible outcomes on any sector of the economy.

You have to read that sentence again to realise how jaw-droppingly, mind-blowingly incompetent that is.  

As I mention below, Steve Baker is a junior Brexit Minister.  He too misled Parliament and the public, including his response to a Parliamentary question.   Like David Davis, I doubt if he will apologise and correct his misleading statement.     

But again more to the point, we now know that he is helping to conduct one of the most critical negotiations for this country in decades without any understanding of the consequences of any of the possible outcomes on any sector of the economy.

Mr Baker is a supporter of a hard Brexit.  He hasn’t told his constituents what kind of hard Brexit he wants.  He has just said there should be no half measures on leaving the EU.  There should be “nothing that leaves us half in and half out”.  The UK should not have a “model already enjoyed by other countries” nor are we to “or hold onto bits of membership as we leave”.   

So perhaps Mr Baker will not be too disappointed if the UK does not get agreement from the EU to move onto negotiations about a trade deal. Perhaps he is already urging his fellow Ministers to walk away from the negotiations and go for a “no deal”.   

We can only guess what he is pressing for within Government. 

However, what we now know for certain is that Steve Baker has absolutely no clue about the economic impact of a “no deal” (or indeed any other form of a hard Brexit).  He has no clue about the impact of Brexit on any of the sectors operating in his constituency and no clue about the economic impact of Brexit on his constituents.    

He therefore shares the Government’s gross negligence.

 

David Davis and Steve Baker –“Tweedledum and Tweedledumber”

8 November 2017

It’s becoming one of life’s pleasures to follow the political career of Steve Baker, Wycombe’s Conservative MP, through the column of the Guardian’s Parliamentary sketchwriter, John Crace.   Today’s column is at

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/07/the-secret-to-avoiding-more-resignations-just-keep-adding-disasters

Steve Baker is an extreme right-wing supporter of Brexit and a junior Minister in the Department for Exiting the EU (DexEu). 

In September, he answered a Parliamentary Question put down by Caroline Lucas who asked for copies of what are now known as the 58 Brexit impact studies.  These studies were commissioned by the Government last year and prepared by civil servants.  They look at the impact of Brexit on 58 sectors in the UK from advertising to wholesale markets via agriculture, catering, fisheries, financial services, retail and a whole lot more. 

 Steve Baker said

“The Government is carrying out an extensive programme of analytical work that will contribute to our exit negotiations with the EU, defining our future partnership with the EU and informing our understanding of how the EU exit will affect the UK’s domestic policies and framework.”

However the Government refused to disclose the studies on the grounds disclosure could be detrimental to their Brexit negotiating position.   

You would think that being a Brexit Minister, Steve Baker might have read at least a couple of these studies to inform his understanding “of how the EU exit will affect the UK’s domestic policies and framework”.  But not a bit of it.  In October he admitted, according to the Chief Political Correspondent of the Financial Times, that he had not read them.   

In fact, according to David Davis, the Secretary of State for DexEU, the Prime Minister and the rest of the Cabinet hadn’t read them either – only the summary - because the studies are “in excruciating detail”. 

Says a lot really.  A Government responsible for the most important negotiations for decades and they haven’t even done their homework. 

The Government was then forced to concede it would disclose the studies as a result of a unanimous vote in Parliament.   But it hasn’t said when. 

In the meantime however, Steve Baker told the Brexit Select Committee that perhaps the studies weren’t necessarily all he had cracked them up to be in September. 

And yesterday he seemed to be telling Parliament that this “extensive programme of work” might not even exist.  (Although to be fair, John Crace thought there might be a few rough notes and newspaper clippings tucked away into 58 ring-binders. Or perhaps a couple of Post-it notes). 

It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

However, Steve Baker can’t have it both ways. 

Either this “extensive programme of work” has been carried out, he should have read it and it should be released.

 Or this “extensive programme of work” doesn’t exist, Steve Baker has misled Parliament and the public, and he needs to explain exactly what assessments he has been using to underpin his negotiations in the EU. 

 

Japan and Brexit through rose- coloured glasses as worn by Cheryl Gillan, MP

15 September 2017

My letter below went in the Bucks Free Press today

Dear Editor

Cheryl Gillan’s Letter from Westminster in the BFP last week about Japan was notable for what it didn’t say rather than what it did.

For example she said it would be important for the UK to set up a bilateral agreement quickly on trade with Japan after Brexit because Japan is the world’s third largest economy.

What Ms Gillan didn’t say is that the EU concluded an outline trade deal with Japan in July.  It took 5 years of negotiation. 

When the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, the UK will no longer be covered by the EU trade deal with Japan.  It will have no trade deal with Japan.  (Indeed it will have no trade deal with any country except very possibly the EU). 

Bearing in mind it took 5 years for the EU to negotiate an outline deal with Japan, perhaps Ms Gillan could tell us how long she thinks it will take the UK to reach an agreement with Japan?   And bearing in mind that the UK will need to negotiate about 40 such agreements simultaneously with other countries and from scratch? 

Cheryl Gillan also said there were 1000 Japanese companies in the UK and that companies like Nissan, Toyota, and Softbank “were committed to a long-term, post- Brexit presence in Britain”.   

It is correct that Teresa May gave assurances to Nissan that trading conditions for its Sunderland car plant would not change after Britain’s exit from the EU, and that Nissan then committed to staying.

What Ms Gillan didn’t say is that it is not within the Prime Minister’s power to give these assurances – it is for the EU to agree the conditions for Nissan Sunderland plant to trade in the EU. 

Nor did Ms Gillan mention that the Chief Executive of Jaguar Land Rover, the largest car maker in the UK, said 4 days ago that Jaguar would lose £1 billion by 2020 if there was no trade deal with the EU when we leave the EU in March 2019. 

The EU is to decide in October if it is prepared to start discussion on a trade deal with the UK.   Current public statements by EU Ministers and officials suggest starting any discussion is unlikely. 

If there is no trade deal with the EU come March 2019, perhaps Ms Gillan could tell us how long she thinks the commitment of the Japanese car makers (and other foreign companies) to stay in the UK will last? 

Perhaps Ms Gillan could also tell us how many of those 1000 Japanese companies are in Bucks – and how many people they employ?

 

Why withdrawal from Euratom affects Amersham

16 July 2017

In March this year, the Prime Minister notified the European Council of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community as well as the European Union. 

This means that the UK will no longer be part of Euratom, the body that regulates the movement of radioactive material around the EU.  It means that the UK will have to set up a new regulatory regime to replace Euratom and get agreement from the EU and other countries that the UK can continue to trade on the basis of this new regime.   And unless transition agreements are agreed, this will all have to be done by March 2019 which most people in the industry think is unlikely, if not impossible.

And what, you might ask, has this got to do with Amersham?    After all, the major problem with the UK’s withdrawal from Euratom is keeping our nuclear power stations going.  Not to mention maintaining the supply of radioactive isotopes to the NHS for diagnosing and treating cancer.  These are national problems, you might say, and it will all get sorted out by Ministers in the next few years. 

However, just down the road in Amersham is the Life Sciences centre for GE Healthcare (formerly known as Amersham International, the first company to be privatised by Margaret Thatcher).   It manufactures (or at least I think it still does) a product called a technetium generator. 

Technetium generators are used in tens of millions of medical diagnostic procedures world- wide.   GE Healthcare import a radioactive isotope called molybdenum 99 which decays to technetium 99 m.  The technetium generator extracts the technetium 99 m for use for diagnostic purposes.  GE Healthcare export the generators.  Both the import of molybdenum 99 and the export of the generator are regulated by Euroatom.

My question is – if I were a senior manager in GE Healthcare, what would I be doing about the risk to sales of this profitable line in the expanding life sciences market?   What if, in March 2019, there is no UK regulatory regime, no transition period and no agreements with other trading countries.   What if, in 20 months time, this process therefore had to stop in the UK?    Wouldn’t I be thinking now about transferring production to another site in the EU, perhaps where GE Healthcare was already operating – like France, Poland or Hungary?

I’ve chosen just one product being made (I think) at Amersham.   But there are similar issues with other products such as its biopharmaceuticals and instrumentation.   In 20 months perhaps, trading from the UK is going to be problematic. 

GE Healthcare is a global company based in the US with a revenue of something like £18 billion.  It is a subsidiary of General Electric.  Yes, there has been a radiochemical centre of some sort at Amersham since 1946 but GE will take decisions on a commercial basis.  It is knocking buildings down at its site in Amersham and considering the potential for “redevelopment”.

I would guess GE Healthcare is unlikely to make significant investments at Amersham while there are uncertainties on Brexit and on withdrawal from Euroatom.  And if GE does not invest in the Amersham site in what is a fast moving market, where does that leave the future of its operations in Amersham?

This is why reassurances from Ministers like Steve Baker about withdrawal from Euratom cut no ice.  

 

N. B. These are purely my thoughts and I might well be wrong; I have no idea what GE Healthcare are planning.  I have sent this blog to the company but have had no response. 

Funding from the arms industry, the American hard right, and Equatorial Guinea not to mention unknown donors- are we now seeing who supports Steve Baker MP?

3 July 2017

 Isn’t it weird?   Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe, has won three parliamentary elections and only now are we getting to know what he does when he is not here in Wycombe diligently looking after his constituents. 

 If you want a broad picture on his activities, try

 https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/new-brexit-minister-arms-industry-american-hard-right-and-e

It contains some really worrying information, including his being funded by the arms industry, the American hard right and Equatorial Guinea.

However, as Steve Baker is now a junior Minister in the Department for Exiting the EU, the newspapers are concentrating on his association with an organization called the Constitutional Research Council. 

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/01/brexit-minister-linked-to-group-that-used-loophole-to-channel-435000-to-dup

The papers say that last year the CRC donated £435,000 to the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland – yes the DUP which has just been paid off with £1 billion of taxpayers’ money for keeping the Conservatives in power. 

The DUP used this £435,000 to campaign for Brexit and most of the £435,000 was spent in mainland Britain not Northern Ireland.  As political parties in Northern Ireland do not have to declare their donors, it was a wonderful way of donating to the Brexit campaign in Britain without anyone knowing who you were.

CRC is an unincorporated organization with no website and no accounts.  It is chaired by Richard Cook, a former vice-chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party, whose business associates include “a former Saudi spy chief and a man alleged to have been an intermediary in a major arms scandal.”

This same CRC gave £6500 to the European Research Group, chaired by Steve Baker, last year.  I can’t find out what the ERG does except support Brexit.    

 Don’t forget there are already allegations by the Observer that Steve Baker planned to break spending laws by creating different campaigns and covertly coordinating them.  Steve Baker, who was on the Campaign Committee for Vote Leave, wrote to colleagues: ‘It is open to the Vote Leave family to create separate legal entities each of which could spend £700k: Vote Leave will be able to spend as much money as is necessary to win the referendum.’   These allegations are being investigated by the Information Commissioner and the Electoral Commission.

There are also allegations that Vote Leave (and Leave.EU, the other main Brexit campaign group) received undeclared data collection services and “psychological operations” worth perhaps millions of pounds during the referendum campaign.  These services were, it is alleged, funded by a US billionaire called Robert Mercer who also bankrolled Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. 

Edward McMillan-Scott, the former leader of the Conservative group in the European Parliament, said of Steve Baker “he has nothing like the knowledge of Europe required to understand what he is really doing.”

 You wonder why he is a junior Minister for Brexit.

 

Steve Baker appointed to Department for Exiting the EU to provide “balance”. Someone is having a laugh.

14 June 2017

Steve Baker, Wycombe’s MP, has been appointed as a junior minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union.  Apparently this is to “balance” DExEU’s ministerial team.  Unfortunately, heaven knows who is in the ministerial team at DExEU at the moment as two ministers have recently quit or been sacked.   All I will say is that it is going to take some very heavy Remainers in the DExEU ministerial team to balance the extreme views of Steve Baker and his boss, David Davies.

It is also apparently part of Teresa May’s new conciliatory approach as she urged Parliament to “come together in a spirit of national unity”.

Well Steve Baker is trying.  He decided that it makes no sense to talk about “hard” or “soft” Brexits anymore.  What he wants is a “clean” Brexit.  I mean everyone would want a “clean” Brexit won’t they?  Because the opposite of a “clean” Brexit is, well, a “dirty” Brexit and no-one would want that would they?

Trouble is his definition of a “clean” Brexit, such as it is, sounds remarkably like a hard Brexit.  Is he really saying that after campaigning for something for over 7 years he has changed his mind on what he wants?  When a hard Brexit is what he came into politics for?

The only change is that now he is a Minister he has to toe the Government line (whatever it happens to be at the moment) and mind his language.

Meanwhile there is plenty of negotiating for him to be doing at the DExEU.  For example, I thought negotiations with the EU would start on 19 June. Teresa May has been banging on for 7 weeks how she needed a strong mandate for the negotiations which were due to start in just over a week after the election. 

But now we hear from some sources that the start will be delayed.  And we hear from other sources that the Permanent Secretary of DExEU has asked for technical talks to kick off negotiations to give the Government time to work out what it wants – only for the EU to say no thank you; the EU would like to start with talks with UK Ministers on the broad approach. 

So perhaps that would be a good start for Steve Baker’s Ministerial career – getting agreement on the date of the first meeting, its agenda and the attendance list.  Seems a tricky negotiation to me.   Still he has 4 days to sort it out.  

Of course back here in Wycombe we hope he will make adequate arrangements to sort out the problems of his constituents, the sort of problems with the NHS or the local Councils or housing associations which their local MP is meant to tackle.     We just hope he has the time and commitment to spare.

Meanwhile we will watch Steve Baker’s career with interest.  After all 50 % of voters in Wycombe voted for him, and presumably his policies, so we will see how he and his policies work out.

 

Aylesbury Lib Dem candidate continues to mislead voters about Brexit.

3 June 2017

In my blog below I pointed out that the description of Labour’s approach to Brexit in Steven Lambert’s leaflet was untrue.  Steven Lambert is the Lib Dem candidate for Aylesbury. 

He said “Labour and Tories are backing a UKIP-style hard Brexit that will hit local jobs and businesses”.   

I sent the link to my blog to Steven Lambert and he commented on it.  I would have reproduced his response in full but my computer is being repaired, I am struggling with my husband’s laptop and I am finding it impossible to cut and paste from e-mails. So my apologies for not including his full response here. 

In brief, Steven refers me to a Channel 4 factcheck article  https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-whats-the-difference-between-the-tories-labour-and-lib-dems and a speech by Jeremy Corbyn in the Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/10/labour-not-wedded-freedom-movement-jeremy-corbyns-brexit-speech/?WT.mc_id=

However, his response does not address my concern so I am going to spell it out.   

This is what a UKIP-style hard Brexit looks like (taken from UKIP’s manifesto). 

1.Parliament must resume its supremacy of law-making without restriction.

2. Britain must have full control of immigration and asylum policies, and border control.

3. The UK’s full maritime sovereignty must be restored and we must have control of our maritime exclusive economic zone.

4. The UK must retake its seat on the World Trade Organisation and resume its sovereign right to sign trade agreements with other entities or supra-national bodies.  We must have left both the EU single market and the customs union.

5. We must not pay any ‘divorce’ payment to the EU, nor contribute to the EU budget.

6. Brexit must be done and dusted before the end of 2019. 

The Labour Party manifesto says

“Labour accepts the referendum result and a Labour government will put the national interest first. We will prioritise jobs and living standards, build a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations. 

Labour’s objectives are therefore totally different to UKIP’s.  So too is its approach and the tone of its discussions. There is no Labour support for a UKIP-style hard Brexit.

My question to Steven Lambert is where in the manifesto, or indeed in any Labour Party speech or statement, does the Labour Party support any of these components of a UKIP hard Brexit?    

Where is the evidence that Jeremy Corbyn or any of Labour’s Brexit negotiating team – Kier Starmer, Emily Thornberry and Barry Gardiner – support this UKIP hard Brexit?

Unless Steven Lambert can do this, then I think he should apologise and put the record straight.

P.S. I tried to see if there was any evidence that the Conservatives supported a UKIP hard Brexit. However, the Conservative manifesto refers readers to 12 principles in the PM’s Lancaster House speech, and to its approach in the Government’s Exit White Paper, the Article 50 letter from the PM to the President of the EU and the Great Repeal Bill White Paper.   Are they serious?  Who has the time and energy to fight their way through all that?

The Conservative’s objectives seems to boil down to getting the best deal – and no deal is better than a bad deal.  And whatever May comes back with will be, by definition, the best possible deal ….

So no idea if the Conservatives support a UKIP-style hard Brexit or not. 

 

 

 

The impact of a no deal Brexit on Bucks

 

25 May 2017

 

I’m confused.

 

Last Thursday Teresa May said the consequences of not getting a good deal for Brexit would be “dire”.  She has frequently said that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

 

On Sunday, Andrew Neil asked her what these dire consequences were.  She couldn’t say.  In the meantime, David Davis, the Conservative’s chief negotiator for Brexit, told MPs that the Government had not carried out an assessment of the no deal option.

 

So how will the UK negotiators know when a possible deal with the EU is worse than a no deal?  How can it negotiate if it doesn’t know when to walk out?  More importantly, how will the public know if the deal on offer is a good one, an acceptable one – or a bad one (which is worse than the no deal)?

 

Sounds like the Government hasn’t done its homework.  And negotiators who haven’t done their homework get slaughtered.

 

But let’s see if anyone has done an assessment of the effects of Brexit in Bucks. 

 

We know that the consequences for EU citizens of the other 27 member states in Bucks is going to be dire.  Many are already leaving because of the uncertainty, disrupting their own and their families’ lives.  The impact will be felt right across the public and private sectors, including the NHS.  More information on the size of the problem is in the blogs below.

 

If the UK goes for the no deal, the consequences will be even worse – no protection for EU citizens in the UK, no protection for UK citizens in the EU, and no transitional period to enable the UK to train its own doctors, nurses and other staff. 

 

There appears to be no work being carried out in Bucks County Council to assess the risks and draw up contingency plans – much too involved in their reorganisation to unitary structure.  Deckchairs on large sinking ships come to mind …

 

So what about those companies in Bucks which depend on overseas trade?  Bucks Business First was set up to give advice to businesses in Bucks so I thought I would see what advice it gives to businesses about trading as we leave the EU.   

 

The only specific advice it gives on its website is on the Data Protection Regulations which all businesses have to comply with if they want to trade in the EU.  It’s good advice (i.e. carry on complying).  However, if I remember rightly, EU Regulations have direct effect so, when we leave the EU, the UK will not be covered by the Regulations and we will not be able to trade in the EU – unless, as the Government has proposed, the UK adopts the Regulations.  All well and good if there is a deal and a transition period to agree the arrangements, but what if there is no deal by March 2019?  How do UK companies continue to trade with the EU?

 

There is also an EU/US agreement on data protection.  So presumably the UK will have to negotiate an agreement on data protection separately with the US.  How long is that going to take?  And what happens to companies who want to trade with the US in the meantime?

 

Bucks Business First also reports on a survey carried out with its members.  It found that around 9 in 10 businesses planned no change to their activity levels post-EU referendum. 

 

BBF says “The UK’s decision to leave the UK means businesses are entering a period of uncertainty unrivalled in living memory.  This means the short term future is not simply business as usual but there are reasons to be optimistic for the long term future in a get-up-and-go county like Buckinghamshire, the UK’s heart of entrepreneurism. …

 

There is reason to believe that Buckinghamshire could be shielded from some negative consequences of Brexit because the county receives less EU funding than any other in the UK and so will have less of a financial shortfall to make up should domestic funding not match the current figures from the EU.”

 

I also looked to see if anyone else in Bucks has had a go at assessing the consequences for Bucks.  Couldn’t find a thing. 

 

Somehow this doesn’t give me much reassurance that anyone in Bucks understands the consequences of Brexit on the county – or if they do, they are keeping very quiet.  Don’t we need to know?

 

By the way I noticed the Lib Dem candidate for Aylesbury says in his leaflet that “Labour and Tories are backing a UKIP-style hard Brexit that will hit local jobs and businesses”.  As far as the Labour Party is concerned, this is simply untrue. 

 

The Labour Party manifesto says “Labour accepts the referendum result and a Labour government will put the national interest first. We will prioritise jobs and living standards, build a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament throughout negotiations. 

 

The link is http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/manifesto2017/brexit

 

 

 

Just remember - the majority of voters in Bucks didn’t vote for a hard Brexit

29 March 2017

Today the Prime Minister started the formal process for the UK’s exit from the EU.  

When she referred to the Government acting on "the democratic will of the British people", we should remember that the EU referendum was finely balanced in Bucks.  Aylesbury Vale and South Bucks districts voted for leaving the EU (50.5% and 50.7% respectively) and Chiltern and Wycombe districts voted for remaining (55% and 52% respectively).   

How many of those voting to leave wanted the sort of hard Brexit now about to be negotiated by the Government is anyone’s guess.   However, it’s reasonable to assume that most Bucks voters did not vote for a hard Brexit.   And perhaps reasonable to assume they would be interested in the views of someone who campaigned against leaving the EU and understands the consequences.  

On Monday, Kier Starmer, the Shadow Minister for Brexit gave a major speech on Brexit.  Not only is he the Shadow Minister for Brexit, he was also the Director of Public Prosecutions and a Queen’s Counsel, so an intelligent man with a wealth of experience of crime, national security, human rights and the law.   Someone worth listening to perhaps if you were concerned about the way the Government is heading in the Brexit negotiations.   

And yet it is difficult to find a straight-forward report of his speech in the media.  I tracked it down eventually in the International Business Times and found a good summary on Sky News.   So here’s his take on Brexit for all those people in Bucks who didn’t vote for a hard Brexit (and perhaps for those who did).   

First, he reminded everyone that the Labour Party campaigned against leaving the EU.  However, it accepted the outcome of the referendum and therefore voted in Parliament for Article 50 to be triggered.

He then outlined six tests for any deal on Brexit: -

1.      Does it deliver the "exact same benefits" as the UK currently has as a member of the single market and customs union (as promised by David Davis, Brexit Secretary)?

2.      Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?

3.      Does it ensure the fair management of migration "in the interests of the economy and communities"?

4.      Does it defend rights and protections and "prevent a race to the bottom"?

5.      Does it protect national security and the UK's capacity to tackle cross-border crime?

6.      Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK?

The Labour Party will now fight to get a deal that meets those tests and will vote against any deal that doesn’t.    

Posted by Linda Derrick.  Promoted by Martin Abel on behalf of Linda Derrick at 5 Spencer Road, Aylesbury HP21 7LR      

 

 

 

About 1 in 10 Bucks residents affected by Government’s refusal to give EU citizens right to remain

 28 January 2017

There have been a lot of reports in the press recently about the difficulty EU citizens face in trying to get UK residency or citizenship.  

And I wondered how many Bucks residents are affected by the Government’s decision not to give guarantees to EU nationals in the UK that they can remain.

I have had to make some (pretty big) assumptions – see below – but I reckon 50,000 Bucks residents are affected by this decision. 

That is a lot of worried and uncertain residents who don’t know whether they have a future in Bucks – or the UK.   That’s 1 in 10 of us.

During an EU debate before the referendum to the Wycombe Afro-Caribbean community, Steve Baker MP said that EU residents in the UK before the date of the referendum would have the right to stay.   I did query this at the time – but he was adamant. 

Well Steve Baker was wrong on that and he will probably be wrong on other things he promised on Brexit.  

Assumptions

According to Government estimates, there are 520,000 people in Bucks of which 38,000 are not British.  Extrapolating from national figures, 26,000 are from EU countries.  And from the county council’s figures, the top three EU countries of birth (which isn’t quite the same), are Poland with 4,000, the Republic of Ireland with 4,000 and Germany with 3,000.

I assume that many of the EU citizens came to the UK as young adults and could have married British citizens and had British children (and acquired British relatives).

 

Is Steve Baker just a tad confused?

8 January 2017

Steve Baker, Wycombe’s MP, says some confusing things for a right wing Tory MP who presumably believes wholeheartedly in the free market. 

Presumably he believes that the prices for goods and services should be determined by the open market and by consumers and that the laws and forces of supply and demand should be free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority.

This week the trade union for senior civil servants called for a pay rise to deal with “unsustainable” Brexit workloads.  The trade union said their pay does not “remotely compare with the wider marketplace”.

It added that officials could not do their work to the standard they would like due to an untenable workload and “inadequate” government resources. The challenge of working on leaving the EU while delivering existing government priorities has pushed the civil service “to its limits”, with officials working more hours for falling real-terms pay. Civil servant numbers have been cut by about 30% since 2010.

Steve Baker said he was “outraged” by this request.

But why does Steve think it outrageous for senior civil servants to request an increase in the price for their services, which is well below what they could get on the open market?    Particularly when their services will be even more in demand come Brexit. 

Isn’t that what the free market is all about?

In fact, wouldn’t the free market suggest senior civil servants would do better to resign and then offer their services back on a consultancy basis – which is what might happen if they continue to be attacked by MPs like Steve. 

Steve’s outrage is also confusing when you compare MP’s pay with that of senior civil servants.

Steve said “For normal people earning normal wages these civil servants already look very well rewarded…..  'People on ordinary wages will be astonished that the FDA thinks they are due a pay rise.'

The average salary of a senior civil servant is £77,000.   Their salaries are capped by 1% a year.    Some senior civil servants haven’t had a pay rise in a decade.

MPs were awarded a pay rise in 2015 of 10% bringing their pay up to £74,000.  Last year, MPs had a further pay rise of 1.3% breaking the government’s 1% cap on public sector pay rises.  That brought MPs’ pay up to £75,000.

So why the outrage Steve?  

P.S.  I have to declare an interest.  I used to be a civil servant.