Conservatives in Conference
Other parties use their conferences to take policy decisions – there are people who propose and oppose motions – which are voted on by delegates from the constituencies and serve to define party policy.
No so with Conservative conferences –there are no debates about policy (that comes from the top down) and the attendees (who pay for their tickets) are really only there to applaud the speakers and ensure the whole event looks good on the television news.
The policies to be put forward in speeches are leaked in advance to the press and television, then they are duly pronounced from the platform, heartily applauded by the faithful, and then everyone goes away, duly enthused. The staging of the event is impeccable (although the whole process is akin to a gentrified version of right-wing rallies in Germany, Italy and Spain during the 1930’s) and one is reminded of the response of Pope Pius XI to Mussolini: “Non Abbiamo Bisogno”.
Michael Deacon of the Telegraph wrote: “I’ve spent three days at Tory conference. Now I know what death feels like” – quite funny, but one paragraph is telling:-
“Still, at least I’m getting paid to sit here. Think of the party members. They’ve paid up to £520 each for this. They don’t get to vote on policy, or to express their opinions. They’re paying through the nose for the privilege of clapping. From time to time they get to their feet for a standing ovation. I don’t think they’re actually impressed. They’ve just got pins and needles.”
Writing in the Guardian, Ian Birrel wrote: “All this Tory delirium – it’s like stumbling into a Ukip meeting“.
Indeed, the last piece of news on 4 October was about UKIP: “Diane James quits as Ukip leader after just 18 days as successor to Nigel Farage” – perhaps she thinks there is nothing further for UKIP to do with Teresa May running the Conservative Party.
Teresa May’s Brexit Agenda
The Telegraph (aka “the Torygraph”) and the rest of the press duly put forward the Teresa May Brexit Agenda on 1st October: “Brexit begins: Theresa May takes axe to EU laws”.
Teresa May duly made her Brexit speech (the full text is published for posterity by the International Business Times “Read Thersea May’s full Brexit speech to Conservative conference in Birmingham”) .
Thus the new “look like UKIP” policy of HM Government was announced by the Prime Minister. The reaction in the real world, as opposed to the Conference Hall, was prompt, the Pound fell to new all-time lows against the US Dollar and the Euro and this is only the start.
The Impact of the Brexit announcement on our Money
The pound was worth U$ 1.55 last October. Now it is heading towards U$ 1.27
See this in the Independent: “The pound has hit a 31-year low – it’s time to accept that Brexit will definitely make us poorer – The Leave.EU website said leaving the EU ‘would mean money in your pocket’. It didn’t say anything about that money in your pocket being worth less.”
All we import from overseas will cost more.This will very soon be felt as prices rise in our supermarkets, shops and garage forecourts. We will be less able to afford holidays abroad. Will pensioners and others on low incomes be protected? Our pension savings will buy less.
Triggering Article 50
Having said that the Government that the Government would invoke Article 50 before the end of March next year (2017), this is what Teresa May then said:
“The first thing to say is that it is not up to the House of Commons to invoke Article 50, and it is not up to the House of Lords. It is up to the Government to trigger Article 50 and the Government alone.
When it legislated to establish the referendum, Parliament put the decision to leave or remain inside the EU in the hands of the people. And the people gave their answer with emphatic clarity. So now it is up to the Government not to question, quibble or backslide on what we have been instructed to do, but to get on with the job.
Because those people who argue that Article 50 can only be triggered after agreement in both Houses of Parliament are not standing up for democracy, they’re trying to subvert it. They’re not trying to get Brexit right, they’re trying to kill it by delaying it. They are insulting the intelligence of the British people. That is why, next week, I can tell you that the Attorney General himself, Jeremy Wright, will act for the Government and resist them in the courts.“
That last paragraph was a somewhat unfortunate statement by the Prime Minister. The right of citizens to seek a decision from the Courts about the way ministers should exercise their powers is not a subversion of democracy but a protection of our democracy.
There is a serious question to be tried in the Administrative Court as Lord David Pannick QC explains in this article in the Times: “Why giving notice of withdrawal from the EU requires act of parliament“. The Constitutional Affairs Committee of the House of Lords has also expressed its opinion that Parliament ought to be involved in the process: see the Committee’s Report: “The Invoking of Article 50“.
Permission to apply for judicial review has been granted, the Court has fixed a date for the substantive hearing and has also made arrangements for a “leapfrog” appeal to the Supreme Court so that the question can be settled expeditiously. A final decision on the issue may be expected before the date when Mrs May wishes to proceed.
It is perhaps a pity that in his last reshuffle David Cameron appointed Jeremy Wright QC MP as HM Attorney General in the place of the very personable and erudite silk, Dominic Grieve QC MP, who is now on the back benches. Jeremy Wright’s practice has been in the criminal courts. It will be interesting to see whether this newly appointed law officer will provide as much assistance to the Administrative Court in his response to Lord Pannick QC for the applicants as Dominic Grieve QC might have done. Time alone will tell.
The Great Repeal Bill
The Prime Minister then spoke of the “Great Repeal Bill”. Her remarks will have been received with some joy by UKIP supporters and by the swivel eyed loons on the Conservative back benches. This is what she said:-
“The final thing I want to say about the process of withdrawal is the most important. And that is that we will soon put before Parliament a Great Repeal Bill, which will remove from the statute book – once and for all – the European Communities Act.
This historic Bill – which will be included in the next Queen’s Speech – will mean that the 1972 Act, the legislation that gives direct effect to all EU law in Britain, will no longer apply from the date upon which we formally leave the European Union. And its effect will be clear. Our laws will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster. The judges interpreting those laws will sit not in Luxembourg but in courts in this country. The authority of EU law in Britain will end.
As we repeal the European Communities Act, we will convert the ‘acquis’ – that is, the body of existing EU law – into British law. When the Great Repeal Bill is given Royal Assent, Parliament will be free – subject to international agreements and treaties with other countries and the EU on matters such as trade – to amend, repeal and improve any law it chooses. But by converting the acquis into British law, we will give businesses and workers maximum certainty as we leave the European Union. The same rules and laws will apply to them after Brexit as they did before. Any changes in the law will have to be subject to full scrutiny and proper Parliamentary debate. And let me be absolutely clear: existing workers’ legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law – and they will be guaranteed as long as I am Prime Minister.”
Given the propensity of Ministers to pepper bills with Henry VIII clauses (“if anything may seem, the Minister may deem, a certificate of demption will confer complete exemption”) one suspects that the committee stages of this bill through both houses many be pretty fraught.
Hard or Soft Brexit
On the subject of future trade with the EU – this is what the Prime Minister said:-
“But what we are now talking about is very different. Whether people like it or not, the country voted to leave the EU. And that means we are going to leave the EU. We are going to be a fully-independent, sovereign country, a country that is no longer part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts. And that means we are going, once more, to have the freedom to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters, from how we label our food to the way in which we choose to control immigration.
So the process we are about to begin is not about negotiating all of our sovereignty away again. It is not going to be about any of those matters over which the country has just voted to regain control. It is not, therefore, a negotiation to establish a relationship anything like the one we have had for the last forty years or more. So it is not going to a “Norway model”. It’s not going to be a “Switzerland model”. It is going to be an agreement between an independent, sovereign United Kingdom and the European Union.
I know some people ask about the “trade-off” between controlling immigration and trading with Europe. But that is the wrong way of looking at things. We have voted to leave the European Union and become a fully-independent, sovereign country. We will do what independent, sovereign countries do. We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration. And we will be free to pass our own laws.
But we will seek the best deal possible as we negotiate a new agreement with the European Union. I want that deal to reflect the kind of mature, cooperative relationship that close friends and allies enjoy. I want it to include cooperation on law enforcement and counter-terrorism work. I want it to involve free trade, in goods and services. I want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here. But let me be clear. We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
As ever with international talks, it will be a negotiation, it will require some give and take, and while there will always be pressure to give a running commentary on the state of the talks, it will not be in our best interests as a country to do that. But make no mistake: this is going to be a deal that works for Britain.”
By this time the poor attendees were none too enthusiastic. But they did what was expected of them at the end.
Bad Times Are Just Around The Corner
The Telegraph reports this: “Britain will be treated ‘like Greece during 2015 bailout negotiations’ when it comes to Brexit talks, Malta’s PM warns“.
Two paragraphs in this report are worth noting:
(a) “Joseph Muscat, whose country will hold the EU presidency when Brexit negotiations kick-off early next year, promised a hardline against Britain that would ensure the UK left the talks with an “inferior” deal to its current position inside the EU.”
(b) “The promise to inflict an “inferior” deal on Britain echoes that of Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, who said recently that any deal with Britain must leave other member states “in no doubt” that it is better to remain in the EU.”
Older readers may remember this: Noel Coward – There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner – Click to listen again on You Tube.
As one person who left a comment on the You Tube site remarked: “This is the right song for post-Brexit Britain. It is exactly where we are – or will be when the leave voters realise what a mess we’re in.”
That may be very especially true in Sunderland, the first place mentioned by Noel Coward, where the future of the Nissan Factory is very much in issue.