Thursday, 14 July 2016

Angela Eagle and Article 50

On several occasions, now, Angela Eagle has attacked Jeremy Corbyn for having said, immediately after the Brexit vote, that the government should activate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Eagle's comments suggest that she does not actually understand what Article 50 is, which is not very good for someone who aspires to be leader of the Labour Party, and presumably someday Prime Minister. But, her comments show the problems also of someone who is still stuck in the old Blair-right politics and methods of the past. Those politics were based on a lack of any kind of principle or long-term strategy, which, therefore, required politicians never to answer a question other than in the most vacuous manner, to rely on platitudinous sound bites, and short term point scoring, at the expense of long-term vision. Indeed, one consequence of that approach is the disaster that was inflicted by the illegal war on Iraq, a war that Angela Eagle supported as a blind follower of Blair.

Eagle attacks Corbyn for having said that the UK government should activate Article 50, because she says, it would mean that Britain was immediately extracted from the EU without any plan for what its position in the world, and its relation to the EU would be. In reality, the opposite is the case. Activating Article 50 does not at all mean that the UK is immediately cast out of the EU, as Eagle naively seems to believe. Article 50 simply puts in place the machinery for negotiating the terms of the exit. It means that negotiations on those terms can commence.

A two year period then begins, during which the relations between the EU and the UK are established. If no agreement between the EU and the UK can be agreed, in that time, on what those relations should be, then the EU can extend the negotiations, provided the other 27 members of the EU unanimously agree. If no agreement is reached, the UK leaves the EU, only at that point, and its relations to the EU are then those of any other country, as regulated by the WTO.

The reason, therefore, that Eagle's position is absurd, and why Corbyn's position is absolutely correct, is that the EU have made it crystal clear, that no negotiations whatsoever on the UK's relations with the EU can begin until the UK activates Article 50. Unless, Britain activates Article 50 quickly, there will be no negotiations, the level of uncertainty within the UK will continue to rise, and that uncertainty is already crushing the value of the Pound, causing inflation and interest rates to rise, and causing property prices to crater. Billions of pounds is being taken out of the country because of that uncertainty, causing economic activity to be slashed, and jobs to be lost. 

Yet, Angela Eagle wants to flounder and wave, whilst she is drowning in this sea of uncertainty, and to take the economy, and workers livelihoods, down with her. Jeremy Corbyn was quite right to cut through all of that wavering and uncertainty that Eagle was presenting, and to call for swift and decisive action, so as to be able to at least start the process of negotiations.

Eagle seems to be of the same opinion as Tory Brexiters like David Davies, who still live in an era where Britannia ruled the waves. The fact, is that the EU, including Angela Merkel, have told Britain to get on with activating Article 50, and have made it plain that there will be no negotiations until they do. Eagle and Davis seem to be of the opinion that Britain will be allowed to leisurely decide what it wants out of the negotiations – which might actually have been good to have decided prior to the referendum, and to have put to the electorate – and that they will then put those requirements to the EU, who will voluntarily accept them.

The fact is that nothing could be further from the truth. Unless Britain quickly activates Article 50, it will find itself simply being by-passed by the rest of the EU. The UK will be cut out of EU decisions, even whilst it is inside the EU. The EU will increasingly assert its interests in direct opposition to those of the UK. And far from the UK being able to dictate any terms to the EU when the actual negotiations over Brexit begin, the EU is likely to give the UK less than nothing. The EU after all is an economy of 500 million people compared to the UK's 60 million; the EU is an economy with a GDP of around $18 trillion, whereas the UK has a GDP of around $2 trillion. The EU holds all the cards. In fact, just as a result of the fall in the value of the Pound, the UK last week went from the fifth largest national economy to sixth. As the UK economy declines further, and the Pound declines further, so the process of shrinkage of the UK will intensify, and its international position will shrink along with it.

The sooner that becomes apparent, the sooner the error of the Brexit vote will be recognised by the British public, and so the sooner will it become inevitable that politicians will find themselves under pressure to reverse the referendum result by one means or another, so that the UK stays in the EU. Theresa May actually seems to have understood that. By putting Bojo as Foreign Secretary – to which one message coming out of the White House was “You must be kidding” - and by putting hard liners like David Davies in charge of negotiating Brexit, May is essentially saying to the Brexiters, “You broke it, you bought it.”

May must know that a hard liner like Davies will provoke a backlash from the EU, who will even more bluntly tell him where to get off. When the negotiations quickly turn nasty it will be the Brexiteers who will take the blame. In the meantime, May will be taking the credit for introducing social-democratic measures of fiscal expansion in health, education and so on, to stimulate the economy.

Jeremy's position is also quite compatible with his position for remaining inside the EU on a progressive basis. He can quite easily argue “If I was Prime Minister, I would not be pursuing Brexit, but would be pursuing a policy of European solidarity, and fiscal expansion with our EU partners. But, I am not Prime Minister, so having put us in this mess, the Tories should get on with minimising the uncertainty they have created, by beginning with the utmost urgency the process of negotiating our relations with the EU, which requires them first to activate Article 51.”

But, Eagle's position not only reflects a woeful lack of understanding of international economics, and international relations, it is also a reflection of the political method of Blairism. Rather like the way Eagle and the Blair-rights seized upon the attack on Eagle's constituency office, to attack Corbyn, without any evidence whatsoever as to who was responsible for the attack, let alone being able to suggest that Corbyn himself could be held responsible for such acts, so too they have seized on this statement, unthinkingly, as a means of attacking Corbyn.

It is rather like the old Stalinist tactic of the amalgam whereby someone is attacked not for what they have actually said or done, but by linking them, however, tendentiously, to the acts, or statements of someone else. So, no one believes that Corbyn is anti-Semitic, but the Blair-rights attempt to tie him to the anti-Semitism, real or manufactured, of others; no one believes that Corbyn is misogynistic or homophobic, but they try to connect him to the misogynistic or homophobic comments of others; no one believes that he is violent or a bully – as opposed to those members of the PLP, who tried to intimidate him at recent PLP meetings, and who even admitted to trying to “kidnap” him so as to try to “persuade” him to resign – but they try to tie him to the acts of whoever might have thrown a brick through Eagle's office window.

So, too here. They tried to spread the calumny that Jeremy had, in the seclusion of the voting booth, voted to Leave rather than Remain. Eagle who only just before the referendum was praising, to party members, Corbyn for his demanding schedule of activities up and down the country at meetings calling for Remain, then suddenly forgot all that to claim that he had been unenthusiastic. They now want to create an amalgam around that narrative to suggest that Corbyn wanted a vote for Leave all the time, and his call for activating Article 50 is evidence of it, and evidence of his lack of understanding of political procedures.

They simply want to seize upon anything in order to score cheap points against him without any thought to what the longer term implications of their arguments might be. Its rather like Blair being prepared to make any statements about a clear and present danger from Iraq, and so on just in order to get his immediate requirement to win the vote in Parliament in support of his illegal war. That is what comes of the Kinnockite/Blair-right politics of electoralism separated from any concept of principal and long term objectives. It is what you get from career politicians who are only interested in winning immediate votes, whatever the long-term cost.

That was also apparent when Eagle was interviewed on the BBC's “Victoria Derbyshire” programme this morning. All that Eagle was interested in doing was attacking Corbyn, not for what he stands for, not for his politics, not for his actions, but simply by trying to link him to the actions of others, who no one has shown are in any shape or form connected with him! When Eagle was asked, but what about what you stand for, she could only respond with her now familiar vacant stare that suggests the light is on, but no one is at home.

Time and again Derbyshire, asked her what she stood for, how what she wants to achieve as party leader differs from what Corbyn stands for, but answer came there none. All that Eagle could say was the familiar platitudes about wanting power to act in the interests of “our” people, whoever they may be, given the record of the Blair governments, in which she served, as just another sheep, blindly following behind Blair. “But, how will you act,” she was pressed further, but again, there was just the vacant stare. Eventually, we were told that she would be setting out her policies for how she would act in meetings over coming weeks. In other words, she does not have a clue.

The whole coup has been premised solely on opposing Jeremy, and trying to force him from the position of Leader. They have no principled basis for opposing him whatsoever, they have no set of policies that they can set out, in distinction to the growing body of principled positions that he has been developing, over the last nine months, with the help of prominent, global economists and so on. How can Eagle and her supporters put forward policies? We know what policies they support. She did not like it at all, when Derbyshire put it to her that she had supported the Iraq War, ID Cards, Tuition Fees, and so on. Eagle tried to brush all those off with more platitudes, but the fact is that she will not now commit to voting to hold Blair in contempt of Parliament, and it is less than a year ago since she failed to oppose the Tories Welfare Bill.

Another example of the unthinking short termism is her attitude to her own party members in Wallasey. The CLP voted to instruct her not to support the no confidence motion in Jeremy, but she ignored it. The CLP voted to give its own backing for Corbyn, but she has ignored that, and instead stood against him. Her own members are now in the process of passing a motion of no confidence in her, but her only response is to ridiculously claim that this is the activity of only a minority of troublemakers, people who were expelled in the 1990's!

Really? If its a minority, how come the motions were passed with a large majority? How come all of the surveys show that Jeremy has massive support amongst ordinary members, including amongst all of those members who have been members for decades? Do you seriously want us to believe that Trotskyists groups whose national memberships run only into hundreds of members, are responsible for the tens, even hundreds of thousands of new members that have joined the party to support Jeremy?

Either these comments from Eagle reflect the fact that she, like all the other politicians, journalists and others that comprise the Westminster bubble, are totally removed from the reality of modern Britain, and the huge changes that are taking place – which is why they also totally misread what was likely to happen with the referendum – or else it is again short term snatching at any argument to make a point, irrespective of the longer term consequence. For if I was one of those thousands of ordinary working-class people who had joined the Labour Party in Wallasey, because, after decades of conservative policies, implemented by Tory and Labour governments alike, there was now a hope in Jeremy Corbyn, I would treat Eagle's comments with the contempt they deserve. I would think “How dare she accuse me of being a trouble maker, given the trouble she and the other plotters have thrown the Labour Party into, just to satisfy their own inflated, self-centred egos?”

Its no wonder the Blair-rights on the NEC have told CLP's and branches not to meet over the period of the leadership elections. They must realise that with these kinds of statements, the PLP plotters having declared war on the leader, have now declared war also on the half million members of the party. Having declared war on the membership, the PLP now want to hide themselves away in a cupboard, they want only to talk to fellow inhabitants of the Westminster bubble, to all of their friends and supporters in the Tory media, and to protect themselves from the inevitable wrath of their own constituents. No wonder they feel intimidated. Its not because of any threat of violence, but because they are not prepared to face up to the firestorm of criticism that their actions have provoked. In fact, its just like the state of denial they have placed themselves in, in response to the consequences of their actions in engaging in the illegal war in Iraq.

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