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These are sad times.

All of us in the LME believe that the European Union has been, and is, a great historic force for peace and progress. We understand that, as a human construct, it is not perfect. But we see our values shared and represented there - internationalism, freedom, partnership, co-operation, friendship, tolerance, and social justice are its practical objectives, applied in a community of law. We all agree the rebuilding of the UK’s relations with our nearest neighbours, the world’s largest trading block, and this highly successful union is crucial to the future health, security and prosperity of the UK.

Recent years have been difficult and painful for all of us. We have all tried in our different ways to limit the damage and disaster of Brexit, and have ultimately lost to a government that has deceived and betrayed the public, played fast and loose with Britain’s international standing, thrown away hard won rights, jobs and livelihoods, and which has demonstrated itself to be the most reckless, chaotic and frankly shameful government in memory.

And like us, you are probably also deeply frustrated at where the Labour Party is ahead of today’s vote on Boris Johnson’s deal.

The last few years have shown what happens when the Labour Party fails in its historic responsibility to make the case for the opportunities and values we share with a progressive and cohesive European Union and for Britain’s place within it. The EU Referendum was lost and the Labour Party subsequently lost two General Elections in a large part because it did not stand clearly for our values and make the case with integrity and conviction.

But lose we did.

Today’s vote finalises this sorry battle. There are many of us who would prefer the Labour Party to take a different position in this vote, and the LME has made its case robustly to the Leadership.

But the decision is made. This must now be the last time that the Tories can use Brexit to divide us. From now on Labour must be united as it rebuilds. Vital to that is reasserting our identity and purpose as an outward facing party that works for social justice, peace, prosperity and co-operation across borders, not only because of profound internationalist conviction but because it is crucial for the well-being of every community in our country in this interdependent world where a purely national ‘sovereignty' is a populist myth.

Labour must come together to use the weeks, months and years ahead to fight to protect jobs, workers’ rights, food, consumer and environmental standards, industry and services, and the union of the UK. The Government’s failures in all these areas must be ruthlessly exposed and contested.

And as members of LME you can help the Party do this.

There is still huge and widespread support for the EU and the best that it embodies, and it is important that the flame be kept burning in the UK, so that, in the long term, our country once again recognises that its future is best served with our neighbours in the European Union.

So for now, we in the Labour Movement for Europe, the pro-European Socialist Society affiliated to the Labour Party, must start the rebuilding from the grassroots and ensure that this proudly internationalist Party never again abdicates its values and responsibilities. Working with the Party we will maintain and strengthen our links with the Party of European Socialists, with our friends in the Socialist and Democrats in the European Parliament, with the Foundation of European Progressive Studies and the ETUC. This must become a dynamic relationship between our members and our fellow comrades in the EU.

We might have strong disagreements and frustrations with the Party’s current position, feel angry or let down. But the reality is that in our political system only a Labour Government can or will undertake the massive tasks of reconstruction for the whole of the UK. There is simply no other way. A Labour victory at the next election is the only way to re-establish our full relationship with our friends and allies, ensure we can be proud of what Britain stands for in the world once again, and reassert social justice as a central principle and purpose of governing.

The reality of Brexit will become increasingly clear in the new year and beyond. We will all need to survey and illuminate the wreckage inflicted by the Tories - despite their efforts to disguise or excuse their ruins - and, through the Labour Party led by Keir Starmer, get on with the job of developing policies and campaigns that secure the breadth of appeal that is vital for victory.

We look forward to doing this with you.
With love and solidarity for the new year

Neil Kinnock, LME Hon President and former Labour leader,
Anna Turley, LME National Chair and former Labour MP,
Giampi Alhadeff, LME Gen Sec and former EPLP Gen Sec

 

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A Message From Neil Kinnock, Anna Turley & Giampi Alhadeff

These are sad times.All of us in the LME believe that the European Union has been, and is, a great historic force for peace and progress. We understand that, as a...

The drivel from Boris Johnson and Priti Patel about sending in giant warships to monster tiny dinghies with a few refugees sitting wet and miserable in them would be funny, were it not yet more evidence of the Brexit government’s pathological need to scapegoat foreigners who end up in Britain.

Johnson is copying Trump, who spent the first period of his presidency ranting about immigrants and refugees crossing into America.

Unlike Johnson or Ms Patel, I have actually tried to do what they say is an easy breeze and send illegal immigrants home. It isn’t.

It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but one sunny August day, early in the new century, I was sitting as duty FCO minister in the Foreign Office when an agitated David Blunkett came on the line from his holiday in Majorca.

“Denis, please call up your friends in the Brazilian government and tell them to allow an RAF plane full of illegal Brazilian immigrants to leave Brize Norton and take them back to Brazil.”

David, who enjoyed his profile as a tough, muscular Home Secretary, had ordered a round up of Brazilians, who came then and come today to the UK as tourists without visas and then disappear into the informal cash-in-hand labour market.

But planes and ships - even one of the Royal Navy’s 40 warships for its 41 Admirals - cannot enter another country’s airspace or territorial waters without permission.

I spoke to Brazil’s foreign minister - a friend - who said he had no objection to the illegal immigrants being sent home, but not on a military plane to extract maximum public humiliation for his citizens.

But that was exactly what David Blunkett, a genius at self-promotion, wanted.

Nearly two decades later, I welcome the efforts by British officials to get the French to patrol the beaches of Calais to and try and stop small rubber dinghies being launched in the calm summer heat of a tranquil Channel to take a few refugees to Britain.

The French agreed and asked for a facility fee, small enough that one of the Tory party donors just put into the Lords wouldn’t even notice in his small change.

It was cheap, smart intergovernmental cooperation, showing France and Britain can work together despite all the insults of our tabloid press against France over Brexit issues.

Alas, someone, presumably from the entourage of the not-very-fit-for-purpose Home Secretary, has leaked the deal to the Francophobe off-shore owned British papers, so now Britain is calling up Admiral West from retirement to launch a reverse blockade of the Channel to stop this new “invasion” of refugees.

The Prime Minister is shaking his fist at France as if this was a new invasion rivalling the Spanish Armada or Hitler’s hopes of landing an army in Kent.

In fact, Britain has got off lightly in the refugee crisis that has gripped Europe since the wars in the Balkans, the invasion of Iraq, the Taliban wars in Afghanistan, and the regime change interventions in Libya and Syria.

I first noted Kosovo refugees in my constituency of Rotherham in the 1990s, after the Major government refused to intervene in the Balkans to stop Serb genocidal attacks on Balkan Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo.

After Iraq, my Saturday surgeries were clogged up with refugees wanting help to stay in the UK. Tony Blair’s intervention in Iraq, followed by David Cameron’s identical errors in Libya and Syria, have created a giant uncontrollable flow of refugees.

Yet Britain is not even in the top ten of European nations in terms of refugees per capita. France alone offers asylum to nearly three times as many refugees as we do.

When in the EU, the UK refused to take any share of refugees that came to Europe in the great migration of 2015. Instead, the pro-Brexit campaigners used pictures of refugees trudging through Balkan mountains on posters as an example of what would happen if we stayed in the EU.

I noticed in Rotherham how quickly the energetic handsome young Kosovan men faded into the community, opened excellent cheap car-washing operations and married young South Yorkshire women.

Today, the proliferation of barber shops operated by Kurds or other Middle East refugees is an example of how today’s refugees can quickly become an entrepreneur and add value to the economy, just like the Jewish refugees who arrived in the 1930s did, despite bromides in the tabloid press that they were unwashed, unwanted and would take over professions from the honest English dentist or doctor.

If you track the continental press, there are periodic illegal immigrant scares, often whipped up by Marine Le Pen in France, the AfD in Germany, Matteo Salvini in Italy, or VOX in Spain.

But if Britain keeps insisting on intervening to change regimes in Mediterranean and Middle East countries the problem will just get worse.

Meanwhile, coughing up £30 million to get the French to do the job for us seems a bargain and a lot cheaper than sending our 41 admirals in their 40 ships to patrol the Channel, but only up to French territorial waters.

By Denis MacShane - former Labour Minister of Europe. His latest book is “Brexiternity. The Uncertain Fate of Britain” (IB Tauris-Bloomsbury)

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UK Finds Solution to Refugees Crossing Channel And Then Blows It

The drivel from Boris Johnson and Priti Patel about sending in giant warships to monster tiny dinghies with a few refugees sitting wet and miserable in them would be funny,...

Much publicity has been given to the post-Brexit rights of UK citizens who are legally resident in EU countries. Comparatively little attention has been paid to the plight of those who make frequent trips to EU countries whether for business or pleasure, including the estimated 500,000 Britons with second homes in the EU. Many UK citizens, such as retirees, currently are able to spend many months at their second home while maintaining a residence in the UK. This is about to change.

From the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, UK citizens who are not EU residents will be treated by the EU as third-country nationals. They will not need a visa for short stays, but will only be permitted to remain in the Schengen area for 90 days in a rolling 180-day period. For example, a British second home owner in France, who decided for health reasons to summer there and arrived on June 1st would have to leave the country on August 29th and could not return to the EU until November 28th. This would also preclude trips during that period to other Schengen countries. In practice, many Brits will not use all of their visa-free allocation because of the need to factor in possible emergency visits. In some EU countries, an option for UK second-home owners is to apply for residency, but this often has tax consequences. 

The campaign group “180 days visa free” points out that although the Government’s Immigration Bill currently going through Parliament will allow EU citizens to come to the UK for up to six months at a time, the travel rights of UK citizens do not appear to be a current priority. According to Wendy Morton, the Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas, “the Government has discussed mobility arrangements across a number of areas as part of negotiations on our future relationship with the EU”, but there is no reference to visa-free travel in the UK Government paper published on 27 February. The UK Government’s current position appears to be that it is up to EU Member States individually to offer more favourable visa arrangements to UK citizens should they choose to do so. This needs to be urgently addressed.

By Michael Rubenstein - freelance journalist & LME member. He jointly owns a property in Provence, France. Contact him at [email protected]

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Brits face loss of freedom to travel

Much publicity has been given to the post-Brexit rights of UK citizens who are legally resident in EU countries. Comparatively little attention has been paid to the plight of those...

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