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How will Brexit affect your healthcare? (Jointly held with the Socialist Health Association London region)

Why is antisemitism rising in the UK & across Europe? (Jointly held with Jewish Labour Movement)

How should Labour respond to the incoming bare bones/no deal Brexit?

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Brexit: The unanswered questions (Jointly held with Labour Party Irish Society and Labour for a European Future)

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It really isn’t about bangers decked in Unions Jacks. The row over sausages moving from mainland Britain to the supermarkets of Northern Ireland is necessary in Johnson’s eyes to show Tory Brexit loyalists that he is never, ever, going to compromise with 27 other European nations.

British sausage makers who export their sausages to Marks and Spencers in Paris or anywhere in Europe do so in frozen form. That’s a rough and ready food safety rule which really shouldn’t be causing such convulsion.

Ireland has long produced excellent sausages, bacon, black puddings and ham. All the mince and cheddar cheese we eat from Tescos comes from Northern Irish cows transformed into meat and dairy products by the highly advanced food processing industry in the Republic.

So supermarkets in Belfast or Derry can easily be supplied with the identical tasting sausages eaten in Bury or Brighton. But Johnson needs a permanent war with the EU to prove that the Battle of Brexit is not over and Britain is still in conflict with Europe.

One of the most shrewd Brexit ideologues is Alistair Heath, editor of the Sunday Telegraph. In October 2016, Heath wrote under the dramatic headline “WHY IT’S TIME FOR A NEW CAMPAIGN FOR BREXIT” that “there is no such thing as permanent victory in politics. History never ends; triumph is fleeting; majorities can turn into minorities and orthodoxies are inevitably built on foundations of sand.”

Heath’s Trotskyist - or since he spent some of his childhood in France - Robespierre appeal for permanent revolutionary struggle and the elimination of all opposition to the new Brexit order is also Johnson’s political necessity.

Most people would welcome an easing back of Brexit maximalisation – a drift to some commonsense compromise to allow normal commerce, travel, working in Europe and hiring European workers here if business needs them to make money. But the more that happens the more the question arises – what on earth was the point of the ultra-hard Brexit decided by Boris Johnson and made operational by Lord David Frost, sporting his Union Jack socks? 

Gordon Brown, who never found a good word about the EU in government and sought to undermine every pro-EU move by Tony Blair, is now saying UK should one day rejoin Europe. This is a direct challenge to the current Labour line that Brexit is over and Labour must avoid mentioning the B word.

Brown should not be underestimated. His TV and radio appearances, promoting his idea of vaxing the world, have been solid and impressive and now have been taken over by Johnson.

Brown thinks strategically and long-term. As Blair's chancellor and as PM, he sensed the mood change against the EU and never disguised his Euroscepticism and opposition to greater EU integration. If he now senses that Brexit is not a success for Britain, his political antennae should not be too quickly rubbished.

It is this that frightens Alistair Heath and the league of Brexit loyalists in parts of the press and on the Tory backbenches. It is assumed by them that red wall seats have to be kept permanently mobilised and they look to Johnson as their Lenin, still working tirelessly to make real the Brexit revolution.

Early in May, it was the war of whelks in the Channel and the despatch of the Royal Navy to threaten French fishing boats with a new Trafalgar, if they kept demanding access to centuries old fishing waters.

Before, it was the claim that Britain was better equipped to handle the pandemic thanks to Brexit – a surreal claim that now seems plain silly as the UK’s Covid death rates and open door to the Indian variant makes us Europe’s worst protected nation.

And at the G7, it was briefing that Emmanuel Macron said Northern Ireland was not in the UK. Macron made the point every A/L constitution studies student knows - that Northern Ireland is not part of Great Britain. Northern Ireland politicians reject laws on gays and women that were long accepted on mainland GB.

Telling BBC viewers on the Marr programme that Macron is some kind of idiot, as Dominic Raab did, will further destroy good UK-France relations. But for Johnson, unleashing another barrage of Francophobia, faithfully reflected in the Brexit press, shows that the struggle goes on, the Brexit war will never end, and those who believe that quarrelling with the French and with Brussels is essential to modern English identity have their man in No 10.

Biden, the most pro-Irish US president since John F Kennedy, hoped to get an agreement to a truce with Johnson. But the Northern Ireland sausage row is not about bangers. It is about the necessity for Johnson to maintain all of the nation in a state of tension over Brexit.

Above all, he wants the main opposition, Labour, to say nothing about Brexit. Labour hasn’t got electoral skin in Northern Ireland politics, but the DUP are determined to weaken the Good Friday Agreement, with senior DUPers calling it a "capitulation" and that would destroy one of Labour's most important political achievements in recent history.

As long as Labour is silent Johnson is winning. No one dares question his Brexit revolution and ask if it is all he says it is cracked up to be. Finding words that put Johnson under pressure and speak for the majority of UK citizens, who would like Brexit to calm down and compromises emerge, should now be a task that a Labour Party that aspires to govern begins to think about and discuss.

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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Johnson's Never-ending Brexit Wars

It really isn’t about bangers decked in Unions Jacks. The row over sausages moving from mainland Britain to the supermarkets of Northern Ireland is necessary in Johnson’s eyes to show...

Whilst it is often said that Labour would not renegotiate the Conservative's Brexit deal, the nine amendments the party laid down to the Brexit deal that was voted through on December 30th would suggest otherwise. Unfortunately none were selected by the speaker to be voted on.

They can be summarised as the following:

1. The government must report on the economic effect of its Brexit deal - This amendment would have required the government to publish economic impact assessments resulting from the Brexit trade deal it negotiated, every six months, for all the sectors of the economy, in each of the United Kingdom’s nations and English regions.

2. The government must report plans by the end of Feb 2021 to get the UK financial sector full access to EU financial markets -
 This amendment would have required the government’s proposals to be as close to the EU’s passporting regime as possible. The EU’s passporting regime allows financial firms to set up branches anywhere in the EU and trade across borders with minimal friction. Because the UK is no longer a member of the EU’s single market and the Brexit deal it has negotiated with the EU does not cover financial services, it has lost these passporting rights.

Around 40% of the UK’s financial services’ exports go to the EU, the sector contributed around 10% of total UK tax receipts in 2020 and makes up about 1.1 million jobs.

In order for the UK financial sector to continue to access the EU’s single market without passporting rights, they will either have to comply with the different requirements of individual member states or rely on the EU deciding that the UK’s financial services regime is close enough to theirs that they grant us “equivalence.”

The UK has granted EEA-authorised firms passporting into the UK three years to continue operating, while they seek UK authorisation. However, the EU has not reciprocated.

Equivalence allows for market access in specific areas but does not cover most core banking and financial activities and the EU can remove equivalence decisions with just 30 days’ notice.

3. The government must request access to the EU's security database SIS (Schengen Information System) within six months or an equivalent system if access refused - SIS is the most widely used and largest information sharing system for security and border management in Europe. Before Brexit, the UK police accessed the SIS database around half a billion times every year. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has said that access to SIS was “essential for mainstream policing” and the National Crime Agency has said intelligence agencies “are as concerned about the loss of SIS II as we are.”

4. The government must seek an arrangement with the EU which allows UK artists to display or perform their work in EU countries - Before 2021, artists and their crews could travel freely between the EU and UK without applying for work permits or visas. Now EU musicians touring in the UK must meet certain conditions and require work visas if visiting for over 30 days. For UK musicians touring the EU, it depends on their host country’s rules and they may be required to get visas for each country they plan on visiting, as well as a carnet - a passport for professional equipment.

The government’s digital and culture minister recently rejected a parliamentary petition signed by over 280,00 people and an open letter signed by more than 100 artists, both of which called on the government to negotiate paperwork-free travel for British musicians touring in Europe.

5. The government must report on proposed divergence from EU standards regarding environmental protection and workers' rights - As part of the agreed Brexit trade deal, the UK and EU agreed a “rebalancing mechanism”, governed by an arbitration panel made up of one UK and one EU nominee and a jointly agreed chair. If it is felt by either partner that the other is undermining their country’s business by reducing regulations, they can impose retaliatory tariffs on them.

This amendment would not only require the government to report on any alteration to UK employment or environmental standards which may trigger this rebalancing mechanism, but also force them to hold a parliamentary debate and vote within seven days of the publication of the government’s report.

6. The government must seek participation in the EU’s student exchange programme - Erasmus is the EU’s student exchange programme which allows students to study at the best universities across Europe at no extra cost. Up till now, around 15,000 British students have taken part in it every year and roughly 30,000 EU students have come to the UK to study.

Universities UK International says our departure will cost the UK economy a net cost of £243m a year, after subtracting our membership costs. And the House of Lords “Brexit: the Erasmus and Horizon programmes” report said: “We were struck by the stark warning that mobility opportunities for people in vocational education and training would “stop in their tracks” without Erasmus funding, and we are particularly concerned that losing access to the programme would disproportionately affect people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with medical needs or disabilities.”

7. Devolved governments must be allowed to join Erasmus+ programme - This amendment was the same as the above but specifically regarding allowing the Welsh and Scottish governments and Northern Ireland Executive the right to join Erasmus.

8. Government must report within 1 month on planned support for business and jobs to help implementation of the Brexit deal - This amendment is self-explanatory.

9. Government must report on the activities of Partnership Council twice a year - The Partnership Council, which is responsible for the implementation of the recent Brexit trade deal, (not the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement) which the UK and EU agreed, is made up of representatives from the EU and the UK. This amendment would have required the government to hold a parliamentary debate and vote within seven days of the publication of the government’s report.

All the amendments in full publication can be found here.

Summary of Labour amendments to the Brexit deal

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