Thursday 26 January 2017

Article 50: One small victory

For those of us who voted Remain in the EU referendum we may have lost the war but there are still lots of smaller battles to be won.

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision on article 50 felt like a small victory for Remain voters. The decision means the government can't trigger Article 50 without approval from Parliament.

As expected critics have labelled the decision as some sort of attempt to thwart the will of the British people and Gina Miller the woman who started the legal fight to get Parliament to vote on the act has received some horrific abuse and threats.

Like many people who voted remain I accept we are leaving the EU, I don't feel I need to pretend that I like it but I've come to terms with it. What hasn't been decided is how we leave and the process and debate involved.

Brexit supporters love to go on about how the British people have decided to leave the EU but the way this narrative is presented you would think that over 75% of people voted to leave rather than the small majority of 52% who voted for Brexit.

There are still millions of people who did not want to leave the EU and it's right that their views and opinion on the type of Brexit we have are heard. This is the role Parliament should be taking and Parliament should play a role in representing all of the electorate and properly debating and scrutinising the terms and conditions by which we leave the EU.

In these anti-establishment, anti-politician times that we live in too many people seem to think a vote for Brexit is the beginning and end of the matter. The people have spoken and we need to get on with it!

Well it might upset quite a lot of leave voters but we do still live in a parliamentary democracy. The referendum was a simple in/out question. We voted out but the terms and conditions on how we leave are up for debate.

It's only right that Parliament are involved, I've had quite enough of 'direct democracy'. The reason we have MPs is precisely for such occasions, the effects of Brexit will be felt for decades to come and how we leave needs to be debated and assessed properly.

It looks as if we're heading for a 'Hard Brexit' something many people did not vote for. My hope is that before Article 50 is triggered we arrive at a deal that better reflects the views of the electorate. Of course I know this will be difficult. Brexit is arguably the most divisive issue I've experienced living in the UK.

With more than 6 months now gone since the referendum result, I'm quite happy to admit that my disappointment and anger has only increased. I would say it's now bordering on a loathing for what I feel Brexit represents.

There's no doubt in my mind that individually and as a nation we will be poorer but for some the bigger issue is controlling borders.

Immigration is a fact of life, the country needs some for immigration. The volume and type of immigration (particularly in certain parts of the country) is the real issue.

But for me it's not just the economic and financial impact of Brexit that I'm opposed to, there's the cultural issues that Brexit represents. It's a kind of arrogance where the UK feels it can turn its back on its nearest neighbours, unwilling to make concessions and accept rules of membership of a club. Instead we will go out into the world and believe we can have all these great trade deals with the rest of the world which will always be in our favour.

Brexiteers will hate my analysis but I simply don't care.

Monday 23 January 2017

Donald Trump and the Divided States of America

It hasn't been a good week for those of us who consider ourselves to be liberal progressives types.

On Friday Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. It feels if we're heading on journey into the unknown which you know is going to get very bumpy in places.

In the analysis following Trump's inauguration we're told how America is a divided nation but they say this after every US election when a new President is elected.

We've seen demonstrations in Washington and in cities across the world protesting against the rhetoric and language that Donald Trump as displayed throughout the election campaign and during the run up to him taking office.

I've realised that this is what happens in US politics. I remember in the 90s when Bill Clinton was in office. The Republican Party went into melt down in opposition to him. In 2000, Democrats and Liberals were outraged as George Bush won the election after winning the state of Florida which was too close to call.

In 2008 many celebrated the election of Barack Obama as America's first black president, but again conservatives were immediately hostile with some claiming he was illegitimate as President as he supposedly wasn't born in America

This is American politics and America in a nutshell, split down the middle between liberal and conservative America. Both sides descending into hostility and outrage when the other occupies the Presidency.

Will Donald Trump unite this divided nation? Of course he won't. He's too much of a divisive figure for that to happen and I expect the next four years to be pretty hostile from both sides of the political divide.

What to expect from a Trump Presidency

With Trump now in power I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when his rhetoric and bravado comes face to face with the realities of domestic politics and international relations.

It's easy to come out with slogans like, 'lets make America great again' and 'America first' but actually delivering on such statements is the real hard part.

Perhaps it's just me, but I don't get carried away with politicians telling me how they're going to change the world, or are going to make things great again. I look back to 2008 when Obama was elected. I was genuinely excited and optimistic. He spoke about how 'change had come to America'. I listened to political commentators tell me how we were now entering a 'post-racial' world.

Eight years later what real radical change did Obama bring? He didn't change America and as for a post-racial world if that was truly the case we wouldn't have the need for a Black Lives matter movement. This isn't a criticism of Obama, I'm just stating the point that the rhetoric and ideals espoused by politicians rarely matches reality.

This is what will happen with Donald Trump. Bringing back manufacturing jobs to the US from other countries is going to be incredibly difficult. Having a protectionist policy towards trade is unlikely to reap the benefits of making America great again.

As leader of the United States you still have a great deal of power and influence but I just don't believe that Presidents and elected officials can have the power and influence to change everything in the ways that we sometimes hope as voters.

If there is one defining feeling I have about Donald Trump it's the feeling of entering the unknown. We're in uncharted waters with his election. This could be a car crash waiting to happen. Something tells me it won't be as bad as some are predicting but a Donald Trump presidency will never be one in which I can truly feel comfortable with.