Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Cycle of Brexit: Endangering the Norwegian Model

So it appears that rather that following the Norwegian model of living with the EU Theresa May's vision for what Brexit means looks like it is endangering it.

Norwegian officials have warned Brussels that they are watching negotiations over Brexit closely. If a special deal is reached with the UK this will lead to Norway looking at renegotiating the terms under which it operates with the EU. The fact that May's government wants out of the Customs Union and out of the Single Market while still maintaining favourable conditions of trade and access with the EU is not looking good for countries like Norway who have reached an agreement with the EU and remain outside.

At a time when countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are also looking to enter the Customs Union the stance that the UK is taking means we are no longer having to appease just 27 other counties. There are also the additional 4 countries in the European Free Trade Association1, the 6 with Stabilisation and Association Agreements2, the 3 in the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area3 as well as the 4 with bi-lateral Customs Union arrangements4. In other words all of Europe until you get to Belarus and Russia.

Now you have to consider that some of the EU nations who border or surround some of those countries affected do more trade with them than the UK. When it comes to consideration of the remaining 27 EU nations all accepting the Brexit deal. The threat of Norway and potentially the others looking to also renegotiate their deal with the EU means that the chances of the special deal that May, David Davis and Boris Johnson say they can get looks less and less likely to happen. The EU cannot afford to give special terms to one nation who pulls out of the EU if it impacts on the deal they have with 17 other nations that the EU also has deals in place with. Effectively Britain is up against 44 not just 27 other nations when we sit at the negotiating table.

If the other 17 are paying something to the EU to benefit from their deals to help them trade with the EU and the UK refuse to pay anything we can expect to get nothing. Seventeen countries willing to pay for special access to the EU is going to be more beneficial than allowing one country to have access who is paying nothing. The Brexiteers have been playing high stakes poker with a bluff in their hand. It is the smaller stacks at the table from the associated nations who the EU will be gauging now that the UK has gone all in. That revenue flow is important to them, they may yet call on our all or nothing bet.

If the UK scrambles away from the EU with nothing David Davis hasn't run the impact reports, but Scotland has. Is it worth it?


1 Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein
2 Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kosovo
3  Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine
4 Turkey, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino

Thursday, 11 January 2018

EU Court rules definition of Marriage now includes same-sex marraige

One of the leading arguments the pro-Brexit, anti-Equal marriage unionist DUP have used to say that the marriage laws in the rest of the United Kingdom do not apply here is that the EU don't define marriage that way.

Until now.

Today the Advocate General of the European Court has said the "definition of marriage has now evolved to include same-sex couples". He also calls on all member states to recognise same-sex marriages that have taken place in other member states. The word spouse most now not only apply to opposite sex couples.

This may course interesting IF the Northern Ireland Assembly can get back up and running. Currently same-sex marriage from other parts of the UK are relegated to civil partnerships. However, if the right of spouses of any marriage have to be recognised that will have to change. It means that same-sex marriages would have to be recognised as marriages in Northern Ireland and takes us one step closer to hopefully allow same-sex marriages to take place here as well.

No doubt the DUP will try and come up with some other excuse quoting their rapidly shrinking list of countries that do not recognise same-sex marriage. Saying after years of quoting EU court definitions that we are about to leave and that should now apply to us now. Bear in mind that the DUP have uses Great British law when it agrees with them, over marriage they used Irish law after the British didn't along with EU. Now that even the EU laws are changing where next?

The DUP are losing the argument and soon and very soon I hope to see marriage equality, not just same-sex marriage come to Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Feeling Used - Confession of a Gay Christian Lib Dem

It has been a long time since I have blogged and that is not really like me. Today I am once again not feeling well it has been a tough 12 months for me health-wise. However, something has happened today that makes me feel used that makes me feel like I have to write.

Speaking today on Premier Christian Radio the former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has said that he now regrets the statement he made during the last general election when he said he did not think gay sex was a sin. This is the latest in the line of remarks he has made since he stood down as leader of the party that has worried me.

I am on record in this very blog as being one of the first LBGT+ Lib Dems to support his bid for the leadership. Based on the conversations I have had with him in person and online about LGBT+ issues and his and my faith.

In my case of course I feel ostracised from the Christian community for being gay and from the LGBT+ community for being a Christian. Now of course Tim Farron is able to support the Lib Dem idea of marriage equality because as a true liberal, LGBT, Christian I knew that the state had no right to interfere in how individual faith groups govern themselves. No LGBT+ Christian wants a faith group to marry them in a same sex marriage that doesn't want them.

Today however now I'm not sure if all the conversations I have had with Tim have really seen the progress I thought I had seen. I'm not longer sure if my sharing of my struggles led to him making the decisions he had done or whether this was for expediency and acceptance within the party. I know there are members of my party who are Christians who have risked their position within their church for standing up for LGBT+ issues.

Tim is saying that one group that did not give him advise from within party HQ was fellow Christians. Yet I know many within the party who are Christians of all backgrounds who have been supportive of all that the LGBT+ Lib Dems have brought forward. I also know some who have been against. But nobody shall be enslaved by conformity is and underlying core value of our party. The equal marriage policy that our party brought forward into law allowed freedom for religion and religions. Somehow today it feels that some of the Christians and one of the most prominent ones regrets having allowed freedom from religion.

One of friends in politics who took the other stance when Tim made those comments  during the general election today has said he expects acts of contrition, maybe this is what this is or maybe I was just used and had wool pulled over my eyes. 

Have I been played? Have I been used? Tonight I don't have the answers. But I do feel hurt by the comments today taking back a comment I lauded at the time it was made. Something I said at the time that proved the leader got it and stood by his liberalism above all else.

Now? Who knows?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Trumping the Knee

So Donald Trump having seen the majority of NFL players take the knee, link arms or not appear on the field and run a weak D*.

He has tweeted (what else) the issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. He tweeted this immediately after the tweeted that some fans booed during the National Anthem at those same players.

Now let me get something straight here:

Taking the knee is something those that serve the Country and Flag do to show respect. Respect to fallen comrades.

The take the knee movement that started last pre-season in the NFL after a summer in which a number of innocent African-Americans were shot by white police officers. It started with one player and has spread, this weekend including Baseball and with the backing of other sports.

Also during the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s taking the knee was non-violent protest of people praying and contemplation.

So Mr Trump is ignoring history and ignoring reality if he says taking the knee has nothing to do about race.

But here's another thing what about those players who didn't take the knee. Many of them this weekend stood behind and beside their team mates. Instead of hand on heart as normal many of these linked arms. Just like this:

Yes as Martin Luther King Jr and others marched to Selma they too linked arms in the same way. The symbols that teams across the NFL showed on Sunday from London to LA have everything to do with race. The continued racism of some and oppression of black America.

Some of those who have song the Anthem in recent weeks have also started to take the knee. So you can sing the Anthem showing you love for the nation and still protest that the America you want can be better, can be greater.

Now back to those who booed the plyers who took the knee. A lot of this happened during the national Anthem. Not a peaceful protest but a verbal one. Surely that is disrespecting the flag, country and anthem.

So Donald if you truly want to make America great you have to do so for all Americans. You have to respect all the cultures that make up the culture of America. Respect those who exercise their freedom of speech as enshrined in the Bill of Rights to protest peacefully, even if that protest is against you. Indeed you should defend their right to protest, even if you disagree with what that say as long as they do it in a peaceful, non-violent way, even if that protest is aimed at you. That Mr President is democracy. That Mr President is the land of the brave and the home of the free.

If you respect their rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights maybe then you will show the respect to your office that is yours in passing.

*Defence for non-NFL fans

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The EU has been an integral part of my life Mrs May

Yesterday in her Florence speech Theresa May said:

"The UK never felt a part of the European Union.The European Union, never felt to us an integral part of our story"

I beg to differ.

I sitting writing this in the house that my parents moved into in 1979 on the day of the first UK elections to the European Parliament. So even from then I new about Europe and that it was a part of our lives.

I went to University in Kingston at the end of the 80s and took as one of my options in both 2nd and 3rd year European Economics. It became something of a speciality of mine and my fellow students would often come to me if they needed to know how the mechanics of the European Union, Schengen Area, or then the exchange rate mechanism pre-Euro worked. I even had the horror of listening to parliament on the radio one evening while finalising an essay on our place in the EU on the day of the Maastricht Treaty debate and had to amend my argument slightly and quote from that debate before handing it in at 12 the following day.

I like many others have enjoyed fast access to the EU nations, especially when compared to those non-EU (or now EU) ones that I have also experienced whenever I go to continental Europe, whether for holiday or work. Indeed I have two wallets my every day one which contains Sterling or my other one for days trips to Dublin or Donegal and longer trips to the continent that contain Euros. You see I never change my Euros back into pounds as I know they will be used again at some point.

Indeed my stamp collection of Olympic stamps I base on a Euro price as a lot of the dealers that I purchase from on Ebay are based in Europe so I have to know if I paying a fair price for the items I am purchasing. When you are looking for the remaining 5/6ths of the worlds Olympic stamps that can be important for a Philatelist. With either the Euro, Sterling or US Dollar there are only three currencies I deal in both to buy and sell.

The job that I worked in while I lived on Edinburgh for 10 years would not have existed without us being integral in Europe. When you have working in a multi-lingual, Europe-wide support environment with EU nationals doing skilled work alongside you, you know you are an integral part of Europe. That is why I suspect London voted heavily to remain out of all the areas of England because they like me feel an integral part of Europe in their workplace, leisure time and neighbourhoods.

So Theresa May while you have spent you're working life in the Westminster bubble and maybe therefore think you have not been an integral part of the EU. Remember those times you passed laws to make our law, products, even our currency compatible with the rest of Europe. Europe has been an integral part of my entire life of now 48 years so don't throw it all away because people from your generation don't realise how integral it is. The reason you have yet to come up with creative ways to deal with Brexit is because of how integral Europe has become in our live not because it hasn't.

Your Brexit means Brexit argument that we have to come out of Europe completely is like a heart and lung transplant. The only problem we are facing is that even with your 2 year transition period while the UK is on a ventilator we have no organs yet to replace the European heart and lungs that are in the UK you are about to remove.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Time after Tim

This evening Tim Farron has announced that he will step aside as party leader at the time of the Parliamentary recess so that the Liberal Democrats 104,000 members at last count can have a say in the new leader.

In his resignation statement Tim says:

"From the very first day of my leadership, I have faced questions about my Christian faith. I've tried to answer with grace and patience. Sometimes my answers could have been wiser.

"At the start of this election, I found myself under scrutiny again - asked about matters to do with my faith. I felt guilty that this focus was distracting attention from our campaign, obscuring our message.

"A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment."

I did come out in support for Tim's bid to become leader very soon after the last general election. Indeed I had written to him as soon as I got back to Northern Ireland after that horrible night two years ago to encourage him to stand.

It is a sad day for our society and our Liberal Democrat party if someone of faith does not consider he is able to lead the party and be true to both. Long before Tim stood as leader I did have discussions with him about his faith and the work on LGBT+ issues that I was working on.

As a fellow Christian but also a gay man I was convinced then, as I am now, that Tim Farron is no homophobe and in no way stands in the way of LGBT+ rights. Indeed at every step of the way he has backed every reform wholeheartedly. I was ashamed with the way the media and especially Cathy Newman would continue to drag up question they dared not ask the rectors daughter with a record of voting against LGBT+ advancement who resides at Number 10.

For the past 2 years I have been proud to be one of the Lib Dem cockroaches that Tim mentioned early in his leadership. One of those who would be hard to kill off as we started to fight back.

I am sad that he felt the need to step down and list his faith as one of the obstacles he saw in leading our party. I wish him well in the future and for the moment while I have my own idea who should be next I would encourage all members to think carefully about who can continue to lead the fight back our party still needs.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Nicola Sturgeon's Second Referendum

I may only have been in from work less than half an hour, but I already know that what I say is going to upset some of my good friends within the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Nicola Sturgeon is right to call for a second Scottish Referendum after the deal is known and before the UK pulls out. What follows is the reasons why?

Firstly the dynamic of what it means to be part of the UK has changed. Many of those, including myself, while part of the last No campaign said that one of the uncertainties for Scottish Independence was their future having to renegotiate with Europe. That is no longer part of the issue because Theresa May is taking the UK out of Europe while Scotland voted to remain.

That other lady of politics Theresa May today is talking about the tunnel vision of Nicola Sturgeon. But since the Brexit vote and her taking control has failed to acknowledge that the people of Scotland and indeed Northern Ireland whose interaction with Europe is different from a lot of England took a different view from the Brexit result.

Scotland is pro-Europe, but Theresa May is taking us away from Europe, yet somehow she talks of tunnel vision while all her talk of taking the UK out of every aspect of Europe and heading for a hard Brexit is just that.

I myself did say after the last Scottish referendum that Nicola Sturgeon should have stuck to her pledge that this was a once in a generation opportunity. I have however changed my mind, the seismic plates have shifted in UK politics. While I would have vote No last time, I personally would be voting yes next time (if the rumours of what Theresa May is heading for turn out to be true).