Tag Archives: negotiate

Now we know Boris Johnson is selling the NHS to America, who gets your vote?

This is conclusive: the 2019 general election is now a fight for the survival of the National Health Service.

In a press conference, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn brandished 451 pages of government papers detailing trade talks between the Conservative government and the Trump administration in the USA.

They make it clear that Mr Johnson will sell the NHS to US-based private companies if he wins the election on December 12:

According to the papers, “total market access” for US companies to all UK service sectors is the baseline from which the trade talks will start.

It is also worth noting that the US demand no mention of climate change in any deal – so if Mr Johnson is elected, the UK’s commitment to carbon neutrality, by any date, will be canclled. Apparently BoJob wants to see us burn.

Mr Trump and his people want a “no deal” Brexit – so any claim by Mr Johnson that he is going to agree a deal with the EU seems to be a lie.

And the talks cover a range of other sectors including financial services, the British film industry, UK nursing qualifications, workers’ rights, data privacy, pesticide control, sugar content labelling and even gender discrimination rules. These represent a major power-grab.

International trade secretary Liz Truss has responded by saying that Mr Corbyn is “out-and-out lying to the public about what these documents contain”. But that’s a hard stance to maintain when he handed out copies to members of the press.

According to the BBC, Mr Johnson also said the claims were “total nonsense”.

But Mr Corbyn has an impeccable record of honesty while Mr Johnson has been exposed as a liar, time and time again. Here are a few examples:

If Jeremy Corbyn says Boris Johnson is in the process of selling off the NHS, then I believe him – and I think you should too.

This election has become a choice between accepting a hugely-expensive US-style insurance-based health system that will keep you sick and bankrupt you while doing so – under Boris Johnson, or a restored NHS, fully public, and free at the point of use – under Jeremy Corbyn.

If you value your health, you must tell our politicians that our NHS is not for sale.

Those of you who think voting for another party – especially the Liberal Democrats – will help achieve this should think again. The Lib Dems helped inflict privatisation on the health service during the Coalition government and cannot be trusted not to get right back in bed with the Tories if they have a chance.

So who are you going to elect? A Labour Party that is telling you the facts? Or the lying Tories who’ll sell your health for pennies?

Source: Corbyn reveals secret documents that ‘confirm Tory plot to sell off NHS in US trade talks with Trump’ | The Independent

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Nutty Nigel Farage wants a say in Brexit after LOSING a by-election. Phew, what a loony!

All mouth: Nigel Farage.

Just a quick reminder:

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party won 29 seats in the EU Parliament election after falsely claiming that they would use those seats to get Brexit done. In fact, the European Parliament won’t have any further say in the matter.

In any case, look at Mr Farage’s voting record: “Absent”, “absent”, “absent”. People who voted for the Brexit Party elected MEPs who won’t even turn up.

Yesterday, at the Peterborough by-election, Mr Farage’s candidate lost.

So why has he just delivered a letter to Downing Street, demanding a place in any new Brexit negotiating team?

He simply hasn’t earned the right, he certainly doesn’t have any experience, and it is a sign of insanity that he is claiming he should.

Perhaps he’s getting desperate to find a way of delivering our National Health Service to his friend Donald Trump? We must not let that happen.

As for his general approach, he is a trash-talking chief of a party with no policies. Has he even published a manifesto for those EU elections?

There can be only one conclusion:

He is a modern-day example of the Emperor’s new clothes. He is all mouth and no trousers.

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Labour’s talks with Theresa May are collapsing because she STILL won’t compromise on Brexit

FailEUrs: These posters suggest public frustration with both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. Isn’t that what Mrs May wants?

So much for Theresa May’s offer of talks with Labour to find a compromise on Brexit that a majority of MPs in Parliament can support.

I stated when she made her offer that she would not vary or erase her “red lines”, and this has proved to be the case, with Jeremy Corbyn’s negotiating team saying she has failed to offer “real change or compromise”.

Indeed, it seems she has point-blank refused to change the withdrawal agreement, and the only offer regarding the political declaration was to address Labour’s issues in a separate memorandum; no changes to the actual wording of the document would be countenanced.

Strange, when one remembers that changes to the declaration are not legally binding. Mrs May would resign after getting the UK out of the EU, to be replaced – most likely – by a Brexiteer who could ignore anything she agrees with Labour.

The talks aren’t over, although neither Labour nor the Conservatives have set a date for them to continue.

It seems the problem is a matter of bad faith – which is ironic when one remembers that Mrs May is the daughter of a clergyman.

Meanwhile, it seems the public are becoming frustrated with both the Conservatives and Labour – and isn’t that what these talks are really all about?

Aren’t they simply an attempt to shift the blame for Mrs May’s failures onto Labour, with a lie that the opposition party is causing the hold-up?


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Dad lost son to meningitis – blasts Government over vaccine delay – Sunderland Echo

Meningitis vaccine campaigner Ken Robinson [Image: Sunderland Echo].

Meningitis vaccine campaigner Ken Robinson [Image: Sunderland Echo].

A father who lost his son to meningitis has hit out at the Government for not introducing a life-saving vaccine on the NHS almost a year after it was deemed safe to use, writes David Allison in the Sunderland Echo.

Meningitis B has for decades been the single largest cause of meningitis in the UK. A vaccine against MenB was recommended by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in March 2014 to be routinely given to children in the UK.

However almost a year on there are no signs that the vaccine will become part of childhood immunisation programme any time soon – after the maker of the vaccine and the Government failed to agree a price for its use.

Ken Robinson, of Newbottle, in Houghton… who has himself raised £80,000 towards meningitis research since his son Glenn’s death of the meningococcal septicaemia strain of the illness, aged 16 in 1997… told the Echo: “It’s absolutely ridiculous that this hasn’t been implemented a year on. You can’t put a price on a kid’s life.”

Read more on the Sunderland Echo website.

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The UK’s EU surcharge (another blow for Osborne) – Second Reading

[Image: Left Futures.]

[Image: Left Futures.]

At first glance, this article from the House of Commons Library blog didn’t look as though it was going to contribute anything new.

We know why the UK had to pay a surcharge to the EU based on its economy performance from 2002 until 2013 (according to this article; 2009 according to some others). We know that it relates to the EU budget because member states pay a proportion of their gross national income into the EU’s coffers in return for membership. We know that the revision goes back to 2002 because the EU disagreed with the way some member states had worked out their figures. We know that the question of whether the rebate would always apply to this payment is hotly debated.

But then the article states:

“Concessions have been reached on the timing and staging of payments. Member States will be able to pay in stages with payment completed by 1 September 2015. The original amending budget required a single payment to be made by 1 December 2014.

Member States paying later will not incur interest charges for doing so. Regulations would have allowed for interest payments of 2 percentage points above the base rate, increasing by a 0.25 percentage point for each month of delay.” [Boldings mine.]

Didn’t Osborne come back from Europe saying he had negotiated concessions for the UK? What’s all this “member states” business?

For example, on Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday (November 9), he said: “This is a real win for British taxpayers… It’s another sign this government can get a good deal for Britain in Europe.” [Bolding, again, mine.]

There’s no mention of the other member states in his renegotiation story at all! Osborne makes it look as though he negotiated a deal for the UK that the other states agreed…

… In fact, it seems all member states agreed on a deal that would affect all member states.

For all we know, Osborne could have sat at the back of the room and twiddled his thumbs. The more we learn about this deal, the less significant his role seems to be.

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Did you hear the one about Labour and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?

140115TTIP

Apparently somebody said Labour supported this hugely controversial scheme, and lots of people believed it.

In fact, the claim is doubly false. But first, a bit of background: You need to know that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a ‘free trade’ agreement being negotiated between the European Union and the United States of America. Unfortunately for most of us, the agreement as currently described would end democracy and put us at the mercy of international corporations.

This is because the agreement includes a device called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ (ISDS), which allows corporate entities to sue governments, overruling domestic courts and the will of Parliaments. You would lose the ability to affect government policy – particularly on the National Health Service; after the Health and Social Care Act, the trade agreement would put every decision relating to its work on a commercial footing. The rights of transnational corporations would become the priority, health would become primarily a trade issue and your personal well-being would be of no consequence whatsoever.

Labour doesn’t want anything to do with an agreement that locks privatisation into the National Health Service, and TTIP – with the ISDS – would do exactly that. So Labour called for the NHS to be exempted from the conditions of the agreement, while remaining in broad support of the negotiations in the belief that the deal promised billions of pounds worth of jobs and economic growth.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are fully behind TTIP and have ruled out any opt-out for the NHS. The Tories in particular see TTIP as an opportunity to lock-in the privatisation changes they have made to the NHS.

That is the situation that most people believe exists today. They are mistaken.

Labour’s National Policy Forum met at Milton Keynes recently, where a new stance towards TTIP was agreed. Members raised the question of other public services, besides the NHS, that a future Labour government might wish to return to public ownership. With the ISDS in its current form, it would be more or less impossible to return the railways, energy firms and water companies to public ownership in the public interest.

So the current policy is as follows (with thanks to @LabourLewis of the LabourLeft blog): “Labour believes that [the] key to an EU-US trade deal that we would encourage the rest of Europe to support, which avoids a race to the bottom and promotes decent jobs and growth, would be safeguards and progress on labour, environmental, and health and safety standards. Labour has raised concerns over the inclusion of an ISDS mechanism in TTIP. Labour believes that the right of governments to legislate for legitimate public policy objectives should be protected effectively in any dispute resolution mechanisms.” [bolding mine]

This is unlikely to be Labour’s final position as many members believe the party should be even more strongly opposed to the agreement in its current form, as these concluding comments from @LabourLewis affirm: “I believe TTIP represents a free market model of the world economy that has failed the vast majority of us. The last 30 years have shown such a model of capitalism increases inequality and insecurity and leads to more frequent financial crashes.

“Simply tinkering on the margins will not be sufficient. A tad more regulation there, a bit more transparency here, a regulation over there, some restraint on executive pay over here.

“It simply won’t wash and a growing number of us, including our leader Ed Miliband, instinctively understand this.”

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Another wasted opportunity: Back to business as usual between Israel and Gaza

140808gazahostilities

Three days after it started, the ceasefire between the Israeli military and Hamas terrorists (one might describe both sides as terrorists in this instance) ended with the resumption of rocket attacks by what the BBC describes as “Palestinian militants”.

Hamas said it had resumed the rocket attacks because Israel had failed to meet its demands.

This raises several issues.

Firstly, is Hamas saying that it wanted Israel to capitulate completely to every demand made by the Palestinians? That was never going to happen because Hamas is not in a position of power. If Israel wanted, it could pound the entire Gaza Strip into rubble and defy the rest of the world to do anything about it. Both sides seem determined to be unreasonable about what negotiation can achieve, and cavalier about the fate of their own civilians while hostilities continue.

Secondly, Hamas is stupid to risk losing international sympathy by sending rockets towards Israeli civilians. With 1,890 Palestinians dead, against only 50 Israelis, many onlookers have seen this as a ‘David and Goliath’ contest, with plucky Muslims utterly outmatched by their Jewish neighbours – but these attacks suggest that it is a false interpretation; we are watching two equally vicious politically-motivated opponents acting in their own interests, without a moment’s thought for the collateral damage.

Thirdly, a saying has been doing the rounds, here on the Net, for some time now. It contends that a definition of madness might be the belief that doing the same thing repeatedly will yield different results. By this definition, the leaders of Hamas must be mad. With Israel reacting in typical manner, their leaders must be equally unhinged.

Israel has refused to negotiate while Hamas is firing upon its citizens, and that very violence is a good reason to refuse other Palestinian demands, such as the release of prisoners (to add to the violence?) and lifting the blockade of Gaza (to allow terrorists access to more deadly weapons?) – but of course this makes Israel appear the overbearing bully in this situation.

Let’s be honest – it was futile to expect a three-day ceasefire to resolve the situation. The more one examines it, the more reminiscent it becomes of the Irish Question. Peace in Northern Ireland was gained over a period of around 10 years – and remains fragile to this day. Even now it must be defended, to prevent either side from returning to the old ways.

For peace efforts to have any chance of success, talks must be overseen by an impartial mediator, with no interest – either moral or financial – in either side.

And that means the UK is ruled out of the process straight away.

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Clegg’s pledges – what are they worth?

[Image: The Independent]

[Image: The Independent]

We laugh because it’s funny and we laugh because it’s true.

Vox Political reader Simon Kirk pointed out this little gem from comedian Mark Steel, writing in The Independent.

At a time when the Liberal Democrats are desperately trying to claw back some credibility, he make the excellent point that, after the betrayals of the last few years, it is unrealistic to expect anyone to believe anything Nick Clegg and his yellow friends say in the future.

Worse still, there is evidence that teams representing the Tories and Liberal Democrats negotiated what would be in a coalition agreement before the May 2010 election – the document mentioned in The Guardian‘s article is dated March 16, 2010 – and abolishing student tuition fees, a principle Liberal Democrat pledge, was not part of the agreement.

In other words, Clegg campaigned for two months ahead of the election with a promise that he knew he was going to break. Apparently you can get the full details in a book entitled Five Days To Power by Rob Wilson, Conservative MP for Reading East.

The article states: “George Osborne, who had long feared the Tories would struggle to win an overall parliamentary majority, persuaded David Cameron to allow him to form the Tories’ own secret coalition negotiating team two weeks before the election. The Tory leader demanded total secrecy and asked only to be given the barest details for fear that he would blurt it out ‘unplanned in an interview’.” (Thanks go to Vox Political commenter ‘Florence’ for these details)

With hindsight, we know that Cameron had other matters he needed to keep secret, such as the fact that he was claiming he would protect the public National Health Service, when in fact his colleague Andrew Lansley had been working on a plan to privatise it for many years. Lansley had also been sworn to secrecy.

So both Coalition parties have a proven track record of dishonesty in the run-up to the 2010 election and there is no reason to believe the Liberal Democrats have changed now. In fact, as Mark Steel points out, Clegg has even gone on record, saying “we have to be grown-up” to excuse himself.

In response, Mr Steel asserts: “If the grown-up way is to ignore everything you said to get elected, why bother having an election campaign at all? For the televised debates at the next election, Clegg might as well bring in a guinea-pig, and when he’s asked about his plans for defence, he can ask David Dimbleby, “Would you like to stroke Oscar?”

Other possible campaigning choices listed in the article include “learning to play the piccolo or building a canoe” because “it’s like a junkie telling you how this time the £200 he wants off you really will be paid back on Thursday. The carefully costed details don’t determine your decision so much as how last week he robbed your kids’ teddies and sold them for £12”.

So much for the Liberal Democrats. If you ever feel close to being persuaded by their arguments, just have another look at Mark Steel’s article to refresh your memory.

Nowadays, a laugh is the only thing they’re good for.

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Sleepwalking out of the EU – the gap between rhetoric and reality

131105europe

The British people’s support for staying in the European Union is “wafer thin”, David Cameron told the CBI yesterday. Labour’s Ed Balls warned that the UK could “sleepwalk” away from its biggest trading partner at the same meeting.

Why?

Is it because most people don’t understand our relationship with the European economic area? Is it because they have been infected with propaganda from the right-wing press?

Is it because there really is a plan to make the UK a third-world country, and withdrawal from the EU is necessary to remove citizens’ human rights, thereby making them easier for the ruling class to exploit? The idea seems paranoid but the actions necessary for it to happen have been coming together.

Isn’t it time we had a public debate about the Union – how it works, how we function within it – in order to find out whether we really are better or worse-off? And why – considering all the bluster – hasn’t this happened already?

Let’s look at the main issues: cost of membership, perceived over-regulation, immigration, and our place on the world stage.

The UK contributes around 14 billion Euros (£11.9 billion) to the EU budget every year, but receives 10 billion Euros (£8.5 billion) back – so in fact we contribute £3.4 billion to other countries within the union; the UK is a net EU payer. A study by UKIP MEP Gerard Batten has claimed that red tape, waste, fraud and other factors adds another £62.3 billion a year to the cost.

But the EU is the UK’s main trading partner, with contracts worth more than £400 billion a year. That kind of money make the membership fee look like a pittance. And the EU has been negotiating with the US to create the world’s largest free trade area in a move that could hugely boost our businesses (although this has a huge potential downside that nobody is talking about).

Perhaps the problem is that the companies profiting from these trade deals aren’t paying their taxes properly? The UK Treasury should receive £92 billion at the current rate of Corporation Tax. How much does it actually get?

Let’s not forget that the Coalition government is trying (ineffectually) to pay down the annual deficit. Any money saved by leaving the EU would not go into domestic projects but would contribute to debt repayments. In effect, it would be dead money; at least, in the EU, it helps bring in business.

Okay, so it’s possible that the UK makes more cash from the EU than it spends on it. But what about all those pesky regulations bogging us down all the time? Wouldn’t we be better-off without them?

Sure – if we didn’t mind losing those £400 billion worth of trade deals. If the UK left the European Union but still wanted to trade with its member states, then we would still have to abide by EU regulations. UKIP’s Nigel Farage points to Norway and Switzerland as countries that have access to the single market without being bound by EU rules on agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs – but he doesn’t mention the fact that those countries must abide by EU market regulations without having any influence over how they are created.

A break from the EU, allowing the UK to trade with other nations around the world, means Britain’s exports would be subject to EU export tariffs – and would still have to meet EU production standards.

Yes, the EU burdens us with rules when it probably doesn’t have the right. Why does the EU dictate our policy on water? So there is room for negotiation – but within the Union.

Well, what about immigration? The UK has a huge problem with its borders having been opened up to millions of incomers – mostly from Eastern Europe, with millions more on the way next year, right? Wouldn’t leaving the EU put an end to that?

Yes. It would also put an end to Britons’ chances of living and working in EU countries. 711,151 UK citizens were living in other EU countries in 2011, according to Eurostat. Their right to work and live there might be restricted if Britain quit the union.

While 2.3 million EU citizens were living and working in the UK in 2011, their effect on the country’s economic well-being has been hugely exaggerated. There is no ‘open door’ immigration policy. The immigrant population does not have access to a vast majority of the benefits available to UK citizens, the benefits they do receive are nowhere near the same value as those received by UK citizens and they are a third less likely to claim benefits than UK citizens. Meanwhile, they contribute to the local economy and pay their taxes.

The UK would definitely lose stature on the world stage. There can be no amicable divorce from the EU, as the other leading members are unlikely to allow this country any special privileges or influence. We would surrender our ability to influence EU policy while remaining hostage to EU decisions. The ‘special relationship’ with the United States would also be in jeopardy as that country has made it clear we are a more valuable ally as part of the EU.

As a member of the EU, Britain is viewed by many non-European manufacturers as a key point of access to the European market – but this reputation would be lost if the UK quit the union.

British banks and businesses also see membership as important because it provides access to crucial foreign markets.

Oh, and the UK would still have to deal with the European Court of Human Rights, which is separate from the EU, even after ridding itself of the pesky Human Rights Act that ratifies so many EU employment laws and social protections that prevent Theresa May and her friends from exploiting us all.

Add it all up and the evidence seems clear: Britain is better off with Europe. Yes, there are problems, but these are matters for negotiation, not reasons to run away.

Don’t you agree?