Why I Am Defying My Party Whip And Voting For The Lords Brexit Amendment

This week the House of Commons will be asked to determine the type of Brexit our country seeks. Will MPs back a sensible lords amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that instructs Theresa May to negotiate a deal keeping Britain inside the European Economic Area, or will we risk a bad deal such as a Canada-style Free Trade Agreement which would do nothing for our services industries and lead inevitably to a hard border in Ireland? Or, worse still, will we allow the government’s profound incompetence to take us over the cliff edge into a "no deal" scenario, where tariffs and non-tariff barriers destroy the jobs and livelihoods of the very people we were elected to represent? Continue reading

With The EEA Vote, The Lords Can Set Theresa May On The Right Brexit Path

The House of Lords has so far responded in a robust, rational and highly effective manner to the government’s EU withdrawal bill. But the most important test of the peers’ resolve is yet to come. On Tuesday an amendment to the withdrawal bill will be tabled in the Lords that, if passed by the Commons, would commit the government to keeping the United Kingdom in the European Economic Area (EEA). Continue reading

Russia Is Using The British Council As A Political Tool

(Credit The Times News Syndication) I remember my first flight to St. Petersburg in May 2005 as clearly as if it were yesterday. I was on my way to take up my post as Director of the British Council’s operations in St. Petersburg, and felt a palpable sense of hope, combined with a healthy dose of trepidation. I was looking forward to improving my Russian and getting settled into my new life in St. Pete, as we fondly referred to it. But I was also wondering what the coming years had in store for me, given the parlous state of the bilateral relationship. Equally memorable, but for very different reasons, was my flight out of Russia in January 2008. Continue reading

We Cannot Let Football Act As A Smokescreen - We Must Postpone The World Cup

Politics Home Since I first spoke out and called for FIFA to postpone and relocate the World Cup I’ve been met with a torrent of disgruntled tweets, many from Russian bots, saying “sport and politics don’t mix, leave the World Cup alone”. While I can understand that sentiment, I’m afraid it is total nonsense. It is a cliché that allows us as fans and spectators, sports federations, owners, sponsors and administrators to relieve ourselves of any social or moral responsibility. Continue reading

Steelworkers Will Judge Theresa May On Her Approach To Donald Trump's New Tariffs

PoliticsHome We’ve all been there, right? A tricky week at work, so you decide to start a trade war with the whole world. Having lost his longest serving aide, again chastising his “Mr Magoo” Attorney General, and it then becoming public knowledge that his son in law and senior White House adviser took half a billion dollars from senior bankers to help refinance his personal and business debts, Donald Trump decided to throw a dead cat on the table and announce blanket 25% tariffs on all US steel imports. Continue reading

Why I’m Fasting Today To Help End First-Past-The-Post

LabourList As we mark the centenary of women’s suffrage, I, along with politicians from across the political spectrum, campaigners and people from all walks of life, are today taking part in Make Votes Matter’s hungry for democracy initiative, a 24-hour hunger strike to call for a new voting system, one that well and truly represents the diverse nature of Britain today. That is because we know, inspired by the suffragettes and their struggle for real democracy, that that fight isn’t yet over! Continue reading

UK Risks Missing Brexit Boat

From the moment Theresa May announced her intention to trigger Article 50, it’s been clear that we were in a race against time. But few seem to realize that we have less than two months in which to land the most important and complex deal in our post-war history. The reality is that the British government has six weeks to decide on the basic model that will define the shape and nature of U.K.-EU relations for generations to come. Continue reading

Only By Speaking European Languages Will Britain Rebuild The Bridges Burned By Brexit

Times article with Luciana Berger We take it for granted that public figures from the rest of Europe can speak flawless English, as Emmanuel Macron did in his interview on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday. We expect the presidents and prime ministers of France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Sweden or Norway to be able to conduct their politics and diplomacy with us in English. Continue reading

The European Economic Area Offers An Opportunity To Stay In The Single Market And Control Movement Of Labour

Politics Home For almost eighteen months now the country has been grappling with the vexed question of how best to retain the benefits of the single market without having to accept the free movement of labour.   We know that if we were to cut our economy off from the single integrated market of 500 million consumers on our doorstep this would have a catastrophic impact on jobs, livelihoods and communities across the length and breadth of our country.  And we also know that the so-called ‘four freedoms’ which form the basis of the Single Market - ie the frictionless movement of goods, capital, services and labour across the EU - are indivisible. In other words, there can be no cherry-picking - if you want full participation in the Single Market then you have to accept all four of the four freedoms. Continue reading

My Interview With Nick Clegg

 (Photo credit: Times News Syndication) House Magazine The problem with writing anything about Brexit is that in the few days between first draft and pressing send the entire picture can change, multiple times. For example, when I sat down with Nick Clegg in Westminster on Monday 4 December, Theresa May was sitting down for her fateful lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker. All morning Number 10 had been briefing that a glorious new chapter in the negotiations was about to open: the Prime Minister had miraculously managed to conjure up a form of words on the Northern Irish border that was somehow going to satisfy the EU, the Irish government, the DUP and the Brextremists in her own party. Continue reading