Another week of Brexit horrors?

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As well as the inauguration of President Trump to look forward to, although I would rather avoid the coverage, this week like many in the whole period since the result in June, has given much to talk about. I have picked three that caught my eye the most:

Firstly the pound has slumped to a  31-year low today with investors concerned by reports that Theresa May is heading for a hard Brexit from the EU. The pound has dropped 19% against the US dollar since the 24th June, with last October another low point, not long after the Conservative Party Conference, with the news we would leave the bloc by 2019. The pound’s latest drop comes ahead of a of a speech by Mrs May tomorrow (Tuseday), in which she is expected to spell out Britain’s negotiating strategy for Brexit.

Secondly power sharing in Northern Ireland is on the verge of collapse after Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness pulled out of the executive last week, over how a government scheme funded by the taxpayer was handled. From this evening, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire will have the authority to trigger new elections, in the hope that new politicians will be returned to the parliament and power-sharing can then continue. An election has now been called for the 2nd March however if still issues and Stormont is collapsed, Theresa May might be unable to trigger Article 50 and begin the withdrawal process from the EU, as Northern Irish politicians will not be sitting in parliament. This could lead a delay of several months as NI politicians would not be able to approve Brexit plans.

Thirdly in his first UK interview with former Justice Secretary Michael Gove for the Times; Mr Trump boosted Brexit supporters’ hopes of a quick US-UK trade deal, which would begin soon after 2019. However Emily Thornberry, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, raised the prospect of the UK being forced to agree to unpopular aspects if any agreement was rushed. Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the interview had exposed Mr Trump’s opposition to helping refugees and environmental protections and his backing for President Putin. Tim Said: “I don’t know the shape of the Europe that Trump dreams of but I know it frightens me.”

This eventful and divisive period in the history of the country, has shown up many flaws in a referendum campaign I don’t believe should of been allowed in the first place. There was no proper plan for a Leave win before the 23rd June, and nothing has given me confidence since. The thought of leaving also makes me feel sick and have a sense of dread, similar words used by Monica Grady, of the Open University on BBC Question time last week. The whole talk of Brexit has really shown how polarised political views in the country have become, and I really hope politicians and the electorate can be shown what the next step means, before we jump to take us all down that road.


Great start to 2017 in Cornwall.

After a couple of days spent at my parents house over my birthday and new year I headed down to Cornwall. There was time a stop at Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor, made famous by the writing of Daphne du Maurier which offers great views over the moor, a bite to eat, a shop, rooms to stay (if your brave enough with ghost stories) and a small museum.

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View from Jamaica Inn

Our next stop as National trust members was a look around Trelissick Gardens in the winter sun. The Gardens are worth a visit and walk around in any season, and offered beautiful views over Carrick Roads in the winter sun. There was even a chance in the festive period to get an “elfie” by the Christmas tree.

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View over the Carrick Roads

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Winter colour

As the afternoon drew on we headed into Falmouth for St Michael’s Hotel, with a large garden down to the beach and promenade. This was my first visit to the hotel and Falmouth and can’t fault anything, with exceptional service and cleanliness throughout. I booked with my partner after seeing a January deal with a 3 course meal, and my parents booked when I mentioned it, which was lovely.

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Sunset over Falmouth

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Balcony over the sea

It was also a great surprise my mum got us an upgrade to a seaview room with a huge balcony to watch the sun rising and setting over the sea 🙂 The room was large and luxurious with dressing gowns and slippers to use, and kept spotless. The pool was lovely and warm, along with a well kept Jacuzzi, Sauna and steam room. There is also a gym which my partner used and had a lot to offer. The ambiance of the hotel reminded me of being on a small cruise ship with many personal touches.

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Christmas tree in the bar

The food at breakfast and dinner was delicious and with a great choice of options. Unfortunately for myself on the second night I was wasn’t feeling great so had to miss dinner, but the receptionist and other staff were fantastic and refunded me the dinner charge which I didn’t expect, and feel all would go out of their way to help offering the best service.

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View over the Bay.

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View over to St Mawes

On the second day I also felt energised after taking a 7 mile walk along the coast in the winter sun seeing the breathtaking views of the bay as we went. I would recommend St Michael’s and Falmouth, and will definitely return again.

A new start in 2017 and trying to push past the negatives.

I like many am trying to see 2017 as a new start and moving on from the negatives in the world and I experienced in 2016 although there were many good moments. My top 16  great moments of 2016 were:

1. Firewalk raising money for Warrington Disability Partnership.

2. Starting to learning to Drive after a 10 year break.

3. Steam Train ride in Llanberis, Wales.

4. Attending a conference at the Maritime museum in Liverpool on the way forward with the referendum result.  

5. Listening to a lecture by Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England.

6. Short breaks on the Isle of Wight in May and November.

7. Helping out at the 6,000 prize tombola with WDP.

8. Week long cruise on Britannia around La Rochelle, Bilbao, Last Coruna and Guernsey.

9. Trip up to Northumberland early in the year.

10. Lymm Transport Day with Friends of Warrington Transporter Bridge. 

11. Day at Chester Zoo.

12. Afternoon at NT Croome Court near Worcester for my birthday.

13. Keeping up my with blog and writing.

14. Meal out for the 5th Anniversary of meeting my partner Paul Sapple in early May.

15. Creating underground style maps including Warrington, Chester & the Isle of Wight.

16. My cat Jasper getting better after being ill.

As talked about in a previous post on anxiety and  depression, both of which I have experienced throughout my adult live, and have spent days stuck in the house and having feelings of inadequacy in regard to employment. I constantly compare myself to others, and get into a cycle of feeling like I am not worth as much as others, as haven’t “made it yet”. Application forms and interviews I do dread at times with the feeling I won’t be good enough so what is the point? I know I have made mistakes in a couple of jobs I didn’t enjoy and have feelings of guilt about letting myself and others down. I also know have at times procrastinated not knowing which way to go next.

Although I know I am lucky relatively living in a house, get the food I need, have a loving partner, and some great family and friends, and get to visit places I enjoy going to. I need to remember my positives of gaining my degree and the community groups I have been involved with locally.

This new year should be the one I look forward and push past the negatives, and start to train myself to think “make it happen” in regard to employment and feelings of achievement instead of waiting around for something that may never come along.

Supreme Court Article 50 ‘Brexit’ Appeal Summary

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Day One: 5/12

The first morning began by making an order to protect claimants from physical harm or harassment. The Supreme Court then invited parties to indicate whether they want any Justices to stand down, with the parties universally content with court.

The morning session was about general but fundamental points on the royal prerogative, as the prerequisite of the government’s case that is has the power to use this prerogative when triggering article 50.

Jeremy Wright AG said it is perfectly proper that Claimants should bring the case as a “very important principle of open justice”, and perfectly proper that the Supreme Court should hear it. He also says foreign affairs prerogative is not an ancient relic but a modern necessity, and the imposition by the SC of a precondition (of Parliamentary action) that Parliament itself did not impose upsets a delicate balance.

James Eadie QC on behalf of the government said prerogative doesn’t stem from statute, it is limited by statute, and the continued existence and exercise of prerogative powers is subject to control (implicitly: only) when Parliament chooses to do so. Eadie developed this as part of his written case: (thanks to Jolyon Maugham QC for the tweets on this)

The Supreme Court justices asked a few questions, many of which seemed simple but went to the heart of the government’s case. Lord Sumption asked about the nature of the prerogative power: was it a power to decide things that could change domestic law or something more general?

On the afternoon session; about the relationship between the prerogative and the legislation passed by the UK parliament giving effect to EU law, the government continued to set out its case but it encountered hard judicial questioning.

Day Two: 6/12

On this Tuesday morning the Government continued and finished setting out it’s case on this appeal. The session began with James Eadie QC continuing his adress to the court. His main submissions concerned the legal significance of the 2015 referendum legislation and the importance of the royal prerogative in regard to foreign affairs.

Following on from Mr Eadie was another government minister, the Scottish advocate-general, Lord Keen. Lord Keen, a well-known and successful lawyer, covered the Scottish and Welsh devolution points for the UK government, and his legal argument was rather simple: there were no devolution issues in regard to Scotland and Wales.

The devolution issues in this appeal make the reach of this appeal wider than that of the High Court decision. In principle, a devolution point may turn the case, and therefore the dismissive approach of the UK government to the Scottish and Welsh legal arguments may turn out to be counter-productive.

The appeal continues into the afternoon, with submissions in favour of the UK government from the attorney-general of Northern Ireland, as the Supreme Court is dealing with two reference from Northern Irish courts as part of the appeal. From mid-afternoon Lord Pannick QC, the lead barrister for the claimants in the appeal, those who are seeking a declaration by the court that the government alone cannot just use the royal prerogative to take the UK out of the EU, the whole of parliament needs a say.

Lord Pannick’s submissions were framed very straightforward, and  contended that the Referendum Act 2015 itself did not provide any legal basis for the government to invoke Article 50. His advocacy overshadowed the other submissions made on Tuesday afternoon, which were on the potentially significant issue of Northern Ireland. On behalf of the Northern Irish government, it was submitted that there is nothing in the Good Friday Agreement or any relevant legislation that required primary legislation and the peace settlement would be unaffected by Brexit.

Day Three: 7/12

Lord Pannick continued with his submissions on the Wednesday morning, with the main focus being the relationship between parliament and the referendum result. In particular, the question was posed: what was the legal rather than the political significance of the Referendum Act 2015 and the referendum itself from it, resulting in a vote to leave the EU in June 2016?

For the claimants, the Lord contended that the referendum had no legal effect or at least no legal effect so strong as to limit parliamentary sovereignty or violate fundamental rights. For him there was a balancing act: whatever the significance of the referendum result, it would not be sufficient to outweigh the core doctrine of the sovereignty of parliament, or the principle that rights can only be taken away by express and deliberate provisions.

It could be said to be significant that the Supreme Court justices pressed Lord Pannick on the point of the constitutional significance, if any, of the Referendum Act 2015. The Supreme Court could be said to be approaching the issue with a sense of, to use a legal phrase, anxious scrutiny.

Lord Pannick was then followed by the other claimant lawyer, Dominic Chambers QC. His submissions were about parliamentary sovereignty in general, and about how parliaments and the executive usually deal with treaty-making in detail.  Mr Chambers continued for a short while in the afternoon, and then the case is turned over to the interveners and interested parties, including the Northern Irish parties, and the Scottish and Welsh governments.

Brexit in the context of these two devolved nations raises new and  important legal issues it can be argued, with what happens in respect of both can shape what happens in England. .The submissions by David Scoffield QC (Northern Ireland), Ronan Lavery QC (Northern Ireland), and James Wolffe QC on behalf of the Edinburgh government; mean the Supreme Court judgment will have to range far wider than the narrow issues of parliament versus prerogative. Mr Wolffe said there would have to be formal consultation with Scotland and special legislation, with the representatives of Northern Ireland arguing similarly.

Day Four: 8/12 

On the morning of the final day, the focus shifted to the individuals and their families who may be affected by the consequences of an Article 50 notification. Before this the Lord Advocate were submissions made on behalf of the government of Wales. As with Scotland, the Welsh government argues that its devolution settlement is such that it is not open to the London government to make such a fundamental decision without appropriate legislation and involvement of the devolved government.

Helen Mountfield QC, representing the crowd-funded “people’s challenge” on behalf of various individuals (including Grahame Pigney and citizens of Gibraltar) whose rights would be affected. Ms Mountfield set out how the prerogative powers, which the government argue allow it to trigger Article 50 should not be used to attack such rights. She scathingly compared the government’s arguments from silence on the availability of the prerogative to those who claim that a lack of evidence does not disprove the existence of the Loch Ness monster.

One powerful set of submissions were made by Manjit Gill QC on behalf of EU citizens in the UK. He contended, with evident passion, that such citizens face deportation when Brexit officially occurs.

The final session on the Thursday afternoon was dominated by the government’s reply. To meet the devolution arguments, Lord Keen put forward the view that the devolution legislation  did not stop Westminster and Whitehall from doing as they wished. The rule was merely a self-denying ordinance. Mr Eadie made some strong points on how the Referendum Act 2015 meant that parliament had, in advance, decided no further legislation would be needed.

It does appear that the real reason for this case coming forward is not some clash of grand constitutional principle, but a simple lack of forethought by legislators writing the Referendum Act 2015.

The Court was adjourned with  the judgment likely to be handed down in January. Until then, Theresa Man is bound by the high court declaration and it would be unlawful for her to make the Article 50 notification, and like the rest of us will have to await the decision.

Special thanks to David Allen Green for his commentary in the Financial Times:

The Spectre of Monetarism

On Monday (5/12) I had the privilege to listen to the speech given by the Governor of the Bank of England at the Roscoe Lecture in Liverpool’s BT Convetion Centre, on behalf of Liverpool John Moores University. Sir Jon Murphy; the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, and the custodian and chair of the Roscoe lectures introduced Mark Carney on this 144th lecture, of the longest public lecture series in the country. He compared the governor Mark Carney to William Roscoe; who has been described as ‘Liverpool’s greatest citizen’ and the founding father of the University, as both men of extraordinary talents. Sir Jon Murphy also talked about saving his pocket money (10 shillings) as a boy for a Subbuteo football game team, and got in a quip about Dr Carney being on the Everton ‘blue’ side while himself a Liverpool ‘red’ supporter, although both have a dislike of Arsenal to bring them together.

Mark Carney spoke about monetary policy and inequality, backed up by data to try and assess what is really going on, and fished with a question and answer session at the end of the hour. He began his speech with “real incomes have been falling for a decade”, with “the legacy of a searing financial crisis weighing on confidence and growth” and a time where “the very nature of work is being disrupted by a technological revolution.” This was compared to the middle of the 19th century, with Liverpool in the midst of a “golden age, where this kind of revolution is changing the nature of work again.

You could “substitute Northern Rock for Overend Gurney; Uber and machine learning for the Spinning Jenny and the steam engine; and Twitter for the telegraph; and you have dynamics that echo those of 150 years ago.”

He set out to discuss during this lecture the role of monetary policy in this time of great disruption, while focusing on the underlying causes and consequences of weak real income growth and inequality across the advanced world.

A recording and a transcript of the lecture including charts on income and growth can be found here:

Dr Carney focused on three priorities as a way to move forward:

  1. Economists must clearly acknowledge the challenges we face, including the realities of uneven gains from trade and technology.
  2. We must grow our economy by re-balancing the mix of monetary policy, fiscal policy and structural reforms.
  3. We need to move towards more inclusive growth where everyone has a stake in globalisation.

In regard to globalisation “for the societies of free-trading, networked countries to prosper, they must first re-distribute some of the gains from trade and technology, and then re-skill and reconnect all of their citizens. By doing so, they can put individuals back in control.”

He started summing up as with “the MPC (Monetary Policy committee) indicated in the spring that the impact of a vote to leave the EU on inflation would be the product of its impact on demand, supply and the exchange rate, and it stressed then that the implications for monetary policy would not be automatic.”

Dr Carney’s final words before taking questions were: “Whatever economic developments and prospects, the MPC will always set monetary policy to maintain price stability and promote the good of the people of the United Kingdom. As it did when it was the only game in town after the global financial crisis; and as it will going forward, in better balance with fiscal and structural policies. Monetary policy will continue its good work as the UK economy adjusts to new opportunities with Europe and the rest of the world. In the end, monetary policy isn’t a spectre but a friendly ghost.”

The Q&A session was run by LJMU Honorary Fellow, and radio broadcaster Roger Philips. The first question was regarding Liverpool as a strong remain city from the referendum, with the EU helping to create a thriving city; “What can we do to carry on, after our exit from the European Union?” Dr Carney answer touched on the progress that has been made with tourism and retail, “built on the historic strengths of Liverpool”, and entrepreneurs who can think of what is next, who can push the attractiveness of the city without looking to the EU for funds, while mentioning the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ as a way of linking the country.

The Second question was about what would the EU look like in 10 years time? “It will be smaller by one country”, and Euro currency area will have to “take some difficult decisions  to deepen some aspects of integration in those economies”including the labour market, which will be a challenging process in his view. There was a discussion on referendums around Europe, and the challenge of making sure people are skilled for any changes in the job market. Another question on helping the poorest had the answer about keeping “inflation on track”, as deflation leads to debts just building up and up, with a “sweet spot of around 2%” being the best.

The lecture concluded with LJMU vice-chancellor Prof Nigel Weatherill presenting the Governor with a Liver Bird statue, specially created by sculptor and LJMU Honorary Fellow Emma Rodgers.  I felt this had been a well thought out lecture, with a lot to take away and think about as we all move forward with the uncertainties ahead, not just from the referendum result, but cultural and technological changes that affect the monetary system and all our lives.

Mark Carney

The Fightback is Growing

The result in Richmond Park with Sarah Olney of the Liberal Democrats overturning Zac Goldsmith’s 23,015 vote majority is significant, and may lead to a pattern moving forward.

Zac may have said as he stood down from the Conservative Party over the issue of Heathrow Expansion, but  Sarah is also opposed to the third runway, and fought the campaign on the issue of Brexit. The other five candidates including Labour also lost their deposits as they did not receive enough votes, with Ms Olney polling 20,510 votes to Mr Goldsmith’s 18,638. The Conservative Party, UK Independence Party and Green Party did not field candidates, as they felt would further split the votes in favour of the other contender they were furthest from supporting.

I have a lot of respect for Sarah, who only joined the party recently like myself, who feel the country is heading to an uncertain future and being worse of, unless we fight for what we think is right.

After the result was announced she said: “The people of Richmond Park and North Kingston have sent a shockwave through this Conservative Brexit government, and our message is clear – we do not want a hard Brexit.”

“We do not want to be pulled out of the single market, and we will not let intolerance, division and fear win.”

She added that if Article 50; the legal process that sparks Britain’s exit from the EU, is put to a parliamentary vote, she will vote against it. Zac held the opposite view as a Leave campaigner even though over 70% of the constituency voted Remain.

The fightback is definitely on the way, which begun with Liz Leffman’s second place result in Witney after David Cameron stood down, and I can see more shock waves on the horizon next week with the Supreme Court case.


Exit from the European Union: Article 50, Parliament and the Prerogative in the UK Courts

On Monday afternoon (28/11) I had the opportunity to go along to a seminar on the above topic at the University of Liverpool. The panel discussion was led by Adam Tucker; Constitutional Lawyer at the University, and Mike Gordon; Senior Lecturer in Constitutional Law, also at the University.

The discussion began with a brief mention of the recent litigation on Article 50 process at the High Court, and the appeal next week at the Supreme Court. As there has been so much discussion on the case it seemed only right to hold a discussion at this time. The two main comments were there has been a lot of talk of the case being “obviously wrong or obviously right”, and politics does play a part but the discussion today will favour common law rules.

The first speaker was Professor Aileen McHarg of Public Law at the University of Strathclyde who focused on the constitutional impact of the case, with the judiciary being in a “difficult position”. The Miller case litigation can be seen as “an attempt to halt Brexit” with the Liberal Democrats and 80 other MP’s creating a stumbling block in Parliament leading to delays. “The time to argue process was before the referendum, not now”, and yes the referendum was not binding but expected to be followed. Prof McHarg also added that “parliamentary sovereignty does not mean should decide everything”, and has the view of many that “vetoing Brexit could be undemocratic”, and the vote should be respected. However “it is not clear what it means and Parliament should have a say” on that.

Prof McHarg made two main points; with the first being the Miller case doesn’t guarantee a parliamentary say as a bill could just be approved, and “parliament is not in any better decision than the government to decide.” The second point is the territorial dimension e.g., Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the Scottish and Welsh assemblies intervening in the Miller case. This could be “democratically problematic and could lead to resentment” if this led to blocking Brexit. The Scottish government have felt “forced to intervene in the case”, which could have decided behind closed doors and avoided this conflict. The strictly legal rules here will “force the courts to make a choice” on this difficult decision where “the law is not clear”, and the attacks against the judges have not been excusable. The “irony of the Brexit vote to restore constitution has led to this litigation”.

The second speaker was Dr Richard Kirkham; Senior Lecturer from the University of Sheffield. Dr Kirkham spoke on the Courts and the duty to exercise restraint. The “deeper issue is about how we interpret law”, which the case will have to decide. The real problem was in 2015 when the referendum act was created as “the worst bit of legislation ever written”, as included nothing about what happens afterwards. Dr Kirkham gave the prediction that the result “should be respected whatever”, and this could be a “delaying tactic but not a mistake”, as a part of political constitution and democracy. The conduit argument of joining the European Community with the ECA in 1972 was mentioned quoting J. Finnis as an “alternative rights based analysis”, where the “prerogative power includes the right to make or break treaties”, and only a “statutory right created by Parliament that can not be changed.” The decision in the Miller case is “not a bad example of judicial activism”, the case would require activism either way. The main problem leading to this mess after the referendum is that there was “very little governance in the 2015 act”.

The third speaker was Dr Hélène Tyrrell; Lecturer on Public Law from the University of Newcastle, who focused on the European Communities Act from 1972 and the narrow legal question about the scope of the prerogative power. She explained that it was “not a question on whether parliament should have a say, but whether the executive (PM) have the authority?”. In the Divisional Court, the Government argued that authority is given by the prerogative power to conduct foreign affairs. The claimants argued (successfully) the contrary, on the basis that the effect of an Article 50 notification would “frustrate” the ECA 1972. The claimant’s arguments have since been challenged by a number of academics, who suggest that the statute (ECA) should be understood as merely ‘ambulatory’ (a ‘gateway’ a ‘conduit’, a ‘filter’) for the rights existing on the international plane. If that is the case, then an A50 notification affects rights on the international plane only, not rights found in domestic law. That would be well within the foreign affairs prerogative. Dr Tyrrell was not persuaded by those arguments, giving reasons as to why the analogical reasoning was not strong enough to support it. She concluded with some general reflections, including a feeling that the Supreme Court will be under “enormous pressure to give an unanimous decision”, even if for slightly different reasons. Although it will be more interesting for the academics, if they do not!

The fourth speaker was Professor of Law; TT Arvind, also from the University of Newcastle who began talking about the broad issue with the whole spectrum of hard Brexit to soft Brexit, as no one knows what agreement we will get. The key question is “who should decide what Brexit looks like; the government or Parliament ?” TT Arvind feels it is “a tragedy that the case has come to court”.

Mike Gordon gave a sum up point of this being a fascinating debate that we are all engaged in, and now contextually more informed. There was some time for a Q&A from the audience with the first question being; “Would a codified constitution make our lives easier?” The answer given was that there was nothing on this before the referendum, and there would be “problems creating a written constitution” as there are “profound differences of opinion on what democracy means.”

Professor Michael Dougan of EU law at Liverpool, was in the audience and added some comments that the decision could be seen to be more political than to do with law. He added that this is a major “defining moment for 100 years” politically, legally and economically. “EU rights and obligations have been transmitted into domestic law” over the last few decades, and “the case will set a tone in an increasing power of the executive.”  It was agreed by the panel that UKIP created this referendum, and now we have a debate about “the will of the people versus law”, and “do we need more democracy or less?” The referendum “was a travesty and should not have been allowed like it was”, as was self serving on both sides and is a “massively grave case for concern.” Also there is a “technical nightmare with contracts with the EU needing to be agreed on a case by case basis”.

UK Cities, Universities and Businesses after the Referendum: Risks and Opportunities

This week I had the chance to attend a superb conference on Brexit at the Maritime Museum, on the Albert Dock in Liverpool. The day was put together and co-ordinated by Professor Michael Parkinson, and the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice at the University of Liverpool.

The conference included some fantastic speakers including Lord Heseltine; Professor Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool; Professor Michael Dougan of European Law, also at the University; and Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool. There were also business leaders, and commentators including Chris Hearld, Senior Partner of KPMG; Ed Cox, Director of IPPR North; and Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of the Centre for Cities.

Prof Michael Parkinson began the conference with the major points that Brexit is the most “crucially important issue since the Second World War”, and makes the way ahead domestically and internationally uncertain. Cities, Universities and Businesses will be important in “planning for the long and winding road ahead”, and have to brave and say what it is we want. He stated we can have the best opportunities and discussions to understand what happened, while minimising risks, and coming up with key action points.

Lord Heseltine was then introduced as being supportive of the city & university, and a committed European & businessman. He started his speech with there are “a lot of questions on the agenda, and many unanswerable”. When he first came to Liverpool as an MP and Cabinet minister the Albert Dock was written off, but now has been transformed along with the city. When looking to the future remember how Liverpool has changed since 1979, and it will be unrecognisable in the future again. There will be a “re-configuration of power” with the public and private sectors, including universities and local authorities working together. “However “in politics your solutions create the next generation of problems”. Lord Hesletine sees education as one of Britain’s biggest problems, with literacy and numeracy standards at primary level.  Devolution by a communication revolution and change can lead to the creation of “local visions and involve communities in making them.” Unemployment should also be at the top of the devolution agenda in this community based approach. One of his ideas links to his passion as a horticulturalist, as communities can get together regenerating open spaces while learning new skills.

He believes there is a “toxic mix when living standards freeze” and led to the vote to Leave in June. It is in “Britain’s self interest to be in Europe”, with all 27 other countries agreeing, and “Europe is significant as changed into a parliamentary democracy”, and has led to peace across the continent. The 27 other Eu nations have to be persuaded during negotiations, and there are “hundreds of versions of Brexit that could be made, so uncertainty.” “Rising inflation could see wages not keeping up with price rises”, and  public opinion is also not static, and “didn’t stop in June”  and could lead to re-thinking in parliament. Elections in France and Germany next year could also lead to changes in their governments, possibly more right-wing following from the vote here and Donald Trump in the US. The speech was ended with there is a “serious prolonged period of uncertainty ahead.” There was a huge round of applause for this great start to an inspiring day of speeches and discussion.

Vice Chancellor; Prof Janet Beer was the next speaker, who talked about how will universities sustain their European engagement? She spoke about embracing the challenge of the Leave vote, and looking at the opportunities. “Let`s make the university an attractive place for international students”, as they continue to be a success story for the UK. They need “growth locally”, be “globally connected”, and have the “right investment from government to thrive outside of the EU”. “Universities in the UK are adaptable and forward looking, and with the right support/investment” can play vital role in our  global success. She would also “like to see commitment from government to replace lost research funding from exit of the EU”. The five main points she mentioned in regard to universities were:

  • Encouraging students from around the world to study in the UK
  • Enhancing international research collaboration
  • Making the UK an attractive destination for talented international university staff
  • Increasing public investment in research and innovation
  • Giving UK students and staff access to global opportunities

Prof Beer also highlighted the positive financial impact of universities on the UK’s economy, a figure she put at £73 million annually, whilst calling for an end to the uncertainty surrounding EU students access to finance and tuition fees for those beginning studies in 2018/19.

Prof Michael Dougan; who specialises in EU law, and had videos go viral online during the referendum campaign was next up, before a short coffee break. He discussed how the UK legal system will adapt to the leaving the EU, and constitutional issues. There are “uncertain challenges ahead” in this “de-europeanisation” to tackle this change, and there is “no simple solution” in how the government creates a strategy to preserve the legal system. There will also be changes in the EU itself, and from elsewhere and “Brexit is only one of it’s problems”, although the “referendum has given the EU an urgency to reform. Alison McGovern MP asked about will elections in France and Germany upset reforms, which could lead to more uncertainty ahead. His last point was “it is still possible to stop Brexit legally, but the longer we wait the more it becomes accepted fact.”

Chris Hearld, Senior Partner at KPMG North spoke about the private sector’s views of risks and opportunities with Brexit. He said that Brexit was  a poke in eye for businesses” in the Northern Powerhouse but north stays pragmatic, even with the uncertainty. Do some feel globalisation has left them behind so voted leave? There are “more risks then upsides”, and will be volatility ahead in foreign exchange markets, and a visible positioning on pricing, with inflation and squeezed margins. He stressed the implications for the grocery sector with “Brexit was a marmite issue, and now marmite is a Brexit issue”. In the mid term access to skills here isn’t working so skilled migrant labour is needed, and the “weakness of the pound has lowered conversion into other currencies” for migrants, meaning harder to encourage over here. Some positives however could be a “fundamental re-think on regional growth” like the Northern Powerhouse, the “skills agenda” and thinking innovatively.”Benefits will come long term”, and “let`s have a consistent narrative to drive forward northern businesses”, and challenge the uncertainty.

Jo Beall, as Director of Education and Society of the British Council spoke about; Global Britain beyond Brexit. Jo said “we have many unique soft power assets that we can be proud of”, and need to “keep up the role of Britain in the world”. Resentment can’t be allowed to take over, with education being key here, as a “global survey found a big fall in the number of young people interested in coming to UK” to visit, study or work after Brexit. She said the “UK needs to continue bidding into Horizon 2020 (EU science funding), and let`s be active and not self limiting.” The politics of resentment needs to be challenged as we show Britain is outward looking and not xenophobic.

Professor Philip McCann of the University of Groningen; who holds the Endowed Chair of Economic Geography spoke next, about how UK city regions have benefited from Europe, and must continue to do so in future. His argument illustrated the continued north-south divide in UK which Brexit will not fix, “with the places that voted to leave are the most economically dependent on EU”, e.g in north and midlands. There is “widespread opportunities for policy learning from Europe” as the UK is the “most centralised country that has governed the most unequal society.” Also no regions in the Netherlands are as poor as people in the south east of England. He concluded while quoting his book; The UK Regional-National Economic Problem: Geography, Globalisation and Governance, that the UK is un-remarkable and “average on everything” when looking at statistics.

The UK Regiona-National Economic Problem

After a tasty buffet lunch with the chance to network; Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of the Centre for Cities spoke about; what’s next for UK cities after Brexit? Understanding what is next after the referendum and US elections needs to be be clearer. “Uncertainty over months and years” will lead to investments and jobs being paused and possibly cancelled. “If businesses don’t know soon, they will push the button anyway because they can`t handle uncertainty”. We need to make more of our cities with access to skills, a change to strategy moving forward. “International sister cities” should be found to “boost economic collaboration” and we need to stay engaged with European cities, and more longer term planning is needed to evolve in a “fast changing environment”.

Ed Cox, Director of IPPR North; spoke about how, will and should the North respond? He talked about “making the North of England the place  to be in Europe”and create a vision of seeing it’s potential. Strategies have got to be “place based and make room for regional differences”. The Northern Powerhouse is the closest we have to the kind of vision we could have linking the cities together but a “Great North Plan based on strengths, assets and city region collaboration” should be made.  He showed a chart outlining 6 elements which will bring things together in a 20 year period:

The Mayor of Liverpool; Joe Anderson had sometime to come and give a talk during his busy schedule on; How is Liverpool rising to the challenge? He talked about the particular implication for ethnic communities in Liverpool, and fighting racism by getting faith leaders together to make everyone feel welcome. “As a proud European, the vote was a shock and am proud Liverpool voted Remain”, especially being a cosmopolitan and welcoming city. The mayor said it is important we continue with events, partnerships and investments to “present Liverpool as a core city in England and the UK”. Forums like this need to be continued and we need to think ahead while “being positive”.

The last session before a summary at the end of this engaging and inspiring day was a panel discussion on; What is to be done? On the panel were; Colin Sinclair, Chief Executive of the Liverpool Knowledge Quarter; Asif Hamid, Interim Chair of Liverpool City Region LEP; Max Steinberg, Chief Executive of Liverpool Vision and; Professor Gary Cook of the Management School at the University of Liverpool. Asif Hamid talked about being proud of this great city, and there are opportunities for investment. Max Steinberg outlined the risks including inflation rise, sterling continuing to be volatile, and businesses not surviving. There are opportunities however with marketing, trade and partnerships with China, and investing in technology to make prices competitive. Max also said “Brexit might not mean Brexit, and is still room to play and admit mistakes”. Colin Sinclair talked about the Knowledge Quarter being a large part of the city centre, and the city being one of “opportunity and optimism”. An audience member commented that “Liverpool is too male” and should be more female voices moving forward. A hard Brexit will not be costless says Gary Cook, and mythologies about trade, inward investment and immigration need to be challenged.

Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council; Ged Fitzgerald closed  superb a day of discussion with there are challenges and we are”all looking for certainty” in the economy, trade, universities and many other areas. In his own words “Brexit won’t stall the success of Liverpool”, and we can get on with the opportunities by building on partnership, networks and collaborations. Ged thanked all the speakers and Prof Parkinson for the conference which was put together incredibly well in my view. It was apparent Prof Parkinson had spent much time creating a successful day, with a chance for questions and comments from the audience. I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to attend, and learnt a lot from the different perspectives of the speakers.

The debate surrounding Brexit and what it means is far from over, and from what I have seen there has been no proper plan outlined on how best to carry out this exit; before or since the referendum result in June. Brexit may still happen but there is many political and legal reasons why it could prove to be impossible to deliver, and many will keep on the fight against. So is Brexit a risk or opportunity?, that is for us to decide as we move forward with optimism, in this time of uncertainty.

November break on the Island

Were lucky enough to win a free return on Red Funnel after staying on the Isle of Wight back in May after filling in their customer survey, so booked a short autumn break. There were no problems on the drive down from the North West into Southampton so had a few hours looking around. There was even time for a drink at Banana Wharf in Ocean Village on a sunny November afternoon.

Ocean Village, Southampton

The ferry trip over to East Cowes was calm and a great start to our weekend break. We had found a small house in Shanklin to rent for the three nights, which was modern and included everything you would need. The house called Driftwood was close to pubs, restaurants and shops, and a short walk down to the seafront. The weather was fine apart from some rain on the Saturday, and I managed to capture the sea looking wild in Sandown.

Sandown Beach in the rain

I would say even on a wet day in November there is still plenty to do, with the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown having a free open weekend. There were stalls showing fossils and old coins from local groups, and students of the University of Portsmouth. The msueum is great for children but would say adults would find the exhibition interesting if have an interest in fossils and dinosaurs. The building itself is well designed with the roof in the shape of a giant pterosaur.

Dinosaur Isle

The rest of Saturday was spent looking around the Garlic Farm shop buying a few tasty products, and some time at Arreton Barns Craft Village. I would recommend a drink or a meal at the Dairyman’s Daughter there with a choice of drinks and large portions, especially with the warm fire on a cold day. A few other pubs worth a mention are both in Shanklin; The Crab Inn situated in the Old Village which offers value meals during the week, and The Steamer on the Seafront. This was my second time at the Steamer and can’t fault anything. We came by on a Saturday evening with live music from Jukebox Jazz, which gave a great atmosphere while eating delicious meals, in large portions and great value.

Jazz at the Steamer Inn

We spent sometime taking in the views driving to the Needles on another sunny day, and took the short walk up to the tea room at the old battery, with views over to the Lighthouse. After October the family-friendly attractions and the chairlift may be closed but there is still a chance to see the Glassblowing and Sweet Manufactory, along with refreshments, and the large shop for any souvenirs or gifts.

The Needles

View from the Old Battery

On the Monday just before we left on the ferry, there was few hours spent around Seaview on the Eastern side of the Island, and some lunch at Briddlesford Lodge Farm, which would recommend for the quality of local produce.

View towards Portsmouth from Seaview

Guernsey Cows on the Farm

Leaving the Island 😦

I have only been back two days and is something about the place that makes you wanting to go back for more, with so much to do even in winter. There is the chance also to just relax away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland, giving you a piece of Pure Island Happiness.

Two divided nations? Time to move forward in unity!

I woke up to the news that Donald Trump was ahead in the Presidential race, and was as shocked and filled with disbelief as many I know. As the news came in that Hillary Clinton conceded and the markets across Asia and Europe were sent into turmoil, I felt a worry again close to what had felt on the 24th June after the EU referendum result.

Image result for donald trump

I don’t completely understand how an US election works, as know the British system is different, but can see what policy ideas the new President elect has put across. He has talked about repatriating jobs, building infrastructure and dealing with internal programs. This has been discussed as inward looking, which goes with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, as has parallels with what is going on here surrounding the EU referendum.

Has the result over in America been the same as it was here with people who voted Trump not expecting him to win? Also I find it interesting that many who voted for Brexit can’t see the similarity between the campaigns even though they used slogans like “Make America Great Again” and “Take Back Control”. I see both results as a protest vote against a system that may have flaws but can be worked on. This protest is based on lies and stoking up division, and is not people power, but could make us all worse off in the long term. Trump himself used Brexit plus as what his win would be like, and even Nigel Farage came over to help him campaign.

It could be said that these results have been brought on by fear, insecurity and anger in the establishment, even though could be argued these campaigners and leaders are part of the rich elite themselves. Some have argued that Trump’s rhetoric used during the election could be just words and will appear more moderate as he takes up office, the world will be watching as his term starts in January.

I do wonder what happens now as my shock is subsiding, but feel we need to move forward and heal the division that seems to be spreading from the UK to the USA and hopefully not beyond. I still believe Brexit can be stopped with the uncertainty created in trade, culturally and influence. We can stand united with our neighbours across Europe for our national interest and work to build a country and world we can be proud of.