EUROPEAN Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud has expressed regret at the “loss” of Ivan Rogers, Britain’s ambassador to the European Union.
Her compliments to his professionalism and knowledge may be entirely sincere, but assessment of him as a “tough” negotiator is not easily confirmed by results.
Rogers stood alongside David Cameron during his plea to Brussels for “reforms” to Britain’s relationship with the EU. Lavish promises were followed by modest proposals and, in finality, much ado about nothing.
The two men’s shared commitment to continued membership of an undemocratic bankers’ Europe trumped any ambition of altering links radically.
Rogers has made a virtue of “speak[ing] the truth to those in power,” which means talking up the difficulties of winning concessions from Brussels and consequently appearing more as the EU ambassador to Britain than vice versa. His resignation letter advises colleagues to “continue to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking,” leaving no room for doubt that, for all the references to professionalism and expertise, Rogers and his colleagues remain wedded to EU membership.
That’s why Remain camp luminaries such as Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell and former Tory Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt join EU politicians in bewailing his departure.
Why should Rogers have decided to jump ship now?
Apart from his remark about “ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking,” he cites not knowing what government negotiating priorities are.
This is partly because Cameron was so convinced of winning the EU referendum that he made no plans in the event of a Leave vote.
Theresa May, who was totally sold on the Remain position, including ex-chancellor George Osborne’s lies about the immediate disastrous economic effect of a Leave vote, has had to learn new lines.
She has also been thrown by the High Court decision that Parliament must have a role in framing a negotiating stance rather than being able to rely on the royal prerogative to slip through a narrow City-approved position. Supporting her undemocratic ploy by reference to poker games or giving away priorities and tactics is either disingenuous or devious.
Open debate on negotiating priorities is essential to democratise the process and ensure that the organised working class is not a hapless bystander.
The first priority is to accept, as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has done, that the people’s verdict — to leave the EU — is honoured fully. The second is to realise that non-membership of the EU makes several political and economic changes necessary and possible in Britain.
There must be no truck with partial or transitional arrangements that retain budget payments to Brussels, single market membership, European Court of Justice jurisdiction or Fortress Europe immigration rules that discriminate against non-EU citizens. Racism and xenophobia must have no place in the negotiations. EU citizens already living in Britain must be guaranteed rights of residence rather than exploitation as bargaining chips.
Human rights legislation, including membership of the non-EU European Court of Human Rights, should be retained while enacting any progressive EU social and environmental policies into British law.
Public ownership for our railways, gas, electricity, water and Royal Mail has to be the order of the day.
Taxation must be more fairly balanced, with higher rates for big business and the rich to fund investment for jobs, council housing, the NHS, education and living standards.
None of this will feature in Theresa May’s list of priorities, but it can offer a campaigning labour movement alternative to the Tories’ agenda to benefit the rich.
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