Monday, 30 January 2017

Brexit: and sovereignty and Devon

Ahead of the EU referendum on June 23, the Express & Echo invited a group of Devon business people to the Echo offices for a Brexit breakfast to discuss how the region’s economy could be affected if the UK votes to leave.

As one of the participants observed:

Everything around here is entirely practical from a business point of view, but people are likely to vote emotionally. If you took this to a dinner party, sovereignty and immigration would come up.

Brexit debate: Devon business leaders on the EU referendum | Exeter Express and Echo

East Devon MP Hugo Swire commented on 'sovereignty', also before the referendum:

While conceding the EU’s threat to Britain’s sovereignty ‘is a concern’, but said a balance needs to be struck between unbridled sovereignty and influence – with membership of the union ‘amplifying the UK’s power and influence on the world stage at this dangerous time’.

East Devon MP Hugo Swire reveals position on EU - News - Midweek Herald

Several months on, however, he will be supporting the Article 50 Bill next week:
Hugo Swire (@HugoSwire) | Twitter

On the other hand, there are South West MPs who will be defying their party whip:
Bristol MPs warn the Prime Minister: Working people will 'pay the price' of a hard Brexit | Bristol Post
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the dropping of public confidence in the job market for the South West


The notion of 'sovereignty' is a very tricky one to define or demonstrate:
Futures Forum: Of sovereignty and seasteading
Futures Forum: Food Sovereignty and Community Supported Agriculture

And the Brexit context has thrown up all sorts of issues around 'sovereignty' 
- including notions of local decision-making powers, devolution and democracy:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and devolution: "suppressing democracy and imposing control by unelected elites"
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the case for more horizontal, collaborative and diverse networks
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the art of 'subsidiarity': or how to devolve power
Futures Forum: Brexit: and a federal UK
Futures Forum: Brexit: and devolution in the South West

Another important notion of 'sovereignty' is economic independence:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and 'lost subsidies, export tariffs and increased competition'
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the new globalization

And this includes the TTIP:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
Futures Forum: TTIP, the NHS and the South-West 
Futures Forum: A look at the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Sidmouth Market Square: Saturday 11th Oct

The Guardian looked at this last month:

And then there’s foreign ownership of Britain’s infrastructure. 

Remember how May promised to scrutinise any proposed takeovers of such strategic assets as water, energy and transport? Well, last week, while the rightwing commentators were diligently huffing and puffing over Gina Miller at the supreme court, another kind of sovereignty was being covered on the City pages. The National Grid announced it would sell a majority of its gas pipelines to a consortium of largely overseas investors, including China and Qatar, and led by an Australian investment bank, Macquarie.

You may never have heard of Macquarie, but my guess is you’ve probably been one of its customers. The bank is known as the “millionaires’ factory” or the “vampire kangaroo” – and it owns a lot of the most prosaic parts of British life. You’ve been Macquaried if you’ve left your car in a National Car Park, or flown out of Glasgow, Southampton or Aberdeen or if you’re among its 14 million customers in Thames Water. And as of next spring, it will lead an international group with a 61% share in our biggest gas distribution network: that’s 82,000 miles of pipe, serving 11m homes and businesses across eastern England, the north-west and the West Midlands.

One of the canards about the referendum is that the decisive swing came from working-class voters furious at high immigration, and that therefore the primary issue that needs to be resolved in the next few years is who gets to stay in Britain and how. Whenever I hear that, I think of the voters I spoke to in south Wales just before the vote. True, all the leavers volunteered immigration as their main justification. But the longer we talked, in this area that remains almost exclusively white, the more it became clear that they were angry at something else – not the invisible refugees, nor far-off Brussels. One, Gareth Meek, told me: “I’m angry at the British government. They sold the country out. There’s nothing we own any more.” A multitude of frustrations, pushed through a binary vote.

What happens when Meek and his fellow voters realise that their vote for change – however loosely defined – means more of the same? When that call to take back control ends up with them playing the same old captive market, there to be ripped off by multinational capital. Who will take the blame then?

A Brexit betrayal is coming – but who will get the blame? | Aditya Chakrabortty | Opinion | The Guardian
Leavers are angry, for their lies will return to haunt them | Nick Cohen | Opinion | The Guardian

The UK government has been promising lots of foreign direct investment:
Britain has secured more than £15 billion of extra foreign investment since EU referendum - Telegraph
Davos: Theresa May hails UK as 'foreign investment hub' despite banks looking to move jobs abroad due to Brexit | The Independent

An example of 'foreign direct investment', or the 'foreign ownership of infrastructure', is happening big time at Hinkley:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and building Hinkley
Futures Forum: The issues of ownership and energy security @ Hinkley C >>> but 'business in the South West face the bitter disappointment of further delays'
Futures Forum: Energy infrastructure @ Hinkely C >>> losing control and paying tithes to Direct Foreign Investors

In fact, restrictions were put on the deal at the time:

The decision by the UK government to give the go ahead for the investment of French and Chinese investors in the Hinkley Point C on 15 September 2016 is therefore of significance beyond that project individually. The decision was made with a nod to the existing national security criteria but went further.

Towards a UK Investment Act? | Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP - JDSupra

But now the French are anxious about the future of the project:
GCR - News - Brexit adds cost and delay risk to Hinkley nuclear plant, EDF warns

And things might be cooling with China:
Beijing signals end of China-UK ‘golden age' - Financial Times
Goodbye military intervention, hello economic warfare - Financial Times

Meanwhile, the costs are stacking up:
Hinkley Point nuclear plant £32bn could be left for the taxpayers | Daily Mail Online


To summarise...

'Economic sovereignty' has to be all about small local businesses:
Futures Forum: Michael Shuman and economic localisation: "Those counties with the highest density of local and small business were those that actually had the highest level of per capita income growth and were doing the best job of reducing poverty."

And politically, we need to be much more transparent over issues of 'local sovereignty' :
Councils are ‘keeping a foot in the door’ on Devon and Somerset devolution deal - News - North Devon Gazette
South-West MPs much more worried about devolution deal than councillors or LEP | East Devon Watch

See also:
Futures Forum: Devolution and Local Enterprise Partnerships >>> "unaccountable to anyone and unrepresentative of the local economy"
Futures Forum: Exeter and a 'super council' >>> "Any new proposals for local government must be fully consulted on and that whatever structure emerges must be transparent and accountable to local people."

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