Latest from our Blog


Dianne Hayter speech in the House of Lords, Monday 23rd July 2018

It would be churlish not to welcome the appearance of the White Paper – albeit a year after needed, since it has to be reflected in the “Political Declaration” of the Withdrawal Agreement.

But, my Lords, it’s a White Paper: 

  • unacceptable to two Cabinet Ministers who’d agreed it;
  • unacceptable to the EU who’ve rubbished it;
  • unacceptable to the government, which accepted ERG amendments that undermined it;
  • unacceptable to much of industry, the City and business;
  • unacceptable - I imagine - to this House, unacceptable to the Commons without DUP votes, Lib Dem no-shows, a handful of rogue Labour votes and some dubious government whipping; and
  • unacceptable to the Opposition, being grounded on a flawed Facilitated Customs Arrangement, an absence of migration clarity; inadequate plans for services, and failure to guarantee the Good Friday Agreement.

Apart from that, it’s probably a runner!

Why so unacceptable? First, it’s based on a fallacy. Second, it’s devised to satisfy a divided Conservative Party rather than satisfy UK plc. Thirdly, because some think talk of “No Deal” will somehow bring everyone on board.

Yet pretending to threaten a No Deal – which would cost households £1,000 and see an 8% drop in GDP (twice this in the North East) – is nonsensical if the conservatives ever want to win an election again, as crashing the economy would never be forgiven not just by workers and consumers, but by business, the city and manufacturing, which have traditionally trusted the Tories to manage the economy in the national interest.

Borrowing the words of a former Prime Minister from the Party which took us in to Europe, and who herself wanted the Single Market:

No, No, No!

No Deal is not an option – so stop being diverted by it.

Trade deals

For all the positives (common rulebook, a role for the ECJ, a catalogue of issues raised by our EU Committee), the White Paper is based on a fallacy: that there are profitable, exciting markets across the globe currently closed to us, but would magically open the moment we left the EU.

The notion we’re leaving in favour of some wondrous US trade deal better than what we have with our nearest, 500 million-strong, market (as well as the 57 with whom we share agreements) just doesn’t hold water.

It is a fantasy that we 60 million can negotiate better than the EU’s half a billion. Indeed trade policy experts think our status as a supplicant means we will struggle to secure good deals, especially from the US, China and India. Furthermore, we face a highly protectionist President – witness his “America First” rhetoric. A President who is:

  • unleashing trade wars with China, the EU, Canada and Mexico;
  • filed five WTO complaints against trading partners, and even queried the WTO; and
  • imposed import tariffs[2] on solar panels, washing machines, steel and aluminium.

And what does he want from the UK? Given he claims the EU – a “foe” – has treated the US “unfairly”, he wants more access to our market, not opening their market to us.

It’s “a predatory policy towards Brexit Britain .. designed to take advantage of [our] .. need for trade deals.” He wants America to sell us more: agriculture, and cars (Liam Fox offering to reduce tariffs on US cars, which will hardly help our automotive industry!).

Trump isn’t interested in a deal if we maintain EU standards, saying the Prime Minister had "probably killed" hopes of a deal by staying close to these.


What of business? The CBI President said that, without a customs union, “sectors of manufacturing .. risk becoming extinct”. And following Chequers, over 100 entrepreneurs and business leaders wrote that: “The cost, complexity and bureaucracy created by crashing out of the customs union and adopting alternative arrangements is the last thing that .. businesses need as we seek to grow and employ more people.”

Your Lordships have often heard from Airbus, Rolls Royce, freight transport and others. But one new example is UK publishing, the world’s largest exporter of books with a third going to the EU. The Publishers Association fears Brexit could damage this as "It's not just tariffs  … It's the non-tariff barriers, customs checks and delays. That means .. books sat in a customs warehouse in Calais rather than in a bookshop in Dusseldorf."


Services are even more alarmed. Not only as it’s often impossible to distinguish goods from services, as complex manufactured products (aircraft engines and cars) combine servicing, design, IT, training and marketing into the physical components which get screwed together.

Even more, banking, medicine, leisure, law, accountancy, IT comprise 80% of our economy, and an even higher proportion of employment, their healthy trade surplus helping offset a deficit on manufactures and agriculture. Yet Services drew the short straw in the White Paper causing alarm to financial organisations and companies who describe this as a “real blow for the UK’s financial and related professional services”. 

The financial sector had anticipated a deal based on “mutual recognition”, with the EU accepting that their and our financial regulations were equally robust. The City was therefore deeply disappointed that this was abandoned in favour of “expanded” equivalence which is patchy, unilateral and makes us subject to ‘third country’ regime.

The White Paper itself admits we “will not have current levels of access” to EU markets, yet is vague on how services, and millions of jobs, will be protected, and our competitive advantage not shipped to New York or the continent.


And what do our partners think? The Plan has yet to find favour with the Commission, which insists that the four freedoms are indivisible. Added to which, we only seem to want EU’s most talented citizens, apparently putting the rest in the queue with Koreans and others. The Commission doubts the facilitated customs arrangement could be made to work, and has yet to be convinced we’ve sorted the Irish border.


As for the public, only 13% think the PM is handling Brexit well, 75% judging she’s making a mess of it. Well, they’re right about that!

And it’s not just Remainers. The Labour Brexiteer, John Mills, reckons “Negotiations .. could hardly have been worse handled”. Indeed, he goes further and says “It is not clear that there is now a good Brexit solution available to us.”

Yesterday’s poll makes hard reading for the government. They must know that the more they pretend No Deal is viable, the harder it will be to sell a negotiated deal as satisfactory. So all their dancing around a band of irreconcilable anti-Europeans itself undermines navigating a realistic way forward.


For Labour, the absence of a deal for services is a major shortcoming. This isn’t a “nice to have” add on, but key for our future prosperity. And both for Ireland, and across all borders, the facilitated customs drivel is simply impractical. IT cannot check the safety of food, composition of manufactured goods to assure compliance with rules of origin, let alone the imposition and allocation of tariffs or VAT.


My Lords, the truth is that the Prime Minister is stranded in a mire of her own making. She tried to escape the clasp of the ERG, only to retreat at the first whiff of gunfire. She must now complete the task of facing them down, move away from their impossibilist demands, discard Red or Blue lines and step towards the majority opinion in Parliament – indeed along the lines Labour has long sketched out – embracing a customs union and a Single Market deal. The PM must unite the Commons and the country by prioritising the economy, jobs, agriculture and the environment, peace in Ireland, and the national interest.

Another former Conservative Prime Minister, Sir John Major, said yesterday that every Tory should prioritise: “People, People, People”. This means negotiating a deal which is in their interests, and putting a good deal ahead of the Conservative Party’s civil war.

If the Prime Minister changes course, she can deliver a majority for that deal – a majority this White Paper will not create.


Baroness Dianne Hayter is Shadow Brexit Minister & Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords. She tweets @HayteratLords

Speech on Government's Brexit negotiations & preparations

Dianne Hayter speech in the House of Lords, Monday 23rd July 2018


Simon Haskel on government plans to extend the use of under 18s in covert surveillance

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee was asked recently to approve an Order extending the use of under 18s in covert human intelligence – from one to four months. The government presented this as matter of administrative convenience for the authorities, and of benefit to the juveniles who may have felt time pressured to gather evidence.

The justification for using young people in this way appears to relate to the increased amount of juvenile crime, with covert sources considered of great assistance to the relevant authorities. An explanatory memorandum for the Order reveals that police and law enforcement agencies have been consulted and offers assurances that a range of welfare safeguards are in place. 

But the more our Committee considered the matter, the more we wondered how effective the supervision was and whether adequate and consistent assessments were being carried out. While larger police forces may be able to do this, what about the smaller ones?

The 16 to 18 period can be one of great change in the life of a young person and a time when they are particularly vulnerable to outside pressures. They can be more easily sold the idea of acting as a covert agent but do they fully understand the personal risks and potential stress? And who is to judge if they are being exploited or put in jeopardy for a greater good?

Rights Watch UK, which has had some experience in dealing with this issue in Northern Ireland, point out that all individuals under 18 are legally children and therefore entitled to protection under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They also have entitlements under the Convention on Human Rights and the safeguards in this Order do not seem to provide such protections. Indeed, if the government was applying the ‘best interests of the child’ test, it is hard to imagine that they could be engaged in any covert activity.

There are also clear conflicts with the obligations of local authorities and schools – none of which seems to be recognised in the code of practice. Risk assessment is mandated, as is having somebody with the juvenile while they are being interviewed by their handler. But nowhere does it say that an independent social worker, psychiatrist or safeguarding practitioner must be involved. Presumably to maintain secrecy?

The code of practice says the risk has to be ‘understood’ by the young person but proper consent by them or their parents goes unmentioned. But if a parent or guardian supports the ideology against which the child might be deployed, implications arise for confrontation or family break up. Yet there are laws protecting families from such outcomes. 

The welfare of these juveniles should take precedence and their rights to this are clearly expressed in the conventions. I would suggest therefore, that Ministers would do well to ask the Joint Committee on Human Rights to scrutinise and advise on the Order before it goes any further.

Lord Simon Haskel is a Labour Peer. He tweets @simon_haskel

Published 18 July 2018

Welfare watch

Simon Haskel on government plans to extend the use of under 18s in covert surveillance


Maggie Jones on why it is time to make trade in ivory products the new white elephant

Today sees the House of Lords give a Second Reading to the government’s Ivory Bill. Legislation that seeks to ban the trade of almost all items containing elephant ivory – with exemptions for musical instruments made prior to 1975 where the content is less than 20%, and some rare and important antiques and museum artefacts. Anyone found guilty of the offence could be land with an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.

Action to tackle the international trade in ivory is welcome but long overdue, with around 100,000 elephants killed by poachers between 2010 and 2012. And despite international efforts, each year continues to see around 20,000 killed for the illegal ivory trade. Approximately 55 every day – an unsustainable rate that means elephants are likely to be extinct in the wild within two decades.

UK politicians, NGOs and activists campaigning for an ivory ban have taken their lead from African nations’ calls for tougher legislation here to help reduce the global demand. So this Bill represents a significant strengthening of our current loophole riddled restrictions. While the trade in raw ivory has been illegal since 1989, buying and selling products made before 1947 has not. Such measures were supposed to end the demand for newly harvested ivory and thereby reduce incentives to poach, but they have been largely futile.

A study of records under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has suggested the UK was the largest exporter of legal ivory between 2010 and 2015. Domestically, illegal ivory is openly traded on internet auction and social media sites, as regulators have no means of determining when it was produced. Traffickers have also become increasingly creative in their efforts to launder new ivory into the legal market, using artificial stains or ageing techniques. Consequently, illegal trade has boomed.

Ivory is an emotive topic for conservationists and antique dealers alike, and Labour believes the exemptions in the Bill strike the balance between being robust and pragmatic. We will support this legislation and work constructively with the government to ensure it comes into effect as soon as possible. But we also hope, that the scope of the Bill will in due course be extended to protect hippos, walruses and narwhals.

The clock is ticking, and the survival of many thousands of elephants lies in the balance. A ban on the domestic ivory trade will not by itself end relentless poaching but it will help stem demand. Moving forward, it is critical that governments around the world unite to tackle the illegal trade by addressing corruption, improving law enforcement and giving greater support to “elephant communities”. The only value ivory has must be on a living animal.

Baroness Maggie Jones of Whitchurch is Shadow Defra Minister in the House of Lords. She tweets @WhitchurchGirl

Published 17th July 2018


Antiques rogue show

Maggie Jones on why it is time to make trade in ivory products the new white elephant

More Blogs >

The Labour Party will place cookies on your computer to help us make this website better.

Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site.

To find out more about these cookies, see our privacy notice. Use of this site confirms your acceptance of these cookies.