Oxford for Europe
 BMW Last, America First?​​
​by Peter Burke, Chair, Oxford for Europe.
​​
5th March 2019
Disarming honesty from BMW and from the American ambassador, in the same week. Bad news for the British economy and for the Brexit dream
At least BMW is being honest. The company has confirmed that the Cowley plant would be at risk in the event of Brexit, especially a no-deal Brexit, going ahead. In the words of the spokesman, Peter Schwarzenbauer, “This [no-deal Brexit] would be really a huge burden for the Mini brand. If this would come, which is the worst-case scenario, we’d need to consider what it means for us in the long run. For Mini, this is really a danger,”. None of the polite Japanese circumlocution of Nissan or Honda. The truth is clear, in the event of a no deal Brexit the jobs in Cowley will go the same way as the jobs in Swindon. And similarly unambiguous messages come from Toyota and Bentley. If this is not a wake-up call for us in Oxford, nothing is. And local Labour MP Anneliese Dodds has sat up and taken notice. She said: "I’ve repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of a ‘no deal’ Brexit and uncertainty over customs in particular, with Government ministers and even with the Prime Minister.  They really must now listen to what companies like BMW are telling them. We must keep those jobs in our city, where the Cowley plant has been enormously important for over sixty years”. 

  
The slow motion car crash that is Brexit approaches its climax or perhaps, who knows, yet another anti-climax. Car crash, alas, is an ironically topical word. No wise person pretends to know where the whole process will finish. So many predictions have been confounded over the tortuous journey of the past three years. It is good however to come across people who can inspire confidence. Oxford for Europe's meeting on Friday 1st March was an opportunity to do so. Our two speakers, Naomi Smith and Peter Jukes, gave first-rate presentations. It was clear from what Naomi said that there is a plan in place to at least give us a fighting chance of stopping this catastrophe. We really should not give up hope, quite the contrary. Peter’s passionate and forceful presentation reminded us why it is worth fighting the good fight. The evidence of underhand behaviour by the Leave campaign is now overwhelming, and there is also good reason to believe that investigation of wrongdoing is being held back. If the truth is admitted by this Government after Brexit has already occurred, then it will be too late. The only way to preserve democracy in this country is by ensuring that it is not subverted by Arron Banks and his ilk. We must, above all, battle the fiction that remainers are somehow a deluded and treasonous minority. Quite the reverse, we are, and always have been, more than 50% of the taxpayers of this country. Many of the people who have most at stake are European nationals who were never given a chance to vote in the referendum. There will, we hope, be a chance to make good this omission next time.

 

 

Peter and Naomi with chair, Ernesto Macaro and canine friend helping himself to Boris Johnson doll
We in Oxford for Europe are watching developments daily. At the moment it seems likely that the significant votes in Parliament will be on about 12th to 14th March, but there are increasing suspicions that much may happen before that. At any event we will be joining Steve Bray and SODEM in Parliament Square on the days of the Meaningful Vote and the follow up votes. We will make our presence felt. 

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A few days ago, Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former adviser, revealed that her heart was never really in Brexit and that she sees what she is doing as a damage limitation exercise. That is no surprise. She is of course held hostage by the extreme elements in own party, and she may even have succumbed to Stockholm syndrome and started to use their language. Hence all the talk about new trading opportunities outside Europe. However, she has never claimed that the country would be better off after Brexit. For her it is if anything about “delivering the will of the people” on migration. How significant it is, then, that the newest evidence on public opinion is that it has made a complete about turn on migration since the referendum. It now seems that 50% of people polled regard inward migration as good for the country and only 25% regard it as bad. This can come as no surprise when we see as a direct result of the referendum, and even before Brexit happens, our vital public services being depleted of highly trained EU 27 staff. Let us now once and for all stop talking about “ending free movement” as if it were in some way either beneficial or popular.
 
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You might have noticed the American ambassador, Woody Johnson, letting the cat out of the bag last week. Fox and his friends have been promising us wonderful trade deals with "the rest of the world", in which of course the USA is the biggest player. Mr Johnson confirmed, should it be necessary, that we will be negotiating with the USA as supplicants and will be expected to sign deals on their terms. They will expect us to accept compromised agricultural products, which will not only threaten the livelihoods of British farmers, but also make trade in foodstuffs with other European countries even more complicated. Liam Fox refuses to deny that they will get their way, he merely says it is a matter for negotiation. As members of the EU, which is the body that sets quality standards de facto for the rest of the world, we would have had an opportunity to stand up to American bullying. Theresa May's deal would make us, in Boris Johnson's words, a ‘vassal state’, and a no deal Brexit would render us a rogue state. In either case our leverage is gone.

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To try to put an end to all this madness, we need to make sure that the public wakes up to what is really going on. It is good to see the highly public emergence of the group Led By Donkeys, (@ByDonkeys) who are going around the country erecting posters (legally and paid for) reminding people of the lies that were told in the campaign for Brexit. If you doubt that foo-in-mouth is a real thing, just look. It eludes me how the people who said these inane things do not hang their heads in shame. Our organisation has made a contribution to the work and we would invite our supporters to do the same. Keep your eyes peeled, you might even see the posters close to home.
 
All is still to play for. The long awaited official support of the Labour leadership was a necessary but not a sufficient condition for achieving a People’s Vote. As all the alternatives become more and more obviously untenable, a People’s Vote is coming to look like the only way forward. It has huge public support, as the march in London on the 23rd will no doubt reveal. Preparations are well advanced. Oxford for Europe has already filled up its three buses but there are many other travel options. We believe the streets of London will be full and we hope to see you there.

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The wisdom of Patrick Minford..
Oxford for Europe