June's Political Intelligence
Fashion in Parliament: The Latest News
May’s Flair, Not Fair for June
We were pleased to see a surge in fashion-related debate in the Chamber, in May, but it has come at the price of silence in June. A key part of our work is ensuring fashion stays at the top of the political agenda. It is a sad indictment of our legislature that Foie Gras had more airtime than a multi-billion pound industry.
Packaging (Extended Producer Responsibility)
An interesting debate came to Parliament this month, discussing the responsibility of product suppliers to take ownership for the onwards journey of their packaging. The retail industry, particularly online brands, have a lot of work to do to ensure a sustainable approach to packaging. Paper bags are slowly dominating the high street and this is an important step. Our business planning consultancy team here at Fashion Roundtable is currently working on a strategic approach to delivering more sustainable packaging – get in touch if this could be of value to your business.
The Ongoing Customs Battle
Prime Minister’s Questions was once again the scene of a fierce battle over what customs arrangements the Government will support in Brexit negotiations. The Prime Minister has called another Cabinet meeting at Chequers to agree their position on this, as the clock ticks on to the day we leave. Public opinion is moving in favour of the position and the potential voter power in the manufacturing sectors may well be enough to support a position we have long advocated for.
The 2nd Anniversary of Independence Day
Once again, as in 2017, the day Boris Johnson and Leavers coined ‘Independence Day’ has come and gone. And yet, we are no more independent than we were on June 22nd 2016, a day before the vote to leave the European Union. That is not to say there have not been significant changes or that change is not incumbent. We have a new Prime Minister, we have had a new Government and more leadership elections than can be counted on one hand. The pound has collapsed, America elected a TV personality and France elected a banker.
But ultimately, we have not left the European Union.
Last week, central London saw its largest demonstration since the anti-Iraq protests over 15 years earlier. There is an audible and motivated movement of individuals fighting for a ‘peoples vote’, seen as a compromise to the original ‘Stop Brexit’ ambition. Allowing the general public to vote on what Britain’s new relationship with Europe will look like allows a vote on reality, rather than the hypothetical. At the previous election, a second referendum was seen as a back page policy of the Lib Dem manifesto, widely disregarded by central Conservative and Labour Remainers. Progress has certainly been exercised.
It is difficult to know whether the movement has capably galvanised the support of previously strong Leave advocates, and it is on this that Remain success in a second referendum would sit. However, the movement is still only that and there is no clear Parliamentary support for a vote or any visible intention that it will become a part of Front-bench government policy.
Communication from Brussels is clearly of increasing frustration, as the rest of Europe waits for direction in terms of outcome. In some areas, Britain’s policy is clear, in others it is less so. It is still an unknown quantity whether Europe will unilaterally support the outcome of the negotiations being led by the EU on their behalf. Political scholars will note the time a small rural Belgium region prevented the passing of the Canadian-EU free trade deal CETA. Britain’s future could fall foul of a similar outcome, particularly if there is any hint of preferential treatment.
Next week the Prime Minister is hosting the Cabinet at Chequers (the PM’s country home) for the second time in as many months, in a renewed attempt to gain some consensus on what the final deal or negotiation position should be. On the table for discussion will be trade, immigration and judicial control; three highly contentious issues that have so far dominated the political discourse on Brexit. In particular, as discussed in previous monthly political intelligence briefings, clarity on Britain’s future relationship with the customs union and single market must be provided.
In the two years since the vote, Labour has battled on the customs issue as intensely as the Conservatives, attempting to balance the 2/3rs of the party who voted Remain with the 1/3 who voted to leave. Jeremy Corbyn is undoubtedly Eurosceptic, a trait he shares (ironically), with many on the far right of the political spectrum, albeit for different reasons. Labour’s position started off cautious and largely vague, suggesting their priority would be preserving jobs and that they would support whatever position did this best. Someone thought this would be a ‘win-win’ political position, but it seemed to only frustrate. The policy evolved following the previous election and Labour now seem set on continuing Britain’s membership of both the single market and the customs union.
Following the meeting in Chequers, it could be finally that the main political divide in UK politics is also the main Brexit divide, finally making Brexit a vote-changing policy in a General Election. We are already seeing movements in voting groups, and Labour’s northern stronghold may no longer be strong; with alternative support growing in cities, the south and Scotland.
Two years have passed and only now are we beginning to see political parties responding to the roots of the vote. Many in Britain are dissatisfied with the progress that has been made since 2016 and news of large multinational firms moving work and production out of the UK is becoming more common. On the horizon now in the Government’s solution to two years of limited progress, an implementation period. Likely to provide an equal balance of certainty and uncertainty, the need for insight and political intelligence has potentially never been greater.
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