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Why is Daniel Hannan's banner pic a work of science fiction? How to negotiate a progressive Brexit

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NewsHubSince Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy…
People out there in the big wide world are often helpful enough to point me towards Daniel Hannan’s latest brainfarts. He’s pretty prolific, but some of his work seems so boneheaded that I’ll get the same link sent to me by two, three, or, on one occasion, five different people.
This week it was this particular tweet – a retweet from last September; it’s all repeats on the internet these days – that everyone seemed keen to point me towards.
It’s like Ayn Rand has been reincarnated in the form of 15 year old hoping to study PPE at Oxford, isn’t it? That tweet suggests a world view so comfortingly simple that nobody actually needs money, and if you try to tax anyone anything they might decide to stop earning any in a fit of pique. (At time of writing, incidentally, Daniel Hannan has yet to resign his job as a Member of the European Parliament.)
If I get too far into this one, though, there’s a danger I’ll find myself attempting to disprove the assumptions of classical economics through the medium of sarcasm, and while I’m not shy about my own abilities to bullshit, I think that may be a bit beyond me. So instead I’m just going to leave it there for everyone to marvel at while we talk about flags.
Daniel Hannan’s header has been annoying me for months now, because it clearly takes place in a parallel universe in which the Anglosphere is a real thing rather than just the masturbatory fantasies of a certain type of free market ideologue. It combines the flags of the UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, into a single red, white and blue monstrosity: the fact that one of Britain’s best known Eurosceptics uses this as his banner pic implies, at least to me, that he thinks this is what we should have instead of the EU.
At first glance, the assumption here seems to be that Britain’s natural allies are all the other countries who speak English. Except it clearly isn’t that, because a lot of other countries also speak English – Ireland, India, South Africa, to name but three – yet are mysteriously missing from the flag.
A better definition might be that it’s the bits of the British Empire where our forefathers planted their own colonies and attempted to wipe out the natives, rather than simply lording it over them through a combination of divide-and-rule and Maxim guns. More charitably, it’s the places that have a slightly misty-eyed relationship to the same stuff – free markets, Magna Carta, the notion that Britain invented freedom – that Dan himself does.
The notion of the Anglosphere is not entirely without foundation: these five countries constitute the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which implies a certain degree of closeness, and there’s a fair amount of military co-operation too. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, indeed, one of the instructions British prime ministers can leave for their nuclear subs is, basically, “You are now Australian. ”
But nonetheless oh my god, mate, are you actually high? The Anglosphere is not a political unit – outside the world of George Smiley and GI JOE, it might as well not exist – and the idea of a US that is increasingly a) diverse but b) protectionist going anywhere near that kind of thing is just delusional. Dan is basically just saying he’d be happier if Britain’s primary allies were countries which we founded, which speak English, and which contain depressingly high concentrations of people who agree with him.
I was going to end with a crack about how the Anglosphere flag was such a work of science fiction that Dan might as well employ the flag of Star Trek ’s United Federation of Planets or, if that was too lefty, the Terran Federation from Blake’s 7 (at least everyone there speaks English). But I’ve had a better idea. There is another rainy, sea-faring kingdom in a popular work of fantasy that recently took advantage of continent-wide chaos to break away from a larger political unit. In what may or may not a foretaste of things to come, it later used it as an excuse to attack its former allies.
I am talking, of course, about the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones .
What is dead may never die.
Today, Open Britain and the Fabian Society have come together to try and answer some of the hard questions Brexit poses for the Left, and to outline the principles that should inform our approach to Brexit, in a new pamphlet. As an MP who campaigned for Remain representing an area that voted Leave I know how important it is for Labour to engage with the outcome of Brexit negotiations to ensure working people’s interests are protected.
It is fantastic that progressive groups are thinking about Brexit and going beyond the platitudes of “red, white and blue Brexit.” That’s why today[s document has been welcomed by Keir Starmer and the Shadow Brexit team and supported by Labour MPs.
Open Britain and the Fabian Society suggest six principles that should government Labour’s approach to Brexit, covering the economy, our foreign and security policies, immigration, the laws that protect our environment and rights at work, domestic economic reform, and the political way forward. This approach is aimed at preserving the best aspects of our EU membership, while respecting the result and tacking the underlying frustrations and pressures that led so many of Labour’s natural supporters to vote to leave the EU.
The greatest threat to working people is the spectre of a destructive hard Brexit, which would impose onerous and damaging tariffs, customs duties and red tape on our exports to, and imports from, the EU. This would mean fewer jobs, lower growth, and higher prices. A full 44 per cent of Britain’s exports go to the EU, making it comfortably our largest trading partner. A progressive Brexit approach to trade should prioritise three strands – continued participation in the single market and customs union, unless it can be proven empirically that doing so will not damage our economy; a rejection of the WTO model, which would dramatically increase barriers to trade; and a transitional arrangement, should one be necessary, to bridge the likely gap between Britain leaving the EU and a new, permanent trading arrangement being agreed.
This must be combined with action on immigration, which was such a powerful driver of the vote to leave the European Union. What the British people want is greater control over immigration without paying an economic cost. This must be our approach too, as we look for a new deal on immigration from the EU that includes, for example, tying free movement to those who have a job offer and arguing for sector-specific emergency brakes that could be applied in cases of identifiable economic stress. It is important to note that The Dutch Deputy PM is calling for reform and David Cameron’s “special status” renegotiation conceded the principle that rules could be altered in response to exceptional inflow of workers causing serious problems. At the same time, however, Labour must not abandon our internationalist, progressive principles. We should continue to welcome the immigrants our economy needs, and stand up for the European Union citizens who are already resident in this country, and now find their rights under threat.

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