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Guardian and Indy pick up on the New Statesman's five-day-old story about easyJet

Guardian and Indy pick up on the New Statesman's five-day-old story about easyJet{C}

We're delighted, of course, that Stephen Morris's scoop about easyJet withdrawing the latest issue of their in-flight magazine after pressure from the New Statesman should have been picked up by so many news outlets. But we're perplexed that two of the more venerable organs to have run with the story should apparently only just have happened upon it, almost a week after Stephen first broke it on newstatesman.com, and then without acknowledging our role in uncovering it in the first place.

Yesterday, the Guardian reported that the "budget airline . . . has been forced to withdraw almost 300,000 copies of its in-flight magazine because of protests over its use of Holocaust memorial sites as a backdrop for a fashion feature." And today, with the alacrity for which it is famous, the Independent has weighed in, noting that easyJet "had been accused of "trivialising genocide" when eight pages of the November issue of its Traveller magazine featured models leaning against the stones of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin, also known as the Field of Stelae."

All true, of course. But, for the benefit of any Guardian and Independent readers who might happen to have dropped by, let me fill in one or two gaps. The "protests" that the Guardian refers to emanated in the first instance from the New Statesman, after Stephen contacted the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe to ask if they'd sanctioned the photo-shoot. And the accusation that the feature "triviali[sed]" genocide came from Labour MP Denis MacShane after he was alerted to easyJet's breach of good taste by the New Statesman.

Just so we're clear ...

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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Forget planning for no deal. The government isn't really planning for Brexit at all

The British government is simply not in a position to handle life after the EU.

No deal is better than a bad deal? That phrase has essentially vanished from Theresa May’s lips since the loss of her parliamentary majority in June, but it lives on in the minds of her boosters in the commentariat and the most committed parts of the Brexit press. In fact, they have a new meme: criticising the civil service and ministers who backed a Remain vote for “not preparing” for a no deal Brexit.

Leaving without a deal would mean, among other things, dropping out of the Open Skies agreement which allows British aeroplanes to fly to the United States and European Union. It would lead very quickly to food shortages and also mean that radioactive isotopes, used among other things for cancer treatment, wouldn’t be able to cross into the UK anymore. “Planning for no deal” actually means “making a deal”.  (Where the Brexit elite may have a point is that the consequences of no deal are sufficiently disruptive on both sides that the British government shouldn’t  worry too much about the two-year time frame set out in Article 50, as both sides have too big an incentive to always agree to extra time. I don’t think this is likely for political reasons but there is a good economic case for it.)

For the most part, you can’t really plan for no deal. There are however some things the government could prepare for. They could, for instance, start hiring additional staff for customs checks and investing in a bigger IT system to be able to handle the increased volume of work that would need to take place at the British border. It would need to begin issuing compulsory purchases to build new customs posts at ports, particularly along the 300-mile stretch of the Irish border – where Northern Ireland, outside the European Union, would immediately have a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, which would remain inside the bloc. But as Newsnight’s Christopher Cook details, the government is doing none of these things.

Now, in a way, you might say that this is a good decision on the government’s part. Frankly, these measures would only be about as useful as doing your seatbelt up before driving off the Grand Canyon. Buying up land and properties along the Irish border has the potential to cause political headaches that neither the British nor Irish governments need. However, as Cook notes, much of the government’s negotiating strategy seems to be based around convincing the EU27 that the United Kingdom might actually walk away without a deal, so not making even these inadequate plans makes a mockery of their own strategy. 

But the frothing about preparing for “no deal” ignores a far bigger problem: the government isn’t really preparing for any deal, and certainly not the one envisaged in May’s Lancaster House speech, where she set out the terms of Britain’s Brexit negotiations, or in her letter to the EU27 triggering Article 50. Just to reiterate: the government’s proposal is that the United Kingdom will leave both the single market and the customs union. Its regulations will no longer be set or enforced by the European Court of Justice or related bodies.

That means that, when Britain leaves the EU, it will need, at a minimum: to beef up the number of staff, the quality of its computer systems and the amount of physical space given over to customs checks and other assorted border work. It will need to hire its own food and standards inspectors to travel the globe checking the quality of products exported to the United Kingdom. It will need to increase the size of its own regulatory bodies.

The Foreign Office is doing some good and important work on preparing Britain’s re-entry into the World Trade Organisation as a nation with its own set of tariffs. But across the government, the level of preparation is simply not where it should be.

And all that’s assuming that May gets exactly what she wants. It’s not that the government isn’t preparing for no deal, or isn’t preparing for a bad deal. It can’t even be said to be preparing for what it believes is a great deal. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.