All out! Strikes to go ahead

A political gift to the Tories.

The collapse of talks between British Airways and Unite is bad news for Gordon Brown. This isn't because of the holidays the strike action will disrupt (the numbers involved are fairly insignificant). Rather, it's because this sudden outbreak of union militancy dovetails perfectly with the Tories' claim that the country has regressed to the 1970s.

Meanwhile, Comrade Crow, who needs little encouragement to take to the picket line, is celebrating this afternoon after railway signal staff narrowly voted in favour of strike action. The national rail strike -- which would be the first for 16 years -- will now take place unless Network Rail offers new talks.

The Tories are already trying to make political capital out of the RMT strike. But as with their wild attack on Unite, it's less than convincing. The Tory shadow transport secretary, Theresa Villiers, claimed: "The transport minister's backing of the RMT's case for striking shows the stranglehold militant unions have on Labour."

Did no one tell her that the RMT disaffiliated from Labour in 2004?

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The Brexit elite want to make trade great again – but there’s a catch

The most likely trade partners will want something in return. And it could be awkward. 

Make trade great again! That's an often overlooked priority of Britain's Brexit elite, who believe that by freeing the United Kingdom from the desiccated hand of the European bureaucracy they can strike trade deals with the rest of the world.

That's why Liam Fox, the Trade Secretary, is feeling particularly proud of himself this morning, and has written an article for the Telegraph about all the deals that he is doing the preparatory work for. "Britain embarks on trade crusade" is that paper's splash.

The informal talks involve Norway, New Zealand, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, a political and economic alliance of Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait, the UAE and our friends the Saudis.

Elsewhere, much symbolic importance has been added to a quick deal with the United States, with Theresa May saying that we were "front of the queue" with President-Elect Donald Trump in her speech this week. 

As far as Trump is concerned, the incoming administration seems to see it differently: Wilbur Ross, his Commerce Secretary, yesterday told Congress that the first priority is to re-negotiate the Nafta deal with their nearest neighbours, Canada and Mexico.

In terms of judging whether or not Brexit is a success or not, let's be clear: if the metric for success is striking a trade deal with a Trump administration that believes that every trade deal the United States has struck has been too good on the other party to the deal, Brexit will be a failure.

There is much more potential for a genuine post-Brexit deal with the other nations of the English-speaking world. But there's something to watch here, too: there is plenty of scope for trade deals with the emerging powers in the Brics - Brazil, India, etc. etc.

But what there isn't is scope for a deal that won't involve the handing out of many more visas to those countries, particularly India, than we do currently.

Downing Street sees the success of Brexit on hinging on trade and immigration. But political success on the latter may hobble any hope of making a decent go of the former. 

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