Thirty new peers to enter House of Lords

A former New Statesman blogger, the first Green peer, and a fridge magnate are amongst those ennobled.

Number 10 has announced the thirty people upon whom the Queen is bestowing peerages this summer. The Conservative Party gets 14 new peers, Labour gets five, the Liberal Democrats get ten, and the Green Party gets one. London Assembly member Jenny Jones will become the first Green peer since Timothy Beaumont died in 2008, and is the first to be awarded her peerage as a working member of the Green party.

Amongst the Conservative peers are Danny Finkelstein, the Times' associate editor; former MPs Matthew Carrington and John Horam; Paralympian Chris Holmes; and Lucy Neville-Rolfe, a former executive at Tesco. Anthony Bamford, the managing director of JCB who has personally donated around £100,000 to the party, and overseen more donations from his company, is also given a peerage. With these 14 members, the Conservative party overtakes Labour to become the biggest party in the Lords, with 222 members to Labour's 221.

The Lib Dem peers include former New Statesman blogger Olly Grender, former London Mayoral candidate Brian Paddick, the co-founder of Ministry of Sound James Palumbo, and former MP and treasurer of the party Ian Wrigglesworth.

The five Labour peers are Charles Allen, a non-executive director of LOCOG; Scottish fridge magnate William Haughey; Alicia Kennedy, the former deputy general secretary of the party; Doreen Lawrence, a campaigner for racial equality and lobbyist Jon Mendelsohn.

No cross-bench peerages were awarded. Already, UKIP is kicking up a fuss about not being included on the list, releasing a statement saying that "this is the establishment rewarding the establishment for being the establishment."

The full list of peerages is as follows:

Conservative Party

  • Richard Balfe – former MEP and Conservative Party Envoy to the Trade Unions and Cooperative movement
  • Sir Anthony Bamford DL - Chairman and Managing Director of JCB
  • Nicholas Bourne – former Leader of the Conservative Group in the National Assembly for Wales
  • Matthew Carrington – former Conservative MP
  • Daniel Finkelstein OBE – Associate Editor of The Times and former Head of Policy for the Conservative Party
  • Annabel Goldie DL MSP – Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament; former Leader of the Scottish Conservatives
  • Lady (Fiona) Hodgson CBE – campaigner on women’s issues; senior member of the Conservative voluntary Party; former Chairman of the Conservative Women’s Organisation
  • Christopher (Chris) Holmes MBE – former Paralympic swimmer; Director of Paralympic Integration at London 2012; Non-Executive Director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission; and a former Non-Executive Director of the Disability Rights Commission
  • John Horam – former MP; Conservative representative on the Electoral Commission
  • Howard Leigh - senior corporate finance professional; Conservative Party Treasurer. Former Chairman and current President of Westminster Synagogue; former Trustee of Jewish Care and current Chairman of Jewish Care’s Business Group; Trustee of the Jerusalem Foundation in the UK.
  • Dame Lucy Neville-Rolfe CMG – former senior civil servant, including No10 Policy Unit; former leading Executive at Tesco Plc
  • Sir Stephen Sherbourne – longstanding political career in Westminster and public affairs, including former Political Secretary to the then Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher), and former Chief of Staff to the then Leader of the Opposition (Michael Howard)
  • Michael (Mike) Whitby – Conservative Councillor in Birmingham; former Leader of Birmingham City Council
  • Susan Williams – former Councillor and Leader of Trafford Council

Green Party

  • Jenny Jones AM – member of the London Assembly; former Chair of the Green Party of England and Wales and former Deputy Mayor of London

Labour Party

  • Sir Charles Allen CBE - Non-Executive Director of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games; Chairman of Global Radio Group
  • Sir William Haughey OBE - prominent Scottish businessman and CEO of City Refrigeration Holdings
  • Alicia Kennedy - former Deputy General Secretary of the Labour Party
  • Doreen Lawrence OBE - campaigner for justice, race equality and better policing
  • Jonathan (Jon) Mendelsohn - business advisor and co-founder of LLM Communications

Liberal Democrat Party

  • Catherine (Cathy) Mary Bakewell MBE - former leader of Somerset County Council
  • Rosalind (Olly) Grender MBE - former Director of Communications for Shelter; former Director of Communications for the Liberal Democrats
  • Christine Mary Humphreys - President of the Welsh Liberal Democrats; former Member of the National Assembly for Wales
  • Zahida Manzoor CBE - former Legal Services Ombudsman; former Deputy Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality
  • Brian Paddick - former Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service
  • James Palumbo - co-founder and chairman of Ministry of Sound Group, the international music and entertainment business
  • Jeremy Purvis - former Member of the Scottish Parliament for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale
  • Alison Suttie - former Press Secretary to the President of the European Parliament; former Deputy Chief of Staff to Nick Clegg and Election Manager for the 2010 General Election
  • Rumi Verjee CBE - entrepreneur and philanthropist
  • Sir Ian Wrigglesworth - Liberal Democrat Treasurer; former MP for Teeside Thornaby and for Stockton South
Brian Paddick, former London Mayoral candidate, has received a peerage. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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What is the EU customs union and will Brexit make us leave?

International trade secretary Liam Fox's job makes more sense if we leave the customs union. 

Brexiteers and Remoaners alike have spent the winter months talking of leaving the "customs union", and how this should be weighed up against the benefits of controlling immigration. But what does it actually mean, and how is it different from the EU single market?

Imagine a medieval town, with a busy marketplace where traders are buying and selling wares. Now imagine that the town is also protected by a city wall, with guards ready to slap charges on any outside traders who want to come in. That's how the customs union works.  

In essence, a customs union is an agreement between countries not to impose tariffs on imports from within the club, and at the same time impose common tariffs on goods coming in from outsiders. In other words, the countries decide to trade collectively with each other, and bargain collectively with everyone else. 

The EU isn't the only customs union, or even the first in Europe. In the 19th century, German-speaking states organised the Zollverein, or German Customs Union, which in turn paved the way for the unification of Germany. Other customs unions today include the Eurasian Economic Union of central Asian states and Russia. The EU also has a customs union with Turkey.

What is special about the EU customs union is the level of co-operation, with member states sharing commercial policies, and the size. So how would leaving it affect the UK post-Brexit?

The EU customs union in practice

The EU, acting on behalf of the UK and other member states, has negotiated trade deals with countries around the world which take years to complete. The EU is still mired in talks to try to pull off the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US, and a similar EU-Japan trade deal. These two deals alone would cover a third of all EU trade.

The point of these deals is to make it easier for the EU's exporters to sell abroad, keep imports relatively cheap and at the same time protect the member states' own businesses and consumers as much as possible. 

The rules of the customs union require member states to let the EU negotiate on their behalf, rather than trying to cut their own deals. In theory, if the UK walks away from the customs union, we walk away from all these trade deals, but we also get a chance to strike our own. 

What are the UK's options?

The UK could perhaps come to an agreement with the EU where it continues to remain inside the customs union. But some analysts believe that door has already shut. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as Prime Minister was to appoint Liam Fox, the Brexiteer, as the secretary of state for international trade. Why would she appoint him, so the logic goes, if there were no international trade deals to talk about? And Fox can only do this if the UK is outside the customs union. 

(Conversely, former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg argues May will realise the customs union is too valuable and Fox will be gone within two years).

Fox has himself said the UK should leave the customs union but later seemed to backtrack, saying it is "important to have continuity in trade".

If the UK does leave the customs union, it will have the freedom to negotiate, but will it fare better or worse than the EU bloc?

On the one hand, the UK, as a single voice, can make speedy decisions, whereas the EU has a lengthy consultative process (the Belgian region of Wallonia recently blocked the entire EU-Canada trade deal). Incoming US President Donald Trump has already said he will try to come to a deal quickly

On the other, the UK economy is far smaller, and trade negotiators may discover they have far less leverage acting alone. 

Unintended consequences

There is also the question of the UK’s membership of the World Trade Organisation, which is currently governed by its membership of the customs union. According to the Institute for Government: “Many countries will want to be clear about the UK’s membership of the WTO before they open negotiations.”

And then there is the question of policing trade outside of the customs union. For example, if it was significantly cheaper to import goods from China into Ireland, a customs union member, than Northern Ireland, a smuggling network might emerge.

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.