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Ben Roback: Three weeks into a record shutdown and no sign of a compromise

Ben Roback is Head of Trade and International Policy at Cicero Group.

As British politics sinks further into a self-enforced abyss of disagreement with no end in sight, it is worth remembering that we are not alone in navigating choppy waters.

The US Government is in its third week of a partial shutdown that it brought entirely on itself.

The shutdown is now entering day 27, and crucially there is little indication of a cooling of tensions that could provide a light at the end of the tunnel. Its implications are octopus-like, reaching simultaneously into complex areas of public policy and people’s everyday lives.

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are either being furloughed or working without pay, bringing pain to households in commuter towns in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia. Around the country, a lack of airport security personnel means screening takes hours when it should take minutes (scarily, in three weeks, Atlanta airport is expecting over 100,00 passengers coming into town for the Super Bowl).

The longest government shutdown in history shows no sign of ending any time soon. Americans employed by the government and tourists hoping to visit national parks are losing out at the sharp end of the shutdown – but does its continuation in fact suit both parties?

Playing the blame game

Both the White House and Congressional Democrats have been keen to continually lament the shutdown, scathing about its impact on Main Street American jobs and the macroeconomic impact. The longer the shutdown goes on, the more both sides are proven correct – yesterday the New York Times wrote:

“The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, as President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues.”

For the President, this brings a significant risk. Donald Trump has prided his tenure so far on the economic impacts he has delivered – a bullish stock market and wholesale tax reform for companies and individuals. Tumbling economic forecasts suddenly undermine that narrative, which will be one of the central features of his 2020 re-election campaign.

It represents a likely battle taking place between the economic and immigration advisers in the President’s inner circle. After all, the shutdown is only entering its 26th day because of the White House’s insistence that fiscal provisions to keep the Government open contain over $5 billion in government funding to build a wall on the US/Mexico border.

With absolutely no surprise whatsoever, Democrats are refusing to acquiesce – immigration became one of their top priorities as an increasingly diverse electorate become ever more important to their electoral coalition. In previous congressional cycles, the focus had been on securing a long-term solution for the so-called “dreamers”, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy. Notable attempts failed under President Obama in 2014. Since Trump made chants of “BUILD! THE! WALL!” a central feature of his election campaigns, that focus has sharply shifted to the issue of the wall.

So, who is to blame? The President has sought to shift blame towards the Democrats, whom he continues to describe as “obstructionist”. Following a televised address to the nation last week, three polls showed that strategy is failing to land:

  • A Quinnipiac University poll (here) found that 56 per cent of voters held Trump and congressional Republicans responsible for the shutdown whereas only 36 per cent said they thought congressional Democrats were responsible.
  • A CNN/SSRS poll (here) found that 55 per cent of Americans blamed the President for the shutdown, compared to 32 per cent who blamed the Democrats. Interestingly, the poll also found that a majority (56 per cent) opposed the deal whilst only 39 per cent supported it.
  • A CBS News/YouGov poll (here) found that 47 per cent of Americans blamed Mr Trump “most” for the shutdown, compared to 30 per cent who cited Democrats. However, 20 per cent allocated blame “equally” on both parties, suggesting neither is gaining as a result of the current malaise. Worryingly for the GOP, these criticisms are held acutely amongst suburban voters – whose votes will be crucial for Republicans in states like Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia in 2020.

Immigration shaping up to be the biggest wedge issue in 2020

As we enter the lame duck period, so much of what happens in US politics will be viewed through the lens of the 2020 general election. The proof? Since Christmas, three Democrats have launched their early campaigns for the presidency and a fourth appears imminent. On the left, the pressure from the grass roots will be to hold an aggressive line in staunch opposition to the wall. There will be absolutely no political reward whatsoever for riding to the rescue of a President that has buried himself in a bunker. And so:

  • Elizabeth Warren, who was the first to launch her campaign for 2020, has tweeted: “24 days into the #TrumpShutdown and over 800,000 federal employees have already missed 1 paycheck. How many more before Republicans stop crushing working families and re-open the government? Time to end this.”
  • Tulsi Gabbard has tweeted: “Today an estimated 800,000 federal employees will miss their first paychecks of the year. Families are suffering. Our country is less safe. The impact of this shutdown is real.”
  • Kirsten Gilibrand has tweeted: “The emergency at our border is the cruel treatment of children who are still detained. It’s the asylum seekers being shut out. It’s @realDonaldTrump’s dehumanizing attacks on immigrants in need. We need to end the shutdown and get back to solving real problems families face.”

For the President, the strategy of keeping the government shut down unless Democrats vote to fund his border wall doesn’t seem to be working. According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, since the shutdown began the president’s aggregate approval rating has fallen from 42.2 per cent to 40.8 per cent.

No end in sight

The 2018 midterm elections saw the Republicans and Democrats trade on the currency of anger and fear in the American public. Those two sentiments have continued into the 116th Congress and there is no sign it will end any time soon. For that reason, it is hard to forecast a sudden change in sentiment from the White House or Congressional Democrats, one of which would be needed to bring about an end to the shutdown.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Stephen Booth: There are reasons to be sceptical about the Brexit deal. But its security provisions aren’t one of them.

Stephen Booth is Director of Policy and Research at Open Europe.

In the vociferous debate about the proposed Brexit deal, the implications for UK security and foreign policy have come a distant second to economic and institutional considerations. However, this week Richard Dearlove, former MI6 head, and Charles Guthrie, former chief of defence staff, have written to Conservative Associations warning that the Brexit deal will “threaten the national security of the country in fundamental ways” and bind the UK into “new sets of EU controlled relationships”. We certainly should debate the UK’s future security and foreign policies in light of Brexit, but there are several reasons why these dire warnings about the proposed deal are either misplaced or implausible.

Successive UK governments have cooperated selectively with the EU in security and foreign policy, reflecting concerns about the direction of travel or degree of integration. The UK secured opt-outs from EU law enforcement and internal security integration and many Brexiteers cited the erosion of these protections by ECJ jurisprudence as justification for withdrawal. Nonetheless, matters of external security, defence and foreign policy were largely protected by our national veto, the threat of which the UK successfully used to prevent EU ambitions for an autonomous military HQ, for example.

At the root of concerns about the proposed deal seems to be a fear about what might happen, rather than what the Withdrawal Agreement actually says. It is true that, during the transition period, the UK will be bound by EU foreign and defence policy decisions. The UK may be consulted on a case by case basis, but we will no longer have a formal role in shaping these decisions or be able to lead any resulting operations. However, crucially, throughout the transition period, the UK can refuse to apply EU decisions for “vital and stated reasons of national policy” – we have a de jure veto. The UK will be bound by existing EU rules on police and judicial cooperation during this time, but will be excluded from new rules that fall under our existing law enforcement and Schengen opt-outs.

If the UK were to enter the Backstop, either in 2021 or by 2023, there is no agreed provision for UK-EU security and foreign policy cooperation. UK commitments under EU law and the Withdrawal Agreement would fall away and the basis for cooperation would need to be negotiated either separately or under the auspices of a comprehensive UK-EU future partnership. The UK would not be legally obliged as a result of the deal to do anything, although the Withdrawal Agreement provides both sides with the option of agreeing a successor security agreement – obviously the UK would have a veto over this.

It is further argued by the deal’s critics that “buried in the Agreement is the offer of a ‘new, deep, and special relationship with the EU in defence, security and intelligence”, which would undermine the UK’s three core security and foreign policy relationships with NATO, our US bilateral agreements and Five Eyes intelligence sharing arrangements”. This warning presumably refers to the joint UK-EU Political Declaration on the framework for the future partnership.

First, as many critics of the deal have pointed out, the Political Declaration is not legally enforceable, whereas the Withdrawal Agreement would be. At this stage, it is simply an “offer” and does not bind the UK. Indeed, the lack of legal enforceability of the Political Declaration is the typically-cited reason for opposing the deal. Here the assumption is that the Political Declaration is binding. It is not.

Second, the future relationship foreseen in the Political Declaration is impossible to reconcile with the claim that it would undermine the UK’s core security relationships. Indeed, the declaration states that the entire future relationship should provide exceptions for matters of national security, which is the “sole responsibility” of the UK and the EU’s member states respectively. The UK could “participate on a case by case basis” in EU-led security and defence missions and be consulted accordingly. Intelligence sharing would be “voluntary” and the parties would “produce intelligence products autonomously”. The UK and the EU would pursue “independent sanctions policies driven by their respective foreign policies”. None of this would compel the UK, or the EU, to do anything at all with regards to external or security policy, other than keep the other party informed.

Finally, it is unclear what alternative, if any, form of cooperation with the EU the authors of these warnings would find acceptable. There is no doubt that past and future UK governments would rank the three core relationships with NATO, bilaterally with the US and Five Eyes, as the most important (a Jeremy Corbyn-led government might prove the exception). However, successive governments have also acknowledged that the UK must also promote its interests, both offensively and defensively, with European partners and allies. The UK has a close bilateral relationship with Europe’s only other globally-relevant military and defence power, France. This is underpinned by bilateral treaty, but France is actively pursuing its foreign policy interests via the EU and therefore cooperation with the French could well mean working with the EU to some degree. The question is on what basis.

Leaving the EU is likely to mean the UK will not be able to formally shape, lead or veto EU foreign policy or defence decisions in the future. This is a direct consequence of Brexit. Equally it means we will not be directly bound by them. It is possible to argue that the EU is being short-sighted in only offering the UK take it or leave it European cooperation on security and foreign policy issues. This may yet change, and if the EU wants to secure UK cooperation, our ability to provide resources and capabilities will be of immense value and therefore provide us with influence.

Nevertheless, it will be up to future governments to work out how best to further UK foreign policy interests independently of and sometimes in cooperation with the EU. Nothing agreed to date would prevent the UK from refusing to take part in EU-led or “controlled” initiatives or from insisting that any future cooperation would only be provided under a NATO umbrella.

There are many valid reasons to be sceptical about the Brexit deal. My judgement is that, on balance, it is worth supporting. But the concerns raised by Sir Richard and Lord Guthrie don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Rebecca Lowe: Why the taxpayer should fund space exploration

Rebecca Lowe is Director of FREER — a new initiative promoting economic and social liberalism, based at the IEA, where she is a Research Fellow. 

Revelling in things that are non-quantifiably, hard-to-explain, valuable for their own sake is one of the great features of being human. For me, one of these things is an interest in space. Rockets, stars, impossible questions about infinity — you name it, I’m a sucker for it. Sure, there are great practical reasons to learn about all this. But space is also just, well, exciting and wonderful and frightening and beautiful — all of those slightly embarrassing, overly emotional words — in itself. One of my favourite childhood memories is looking at the stars with my dad; I rarely do so these days without thinking about and missing him. He loved the idea and reality of space even more than me.

Like most of us, though, I don’t make enough time for my less pragmatic interests. I’m never going to be an astronaut or an astronomer, so I don’t prioritise reading or thinking about their domain. Having disbanded my usual priorities over the Christmas break, however, I read the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s excellent 2013 book about his three missions in space and what he’s learnt from them. It convinced me that space exploration can be used as an exemplar point for many standard arguments within the realm of politics and policy. (Or, yes, maybe I just want to prolong the holidays and think about this stuff some more.)

Hadfield spends a great deal of the book — both explicitly and implicitly — justifying the existence of the Canadian space programme. Its enterprises are, unsurprisingly, vastly costly to the taxpayer. He does a great job: emphasising the educational benefits, defence and geopolitical gains, advances brought to medical science thanks to astronauts’ experimentation, and so much more. The man is a (space)walking example of why space travel is important. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that taxpayers should fund it, does it? At the least, it doesn’t tell us anything about the extent to which they should.

This leads to a crucial yet overlooked problem. We don’t spend enough time truly justifying taxpayer expense. Governments don’t. Policy-thinkers don’t. Sure, people do sums, and make clever arguments. But, too often, we’re left dependent on idealised aggregate answers, such as estimates of the welfare-maximising level of government spending as a proportion of GDP, and the like. The personal tax burden here is at its highest for decades, yet we rarely hear an acceptance of that truth, never mind concerns about it. And without that acceptance and those concerns, we can’t get down to the important work of determining what should indeed be paid for by the taxpayer — and how this changes over time.

There are two main reasons why things might genuinely need to be funded in this way. The first is that they are essential — or justifiably desirable — yet might not otherwise come about. This is usually termed along the lines of a ‘public good’ argument: we won’t each voluntarily choose to pay for a proper nationwide road system, so the state had better tax people and set it up for them, and so on. It’s probably the case that too many things are lumped into this reasoning, but it surely stands regarding some necessities. The second reason is that these are things that the state (read taxpayer) ’should’ fund, for other reasons aside from (or on top of) necessity of provision, often on the grounds of principle. These are much trickier, and include examples ranging from “education is tainted by the profit motive”, to “we can’t trust our national security to a motley band of foreign mercenaries”.

Space travel is almost always funded by the taxpayer — certainly outside of America — and the usual ‘argument’ given is that it has to be: that it wouldn’t happen otherwise. This argument depends on two assumptions: that space travel has to (or should) happen, and that there is no other solution than state funding. For now, let’s give the first assumption the benefit of the doubt. Hadfield et al make a convincing case, not least in terms of the twenty first-century space-race context. If a drone can stop an airport, just imagine what an enemy country could do with modern space power. The proponents of ’space diplomacy’ are currently seeking to counter the rise of ‘space militarism’ — this is not a battle we can realistically ignore.

But to what extent should this be funded through general taxation? Space X and Virgin Galactic are becoming household names, and many other private space companies are making leaps and bounds. These leaps are nowhere near Neil Armstrong’s yet, however. Sure, the private sector is driving the UK’s capacities in this area: Gabriel Elefteriu, a space-policy expert, points out that the UK’s ‘domestic space champions include Inmarsat, one the of world’s largest satellite operators, and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), the world’s leading small-satellite manufacturer’. But the truth is that nobody’s getting to the moon without vast amounts of state support, and even the most successful private space companies tend to depend on state grants, and have the incentive of big (American) government contracts. The recent Lunar X Prize competition proved quite how expensive participating in the field is — this neat MIT article explains that the un-won $20 million prize was ‘actually relatively little money: to have any chance at winning, teams found, they needed much more’.

Yes, as private companies succeed, more investors will come to join the brave early adopters. Yes, we should thank the rich people who advance science for all of us by blowing their money on their far-off dreams of joining Branson or Musk in space. Yes, competition will drive up standards and push down costs. But, for now, it’s hard not to accept that space travel is dependent on the Government committing our hard-earned cash.

The best arguments for this emphasise our need to be protected through advances in defence capabilities, ranging from military to medical technology. But they also respond to that fundamental interest — that human need and desire — to know more about the universe, to engage with it, to play our part and explore and achieve. To value knowledge in itself, and our world for what it is. If we agree to take part in organised society, and therefore recognise that the state has a role to play in our lives, then it seems as if space exploration is a good that the state can enable, for the benefit of all mankind. Of course, the level of spending on this still needs to be justified, and we must continue to keep assessing its relative importance. But there’s something about space that just won’t go away.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Michael Fabricant: It’s high time for us to rediscover our gung-ho spirit

Michael Fabricant is MP for Lichfield.

One of the many old jokes in the Carry On films is: “where is all your get up and go?” The answer comes: “it got up and went.” It seems, sometimes, that half the population feels that way, when I read some of the more depressing letters and articles about Brexit in the national press.

I travel to the United States three or four times each year – not for fact-finding at taxpayer’s expense, I hastily add – but with and to see friends. I was part-educated at the University of Southern California (Go Trojans!) and still have a home on the east coast near where my business had a base in New Haven, Connecticut. So before I became an MP I travelled a lot to the US on business, too.

I’m there right now – in San Diego, southern California. But thanks to the internet, I was able to hear Woody Johnson, the US Ambassador to the UK, on the Today programme yesterday. He was clear that the present terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration will prevent the US (or any other major economy, come to that) from entering into a Free Trade Agreement with the UK.

But the main issue expressed by Johnson – and Americans that I meet over here – is the surprise at Britain’s reluctance to let go of the apron strings that seem to tie us to the EU.

It’s a lack of self-confidence that might be appropriate in a developing country, but in not the fifth-largest world economy, which can boast more Nobel Prize winners than any other country apart from the US; intelligence services which match those anywhere in the world, three of the world’s top ten universities, with the top two places being British, and a major centre for biotech and space research. Why are we so timid in our dealings with Europe?

In Prime Minister’s Questions a few weeks’ back, Jeremy Corbyn claimed that the UK has “no leverage” with the EU.  No leverage? We are the biggest export market in the world for the German automotive industry – bigger than the US and Chinese markets combined. And Emmanuel Macron knows that the ranks of the gilets jaunes would be increased tenfold if French farmers could not export to their number one market – the United Kingdom.

So why all this timidity by government and civil servants in dealing with the EU, and the fear of leaving the EU by so many in the British population at large?

Friends of mine working in the City for large American banks admit that they explored the possibility of moving to Paris, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt after the referendum. But they soon realised that continental Europeans neither have the financial work pool nor the work ethic to keep long hours deep into the night when the need arises. Those plans to move were soon abandoned.

Johnson can see the opportunities open to the UK in leaving the UK and from being unshackled from the ball and chain of rules so beloved of European regulators. My American friends over here say to me “Why are you guys so lacking in self-confidence? We just don’t get it. Just leave!”

Having been in business and travelled abroad extensively exporting broadcasting systems to some 48 countries worldwide, I can see the huge opportunities that will be open to us after a clean break with the EU.

It is unfortunate that many commentators on Brexit, including journalists and some politicians, never had the get up and go in the first place. The gung-ho spirit eludes them. We should not allow their lack of aspiration and gloom to frustrate the opportunities that are there if only we have the confidence to seize them.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Lord Ashcroft: America – the mid-terms and beyond

For many months before America’s midterm elections, the conventional wisdom was that newly enthused Democrats, Republicans embarrassed by the antics of Donald Trump, and non-voters spurred into action by indignation at the state of their country’s leadership, would join forces to sweep the GOP from Capitol Hill.

As we know, this did not quite come to pass. While the Democrats gained 40 districts to take control of the House of Representatives, the Republicans strengthened their hold on the Senate, making a net gain of two seats in the upper chamber. Hardly the rout that Democrats had predicted – in fact, more like the tide flowing in both directions at once. What’s going on?

The straightforward answer is that the state-wide Senate elections included Trump-friendly small-town and rural voters, with the GOP gains being made in states it had carried in 2016. The competitive House races, meanwhile, were heavily concentrated in prosperous suburbs of big cities, where people take a more sceptical view of the President. My research during the campaign, which included focus groups in some of the key districts across the country, from New Hampshire to California, helped to illuminate some of the deeper dynamics of the race, and offered some signposts for what to look out for next.

Much about current American politics is explained by that fact that while criticisms of Trump focus largely on his personal behaviour, his supporters – including those who were initially reluctant – continue to separate this from his actions in office. Indeed, only one in three of those who voted for him mainly to stop Hillary Clinton say they approve of his character and personal conduct, but nearly nine in ten of them say they approve of what he is doing as President. This was confirmed throughout our midterm focus group research. As one woman in Iowa told us, “It’s like the CEO of the company I work for. I don’t care if you’re the nicest guy in the world. I care that we’re going to be successful and I’m going to have a job from day to day.” While critics are transfixed by his style, his electoral coalition is more interested in delivery.

As for what they think is being delivered, our Iowan’s example holds true. Again and again our groups mentioned the performance of the economy, which many attribute to a pro-growth, anti-regulation presidential agenda. This was a crucial point for many of those who had voted for him only reluctantly two years ago. “I thought he was a joke,” a man in California told us. “But being a blue-collar worker, being a construction worker, for commercial drivers the work has tripled for me since he’s been in office. So for me, OK maybe Trump is immature and he’s definitely not a politician, he’s a businessman. Maybe that’s what we needed.”

My pre-midterm survey found that when asked about various aspects of his performance, both his stronger and more hesitant supporters, as well as independents and voters as a whole, award Trump the highest marks on the economy and jobs. His combative approach to ‘bringing back jobs’ to America, renegotiating NAFTA and confronting China over international trade, is an important part of his perceived record in this area – as well as being, in the eyes of his coalition, an example of what can be achieved with a more robust attitude to diplomacy than they believed America has adopted for some time. The President’s face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong-Un and the freeing of American prisoners from North Korea are regularly mentioned as further fruits of a tough and unapologetic stance.

Two other issues have had a particularly galvanising effect on the Trump coalition. The first is his nominations to the Supreme Court, a matter whose importance to conservatives cannot be overstated. We found during the presidential election that this was a decisive factor for Republican-leaning voters otherwise sceptical of Trump, and he has fully delivered on their expectation that he would appoint conservative justices. Brett Kavanaugh’s explosive confirmation hearings in the weeks leading up to the midterms helped propel GOP turnout by reminding Republicans of the battle they were in.

The second was border control, perfectly highlighted during the campaign by the migrant caravan wending its way to the American frontier from Honduras. Though Trump’s hard-line approach to immigration has appalled its opponents and made some otherwise supportive voters uneasy, for his own people it falls into the category of ‘promises delivered’, as it has since the so-called ‘Muslim ban’ in the very earliest weeks of his administration.

All of these things help explain why the Trump coalition has held together as well as it has in the face of the furious controversy surrounding every day of his presidency, and why the midterms did not produce the Republican wipe-out many had predicted. But there has been some erosion, as the House results showed, and we must remember that two years ago he lost the popular vote and won by only a tiny margin in some of the states that gave him the edge in the electoral college. The 2020 race, then, looks wide open and depends on two things outside the President’s direct control.

One of these is the economy. To the extent that his support rests on growth and jobs, greater confidence and higher living standards, it could be vulnerable should these things fade. The point was made succinctly by John Kasich when I interviewed him in the Ohio Governor’s Mansion shortly before the November election: “I know that one guy that I grew up with said the reason he likes Trump is because his 401k [retirement savings plan] is improved. Now I don’t know what happens after the stock market tumbles. Does that mean he doesn’t like him anymore?”

The other variable beyond his power to determine is how the Democrats decide to play things. They managed to turn out their supporters, engage previous non-voters (2018 turnout was higher than for any midterm election for more than a century) and persuade enough former Republicans to switch to capture key Congressional districts, but it is as easy to take the wrong lessons from victory as from defeat.

The most misguided conclusion for them to draw would be that they are already on course for victory. The legendary Democratic campaigner Bob Shrum told me when I interviewed him in October that this danger was remote: “I don’t think after 2016 that there is the slightest chance that Democrats will ever again assume a presidential election is in the bag, at least those who were alive in 2016.” As one who had declared on TV “that no way no how, in no universe, not this one or an alternative one, could Donald Trump be President the United States, I don’t think people are ever going to get that complacent again.”

But as I found in my pre-midterm survey, few Democrats believe the party needs to rethink its ideas, and most think the key to victory is enthusing non-voters and their own base rather than reaching out to those who voted for Trump, however reluctantly. And as we found speaking to Democrats in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, many are torn between the need to reassure moderate independent voters and their own yearning for a more liberal, progressive candidate and platform which could frighten away some of those who helped put them in charge of the House. In 2020, the identity of Trump’s opponent will matter as much as his record in office. The next chapter in America’s political story looks set to be as enthralling as the last.

Lord Ashcroft’s research, commentary and interviews can be found at LordAshcroftPolls.com.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Luis C.deBaca: Modern Slavery. The Government’s victim protection scheme is deeply flawed. It needs reform.

Luis C.deBaca is the Robina Fellow in Modern Slavery at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, of Yale University’s MacMillan Center. He served in Barack Obama’s Administration as Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

A few years ago, survivors of the largest slavery prosecution in U.S. history invited me to commemorate the tenth anniversary of their case with them, which I had prosecuted in court. They were no longer the scared and hungry workers we had found behind garment factory fences, but were small business owners, college students, mothers and fathers, joined in America by their families and thriving in their new home. Such an emotional and inspirational reunion could not have happened in the United Kingdom, because the victims wouldn’t have received long-term care, their family members would never have joined them, and they themselves would have been likely to be sent home long before.

As Home Secretary, Theresa May recognised that modern slavery strikes at the heart of our commitment to human dignity, and made combating trafficking her signature issue. As Prime Minister, she again vowed to fight ‘the great human rights issue of our time’. That mantle of leadership, however, is at risk.

As US anti-trafficking Ambassador under Barack Obama, I was honored to testify before the Parliamentary inquiry that resulted in the 2015 Modern Slavery Act. Its supply chain transparency provisions and new criminal tools are a global example. But the same cannot be said for the UK’s victim protection regime, which is rendered almost meaningless by the lack of long-term care and alternatives to removal. Put simply, a country cannot long be a global leader against modern slavery when its own official determination that someone is a victim is undercut by artificial deadlines, lack of services, or even deportation.

That’s why the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Private Members Bill, currently in Parliament is so important. This Bill, tabled by Ian McColl and Iain Duncan Smith will ensure that official recognition that someone is a trafficking victim will result in a year of specialist support and an alternative to deportation.

Lord McColl’s proposal would not only bring the UK into compliance with UN and global standards of victim care, but would result in more effective prosecutions, as victims would know it is safe to come forward. I saw this directly as a prosecutor and diplomat. In the US, trafficking victims can seek immigration status (the “T-Visa”) if they are willing to cooperate with an investigation. They aren’t just used as witnesses, but are recognised for their bravery and protected for speaking out, often at great risk. Family members can join them, escaping retribution in their home country and knowing that there is a chance to make a new life in America. Before the T-Visa was introduced, some had concerns that it would lead to false claims. These concerns have been unfounded, because each victim goes through a careful review by investigators at each step of the way.

In contrast, the current system in the UK offers no comfort or security to victims once they have been identified. While it is possible for victims identified in the UK to be granted a residence permit (including for working with the police), that appears to have happened for only 12 per cent of confirmed victims. Instead, victims who are officially recognised by one part of the Home Office often find themselves pursued by another arm of the same Ministry for deportation.

Immigration issues aside, those who are identified by UK authorities as trafficking victims lose all government-funded specialist support two weeks later. This makes no sense. The Home Office promises to increase this to 45 days, but that is insufficient. Trafficking victims are still in direct trauma at that stage, and need long-term care if they are to recover. With support cut off at this crucial point it is no surprise that, rather than beginning a healing journey and cooperating with authorities, victims in the UK often return to the shadows, and even re-exploitation, to avoid destitution.

Three years after the Modern Slavery Act, prosecutions in the UK remain low. That means that, in spite of repeated political commitments to stop this crime – no matter how frequent, sincere, or significant – state involvement in Modern Slavery cases brings low risk for criminals and high risk for the victims.

So what are Britain’s counterparts doing in similar situations? New research by Nusrat Uddin, a solicitor at Wilson Solicitors, compares the support available to victims in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and the US: countries that each have anti-trafficking systems considered global models (though each system can be improved upon). Each system recognises that victims fear coming forward to authorities. But only the United Kingdom fails to respond meaningfully to that fear, lacking coherent provision of long-term protection and support.

Uddin’s report is not the first to recognise this. Earlier this year, the American Trafficking in Persons Report recommended the British Government provide specialised services for all types of trafficking victims, regardless of immigration status. And last April, the Commons’ Work and Pensions Select Committee recommended that “all confirmed victims of modern slavery be given at least one year’s leave to remain with recourse to benefits and services…“

As a friend of the UK, I have been proud to support your commitment and leadership in this area. But as a friend, I must also honestly point out this glaring shortcoming in the British approach. Accordingly, I urge Government to seize the opportunity presented by the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill to increase prosecutions, prevent trafficking, and become a global leader in victim protection.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Lord Ashcroft: ‘The Democrats feel like the middle ground now, and that’s a bad thing’. My pre-midterm election focus groups from Iowa and Minnesota

Last week my pre-midterm focus group tour of the US took us to two competitive districts in the Midwest – in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The outcome in both places will help determine which party controls Congress after the elections on 6 November.

Two current political stories had captured the attention of the voters we spoke to, the first being the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. What did they make of it?

“They’re lying through their teeth. And he [President Trump] is backing them up.” What had the President said, exactly? “The latest one was it sounded fishy, but before that he truly believed them because they said they didn’t do it. Obviously if I said I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it”.

Some thought there was more to Trump’s position than simple credulity: “There’s a history there, and relationships… You just can’t pull the plug because one person got killed, bad as it was. You can have a knee-jerk reaction and say OK, that’s it, we’re cutting off the relationship.”

The other event was the thousands-strong migrant caravan making its way from Honduras to the American border. Trump has responded by threatening to cut off aid to the country unless it is turned around, to close the US-Mexican border and even deploy the military to prevent the migrants entering the United States.

For the Democrats we spoke to in Iowa, this was a question of America’s founding principles, as embodied by “the chick in the habour” at Ellis Island. “Give us your tired, your poor. They’re coming here.” For them, the President’s response was also impractical: “I don’t think we can tell other countries what to do with these people. I mean that’s not for us to tell them how to handle these people.”

This was a minority view among our participants, however. If Trump’s reaction was tough, “I think they’ve left us no choice.” The law had to be enforced: “I’m all for somebody coming here. But you’ve got to do it the right way. Don’t just jump the fence or swim the river, just do the right way. That’s what I like about Trump. He questions what’s going on.”

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This willingness to act, coupled with what they regarded as the fresh approach of a non-politician, remained one of the most attractive things about the President among those who had voted for him: “For decades now have watched as we have had the same exact debates over and over again and the same solutions are brought up over and over again. And so to me, I feel like we need some different people in office in leadership in this country. I feel like the old guard has had its chance and has failed to really deliver on anything and I was willing to throw anybody in there that wouldn’t just follow the same pattern as everyone else;”

“I think he’s trying to change things with just how politics themselves are being done. And the thing that I like the most – I don’t agree with everything he’s done and I don’t necessarily like him as a person. But what I do appreciate is that he has called out a lot of the things that have bothered me for a long time and he’s being honest about them;” “It’s like the CEO of the company I work for. I don’t care if you’re the nicest guy in the world. I care that we’re going to be successful and I’m going to have a job from day to day.”

It was notable, however, that views about the President among those who had voted for him having backed Obama in 2010 were more mixed than among Trump supporters as a whole: “I don’t think I’m getting the change. I think there has been change. But it seems like the country’s more divided than it was;” “Certain things he does are good. But he opens his mouth and then it goes downhill. But also as an average American I’m not seeing the help of a gas pump I’m seeing gas prices rising. I’m continuing to see him to kind of isolate us more from the world – it just seems like we’re getting more and more isolated from everybody else.”

The same was true in our group of suburban women who had voted Republican for Congress in 2016 but only reluctantly voted for Trump, if at all: “I find it annoying to listen to him because it just goes on and on and on. But has he accomplished some things, yes I think he has. But he’s kind of like an annoying child that you just want to say, OK stop talking now. You’ve done this. So just stop talking. He has accomplished some things, he’s talked about the borders. You know he has hit some high points but he’s just annoying.”

How did they feel about the way he talked about women? “I think it’s completely inappropriate and hard to listen to;” “I was discussing this with my young adult children. I never want to hear something like that or have them treat other people like that;” “I find it difficult, because I find him pretty repulsive in many ways but at the same time I appreciate the job he’s doing so I’m really torn down the middle because of his attitude. Kind of like that relative that comes over Christmas time has too many drinks and he’s all over you and you’re like, I’ll just put up with you because you’re my husband’s brother.”

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Yet when it came to next month’s elections, Trump was more of a factor for his strongest supporters and opponents: others were more inclined to look at local candidates and their position on issues they cared about: “I want a Governor that can work with the federal government and develop relationships with them. They are a complete opposite ends of the spectrum nothing’s going to get done;” “I think it’s more about does he care about who he represents;” “I’m going to take a look at the candidates and decide who I’m going to vote for I because Trump is already president. So I’m not really even thinking about him.”

However, for some Republican leaners the idea of stalemate after a Democratic takeover was something to consider: “Nothing would get done. Their first priority would be to remove Kavanaugh and get rid of Trump. So we’d be at a stalemate for two more years getting nothing, getting nowhere, paying for people to do nothing but fight and bicker.”

Despite the talk of a “blue wave” in November, not all our Democrats were very confident of victory, especially given what happened two years ago: “Everyone I know right now, we feel so powerless and so we don’t feel like our vote matters. I don’t know how big blue wave is going to be. I think a lot of people at this point don’t think it matters because you know what, it really didn’t – Hillary won the popular vote.”

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Iowa’s caucuses provide the first test for presidential hopefuls, and the verdict of the Democrats in our groups could give a candidate crucial momentum. What direction did they want to see their party take?

“I think the Democrats are far too moderate, at least for a lot of the younger crowd. The Democrats feel like the middle ground now and that’s a that’s a bad thing.” A centrist candidate “would just be considered just as you said establishment and just and wouldn’t draw out the voters.” In fact, they were not shy of using the S-word: “I think people need to see there’s a lot of examples of socialism – anything public, the highway system. Things they don’t realise they are actually participating in;” “throw a dart at a lot of other countries that are actually doing well.”

Still, some conceded the need for electability: “Someone who seems more stable than Bernie Sanders who has more name recognition, but isn’t like crazy out there so people think, oh that’s a wacky liberal;” “they’ve got to win over at least some of these independents.”

Republicans thought a successful primary challenge to the President was extremely unlikely even if they thought it desirable, as some of them did. However, even some of these said that after Donald Trump they would now have a hard time trusting anyone who seemed like a politician: “Look I would much rather you know get some of the character good Christian you know something like Mike Pence or somebody like that much rather have a polished president. Yeah but I just have a lot of trouble trusting folks that present that kind of image anymore.”

Subscribe to the Ashcroft in America podcast to hear focus group extracts and analysis, as well as Lord Ashcroft’s interviews with figures including Steve Hilton, Christine Todd Whitman, Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, and former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

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