May 25, 2016

The future's bright ... hopefully

Recent polls have shown Remain moving ahead, so it's a nice surprise that we now have two showing Remain and Leave tied. Only 4% say they won't vote. 13% are Don't Knows.

Both campaigns have been presenting cases which are surprisingly ill founded. Remain are just bombarding voters with economic threats from as many establishment personages as possible. There's no whisper of other advantages of remaining in the EU. Is that silence significant? You have to wonder.

Some of these economic threats are bizarre. Lower house prices? Er, isn't that a government policy objective? A fall in the value of sterling? Er, isn't that essential if there's to be any hope of addressing the UK's huge balance of payments deficit? Indeed, it's probably another government policy objective, just not one they care to shout about. And those higher interest rates? They're going to happen anyway at some point - so just a bit sooner? But, hm, that would tend to increase the value of sterling ... and so reduce the sterling costs of holidays in the rest of the EU. These economic interactions, they can be so pesky. But if we do have some sort of recession (and why would we, if nothing much will change for two years?), won't that make the Bank of England more likely to hold or even cut interest rates?

The Remain strategy is to keep pounding at voters with all the big guns they can find. It's simple and understandable but is it effective? And if not, what have they got left except even more big guns firing the same ammunition?

Simple and understandable are not descriptions anyone could apply to the Leave campaign - if there is such a thing as "a Leave Campaign". Have Leave's big beasts even sat round a table to agree broad brush themes? If Remain is a line of Big Guns, Leave feels like a series of unco-ordinated raiding parties. It's plucky, but is it war?

It would be tedious and pointless to set out the Remain campaigners' different approaches. As the first step, the Flexcit approach is promising (the Norway route) but politics will dictate progress after that. The UK's broad objectives are clear and the pessimists might have to get used to pleasant surprises: the EU will be stunned. Making up its financial shortfall and trying to keep down rebellious minorities in its other territories will just be the start. Economic confidence inside the eurozone will probably manage to drop even further, while international finance will be inclined to sell the euro, causing the incoherent single currency even more problems.

At present, EU politicians make threats about what will happen to us after Brexit. (Though since they also say they will take even less notice of our wishes if we Remain, it's hard to see why post-Brexit threats should sway us.)

The EU political big beasts may indeed wish to give us a hard time. But will that be realistic? Sizeable groups of their voters will be sympathetic to us; our biggest enemy, Hollande, will by then have the clout of a damp rag; their businesses that export to us won't want to see our economy harmed; the EU will be facing the threats listed above; and if Erdogan keeps defying Merkel, the migrant invasions may well resume.

Facing all those urgent problems, would the EU big beasts have the time and attention to devote to the optional extra of giving the offshore island a hard time?

So where do the campaigns go from here? It's hard to see what new fronts Remain can open up. So probably more big guns, with their fingers crossed that Leave won't work out how to exploit the huge weaknesses in the case for Remaining.

And Leave? In theory there is much more scope for the Leave campaign to become more effective. But in practice? Remain has a central high command, but the Leave campaign seems to have no structure at all. Herding particularly headstrong cats? Can Leave start exploiting its advantages effectively? I hope to be convinced.

May 15, 2016

Oh good, it's Yvette Cooper again

That thin lipped prig Yvette Cooper has surfaced again in the EU debate. She is criticising Boris Johnson for saying the EU is trying to create a European super state, following in the footsteps of Napoleon and Hitler, but using peaceful means.

Boris says
Fundamentally what is lacking is the eternal problem, which is that there is no underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe. There is no single authority that anybody respects or understands. That is causing this massive democratic void.
Yvette is not having this, accusing Boris of playing a "nasty nasty game". And her high minded contribution? She claims "The EU has played a critical role keeping peace in Europe" since the end of the second world war.

Hm, that's NATO.

Evidently no lie is too blatant for Yvette to press it into service.

It seems Yvette has also forgotten about the EU's bloody failure as Yugoslavia disintegrated, and its ham-fisted imperialism in Ukraine.

So not just a prig. A lying prig.

May 13, 2016

Is immigration too high? Then vote to leave

The Telegraph carries two articles about some effects of EU immigration into the UK. As Alison Pearson points out
Official figures show that, in the five years to 2015, just under one million immigrants came to this country from the EU, as they are perfectly entitled to do. But hark. Over the same period, the number of National Insurance numbers issued to EU migrants was more than 2.2 million.... In all, the ONS now estimates a total of 2.4 million entered the country. In one year, mid-2014 to mid-2015, a quarter of a million Europeans came in according to the official measure, yet almost 700,000 bagged themselves an NI number.
She traces the effects to lack of hospital beds, difficulties in getting first choice of school places, and housing shortages.

Ministers tend to bleat that migrants aren't a drag on the economy because overall they pay more in tax than they draw in benefits. This ignores the costs of providing that accommodation and those school places, and the costs of expanding the NHS to cater for them. Meanwhile, people already living here who have been paying their taxes can be disadvantaged.

If immigrants' taxes were enough to pay for the extra public provision they need, government would shout it from the rooftops. They don't. So we can draw our own conclusions.

The theme of Fraser Nelson is that there's no shortage of say food shops - chains like Sainsburys have grown to cater for the extra customers - but the state has failed in expanding health and education capacity. "We’ve coped with immigration very well – it’s the State that has failed."

A ridiculous argument. It's not that the private sector is inevitably fleet-footed. Schools and hospitals are built slowly and expensively. But more importantly, doctors and teachers take years to train. Supermarket cashiers ... not so long. Tesco's recent track record shows us that supermarkets don't always get this right, but they can take the commercial hit, and they can close branches with relatively little outcry. Imagine if government decided to close schools or hospitals because immigrant numbers hadn't materialised in particular areas as expected.

Expansion of state services would require more spending, so more taxes. Meanwhile, of course, Alison Pearson's point stands - we suffer the double whammy of poorer public service provision and the higher taxes.

The purist Brexit advocates will point out that the European Single Market requires freedom of movement. So, they say, immigration is irrelevant to a decision on Brexit, and they pour (not very) friendly fire on advocates of Brexit using immigration as an argument.

But if voters want to cut immigration, they should indeed choose Brexit. If they vote to Remain, the UK will remain open to EU freedom of movement, unless (not impossible) immigrant pressure causes free movement to break down. With the EFTA/EEA option we would still be part of the Single Market; we would also have to accept freedom of movement; but this might only be the first step in a flexible exit (or Flexcit).

Might later steps give us back control of our borders? Indeed they might.

So a Brexit may not let us control immigration from the EU straightaway. But it is probably a necessary first step.

If you want control of our borders, vote to Leave the EU.

April 27, 2016

Ignore the OECD, the IMF and their lookalikes

It's regularly remarked that the great and the good - the IMF, the OECD and so on - project economic losses from Brexit.

Why do they? And does it matter?

Leave campaigners point out how many of these forecasters claimed that Britain would gain from joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism, and then said we should join the euro.

Wrong then, wrong now, they say.

The IMF also famously forecast that Austerity would harm the UK economy - just before the economy turned up. Charlatan George was quick condemn them then, but calls them in aid now when they support him. Of course.

By common consent the eurozone is headed for deep trouble. Germany runs growing surpluses, southern European countries are suffering contraction and stagnation, youth unemployment there is immorally high. That can't continue indefinitely, but they can't reflate and they can't change their exchange rate.

Greece is an even worse case. The IMF and the EU (read, Germany) can't agree whether Greece should be offered debt forgiveness. The IMF says this is essential if Greece is to turn its economy round (though of course it won't work, however much it is). But the EU (read, Germany) would have to take huge financial losses. And this would break the German government's promise to its people.

And there's the small matter of the invasion crisis, as thousands upon thousands on muslims pour in to a formerly christian Europe whose civic and cultural beliefs they do not share, and in some cases actively oppose.

You won't find these risk factors built into any of the projections from the august bodies.

And that's no surprise. They are headed by Davos attenders, staffed by people who aspire to that elite, and financed ... oh let's see ... by the very governments whose political strategies they draw back from criticising.

By contrast, this enforced orthodoxy prevents them factoring in any possible gains for a country which takes a political decision to depart from the consensus.

It is not the role of these bodies to rock the boat, or - shudder - condone fresh thinking.

They are not neutral, they come with baggage, and they should be ignored.

April 07, 2016

Cameron goes beyond the pale

I'm to the right on the political spectrum. The Conservatives would be my natural home, but I don't belong to any political party.

Occasionally a politician does something which puts them in sharp focus and gives me a firm view of them. Gove's actions and several of his speeches mark him as a serious man I will always give attention to.

Boris's seeming determination to do no prep whatsoever before he talks about the huge subject of Brexit marks him as a shambling idler. He had better hope he doesn't get a senior ministerial job before his run for the Tory leadership. The application needeed would do for him.

Cameron has now decided to spend £9.3m of our money - OUR money - on government propaganda delibarately designed to skew the referendum, as he knows the Leave campaigns cannot match that spending.

It would be one thing if he was spending his mother's inheritance on this propaganda. But it's taxpayers' money. Or rather, it's money the government is borrowing, which we, the little people with no wealthy family background, will have to pay interest on, maybe for ever.

And according to Guido
Multiple sources report that a whole team of Whitehall civil servants have in the last week or so been seconded from their departmental jobs to help the Remain campaign. Taxpayer-funded officials from the Cabinet Office, Treasury and Foreign Office are said to have been moved to campaign roles. The slanted rules say such activity from publicly-paid staff is banned if they want to help the Leave campaign.
Such shamelessly blatant corruption of democracy should have no place in our politics, especially at the highest level.

Sign the petition against this.

It's a pathetic little gesture, but I will also be returning my leaflet to Downing Street in an unstamped envelope.

Cameron here has crossed a line. He is deliberately undermining democracy to get the result he wants. (Did he get the idea from the EU, or was it always his personal morality?)

I can never support this dictator ever again.

March 15, 2016

Two quick Brexit snapshots

First we have Boris encapsulating the Remain position, referring to
Europhiles droning on about how there's nothing else we can do and we have got to stay and receive our punishment beatings until kingdom come.
Which seems a pretty fair summary.

On the other hand we have Edward Lucas trying to make a positive case for Remain. It's a revealing piece: What we are treated to is an article which blathers on about the scope for reforming the EU (it's not happening now, so why believe in it?), ignores the EU's large and increasing democratic deficit, and asserts that a UK which Left the EU would inevitably become isolationist and shun all international bodies.

Is this really the best the Remain campaign can put up?

March 10, 2016

The Battle of Brexit

Today we take to a helicopter over the Brexit battlefield. What do we see?

Over there are the Remainers. We can make out a large set of red tents, but those troops appear to be wandering about aimlessly in search of their leader, who rumour suggests is reluctant to take the field.

The main Remainer force looks organised, expensively equipped, and calm. Almost as if they had a strategy. From time to time Squire Korski rides off to summon reinforcements - some of them, it has to be said, mercenaries. These extra squads do appear, though not always in the numbers expected. Most effective so far has been the talismanic figure known as The Governor, even while he keeps insisting he is not in the Remainer camp at all.

Above all, the Remainers keep pounding the Leavers with the same steady fire, all asking How will you manage the economic transition? General Dave has announced that "the biggest issue on 23rd June is our economic future".

This, by co-incidence, is the issue where he thinks the Remainers' case is strongest.

By contrast, the Leave side of the battlefield looks disorganised. Instead of a dominant central encampment, we notice scattered clusters of separate tents. The Vote Leave tents look the most organised; on the opposite flank are the tents of Grassroots Out. There's an excitable man there who seems to think he is in charge, jumping up and down and shouting loudly. But who is taking any notice?

A group of women have just arrived and are setting up their own camp. At some distance we can see a small set of tents with pennants fluttering in the breeze proclaiming "Leave HQ" - but there's no sign of a stream of riders being sent to the other tents issuing orders. Their weaponry is sophisticated and advanced, small pieces firing regularly. But oh dear, for the moment at least their fire seems to be falling as much on their fellow Leavers as on the Remainers.

Of co-ordination among the Leave camps we see no sign at all.

The Remainers seem to have decided to put all their eggs in one basket. In line with their general's order, they are concentrating their fire on the economic costs of Brexit.

Of course there will be transitional costs and uncertainties in leaving. The Remainers deliberately keep their timescale short.

Much of the Remainers' ground is defended sketchily or not at all. Their immigration defences seem to have become trapped in a quagmire, but hardly any fire is being concentrated on this area.

The Sovereignty Point seems to be wide open to attack from several angles. There were some powerful sighting shots from the Vote Leave camp, but they have not been followed up. If the Leavers do have a strategy, it's not clear what it is.

Battles are notoriously unpredictable, but at this early stage only the Remainers seem to have any battle plan at all.

However. Rumour has it that behind the surrounding hills unpredictable forces are taking shape, variously known as the Migrants or the Turks.The Remainers are Trying Not To Look That Way, while some Leavers feel prevented by their chivalric code from mentioning them at all. Neither side can be sure what those massed forces might do. But if they appear on the field, their large numbers could overwhelm whatever plans the generals have.

March 08, 2016

Greens against democracy

Green charities have been issuing statements in favour of staying in the EU.
The charities have all insisted that Britain being a member of the EU is vital to protecting Britain’s wildlife - with one suggesting that those backing Brexit want to make the country “the dirty man of Europe”.
Eurosceptics complain that charities should be politically neutral. The charities say they do their political campaigning through limited companies with are quite separate from them, an ingeniously amoral defence.

Let's leave them to slug that out with the Charities Commission and look at the more important issue of what they're saying.
Friends of the Earth says on its EU referendum page that membership has created “cleaner beaches and drinking water”, “less air pollution” and “protected wildlife” in Britain.
The Wildlife Trusts say
Our research and evidence indicates that the safest outcome for wildlife and the environment would be for the UK to stay in the EU.
They are confident they can be more successful by lobbying Brussels than by working in London to influence the British parliament and government, as elected by British voters.

British voters? Who cares about them? Let's take the money Brussels gives us for lobbying, and use it to ... lobby Brussels. Let's kwork with Brussels to override the policies of the elected British government.

Greens against democracy.

March 07, 2016

Change the subject, Leavers

Agitation over Marr's interview with Boris yesterday is fruitless. Some claim all BBC interviewing is biased, presumably not having watched Sunday politics, where Andrew Neil grilled Nick Herbert and Douglas Carswell on figures their campaigns are using.

Why don't his guests prepare themselves by watching previous interviews? He had raised many of those points about the numbers before but to Nick Herbert they seemed to come as a surprise.

Note to both campaigns: refute Neil's corrections or adopt them (he won't be going away).

To the Leavers in particular: why keep saying we send the EU £350m a week if it's demonstrably untrue? It undermines your credibility, and it's pointless anyway. How many people would happily send the EU £175m a week but be outraged by £350m?

Can't we have some message discipline? Apparently not.

Dodgy claims also allow Remain to keep focusing on numbers. This is Remain's preferred battlefield but it is not the main issue.

The Leave campaign has to start talking about democracy, sovereignty, and other benefits of leaving. Such as ...

Why can Carswell not just say, "I see the case for £175m figure. It's still a huge amount. But there are other big issues which are even more important"?

March 04, 2016

Bravo, France

London eclipses other European capitals. Even Paris. London is the biggest city in Europe. 38% of its population were born overseas. 1.5 million of its people work in highly skilled sectors. Across Europe, London has 46% of the high-skilled jobs. Paris is second ... with 19%.

Ah, Paris. From where huge numbers of French go-getters have moved to London to escape the dead socialist hand of one Francois Hollande.

Which must be galling. Especially when London as a financial centre is in a different league from any eurozone capital.

The French would rather do without our troublesome presence in the EU. Our economy is larger than theirs, we are insufficiently dirigiste, Protestant northern Europe tends to be sympathetic to our way of doing business. This is not good. Oh, and we have the fastest growing major economy in the EU.

France would prefer we left the EU. But they have to take account of Germany. Germany wants us to stay, not just for the money but because we can be a useful counterweight to ... er ... France.

This too is not good.

So in the Brexit negotiations, France gave notice that it would be looking to increase regulation of the City of London. This might be in Germany's interest too, as the financial capital of the eurozone is at Frankfurt. So this French threat is licensed by Germany.

Yesterday France decided to talk tough over migrant centres on their side of the Channel. The treaties covering these are bilateral, between Britain and France, and independent of the EU.

French Republicans had already said they would repudiate these treaties if they won power after the next election.

Now Britain has bunged France £17m towards the cost of looking after refugees stuck in France who don't want to be there. In return, France has said that if we leave the EU (which, remember, is nothing to do with these treaties), there will be consequences.

In this area France can talk as tough as it likes, as Germany has no involvement.

For once, this blog finds itself on the side of the French government. Germany wants us to stay, but France wants us to leave. And who would want to be tied in to a superstate alongside such a determined enemy?
Mr Hollande said he did not want to put "pressure" on British voters but warned "immigration" arrangements could be affected by Brexit. He added that remaining in the EU also had "consequences" but failed to spell them out.
France's aim is as clear as it can make it without upsetting Germany.

France wants Brexit.

Bravo, France!