Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Upsides of Brexit

For weeks I have been asking for an upside to Brexit, some benefit to me that justifies the destruction of the UK and a significant fall in our prosperity.

We're all agreed the "it will have little effect" argument was nonsense? Good.

First up "Democracy". Well the EU was a club of democracies that tried hard to be democratic itself. Power rested with the council of ministers who were elected by the people of the countries concerned. The commission was akin to a civil service, advised. Such bodies are never elected anywhere in the world. Then there was the parliament, who chose the president. Above all, the EU basically dealt with issues concerning trade. So we have democratic control over issues we're going to have to accept what the EU says anyway. Good one. We are no more "democratic" now than on Thursday.

"Freedom"? For whom? To do what? I can think of several freedoms I've lost.

"Trade deals" If you think a trade deal with even the US (which won't cover services) even remotely compensates for the single market, then I've a bridge to sell you.

"Immigration?" Well it will only fall if there's a big recession resulting in mass unemployment. Besides the official campaign won, not the hateful UKIP bigotry, and the Government will probably keep us in the single market with (basically) free movement. The bigots will be betrayed.

The upside to Brexit is, for the people who supported it, the satisfaction of smashing something someone you hate holds dear. I hope you're proud of yourselves.

I welcome comments suggesting other upsides, but any comment that boils down to one of the answers above, will be deleted.




Saturday, 25 June 2016

Well, The Wish Has Been Granted

So, the polls were rightish, and the Turkeys did vote for Christmas. A sledgehammer has been taken to the post-cold-war security architecture, and Vladimir Putin is happy.

What Next?

Well. There is much that can happen. Article 50 will be invoked by the next Prime Minister, but still needs to be ratified by Parliament. So it is possible a General Election could get in the way. A new parliament will not necessarily be bound by the referendum result.

In the looming crisis, I reflect on this: The Tory right couldn't help but pick at the scab for 40 years. All they needed to do was, as Cameron asked, stop "banging on about Europe", and they coukd have been in government for 20 years. But the Tory right's mania about Europe couldn't be assuaged. And in giving in to it, it seems likely they will shatter not just the EU but the UK. Scotland is Angry. The Dutch, Danes, Swedes, Greeks and others will want a referendum too. Which is why I don't expect the EU to play nice.

Welcome to the fun new Zero-sum world. It's probably now in the UK's interest to see the European project fall. No-one will be better off as a result.

Let's negoitate a deal with the EU. Put it to another vote (so we know what we're voting for this time). Obviously the Be.Leavers who believe so fevervently in "democracy" will understand, then invoke article 50.

Or, an EEA-style agreement with free market access and free movement satisfies the demand to leave the European Union, with less damage. The people who thought the referendum was about immigration will be disappointed, but I really don't care what such people think.

There are no upsides to what has happened. I hope the UK survives. I hope there isn't a knock on populust surge around the democratic world. I hope Vladimir Putin doesn't get tempted to try to break NATO too. I hope the recession isn't too bad, but it's probably just that it falls hardest on the areas that voted for it. Which it will. The one part of the the UK that will be fine no matter what is the city. The government will protect its interests, and being "offshore" may even help it.

As for the Tory party? It has got what it has long wanted. There will be a recession. The reputation for economic competence, hard won by Cameron and Osborne, has been sacrificed on the European altar. Again. Be careful what you wish for.



Thursday, 23 June 2016

Referendum Prediction: On Polling Day. And After.


You know my views on this, and it looks like sanity will prevail over the dread forces of nativist populism.

I think a few Tories who threw their lot in with Leave will wake up relieved, as if from a fever, that their frenzy didn't result in too much damage. There hasn't been all that much Blue on Blue action whatever the papers say. I think Gove will not be welcomed back. His hyperbole was too great. But Gove aside, the Tories will find it easier to put the party back together than pundits suggest.

Farage will try to do to England what Nicola Sturgeon did to Scotland. He will tour the country whipping up anti-establishment feeling in all the worst places. Mostly, he will fail, but It remains to be seen whether UKIP can supplant the Labour party in its abandoned heartlands. The habit of voting and activism may have been regained amongst the working class. This is a cure to the ennui they feel, in and of itself. They do matter, and can change things. After all, whatever happens, they just have.

As for Labour, who went AWOL under their laughable leader: well quite a few of the grown-ups will have been working with the saner Tories, and these tribes may find they don't hate each other quite as much as they hate the more extreme elements of their own parties. This is the new divide in politics: Cosmopolitans vs Nativists, Mangerialists vs Idealogues, those asking "what do we do" vs those asking "whom do we blame". This fun new culture war doesn't tie down nicely along party lines. It spreads across groups more used to voting on economic solutions, not matters of identity.

This yawp of dissatisfaction, mainly by people which Labour elite once thought they could rely upon, without having to listen, represented a great wail of anguish at the modern world, which settled upon the EU as a scapegoat, may well sweep the Labour party away.

There are too many working parts, tribal loyalties run too deep. Personalities too difficult to see from afar. UKIP, Tory right and Labour left are not a comfortable coalition. Tory and Labour centrists? Or maybe there will be a new Social Democratic party. Or maybe Labour's centrists may attempt a takeover of the Liberal Democrats....

As for the EU, the panjandrums know deep down, they narrowly dodged an existential crisis, brought about by arrogance, hubris and a tin-ear. They would do well to read this.

But sanity prevails. The broad west can now get on with being the shining light on the hill, the example to other societies for riches, productivity and freedom, to which huddled masses not lucky enough to be born in one of our countries will struggle and risk death to get to. Immigration will remain a fact of life, for as long as the UK is a better, freer, happier place to live, offering more opportunity than elsewhere. All we need is the French to reject Le Pen, and the Americans to reject the Trump. Luckily both look like they will do so comfortably.

Nothing's perfect. Here's my Rallying cry:

WHAT DO WE WANT?
GRADUAL IMPROVEMENT!
WHEN DO WE WANT IT?
WHENEVER ECONOMIC CONDITIONS ALLOW.

Not one to get the masses to the barricades, but it's delivered more wealth, happiness and prosperity than any other.



A Former UKIP Branch Chairman Backs REMAIN

Cards on the table. Many moons ago I was a member of Young Independence and established the Bolton Branch of UKIP. I was a member when UKIP was in favour of a flat tax, slashing the size and scope of government and was at least pretending to be libertarian. I left when I saw the writing on the wall; that UKIP was turning in a 1960’s Labour tribute band of social conservatism and big government paternalism (my two least favourite things).

I was and still am anti EU. I think it’s officious, bureaucratic, inefficient, meddlesome, nannying, bloated and expensive. But guess what – so are all governments. Long before the EU we were bribed and coerced by unelected faceless British civil servants, so I don’t buy the argument that Brexit would result in some miraculous purging of pedantic officialdom.

But that’s not my main reason for opting for Remain, rather history, the economy, and British values seem to point that way. Brexit advocates seem to want to fight the tide of history. The story of humanity’s political entities has been one, dare I say it, of ever closer union – groups of gathers came together to form small tribes, which came together to form communities, which in turn grouped together to become towns, which became cities, which united to become small kingdoms, which in finally came together to form the nation states we know today. Europe is now trying to forge the next step – that of bringing nation states into something larger. Being the first attempt it seems new and scary, just as there would have been those in the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex who resisted this new-fangled ‘England’, with its distant rulers and burdensome taxes and laws. It’s going to happen, so we can try and influence that as it’s evolves, or we can re-join in a few decades time as a junior member on much worse terms than we have now.

By far my biggest concern is that of the economy. Markets can deal with democracies and dictators, they can handle with Tories or Labour, but what they don’t like is instability and uncertainty, and Brexit negotiations are uncertainty incarnate. Nobody knows how long negotiations will take. Nobody has any idea as to what sort of deal we’ll get. Nobody knows what EU rules we’ll have to abide by and which we’ll be able to ignore. Nobody knows if we’ll repeal existing EU legislation and if so how much. All this is an anathema to business deciding where to sink investment. The best and brightest of the world flock to Britain because their skills and talents have an unrivalled platform and outlets through our links to Europe, the Commonwealth and North America. Brexit and the subsequent reservations about visas and free movement would throw this into doubt. “But it’s in the EU’s interests to give Britain a good deal, we do too much trade for them to jeopardise it”. This message has been the crux of the Leave camps economic case, but it’s tragically naive for it rests on the assumption that EU leaders act rationally. They don’t. The history of the EU is one of making political decisions that go against economic sense. The Euro, the madness of monetary union without fiscal union, was a political project, not economic. The CAP is a political settlement that runs against all but the most projectionist economic rationale.

If Britain opted to leave left the EU Brussels would have to make an example of us. Negotiations would be tortuous, dragged out for years with every line of the settlement debated and revised and amended purely out of spite. Just look at Greece. Every sensible economist pleaded for some form of debt write-off, but no. Greece had to be made an example of, especially after the defiance of the anti-austerity referendum. The vanity and pride of those behind ‘The Project’ cannot be over stated, and EU chiefs really will go out of their way to cause an independent Britain as much trauma as possible if it meant deterring other would be separatists. This is partly why the EU needs Britain. An EU without Britain would mean all the worst aspects of the bureaucracy would be let loose, with little or no restraint. Those members who tend to side with us, like the Nordic nations, would find themselves without a large ally, and would be cowed and bullied into meek compliance. A Britain-less EU would also be a more insular, inward looking beast.

During the 1990s it was Britain that led to the push to see the ten Eastern European states of the former Warsaw Pact brought into the EU, much to the annoyance of the French who argued attention should be focused on deepening integration among the existing members. But Britain triumphed, correctly insisting that without EU membership anchoring these new democracies to the West, they’d succumb to a gradual economic, then political slide back into the Russian orbit. And this is the rule rather than the exception – for Britain gets its way a lot in Europe, especially on the big issues. The very fact the EU is a free trade area is largely down to us. The European Court of Human Rights, though not part of the EU, was created almost at the British behest. That we don’t have an EU Army is down to Britain thwarting the idea every time it rears its head.

 And it’s not just our friends and allies in Europe that want us to stay. The Commonwealth nations, to whom Brexiteers point as an alternative trading bloc to the EU, want us to remain. Our closest ally, the United States, wants us to stay. Both recognise that our membership of the EU is the unique bridge that binds the Anglosphere and the continent of Europe together. Our place in the EU reminds Brussels that there’s a world outside Fortress Europe and that globalisation is an opportunity, not a threat.

It’s no coincidence that the only world leader who supports Brexit is Vladmir Putin, a man itching to divide and weaken a united West that’s hemmed in and punished his geopolitical trolling. I get the frustration with the EU, I really do. I too hear the siren song of Brexit, the temptation to stick two fingers up at Brussels and reclaim sovereignty. But every year nation states get less and less relevant. True sovereignty hasn’t existed for any state since the Second World War. If we took the Norwegian option we’d still have to follow EU rules, but we’d have no say in how they’re made. Leaving would be to ignore the pleads of our oldest friends. Brexit would be an economic roll of the dice that really don’t need. Much like the Scottish Nationalists, the economic case for Brexit rests on hopeful scenarios and keeping our fingers crossed – I’m sorry but the world’s sixth largest economy is too important to gamble on a wing and a prayer. The perfect is the enemy of the good. The EU machine is infuriating, but Britain, the West, and the world is a better place through our membership.

A guest contribution by Lee T Jenkins



Friday, 17 June 2016

Prediction: A Week Out, And Thoughts on a Murder.

My track record is good: I nailed the Scottish referendum, and the 2015 General election. The polling average at time of writing is a 4-point lead for the leave campaign. I still think (70% confidence interval) Remain will win. Here's why.

The polls suffer from a 6% response rate, and unlike the Scots Indy referendums, there's very little to calibrate them against, as Leave/Remain cuts across party lines, and there have been no recent referendums on the subject. A lot of IPSOS MORI's swing is methodology changes, reminiscent of the last election. The pollsters have been tweaking their methodologies to give similar results (so-called "herding"). There is a better than outside chance of another polling catastrophe.

Given the extraordinarily low response rate, there is a good chance the highly excited leave supporters in every demographic by which Pollsters weight their samples: age, education, socioeconomic class, party affiliation etc, are significantly more likely to respond. The Be.Leavers are enjoying this referendum. The Bremainers are thoroughly sick of the whole referendum and cannot wait until it's over. I cannot see how this can be captured in their methodologies.

Basically, I think there's a good chance the polls are at least as wrong as the General election, which would be nearly enough to get Remain over the winning post.

There are 13% undecided in the last Survation poll. These people will break for the status quo, as they have in most referendums in the past.

The ground game: where one side has access to all the party machines, and the other, leave has access to UKIP's chaotic machine alone, and no national footprint or experience in national 'Get Out The Vote' operations.

This is all said with due respect to the view that shouting "The Polls are wrong" is the hallmark of the side that's going to lose.

I was just about to hit publish.

And As I was writing this yesterday, an MP was murdered. A bleak day for her family, Labour, Parliament, and the country. She was apparently shot and stabbed by a man with mental health issues, and an association with the far-right, who may, or may not have shouted "put Britain first" as he committed his murder. Jo Cox was the MP for Batley & Spen who was first elected in 2015, and was holding a constituency surgery, as MPs up and down the land do weekly. They are unprotected, yet attract some of the worst and most disturbed people in the land. She leaves 2 young children and a devastated husband. We in the UK are lucky to have such dedicated, humble, honest and decent MPs, of whom Mrs Cox was not out of the ordinary. MPs aren't "in it for themselves" nor are they part of "the elite". They're just like us, really.

Whether Thomas Mair, the chief suspect, was, or was not motivated in part by the Referendum campaign is not the issue, as an untruth can get halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on. In this case, it's a still-plausible, not-yet an untruth bit of speculation. A motivation from far-right beliefs and influenced by the referendum campaign remains the most likely explanation for Mair's actions. And for the leave campaign who're busy suggesting an EU army is likely, and Turkey's about to join the EU, to complain about people suggesting this is so, is a bit rum, really. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

I'm making a prediction, not arguing what should happen, and while I wish it were not so, this appalling event will affect the outcome.

What will people take from this senseless murder? That the referendum has poisoned politics? That perhaps we should pause for breath in this febrile atmosphere of anti-politics to reflect on the huge decision we're about to make? That perhaps the anti-politics, anti-expert mood has gone a bit far? Perhaps the politicians, our allies, the economists and international organisations who say Brexit will make Britain poorer, weaker, less influential and will harm the western alliance all have a point? Anything that makes people stop and think isn't going to be good for the 'leave' camp who for weeks have been doubling down on the sullen, nihilist anti-expert, anit-politics anti-immigrant hysteria sweeping western democracies. Events like this have a habit of being the moment the narrative changes.


Farage's disgusting poster unveiled yesterday, with its clear echoes of Nazi propaganda will be received differently in the light of this tragedy.



Thursday, 2 June 2016

An Open Letter to Jean-Claude Juncker

If, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland votes as expected to remain in the European Union, you should not take it as an endorsement.

Britain is a great nation, once the hub of the greatest Empire the world has ever seen, a victor at the centre of alliances, in three centuries of conflict, and the mother of Parliaments. To imagine we would ever subsume our identity into the European Union was the height of hubris, a hubris equalled only by our own imperial project. 

When we on these islands realised that 
"...in seeking to make conquest of others, we have made a shameful conquest of ourself"
we used the last of our global power to defeat a grotesque continental tyranny, and retreated from empire leaving Cricket, democracy and railroads for the friends who willingly helped us defeat Hitler to use.

We expect the European Union to realise that we on these islands will not ever be part of some 'United States of Europe', and we don't think France, Poland, Italy or Germany, or any other great nation of Europe should be expected to either. 

The European Union exists to facilitate trade between free peoples, and to solve problems best dealt with at an international level. Trade, environment and security. And it is the Last of these in which our voice must be heard clearest.  For it is British soldiers who have poured blood into European soil over centuries, for all our freedom, and stand ready to do so again. Without the UK in the EU, Germany would have blinked in confrontation with Mr. Putin in the Kremlin. And it is our unbreakable alliance with the United States that ultimately guarantees European freedom to this day. When Churchill said 
"If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea."
he was asking De Gaulle in 1944 to not make him choose an alliance with Europe over the USA. We, if forced to choose, will never choose Europe. An acknowledgement of these facts, ahead of the vote, publicly and with humility would go a long way to keeping the European and broader western alliance together.

The European Union has achieved much to be proud of. Chief amongst these is the cementing of Democratic norms in the former fascist south and former communist East. The carrot of joining the club has brought countries with no tradition of freedom to respect human rights and the rule of law.
Freedom brings great wealth and power, but that power must be used lightly. Britain learned that lesson the hard way. There is no need for the nations of Europe to learn it again.

No more 'Ever closer Union'. Not for the UK as you have already accepted, nor anyone else.



Monday, 23 May 2016

On the EU Army Nonsense.

The UK military has operated independently twice in the past 400 years with a 1-1 scoreline. The treasonous war of American so-called "independence", and the Falklands conflict. Otherwise we always operate in an alphabet soup of foreign alliances.

The EU Military staff doesn't directly command troops, who usually (but not always) operate under the auspices of NATO.  Most military co-operation in Europe is bi-lateral such as Anglo-French missions to Mali, or multi-lateral and Ad Hoc, like EuroFor. Eurofor, which has deployed several times, isn't an EU army but multi-lateral co-operation between Italy, France, Portugal and Spain, and has mainly operated in the francophone Africa.

The EU battlegroup training on salisbury plain recently isn't a nascent EU army, just one of the alphabet soup of foreign co-operative organisations of which the UK military is part, one which hasn't deployed anywhere, and is a bit like the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps of which the UK has long been the core.

The French, long suspicious of NATO and who want to make the EU a counterweight to EU power, have accepted that while the UK is a member of the EU, an EU army isn't going to happen and rejoined NATO's command in 2009. They pulled out in 1966 arguing (no, seriously...) that NATO (get this, right...) undermined their sovereignty. (Lol).

The EU army isn't going to happen, because the UK has consistently vetoed the formation of an independent EU military command.

Of course were we to leave the EU, then the French would be free to get their way, leaving NATO's command again and possibly taking the Germans with them in time. We must remain to prevent the French using the EU to undermine NATO.



Friday, 13 May 2016

On the "Brexit and War" Question: Not as Silly as it Sounds

Russia conducted an exercise of 80,000 troops in 2014 simulating an invasion of the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. It isn't unreasonable that our Article IV NATO allies and EU partners feel a mite worried about the bellicose behaviour of their nuclear-armed Neighbour, who has 800,000 men under arms. Russia could bring forces to bear, invade, and mop up all resistance in the Baltic states within a week. The only thing stopping him taking back what Putin has described as "not real countries", is the security guarantee they enjoy from NATO, and especially the USA.

Far from being "provocative", the Western alliance has bent over backwards to accommodate Russia's paranoia. No troops have been permanently stationed in the Baltic until recently. There is constant communication (from NATO) in order to prevent misunderstandings. (Much less is forthcoming from Russia). NATO exercises in the region have been no more than a few hundred troops. There is certainly no massing of forces that could possibly threaten Russian territory, and the west has no interest in provoking Russia. The idea that the Association Agreement the EU was to sign with Ukraine was in any way "provocative" to Russia should be met with a snort of contempt and derision, let alone the idea the Euromaidan protests were "anti-russian" or orchestrated by "fascists". (So please don't say so in the comments, I'll simply delete such Putin-toadying).

But the Russian state's default position is Paranoia. In the Siloviki, you have, in effect, a state captured by its spooks. They are in thrall to Alexandr Dugin's doctine of Eurasianism, and feel encircled by enemies, chief amongst which in the Kremlin's demonology are NATO and the European Union. NATO is the shield, but the EU is the means by which we will defeat Putin's eurasianism. By bringing countries like the Baltic states and Ukraine into the European system, we demonstrate the profound failure of Russia as an alternative. Ultimately the Russian people would be better off embracing western values, and without Putin's toxic and paranoid statecraft.

While the world watches Syria, Russia is busy pouring poison into western discourse with the explicit aim of breaking the world order in place since the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. So Putin supports “anti-systemic” parties of left and right. He bankrolls the French Front National and Hungarian Jobbik. Alec Salmond and Nigel Farage were regulars, and well paid, on Russia Today, Putin's toxic little propaganda swamp. Aaron Banks, UKIP and Leave.EU's biggest donor is married to a Russian, and has form for repeating Putinist lies. Jeremy Corbyn regularly used to spout Russian Propaganda, before he was forced by circumstance to converse with grown-ups for a change. Green parties have money siphoned to them (anti-fracking, to support Russian energy interests). Putin is absolutely delighted at the Rise of Donald Trump. It has been alleged Russian Bombing of Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria was undertaken deliberately to create refugees, to further destabilize and undermine the European Union. I suspect, though this was not more than a secondary benefit, to the ultimate goal of making Mr. Putin look good on Russian state TV.

We’ve never had an enemy like this before. Russia is a spy agency, which has captured a Nuclear-armed state, but it's not clear Putin is in complete control. The entire apparatus of the state is about creating an alternate reality, in which fact and fiction merge. Maskirovka, raised to a governing philosophy. but with no real end-game in sight. There is something of the Thomas a Beckett about the chaos in Donbass: Putin says "will no-one rid me of this Turbulent Priest" and before you know it, two provinces of Ukraine have declared independence backed by significant invasions of Russian regular soldiers. Putin cannot back down without losing face, but cannot escalate for fear of provoking NATO. The shooting down of MH17 was the moment the Ukrainian donbass separatists over-stepped their mark, but there's no way out for either party. Ukraine faces an existential threat, and the Russian regime is based on never showing weakness.

With a frozen conflict in Ukraine, things can escalate rapidly. It is the Nature of Putin's cult of personality, he needs constant action to keep the narrative of strength going. This was the ultimate reason for the Deployment of Russian Forces to Syria - to get a limited war onto Russian TV that can be used to demonstrate the Greatness of Mother Russia, which makes the sacrifices the long-suffering Russian people worthwhile. But Russian forces have pulled out of Syria, and there's little glory in the stalemate outside Mariupol. What next?

Sweden and Finland, neutral during the cold war, are inches away from Joining NATO, so threatened do they feel. Swedish subs are continuously dealing with Russian incursions. The Russians are actively buzzing US warships in the region. The RAF having to scramble to intercept Russian Nuclear bombers is a weekly occurrence. It’s constant provocation. A Russian flotilla sailed through British waters last week.

Putin may be a master tactician, but he fails as a strategist. This is, to my mind the single biggest risk of the UK leaving the EU. Brexit would send a message (whether or not this is true) that NATO's number two power is no longer serious about its commitments to its allies. He'll have split off Europe's most potent military power from the EU. This will embolden Putin to try to further split the west, because it suggests our Nations' commitments to each other isn't as strong as it was in 1989. This is especially true if there's further success for "anti-establishment" politicians like Donald Trump. If Putin has an opportunity, and he's an expert opportunist, he is likely to take it to try to break NATO, having already broken the EU. We do not want to tempt the Kremlin to gamble on the UK's willingness to spend blood and treasure to defend Narva. Because if the UK won’t, the USA won’t. And if the USA won’t, NATO is finished. And if NATO is finished, the whole of Eastern Europe could well come under Russian suzerainty again. And that, we think (as well as the Survival of one Mr. V.V. Putin) is the ultimate aim of the Russian state.

Finally, EU sanctions matter. With German "ostpolitik" and much of continental politics actively in Putin's pocket, it is the UK who drove sanctions on the Russian regime when they invaded another soverign European nation. And make no mistake, the EU matters, and the sanctions are hurting the regime. The UK is influential in EU foreign policy, perhaps the most influential power. Without the UK in the EU, the EU would not have taken as robust a stance on Crimea as they did.

Now is NOT the time to be upsetting the international institutions which have been so crucial to delivering peace and prosperity to so much of the former soviet empire. “Brexit risks war” isn’t as silly as it sounds.



Wednesday, 20 April 2016

'Leave' Has Just Lost its Economic Argument

Michael Gove, who is likely to be the person most responsible for setting the parameters of Britain's negotiation with the EU after a leave vote,  indicated on the BBC Today programme the UK will not stay in the common market. We would seek a free trade agreement like Albania, or Iceland.

This means the risks of #brexit have gone up. The prospects of a risk-free slip into the EEA have gone. We must therefore run the risk of the foreign investors on whom we rely to cover are triple deficit (current account, fiscal and trade) going on strike.

Where this to happen, In order to tempt them back, the Bank of England would need to raise interest rates , which slows growth. The UK may not be a default risk , but as a country with I need for constant inflows of foreign capital we may need to print more money to cover the bills . Investors will therefore need a higher return to compensate for the risk.

This is one mechanism by which leaving the EU could slow growth. There are others. The UK may become a less attractive place for foreign companies to invest. And not just because of access to the single market. For all its faults, the EU has been consistent in its application of laws surrounding state intervention in business and preventing government's interfering too much in markets. Leaving risks that benign business environment.

The risk therefore of a catastrophic cycle of interest rate hikes and currency issues has to be set against the sheer paucity of the potential benefits from leaving the EU . Just what are we hoping to achieve? Why are we risking prosperity in this way?

An honest answer would make use of Gandhi's aphorism " it is better to be governed badly by oneself, than well by other people." If it is simply about democracy, then supporters of brexit will need to be honest about the potential economic costs.

The post EU UK could become the free market prosperous business-friendly place of brexit fantasy, but it could equally become a paranoid insular protectionist hell hole of UKIPpery, or worse yet, the Labour Party could nationalise everything in sight. These are both outcomes European Union protects us from.

The problem is brexit becomes a tabula rasa on to which everyone can paint their own ideal post EU UK . Then arguing against brexit becomes an argument against everything that person holds dear. Many have spent decades seeking confirmation for a prior belief that the EU is behind all the bad things. Nothing can persuade these people that leaving the EU isn't a panacea to solve all the UK's ills. It's a peculiar Mania.

The lesson of the ERM debacle is not that the EU is evil, but that the UK should not have joined the euro, and we didn't. It doesn't follow we should leave the EU too. The EU is not the enemy. The UK is not going to join the euro. EU is not going to Force the UK into a superstate, a European army, or a single currency.

The European Union is a collection of some the freest, most prosperous and happiest democracies on Earth. The Euro project has impoverished half the continent on the altar of political vanity. But that is not the question we are asking in this referendum. We are asking specifically whether the UK should leave the European Union.

What are the benefits of leaving the EU? If they aren't economic, they seem mostly to accrue to politicians who gain greater freedom to interfere in our lives. And what do we the people gain, to offset the probability of a negative economic outcome?

Will we lose the right to live, work and travel at will from Helsinki to Lisbon and from Warsaw to Dublin? Probably not, but it's a risk. Will UK be better off economically speaking speaking? Probably not. That means people will lose jobs.

The risks are real, the benefits seem ephemeral. And very fact that we are having this referendum now means should the EU develop in a way that is an anathema to British interests, for example if  as I am told is "inevitably" going to happen,  the Euro is forced upon the UK, we can always leave another time. The very fact of this referendum undermines fatally the sovereignty argument.

Thankfully the polling seems to indicate the remain campaign is winning.



Monday, 4 April 2016

I dislike the EU intensely. I'm voting to Remain in.

I get it. You hate the EU, and Jean Claude Juncker's a twat. I get it, the desire to kick Guy Verhofstadt in the bollocks. I understand on a deep and visceral level the desire to headbut Martin Shultz and wedgie Neil bloody Kinnock and hang him on a clothes peg by his underpants until they rip. I want pour itching powder into all their underwear drawers. Jaques Delors especially. But for better or worse, in the EU or out, we have to work with these bloody people, and the tin-pot countries they come from which show precious little gratitude for the British blood poured into their soil over the centuries for the privilege they still enjoy to not speak German (or French or Spanish). Instead they must speak English...

I get the desire to send RAF Typhoons on punitive strikes against the wasteful and absurd Strasbourg Parliament building, with or without the MEPs still inside. I understand the desire to have HMS Dragon, the most modern air-defence destroyer on the sea to be deployed against Spanish fishermen. I get the desire to set fire to French sheep (mainly because you'd get in less trouble than you would setting fire to French farmers). I too deplore the wasteful CAP. Above all, I want the entire commission, parliament and bureacuracy of the EU lined up and bogwashed by the smelliest upper-sixth prefect, one after the other while they practice their English irregular verbs. All right-thinking people agree.

I'm still voting to 'Remain'.

The most likely scenario should the UK leave the EU, is that not a lot would change. There will of course be some disruption before people realise this, probably leading to a small recession. But upon UK leaving the EU, slipping into the EEA will feel like a more comfortable shirt. Long-run, we may even be better off and happier. This will likely suit our historic national desire for "the open sea" over the continent. But  UKIPpers will still be grunting about immigrants, and deplore the fact we still have to obey EU rules. But as we will no longer have any formal means to influence them all that much, they'll have to lump it. Thankfully without their MEPs (and EU money) they'll fade away.

We'll be free to trade with the world (as if we aren't already...)? Well here's the Economist suggesting it's nowhere near as easy as Brexiteers pretend to negotiate new trade agreements.  This EEA scenario holds no fear for me. But it's by no means a given, and nor does it achieve much beyond 'not being in the EU'.

If we aren't staying in the EEA, then negotiating a new arrangement with Europe will likewise be nowhere near as simple as Brexiteers will have you believe - and it will be negotiated in an atmosphere of bad blood. There will be a recession, and probably a long and deep one. We will in the short to medium term almost certainly be worse off.

However there is a broad strand of 'Leave' thought that wants the UK to be the catalyst for the collapse of the entire EU project. The problem is with Brexit, a systemic collapse is far from just being a 'KIPper's mastubatory fantasy, it could happen, and there exist outside forces, who've already got influence, that will be urging it on. This systemic collapse WILL cause a massive recession, both here and even worse, in the EU, and lead to all the geostrategic points that I've been raising in all my previous essays on the subject. Vladimir Putin would be delighted. World trade - heretofore liberalising albeit at a glacial pace would go back by 30 years.

You can't have it both ways: glory in the imminent collapse of the EU AND paint the downsides of that scenario as 'Project Fear' when it's absolutely what most brexiteers desire, when the mask slips.

You can EITHER control EU immigration OR keep all the trade benefits of the EEA, but not both. Leaving the EU can either be low-risk OR you can control EU immigration and "get our country back". Not both. 

Even the best case scenario of EEA membership, (which I suspect most Brexiteers only favour to have any chance at all of securing a 'Leave' vote at all) will leave the UK not much better off, with significant risks all on the downside, should any more damaging scenarios play out.

Leaving this bloody stupid organisation our idiot neighbours built simply isn't a good gamble. Stay in, and keep the more excitable Federast knobbers under control as best we can is in the best interests of the UK, and that of our friends and allies on the continent. Basically that means staying in, to work with the Germans to prevent the French screwing everything up. Again.

If leaving was government policy, and I knew therefore which of the options I'd be voting for, and the risks and benefits were clear in advance (and we were opting for EEA...), I'd probably go for it. But it isn't, they're not and so I won't. I'm not taking a risk with my prosperity, just to please idiot 'KIPpers. That's that. 



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