Greeks have no reason to celebrate

Last week, Euro zone finance ministers offered Greece a 10-year deferral and maturities extension on a large part of past loans as well as 15 billion euros in new credit to ensure Athens can stand on its own feet after it finally exits its bailout in August, eight years after stringent austerity measures were imposed on the country.  On hearing this news, many Greeks celebrated. Even Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeared wearing a tie! However, in the words of Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos, the country has nothing to celebrate.

Greece was obliged to submit to EU programs in 2010  so that the public debt could be reduced.In 2010 this debt was 262 billion euros. In 2018 it is 323 billion euros and growing. To put it another way, debt was 120% of GDP in 2010 and 185% in 2018. So the objective of the program failed,the public debt was not reduced and after eight years of measures,the country has been destroyed and the people continue to suffer.

To present the completion of the fourth and final review of the growth strategy as a victory and a story of success, the Eurogroup statement of 22 June 2018 congratulated the Greek authorities and the Greek people on the successful conclusion of the ESM program. The statement is a masterpiece of manipulation of public opinion, presenting a disaster as a success.It might have been perhaps more honest to present it as a successful disaster.

The Eurogroup did not give to Greece a debt relief or reduction as had been promised in the past. The unsustainable debt magically became sustainable.What was given to Greece was an extension of  debt interest repayment and maturity for Greek bonds for 10 years.

Not many paid attention to a document called Annex A in which six specific commitments are mentioned in order to ensure the continuity and completion of reforms adopted under the ESM programme. These commitments concern:

1.Fiscal retrenchment where Greece assumes to fully respect its commitment to ensure that its annual budget achieves a primary surplus of 3.5% of GDP over the medium term.This means constant overtaxation of the Greek people and no relief in sight.

2.Social welfare, where Greece will continue with efforts to modernise its social welfare system,health care system,pensions and proposing a new approach on disability benefits. Modernisation in euro-jargon means collapse through financial squeezing, as we have seen from the last eight years.

3.Financial stability obliging Greece to continue implementing reforms aiming at restoring the health of the banking system.This health is more important than the health of the Greek people and obliges Greece to implement the comprehensive action plan on household insolvency with the objective to eliminate the backlog of cases by end 2021. This means that more people will be rendered homeless in order to restore the health of the banking system.

4.Greece will safeguard competitiveness of its labour market through an annual update of the minimum wage in line with the provisions of law 4172/2012. In other words, a continuation of low minimum wages and poverty for the people.

5. Privatisation. Greece confirms its intention to complete a large number of privatisations including airports,ports,marinas.Actually most of the country becomes privatised as the state is stripped from its assets and this “with a view to swiftly attract investment to support a sustained economic recovery”.

6.The implementation of reforms to modernise the public administration will be sustained. In other words, more civil servants will be fired so unemployment will increase.

What is totally surreal and shows the true face of the EU is the paragraph of the Eurogroup statement that intervenes into the Greek justice system and tries to influence it.There have been court proceedings that have started against members of the Committee of Experts of TAIPED for violating Greek law. TAIPED is an institution created by the Troika that acquires public property and sells it within the framework of the privatisation policy that is being imposed upon the country.

The former president and some senior staff of the Greek Statistical authority ELSTAT have had proceedings opened against them for falsifying statistics..The blatant intervention into the Greek justice system mentions: ”We recalled that the ongoing legal proceedings against the members of the Committee of experts of TAIPED are a matter of very serious concern and we reaffirm our full confidence in the work of the experts, which was also confirmed by the Hellenic Court of Auditors. Preoccupations also concern the proceedings against the former President and senior staff of ELSTAT,notably as regards the alleged falsification of fiscal data.The Eurogroup continues to have full confidence that the data validated by Eurostat and delivered by ELSTAT since 2010,including the 2009 general balance outurn is in compliance with the rules that are applied in all Member States.The Eurogroup mandates the institutions to continue monitoring the developments in those cases and the supporting actions taken by the Greek authorities,including legislative actions if needed,for instance strengthening the independence of ELSTAT,in full respect of the independence of the judiciary,and report back to the Eurogroup in the context of the post programme surveillance.”  This paragraph is a masterpiece of hypocrisy that undermines the judiciary system of what is left of a member-state. Our BREXIT friends should be informed about this.

In these eight years, Greece has been destroyed systematically. Thanks to the austerity measures, people have died, unemployment has soared, poverty has increased and basic human rights have been violated. Meanwhile, in Brussels the politicians and technocrats have been congratulating themselves on the “progress” achieved in Greece.

So what can be done? Nothing, unless we have regime change in Greece.Once that is done, then the Loan Facility Agreement of May 2010 can be unilaterally denounced according to UN procedures, the country cold then leave the eurozone and the EU. Criminal charges should be raised against the Greek regimes that that collaborated with the troika and against the  the troika itself for crimes against humanity. Article 41.3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU must be implemented. It stipulates:”Every person has the right to have the Union make good any damage caused by its institutions or by its servants in the performance of their duties,in accordance with the general principles common to the laws of the Member States.” And finally Greece should claim reparations from Germany for the loan that it made during the occupation of the country from 1941 to 1944,which it never payed back and which created the famine in the country that killed thousands of persons then.The amount with interest is more that the public debt of Greece.

Only by taking these measures can Greece be saved .

Two years on – reflections

I am sure that none of us who campaigned for the UK to leave the EU will forget the euphoria of that moment on June 24th 2016 when the result was announced. This was the piece which I wrote for the website later that morning.   It is interesting to look back on what I said at the time. It seems like another age, but I was perfectly correct in saying that “a lot will happen before we are finally and formally out of the EU”.

I certainly did not expect just what a mess the government was going to make of the Brexit negotiations, although by the time I wrote this piece a year later to mark the first anniversary of Brexit, there were already indications that it was not going to go smoothly.  “What a roller coaster we have endured!” I wrote. We’re still on that roller coaster. The EU (Withdrawal) Bill may have avoided being wrecked by some amendments proposed b the House of Lords and my conviction that most MPs do not want to prevent Brexit still stands, with the caveat that some of them will only support a Brexit which they are confident will not induce a recession.

However, the EU and our government’s team are still a long way apart and the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit has increased. At the moment, this is causing few ripples in the general public, even though a number of businesses, notably Airbus and BMW are seriously concerned.  Certainly where I live, one hardly hears anyone talking about Brexit. Which ever way people voted two years ago, most just want the government to get on with it. The EU has never set that many people’s pulses racing in this country and after its brief prominence two years ago during the referendum campaign,  for most people, it has become once again a non-issue. The public is apparently evenly split over the wisdom of voting to leave the EU, with a slight majority thinking it was wrong (although there is no doubt that their numbers have been boosted by the government’s poor handling of the Brexit negotiations), but that does not equate to any groundswell to revisit the result.

Of course, there area few exceptions and with the second anniversary of the Brexit vote falling on a Saturday this year, both sides took to the streets to mark the occasion.  Claims that some 100,000 people turned up to a rally in London to demand a second referendum have been challenged by some of those who were present on the day. Going back to my June 2016 piece for the website, it is interesting to note that within hours – yes HOURS! – of the referendum result being announced, a petition demanding a second referendum managed to gain 100,000 signatures.  Thankfully, the government and the majority of MPs have continued to ignore these headbangers. We voted, the people made their choice and with Mrs May stating her determination to make a success of Brexit, her party knows that any backsliding on this issue would be suicidal.

But the government needs to be getting on with it and, in spite of being given far less media coverage, a pro-Brexit “Freedom March” was also held in London. Was it as well supported as the anti-Brexit rally? perhaps not, but one person who was present stated that “I found the noise so great that I couldn’t hear my mobile phone or, when I tried to use it, the voice on the other end” so there must have been a good turnout. Sadly, the same correspondent also stated that”oppressive policing was to the fore” Another correspondent wrote that there was a  “good atmosphere”, adding “people want to see some action”.

Yes indeed. Furthermore, this was not the only pro-Brexit event held in London, with Leavers of London holding a picnic elsewhere in the capital. Neither will it be the last. The government must deliver what it pledged to deliver – or else.

(if you were one of the individuals who commented on my 2016 post, I’d be interested to have your thoughts two years on)
Photo courtesy of Derek Bennett

Peer urges ‘negative’ Government to talk about benefits of Brexit on anniversary of referendum

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                          

 

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon (independent Labour)                                                                                         

News Release

22nd June 2018

On the eve of the second anniversary of the EU referendum, the independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has criticised the Government for its: “negativity and failure to make clear the many benefits the UK will enjoy outside of the European Union.  The British people had a vision of a positive future outside of the EU, when they bravely voted for Brexit on 23rd June 2016.  It is a about time the Government did too!”

Lord Stoddart said: “It really is very disappointing that it has to be the American Ambassador who is reminding us of what a great country we are and of the optimistic future we can look forward to outside of the EU.  He is absolutely right to be dismayed at the defeatism we, as a nation, are exhibiting towards Brexit. It is high time that our rather negative Government, which seems to regard the negotiations with the EU as some sort of damage limitation exercise, started being a cheer leader for the benefits of leaving the EU, not least the £10.5 billion net and rising that we will no longer have to pay to be in this failing economic bloc.

“The passage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill through both Houses of Parliament this week is hugely significant because it means that the European Communities Act 1972, which made the EU supreme over Westminster, will be repealed.  In other words, despite the endless anti-democratic wailing of the Remain brigade, there is no going back, we are leaving the EU and re-establishing the supremacy of our own Government and Parliament.  Not before time!”

Ends

Why did we vote to leave? Two quick reminders

A number of UK companies are to be given a pre-Brexit leaving present by the EU – a substantial fine. According to this piece in Bloomberg, the European Commission intends to complete its investigation into a controversial tax break for U.K.-based multinationals will be ready later this year. None of the companies involved in the U.K. probe is accused of wrongdoing. It is the government’s tax system is the issue for regulators in Brussels.

With the second anniversary of the Brexit vote looming, here is a timely reminder of why we voted to leave – to take back control from these unelected bureaucrats.

Another reminder was provided by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. He warned that we would be ejected from Europol and from the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). Although meant as a threat, if his words are to be taken at face value. they ought to be a cause of rejoicing for Brexit campaigners. On this website, we have repeatedly highlighted the failings of the EAW and have stated that Brexit must mean our withdrawal from it.

Unfortunately, things are not that simple. Barnier’s words are most likely designed to pile additional pressure on Theresa May, who is desperate to keep us in the EAW. Still, who knows, more by accident than design, thanks to the government’s lack of progress,  we could end up with a better Brexit at least in the area of criminal justice than the Government actually intends?

Separating the wood from the trees

As the “ping-pong” continues between the two Houses of Parliament over the amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, it is easy to end up very confused, bogged down by a mass of detail.

Part of the problem is separating the wood from the trees. Some items of news, touted as major developments, could better be described as “going round in circles”. More of the same, in other words. Take, for example, the “Backstop” plan announced by HM Government two weeks ago – a temporary customs agreement  which, so it believed, would solve the Irish border problem.  Any gambler would have been justified in betting that the proposals would amount to nothing new and would promptly be rejected by the EU.  This, of course, is exactly what happened. In his usual polite, but measured way, Michel Barnier dismissed the UK plans. Here is his speech. For those readers not wanting to read it in full, this short extract, where he contrasts the EU’s “backstop” proposals (which have been deemed unacceptable by  a number of pro-Brexit supporters in the UK) with HM Government’s, is sufficient to show just how wide of the mark our side still is:-

But let me recall that our backstop provides answers to each of these questions.

It provides specific solutions to the unique situation of Northern Ireland.

The UK is taking a different angle, however. It is looking for a UK-wide solution.

Let me be clear: our backstop cannot be extended to the whole UK.

Why? Because it has been designed for the specific situation of Northern Ireland.

What does it do? On customs, Northern Ireland would form part of our customs territory. What is feasible with a territory the size of Northern Ireland is not necessarily feasible with the whole UK….

So it’s back to the drawing board with the clock continuing to tick.

If further evidence was needed of how good life can be outside the EU, even for signatories of the EEA agreement, this documentary on Liechtenstein is worth listening to.  It includes an interview with the country’s Prince.  If anyone should know how well this small country is functioning outside the EU but yet within the EEA, its leader must surely be the man.

Such is the muddle at the heart of government that some serious commentators are now claiming that we will never achieve Brexit. The forthcoming European Council looks to be a bad time for Mrs May. On the one hand, she is nowhere near to coming up with any sort of agreement to which the EU will agree. On the other hand, some of her backbenchers are threatening to bring down the government over fears that Brexit will be botched and disaster ensue.

The standard of reporting by the press when it comes to Brexit has left much to be desired, Looking at things more objectively, the two problems the government is facing are closely related. There are unquestionably a few determined “wreckers” who have not come to terms with the Brexit vote and never will. There are also mainy remain-voting MPs who have accepted the verdict of the referendum but will only go along with the government’s plans if they are confident that the country will not suffer economic turmoil and dislocation. They, unlike their more gung-ho Brexit colleagues, are aware of the problems which we, among others have highlighted if we have to crash out of the EU without a deal and bringing down the government is the only weapon left in their arsenal.

We have long been saying that only a crisis will bring a change of direction.  Thankfully, the government’s complete lack of ability to address the outstanding issues, let alone throw its weight behind a solution which will be acceptable to Parliament, makes such a crisis increasingly likely.  If it leads to a reconsideration of something like the EFTA route, this could actually prove beneficial, detaching from the hard core head-banging remainiacs those pragmatic MPs who are prepared, in spite of their own personal preference, to support the people’s democratic decision with a sensible Brexit and thus ensure that we do finally leave the EU next March.