Cameron has already lost

If Mr Cameron wins the referendum, he will have achieved a pyrrhic victory. It will not have achieved his objective to settle the “British question” once and for all.

An article in last Tuesday’s Independent concludes on the basis of recent opinion polls, that the UK electorate will vote to remain in the EU, still unhappy with it, but unconvinced there is a sound economic case for leaving. In other words, we would continue to play our accustomed role of “the Awkward Partner”,  far from sold on the vision of a federal Europe, dragging our feet with the integration process and generally upsetting the other countries as we have done for much of the last 40 years.

It would be the worst of all possible worlds and a deeply unsatisfactory outcome for Mr Cameron. However, it seems that this is what he wants. The fear card is still being played for all it is worth. Last Friday’s newspapers claimed that withdrawal would make our food, air fares and holidays more expensive. Read any article on this subject in detail and beneath the headlines, it amounts to little more than scaremongering about the drop in the value of the pound, based on its fall earlier this week.  As we pointed out here, there are many reasons why currencies rise and fall. Currency traders only think in the short term. No one would deny that the herd instinct may cause a brief drop in the value of Sterling immediately following a “leave” vote, but once the markets realise that the sky hasn’t fallen in, it won’t last long. Our economy is sound – especially relative to that of much of the EU.

Mr Cameron is orchestrating a fear campaign which began within hours of his return from Brussels. Can he really keep this up for another four months? If so, the best he can hope is that people just turn off in boredom. More likely, this incessant diet of fear is going to breed a healthy cynicism which the “leave” camp could  – and indeed intend to – exploit to the full. Watch this space!

Cameron has all too many accomplices in trying to shut down open and honest debate. Not surpisingly, his sidekick George Osborne weighed in, claiming that “this is not some political parlour game, this is about people’s jobs and their livelihoods and their living standards. In my judgment as Chancellor, leaving the EU would represent a profound economic shock for our country, for all of us, and I’m going to do everything I can to prevent that happening.” Considering Mr Osborne’s track record so far as Chancellor, we must be thankful that there will be no economic armageddon for him to save us from, or else we would be well and truly doomed.

More disturbing was this article in Friday’s Daily Express describing how a teenager at a school in Southampton was accused of “political extremism” for accessing the UKIP website from a school computer and was subsequently reported to the police, with teachers claiming he had raised welfare concerns by visiting “politically incorrect websites”. He was then referred to a specialist team whose usual brief is preventing vulnerable youngsters from being groomed and indoctrinated by Islamic State jihadis.

Furthermore, the letter written by Jeremy Heywood, the Secretary of the Cabinet & Head of the Civil Service to civil servants and special advisors ordering them to limit assistance to ministers supporting the “leave” proposition, does nothing to suggest that there is any intention to conduct the referendum in a fair, even-handed manner.  It was encouraging that Owen Paterson MP challenged the Prime Minister in Parliament about this breach of the fundamental principle of civil service neutrality. Unfortunately, Paterson’s intervention did not receive the media coverage it deserved. 

The one weakness of the Leave Campaign to date is our failure thus far to present a coherent seamless exit strategy.  This, however, will be addressed next month at the launch of the Leave Alliance in London, to which all are welcome.

Armed with a suitable weapon with which to counter Cameron’s fear tactics, we will fight for all we are worth to secure that crucial “leave” vote.

Of course, if he wins, Mr Cameron will try to depict us as bad losers, but no one can possibly claim this is a fair and open contest. Our best hope is that we won’t lose because the public can see through his games and ask the very obvious question that if remaining in the EU is such a good thing, why does it require such spin, deceit, fear tactics and rigging of the debate to convince us that this is so?



Photo by antigallery

Expat rights – ignore the scare stories

This helpful article, which appeared in The Brexit Door blog, is a most helpful debunking of a myth which has been doing the rounds recently.

One of the constant themes that I have heard over the last few days, both in discussions and on social media, is a fear over the treatment of ex pat Britons who are now living in  the wider European Union if we were to leave it.

This has been fuelled by the media, and used as part of the ‘Remain’ campaign. I hadn’t taken it too seriously until a friend of mine in France posted one of the many UK Labour “mythbusters” links on my facebook time line, which also attempted to sow fear into the minds of Ex Pats and more recent immigrants to the UK. Clearly, she has been unnecessarily concerned by these attempts to misrepresent the facts, which I find both underhand and particularly unpleasant. (This has always been part of the tactical advantage for Remain of going to the polls early and shortening the campaign – fear takes hold quickly but longer to assuage with facts).

The law surrounding the rights of Expats is clear, and they have nothing to worry about (that they didn’t have already anyway).

The Doctrine of Acquired Rights.

This has long been a guiding principle of international law, especially in succession issues, where the sovereignty of a nation has changed. An early 20th Century example of how acquired rights are accrued in international law is that of the German residents and descendants living in Poland after the end of the Great War. Moves to treat them as ‘aliens’ with reduced rights were spurned by the Permanent Court of International Justice. They had been resident for many years (and some had been born there), and although the court at that time could not bind Poland to the decision ( the role of the court in this case of 1923 was only advisory), the doctrine upheld is clear. So this is not a recent legal development.

This is backed up by the more recent (1969) Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which in article 70.1.b states that termination of a treaty :

Does not affect any right, obligation or legal situation of the parties created through the execution of the treaty prior to its termination

This would apply to expats just as much as it would to EU citizens living in the UK. The current standing would apply, the obligations of the state would be unchanged. This should extend to anti discrimination laws also, which would be applied in the nation states themselves at a domestic level, and ultimately in the European Courts for the members of the European Union if not upheld correctly. The right to remove a case to the EU would remain unchanged in this aspect (as we see non EU citizens having access to the EU courts in disputes with the UK state based on residency or locus standi).

What does this mean for Expats and and EU Citizens on a practical level?

Quite simply, that whatever the outcome, they have nothing to fear. There is no political will here in the UK to do anything prejudicial towards the millions of EU migrants living and working in the UK. It would fall foul of our own anti discrimination laws, before we even got to thinking about how it would be treated in international law. It is also not in the nature of the UK courts, administration or its people to behave badly to foreigners or immigrants, despite some of the wilder accusations or minority opinions held in pockets by extreme nationalists. This is no different from any other country in Western Europe, we are an open and welcoming nation for all those who come here (observation of our laws and customs being our sole request to the international settler).

For the Expat Briton in the EU, the situation should be exactly the same. The law continues to protect the rights that have accrued under our membership of the EU even after we have left the political structures. There should be no change to the relationship that Expats have with their countries of residence, municipal authorities or the EU institutions as a whole.

One concern raised personally with me was that the French have never signed the Vienna Convention, would that distinctly affect Expats in France? The answer to this is a simple. No, because the Vienna Convention was only in this respect codifying what has always been clear in French Legal Doctrine, and was clear before the Convention was drafted.

I came across this rather old text, in which Law professor Pierre A Lalive, (the President of the Geneva Law Society), explains the doctrine and its history. He makes specific reference to the importance of the Doctrine in French legal history (and to Pillet’s theory, p157 if you care to read it). The French have no legal history of setting aside the doctrine of acquired rights. And also, the EU backstops this tradition as it requires France to practice correct anti discrimination law as laid down by the Treaties.

The Final Outcome

Let us be extremely frank here, the Government does not want to leave the EU. The civil service which advises it and will form the backbone of the negotiating strategy team will always look for the least disruptive method by which to leave the EU if the people force their hand. They do not want to leave the EU either, because their function is now so intertwined with it that it has become hard for all practical purposes to determine where Whitehall ends and Brussels begins.

This leaves (as Rafael Behr points out in the Guardian today) the civil service looking for the closest answer to EU membership while still upholding the strict will of the people. And of course, the question on the ballot paper is very straightforward – about ‘Leaving the EU’. The post EU settlement is not up for discussion as part of the Referendum question, we have discussed it so as to reassure those who have fears about the effect of Brexit that really there is little to worry about.

So this leaves the government open to many options, but it is clear as Behr points out, that it will seek the closest relationship with the EU that it possibly can without actually breaking the directly expressed will of the British people. This will be to retain our membership of the EEA (so therefore keeping the four freedoms in tact) and looking to re enter our relationship with the EFTA. This would give us significant gains in political freedom, especially in Justice, Home affairs, International Affairs, International Trade, Fishing and Agriculture, Environmental regulation, education, transport, social and welfare rules and such employment areas such as health and safety.

Even though this would not change the four freedoms it would allow us access to the ‘Unilateral Emergency Brake’ of EEA 112/113 (which we have seen Iceland use). Many other things would remain unchanged. Labour Law would not significantly change as we have obligations under the ILO (International Labour Organisation). Trade rules and product conformity assessments would not change, this is governed by the EEA rules (EU laws which have EEA application run to about 21% of the total of EU law and are largely market regulation and competition law). Most of those rules are generated by international bodies such as the WTO, UNECE and Codex Alimentarius. All of these bodies would now have a British direct influence, currently pooled by the EU and operated on our behalf.

So change would be slow and incremental, there would be no threat to businesses, trade, or to individuals working or in business in the EU or here where they are outside their country of nationality. Conformity would remain, the most major change for businesses would be that they would no longer be in the Customs Union, but of course that will free the UK government to reduce tariff  and non tariff barriers further to the wider world (and that’s something the British have proven to  be pretty good at, international relations).

You have absolutely nothing to worry about.

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting it’s shoes on”.

(Mark Twain (Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain: A Book of Quotations)).

For EU but not for US

One issue which supporters of continuing EU membership is that other countries want us to remain. This article by Matt Ridley in the Sectator knocks this particular argument on the head.

America is urging Britain to stay in the European Union. But it would  never dream of joining a comparable organisation

So the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, thinks his country has a ‘profound interest… in a very strong United Kingdom staying in a strong EU’, and President Obama is planning to join in campaigning for the Remainders too. They say this not because they think it is good for us, but because it is in their interests that we influence Europe in a free-trading, Atlanticist direction.

Well, two can play at that game. How would Americans like it if we argued that it is in our interests that the United States should forthwith be united with all the countries in their continent north of the Panama Canal ˜ Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama ˜ into a vast customs union governed by a transnational, unelected civil service. Let’s call it the American Union, or AU.

Imagine that Britain’s Foreign Secretary has just made a speech in Toronto saying he thinks America should join the AU in order to influence Mexico in the direction of free trade. The great and the good in America agree, because they think being part of the ten-country AU will prevent war, boost trade, help smaller nations compete with the behemoths of Europe and China, enable free movement of people, stand up to Russia, encourage scientific co-operation and ensure environmental protection.

Above all, we argue, it would show the world that America is not small-minded, xenophobic, protectionist and isolationist. To this end we think the AU should,  er,  agree a common tariff against imports from the poorer countries of South America and have free movement of peoples within but not from outside the union. We also think the United States should give up the dollar and use a common currency issued in central America, called the auro, sometimes known as the oreo, or if it is not ready to do that, should encourage others to use the auro, even though there is limited fiscal harmo-nisation, which bodes ill for the single currency. Oh, and the flag of the AU, consisting of ten radial yellow stripes on a blue background, should be prominently displayed alongside the Stars and Stripes.

Unfortunately, in the current political climate, it turns out that these manifest advantages, deliciously attractive though they might be to the American elite, because they offer an escape from having to think about people in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, apparently do not have quite the same appeal to the American electorate. People are worried about Mexicans taking their jobs, using their health care and drawing upon their welfare if they join the AU. And about Panamanians running up deficits, Guatemalans passing laws that affect Americans and Nicaraguans sharing a common foreign policy.

The average Trump voter might not like Congress much, but he likes the idea of an expensive international parliament that shuttles between Mexico City and Vancouver even less, and of an international executive whose directives pass automatically into law still less, let alone one whose corridors of power are positively seething with lobbyists from big business and big pressure groups (funded by the AU to lobby it). As for the idea that the US Supreme Court could be overruled by judges sitting in Toronto or Managua…

Yes, yes, but not to worry. Mr Kerry and Mr Obama agree the AU is not perfect and should be reformed before America joins. Indeed, let’s suppose they have spent the past few months shuttling between the capitals of North and Central America to achieve this. The results have been disappointing and tend to show just how hard it is to get agreement to change anything as unwieldy as the AU, but no matter, we would advise the Americans to go ahead and join anyway. It’s in our interest that they do so.

Perhaps you think my analogy unfair? We are already in the EU, whereas I am suggesting that America joins the ˜ currently fictional ˜ AU. So what? Surely the decision is identical. If the AU/EU is worth joining, then it’s not worth leaving, and vice versa. Perhaps you feel the cultural and economic differences between Seattle and Tegucigalpa are greater than between Manchester and Athens. I don’t agree. Perhaps you think it unrealistic to expect such a big country as America to subsume itself into such an arrangement. Well, Britain is vastly bigger than many very successful, independent countries and has the fifth largest economy in the world. America could expect to boss the AU far more than we get our way in the EU.

Perhaps you think America should be more concerned with building free trade and good relations with people on other continents, rather than the countries that happen to be next door: that is, with China, Russia, Brazil, Europe. In which case, don’t you think the same is true for Britain? Silicon Valley has benefited from a flow of talent from the Indian subcontinent  precisely what we have denied our creative industries here as we struggle to control immigration overall but are not allowed to restrict numbers from one particular landmass.

There is a serious point here. Most Americans I know think Britain would be mad to leave the EU, but that’s because they think the EU is like Nato or Nafta or the Organisation of American States – a club of nations bound by a treaty. They think it is a trading bloc. They do not appreciate that it is a common government, run by a common bureaucracy and answerable to a common court system. Once you explain this, by using the analogy I just used, they get it immediately. They would never join the AU in a million years.

And then pause to consider the irony of America, a country born in rebellion against being governed by others through a democratic deficit, lecturing the British on how we should stay inside the EU. The chairman of Conservatives for Britain, Steve Baker MP had this to say about John Kerry’s remarks: ‘I refer Mr Kerry to the US Declaration of Independence. We will do peacefully at the ballot box that for which his nation fought a war of bloody insurrection. If the USA must express a view on the UK’s right to the separate and equal status among the nations of the world to which many of us feel entitled, perhaps they might consider whether they wish to discuss their back taxes.’

Put your money where your mouth is, Mr Kerry. Unite your own continent into a superstate first before you tell us to do the same.

Photo by Center for American Progress Action Fund

Did Boris really cause the fall in sterling?

Since February 21st, the pound has fallen agains the dollar from over $1.44 to currently just over $1.39, having risen since this morning. Some commentators were blaiming it on the announcement of the referendum date and some actually attributed the fall more specifically to the announcement by Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, that he would be supporting the “Leave” campaign.

One of our supporters has posted this comment by John Redwood MP which takes a more sober assessment of the pound’s fall:- 

When sterling was at €1.15 in 2011 no-one suggested it was weak because we might leave the EU. It is now much stronger, yet we read the pound is falling owing to Brexit fears. In January 2012 there were just 118 yen to the pound Today there are 160, a yen devaluation of 35%. Against the dollar, which has been rising against most world currencies in recent years, sterling is approaching $1.40 again, a level it has reached several times before. The pound was also weak against the dollar in July 2013 and in April 2015, when its weakness was not ascribed to Brexit fears.

The reasons people sell a given currency and drive its price down from time to time are varied. Currency volatility has been a big feature of world markets so far this year. At the centre of the action has been the weakness of the Chinese yuan and the strengthening of the yen after a long period of weakness from the Japanese currency. There has also been a period of dollar weakness against the yen and Euro, as people revised their expectations of further US interest rate rises downwards. Sterling has been caught in some of the cross winds from these global currency moves.

Recent falls in sterling against the dollar may be related to perceptions that the Bank of England is now going to delay any interest rate rise this side of the Atlantic for many months. They may be related to continuing weak balance of payments figures and less hot money flowing in from Russia, the Middle East and other commodity producing areas. There have been people out to talk the pound down as they think it had reached uncompetitive levels. It is difficult to see why the possibility that Brexit might win the referendum should have a great lasting negative impact on our currency.

It is difficult to know whether the 2011 rate against the Euro meant the pound was too cheap or the current rate if still too dear. Markets change their minds on these matters, and often overshoot when correcting what they see as an anomaly. The pound did not suddenly fall the first time someone published a poll showing Brexit was likely after all.

Yesterday the Bank of England’s testimony to Parliament mattered more. Hints that interest rates could be cut again and more money could be created showed the Bank doesn’t mind more currency depreciation. The Bank was far more worried about low inflation and weaker growth than about devaluation.

Jason Pidcock, a city fund manager, also said that sterling’s tumble was irrational.

‘I actually think the UK economy will thrive if we leave,’ he said. ‘When people talk about the fear of the unknown, that’s not a reason [to remain in the EU]. We should embrace the opportunity,’ he said.


Photo by surreynews

They would, wouldn’t they?

FoE ogoOne of our supporters recently pointed out to me that Friends of the Earth has come out in support of our remaining in the EU. A round-robin  e-mail from the organisation’s CEO, Craig Bennett, says “The evidence is clear: the EU has been good for UK nature and the environment. Because of this, Friends of the Earth will be campaigning for the UK to remain a member of the EU.”

The e-mail provides a link  to a page on the Friends of the Earth website which concedes that, “the Common Agriculture Policy has proved an environmental disaster.” but insists that “exiting the EU would leave the UK’s environment in even worse shape.”

The website offers a further link to a pdf setting out the organisation’s position in more detail, which I perused. In fact, I had a pretty good look round the website, even lookint at the accounts for both the limited company and the trust.

You may ask, why spend my time studying the website? The answer is simple. I was looking for any admission of the real reason why  Friends of the Earth were so unequivocal in  their support for our EU membership. I eventually found some evidence tucked away in the trust accounts:- “We have also recevied grants from the European Commission through our European Friends of the Earth partners in Hungary and Austria,”  No figure was given, but Robert Oulds’ book Everything you wanted to know about the EU states that in 2011, Friends of the Earth Europe received over €1 million from Bruessels – 46% of its total funding.  Now se wee the real reason for Friends of the Earth’s stance:- who would want to bite the hand that feeds them?


Cut and run

So now we have the date! Much to the fury of the SNP, the referendum will take place on June 23rd. Having come back with nothing of substance, Cameron has decided to cut and run, hoping to sneak through a “remain” vote before the “leave” campaign has time to build up a sufficient head of steam.

Listening to BBC Radio 4 today, it is very obvious that the “remain” campaign is going to play on the fear factor. If I was given £1 for every time David Cameron, George Osborne and others used the phrase “a step into the unknown”, I could make a very substantial dent in my mortgage.

In spite of the best efforts by Mr Cameron, he has come back with nothing more than a deal yet futher diluted from the draft version whose inadequacy was well illustrated a couple of weeks back on this website and on others too.  As Peter Lilley pointed out here,  things have gone downhill from Cameron’s initial desire to be on the world’s top tables, including the EU’s. We would now merely  be “the appendix of Europe”.

After following the debate for much of the day, a few things are apparent:-

  1. Remainers will have a real problem trying to defend the deal. George Osborne was squirming  when cross-examined ny John Humphrys on the Today programme. It amounts to nothing of substance and he knows it.
  2. The crucial group, the undecideds and “soft” voters in either camp can be won round, and the shallowness of the so-called deal can be exploited to our advantage, but the “deal” will be history by June 23rd. It’s going to be broader perceptions of the EU that count – and to a degree, the perception of our political leaders too.
  3. We need better, more robust arguments than many put forward by some “leavers” I heard on the radio today. Access to the Single Market  is a crucial issue.  We need to move on from “They will trade with us because  they sell more to us than we do to them” or we will lose. To make the case that staying in is the risky alternative (which it is), our arguments must be watertight.
  4. The potential influence of Boris Johnson in this debate has been grossly overstated by the media

On this brief note, CIB wishes all those campaigning for our freedom from the EU the very best as we prepare for a long four month slog. It’s not the timescale we would have ideally liked, but we’ve got to make the best of it, work our socks off, believe in ourselves and pray for a miracle.