More positive polling, but here’s what we’re up against

Telephone polls carry more weight than on-line polls. That is certainly the message from the markets. The pound has fallen as an ICM poll for the Guardian has given “Leave” 52% of the vote. A week ago, the dollar stood at over $1.46 to the pound. Now it has fallen to barely $1.44 and the main factor is a realisation that Brexit is looking more likely. Importantly, however, this is still higher the than the exchange rate at the time the referendum was announced, suggesting the markets do not view Brexit as the calamity George Osborne has predicted.

Also casting doubt on the gloomy economic “consensus” is Ashoka Mody, a former deputy director of the International Monetary Fund’s European and Research Departments. This is significant given that the current head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, has been very much part of the doom and gloom  brigade.

Mr Mody, writing in the Independent,  questions whether the UK’s trade with te EU will fall. The essence of what he says is that, whatever scenario international traders are confronted with, they will eventually adjust and all productive trading relationships will remain intact. He does not look at the various alternative Brexit scenarios but pours scorn on the idea that permanent damage will be done to the economy. “The vast bulk of those large estimates come from the further assumption that reduced trade will shrink British productivity growth. This is disingenuous. There is simply no evidence that less trade lowers productivity growth”, he says.

He does not predict an economic bonanza, but does this matter? The prophecies of doom and gloom have lowered the bar. We only need to show that the sky won’t fall in and we can move the debate on to other areas. Following on from Allister Heath’s piece, the “remain” camp’s claim that they have irrevocably won the economic argument does not stand up.

They do, however, have other weapons up their sleeve. The ilustration above comes from a step-by-step ‘How To Vote By Post’ guide was sent by Bristol City Council to residents registered for postal voting last week, along with the actual ballots. Note  how the pencil is positioned above “remain”!

Also very worrying is this article about the strange order in which items appear in Google if you search under “EU referendum”. You would naturally expect Richard North’s blog of that name to come top, given the scale of  its readership. Well, it barely makes the top 10, even though it comes top in other searches like Yahoo! and Bing. Very odd.

Like Bristol City Council, Google has denied any wrongdoing, but it is very clear that our opponents are not playing fair. We always knew this wold be the case, but thankfully, it doesn’t mean that we can’t win, especially given the recent polling, but it does show just what we are up against.

It’s over to you to end this unhappy marriage.

We are now into the “purdah” period when the government will refrain from using its machinery to push the “remain” line. It has been making the most of its advantages in the last three months, it has to be said, with pro-remain propaganda splashed all over government websites, even (as our Chairman discovered) on a link to the Charity Commission website. However, this barrage has failed to flatten the “leave” side and there is still everything to play for.

With both sides being widely criticised for making “lurid claims”, a great opening is being created for ordinary rank and file activists. The statistics war between the big names on both sides has left many voters both underwhelmed and confused. “We want facts” is the cry. They don’t feel thay have been given many.  A leaflet handed to them by someone they know, or even someone prepared to spend a few minutes explaining what the EU is and what its objectives are, may carry more weight with some voters than a statement by one of the “big hitters”. Dr Anthony Coughlan pointed out that in the Irish referendums, “the winning side {was} that which does most personal communication, giving people personally and ideally face-to-face the reasons why their position {in our case  a vote to leave} is the safer option.” 

The personal touch is definitely having some effect. A poll conducted for the Daily Echo in Hampshire found that almost two-thirds of over 1,000 people surveyed who had made their minds up supported Brexit and there were still undecided voters to be won over. One of our supporters recently contacted us from South Herefordshire with the news that his group’s polling found 60% support for leaving the EU in that area.

Your author has received several e-mails from formerly undecided voters won round to withdrawal.  I have been a wavering voter for a long time but since the barrage of economic disaster scenarios from the remain camp, I have now decided on Brexit said one. Following Barack Obama’s visit, another correpondent said, “Up until this moment I have been a staunch EU supporter. but now I will vote to leave and take my place at “the back of the queue”. I’m British, queueing is what I do and being at the back is a place I’m happy to be!! The US President has inadvertently supported the leave campaign.”

Neither these encouragements, however, nor the claims of some people  – including a friend of mine – that “I don’t know anyone round here who wants to stay in” should lead us to complacency. As we have pointed out, the polls may be wrong, but on the other hand they may not. We still have a lot of work to do. The lack of a coherent exit strategy has been exploited by George Osborne and other “remain” people. However, as Allister Heath rightly pointed out in a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, there is way to counter this and if we do so, we could pull off a memorable victory. Our former Chariman Petrina Holdsworth has rightly said that the EEA/EFTA route which Heath advocates “is the only way to smooth jangled nerves over our exit.”

In your author’s experience, EEA/EFTA exposes a weakness in the “remain” camp’s flank. Twice, when advocating this as the most seamless escape route, his reasoning has been countered by barefaced lies. “We would have to become part of Schengen” NOT TRUE. “We won’t be allowed to re-join EFTA. NOT TRUE.  The latter culprit was an MEP in a debate in Oxfordshire in which I took part last Friday. I won’t name her because I can’t actually remember which of the two female MEPs  in ths particular debate actually made this claim! It came as such a shock and thankfully I was able to give chapter and verse regarding statements from politicians from Iceland and Norway who both  said – albeit grudgingly in the case of  Vidar Helgesen, the Norwegian Minister for European Affairs, on 28th October 2015 – that we would be welcome back.

We are producing a leaflet which explains the advantages of EEA/EFTA. This is the pdf, although you will need to print both pages on the two sides of a single piece of paper and fold it to see how it works.

However, some people are totally put off the economic arguments and just need something simple. This leaflet, written by our President, George West, has proven to be very effective according to John Hart,  one of our supporters.

It’s horses for courses, but to repeat, we can still win this referendum in spite of the criticisms of the leave campaign so far. It would be tragic if the net result of what has largely been an ill-tempered battle between senior Conservative ministers past and present was that we remain locked in what is an unhappy marriage  – merely through fear of leaving.

Let’s give the final word to a Norwegian, the playwright Henrik Ibsen.  His play A Doll’s House tells the story of Nora, a wife locked into a loveless marriage to a patronising husband who just doesn’t understand her aspirations. She reaches the conclusion that their marriage has been based on mutual fantasies and misunderstanding and the play ends dramatically with her boldly leaving the house, slamming the door behind her.  When people are as unhappy in a relationship as Nora, economic issues are not necessarily their number one consideration. How apt this analogy will be if we too can walk through the Brexit door to freedom next month.

Project Fear and the antidote

New deceptions every day

Tell us we shall have to pay

Billions if we do not stay

In the wretched European Union.

 

These liars, tell us, who are they?

Cameron, Osborne, Theresa May

Apparatchiks in the pay

Of the wretched European Union.

 

They warn us: “Brits, be very afraid

Because we will lose all our trade

If our exit e’re is made”

From the wretched European Union.

 

These traitors, they begin to bore

And even threaten “There’ll be war!”

If we ever shut the door

On the wretched European Union.

 

We’ll lose security as well;

Britain to become a bombed-out hell

If we ever dare to yell,

“Stuff the wretched European Union!”

 

“Cultural life will wither away” –

(Pampered luvvies come to say)

Unless we vote that we will stay

In the wretched European Union.

 

Obama spouts his usual goo:

“Departure you will come to rue

When you’re at the back of the queue”

Outside the wretched European Union.

 

All these threats are a pack of lies

Like Pinnochio’s nose in size

And told by those conniving guys

Who love the wretched European Union.

 

None of this you should believe

From those who practise to deceive

Raise the flag and vote to leave

The wretched European Union.

 

Once out we’ll trade with every nation

End uncontrolled immigration,

All that taxation and regulation

By the wretched European Union

 

Brits, cast off the superstate

Eurocrats have no mandate

If we remain we shall stagnate

Leave the wretched European Union!”

Rev Dr. Peter Mullen

Frustrated ambitions and unwelcome legacies

The latest in the fear barrage from the Government and its friends is George Osborne’s claim that Brexit would lead to a year-long recession. We have already pointed out here, a selection of economic data from previous political “divorces” show they actually had the opposite effect and we have good reasons for believing that Brexit would initially be economically neutral and in the longer term, beneficial.

As one of our correspondents recently said, if Brexit was really such a huge danger, why did Mr Cameron ever allow us a referendum in the first place? Especially considering Cameron’s verdict six months ago about the inability of our country to survive outside the EU was, “I don’t think that is true”. Nothing has changed on that front, but as far as his sidekick George is concerned, Brexit would frustrate his ambition to  succeed Cameron as Prime Minister. Such is his obvious desperation to keep his leadership hopes alive that even the pro-EU Guardian has turned on him, calling his dire warnings “economically flawed” and a “fantasy land.”

Another person whose personal standing would take a nosedive if we vote to leave is Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission.  The departure of a big member state on his watch, especially if it triggered calls for referendums in other countries, is not exactly the sort of legacy an ardent federalist wishes to bequeathe to posterity – hence his tough talking. “Deserters will not be welcomed with open arms,”  he proclaimed. Given that Barack Obama’s intervention had no positive impact for “Remain”, these words from a man with no friends in this country is hardly likely to cause many undecided voters to quake in their boots.

What is more, he stands accused of the same folly as John Major, who was once told by Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor to “go and read the treaties.” It is hard to believe that Mr Juncker is unaware that Article 8 of the Lisbon Treaty completely nullifies his threat. Its wording is as follows:-

1. The Union shall develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness, founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation.

2. For the purposes of paragraph 1, the Union may conclude specific agreements with the countries concerned. These agreements may contain reciprocal rights and obligations as well as the possibility of undertaking activities jointly. Their implementation shall be the subject of periodic consultation.

Of course, there has to be a basis for trade to continue, but obstructive behaviour on the part of the EU’s part would achieve nothing, besides being open to challenge under international law. Furthermore, European businesses would not want to see unnecessary obstacles put in place. Too many jobs across the Channel would be at risk from the sort of petty spitefulness threatened by Juncker.

The bottom line is that a vote for Brexit may cause a short-term fall in the value of sterling, maybe lasting a few days. Given that Mark Carney has talked about the possibility of extra QE in the event of Brexit, the idea that interest rates would go up (which has the opposite effect to QE – one is monetary loosening, the other is monetary tightening)  is sheer nonsense.

We have yet to turn the tide round, but the very fact that the latest desperate scare stories are being openly and widely ridiculed is an indication that their failure to sew up the debate a month before the referendum date is causing the remain camp considerable anxiety.

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What do they know about the nature of the beast? Only the colour of its money!

The latest group to nail their colours to the Remain camp consists of some 250 actors, writers, novelists and other celebrities who have signed a letter urging us not to leave the European Union.

Their move was co-ordinated by the Britain Stronger in Europe group, but although some of the signatories are well-known names, the content of their letter adds nothing of substance to the debate.

The Guardian may not be the favourite newspaper of most supporters of Leave, but this article by Simon Jenkins is a superb exposé of the shallowness of their arguments for remaining in the EU.

Beasically, it boils down to money. Withdrawing from the EU would deprive us of access to “vital EU funding,” complain these celebrities. Mr Jenkins cynically comments, “A few lucky people have done well out of European subsidies. There is no reason for such subsidies to be decried. But that lucky people benefit from Brussels’ largesse is hardly a clincher for everyone else. It is also absurd to imply that British actors excluded from the EU would be ‘outsiders shouting from the wings’. Most do far more work in America anyway, which is outside the EU’s open borders.”

The letter also claimed that we are  “more imaginative and more creative” as a reslt of being in the EU and “our global creative success would be severely weakened by walking away.” Rubbish, says Jenkins. The letter “merely shows what we know: that most people vote with their wallets.”

Precisely. Compared with the vital question of whether we want to be part of a federal superstate controlled from overseas or to regain the ability to determine what goes on within our borders, concerns about the nation’s creativity are, to quote one very well-known pro-withdrawal campaigner, “piffling”.

Furthermore, these concerns are not based on any substantive analysis. On what basis does, for instance,  Tracey Emin believe than on 24th June, withdrawal from the European Union will cause her creative talent to take a nosedive that she will no longer be capable of producing mastgerpieces like My bed? (see above)  Why should Brexit result in a drop in artistic talent among the next generation of young people in this country compared with earlier generations? Such assertions should be taken for  the complete and utter twaddle they are, especially when another of the signatories. Emma Thompson, called her country a “cake-filled, misery-laden, grey old island”. This is all about money, pure and simple.

As a post script, just as these UK actors and artists sing the praises of EU largesse for the arts, it has been recently been announced that the European Youth Orchestra is to be closed down from September of this year due to – yes, a lack of funding. The EU had funded the orchestra from its foundation in 1976 until 2014, when the EU’s cultural programme Creative Europe took over but that support has now also been withdrawn.

Photo by Karen V Bryan

Why should Brexit be so different economically from other “divorces”?

The comments by Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, about the impact of Brexit, were widely reported yesterday. If one ignores the headlines and listens carefully to his words, his analysis was less fearsome than the media would have one believe. He did not use the word “would” but rather “could” when talking about the possibility of Brexit leading to a recession.

As Richard North  points out, however, Carney is nonetheless playing a political game. The economic outcome of Brexit is ultimately something which no one can predict.

Evidence from previous political “divorces” must surely carry more  weight than speculation about the future, as we are talking about past events where the statistics are available for analysis. Such evidence does paint a very different and more positive picture.

Only one country has ever left the European project. Greenland withdrew from the EEC (as it then was) in 1985.  A quick glance at the graph above of the country’s per capita GDP (coutesy of Trading Economics) shows that  it didn’t suffer at all in the post-withdrawal period – in fact., the country became notably more prosperous when it became independent.

Another interesting study is the divorce between Singapore and Malaysia in 1965. It was a pretty sudden event – Singapore was expelled from the Federation; no two-year negotiating period here. However, the graph below shows that this island has flourished from the moment it regained independence. It is also a far freer society, with much greater relgious freedom in particular.

Of course, the UK isn’t Greenland nor is it Singapore, but when you also consider the relavtively trouble-free divorce between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, which included creating separate currencies and the comparison between non-EU Norway and its neigbour Sweden, the claims that Brexit will cause an economic armageddon do seem hard to justify from historical evidence.

Malaysia Singapore GDP-page-001