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

The message is getting out as the scare stories get sillier and sillier

Today it’s the threat of war in Europe from David Cameron and the possibility of a drop in the vastly-inflated UK house prices from George Osborne. Perhaps we should start taking odds on what wil be the next Brexit threat the Prime Minister and his acolytes  will try to scare us with – the return of the Black Death, an invasion from Mars, a plague of locusts or the next ice age, perhaps?

Meanwhile, in the real world, the message is getting out.  Readers might like to enjoy these pictures of some CIB-sponsored placards now gracing the side of the M6. More are to follow on other motorways soon.

Motorway sign 2

Projection of the EU referendum vote

A fresh look after four weeks

There is no doubt that the last two weeks have been a setback for the Leave campaign.

The Cameron slogan about ‘a leap in the dark’ has failed to be countered by Leavers, who have ignored the excellent Flexcit proposals – the Market Solution, on offer from The Leave Alliance – which would neutralise Cameron and also any business objections.  Instead, the Leave campaign continues to persevere with the no-exit-plan strategy reminiscent of the South Sea Bubble company formed in 1720 ‘for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage but no-one to know what it is’.

At the same time a great deal of the political shine has been taken off Boris Johnson with a number of clumsy, ill-informed interventions.

However, we need to keep a laser focus on the determining ‘swing’ vote which is the 11 million Conservative voters and, specifically, the 7-8 million of moderate apolitical voters, the ’comfortable’ middle.

It does not seem likely that whatever blunders are made by the Leave campaign, the minority camp of Leavers in Labour, SNP, LibDems and the Greens will be affected as they have already taken up a stance against their leaderships for some time.  If you examine the numbers, even a substantial change in the breakdown of Leave or Remain voters in these parties would not make a big difference.

The Conservative voters are in a different position.  There are far more of them up for grabs.  They are more likely to be from the affluent classes that are likely to turn out, are affected by the daily political news, likely to be subject to group-think and, except for the Thatcherites, likely to be swayed by the Prime Minister’s authority and his PR machine.

‘Cognitive dissonance’ is a term psychologists use to explain how humans hold conflicting opinions simultaneously and try to resolve this problem.

On a mass scale, this condition appears throughout Southern Europe where the eurozone crisis has resulted in mass poverty, unemployment, lower wages, government debt explosions, etc.  Yet there is no demand from the voters in Southern Europe to leave the euro, let alone the EU.  Indeed, it was very clear during the referendum in Greece that the last thing anyone who had bank holdings or deposits wanted was to exit the euro and float freely with a new currency.  Of course, in such a scenario the bank deposits would probably lose half their value overnight but, in the long term, it would be the first step to economic reconstruction.  But this sentiment also applies to the Leftist parties who do not have bank deposits.

EU enthusiasts rely on this aversion to taking the first, possibly unpleasant, steps to recovery.

Comfortable Conservative voters exhibit similar characteristics.  After all, they are mainly fairly affluent and they seem mesmerised by cheap air fares and other trivia.

However, the Dutch referendum seemed to demonstrate that, while the comfortable voters are unwilling to suffer any short-term disturbance, they are also not so enamoured of the EU that they will support its further accumulation of power and foreign adventurism.

‘Cognitive dissonance’ also explains how little effect the Brussels terrorist murders have had on British opinion.  After all, to vote to remain in an institution whose capital is in a state of lockdown, with no public transport, bodies lying in the streets and at airports, police manhunts by special units in balaclavas, and all this being featured nightly on the News seems to exhibit a pattern of unreal behaviour, ‘normalising the abnormal’, a pattern of behaviour much played on by totalitarian regimes.

I have said before that the choice for voters can be reduced to 2 slogans:

‘the leap in the dark’

versus

‘the blank cheque’.

The Leave campaign failed to counter ‘the leap in the dark’ slogan with the sensible Norway Option, also known as the Flexcit Market Solution, so it now has to convince the comfortable conservative voters that, by voting to remain, they are giving a ‘blank cheque’ to British politicians and the EU establishment to further centralise power in Brussels and strip democracy from the nations.  Being out of the euro will not make any difference because decisions will be taken by the Eurozone members.  The EU will press for more powers as it has in the refugee crisis.

Nothing will be done about immigration.

The point about this democracy ‘thingy’ is that, apart from enhancing the dignity of man and the nation, it is a self-correction mechanism.  Without reform and renewal effect, revolution is inevitable and, in this case, the UK will eventually leave the EU with disorder at home and abroad.

Here is an analysis I made some four weeks ago.

PROJECTION OF EU REFERENDUM VOTE

General Election 2015

Electorate 2016: 44,722,000 (General Election 2015: 45,325,000)

Turn out in 2015 election 66%

Total voters in 2015 election: 30,691,500

2015 Votes for Adjustment to 2015 vote
Parties Making 60% T/O LEAVE REMAIN
Conservative 11,300,109 11,100,000   6,600,000   4,500,000
Labour   9,347,324   8,500,000   3,000,000   5,500,000
SNP   1,454,436   1,300,000      400,000      900,000
LibDems   2,415,862   2,320,000      690,000   1,630,000
UKIP

  3,881,099

  3,780,000   3,500,000      280,000
Green   1,157,613   1,057,000      157,000      900,000
Others, mainly Northern Ireland)   1,135,057      800,000      400,000      400,000
(Approx. total) 30,691,500 28,850,000 14,747,000 14,110,000
The Breakdown in percentages
Leave/Remain in ORB polling figures Leave/Remain projection
LEAVE (%) REMAIN (%) LEAVE (%) REMAIN (%)
Conservatives 56 44 60 40
Labour 39 61 35 65
SNP 32 68 31 69
LibDems 35 65 30 70
UKIP 92   8 92   8
Others, mainly Northern Ireland 41 59 50 50
Green n/a n/a 18 82
Total 52 48 49 51
Total 85% most likely to vote 54 46
Total 68% extremely likely to vote 58 42

Comments:   Most assume that the total turnout will be about ten per cent less than in a general election, as in 1975.  However, I have allowed for a higher turnout because the electorate has shrunk since 2015 because of individual voter registration and, therefore, some ineligble voters are no longer on the electoral roll.

There is an unequal distributional effect of this.  Since benefits are not affected by the Leave-Remain result and there are no real Scottish issues involved, unlike a general election, the lower turnout will be mainly among Labour and SNP voters.

Who will turn out?  David Cameron has said turnout is critical to the result but he certainly has not made the best arrangements for his side.

My projection (unlike the ORB poll data) is made after correcting for a lower turnout of a referendum vis-à-vis election.  But it is before considering the effects of the 5th May elections in local authorities in Scotland, Wales and London.

To call the electorate back to the polls six weeks later is a substantial ask and, again, in London, Wales and Scotland, there is likely to be a drop off in votes on 23rd June.

Then there is the European football tournament which will be going on most of June.  Once again, a depressant on votes.

The ORB polls clearly show that, as the number of voters goes down, so the Leave lead increases.

                                                               %              %

                                                           Leave         Remain

Poll turnout figures                                52             48

Only 85% most likely to vote                54             46

Only 68% extremely likely to vote       58             42

The older demographic voter will turn out because of its sense of civic duty and all polls shows the older demographic is much more likely to vote ‘Leave’.  It is quite evident that the key voting block is the 11.3 million Tories, most of whom will vote.

While the 25 percent or so Thatcherite Tories will vote en masse to ‘Leave’, the question arises about the liberal or moderate Conservatives, Home Counties Tories.  They will determine the outcome.

It is evident from the figures that, contrary to general elections, it is the Leatherheads, the Henleys, the New Forests, the West Kents, which will decide the outcome.  They are the ‘Swing’ votes.

The moderate Tories are being asked to give ANOTHER BLANK CHEQUE to a Tory Leader when the last blank cheque was cashed in, in the form of nine extra Treaties.  And I do not think they will make the same mistake again.

Opinion is now solidifying.  It is possible there could be a major terrorist atrocity with EU links.  (This was written before the Brussels’ attacks) or a major event on the Eurozone.  Either are likely to increase the ‘Leave’ vote.

For all these reasons, I am calling the result of the referendum now – a win for ‘Leave’ – by about ten points.

We must remember the referendum is not the end; it is a stage, and what happens afterwards is what matters.  The larger the ‘Leave’ vote, the harder it will be for Boris Johnson or another Tory Leader to come in and promise new (and better) negotiations to stay in the EU.

I am pleased to see reports in The Daily Telegraph indicating that the Leave Alliance proposals are being looked at with favour in Whitehall.

It is inevitable that, after a ‘Leave’ win, our proposals must be the only safe, sane way to execute withdrawal.

[Data extracted from March 2016 ORB poll]

Photo by secretlondon123

That booklet!

We have received a number of e-mails from people very angry about our money being spent by the government producing the booklet which landed on our doormats last week.

Some people have very kindly responded by making a donation to us, for which we are most grateful. “I don’t want my taxes used on propaganda… so I have to do my bit to redress the balance” said one kind contributor.

But what of the booklet itself? It has been criticised  – and with good reason – both for its style and content. Rosalind Moffitt, an inclusive communications consultant at Inklecomms, said of the former, “I….am astounded by the long and complex sentences within the leaflet. It also uses many unnecessarily difficult words. The leaflet is written at a complex level for average-low literacy readers, so it will be difficult for many to read and understand” Good news for the Brexit campaign!”

Turning to the content. Lord Wemyss did not mince his words, calling it “senseless twaddle – insulting to the intelligence of the recipients.”

This is indeed a good summary. If the “twaddle” can be categorised, most of it comes under three headings:-

  1. So-called “benefits” which aren’t actually very beneficial.
  2. Benefits which we don’t actually need to be in the EU to enjoy
  3. Untrue and misleading statements.

In the first category comes the European Arrest Warrant, which is mentioned under “keeping us safer”. Since 2004 (when the EAW was first introduced), we are told “over 1,000 suspects have faced justice in  UK courts and over 7,000 have been extradited.” Fine. You try telling people like  Andrew Symeou or  Edmond Arapi how wonderful the EAW is. These men suffered gross miscarriages of justice, being exposed to judicial processes on the Continent which do not include the legal safeguards we are accustomed to in the UK. It is so easy to forget that Magna Carta may have crossed the oceans, but it never crossed the Channel. One consequence of this is that you can be tried in absentia, tried on hearsay evidence or kept in detention for ages without being charged. The EAW potentially exposes any one of us to all these horrors.

Also sold as a benefit, on page 12, we are told that “the EU is leading the world on tackling climate change”. Try telling those made redundant in the now defunct UK aluminium smelting industry what a good thing this is! Perhaps when we suffer blackouts because our government has signed up to unachievable emissions targets we will console ourselves with how virtuous the EU is being!

Turning to the second category, the phrase “Single Market” comes up no fewer than eight times. There are probably few regular visitors to our website who aren’t aware that we can retain access to the Single Market on leaving the EU by re-joining EFTA and availing ourselves of the European Economic Area agreement.  The booklet boasts how the EU “guarantees many employment rights” without mentioning, of course, that most employment legislation originates with global organisations like the International Labour Organisation. These benefits would not disappear if we left the EU.

“EU reforms in the 1990s have resulted in a drop in fares of over 40% for lower cost flights”, proclaims the booklet.  Once again, one has to question whether this benefit would disappear if we left the EU. to help us answer this question, guess which airline won the “Best low-cost airline in Europe” award in 2015? It was called Norwegian and furthermore, this airline which seems to hoover up awards, flies to a number of European destinations but isn’t based in the EU.

What about the untrue and misleading statements? It’s hard to know where to begin. Going back to the Single Market. we are informed that “No other country has managed to secure signficant access to the single market without having to follow EU rules over which they have no real say /pay into the EU”. Shoddy work here. As we have pointed out, Norway is widely consulted  in the framing of EEA relevant legislation (which amounts to less than 25% of the total Acquis)  and the price it pays to access the singel market is peanuts compared with how much we pay per capita to the EU as a memebr state.

The first page proclaims that “the UK has secured a special status in a reformed EU.”  Oh really?  The legality of the agreement has been widely questioned, with Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, the vice-president of the European Parliament, describing it as “nothing more than a deal that has been hammered out down the local bazaar”.

Part of the “deal” is that “we will not join the Euro” Didn’t we secure that opt-out over 20 years ago? What about the “tough new restrictions on access to our welfare for new EU migrants”? Well, suppose that, say a  Latvian decorator moves over here after 2016, falls off a ladder and breaks both legs after living here for three years dyring which time has only worked for 29 months. In theory, he shouldn’t get much out of our system under Dave’s new deal. In practise….?

Keeping our own border controls is another benefit which is part of our “special status” so we are told. Once again, if this means that we are not part of Schengen, this is not exactly a show-stopper. We secured an opt-out here many years ago.

The biggest criticism, however, is that nowhere in this booklet does the word “sovereignty” come up. The  EU’s unique selling point is that it requires member states progressively to hollow out their national institutions and surrender soverignty to supranational institutions. These other issues are peripheral. the creation of a federal superstate is the EU’s raison d’être. Failing to mention it is rather like a supplier of fruit trees illustrating its products with lovely pictures of apple blossom but failing to show a single picture of a nice ripe apple or to mention that the reason you buy an apple tree is to eat of its produce.

To be blunt, this reluctance even to mention what the EU is all about is just plain dishonest. If the referendum is won by the “remain” side without this issue being at the centre of the debate, it will have been a pyrrhic victory which will leave us stilll being the EU’s awkward partner, always dragging our feet and being outvoted more than any other member state.

Is this really what Mr Cameron  wants? it will be a most unsatisfactory legacy. Best for his sake and for our country if we deny him such an opportunity by securing a vote to leave.