My old teacher is spinning in his grave

I read an article in Nature journal yesterday.

Now, I don’t want you to run away with the idea that I spend my time browsing the academic scientific literature. I don’t. I prefer history. No, this article was pointed out to me by a scientist friend who was apoplectic about it.

And with reason.

Remember that Nature is regarded by many as the premier scientific journal in the world. It was founded in 1869 and prides itself on being the most cited journal on record. Scientists compete ferociously to get published in it, knowing that their work will be taken seriously as a result.

But the article I will draw your attention to is entitled “Scientists should not resign themselves to Brexit“. It is written by a chap called Colin MacIlwain, a freelance journalist with a degree in “Economics and Social Change in Britain”. You can read the whole thing HERE if you like, but to save you the trouble I will summarise. He says that Brexit will be bad for science, that scientists are jolly clever people, that science is very important and that therefore Brexit must be stopped to make life easier for scientists.

I will leave it up to you to decide if a decision voted for by more than 17 million people should be overturned for the convenience of a few thousand working in one particular industry; I’m more interested in the column itself.

Nowhere does the author offer any evidence that Brexit will be bad for science. Will UK universities suddenly stop doing science? Will vast numbers of scientists be made redundant? Will British industry stop doing research to develop new products? Facts? Data? Nope, none of that.

Instead he falls back on emotional feelings. “The mood in science departments is universally grim”, we are told. And other people are upset too: “It isn’t just EU-born students, postdocs and staff who are unsettled: countless spouses and offspring feel dejected and unwanted in the United Kingdom, too.”

Again, no evidence or data. We just have to take the author’s word for it that a few thousand people are feeling a bit upset.

Helpfully, the author makes his own feelings very clear. He tells us that there was a “loose coalition of dissenters, doubters and right-wing jackals who voted to leave Europe”. Has the author gone out and surveyed a representative sample of Leave voters to reach this conclusion? Apparently not. He is just telling us his views.

But does Mr MacIlwain want to know about our views or our feelings? Obviously not. “Commenting on this article is currently unavailable” we are firmly told.

Sadly this attitude is all too prevalent among the more extremist remainers. They consider themselves better than we Brexiteers, or at least better able to understand the complex issues involved in Brexit. They sneer at us – I particularly like that bit about “right-wing jackals”. They believe that their views should take precedence over ours. They despise the democracy that puts great issues into the hands of the people.

Well, they are entitled to their views. What I find puzzling is that a prestige scientific journal such as Nature should publish an article that is so short on fact and so long on feelings and opinions.

When I was a lad my science teacher was a strict old boy. He caned more of our class than all the other teachers put together. And he had a saying that he drummed into us endlessly. “Facts! Facts! Facts! Science is about facts. Leave your emotions at the door, boy. Here we deal with Facts!”

How he must be spinning in his grave.

Brexit means…..?

We now have less than three months to wait until Mrs May will invoke Article 50 and we formally begin the process of leaving the EU.  This means we will finally see her “Brexit means Brexit ” statement fleshed out, although it is doubtful if we will know all the detail by the end of March, especially as there are likely to be a good few twists and turns between the invocation of Article 50 and Independence Day.

During 2017 the Campaign for an Independent Britain will continue to fight for the best possible Brexit deal, working alongside other like-minded individuals and organisations. We will let you more as our plans develop, but here are a few guidelines which we believe will help ensure Brexit is successful.

Firstly, Brexit DOES NOT mean a trade-off between single market access and free movement of people from the EU. If the Government is considering remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA) – possibly by re-joining EFTA, the European Free Trade Area – as an interim position, the “four freedoms” of the Single Market are not indivisible for a non-EU country, in spite of claims to the contrary by the likes of Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian Prime Minister.

Iceland suspended free movement of capital following its banking crisis and, as has been pointed out on this website and elsewhere, Liechtenstein imposed restrictions on free movement of people over 20 years ago. Readers may remember that David Cameron’s “deal”  included a so-called “emergency brake”  – an agreement with the other 27 member states that if we voted to remain in the EU, we could restrict the in-work benefits paid to migrants for four years.

All Mr Cameron was doing was asking permission to apply Article 112 of the EEA agreement. Outside the EU, if we took the EFTA route, we wouldn’t have to ask the 27 member states and could impose far tougher restrictions than merely restricting benefits. Like Liechtenstein, we could drastically limit the numbers too. Liechtenstein has done nothing more than making use of an article in an existing agreement. We could do the same if the government chooses to go down the EFTA route.

Of course, we do not know if this is Mrs May’s plan, but it is inconceivable, given the number of on-line articles and research papers which have addressed this subject, that she and her advisers are not aware of Article 112 and Liechtenstein’s use of it. It is high time that the canard of the indivisibility of the “four freedoms” was laid to rest once and for all.

So what else does Brexit mean?

Firstly, freedom from the European Court of Justice. UK law and its courts must be the final arbiter of British justice.  We should pull out of participation in the European Arrest Warrant, which has resulted in UK residents being sent for trial abroad on hearsay evidence.  Furthermore, Brexit must lead to the return of trial by jury and other features of our historic legal system which have gradually been eroded by our membership of the EU.

Next, Freedom from any involvement with the European Defence Agency and an independent foreign policy. We should obviously work together with the EU where it is mutually beneficial so to do, but we should  not be involved with the EU’s empire building in the Balkans or former soviet republics such as the Ukraine.

Brexit must mean an end to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). As John Ashworth has argued, the concept of “Community waters”, the quota system, and the ridiculous amount of fish caught by boats from other EU member states in what are our national waters by right is a disgrace that has cost thousands of jobs in the fishing industry. The opportunity to revive our coastal communities through a well-designed fishing policy on similar lines to the Faroese scheme must not be passed over.

A replacement to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must also be designed. Unlike the CFP, which hardly benefits any UK fishermen at all (apart from those who have bought quota and then re-sell for profit), the CAP’s single farm payment is a lifeline for many in the agricultural sector. As an interim measure, a single payment system managed in Westminster rather than Brussels may be the answer, but looking further ahead, something more imaginative is essential as the CAP, initially designed to support small French farmers, has never been a good way to manage farming in the UK.

Finally, Brexit means not only taking the UK out of the EU but taking the EU out of the hearts of UK citizens. Schoolchildren and students have suffered years of indoctrination through pro-EU propaganda.  They will be the biggest beneficiaries of Brexit, but as anyone who has taken part in debates on the EU in schools and universities has discovered,  most of them don’t realise it at the moment.

So there will be much to keep us in the Campaign for an Independent Britain busy as 2017 approaches. On that note, may we wish all our members and supporters a Happy New Year.

 

Government confirms how to tackle EU indoctrination in schools

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                           

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Independent Labour)                                                                                          

News Release

15th December 2016

Government confirms how to tackle EU indoctrination in schools 

In a series of written questions, the independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has been tackling the Government about the issue of children being indoctrinated in schools about the EU.  For the first time, the Government has responded in detail and even provided an outline of what to do if you think your child is not receiving balanced teaching in lessons on political subjects.

Lord Stoddart said:  “This is easily the most comprehensive answer I have received on this subject and it appears that, for the first time, the Government has taken the matter seriously.  In a post-Brexit Britain, EU propaganda will be irrelevant and our educational establishments should be focusing on our own system of Government and the key role of Parliament in rebuilding Britain as a prosperous and leading world power.”

His latest question asked the Government to confirm ‘what action they plan to take to monitor and enforce the requirement for balanced treatment in educational establishments of political issues, including the UK’s membership of the EU’.

Lord Nash, for the Government replied (12th December):  ‘All schools are required to teach about political issues in a balanced way. Sections 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996 require maintained schools to prevent political indoctrination and ensure the balanced treatment of political issues.’

He added that:  ‘Ofsted inspectors will consider the breadth and balance of a school’s curriculum, the quality of teaching and how the school promotes pupils’ acceptance and engagement with the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different beliefs.

Lord Nash also outlined the best way for parents concerned about unbalanced teaching of political subjects, to address the issue, ‘through the school’s complaints procedure and if they are not satisfied, escalate the complaint to the Secretary of State who has powers to intervene if schools are failing to comply with legal requirements.’

The full text of Lord Stoddart’s written question and the Government’s response can be accessed via this link

Yet more media muddle

As we reported yesterday, Mrs May is not giving much of her Brexit strategy away at the moment. For anyone wishing to find out more, great care needs to be taken as some reports in the press are, shall we say, somewhat less than helpful.

Writing in the Independent, John Rentoul informs us that “Finally, we know what Brexit actually means – Theresa May intends ot take us out of the single market.” Has  Mr Rentoul spotted something that the rest of us have missed? He noticed that Mrs May made it clear that “‘we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.”  He therefore concludes that, “given that the ECJ is the court that enforces the rules of the EU single market, this was confirmation that she intends to take us out of it.”

QED – except that it isn’t true. Whatever the role of the ECJ in enforcing the single market regulations among EU member states, it has no power over Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, the non-EU countries who are part of EFTA and access the single market via the EEA Agreement.  Robert Oulds’ book Everything you wanted to know about the EU explains the difference clearly (p189) :-

Whereas the European Commission and the European Court of Justice regulate the EU’s compliance with the terms of the EEA agreement, EFTA’s side is managed by its own institutions.”

In other words, Mr Rentoul is jumping to conclusions. Mrs May has said that “it is not going to be a Norway model”, but she said nothing to preclude the Liechtenstein model – in other words,. re-joining EFTA and accessing the single market via the EEA agreement but invoking Article 112 of that agreement to reduce migration from the EU.

Another piece to take with a very hefty pinch of salt is this piece in the Irish Times by Professor Vernon Bogdanor, David Cameron’s former tutor.  Entitled Why Brexit will be Margaret Thatcher’s revenge, the piece claims that “those most likely to have voted for Brexit will suffer most after Article 50 is triggered.” It goes on to say that “Contrary to popular perceptions, article 50 inaugurates a withdrawal process, not a trade agreement.” I would like to know how many people Professor Bogdanor has met who really think that invoking Article 50 was anything to do with a trade agreement. I certainly haven’t met any!

Getting off on a bad note, he then parades even more ingorance than Mr Rentoul about the EEA. “Matters would be easier, of course, were Britain to emulate Norway and join the European Economic Area, ” he writes. Excuse me! As a mamber of the EU, the UK is ALREADY a member of the EEA. What I presume he means is that we should remain a participant in the EEA by re-joining EFTA, but it isn’t what he said. He then goes on to claim that “The EEA obliges member states to incorporate not only current EU laws, but also future legislation, into domestic law, and to accept the principle of free movement.” Wrong again. The EFTA countries who are part of the EEA are only required to transpose legislation specifically marked “EEA relevant” into domestic law.  Last October, Dr Richard North calculated that only 4,947 out of 23,076 pieces of legislation – in other words, about 21% of the total Acquis – had been incorporated onto Norway’s statute books, much of it technical in nature and much of it also originating with international bodies like the WTO, with the EU merely acting as a conduit.  As for free movement, there is some freedom to restrict it using Article 112 of the EEA, as we have aready noted.

Neither Messrs Rentoul nor Bogdanor seem aware of the Norwegian veto of the Third Postal Directive in 2012, which insisted on deregulating postal services across the EEA. This proves the point that non-EU countries cannot be touched by the ECJ and thus have far greater latitude in dealing with EU legislation, even when marked “EEA relevant.”

Next comes another myth:- “Per head, Norway currently pays around 83 per cent of the British contribution.” In 2015,  Norway paid £1.66 per head of population to access the EEA. We paid about £150. Either the great Professor inadvertantly included Norway’s voluntary contribution to various EU schemes or his calculator seems to be suffering from a chronic malfunction.

He then rounds up his dismissal of any EEA-type relationship by repeating the “regulation without representation” nonsense. Dear Professor Bogdanor, please get your facts right. Norway is represented on the Committess which create EEA-relevant law, even though the country does not have a vote. Read these words of Anne Tvinnereim, a Norwegian politician, who knows what she is talking about. “We do get to influence the position,” she said. “Most of the politics is done long before it {a new law} gets to the voting stage.”

Professor Bogdanor then rejects the Swiss option, which virtually everyone else has already done, but this leaves him with only the WTO option as a possible route, something which Mrs May, by proposing the nationalisation of EU law (in other words, giving laws passed by the EU their authority from our Parliament rather than the EU via the 1972 Accession Treaty) seems to have ruled out.

He is right to conclude that newly-independent UK will be more global. “The irony is that…..leaving the EU will expose Britain to more globalisation, not less.  Brexit, therefore, will be Margaret Thatcher’s revenge. It will suit the vision of the Tory right which hopes that, outside the EU, Britain could become like Hong Kong or Singapore, a global trading hub.” However, he then falls into the common trap of saying that this is exactly what Brexit voters don’t want. Vernon, old chap, I was accused by my opponent in one debate of selling a vision of an independent UK which was just that – “Singapore on steroids” to quote his words.

There are many of us who are excited by the global trading opportunities which Brexit will provide. A recent Fabian Society report linked the Brexit vote with economic deprivation and the lack of government spending on areas populated by the white working classes, but a look at the Brexit vote map shows that this is only part of the story. Many prosperous areas in the South East also voted for Brexit. In rural East Sussex where I live, plenty of large houses, presumably inhabited by people who are not at all economically deprived, displayed large “Vote Leave” boards in their gardens and outside their gates.

On one point I would agree with Professor Bogdanor:-  “Britain….has a deep-seated skills problem…. The priority, if May’s socially responsible capitalism is to be become a reality, must be a radical skills policy. That means more resources devoted to further education colleges, currently the Cinderellas of the education service, and to university technical colleges, for those whose skills are technical and vocational rather than academic.” Yes indeed, to make the most of Brexit, our education system needs to be signficantly re-vamped from top to bottom. Last year, we published Generations Betrayed, a booklet by Chris McGovern, which shows how much the history syllabus needs to be reformed. This, however, is only one of many features about the UK education system which is unsatisfactory.

In conclusion, however, after having ploughed through these confusing articles, the abiding thoughts they leave is a fervent hope that the people who are advising Mrs May about the best Brexit route are considerably more clued-up than Messrs Rentoul and Bogdanor and actually know what they are talking about.

Photo by NS Newsflash

Patriotism and freedom – A libertarian defence of national sovereignty

Philip vander Elst, a writer and former editor of Freedom Today, has recently produced this excellent and thought-provoking study which refutes any idea that patriotism is only appropriate for people looking back to the past. There is nothing selfish or bigoted about loving our country and its institutions.

It is a lust for power, not the existence of nation states which causes wars. Indeed, “national sovereignty and loyalty to the nation-state is one of the essential pillars of a free and peaceful international order.”

The author goes on to tackle the complex issue of immigraton and argues that “there is a strong and principled moral and libertarian case for acknowledging the right of individual countries to control their borders and the flow of migrants seeking to cross them.” In other words, a desire to restrict immigration is not necessarily racist.

The final point in the essay is that freedom is more compatible with a sovereign, democratic nation rather than a situation where people “are imprisoned within a world of monopolistic supranational regional power blocs, or worst of all, some monopolistic system of global government.”

In summary, an excellent rebuttal of the ideals of the European Project whose ideals still remain intact in the minds of some of its key players, including Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission.

It also offers a useful starting-point in trying to de-programme our young people, many of whom have had little exposure to the very valid arguments against the European Union.

Brexit and “Generation Snowflake”

By Chris McGovern

The “Brexit” vote confirmed a stark generational difference between the views of the older and the younger generations. A pre-referendum YouGov poll indicated that 72% of 18 to 24 year-olds wished to stay in the EU with only 19% wanting an exit. In contrast, amongst pensioners, 59% wanted to leave.

The subsequent post-referendum petition and the mass protest event in London, attracted widespread support amongst young people. Democracy had produced the ‘wrong’ result and a second referendum was, and is, being demanded. There have been tears, tantrums, even. Why?

If you are a “Brexit” supporter you might be perplexed. If, however, you have some knowledge of what goes on in our classrooms these days you will be much less surprised. Sadly, our schools have achieved a brilliant success in terms of convincing many young people that a knowledge-lite education is no impediment to thought or opinion. Indeed, the perceived ability to build ideas and ideologies on limited understanding is a crowning achievement of educational reform over the past 30 years.

“It was our futures that you were voting on, not yours,” is the refrain of many disappointed young people. “What right does an older generation have to interfere with our demands?” There is an emotional, even poetic, allurement in all of this, of course. Its sinister and beguiling attraction was beautifully expressed in the “Cabaret” song, “Tomorrow belongs to me”.

Much the same cry was heard during China’s Cultural Revolution. Mao’s Red Book addressed the young and was unequivocal as to their ownership of the future:

“The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you … The world belongs to you.”

Placing ownership of the future in the hands of the younger generation has a seductive but very flawed logic. Being readily open to manipulation it is, also, extremely dangerous, especially when it is based, at best, on lack of experience and, at worst, on lack of knowledge.

Survey after survey has shown, as I outlined in my CIB pamphlet Generations Betrayed, that most young people have very little knowledge of British history. Knowledge and understanding of how our democracy has evolved, for example, is largely unknown territory.

The latest version of the History National Curriculum is, in many ways, a surrender document to the European Union. It does not require the teaching of a single landmark event or personality from British history. Where specific events and individuals are mentioned they are only given the status of “examples (non-statutory) of what teachers “could include”. The Napoleonic Wars have not even been awarded that status. They do not get a mention.

The Curriculum is a ‘free for all’. Do what you what. It is Sex Pistols history – anarchy! The Times Educational Supplement resources website publishes model lessons for and from teachers. It is illustrative of how the Curriculum translates into classroom practice.

So, what history are teachers choosing to teach from, say, the 19th century? The site offers 23 model lessons on Lord Palmerston, 27 on Cecil Rhodes, 35 on Nelson and 37 on Pitt the Younger. In contrast, there are 143 model lessons on Jack the Ripper. Topics are chosen on the basis of how far they allow history to be presented as ‘detective work’. These days history teaching is all about developing so-called ‘skills’. Content is largely irrelevant to this process. The History National Curriculum does, however, make an exception for the history of Islam, West Africa (Benin) and Central America (Mayas). These three topics appear on a statutory list, one of which must be taught.

The ‘knowledge void’ amongst young people has been filled in part by apathy. A willingness to participate in the EU referendum was much stronger amongst older people.  The majority of 18-24 year olds, at least 57% it seems, chose not to vote at all.

This unwillingness to engage in the democratic process, a consequence of ignorance, surely, further emphasises a dangerous failure in our education system. Charles Moore suggested as much in a piece for The Daily Telegraph (28th June):

“In a democratic system, if you wish to affect your future, you must vote. This does not seem to be taught in schools any more – and nor is the impressive history of our parliamentary democracy – but it is the key point.”

We should not, therefore, be too surprised by voting apathy amongst the young. Our school curriculum ensures, quite simply, that mostly they do not know enough to recognise the importance of political engagement.

Ownership of the future, consequently, should always be shared and cross-generational. The duty of older people to the young should never be benign acquiescence. Indeed, many young people, but not all, understand and expect direction and leadership from those who have seen and experienced rather more of the world.

Those young people who are now struggling to cope with the stress of the referendum result might have been better prepared had their education taught them that in a democracy one does not always get one’s own way. It should, also, have taught them why their ancestors fought and died to preserve liberty, including the right to cast a meaningful vote.

Chris McGovern is Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education

“Generation Snowflake” refers to young people, typically university or college students, who react with distress to the expression of ideas that they believe to be offensive or emotionally challenging.