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.

Scrapping student fees on withdrawal – an appeal to younger voters?

We need to engage younger voters in the referendum on leaving the EU. One argument which may appeal is that taking the EFTA option would allow us to scrap student fees.

Firstly, for the benefit of those who are not aware of EFTA, is is the European Free Trade Association (See  www.efta.int.)  Norway is a member of EFTA and is one of the wealthiest countries in Europe.  The majority of its electorate do not want to join the EU.

EFTA countries have an economic agreement with the EU, allowing for free movement of goods, services, people and capital. However Liechtenstein has ‘special provisions’ for controlling immigration, far more powerful than the feeble “Emergency Brake” which David Cameron needs to ask permission to apply.

But what are the issues for younger people and students?

Lower income – poor job opportunities and downward pressure on wages from immigration

Middle income – high rents and house prices, making it difficult to save for a deposit, due to immigration demand on housing, also downward pressure on wages from immigration and also student loans to pay off.

In 2014, the UK paid a net £11 billion to the EU. Norway does not pay to be part of the Single Market, it diverts some of its foreign aid to the EU – something the UK could also do, and use the £11 billion savings for getting rid of student tuition fees and also outstanding student tuition fees.

At the end of 2014-15 there were 4.6m borrowers with outstanding student loans, with a total debt of £64.7 billion. So with £11 billion to spend in the UK, that would allow, all loans to be paid off in 7 years.

Maintenance loans could be worked out using the minimum wage for the weeks studying and not working. For example £7.20 per hour * 35 hours in a week = £252 per week

Average weeks studying, winter 10 weeks, Spring 10 weeks, summer 8 weeks = 28 weeks

28 weeks * £252 = £7056

For 3 years is, £7056 * 3 = £21168

Perhaps the after tax amount could be calculated and also an expectation that students have some sort of part time job during studying time. I.e. working out the amount using 25 or 30 hours a week.

There are other ways to speed up the paying off of all outstanding student loans, by reviewing how easy it is for new immigrant to access benefits, for example needing to contribute for 5 years, or only receiving the amounts they would get in their own country.

Current benefits to EU immigrants include: Housing benefit, tax credits and unemployment benefit of £2.5 billion – a significant amount. With more immigration, this amount could increase even more. If other people in other EU countries avoid paying their taxes and vote for corrupt, irresponsible and incompetent politicians, there is no reason for the UK taxpayer to be held financially responsible.

Some studies have shown that every person unemployed costs the taxpayers around £10,000 in benefits and lost tax revenue. So if the UK had Norway’s and Switzerland’s average unemployment rate of around 4% instead of 5.1%, that would be around 1.36 million, instead of 1.7 million, an extra 340,000 paying tax, or another £3.4 bn. If the UK had 3% unemployment, this could add another £6.8bn.

All helping pay off outstanding student debt faster.

Free Student tuition and maintenance grants, calculation

250,000 students with £35,000 debt = approx £9 bn

Current outstanding student loans = £64.7 bn

Savings from leaving the EU and switching to a win-win EFTA Single Market + Opt Outs agreement

Current net EU contribution = £11bn a year

Cost of projects due to higher population HS2 = £42.6bn

Cost of projects due to higher population, Hinkley point nuclear power subsidy potential = £20bn

Since the foreign aid budget is set to increase from £11bn to £16bn by 2020, this extra money could be used for any aid projects in Eastern Europe.

Likely the fastest way to increase the paying off loans is by having a trade balance, and so an increase in tax revenues. Leaving the EU and joining EFTA is the easiest and fastest way. Increasing average income to Norway’s level would also help i.e. £ 36,000 compared to the UK of £24,000. Younger voters and undecideds voting to Leave the EU would be voicing their emancipation proclamation, freeing themselves from financial serfdom.

Since the UK also has a trade deficit with the EU, which means loss of jobs and loss of company sales, then a trade balance will help in increasing government revenues from more: income tax, corporation tax, VAT, council tax, fuel duty, business rates and other taxes. So allowing the student loans to be paid off, and restore free higher education, as before the UK switched to the EU, from the EEC. The reduction in regulations would also be like a tax cut for businesses, helping making it easier to grow their businesses. In addition the hidden cost affecting the public sector of the EU style of top down ideas, centralisation/mergers, poor communication, and low morale would also be lifted allowing better decisions, communication and higher morale.

More University bias

After reporting the appalling bias of Dr Tony Arnold of Birmingham University, we have recently been sent another illustration of the way our universities are trying to manipulate the student vote. Our correspondent has requested anonymity, so the identity of the university in question has been withheld.

In this instance,  the culprit was the Vice Chancellor, no less. “I have been speaking out on the benefits that being part of the EU brings to us,” he wrote. “This view is shared by the national representative body for universities, Universities UK. We take this position because we recognise the enormous value of the partnerships: the free movement of talented students and staff through EU-funded schemes such as Erasmus and the access to the research community and sources of research funding that membership of the EU can offer.”

Then follows some statistics: “More than 125,000 EU students study at UK universities and 15% of academic staff working at UK universities are from other EU countries. This is hugely beneficial nationally to the success of the UK’s knowledge-based economy and to our success as a leading research and teaching institution. It is also invaluable in enabling the creation of the diverse cultural, social and intellectual mix here at the univeristy of Xxxxxx. Here at Xxxxxx, in the past five years, 18% of our research funding has come from European sources and this has supported more than £58 million of research activity here.

This is rather a distortion of the picture. No one is suggesting that withdrawal from the EU means withdrawal from the Erasmus scheme. A quick glance at the flags on the home page of the Erasmus website indicates that several non-EU countries participate.  Why shouldn’t an independent UK continue to support  it too? This also applies to wider co-operation with universites, not just within the EU. Any idea that leaving the EU means that the UK will pull up some sort of academic drawbridge is a caricature of the reality.

What is more to the point is that, as with so many other pro-EU statements, the Vice Chancellor’s statement does not even touch on the EU’s raison d’être. It is a project to create a federal superstate. The benefits (or otherwise) to our universities of EU membership are very secondary issues compared with whether we want the democratic institutions of our nation to be hollowed out and, to quote Ken Clarke, our Westminster Parliament reduced to “just a council chamber in Europe.”

Still considering that the recent government booklet makes no mention of the critical subject of sovereignty, can we be suprised that a leading academic has adopted the same strategy? Europhiles will talk about anything except what the EU project was been designed to do.

Across the Channel, a few people on the Continent are prepared to be honest about the objective of the EU, but such openness looks to be very much the exception here.

A letter from Chris McGovern

CIB members will be receiving a copy of Generations Betrayed by Chris McGovern of the Campaign for Real Education with the next newsletter. Chris recently had this letter published in the Financial Times:

Sir,

Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised for not joining in the national anthem at the recent Battle of Britain Service. However, the Prime Minister has done the country an even greater disservice. His new National Curriculum for History omits any requirement to teach about either world war, let alone the Battle of Britain.

Chris McGovern

Chairman, Campaign for Real Education

A copy of Chris’s excellent booklet, Generations Betrayed, which illustrates how history teaching has been dumbed down, will be included with the next CIB members’ newsletter,which is due to be posted imminently.

 

Photo by Airwolfhound