A winnable referendum

I have received a number of e-mails from people who say that in their opinion, the “leave” side is not putting up a particularly good show and that far too many people are being frightened into voting for “remain”, even if they don’t really like the EU.

Obviously, the Campaign for an Independent Britain is only one part of the “leave” campaign so we can’t speak for every group fighting for withdrawal. What we can assure our supporters, however, is that we are working flat out  – supplying literally hundreds of thousands of leaflets, dealing with all manner of phone calls and e-mails, speaking at meetings, keeping this website up to date and so on. The list is endless.

Furtherore, we are convinced that this is a winnable referendum. Opinion polls have yet to indicate a significant move in our direction, but activists up and down the country do paint a more positive picture than the headline numbers suggest.

One interesting assessment comes from the EU observer on-line newspaper. In a piece called Stumbling towards Brexit,  Gareth Harding says that “the remain camp is in trouble, big trouble.”  His reasoning is that we are doing so well in a campaign which is loaded strongly against us. “Given the heavyweight opposition ranged against it, you would think the Leave campaign would be on the canvas facing the count. Instead, it appears to have weathered most of the punches landed on it and is still standing strong with the final bell still to be rung” he writes.

The main reason why he expects us to vote to leave is that our hearts will overrule our heads. “Rightly or wrongly they will cast their ballots based as much on laments for imperial greatness, anxieties about immigration, tabloid horror stories about barmy Brussels bureaucrats, stubbornness at the idea of being pushed around by a PM or a US president, and a deep-seated desire for Britain to keep control of its destiny as on any rational arguments about the economy or the country’s place in the world put forward by mainstream politicians.”

We may not agree with this assessment, but the article provides statistical evidence that voters are distinctly unimpressed with David Cameron’s claims that our leaving the EU could result in a war.  Apparently, 35% of voters think that EU membership makes it more likely we will go to war as opposed to a mere 19% who think it less likely.

It is encouraging that the deluge of dire economic consequences have not had as great an impact as the “remain” side had hoped. Part of it is that like the well-known story of the boy who cried “wolf”,  the sheer intensity of the barrage has led to considerable cynicism. There are good reasons to be sceptical, as Tim Martin of J D Wetherspoon points out. After all, many of the claims about economic meltdown do not come from neutral sourcies. The IMF, the OECD and George Osborne all want us to stay in. We have already shown on this blog that previous “divorces” with parallels to Brexit have not had a negative economic effect.

Furthermore, the idea that business is united in supporting “remain” is a myth. We have exposed this in our “5 Mistaken assumptions” leaflet and further evidence for this has come in the shape of a letter to the Daily Telegraph signed by more than 300 business leaders whose companies range from hospitality,  retailing and aviation to finance and insurance.

After all, we are only looking to re-join the rest of the world in managing our own affairs. The hypocrisy of President Obama and others in urging us to stay in the EU when their countries would neve contemplate joining such an organisation has also cut very little ice with the electorate. At least a few figures from the Commonwealth have  been more supportive, including Winston Peters, New Zealand’s former foreign minister and the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who said  that if he was a UK voter, he would support Brexit.

Nonetheless, the economy remains our achilles heel. Sovereignty and immigration are issues which favour us but fears of job losses worry a sizeable number of voters and could decide the outcome of the referendum.  We have a new leaflet in the pipeline which will assure people that their jobs are safe – watch this space!

Access to the Single Market is a big worry for some companies. Of course, the desire of all supporters of withdrawal is that we can end up with a trade-only relationship with the EU, but this won’t happen at once. The move towards global bodies driving regional trade agreements is gathering pace. This, essentially, will eventually result in a redundancy notice as far as the EU’s role in our trade is concerned, but – to repeat – we are looking several years into the future.

As for the immediate future after Brexit, the worldwide reduction in tariffs does not mean their elimination, not to mention the non-tariff barriers we would face outside the Single Market. Relying on World Trade Organisation rules for our trade leaves some big holes in our arguments and big worries for many company directors.

It would be a tragedy if fear was the real victor in this referendum and the electorate voted to stay in project they really don’t like, with the basic issues unresolved. There are convincing arguments that will address the economic worries and if they can be heard, it will leave very little ammunition left in the Remain camp’s arsenal, so the goal to which many of us have aspired – in some cases for many years – could finally be within our grasp.

A new way of getting into trouble

A letter from our Chairman sent to newspapers in Burton, Derby and Leicester

“You got me into trouble”, a friend said. I wondered how that could be. He is a consulting engineer who visits factories and installations all over the country.

He was with one of his clients, he told me, when a very angry red-faced man accosted him and told him he must take his car out of the company’s car park and put it in the street at once.

His “Vote to Leave the EU” car sticker was the cause of the outburst and I had given it to him. My friend refused and high words followed. Eventually a more senior man came to apologise and smooth things over.

We know that many firms are  indoctrinating their staff that leaving the EU would cause loss of jobs. This is the purest bunkum . It is quite possible for Britain to remain part of the Single Market as a member of the EEA (European Economic Area) and EFTA (European Free Trade Association) whilst leaving the political structure of the EU. Such countries have access to the EU market on the same terms as EU member states.

Roughly three quarters of European law falls away – that dealing with political union. We are left with that concerning trade, mostly to do with things like health standards or the percentage of sugar in jam, which we would be following anyway because they are mostly global standards. The EU is now mostly a law taker in this field, not a law maker. The regulations are made in organisations like UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), ISO (International Standards Organisation) and the EU is legally bound to enforce them – and has been for over twenty years. They mostly don’t make them in Brussels any more but just transcribe them into EU Directives and Regulations.

Britain has no voice at these global bodies where the real decisions are made. The EU Commission keeps us away from them. Our government has to shut up and like whatever it gets.

The same goes for many work people, who know that it would be very unwise to express an opinion contrary to the EU – In fact, far more dangerous to their continued employment than Britain actually leaving the EU. The little Hitler of the car park demonstrated that. He expected to be obeyed!

Yours faithfully

 

Edward Spalton

Trade – various snippets

(With thanks to various correspondents for this information)

There is no doubt that any future trading arrangement for an independent UK must include full access to the EU’s single market. For our exporters, it is too critical a market to jeopardise. However, looking to the longer term, it will decline in importance – indeed, the decline has already begun.  Not that  long ago, we were told that “47% of our trade is with the EU.” It has now gone down to 43%, but the figure is actually lower because of the Rotterdam/Antwerp figures (goods that go via these ports to the rest of the world but are counted as exports to the EU).  From a Select Committee  report repeated on BBC parliament on 4th May, it would appear that if the Rotterdam/Antwerp percentage is deducted, our exports to the EU come down to  a figure nearer to 35%.

There have also been some recent developments with the proposed  EU/US trade agreement, the Transatlanic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It has run into serious trouble, following the leaking of some of the key documents of the secret text by Greenpeace Netherlands.  Furthermore, France’s President Hollande has indicated that he would be likely to block the deal.  It may be too early to write an obituary for TTIP, but the likelihood of it ever coming into force now seems pretty remote.  It has consistently faced opposition from the political left, but as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard points out, the threat it poses to Parliamentary democracy is an issue which transcends the left/right divide.  TTIP, however, is not dead quite yet and we will continue to supply copies of our leaflet to anyone wishing to order some.

Looking ahead, the UK’s trade with Commonwealth Countries looks likely to be a major growth area as the EU declines in importance. Alan Wheatley has written an assessment which can be read here.

Photo by Martin Pettitt

The EU and the decimation of the UK steel industry

Photo by moleitau

If, as looks all too possible, 15,000 jobs go at Port Talbot as the Tata owned steel plant there closes – and another 25,000 related jobs go too – who is to blame?

Partly it is world-wide over-capacity, aggravated by Chinese production policies. A good deal of the blame can be attributed to Britain’s strong pound. Partly it is lack of up to date investment. But two factors have a lot to do with our EU membership.

One is the commitment strongly entrenched in all EU policies towards green policies associated with combatting global warming. There may well be risks associated with climate change but these need to be balanced against current realities. The EU commitment to combating global warming combined with opposition to fracking means that energy costs in the EU generally are about twice what they are in the USA and China. Since steel-making is very energy intensive, this is therefore a significant reason why Port Talbot has been vulnerable.

Perhaps more important than is the more general point about what countries should be able to do with their own problems, unconstrained by international pressures.  This is an issue of accountability. There are always difficult arguments to be considered about the extent to which governments should assist industries which are in difficulties – about whether this is really the right way to use public money as opposed to letting market forces prevail. The crucial question, however, is where these sorts of decisions should be taken.

Should they be taken at a supra-national level by unelected bureaucrats or should they be in the hands of those whom we elect to parliament?  Should they be taken at EU level or by our MPs at Westminster? There are arguments for and against nationalisation and assistance to industries in trouble and there will always be disagreements about what should be done. The crucial issue is where these issues are resolved and decisions on them are taken and how accountability for them lies.

The developments at Port Talbot are tragic. It seems terrible that the country which virtually invented the steel industry during the nineteenth century should find itself with almost no steel-making capacity left at all. If we are going to find our way to a more viable future, however, we need to be in a position to take our own decisions, to control what happens ourselves rather than to be told what can and can’t be done by Brussels. This won’t make the decisions any easier but at least the future will be in our own hands

The EU – very risky to your wellbeing and pocket

The EU – a club of former countries that encourages irresponsible behaviour and mutualises the resulting problems, making them worse

In the current ‘debate’ (or, perhaps better, the current game of fear messaging and deceit) about our membership of the European Union, (EU), the subject of risk management is largely ignored.  Yet this somewhat arcane subject  – very mysterious to politicians – is critical to understanding what we are letting ourselves in for.   Its inclusion completely changes the actual or residual risks we face.  Its omission by Mr Cameron and many other senior politicians is completely irresponsible. We could pay a very heavy price in future if we opt for the most risky option in the mistaken belief that it is the safest.

From prehistoric times, even our most intellectually challenged Homo Sapiens ancestors quickly learnt that life is full of risks.  Hunting and progress needed successful management of these risks, whether it was avoiding being trampled by woolly mammoths, getting hurt by chipping flints or being burnt when cooking over an open fire.  If our early ancestors had been ruled by someone like Mr Cameron, his Project Fear would have led to our early extinction because of dire warnings about messing with fire or the dangers of leaving our prehistoric EU cave.

Today, any business activity or enterprise, investment, not to mention scientific experimentation and medical progress, will inevitably involve both risk taking and successful risk management if it is to achieve results. Government is no exception; Some policies come with a possible downside in the shape of unwanted or undesirable consequences. If there is a strong likelihood of this happening, risk management is necessary to mitigate these risks and avoid mistakes becoming disasters.

Of course, government incompetence, malevolence and greed is in itself a risk which needs to be managed. It isn’t easy to do this.  Parliamentary democracy is a step in the right direction, as in theory, our MP goes to Westminster to act on our behalf and use his or her brain to do the best for us and protect our interests. The nation state also acts as a tool of risk management since the more diverse a population in culture, heritage and history the more difficult it is to avoid serious risks of downsides to some. In this country we are very privileged that,  over centuries, laws, checks and balances have evolved, somewhat serendipitously, to provide a decent level of risk control while at the same time reining in the government and the state.

In the real world (as opposed to the bubble which our ruling élite inhabit), we are actually world leaders in risk management. We have also pioneered many techniques for managing risks and have legal frameworks where responsibilities and accountability for so doing (i.e., a duty of care) are clear.  Policy risk management at national level is inherently easier than at EU level, hence residual risks can be made much smaller than the initial, apparent, risks.  The future outside the EU, should therefore hold few fears because we can manage risks as and when they occur.

The EU, by comparison, is a basket case for risk management. It is not just that its leaders ignore risk management;  the organisational structure of the EU makes the task inherently more difficult and the consequences of failure more severe.  As we will consider in more detail shortly, one-size-fits-all policies devised by remote unaccountable bureaucrats and enforced by judges (all ideologically driven), are a recipe for risk, mistakes and floundering about afterwards making the damage worse. This pattern is repeated time and again.

One of the more subtle consequences is that it encourages irresponsible behaviour by the unaccountable ruling élite, be they politicians, bureaucrats, big business, vested interests, special interest groups or corrupt individuals.  Rather than act in the best interests of ordinary people (the common good), they use the EU as a means to an end, to avoid responsibility, to exploit the people while following their own, self-interested agendas.

Commonly known as corporatism, it amounts to government by the few for the few and the re-distribution of existing wealth from the many to them.  From a risk management perspective, giving carte blanche to the EU’s ruling élite poses great risks to the wellbeing and prosperity of the many.  The Euro, EU energy policies and pricing, open borders and bureaucratic regulation as pursued by the EU have all had disastrous consequences.

Continuing EU membership is a systemic high risk proposition that can only get worse as its leaders recklessly pursue their goal of creating a superstate while at the same time increasingly expanding their unaccountable control of our daily lives.  Sadly, the damage spreads far and wide because of the contagion factor. A local issue which may crop up in one member state – or even one part of one member state – cannot be dealt with locally.

This is quite deliberate policy and results in us all being affected by events taking place far away of no direct relevance to us. One example of this is the Landfill Directive, which addressed the problems faced by Denmark and Holland, two fairly small, flat countries which had run out of space to bury rubbish. Our quarrying industry creates more than enough holes for this country to deal with our garbage, but EU legislation has forced us increasingly in the direction of smelly, air-polluting incinerators..

Sadly, all that Mr Cameron is doing through Project Fear is showing everyone that he knows very little about risk management and consequently is unfit to govern anyone or anything. This has been amply demonstrated by the devastation of the Steel Industry.

If we are to build a prosperous future for the UK, we need to be able both to take risks (business is always inherently risky) and to manage risks successfully. Mr Cameron’s ignorance is potentially very damaging to our future prospects. We could end up with the worst of all worlds, subject to a reckless EU while frightened to build a confident, prosperous and secure future for our country.

Photo by Oregon State University

0.35% is a “clear majority” to remain in the EU!

This letter was sent by David Samuel-Camps to Carolyn Fairbairn, the Director General of the CBI. it rightly takes her to task for claiming that a “clear majority” of CBI members favour remaining in the EU.

16 March 2016.

Dear Carolyn Fairbairn,

Re: Latest CBI poll.

I read the article in yesterday’s Telegraph concerning the above. Having covered statistics in my politics degree I decided to “do the maths” and was concerned to find that the CBI has, once again, distorted the results.

Your website claims a membership of 190,000 out of which you polled 773 members – 0.4% of the total membership. The report goes on to say that “80%” of those polled were in favour of remaining in the EU – 0.35% of the total membership. This does not equate to a “clear majority” under any circumstances.

I suspect that the methodology used was either by telephone or by tick box (hard copy or e-mail) which, as most statisticians know, is very unreliable.

Mark Twain popularised the saying “Lies, damn lies and statistics”; never was this more true when it comes to the manipulation of poll results by the CBI!

Yours sincerely

David Samuel-Camps BA(Hons) Dip PA.