Confusion and chaos

The Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames said recently that he didn’t ink that in his 35 years as an MP he had “ever known such a truly unpleasant and deeply uncertain time in the house” following the publication of the Government’s Brexit white paper. Michael Fabricant, the author of the hyperlinked piece, claimed that Sir Nicholas’ memory is playing tricks on him and that the battles over  the Maastricht Treaty were worse.  My colleague Robert Oulds from the Bruges Group agrees – threats of both physical violence and blackmail were used by the whips of John Major’s government. We haven’t quite got to that point – yet.

Even so, the atmosphere in Parliament is one of confusion and chaos. “We really don’t know what is going on” said one MP.  He is not the only one. A spate of ministerial resignations has been followed by the submission of a letter by Philip Davies, the MP, to the Prime Minister stating that he has “lost trust” in her ability to deliver the EU referendum result.

Mrs May is likely to cling on until the recess next Tuesday, unless firm evidence can be found which will confirm that the current impasse is something she has created deliberately and that she doesn’t want us to achieve a successful break from the EU.  Her unsuccessful attempt to bring the recess forward was defeated by MPs – and unsuprisingly, as it gave the impression of a Prime Minister wanting to run away.  Even if she does make it to next Tuesday, however, it is going to be a torrid time and Tory MPs can expect no respite when they return to their constituencies. Locals activists are incensed over what they see as a sell-out.

So what might happen? It would be a brave man to predict the outcome. Essentially, there are four possibilities: firstly, Mrs May manages to achieve a nominal Brexit based on something like the Chequers plan, but no doubt with a few more concessions thrown in. Secondly, the government falls and a general Election is called. Thirdly, a second referendum may be offered to the people. Fourthly, Mrs May is ousted and a new Brexit strategy is devised by a new team.

Of the four options, the first would destroy the Conservative Party at the polls and could cause a split within the party itself. Given that the European Research group of Tory MPs led by Jacob Rees-Mogg has stated that it will vote against it, such an outcome would only be possible by relying on the Labour, Lib Dem and Scottish Nationalist parties. Labour is in a serious mess itself. Besides the deepening divisions within the party over antisemitism allegations, the party is disunited over Brexit. A minority of MPs support Brexit. Some, such as Chuka Umunna, see stopping Brexit as their main priority whereas the Corbynites are much more interested in seeing a general election called.

It is the fear of Jeremy Corbyn ending up in No. 10 which Mrs May’s team is using as a weapon against dissidents on both sides of her party. The effectiveness of this argument is questionable. However disunited the Tories may be over Brexit, the last thing any of them want is another General Election, not to mention that the Brexit clock would continue to tick during the campaign period, as it did during last year’s election. This is in no one’s interests.

A second referendum was recently proposed by Justine Greening, suggesting three options be put to the electorate – accept the Chequers deal, leave without a deal or abandon Brexit and stay in the EU.  The proposal was dismissed by Mrs May, although it is by no means an impossibility. There are nonetheless several reasons why it is unlikely. Firstly, it reflects very badly on Parliament. In effect, MPs would be saying “You gave us a mandate. We can’t deliver it so we’re throwing it back in your court.” Such a move would undermine the very authority of Parliament, although the Conservatives, as the party of government, would be the biggest losers electorally. Secondly, it would be cruel. There is no groundswell among the general public for another referendum. The message MPs have been receiving from their constituents has been simple  – “just get on with it.” Unlike the 2016 referendum, it isn’t wanted and what is more, it would reopen wounds which have largely been healed. Given the febrile atmosphere in Parliament, a second referendum would be fought in a terribly heated, bitter atmosphere which would tear communities and families apart. No sane MP could possibly want to inflict such pain on their fellow countrymen. There is also once again the ticking clock. The necessary legislation would have to complete its passage through Parliament and then a decent amount of time would need to be set aside for a serious campaign. With Brexit Day only just over eight months away, there just isn’t long enough.  Furthermore, why just these three options? There are others, including EFTA, which have some support.

So the most likely option is a new Brexit strategy. Time is short and would be shortened further by the time taken up with the inevitable leadership contest. Joining EFTA next March to give us a breathing space wouldn’t satisfy everyone, including some regular readers of this blog, but other options are running out. Even if a WTO-type exit were feasible (which some of us doubt), it would need time to prepare for it and that time just isn’t available. It also wouldn’t command a majority in Parliament. Joining the EEC was a complex business too; the government gave clear, detailed advice to business for over a year beforehand to ensure a smooth transition. There is no reason to suppose that the task  of disentangling the accumulated complexities through  Brexit would be any less.

Two years have been wasted. We are not going to achieve the Brexit we hoped for. Given the present chaos, if we achieve a smooth but genuine Brexit via the EFTA route, leaving some unfinished business for the period after March 2019, (such as negotiating a looser long-term relationship), most supporters of leaving the EU could heave a guarded sigh of relief.

Photo by Free-Photos (Pixabay)

 

Stupidity or sabotage part 2

Following last week’s debate on the Customs Union in the House of Lords, Thursday saw the Commons stage a debate, entitled “Customs and Borders”. Dr Richard North followed it and the title of his blog post, “a showpiece of ignorance”  is enough in and of itself to make the point that the level of understanding about the nature of a customs union in the lower chamber is, with a few exceptions, as  appallingly low among MPs as among their Lordships. Dr North described the contribution of Yvette Cooper  and others as “an exercise in futility.” If we have needed any further evidence since the referendum of why we ought to leave the EU, it is our MPs’ total cluelessness of the true nature of the beast.

He also suggest a reason why some MPs are clinging on to the fantasy that staying in the customs union would enable us to enjoy seamless trade with the EU. It only needs a plane trip to the Turkish/Bulgarian border crossing at Kapikule to watch Turkey’s version of “Operation Stack” to expose the fallacy of their argument, so why cling to their illusions?

The most likely answer is that the remoaners have realised that their dream of a second referendum is a non-starter. There is no groundswell among the public to go through all that again. Desperate to stop us leaving the EU, their only hope is via Parliament.

Can they succeed? Unlikely but one must never underestimate the malice of convinced remoaners. They could easily be thwarted, however, if the bulk of MPs realised that a customs union (i) is not joined at the hip to the single market, (ii) would not solve the Irish border problem and (iii) would not lead to seamless trade with the rest of the EU. We can be thankful that the penny has dropped with a few MPs bu they need to show a bit more evangelistic zeal among their colleagues.

How Britain Leaving the EU Could Affect the Single Currency

In 2016, the majority of UK voters opted to leave the EU. A lot of people, fuelled by the opinion of the mainstream media, seemed to be disappointed with the referendum vote due to this common sentiment: Brexit will bring nothing but tough times.

However, when you look at the numbers, it is clear that the UK is already at an unfair advantage, as Britain is one of the biggest contributors towards the EU budget. In an article by Full Fact it was recorded that the UK pays more into the EU budget than it gets back. The site says that in 2016, the UK government shelled out £13.1 billion to the EU budget, which was more than the forecasted £4.5 billion that the EU spent on the country. In short, the UK’s net contribution was around £8.6 billion, which was used to help develop other countries.

Uncertainty with the Euro

Without aid from the UK, and if a hard Brexit happens, the EU will have to find another country that will generously provide £8.6 billion in order to offset the budget losses. If the EU fails to compensate for the losses, the Euro will most likely become extremely volatile since the European Central Bank (ECB) would need to print more money to provide funding to member states.

Below is a chart that shows the balance of UK contributions, and public sector receipts from the EU budget, which was inflation-adjusted for 2016.

The Economist suggests that only a few British people have changed their mind about whether to stay or go. The polls discovered that should there be another vote, the result would be similar to the 52:48 split last June. The article also mentions that most leavers want a hard Brexit if possible.

A hard Brexit would most likely affect the Euro negatively due to investor sentiment regarding the risks. FXCM notes that global market participants frequently flock to riskier assets, in this case the GBP, in hopes that doing so will generate strong returns. There may be uncertainty within the UK market because of Brexit, but that doesn’t mean that the EU will benefit from it. After all, there is no direct evidence of an inverse correlation of the GBP/EUR, at least not until a final Brexit vote happens. If there’s anyone who would benefit from Brexit, it is the U.S., especially since the greenback has always been viewed as a safe haven against the Euro.

The European Commission is now looking to reduce regional spending by up to 30% in order to balance the budget and keep the Euro’s strength. If the European Commission doesn’t cut regional spending, its other option is to reactivate the EU’s aggressive bond buying program. Whether or not that may happen soon is moot, especially since the ECB’s stimulus weakened the Euro significantly. The EU had already under spent on regional funds before. That being said, it wouldn’t be surprising if this is the route that they will take once again.

John Major’s hypocrisy

Our former Prime Minister Sir John Major stirred up a storm last week when he suggested that the Government should make the “brave” decision to offer the free vote to “let Parliament decide, or put the issue back to the British people” – calling, in other words, for a second referendum.

Not surprisingly, such words provoked a strong reaction from some Brexit-supporting MPs, with Nadine Dorries calling him a “traitor”, Jacob Rees-Mogg was – characteristically – somewhat more polite, saying “We had a democratic vote and the decision has been taken. And what he is trying to do is overturn that.”

Traitor or not, you don’t need that long a memory to contrast Major’s enthusiasm for a free vote now with his behaviour during the vote on the Maastricht Treaty during his premiership. He imposed a three-line whip to get the bill through parliament and  referred to the rebel Tory MPs as “bastards”.

It’s therefore rather ironic that having denied the public a say or his own MPs a free vote on Maastricht that he has suddenly changed tack.  He claimed  that the public was realising it had been misled and had “every right to reconsider the decision”.

Well, where’s the evidence? There is little evidence of voter regret. Most people DID know what they were voting for.  The problem for Mr Major is that they made a decision he doesn’t like. Even if the government had made better progress in the Brexit talks than the current muddle. he wold still have found something to whinge about.

NO! NO! NO!

Listen to the clip attached to this article. Pinch yourself. Is it real? Here we have Nigel Farage, the man who friend and foe alike acknowledge played a significant role in securing the historic vote to leave the EU over eighteen months ago, calling for a second referendum.

Yes, I could hardly believe it. The author of the article suspects an ulterior motive – in other words, that Nigel is happier when he has something to snipe about from the sidelines. Nigel himself offers a much more straightforward reason for his “conversion” – winning a second referendum would finally shut up the likes of Blair and Clegg for good. Perhaps – but this argument is flawed for several reasons.

Firstly and most importantly, there is the practical issue of the ongoing Brexit talks. Our team needs the distraction of a second referendum like it needs a hole in the head.  We are less than 15 months away from Brexit day and there is a huge amount which has to be sorted out before then. As for groups like CIB, rather than gearing up for a second referendum, our energies should be devoted instead to campaigning for a change of course from the current plan for a transitional deal which, as we have pointed out, is most unsatisfactory as it stands.

Secondly, a second referendum would undermine the legitimacy of the first one. The question was simple – Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? 51.9% of those who voted, in other words, 17,410,742 voters, voted to leave. The vast majority of them knew what they were doing and while a few have changed their minds, most people have accepted the result.  The Government triggered Article 50 and is pushing through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on the strength of the result. It was the biggest democratic exercise in our nation’s political history. More people voted to leave the EU than have ever voted for anything else. The result must stand.

Thirdly, who wants to go through that gruelling campaign again?  When I look back to 2016, I will never forget the euphoria of that momentous day when the result was declared, but neither will I forget the preceding months, including taking part in six debates in seven days. Those late nights, the travelling, the thousands of e-mails, the phone calls. It was absolutely incessant. From the day when Cameron announced the date of the referendum until the result was announced, it completely took over my life and the life of thousands of many activists up and down the country. I doubt if there are many people on either side of the  Brexit debate who are keen on a repeat performance.

Fourthly, it would reopen a lot of old wounds. Nigel’s opinions, sadly, come across as the view of someone enclosed in the Westminster bubble. The average man or woman in the street was never that interested in the European Union and I suspect that there are many people who now switch off whenever Brexit is mentioned in the news, especially as it is all getting very technical. Let’s face is – some of us who were active in the campaign are fed up with it all and can’t wait for Brexit to be done and dusted. To repeat a point which was made above, most people, whichever way they voted, have accepted the result and even some remain voters, rather than moping,  are considering the opportunities Brexit will bring. Apart from some of our universities and parts of London and Scotland,  animosity over Brexit has been pretty short-lived. We have moved on.  Who cares about Nick Clegg, let alone Tony Blair?  The reason their bleating is getting more desperate in tone is that every day which passes is a day closer  to the day when we finally leave the EU and everything for which they have stood politically will come crashing to the ground.

One reason why we can be confident that Nigel’s call for a second referendum will fall flat is that the Conservative Party, like the country as a whole, has no desire to reopen old wounds. Last June’s election result was a shock to the system and it has concentrated minds powerfully. Apart from the real headbangers like Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry, most Tory MPs know that their survival depends on standing together and delivering a successful Brexit. A second referendum will do nothing for their party’s cause. Furthermore, considering the bad blood between Leave.eu, in which  Nigel was prominent, on the one hand and Vote.leave, which was the preferred leave campaign of most leave-supporting Conservative MPs, on the other, there will be little enthusiasm among any Tories for Nigel to be calling the shots on Brexit.

So while many of us share his desire to see Clegg, Blair & Co silenced once and for all, a second referendum is not the answer. Thank you for all you did, Nigel, but as Mrs Thatcher would have said, NO, NO, NO!

  Photo by Michael Vadon

Recalcitrant MPs:- where do you stand?

This letter was sent out by our secretary, Jim Reynolds, to a number of MPs who recently voted against the Government. It makes the point about democracy very forcefully and offers a useful template to anyone else wishing to contact our elected representatives in the event of future Brexit votes

It is often mentioned that some Eurosceptic MP’s had a majority for ‘Remain in the EU’ within their own constituencies. However, it is never mentioned that some pro-EU MP’s had a majority of ‘Pro-Brexit’ within their constituencies.

Why is this? One can guess.

These facts are actually irrelevant because the Referendum was not fought or decided on a constituency basis. It was fought on the entire 650 constituencies as one single voting area.

If you wish to treat it on a ‘constituency’ basis there were only two Parties involved, one for Stay and one for Leave.

The result was an 80 seat majority for the Leave Party. A huge majority. A true fact.

Let us not forget, it was Parliament itself that voted to devolve the decision on EU membership to us, in our Referendum.

What great principle of constitutional propriety do you stand for when it seems you have been quite happy to see Parliament circumvented and supplanted by the EU for 40 years?

The people who want to reverse a democratic vote result should be aware that this action is otherwise known as Fascism, an imposition against the majority will of the people.

Where do you stand on this?

Yours faithfully,

James Reynolds