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.

BMW’s mistaken intervention

The German-based BMW group, which ownes Mini and Rolls Royce, has recently intervened in the EU referendum debate.  Last week, the CEO of Rolls Royce, Torsten Muller-Otvos, sent a letter to BMW employees on Britain’s EU referendum. It stated that:-

“Free trade is important for international business. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars exports motor cars throughout the EU and imports a significant number of parts through the region. For BMW Group, more than half of MINIs built and virtually all the engines and components made in the UK are exported to the EU, with over 150,000 new cars and many hundreds of thousands of parts imported from Europe each year. Tariff barriers would mean higher costs and higher prices and we cannot assume that the UK would be granted free trade with Europe from outside the EU.

Of course, the letter did not mention that if the UK was to exit the EU and to maintain access to the SIngle Market by re-joining EFTA, there would be no tariffs and thus no effect on prices. But then, would you expect this option to be encouraged by a company committed to EU membership?  The letter was quite explicit about this:-

“The BMW Group and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars believe that the UK is better as a member of the EU than it would be outside it.”

The worst part of the letter concerns the subject of regulation:-

“When it comes to regulation, whether the UK remains inside the EU or leaves it, with Europe as the UK’s largest export market by far, we would have to abide by European rules and regulations in any case. We believe it’s much better to be sat at the table when regulations are set and have a hand in their creation, rather than simply having to accept them.”

It is hard to believe that Torsten Muller-Otvos is unaware that regulations governing motor vehicles are no longer made by the EU. The  Transport Division of UNECE, the United Nations Economic Committe for Europe, based in Geneva, provides secretariat services to the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29), and has been doing so for more than 50 years.

The hehaviour of the motor industry is very reminiscent of 1975. Lord Stoddart recalls similar scare stories then:-  “I can well remember the Chief Executive of British Leyland, Sir Donald Stokes, writing to all his employees in my constituency telling them that they could lose their jobs if they did not vote to stay in the EEC in the 1975 referendum. He said the British car industry would be lost if we left. The British people did vote to stay in and what happened? We lost the British car industry anyway. Sir Donald later recanted his statement, admitting that he had been wrong. The lesson from this is that bully boys should always be resisted.”

The enthusiasm of BMW for the EU is no surprise given its links to the European Round Table of Industrialists. A glance at its list of members reveals the names not only  of Norbert Reithofer of the parent company but also  of Ian Davis from Rolls Royce. The European Round Table of Industrialists is described in Wikipedia as “an influential advocacy group (in other words, lobbying organisation) in the European Union.”  This organisation meets before the Council of Ministers holds its meeting and wields immense influence. It may represent industry, but has a vested interest in furthering EU integration and shaping it in a way that favours the big Europe-based multinationals.  A glance at the CAEF website is more than sufficient to allay any doubts that BMW  will be impartial in the forthcoming referendum debate.  Hopefully, unlike the British Leyland  employees of 1975, its UK-based workers will see through the half-truths and propaganda.

Meanwhile, the biggest losers may well not be BMW itself but its dealers. One of our regular subscribers has suggested that people should look up their local BMW branch, book a test drive but then say that because of BMW’s threats to those who wish to leave the EU,  they would never buy another BMW. Apparently a few people who have tried this tactic have found their local dealers to be most apologetic and not a little worried by BMW’s mistaken intervention in this debate.


 

 

 

John Longworth supports Brexit and resigns from the BCC

Readers may be aware that John Longworth has stepped down as Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce because he supports Britain’s exit from the European Union. Following his resignation, he went on to accuse Prime Minister David Cameron of scaremongering

A video of an interview he gave to the BBC seems to have disappeared, but in the video below, he makes the same point – the UK would be better off leaving the EU .

Mr Longworth denied that he had been put under political pressure to leave, saying that the decision was entirely his.

“I don’t regret making those comments at all,” he told the BBC’s World At One programme. “I made it very clear when I delivered my speech (on Thursday) that there were additional comments that were of a particular and personal nature.”

A good letter in the Daily Mail – EU coverage on the BBC

We have received a number of comments about media bias in the EU debate. This letter from Journalist Tony Slinn was sent to the Daily Mail and superbly debunks many of the myths being peddled by the “remain” camp.

 

Dear Editor

I timed the BBC in/out EU coverage on News at Ten tonight (02 Mar.2016)—two full minutes for stay-in, complete with sophisticated infographics, and just 40 seconds for such a distinguished man as Lord Lamont arguing out … with no infographics and, as usual, curtailed.

That’s a distinct 3 to 1 bias.

As a former maritime editor (Lloyds Register/IHS Maritime, now retired) I am very familiar with the power of infographics. Those shown by the BBC failed totally to register ANY realistic numbers regarding tariffs, just ticks and crosses with no supporting info.

If you want realistic numbers, read Dominic Lawson’s well-researched and sober column from Monday’s Daily Mail. I quote: “The average weighted tariff on goods from outside the Single Market is 3.5%. That’s much less than the currency fluctuation that exists between Sterling and the €uro.”

Precisely.

Back when, I voted for the European Economic Community (EEC), not the EU. Why? Because I believe that trade is the way to closer understanding between peoples. Not politics nor religion, both of which have so often led us along the path of war for no good reason – the Mail’s current look at the Blair years, and what they’ve led us to, amply bears that out.

Also not because of the oft-quoted argument that the ‘EU’ has ‘preserved peace in Europe’—that’s just nonsense. Peace was protected when in 1949, the year I was born, NATO was also born via the Washington Treaty, signed by the most undamaged country (from WWII) and world power, the USA, along with Canada and ten Western European states—Britain, France, the Benelux countries, Iceland, Italy, Norway, and Portugal. The key feature of that pact is a mutual defence clause: if one country is attacked, the others will come to its defence.

Key point: absolutely NO mention of an EEC or, heaven forbid, an EU: the former didn’t happen for 12 years.

The EEC? Spin forward those 12 years to 1957 and the Treaty of Rome – just six members who set up the European Economic Community that aimed to create: “A common market, a customs union, plus free movement of capital and labour”. To please France, it also promised subsidies to farmers, a burden most other EU nations suffer today.

No mention of any ‘defence’, so who did what to protect Europe in the years after 1945 and whenever the EEC/EU thought about it?

Please…

The road to today’s UK in/out vote began when Britain applied for EEC membership in 1961 – I remember it well; I thought it was a good idea and voted ‘yes’. French President Charles de Gaulle vetoed our membership in 1963. De Gaulle refused to back the UK’s application because: “The British government lacks commitment to European integration” (my italics).

If only we had!

Hang on, wasn’t it the ‘EEC’ we thought we were voting for? Who mentioned the ‘EU’? Certainly not Prime Minister Ted Heath who stated in 1972: “There are some in this country who fear that going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say,
are completely unjustified.”

It was not until 1973 that Britain (along with Denmark and Ireland) joined. By that time, seeing what the so-called EEC was all about, the Norwegians were bright enough to reject it in a referendum later in the year.

Slice by thinly cut and mostly unnoticed slice, the unelected bureaucrats within the European Commission slashed away democracy and achieved victory in 1991—the Maastricht treaty turned the EEC into the EU. It also paved the way for the disastrous €uro monetary union.

Happily, sense prevailed in the UK, we still have the pound not the €uro— just wait until Greece collapses again.

That treaty even includes a chapter on ‘social policy’, as if we’re all the same. Maggie Thatcher, as the Mail recently revealed and despite claims ‘agin it’, saw the dangers.

The UK negotiated a sort-of opt-out (anyone remember what?). But the treaty also introduced European citizenship, giving Europeans the right to live and vote in elections in any EU country, and launched European co-operation in foreign affairs, security, asylum, and immigration. As we can all see today, that’s really worked well.

Of course, Ted Heath’s lies, to quote the Daily Mail of December 2012, had: “Scarcely been mentioned at the previous General Election, and the British people had very little idea of what they were letting themselves in for, other than a trading arrangement that might make it easier for us to sell our goods to our Continental neighbours”.

In February 2014 the Daily Mail revealed the real truth, quoting unelected European Commission vice-president Viviane Reding: “Britons are too ignorant about Europe to vote in a referendum on the subject.”

The British debate about Europe is so distorted, she said, “that people could not make an informed decision about whether or not to stay in the EU.”

Hmmmm… ignorant? Sovereignty?

As Mrs Reding boasted: “70% of the UK’s laws are made in Brussels”. And she also rubbished David Cameron’s bid to curb immigration from Europe, saying it was incompatible with membership of the EU.

So much for that then.

Finally, what about me? I’m for a greater-Europe trade organisation, but totally against the EU. It’s not just the scandalous waste of money or corruption—auditors have refused to sign off EU accounts for 20 years running—but argue as Cameron and others will, it’s nonsense to try and create a homogenised federal ‘Unites States of Europe’.

We’re too old, have too many bad memories, too many suspicions, even too many prejudices, and too many laws that divide not just our sovereign nations, but each other.

The way forward is trade. It’s travel. It’s not mass numbers, it’s getting to know one another on a one-to-one basis that includes respecting the assorted religions we all have. If you like, it’s humanism, which has no place in the barbarity too often inflicted because you think your God or your political belief system is different or superior to mine.

That’s what the EU lacks. You can’t drive people together through politics or religion. Better you come together over a cup of coffee across a table and strike an honest deal, regardless of whether you sell a donkey or a car, that it’s on a national scale, cross-border, or global.

I look forward to that day, though at 67 I doubt I’ll live to see it, along with the end of regional wars that have displaced so many unfortunate people in the name of some-or-other religious, political or regional belief.

I also look forward to the collapse of the EU bureaucracy, the realisation that in the end, democracy with all its faults is really the only system worth living under. And the hopefully assured ‘out’ vote in June that will restore sanity not just to the UK, but to Europe.

I look forward to peaceful global trade that will let me visit those fascinating parts of my planet I’ve still to see, but which live under the threat of people with guns killing mostly innocent civilians for the sake of some God or some political belief.

Above all, I live in hope.

As so often in the past, Britain needs to lead—others will eventually see sense.

Yours sincerely

Tony Slinn

Maritime Journalist, NUJ member

Photo by stephen.spillane