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

Trust – the real loser

It would be all too easy to start panicking over last night’s defeat for the Government. By a very narrow majority, MPs voted to support an amendment which will give them a more realistic vote over the final deal. “Can Brexit be derailed?” some are asking and particular wrath has been directed against the 11 Tory MPs who voted against the government.

As Richard North has pointed out, what took place last night was little more than grandstanding:-

Since 1972, Parliament has been sitting on its hands, allowing successive EU treaties to be signed. It has then been content to ratify these treaties, holding unto itself only the power to make the decisions as to whether more and more of its powers should be outsourced to Brussels.  Then, when it finally came to whether we should leave the EU, the people made the decision, in the face of a parliament that, on balance, supported continued membership. And now that the people have decided and the government is in the process of implementing their decision, some MPs have rediscovered “democracy” and have demanded a vote on the withdrawal settlement negotiated under Article 50.”

Absolutely. There has been much hypocrisy among the supporters of the amendment. Thankfully, however, if MPs reject the final deal with the EU, it would not actually stop Brexit. The vote will still be essentially “Take it or leave it.” No one is talking about halting the Article 50 process. What would happen in the event of a rejection of the deal is that we would crash out of the EU with no trading agreement, which is the last thing the “rebels” would want. After all, if it is the unreconciled remainiac headbangers who end up bearing the blame for a catastrophic Brexit by blocking a deal, it will do little to their credibility if they then start clamouring for us to rejoin the EU.

Dr North’s comments raise a wider issue – trust. Does anyone trust anyone when it comes to Brexit? I receive more than a few e-mails from Brexit supporters who are yet to be convinced that a predominantly remain-voting Parliament led by a remain-voting Prime Minister has any intention of actually taking us out of the EU at all. Our sources, however, have been consistent in telling us that after getting over the shock of the result last year, the great majority of MPs, whichever way they voted, have accepted it and are prepared to do their best to ensure we achieve a successful departure from the EU.

Such an attitude does not necessarily imply any great confidence that the Government team at the sharp end of negotiations can be trusted to deliver a good deal. This year has seen frustratingly little progress in terms of the Government coming up with a Brexit strategy, let alone being able to discuss it with the EU. One can understand the frustration felt among some MPs on all sides and it is vital for us to distinguish between hard core remoaners and those MPs with genuine concerns about the lack of progress thus far.  Does the government actually know what it is doing? This is not an unreasonable question to ask.

Of course, there is also a distinct lack of trust between our team and the EU. In a speech earlier this week, Michel Barnier stated that “We will not accept any backtracking from the UK on commitments in the Joint Report.” These words carry the implication that  he is worried that we might indeed backtrack. On the other hand, can we trust the EU? Dr Anthony Coughlan believes that senior figures in Brussels are encouraging the Europhile Irish government  to be as obstructive as possible. Given the reputation of Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission president, for dishonesty, such concerns cannot lightly be dismissed.

What will keep Brexit on track in this febrile atmosphere is – in spite of its flaws – our democracy. The scale of the backlash in the event of Parliament halting or derailing the Brexit process would be quite unprecedented. When Mrs May threw her hat into the ring to succeed David Cameron with a promise that “Brexit means Brexit”, she probably hadn’t grasped the scale of the task she was taking on, but she knew that failure was not an option. As a loyal Conservative Party member of many years standing, it must surely be even more obvious to her now than when she became Prime Minister that failure to deliver on her promise would result in her party facing meltdown at the next General Election and most likely, its greatest crisis since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.

For the Tories, a successful Brexit offers more than just the chance of survival. It will enable them to bury the EU issue once and for all. Disunited parties do not win elections  and David Cameron was quite right in identifying the EU as one of the most divisive issues for the Conservatives. “Banging on about Europe”, he famously said, had alienated voters. As it happened, he ended up “banging on about Europe” more than he could ever have expected, but even though it finally cost him his premiership, he may have inadvertently given his successor the chance finally to lance the boil of the EU issue which has plagued not only the Conservative Party but British politics as a whole for far too long.

This is not to deny the challenges she faces – and last night’s vote has not made her task any easier. Nonetheless, a successful Brexit opens the doors to a complete overhaul of our political system including the chance to rebuild the trust in our institutions which EU membership has done so much to erode.  We would still be a long way from Switzerland where “only a few lunatics” wish their country to join the EU,  but if we get out without a major economic crash, it will be a step in the right direction.

 

Photo by San Sharma