Friday, June 23, 2017

The Brexit we deserve


In a few years time, we will see Brexiteers writing enraged little screeds puzzling why we are still adopting EU law by way of statutory instruments and why we do not have sovereignty. They will wonder why we are on an EU leash, parked in a Brexit limbo, probably in a never ending association agreement, implementing ECJ and Council decisions. This is assuming they haven't packed up and moved on to blether about something else - having failed to even recognise that we have been shafted.

There will be a reason for this. None of them ever closely examined the options or explored the many nuances of sovereignty in this ever interconnected world. Mainly because they didn't want to know. They are not interested in details. We could have been out of the EU and in an EEA/Efta deal, evolving our way further out by using the country specific annexes within the two years. But no. That isn't Brexit according to the hard Brexit clan.

Instead we will dither without a plan, ask for an extension, and negotiate a transitional arrangement until a final trade agreement can be reached. This will be EU membership but without the bother of having to send MEPs to Strasbourg. And since it will take years to replicate a comprehensive agreement, the momentum of Brexit will have abated. The Tories will lose and election and a new prime minister will convert the status quo into a "special status" and most people will simply shrug and be glad to get on with something else.

Nobody will call this soft Brexit because we won't be in the EEA and we won't by name be in the EU - but that's what you wanted. But we won't be independent, we won't have sovereignty and in fact will probably have less power of veto than Switzerland or Ukraine.

It won't be popular but in the end the refusal to engage in the details and the realities of our predicament has consequences. They will complain bitterly but from the beginning they wanted no part of the grown up debate. They had no opinion on the shape of the referendum campaign, they opted out of the debate as regards to a plan, and maintained this binary Janet and John narrative that there is only the one true Brexit - all in pursuit of an intellectually stunted view of sovereignty - which exists nowhere in the real world.

The only way we will get a Brexit that satisfies the Brexit-o-mongs is one that sees us absolutely crippled, out on our ear on WTO terms, trashing all of our European exports - and more besides. Grown ups, however, do not want that. That is why there is an extensive debate about the shape of Brexit - which Brexiteers refuse to engage in on any adult level. They might, by accident, get the Brexit they crave, but by then the democratic "will of the people" will be to accept anything we are given to avoid it.

That will be the ultimate consequence of this boneheaded clamour to denounce a more considered Brexit as a "betrayal". You'll hate it, as will I, but ultimately it will be the "Brexit" we deserve. Never in the history of politics has a movement been so deserving of defeat.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Brexit: what needs to happen


What our Tory friends have not yet worked out is that you cannot design a replacement for 40 years of evolutionary integration inside two years - or even ten that this rate. Just supposing you could, you would need to spend some considerable time working up a proposal that is not only realistic but also one the EU could agree to. You would want such a proposal in place before triggering Article 50.

This they have not done. As much as there is no vision behind Brexit, there is nothing even approaching a consensus on how we get out. This is largely in thanks to Vote Leave who insisted that we don't need a plan at all. This view is supported by noted thicko, Steve Baker MP, who is salivating at the prospect of walking away without a deal.

In any other circumstances we would point and laugh at them as indeed we did with Ukip when they produced their manifesto. The problem here is that these such people are actually in charge and the wheels are falling off the bus. The supporting cast in this carnival of incompetence is a clueless media unable to make even the most basic distinctions. Only now we're heading over the cliff do they start asking the right questions. All of this, though, is a little too late. To have anything like a sensible approach we should have started the ground work months ago.

As we have said from day one, Brexit is a process, not an event. If you treat it as an event, seeking to tie up all the loose ends and build all the institutional infrastructure in a single hit you will fail.

As much as anything the single market is made up of a number of intricate regulatory systems whereby a transition out of them would require masses of new resources, a re-write of the law and a complete redesign of the IT infrastructure. There are no shortcuts to this and to pull it off we would need a detailed transitional scheme well in advance. IT procurement alone is fraught with problems and delays.

Then there is the matter of the Great Repeal Bill. We are assuming that we would wish to maintain a high degree of harmonisation and free trade, therefore the adoption of EU laws is our starting point. This is a lengthy piece of legal engineering and we cannot copy and paste. EU law gives effect to certain EU institutions.

Speaking of institutions, since we have offloaded a lot of our domestic administration capacity we would have to rebuild it. In the interim we would have to continue using EU systems from food safety to maritime surveillance.

If the aim is to leave the EU that leaves us with two choices. Either write a bespoke transitional deal and a bespoke destination - or use the EEA - the only instrument that comes close to resolving these issues. Since we have opted for the former, we have chosen to open up multiple cans of worms regarding the jurisdiction of a number of EU bodies along with the intractable problems regarding the border in Ireland. From the outset we have made the job ten times more complex than it needs to be with many times the risk.

We would also note that designing a bespoke system is no small undertaking. It will likely take years. All the while we must stay in the EU. As a leaver I would have thought that the EEA agreement presents the fastest way out of the EU with the least complications. But what do I know?

The problem with that approach is that it prompts our Brexiteers to whine that we haven't left the EU if we haven't left the single market. Of course this isn't true. I know that, you know that, they know that. It's just not Brexity enough for them. But this is where they have failed to understand the exam question.

What the Brexiteers want is for the Article 50 process to deliver a substantial practical change to our relationship with the EU. They see Brexit as the ends, not the means. This can only ever deliver disruption and chaos along with a number of legal and political challenges, the ramifications of which will be felt for years. This is entirely the wrong way to go about it.

As we argue in Flexcit, the measure of Article 50 success is for there to be no change on day one of Brexit. We negotiate entry to the EEA, we carry over the CAP/CFP exactly as before but enter a treaty mechanism that allows for our gradual departure. Agriculture alone is a major headache where we will need to take our time and have a think about the direction of travel.

If we have done the job right, all it means on day one is that we have, in name, left the EU as per the instruction of the referendum - having minimised the perturbations, and given ourselves the tools to evolve out at our own pace - avoiding any cliff edges.

We have explored this issue from probably every other angle and we do not see any other way of doing it without self-harm. We would also note that even this is not without complexity and risk, but at least it avoids opening up lengthy discussions that would delay our dilute our departure. Best of all it would give a us breathing space to form a strategy as to how we leave the EEA, if ever.

If we leave the EEA then we will need one hell of a plan and a big idea. We take the view that there are few advantages to leaving the single market and we are better off expanding and enhancing it, moving the regulatory functions to the many international organisations from which the EU inherits its standards. That though is a debate for another time. The purpose of Article 50 more than anything is damage control and achieving the one goal the government actually has a mandate for - leaving the EU.

This though is not good enough for the Brexit headbangers who believe that Brexit of itself is an economic miracle and we should rush to get it all done as fast as is humanly possible. What is more likely to happen is that we will get bogged down in the quagmire to the point where we either crash out without a deal or the process gets kicked into the long grass, an election is called and then who knows?

What we need is a bit of political maturity from our government, accepting the realities of our predicament, coming clean about the many compromises we must make. It requires that the government treat the electorate like adults and start spelling out a few home truths. There is nothing to lose from doing so since at this point Tory fortunes do not look salvageable. The absolute truth is that there is no way to make everybody happy and it is pointless to try. It is therefore incumbent upon the government to take unpopular choices. Preferably ones that do not leave our economy in tatters.

As to how Brexity this approach is, is really in the eye of the beholder. What matters to me is that we are out of the EU with the necessary tools to move forward. We should not seek for the Brexit process to be transformative - only transitory. Leaving the EU was never going to be easy and the referendum was just one battle in a longer war on the road to a truer democracy. It should be viewed as D-Day rather than VE Day - and if we treat it as the latter then we run the risk of throwing it all away. Best if we take the victory for what it is and then start thinking about the next significant battle.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Deeper down the Brexit hole


With the appointment of Steve Baker, unless this government collapses, there is now no possibility of a sane Brexit. Worse still I believe that any attempts to campaign for an alternative would be a waste of time since this is a clear message that May does not intend to modify her approach even slightly. This current configuration might actually be worse than just last week.

All that remains now is to the chart the many unforced errors that will bring about the biggest economic calamity in living memory.

I had hoped for a more intelligent Brexit but ultimately I accepted the risks when I voted to leave. It has always been there at the back of my mind that Britain probably needs to fail politically in order to rebuild it into something fit for purpose. The silver lining is that this will, unequivocally, destroy the Tories.

We are now looking at a period of major austerity the likes of which we have not seen since the war. The people in charge of Brexit now have zero idea how trade works - no idea what can be accomplished and they approach this with the worst possible attitude to the EU. Not only do I not think this government capable of succeeding, Baker is one who would quite gladly see it fail - since he believes the WTO option is viable. Combined with David Davies who already has a cavalier attitude - we have the most toxic combination possible.

On the back of this we can also expect for out trade policy to be outsourced to The Legatum Institute. Baker has been lining that up for a while - taking his advice from the utterly clueless Shanker Singham. Our trade policy with the rest of the world will fail at the first exposure to reality. Nobody serious thinks it is credible. Singham is widely thought of as a charlatan and a fraud.

There is now no doubt in my mind that we are totally fucked. The message May has sent to British business today, agriculture especially, is "pack up your shit and leave".

If there is any hope at all it is that the EU will attempt to save us from ourselves. That though is contingent on a government capable of compromise. This one isn't. The one remaining hope is that this government collapses. If then Brexit is halted, Brexiteers only have themselves to blame for their irrationality, juvenility and galactic stupidity.

Specifically, the reason Baker is such a disaster is that he believes Brexit can be concocted by way of a series of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs). MRAs have only ever been used as a precursor to full regulatory harmonisation. It is one thing to establish an MRA but you are then faced with the problem of maintaining and agreed level of convergence which means any new laws have to be put to a joint committee to ensure they fall under the MRA.

What we tend to find is that MRAs are issued in those circumstances where third country regulatory regimes are too alien in culture but of the same standard. In practice this turns out to be unsatisfactory with many annexes and embargoes being added to the agreement where it is found that divergence presents either an unfair commercial advantage or presents a direct threat in terms of product safety. This can be anything from formaldehyde traces on dildos to chlorine wash on chicken carcasses.

Where it is found that there is significant divergence, anything in that product group loses its preferential risk assessment score and is subject to extra testing and customs checks.

In the past the EU has used MRAs to establish lines of supply into the EU, making third country exporters dependent on EU trade and then they shift the goalposts knowing that there will be foreign support for full regulatory harmonisation. While this was previously viewed as an aggressive strategy, the WTO agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) compels all parties in an FTA to comply with the agreed global standards which all interested parties have a voice in.

In that respect an FTA with the EU would likely result in us adopting the usual standards, with no capacity for divergence. Standards wise that is no change but by leaving the single market we would likely not get a mutual recognition agreement on conformity assessment meaning we would still have to submit goods for testing and inspection. We could reach an agreement on conformity assessment but that certainly would require a joint committee and the adoption of EU rules on conformity evaluation. Right back where we started.

Now keep in mind that this is just the bare bones on trade in goods. There are three hundred other areas of concern all the way up to aviation safety and phytosanitary measures. We are stripping away forty years of systems development for the free movement of goods only to have to rebuild them one component at a time. In all likelihood the EU is not going to diverge from its own standard requirements or deviate from WTO law so there is no scope to negotiate a special set up that gives us any commercial advantage whatsoever.

By the time we have finished with this we will have pretty much negotiated exactly what Switzerland has only to find we have the exact same barriers to trade they have where we end up trading ECJ jurisdiction for market access. Exactly where we didn't want to be. Switzerland's meat export regime falls almost entirely under ECJ jurisdiction with zero say in the rules. That then ends up with mission creep where you end up with pretty much the same regulatory harmonisation as an EU member but no EEA firewall and no system of co-determination.

So what seems superficially appealing in having a more basic agreement with the EU, ignores the fact that trade deals develop over time and come under constant review. We will prune the single market only to end up rebuilding it through the respective strands of our new relationship but ending up on a tether. So much for ending Brussels influence. We suffer a decade of trade limbo for absolutely nothing.

Meanwhile all this assumes our government is competent and mature enough to be able to negotiate any of this. We have nether the expertise or the intelligence in government and in reinventing the wheel we will probably unwittingly concede to things we presently opt out of. As I keep saying, this nebulous notion of absolute sovereignty does not exist.

The reason Baker is committed to this is because he believes that out of the single market we have the ability to trade away our regulatory standards - lowering ours in exchange for preferential access elsewhere. That would have been a fine strategy twenty years ago before the advent of the TBT agreement and before the hyperglobalisation of regulation - a time when bilateralism was the obvious mode of trade, but it's all different now.

There can be no regulatory race to the bottom because there are global benchmarks. More to the point, British consumers and business does not want to contend with lowering standards and multiple regimes according to their customer bases. Absolutely nobody thinks it's a good idea. By doing so all we would end up doing is losing a lot of our preferential access to the single market.

Ultimately the Brexiteers are dinosaurs. They haven't understood the concept of global trade, they haven't updated their ideas since 1992 and these people are in no position to be preaching the merits of MRAs since they have only just in the last year got their tiny brains round the concept of non-tariff barriers. There are intelligent modes of trading with regulations but only at the top tables and only if you have a collaborative approach. Unilateralism in the modern world is a ticket to isolation as Trump has just discovered. The USA can probably handle it. The UK, as a a small island dependent on food imports cannot.

With this approach, even with the best will in the world, the best we can hope for is a lost decade of trade while we rebuild an inferior relationship and then we are worse off and have gained nothing. That's the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that Baker and his corrupt Toryboy pals will cause friction by way of their lousy attitude to such an extent that we only get a basic deal if we get one at all. Since these trigger happy Toryboys are just itching to walk away for the most spurious of reasons, there is every reason to believe that we are unequivocally fucked.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Brexit: Corbyn's issue illiteracy


The idiot Corbyn is once again talking about leaving the single market but preserving access to it. For those who need it spelled out, this is pure illiteracy. Everyone has access to the single market. If I'm a dildo producer in Elbonia I can export to the EU but I must pay a tariff and go through the third country customs channels. Because Elbonia does not have a preferential trade agreement with the EU it has a low score on the EU database so a container is 100% likely to be stopped at the docks while goods are sent away for formaldehyde testing at the expense of the producer. Meanwhile the container is taking us space incurring a thumping daily fee for every day it is held - which can be anywhere up to two weeks depending on the workload of labs. Ten times more expensive than tariffs. This is why non-tariff barriers are the greater threat to UK trade.

So say we were to drop out of the EU without a deal we would assume the same status as Elbonia. Having already been a member of the EU we'd have a slightly better risk assessment - but we'd still end up having our containers diverted and inspected. Then if we sign a free trade deal with Elbonia where we don't inspect their goods then our risk assessment score is reduced. That's why we have to be careful about the deals we sign after Brexit. Elbonian dildos have high levels of carcinogenic toxins.

If we want to avoid that scenario then we must have a deal where our own testing houses are approved by the EU. This would be a mutual recognition agreement on conformity assessment. That way any goods cleared for sale here can also be sold in the EU. That though does mean an EU agency will have to perform routine inspections of our testing houses to ensure compliance to the standards they set out. That means adopting their standards not only for the production of goods but also for the testing and the methodologies therein. It's complex for ordinary goods but when it comes to food and animal products it gets highly involved. This is why Norway contributes to the various EU agencies in order to keep the costs down for business.

Now multiply this dynamic to the three hundred or so other policy areas - including medicines and chemicals. We would need a patchwork of agreements covering all these different areas. Technically we would be outside the single market but it means you still import EU procedures, regulations and standards. The short of it being that if the EU council decides on the meaning of a regulation then you adopt it without question. Being outside of the single market you have no means of veto and you are not involved in the decision making process.

The fact is, when the EU accounts for half of our exports and it being the nearest and largest market, there is no escaping EU institutional influence and that nebulous "sovereignty" we seek is not so clear cut. Every shortcut we take has ramifications for our trade with the EU. Every decision has consequences that ripple out.

It's all very well saying we want "tariff free access" but that doesn't come close to what we need. Thanks to the "Anything But Arms" agreement even the r likes of Elbonia have tariff free access but unless it can meet EU standards and prove it then costs of trade are prohibitive. This is what our political class does not understand. It is the regulatory union (the single market) that facilitates trade. Being out of it means more direct costs for business, more delays and substantially less trade - none of which can be easily recouped by way of seeking deals elsewhere.

Since Brussels is a regulatory superpower and the UK being reliant on EU trade it will always have considerable influence on our laws. Even New Zealand and Canada have found cause to rethink their food safety laws so as to trade on more favourable terms with the EU. A well documented phenomenon known as "The Brussels Effect". So as much as there is nothing to be gained by leaving the single market it doesn't actually solve anything.

Moreover, the point of staying in the single market is that it takes all the trade issues out of the Article 50 negotiations and puts them into a different framework which is not time limited thus removing uncertainty and reducing the risk of becoming Elbonia overnight - which would destroy nearly all of our EU trade.

The single market may not be optimal but it is a fact of life. We cannot pretend otherwise and if we really do want to leave the EU it's the safest and fastest way to do it. At least then the political integration is ended and we'd have the Efta firewall. On present trajectory, chasing an illusory perfection, we are likely to crash out with nothing to show for it and will have to rebuild our trade relations over decades only to achieve what we could have had now. We are risking the UK's prosperity on the back of the profound ignorance of our politicians and media. This is the debate that was lacking from the election and it seems to be absent now. There is a wilful refusal to get to grips with it. That will be our undoing.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

That moment when you remember the left are depraved


Corbyn - a man who has no problems speaking on a platform with people more than happy to wave the flags of Hamas, Hezbollah, IRA, Communism, or whatever filth the left ascribes to.

And let's not beat around the bush here. Get into a conversation with a leftist and sooner or later they will bring up Israel. I do have opinions on that subject but my default line is that we have more important things to talk about than an ethno-nationalist spat going back more than half a century. But why do they bring it up?

Well it's simple. They are obsessed with it. Nothing else matters to them. It's a perfect cover. They can shroud their flagrant anti-semitism in quasi-legitimate moral outrage - which is always disproportionately directed at Israel, regardless of the fact that both Egypt and Lebanon treat Palestinians equally abysmally.

Not for nothing can you find leftists sharing platforms with Islamists. They ultimately share the same goal.

The reason I have chilled out in recent years is because I no longer seek out debates with leftists and the memory fades as to just how repellent they really are. But thanks to Corbyn they're all coming back out of the woodwork and it all comes flooding back as to what utter pieces of filth they are. This is when I really lose my shit.

And then there is the sheer economic illiteracy. As tweeter Ciarán McGonagle points out, echoing some of my own sentiments, Labour now appear to reside in non-interconnected world where economic policy can be imposed unilaterally without regard to global context, where increasing tax on upwardly mobile corporates and high earners inevitably leads to increased revenues without risk of relocation. Where the City's hegemony is inevitable and can be squeezed for new revenues as though other nations are incapable of competing for business. Where Government can pick and choose which international laws and regulations it deigns to adhere to without losing global influence in making those laws. Where the Govt can nationalise and subsidise industry at a whim without fear of reprisal or economic consequence.

It's a magic wand fairly land where you can peddle "solutions" from 1945 as though the last seventy years didn't happen - and because of the cult like status of Corbyn they will invent absolutely any mental contortion to justify economy wrecking policies. Not forgetting their insistence on foisting this shitty socialist heath system on us

And this is actually where my heart sinks because apart from the antisemitism and sharing platforms with jew hating terrorists - and giving houseroom to antijewish conspiracy theorists, you can say a lot the same about the Tories. The cowardly drift leftward is ultimately why Britain is in the shit. Time and again conservatives have caved into these scumbags

You know, seriously, so long as you don't mind bringing up vacuous shallow shitbird offspring, if you do have children, raise them as leftists because they will never have to be held to account for the repulsive views they hold, and they will never be expected to act like adults.

They'll be more successful at work because they can effortlessly glide between social scenes spouting the same socially convenient claptrap without being called out on it. Their warped and morally degenerate worldview has somehow become the social currency of the West and conservatives self-censor just to be able to put forth moderately conservative ideas - which are then shrieked down by bunch of leftist harridans.

Worse still is the fucking hypocrisy. The thuggish scum who call themselves "antifascist", only too happy to use violence and subversion to silence opinions they disagree with, using their cultural dominance to have decent people removed from their jobs in academia and public service. And let's not forget their sick "gender is a social construct" bollocks which ultimately lands young people with mental illnesses, often leading to gender reassignment and suicide in later life.

If there is any strand of toxic authoritarianism you can think of you will always finds the left at the front of the queue. The same shitbirds pushing the global warming shit on us as an excuse to close down democracy. Satan is going to have to dig an eighth circle of hell to deal with modern leftists. The worst vermin ever to walk this earth.

This is actually a stark reminder to me that I should step out of my Brexit cave a bit more often because I forgot what shitheads they really are. It reminds me that there is a moral dimension to elections and actually, moronic though the Tories are, two decades of economic oblivion is still preferable to Corbyn and his band of twisted sociopaths. You won't catch me voting Tory but no way can a decent person endorse this depravity. Fuck that. If we further tolerate any of their wickedness then the west does not deserve to survive.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We don't need Corbyn. We already have a command and control economy

 
You can tell how debased politics has become by the state of party manifestos. Labour;s being a prime example. In days of yore you would set out your goals but reference papers on how you would achieve it. This would go beyond the fag packet paths we see. These days they spend nothing on research, they don't know how to enact their policies nor are they aware of the many obstacles created by regional and international agreements.

Corbyn being a socialist has decided to say socialist things. Ok, fine. Makes a change. He wants to nationalise utilities. As one might expect. I could be persuaded. But then these people only really know a little bit of history.

As it happens utilities used to be property of local corporations - or as we now call them, councils. Nationalisation was essentially the theft of property. We privatised it because nationalisation had turned it into the unwieldy mess that it was. Corbyn wants to reverse that to a state where it functioned less well than it does now when what we actually want, if we want to bring it back under public control, is re-municipalisation.

In this, you don't have to be a big borrow and spend government. You can simply give councils the power to run their own energy operations. Some councils already act as wholesale gas and electricity buyers and some have reserves large enough to invest in small modular reactors where they could very easily undercut the big power stations by investing in CHP. Using the waste heat water for municipal heating. You then collapse energy demand over time and drive the corporates out of the market. The result is a public controlled hyper efficient energy system that even central government cannot meddle with.

The corporates presently control the market because in effect the grid is still controlled by the government and depends on centrally mandated policy. A genuinely free market wouldn't build Hinkley Point in a million years. This is a government white elephant largely to create jobs. In that respect Tory energy policy is not a million miles away from the socialism Mr Corbyn prefers.

If we adopted municipalisation we could very easily have a mixed market that would ensure genuine competition to the point where central government could be taken out of the picture to a large extent. Energy is presently expensive because of the command and control diktats from central government - largely working to a moonbat climate conspiracy theory. If Corbyn actually wants command and control energy grid that we spunk billions on for the sake of creating jobs he would be just as well leaving it alone.

But this is all so very typical of modern politics. The SNP did very well in the popularity stakes but are now receding because it turns out that they have no idea how to govern. Ukip failed for the same reasons. They had ambitions but no idea what to do when they got there and consequently could not turn popularity into power. The only reason the Tories are deemed competent is because, to a large extent, they are a continuance of the same regime and have no real reform agenda. Better to leave it as it is than hand it over to chimpanzees with no clue at all.

Ultimately, whenever you hear anyone talking about nationalisation you're just hearing sloppy left wing anti-Thatcher grudge politics. Utilities were always local, they were never meant to be nationalised and they suffered because of it. The joke of it being that the hyper-nationalisation of public utilities was driven by the Tories. Despite conservative propaganda, the 1980's and early 1990's saw a great increase in the centralisation of power. Despite privatisation, mythical deregulation and devolution, the government asserted its control over schools, universities, the courts, local government, and the NHS in the same way they had with energy prior to privatisation.

If Corbyn wants to wind back the clock he actually needs to wind it back a lot further than 1970 if he wants workable policies - but he will have to use the methods available in the modern day - by playing the market. No way in hell can we borrow that kind of money and a buy out wouldn't improve matters.

But then in the end, for all that you can say that privatisation failed in its aims to bring down costs and increase efficiency, successive governments have imposed their eco-lunacy and political vanity on the energy industry and taxed the bejesus out of it. Little wonder that bills are eye-watering. If for five minutes markets were allowed to behave as markets do then perhaps we wouldn't have this mess?

But that isn't going to happen is it? Let's get real. Even Brexit won't break our establishment of its vanity and venality. It will remain a command and control system for as long as it can be used to warehouse middle class workers - and as a cash cow to finance the greedy NHS. In that respect you need not vote for Corbyn because May will preside over a modern day model of the centralised state. One way or another we end up paying through the nose. If we're not firehosing money at foreign corporates then we're paying it in interest on the national debt. Wake me up when there's something worth voting for.

Questions to which the answer is "no" #856

From Conservative Woman...
The time has come to execute the outdated NHS and let a more streamlined, functional and sensible reincarnation take its place. Will Theresa May be brave enough to do this and help millions of British citizens suffering pointlessly from such a useless, wasteful and inadequate healthcare system?
Theresa May is a fascist, and is thus not going to remove the state from anything—and certainly not from a system that many British people, inexplicably, see as some sort of religion.

Monday, May 15, 2017

What Conservative Party?


There is term often used to describe EU activity. Mission creep. Gradually taking over areas of competence which should be the sole domain of the member state. When it comes to trade, regulation is increasingly becoming the defining factor where extraordinary decisions affecting the lives of many are taken by courts. Gradually we are seeing agreements encompassing standards on social welfare and workers rights.

As far as the EU goes though this is not mission creep. This is the EU's mission. To establish a Europe wide demos where it alone dictates the framework for social policy. The EU was never intended to be a trade bloc alone. This is why I see Brexit as very necessary. If decisions as to who is entitled to what do not rest with national parliaments then you have lost control over a substantial part of governance. More to the point, these decisions - and the power to press for change is taken away from the people.

I have always taken the view that nation states need the ability to set policy according to their own distinct cultures and working arrangements. Where workers rights are concerned, that is a matter for people empowered by political organisations and unions. As much as this is the most democratic means, it is also the best way to safeguard rights. What we have seen when such matters are pushed out to the EU is that the more entitlements we get the worst working conditions become in reality. There is a disconnect between lawmakers and the public whereby the unintended consequences of centrally mandated policy ultimately erodes competitiveness.

One of the defining features of my earlier career was watching dynamism all but disappear  in the jobs market where decent paying temporary work was regulated out of existence. As a result people are increasingly compelled to stay in bad jobs no matter how awful they are. The rights granted to individuals by the EU have, over time, become anti-freedoms.

Were it the case that the disparate and economies of Europe were convergent, you could perhaps make the case of a uniform social policy. That though is not, and never will be the case. Therefore pressing ahead with such incursions for purely ideological reasons can only ever be harmful.

It is this "social Europe" I am the most fundamentally against. I cannot and do not object to economic and regulatory integration for the purposes of free trade but it is more important than ever that we are free to compete and it is for the good of democracy if the social agenda is one steered by the public and not the faceless officials in the ILO. My beef with the EU has always been political integration.

This is yet another reason why I cannot bring myself to vote for this Conservative Party. If there was any point to Brexit at all it is to set a clear line of delineation between integration necessary for the betterment of trade and that which is nobody's business but ours. In fact, one would argue that Brexit was largely pointless unless the government was going to set about a fundamental rethink of employment and social policy hitherto dictated by EU directives. But what do we see instead? Continuity New Labour.

In some respects the Tories are to be commended for various policy tweaks, especially the so-called "bedroom tax" in that it has nudged welfare dependants into making tough calls which will in the long term improve their prospects. What we need to see though is a far more radical shake up, dismantling the many EU mandated entitlements. For starters the Agency Workers Directive should go straight on the bonfire.

I don't doubt for a moment that this would cause a howl of rage from the left, but why should this government give a tinker's damn? It enjoys a bewildering popularity and will soon have a mandate to do as it pleases. It has never been in a better position to initiate reforms. We are leaving the EU which of itself gives us considerable new powers, and secondly Brexit necessarily will require a fundamental rethink of just about every economic policy in the book.

What it looks like we are getting, though, is yet another cowardly centrist party afraid to stand up to the left when the left has never been weaker. If there was any mandate at all to be found in the Brexit vote, aside from the instruction to leave the EU, it is to bring about policy reform to restore our competitiveness. If we are going for a full blown Brexit then it is absolutely and immediately necessary.

One could argue that in a time of of transition, this government needs to play it safe and not spook the horses but actually, in voting for Brexit, the public have displayed a degree of political courage not generally found among our political class. Why treat them like children? Change is what we voted for - and we're not voting for the politics of Jeremy Corbyn.

The truth of the matter is that this is not a Conservative government. The narrative that may is on the hard right is laughable. The electoral bribes we see this week are every bit as statist and timid as those we came to expect from the Cameron administration.

Brexit of itself achieves very little unless we have a government with the courage to make unpopular choices. Why even bother seeking power if you're not going to make the changes you believe in? But that's really the central question here isn't it? Do these people even believe in conservatism or are they simply seeking power for its own sake?

The media mistakes the authoritarianism of May as "right wing" which is a typically immature interpretation. She is an authoritarian for sure, but no more authoritarian than Tony Blair and has no more intention of reducing state intervention.

As much as this government cannot be trusted to deliver an intelligent and pragmatic Brexit, we cannot even depend on them to do the necessary things when they do make a complete hash of it. They will continue with the same stultifying social democrat policies only without the means to pay for them. In this it is hardly surprising that Labour has reformed as an ultra leftist party because the centre left is occupied by May.

One thing that Brexit will not cure in our politics any time soon is the Stockholm Syndrome that has infected Westminster. Brexit is of no use to us if our politicians continue in the same mindset as the Eurorats. If our domestic policy is going to mirror that of the EU then why go to all the bother?

What I would like to see more than anything from Brexit is a newly dynamic labour market and a political environment where workers reject the old and ossified unions and start their own initiatives. We need to see a restoration of combative politics between the people and their government. We need to see people fighting for and defending their own rights rather than waiting for new EU entitlements. A restoration of real public debate. That can only come about by way of a properly radical Conservative party. When such a party exists, I will readily vote for it. That, however, is not this one.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Prejudice

And so to a vital article about which group of tedious fuckers is the most prejudiced...
These findings confirm that conservatives, liberals, the religious and the nonreligious are each prejudiced against those with opposing views. But surprisingly, each group is about equally prejudiced. While liberals might like to think of themselves as more open-minded, they are no more tolerant of people unlike them than their conservative counterparts are.

Political understanding might finally stand a chance if we could first put aside the argument over who has that bigger problem. The truth is that we all do.
No we don't, you wishy-washy, tree-hugging, cod-philosophising, hippie fuckwit.

Snigger...

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Brexit is not a quibble over money - so stop treating it like that


What is owed to whom seems to be topical. The figure bandied about this week, based on idle speculation from the FT is a hundred billion Euros. We can expect more of the same guesswork as the French and German elections ramp up.

There are those who assert that nothing is owed and that as net contributor they should be paying us. But of course spent money is spent money. To get an idea of why money is owed we have to look at what we actually pay for. In this context it is our obligations as part of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 whereby the various agencies of the EU are funded in order to perform certain functions.

Those agencies in turn have their own overheads and costs. That means they have contracts and since we are a party to the treaties and therefore stakeholders in these agencies, some of the liability falls to us. Not forgetting that Brexit will take a bloody long time and these agencies will be performing their functions in the interim.

Just as I was looking for a good example of what this actually pays for we learn today that three teams of European health inspectors are to conduct audits in the coming weeks to evaluate Brazil’s export control systems for export to the EU. It comes following last month’s revelation that 1,000 police raided 30 companies in Brazil with accusations of rotten and dangerous meat having been sold and public officials bribed.

Officials from the EU’s Commission for Health and Food Safety have confirmed that the inspections will be with specific regard for the measures taken following the outcome of the police investigation. These are all part of the multi-tiered EU surveillance systems for biosecurity, food safety and disease control. There is also Europol which works with international police networks to tackle people smuggling, food fraud and counterfeiting.

And this is where I get seriously bored of the Brexiteer narrative that we should not have to pay to trade with the EU. We don't. It isn't a market entry fee. It is the cost of operating a Europewide system of market controls. This is why you can be reasonably assured that when you get your prescription form the chemist you are getting the real deal and not bleach powder. Fake medicine accounts for nearly 70% of the pharmaceuticals market in parts of Africa.

As to legacy payments made to the EU for the purposes of bailouts etc, these are made as part of separate agreement and largely done in the common interest. The politics of that are disputable but as a matter of accountancy, they are not linked to our overall budget contributions.

The short of it is that there are financial obligations and member states sign off on the Multiannual Financial Framework which makes us a contracting party. How much that actually runs to and how we pay it is the subject of much debate and there will undoubtedly be an amount of haggling over the final sum. It has to be based on some kind of quantifiable expenditure rather than numbers plucked out of the air by EU official or FT hacks trying to stoke up a scare. Conventional thinking puts that at somewhere between 40-60bn (£). Interesting that the FT runs with the figure in Euros.

The suggestion that it is a lump sum to be paid up front is also, as far as I can tell, spurious since the thing about a Multiannual Financial Framework is that it is a Multiannual Financial Framework. It may become a thing, but probably not. The short version, there isn't really a story here yet except that which the Financial Times manages to manufacture. Unless you hear it from the horses mouth, and that horse is speaking in an official capacity, it's best not to get carried away.

But what's really getting my goat is the eye-popping belief system of Brexiteers that says the UK can casually dispense with the EU and do as it pleases in the international arena without any repercussions. What do they suppose will happen to our credit rating should we walk away?

Worse still is the assumption that the EU cannot adapt to our departure. There is no doubt that Brexit will cause significant disruption to the EU and it will have to scale back a number of its operations - and that will be to its own detriment, but it still has its own systems and agencies to call upon. Our own will be in their infancy, a lot less influential and an order of magnitude more incompetent for the foreseeable future.

A lot of people actually want this to happen because it is the equivalent of a nuclear bomb going off inside the state where any normal operations just cease to function. Believe me I really can see why that would be an attractive proposition, but actually that has very real world consequences for all of us. Suddenly invisible government that we are used to functioning quietly in the background stops working and we very much notice its absence. Funds will have to be diverted from every day governance. And yes that does mean social care. No budget will be safe. That's great if you're a nihilistic libertarian. Not so great if you're at all normal.

People think I'm being overly pessimistic or exaggerating but the apparent lack of flexibility we see up front in these negotiations is the exact same inflexibility we will see after the fact, only we will have squandered all good will with the EU while landing it with enormous costs. They will not be inclined to break their rules and they won't be in a rush to do us any favours when we realise that market participation was actually necessary. If you think they are seeking to punish us now, wait and see what happens if we pull the plug.

One way or another we are going to be making payments to the EU for some years to come. If not as part of the final settlement then as part of an ongoing relationship. It's just how the system works. Are we really going to quibble over money? If we are then what was the point of all this? I didn't vote to leave for £350m a week - and what we pay to the EU is a fraction of what we spend elsewhere. A few years more won't hurt. Unilateral Brexit most certainly will.

If you thought Brexit was was a short-cut to saving a few quid then you really were born yesterday. Much of the single market exists to remove red tape and reduce duplication. In areas of technical governance there is more good than harm in it. To get the best from it we contribute toward its upkeep and that saves us money. Who cares?

The reason to quit the EU was to stop harmonisation and integration for its own sake - to stop the transfer of vital powers. We can do that without rowing back on a lot of developmental progress. It's unnecessary. If we walk away however, we will pay in more ways than I can imagine. A hundred billion will seem as chump change compared with losing our European trade. And no, shit for brains, we can't trade on WTO terms. Do I really need to keep saying this?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Technocracy must be subordinate to politics


Experts. The problem with experts is that experts are people too. They can know stuff but they can still also be malevolent, biased and selfish pieces of shit - so please don't tell me that we should listen to the experts. More to the point, for every expert you see there are experts who don't have a platform specifically because of what they say. Politicians and media are very selective in the experts they choose.

Does this mean we should stop listening to experts? No. I do. I listen to as many as possible. In fact I get some of my information on trade issues from avowed Europhiles many of them working in the EU. These people are technicians and lawyers who have some useful and interesting things to say.

What they can't tell me though is who I want as my government. The choice is to have corporates, NGOs and foreign governments steering the agenda on a ratio of 27:1 presenting agendas to a toy parliament for rubber stamping, or we can have politicians elected by us.

As members of the EU we have some influence but as we play by the rules, if the supreme authority overrules us then we have no say in the matter. That happens more often than I would like. In some instances it wipes out entire sectors at the stroke of a pen for entirely spurious reasons and sometimes based on junk science. As members we basically waive the right to say no.

This is actually why I am comfortable staying in the single market. There is a lot to be said for having common policies and harmonised approaches. It facilitates certain liberties. For the purposes of trade I see no real harm in that. It's when those agendas overreach into those areas that are not and should not be the concern of the European Union. That means we need two things. The right to say no and the right to change our minds.

When it comes to things like management of the land and our seas and labour rights I rather think it best if we have ultimate veto over what happens. After all this is our country and our environment. Installing one size fits all policies for the sake of a federalist ideology is not only antidemocratic it can also be damaging to livelihoods and landscapes.

Those who say we should listen to experts, typically remainers, actually mean that the experts should be in change and we should do as they say. This is a clinical and depressing world view. Very often experts deal in specifics. Economists spend their time on devising ideas to create wealth and how to remove barriers to it.

The problem is though that this is their only concern that fails to take into consideration certain basic human needs, be they community, identity and security. They can provide templates to guide us and parameters to work within but we can never be slaves to numbers on a screen. As humans we must shape and control our own environment according to our local needs and customs. That is what brings about diversity and innovation. It is we who should be instructing the experts. Cold logic may dictate that capital has greater freedom if we eradicate all those inconvenient things like borders and local by-laws but the needs of people must come over and above the needs of capital.

When it comes to international law and regulation it is very much to facilitate the activities of multinationals from banking to shipping and agriculture. It is in our material interests to ensure this activity can advance with as few impediments as possible. Globalisation, however, assumes they have an absolute divine right to operate as they decide and have enlisted our politicians to work in their favour rather than as servants of the public. This is why they were so keen for the UK to stay in the EU and this is why the EU favours technocracy over democracy.

This is at the very heart of Brexit. Ultimately it is a question of who our politicians serve. If there is any point to government at all it is to ensure that there are entities capable of wielding authority in order to curb the worst excesses of capitalism. The excessive greed, the dishonest practices and the exploitative methods. If instead we find that government exists to facilitate it then government has become the enemy.

But then as much as corporates love the EU, so do tyrants. By this I mean the many global NGOs who have found that in the EU they have a vehicle sat their disposal which allows them to subvert the democratic process. Rather than having to go the long way around and persuade people of the need to change their ways or to vote for certain changes, they can go to the EU.

This is the inherent problem with the EU. It is a top down system far removed from the people it notionally serves while robbing them of any meaningful powers. The ritual of electing MEPs is a decoy to distract an unwitting public who believe this to be an adequate line of defence. What we find when we take a closer look is that MEPs are neutered, without influence and very often lacking the ability or opportunity to influence the agenda.

In this you could argue that it has all been in the common good. After all the EU has enhanced certain liberties and facilitated trade in ways we could not have done otherwise. But in the end it is we who must decide what is in the common interest and what is in the common good, not a selection of bureaucrats, officials and corporates. Ultimately it is that lack of consent that leads us to Brexit in the first place. Forty years of stored up resentment of things that have been done in our name without being allowed a say. This is not government by the people of the people.

As we move into the era of a global economy we find that there are any number of authorities. It is a marketplace of conflicting interests seeking out their own fortunes and carving out their own influence. Nation states are but one type of actor in this arena. To that end our government must be our representative capable of forging alliances as a means to defend the people against unwelcome intrusion. In this the EU has become so big, so unwieldy and rudderless that it has become one of those authorities we need to defend against.

Democracy may be imperfect and the judgement of people may at times be unsound but ultimately the public live with the consequences of their choices. This is part of the bargain. They may not always act rationally or even intelligently but they are acting according to their own will in collectives chosen for themselves. That is how they shape their environment as is their right. And that's really how it should be. The people may not be economists or scientists but they are the experts in how they want to live.

The EU as a construct is ultimately one which thinks it knows what is best for us. And this is why the modern left love it. They have long since made peace with capitalism. Standing up to it is no longer their concern. There is mutual understanding that corporates get to do as they please so long as part of that bargain is that the left get to tell people what to do and how to live. They are entirely comfortable with the removal of choice just so long as they are in control. This is why Brexit brings about such autistic screeching from the establishment left. They feel the power slipping from their hands - and into the hands of the people. Up with this they will not put.

I don't deny that there are costs and distinct disadvantages to leaving the EU but these are short term considerations. The economy will eventually recover and we may yet avert a Brexit trainwreck. We will work it out somehow. What we do here is in the name of democracy. That is why us leavers ultimately believe almost any price is worth paying.