Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Post #EUref - The Future of British Politics

It is just approaching 10pm on Tuesday 28th June 2016. Some of the most momentous few days in British Politics since #VoteLeave won a slender but unwarranted win in the EU Referendum.

As I write, of the major UK-wide parties:

(1) LABOUR PARTY

Jeremy Corbyn has just refused to stand down as leader after a substanital majority of the Labour MPs (the Parliamentary Labour Party, PLP) have expressed a vote of no confidence 
  • As a democratic socialist ("Leftie") he wants to lead a democratic socialist Labour Party, which is their official position under clause 4. This is backed by a substantial proportion of the grass-roots party members and supporters, under the "Momentum" banner
  • He is prepared to let go of the centre-left "social democrat" MPs, who he has effectively expelled pending the likelihood of formal deselection in due course
  • Virtually all of these centre-left MPs have backed the Remain position
  • As the party that wins General Elections is the one that best appeals to the centre left and centre right, the Labour Party are very unlikely to ever be elected to govern the country again
  • In Parliamentary terms, the Labour Party is now dead, but will be true to its ideals. Fine.
(2) CONSERVATIVE PARTY

The Conservative Party is electing a new leader:
  • After David Cameron's resignation as Prime Minister, nominations for new leader are due in by this Thursday
  • That leader will be charged with running the how the UK leaves the EU (although in practice it is highly unlikely to occur)
  • They will also need to heal the rifts between Leave and Remain supporters, although there is mounting pressure to split. As the Conservative grass roots support Leave, that means goodbye to centre-right Remainers
(3) LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

The Liberal Democrats have announced they will continue to campaign for EU Remain.  No doubt some centre-left Labour MPs will be considering joining them. But as they are a centre-left party, with little appeal to the centre-right, centre-right Conservatives are much less likely to join. The Lib Dems will continue as a lesser party unlikely to govern with an outright majority

(4) UKIP 

UKI;P has served its purpose, in getting a EU referendum. In the absence of any lasting role, it will die. As soon as their only MP Douglas Carswell resigns or otherwise leaves, wihtotu any other MP, UKIP lose their "major party" status for the media coverage of future elections.

ANOTHER WAY?

Is there any other way to resolve these party issues for the MPs who are being effectively expelled from the Labour and Conservative parties? Watch this space!

#EUref - Lies and the Advertising Standards Authority


4 days after the EU referendum result and I am reminded that a week is a long time in politics.  And we've only had half of one!!  I have said very little since Friday, but there are four key points I would like to make together now, as they inter-relate:


(1) Should the UK actually leave the EU?

There is no doubt that if #VoteLeave had won the referendum with a clearer majority, say over 55:45, then the UK Government should be getting straight on with pressing the Leave button permitted under Article 50. At least if #VoteLeave had run a clean campaign that could not be heavily criticised as misleading the public.

But that is not the case. The result is a marginal 52:48, and the Leave campaign was a pack of lies, as assessed in point 3 below.  

We need to remember the referendum is only advisory on the government. They are not bound by it. The Government could argue that, given the economic woes that are already playing out, it is simply not in the best interests of the UK to leave the EU.  I'm sure the public would understand, including the vast majority of people who voted Leave. Many are already expressing their regrets in public of voting Leave, notably Kelvin Mackenzie who wrote the article behind The Sun recommending their readers to vote Leave.

So I am deeply disappointed that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet have decided to press on with Brexit, rather than to say they will be reviewing the vote and what it really meant.  Though the Cabinet has in fact left it to the next PM and his/her team to make the decision whether to ignore the Referendum result, or possibly re-run it.

My disappointment is that now the markets are officially expecting Brexit, when it is unlikely as described below. Do the traders know this? I suspect they do, but are playing the market for profit at our expense..


(2) What next, constitutionally?

Here is an excellent article by Jolyon Maugham QC about what would need to happen before the "Big Green Button" is pressed to invoke Article 50 to leave the EU .

Oddly it is not clear what would have to happen.  But it looks like a "Big Green Button Leave Bill" may have to be put before Parliament, and be passed by the Commons and Lords in the same way as any other legislation. If so there is plenty of chance the Bill would be rejected, with sound reasons that can be explained to the public.  After all, doing nothing keeps the UK in the EU.

Personally I think there ought to be a "Big Green Button Leave Bill" if it is constitutionally possible, even if not strictly necessary.   Certainty is needed.

The debate before 23rd June was a phoney debate.  Now we need the proper debate.  In Parliament and in public.


(3) #VoteLeave Lies

It is clear to many people that #VoteLeave won because enough of the public believed their claims despite the key claims being proved lies. Because there was nothing to stop the claims being continued.

Here is the claims webpage from the official VoteLeave website which was in two sections, two printed pages each.  On the left is "If we were to leave the EU" juxtaposed against "If we vote to stay in the EU" on the right. In each case the claim headline is below the relevant photo:








Claim number 1 is "We will be able to save £350m a week" repeated as claim 3 of the "stay in" set. In each case the emphasis was that the money can be spent on the people's favourite, the NHS. There are several issues with this claim:
  • The £350m has been debunked as this is a gross figure before deduction of what the UK is getting back and before deduction of other items that should be taken into account
  • Only some of this money would therefore be available to spend on  NHS and hospitals, But even then, there would be no guarantee the government would use it that way
  • The figure is for direct spending with the EU and ignores the likely hit on the economy from Brexit. That indirect hit would be many times more than even £350m per week to the UK Treasury, due to lost tax revenues and higher welfare payments.
Claim number 2 and 3 " We will be in charge of our own borders" and "We can control immigration". There is already control over non-EU nationals, but this would be extended to EU nationals only if any new free trade deal with the EU/EEA avoids Free Movement of People. This has never happened before for a European country. Norway is the case in point, accepting full FMOP for their access to the Single Market.

It is a disgrace that the media did not adequately challenge or debate this point. Upwards of 33% of Leave voters did so principally over immigration, a Red Herring I alerted to the media on 6 June.  In those two weeks so much could have been done to challenge the claim, and set the balance of possibilities!

Claim 4 "We'll be free to trade with the whole world". At last some truth, but only half truth. America has already said we would have to queue behind the arrangement already being made with the EU.  Any other trade deals would take years.

Claim 5 "We can make our own laws " is true. But again only half true:
  • The EU regulations on trade will apply to any exports the UK makes to the EU.  The exporters will inevitably apply the same regulations in UK to avoid two sets of products or services. The EU regulations then effectively become de facto standards for a lot of intra-UK trade. But without any say on them, as Brexit means the UK loses representation in the European Commission that sets those regulations.
  • No doubt the UK will want to continue to liaise with other European countries about environmental matters, and follow what is agreed.
The other claims are less prominent. Those above were enough to mislead enough voters into voting Leave to let Leave win..

Here is a fascinating BBC update on what VoteLeave are now saying, They are pulling back to a position nearer the truth. Too late?


(4) A Role for the Advertising Standards Authority?

If the VoteLeave website had been advertising a commercial product or service, any member of the public would have had the right to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority as to whether the claims were:
  • Legal
  • Decent
  • Honest
  • Truthful
As the ASA explains here,  the main political parties could not agree the rules to apply to political advertisements (incluidng leaflets, billboards etc). So all political adverts were exempted from the ASA's considertion.

To be fair, this was a partly a practical matter.  ASA rulings are usually given in tmescales too long for the short election campaign, unless:
  • The ASA set up a fast track process during elections
  • Or any key claims had to be pre-approved before use
The cost of replacing incorrect publicity, and the negative PR that would generate, would soon apply the pressure needed to stop politicians making an untruthful claim.

So what can be done? This is a complex subject in terms of practicalities. But one I believe needs urgent attention if democracy is to survive. Elections can never be allowed to be based on a pack of lies again!





Friday, 24 June 2016

#EUref - Initial Reaction to Leave Win - Disaster with a Silver Lining

[UPDATED 1040 after Cameron's resignation[]

I'm wrote this originally this after #Leave had crossed the 50% finishing line, but before David Cameron had spoken. Given the resignation in his speech, I can now add to those thoughts a little. But my basic initial reaction still stands:

(1) Leaving the EU would be disastrous for the UK. Sterling has already plummeted from 1.50 to the US dollar to 1.34 overnight, lower than any time for 30 years.  The FTSE has dropped £200billion, with substantial losses in other foreign stock exchanges. No doubt there will be some recovery, but let's not underestimate the significance of this event. Brexit has not just become a UK problem, or a EU problem. The genie has been let out the bottle on a global scale. Substantial economic damage could follow, far beyond the level of "Project Fear"..

(2) Fortunately the referendum is only advisory for the Government who now need to calmly reflect on the vote, and stabilise the markets. Cameron's resignation has bought time for the Government.  The "Article 50" button that sets the definite exit after a further 2 years will not be pressed until at least the end of 2016, when there will be a new Prime Minister. And then probably not until after the French and German elections in 2017. If ever. My gut feel is that every attempt will be made to make major changes to the EU so the UK can stay, and stop similar moves being made by other EU countries such as Holland. Time will tell.

(3) So why did people vote Leave? The Government needs to understand.
  • Was it a misunderstanding about immigration control if UK were to leave?
  • Was it actually a vote against the government and austerity, with the EU vote only as a proxy? Who voted leave? What's their social background (apparently graduates tended to vote Remain). Which party did they vote for in GE2015? Or given the high turnout, did they not vote in GE2015 and what made them vote now?
  • Was it due to voters believing the widely spread lie from the official Leave campaign about the EU costing £350 million per day? The BBC's Nick Robinson amongst others debunked that claim.  If so the marginal Referendum win should be considered invalid. 
(4) Democracy is dependent on the media challenging what politicians and others are saying. Yes the News channels need to report straight what is being said. But the media should also challenge and expose any lies and misinformation, which was not happen adequately during the Referendum campaign. (Indeed the £350m figure is still being spouted without challenge at 0635 on the BBC as I write.)  And other issues needed far more analysis. These were the key issues I felt were under-investigated. Fundamental issues inadequately covered.  I am deeply disappointed.  Lessons need to be learned, and changes made for the future if democracy is to flourish.  I back a strong politically-independent media!

(5) But there is a silver lining. Almost everyone has agreed that the European Union needs to change. This thought is not just in the UK, but throughout Europe. Maybe this result will kick-start the change that's needed.  Then the UK can Remain, with or without another referendum. Let's just hope the price of economic misery will be contained!

NOTE FOR MEDIA
I am available for media interviews for TV, Radio., Print and Internet.  Please contact me via Twitter @just4charley, preferably via DM.








Thursday, 23 June 2016

#EUref - Economy and Immigration - You Decide

As a eurosceptic, I was initially inclined to vote Leave.  But on closer investigation I have decided to #VoteRemain.

There are several factors, but two stand out:
  1. EconomyThe experts all agree Leave would be an economic disaster, with a high chance of an immediate recession, self-induced. Who wants that? #VoteRemain
  2. Immigration: The chances are minimal that a free-trade deal with the EU won't continue to require Free Movement of People. The idea of getting control of the UK borders in respect of EU nationals is therefore a red herring. There is no point voting Leave if immigration is what is bothering you. 
There are other factors, notably:
  • To me any improvement in sovereignty and democracy is balanced out by the loss of influence in the EU. There will no longer be Brits in the European Commission, helping to steer regulations and other European-wide actions in the UK's interests.
  • The #VoteLeave camp have failed to provide any more vision of the future than a slogan. There is no agreement on what type of trade agreement there would be with the EU, nor a plan for how to get there. They are simply suggesting throwing ourselves off a cliff with no safety equipment and no idea what we'd find at the bottom. It is not good enough. Do not #VoteLeave
  • There is a high risk that Brexit would trigger further political unrest across Europe, that could well prompt the collapse of the Euro or the EU itself. While many would welcome that, as a step towards a replacement organisation, the economic chaos would be extremely painful for Europeans and the UK alike. Again Do not #VoteLeave
So Remain or Leave? To me the only sensible vote fom the above evidence is to #VoteRemain.

Furthermore:

  • If Remain, the option to Leave continues. As a eurosceptic, I would want to keep the Leave option under constant review as the EU changes. 
  • However a Leave vote is final.  The EU can't be expected to take the UK back.
Thre is clearly only one answer. #VoteRemain

#EUref - Remain or Leave? The 3 Key Factors

As a eurosceptic, I was initially inclined to vote Leave.  I've spent June investigating the pros and cons of the Remain and Leave options with an open mind.

The choice between Remain and Leave boils down to three key factors.  It's then a matter of assessing the likelihoods of what will happen in future.

I believe the evidence points to Remain as being in the UK's best interests overall.  You may come to a different conclusion. .It's for you to judge and vote accordingly...


(1) "It's the Economy Stupid"

Elections are usually won or lost on the economy.

The independent economic forecasters say:
  • For all the rhetoric, there is little if any economic advantage to Leave in the medum and long term
  • But it is highly likely Leave would trigger a recession in the short term. This is principally because uncertainty around any new trade deal with the EU would result in business investment and consumer spend being deferred.  A Leave vote for Brexit will also cause ripples across Europe, with likely negative economic consequences for the UK's biggest export market. 
Hands up who wants a recession?  Thought not!

Clear advantage: REMAIN


(2) Immigration Control Unaltered?

Immigration into the UK is roughly 50% EU nationals and 50% people from outside the EU. The UK already has control of its borders for people outside the EU. But "Free Movement of People" (FMoP) allows EU nationals to freely live, work and travel here (and Brits around the EU of course, which mustn't be forgotten!).

To control borders for EU nationals would requre a new trade deal with the EU that does not incorporate FMoP.  This is possible for countries in other continents. But there is no such precedent for any European country. Notably Norway, being outside the EU, has accepted full FMoP to win free trade with the EU.

So what are the chances of a EU/UK trade deal without FMoP?  As the UK is more dependent on the EU as an export market (around 50%) than the EU is on the UK (around 10%), the far bigger EU is in a  stronger negotiating position. This is despite the EU selling more to the UK than we sell back.  There is every reason to believe FMoP would be part of any new deal.  Indeed it is far more likely the EU will insist on FMoP.  In which case there will be no change from today.

No clear advantage either way


(3) Sovereignty and Influence

Any gain in terms of sovereignty will be countered by the loss of influence in the EU. UK nationals will no longer be represented in the European Commission that sets regulations, particularly those relating to trade. UK businesses exporting to Europe will still be subject to EU trade regulations, but with the UK having no further influence over those regulations.

No clear advantage either way


On that basis Leave has no net advantage over Remain, whereas the risk of recession after Leave is unacceptable.  REMAIN is clearly preferable.

There are a number of other factors discussed in this longer article, but all support REMAIN

So Remain or Leave? To me the only sensible vote is to REMAIN. Furthermore:
  • If Remain, the option to Leave continues, in the form of Article 50 that would be invoked whenever a country wishes to leave the EU.  As a eurosceptic, I would want to keep the leave option under constant review as the EU changes. 
  • However a Leave vote is final.  The EU can't be expected to take the UK back.

How will you vote?  I'll be voting REMAIN. Will you?


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

#EUref - Head or Heart? (and who is suggesting voting for a recession?)

At the beginning of June  I set off on my search for whether it was better to  Remain or Leave with a note that:

"For years I have been a Eurosceptic.  Against the UK being in the Euro, but not a full-on Europhobe.  The upcoming European Union (EU) in-out referendum initially left me on the fence.  "Remain" or "Leave"?  My heart inclined to leave. My head saying wait a minute.  Let’s hear the arguments before we decide that the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (the UK) should leave the EU."

Indeed my heart was inclined to leave. After all the UK is still a major world player in terms of economy, military (as a nuclear power) and in many other important respects. But my heart also felt we ought to be part of "Europe", albeit not in the Euro or Schengen.

Now it is well documented that if you buying something, it is the heart that first decides, and the head then rationalises and supports the decision. That's why marketing always aims to appeal to the heart. This can be for a product, a service, a friendship or placing a vote. The problem comes when the head is at odds with the heart. I set out to investigate with my head.

My interest is purely what is better for the UK - Remain or Leave.  Because what's better for the UK is also better for me and my family .

What My Head Discovered

What I discovered was these major points, plus a lot else of lesser importance:
  1. Economy: There's something to be said for setting independent deals with USA, China, India etc. But likely to be years or decades away. The USA has said the UK would join the back of the queue after a deal is done with the EU. In the meantime virtually every major economist is saying the short term pain of Brexit would likely mean a recession, due to deferred investment and risk of destabilising the EU as a major UK export market. An emergency budget would be needed to plug a tax hole several times the size of the annual net contrinution to the EU. A price worth paying? I'll come back to that.
  2. Immigration  Control: The Leave argument is that an Australian style system could be imposed because the UK would have full control of its borders. Yes but dependent on the conditions of any new deal with the EU, which must continue as free trade to match what we have today. The problem is that there is no precedent for a European country to have such a deal without Free Movement of People. The EU is far more important to UK than the UK is to EU (despite the trade deficit with the EU). The assumption must be that it is  more likely that FMoP would be in the deal than it isn't. In whch case Leave does not have a right to say immigration would be better controlled,. It might be, but more likely not. 
  3. Rights for Brits in EU: Furthermore if there was control of UK borders, the EU would almost certainly reciprocate with restrictions on Brits working, living and travelling in EU. Do we really want to lose the right to live, work and travel freely around the EU? Thought not.
  4. Sovereignty and Democracy: It must be very frustrating for Ministers to not be able to take action because permission would be needed from the EU, or the preferred option is banned altogether.  Surely the UK elects its Parliament in Westminster, and expects it to have suitable power?. Furthermore senior people in the EU are not voted in, so cannot be voted out (remembering the UK Civil Service i'nlt voted in either). That is important, but how important given we have elected MEPs, arguably with increasing powers?  Conversely with UK people ejected from the Commission and other bodies, our influence in Europe would undoubtedly be diminished.
  5. International Opinion: Sadiq Khan asked the Leave team at the BBC Debate at Wembley on 21st June to name one of the major international countries such as USA, China, Canada, Australia or New Zealand which is suggesting the UK should leave the EU. There is none. Quite the opposite. Those countries want to see the UK playing a psoitive role in the EU. What's good for them is likely good for the UK, in playing its part on the international stage.
  6. Reforming the EU:  Virtually everyone agrees that the EU  needs substantial reform.  How best to achieve it?  Brexit would put enormous strain on the EU and may force the collapse of the Euro and/or the EU itself. Exceptionally painful, so doesn't strike me as the right approach.  It might take many years to get the reforms needed, but better from the inside.  In the meantime thr UK has vetoes and at least political agreement from EU leaders on the UK's position in the EU going forward.
  7. Post-Brexit Plan: It would be reasonable to expect that the Leave side would set out a vision of the UK after Brexit, with some form of transition plan. In enough detail to see that it was achievable, and in reasonable timescales. Although plans such as Brexcit exist, this has been effectively rejected by Gove and co, with no alternative plan provided. Leave are expecting voters to jump from the frying pan (if th EU is that bad) and into the fire.  Or off a cliff with no safety gear or any idea what will happen at the bottom.
So taking a completely independent view of the choice between Remain and Leave, the only clear advantage of Brexit would be improvement in sovereignty. But even that is countered by a loss of influence in Europe, which is important for so many trade, environmental and other issues where international collaboration is eqauired.

The Leave side cannot even say they could better control immigration. The assumption of avoiding Freedom of Movement of People in any new free-trade deal with the EU is not a given, and more likely non-negotiable . Everything else points to Remain.

In which case there is absolutely no justification for bearing the cost of Brexit - a recession and economic hardship at the outset and maybe for long after.  Indeed it would be exceptionally foolish to suggest voting for a recession, which is what a vote for Leave implies.

Yet that is exactly what the Sun, Mail and Telegraph are suggesting. Huh?

What About My heart?

So let's go back to my heart. It's shouting loud and clear that we cannot possibly leave the EU. Not now anyway.  The Article 50 exit option that would be triggered for a Brexit Leave will still be available later if needed.  My head and heart are in step. I will be voting Remain. It is the only sensible choice.

A Final Thought

"It's the economy stupid". Who in their right mind would vote for a recession?

Monday, 20 June 2016

#EUref - Immigration - Aren't the Leave Camp selling us The Emperor's New Clothes?

Here we are 3 days away from the EU Referendum on Thursday.  Yet there is a key question which in my view is still being entirely mis-sold - Immigration Control.  For many people intending to vote Leave, this topic is their main reason (though others put sovereignty first).  But the views on Immigration Control need to be challenged.  Like the "Emperor's New Clothes", the rhetoric has been almost universally accepted. But now the country needs to urgently wake up to pragmatic reality.

I wrote a piece on the Immigration Question here where my contentions are in summary:
  1.  It is acknowledged that excessive levels of net migration (immigration over emigration) would be a major problem. This is because of strain on schools, housing and other national infrastructure, and downward pressure on wages especially of low-skilled workers.
  2. The UK already has control of its borders in respect of non-EU nationals. To extend this to EU-nationals means a relaxation to Free Movement of People (FMOP) rules.  The chances of this happening are low in both the short-term and long-term. To maximise chances, the way to transition out of the EU would bear an economic cost that would be unacceptable. Then still no guarantee of success on relaxing FMOP.
  3. There would be major logistical problems for the Eire border, and with Scotland if it becomes independent
  4. Leaving the EU would likely make immigration control of non-EU nationals more difficult
  5. Any control of EU nationals would likely be reciprocated. Do us Brits we really want to lose our freedom to live and work anywhere in the EU? 
  6. The most practical immigration control measure would be an "Emergency Brake" on excessive immigration. That's available as a EFTA/EEA member like Norway, which is outside the EU but still a member of the Single Market.  Let's aim to secure an "Emergency Brake" as an EU member.
  7. We mustn't forget the benefits immigration brings to the UK economically, culturally and the workforce.  Provided undesirable cultural traits are tackled such as extremism and social attitudes long out-dated in British society. 
Indeed, which has the higher odds:
  • Achieving an Emergency Brake on immigration if remain in the EU, which is as much as we need, given precedent already set in EFTA/.EEA for the likes of Norway
  • Any relaxation of FMOP in any new trade deal with the EU if leave?
I suggest #Remain and go for the Emergency Brake.

These conclusions are because:
  • It would be economic madness to leave the Single Market, probably triggering a DIY recession in the initial uncertainty.  (Note that that Michael Gove and VoteLeave are seriously suggesting leaving the Single Market - but that's an extra issue!)
  • If the UK leaves the EU, the main way to keep part of the Single Market after the 2-year transition is via the EFTA/EEA (often called the "Norway Option").  To date full access to the Single Market has only been granted with acceptance of Free Movement of People (FMOP) i.e. no change to immigration control for EU nationals.  FMOP is a fundamental principle of the Single Market, which I do not see being flexed.  Any sensible UK Government would take that path. Even with Gove and Boris Johnson in charge, surely they would baulk at causing a recession?
  • The alternative is a Free Trade deal with the EU/EEA outside of the Single Market. much like Canada, Australia or other countries outside of the European continent.  There are several problems with this idea:
    • The UK is geographically much closer to continental Europe, which makes FMOP far more practical than in an arrangement with the non-European countries. 
    • Indeed it's difficult to see FMOP being flexed in any sort of free trade agreement.  Partly because the EU countries may well say EFTA/EEA or nothing. The UK has negotiating clout, but not enough to overcome that.
    • In any case a free trade deal would take many years to achieve. Some agreement has to be put in place within 2 years to maintain free trade. That takes us back to the EFTA/EEA option.
    • Thereafter what incentive would the EU have to put a different free trade agreement in place, with all the work that entails?  This two stage EEA-freetrade approach (a version of which is "Flexcit") looks a non-starter.
    • Therefore there is absolutely no certainty any flex to FMOP would be achievable, in the short-term, medium-term or even in the long term. Indeed I'd put the chances as low to zero.
  • But let's assume some additional control of UK borders in respect of EU nationals can be put in place. The UK already has control of its borders in respect of non-EU nationals. A main proposal is that this would be extended to EU-nationals, i.e. all non-UK-nationals wishing to live or work in the UK would be subject to an Australian-style points system. It would be unreasonable to assume the EU wouldn't apply the same to UK nationals wishing to live or work in the EU. Do we really want to lose those freedom?
  • Leaving the EU could make the control of non-EU nationals more difficult. Unless something was put in place to continue the current arrangement within the EU, under international law these people would have to be let into the UK whilst their application was processed, at UK expense.  Currently they are dealt with in their first country of entry to the EU.
  • Border controls of Northern Ireland with Eire would likely have to be put in place. Practical nightmare, and overturning key planks of the Peace Process  A similar practical problem would arise with the England/Scotland border if the Scots decided to leave UK and apply to join EU.
  • There has always been immigration. It is only excessive net immigration that can be a problem for schools, homes and other national infrastructure.  The most practical immigration control measure would be an "Emergency Brake" on excessive immigration. This is available in EFTA/EEA, and could reasonably be secured whilst remaining in the EU if the alternative offered to the EU was Brexit.  No guarantee but surely worth another try rather than to immediately press the Brexit button.
  • Indeed immigration can bring major economic, cultural and workforce benefits, provided undesirable cultural traits are tackled.  It is by no means all bad!


BUT IS MINE THE ONLY VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS?

My son bought me these socks for Fathers Day.  Does my analysis above make me the "Stupid Boy" for overlooking something important, or misinterpreting the facts and possibilities?

Or is it the UK media who have been led on to accept what UKIP and others have been saying?








WHAT THE UK PAPERS ARE SAYING MONDAY 20TH JUNE



Looking at the front-page headlines:
  • The Daily Express suspended its relentless coverage of immigration as its main headline to talk about extra VAT that the EU may impose (which is the issue of sovereignty)
  • The Daily Star managed to keep the EU Referendum off its front page.  It's what its readers want.
  • So did the Daily Mirror, focussing instead on the bravery of the man who tried to stop the murder of Jo Cox MP. Awful tragedy in a land of free speech.
  • The Daily Mail laid in with "PM's TV MAULING OVER MIGRATION", in that his deal with the EU before announcing the Referendum didn't go far enough on immigration control. Indeed. There needs to be a sensible, enforceable "Emergency Brake".  It then went on to quote Jeremy Corbyn as saying immigration rules cannot be changed with UK within the EU, despite the fact he is backing Remain.  I don't agree. I think a better deal on immigration control can be achieved if negotiated properly.  It would also be done more quickly than by pressing the Brexit button, as that would take years.
  • The Guardian also focused on David Cameron's tv appearance, being given a hard time for not bringing down immigration. But there was no discussion of the issues above. Cameron wants the country to think about the economic effects of Brexit, and my gut feel is this is what will finally swing the vote to Remain.
  • The Times led with a headline revised to "Brexit camp divided as senior Tory walks out".  This was principally about immigration, with Lady Warsi saying the final straw for her was hearing Nigel Farage defending a poster with a line of refugees trudging across Europe.  The article went on to say David Cameron has vowed to seek further reforms from Brussels. let's hope an Emergency Brake is one of them.
  • The Independent took a broader look at the EU debate, given a shift in opinion polls back to a slight lead for Remain
  • The FT focused on the death of Jo Cox, allowing Cameron to say the Leave camp has created a hostile and intolerant climate in the country through its focus on immigration.
  • The Telegraph led with Boris Johnson urging people to vote to Leave. It quoted David Cameron as saying there needs to be tougher immigration controls if the UK is to stay in the EU.
So no paper covered the issues behind immigration control in their lead articles. Far more superficial, as one might expect. But there's still The Sun.

The Sun came out last week with 10 reasons to Brexit, written by former editor Kelvin McKenzie. Number 7 was about control of immigration, though he didn't say how or why. A quick search of the Sun website for possible reasons disclosed:
  • Another reference to Corbyn saying there would be no upper limit to immigration if remain in EU, under the title "JEZ USELESS". But nothing to suggest how immigration could be controlled by Brexit.
  • This article suggests the EU won't give an inch over Free Movement, as part of the EEA.  But doesn't suggest what form of Brexit would achieve their desired result on immigration control EEA does flex Free Movement under EFTA, with the likes of Norway. Surely there's a way with the EU? 
So what does the printed Sun say today? It focuses on Jezza's comments that "EU cap impossible if Remain wins". But still no explanation as to how Brexit would tackle the issue.



So nothing to challenge my analysis. Because controlling immigration by Brexit is taken as read?

Does that mean I'm the Stupid Boy or not?  Let's keep looking.




OTHER ARTICLES DISCUSSING IMMIGRATION CONTROL

(1) Jo Cox MP, shortly before her murder "Brexit is no answer to real concerns on immigration"

This includes:

"First, because leaving the EU won’t solve the problem. Over half of all migrants to Britain come from outside the EU, and the result of this referendum will do nothing to bring these numbers down.

In fact, the leaders of the Vote Leave campaign have been promising that Brexit will allow Government to actually increase the amount of immigration from outside the EU, opening up a whole new tier of immigration to fill short-term vacancies."

"Second, we can deal with migration while remaining in the EU".

She goes on to talk in terms consistent with my analysis above.



(2) Fleet Street Foz (Suzie Boniface) has spent a lot of time talking about the truths of immigration:

(a) What can Nigel Farage actually do about immigration? 

She talks about the three categories of immigrants:
  1. EU nationals, which is the main category potentially affected by Brexit
  2. Asylum-seekers from outside the EU
  3. Others from outside the EU
She concludes that Nigel can do bugger all about any of these categories,. But in the case of the EU, seemingly because she doesn't see Leave winning rather than exploring any of my analysis. Luckily she's covered some of it in the following article:
(b) How to avoid getting screwed in the EU referendum

A major section of this article is about immigration, where by looking at non-EU immigrants she concludes "If you would like more migrants and refugees, VOTE TO LEAVE THE EU."


Sadly I can't find her analysis of EU migration control, so will ask her. ( I have but awaiting reply)



IN CONCLUSION


At this point I cannot find a better anaylsis of how to control immigration of EU nationals into the UK.  So I'll post this with the question to you:

  • Is there an analysis that basically supports mine?
  • Is there an analysis that shows mine to be incorrect.
Are VoteLeave selling a pup on immigration. Or is it just one big red herring?

But a better understanding of immigration is only one of  six reasons why Remain may win by as much as 80:20. See this short article.

Friday, 17 June 2016

#EUref.- The Result Will Be 80:20. But Which Way?

For weeks now the opinion polls have suggested that #Remain and #Leave are pretty close. #Remain has been in the lead, but now #Leave are getting ahead.

With less than a week to go,  Does #Leave have the momentum to reach an 80:20 result?

Or will it swing back the other way?  Yes it wll.  I think #Remain will win 80:20.  Here's why:
  1.  Likely Recession if Leave: The uncertainty in business of a #Leave win would likely mean widespread delays in investment, and likely create a recession. Jobs at risk  Voters are not stupid!
  2. The Next Government: The Referendum doubles as a vote against the current Cameron government. Whilst David has said he will stay on to implement Brexit if the vote is Leave,  it's looking more likely that Johnson/Gove would take over. Further right wing than Cameron.  Is that what the centrists and lefties want? I doubt it.
  3. Weight of Knowledgeable Opinion: Johnson, Gove and their crew are vastly outnumbered by the ranks of senior, influential politicians from all sides who are campaigning for #Remain. That weight of opinion must count for #Remain
  4. Immigration Control: Anyone wanting to Leave principally for immigration control will find it interesting that #Immigration - Aren't the Leave Camp selling us The Emperor's New Clothes?
  5. "The Sun's" U-Turn: The Sun came out last week for #Leave, remarkably early for them. For the reasons above, the Sun will do a U-turn and support #Remain.  The sceptic in me suggests this was the plan all along .  It's just a matter of when.
  6. In the Polling Booth: Ultimately the eurosceptics who might want to Leave will not be prepared to tick the Leave box which sends them into the unknown. Want to leave. Can't Leave.
 Voters all around the UK need to understand these key issues.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

#EUref - The International View of Brexit

In early June I started my posts on the EU from a position of euroscepticism, but sitting on the fence until I had assessed the situation properly. Part of this is what people abroad think of the idea of Brexit - the UK leaving the EU.

So taking a completely impartial view, here goes. What do people abroad think?

A quick search uncovered this article "Brexit's International Observers: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" from April.  Here are some key extracts:

"It is striking to British voters that President Obama, a man who is famously reluctant to travel, feels so strongly about the vote that he is travelling to Britain to warn America’s closest ally not to consign itself to the fringes. The Commonwealth is lining up behind the same message: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Canadian primier Justin Trudeau, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott have all spoke out against a Brexit. New Zealand’s Prime minister even argues that if Europe was its doorstep, New Zealand “would be looking to join, we certainly wouldn’t be looking to leave it.“.  Meanwhile, the Commonwealth’s Ronald Sanders argues that “Increased trade with Commonwealth countries is perfectly possible for Britain. It does not have to shed itself of Europe for that to happen”

Furthermore:

"What of the emerging powers that the ‘Vote Leave’ camp want to strike up trading deals with?  Britain’s favoured future trading partner China seems as interested as the US and Commonwealth on keeping Britain inside the EU. The Chinese President Xi Jinping was pretty explicit on his state visit to London and the Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin who has invested extensively in British businesses has equally expressed the opinion that Brexit “would not be a smart choice” for the UK, as separation “would create more obstacles” for investors."

Conversely there is support for Brexit from some sources. But only becasue it would suit therir own domestic purposes:

"So which foreign leaders do want Britain to leave?

The former Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhoftstadt, has argued that Vladimir Putin is “rubbing his hands at the prospect of Brexit”. Putin has not spoken out himself but the Russian media is replete with comparisons between the break-up of the Soviet Union and that of the EU, and many hope that EU-Russia sanctions are more likely to be dropped if Britain left.

The most vocal advocates are far-right parties in other EU capitals. “Brexit would be marvellous”, Marine Le Pen enthuses, “it will be the beginning of the end of the European Union.”


Aroud the same time the BBC reported that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had warned that the UK's exit from the EU could cause severe damage.  Whilst the IMF's analysis was disputed by the Vote Leave camp, the IMF was one of several major organisations giving such warning.

So in April it was clear that the important people globally were against Brexit. Has anything changed since?  Anyone worth listening to come out in support of Brexit?

RECENT OPINIONS

After warnings in the last couple of days of a £30 billion black hole in the UK's finances, I saw this extract this morning from the Washington Post

What about international business? Just seen this tweet:

"Unilever CEO Paul Polman has written to 100,000 current and former staff in UK urging a Remain vote. Letter co-signed by his 3 predecessors." The letter says:

To provide some balance, leading British businessmen such as the heads of JCB and Dyson are backing Brexit. They are both major exporters, but it's the truly international voice I'm interested in here.

For purposes of balance, I was hoping to find some level of credible international support for Brexit. But alas nothing so far. If you know of any, feel free to share it as a comment.



Tuesday, 14 June 2016

#EUref - Key Issues To Clarify (Plea to News and Media)

I've finally managed to catch up with last Friday's "The Last Leg".  Mainly to discover what the real Jeremy Corbyn is like, appearing as guest.  The programme now available on All4 was very illuminating in that regard and is well worth watching for this and an incisive.look at the EU Referendum

Indeed the first two segments of the programme concentrated on the EU Referendum, from which I gleaned:
  1. The presenters and lots of people they know have not a clue how to vote as yet. They are confused by the conflicting factors and misinformation
  2. The main information being put out by the official Remain and Leave camps is plain wrong. The host, Adam Hills, had to use the "Bullshit" button for each and every item quoted. Npt minor ppints, but the main points the two camps are making.
  3. The best thing to do might be to go with your gut feel. 
Gut feel and emotions are important.  But isn't there a better, more logical way to come to a sensible decision on something so important to our future as whether to continue membership of the EU?

KEY ISSUES TO CLARIFY

It strikes me that there are a number of key issues that need to be properly clarified for people to make up their minds.  Here's a plea to the news and media channels to get to the bottom of these issues quickly, challenging what the Remain and Leave camps are saying on these topics. 

Let's get to the truth, or at least the most sensible look in the crystal ball.

Here are my thoughts on the key issues. But I'm fully open to stronger arguments that might turn my provisional voting decision the other way. I want the right decision for the UK, and that means debating the issues with facts and vision in as much depth as necessary:


(1) WHAT DOES THE RESULT ACTUALLY MEAN?

The ballot paper has only two options, Remain and Leave. But each of these splits into 2 main options:

(a) Remain:
  • Europhile: Stay in the EU whatever
  • Eurosceptic: Stay in for now, but keep Leave under review. But will we get another chance to leave?  Article 50 to Leave can be invoked at any time, but would there need to be another referendum?
(b) Leave
  • Europhobe: Leave EU (and any other way of being part of the Single Market), to set up free trade deals with EU and other countries of the world.  But each deal could take many years.
  • Europhobe-Lite: Initially continue in Single Market, probably through membership of EEA (often called the "Norway Option", or some variant of it).  This may be a stepping stone to full withdrawal, once a different free trade agreement with Europe has been put place.  Otherwise the initial arrangement might last for decades. 
The question is how should the Government interpret and action a Remain or Leave result?  Because it is the Government of the day that will have to act, not the Remain or Leave camps.  There is a political imperative to follow the result, but no actual legal imperative.  But what specific actions?

Can the polling organisations generate the supporting data the Government will need?

Further details on this topic here "EU Referendum - What Type of "Euro-" Are You? "


(2) WILL IMMIGRATION CONTROL BE BETTER IF UK LEAVES?

Not necessarily. In fact immigration control would probably be no better and could even be worse if vote Leave:
  • Any free trade deal with EU, whether in the Single Market as member of EEA or outside it, is almost certainly going to involve continuation of Free Movement of People (FMOP) for EU citizens, at least of  workers.  FMOP is a key aspect of the arrangement with Norway, Switzerland and others outside the EU who want to be part of the Single Market.  But workers is the most important cagegory when it comes to the immigration issues of taking jobs and driving down wage rates. It is the working age people that tend to migrate, so it is they who put pressure on infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and housing.
  • A deal that doesn't involve FMOP is a possibility, but would be many years away if stay in the Single Market initially. Which we must to avoid big issues in the economy, as described below.
  • In the meantime the UK could lose the right to hold potential non-EU immigrants in Calais, due to a global obligation as an independent country to accept potential refugees in-country, and look after them. That will cost the UK taxpayer.
  • In any case any people already living in the UK will have the right to stay, under international law. 
To me the key issue is whether there would be an "Emergency Brake" available to apply to immigration if it continues or became too high?  This is a distinct possibility within the EEA, but has also been strongly hinted if the UK is to remain in the EU. It would be up to the UK Government to negotiate the best brake, be the result Remain or Leave.

So realistically, Leave looks to provide no clear advantage in respect of immigration, and could make matters worse.

Furthermore I'm not sure people who advocate control of UK borders appreciate the same would inevitably operate in reverse for UK nationals who want to live, work, retire or travel around the EU.  Those already living in the EU will be able to stay, but the freedoms for others would not exist in future.

And how about the UK/Eire border? Put border controls back up? Tear the key Irish agreements to pieces? Wouldn't it be disastrous for the region?

So Leave is not the immigration panacea often presented. Leave could make matters worse, and esult in loss of our precious freedoms. Further details here in "Immigration - Aren't the Leave Camp selling us The Emperor's New Clothes?"


(3) CONTROL AND INFLUENCE

The UK is a proud nation that is the 5th largest economy in the world. We can stand on our own two feet, surely?
  • But the UK is only in league 2 after Japan.  The USA, China and the Rest of EU are in the premier league, streets ahead due to their sheer size of population
  • Nonetheless the UK has a bigger economy than India, Australia and all the South American, African and other Asian states
Let's look after our own affairs, under the democracy and authority of Westminster.  There's plenty wrong with the EU's structure and demccracy, as most of the Remain supporters accept.

Does the UK want to be part of the EU club where greater political and monetary union is the stated aim, to become more like the United States of Europe?  No, and the UK Government has negotiated that the UK needn't become any closer part of that arrangement. This "Memorandum of Understanding", if not legally watertight in a Treatyt, is a political reality that other nations in the EU reverse at their peril. Which is why a vote for Remain must have an ongoing Leave watch in place.

Clearly our influence in the EU would diminish by leaving the EU.  That is a major problem in my view.

But how about global influence?  Soem people argue the EU is becoming an irrelevant middleman, which should be disintermediated from its role between global bodies and nation states such as the UK, on topics such as trade and the environment. Maybe, but not yet. It's too early to Leave for that reason.



(4) WHAT IS THE NET COST OF BEING AN EU MEMBER?
(COMPARED TO SOME OTHER ARRANGEMENT)

There are lots of figures being bandied about, most of which are being rubbished. As far as I can establish:
  • The net direct cost of EU membership (what paid in compared to what directly received back) is much smaller than figures suggested by the Leave camp
  • Other participants in the Single Market, notably Norway, pay a substantial amount into EU coffers, but without any influence on EU regulations that affect them. Sounds a bad deal.
  • The net difference between the net cost of EU membership and some other arrangement would be very small in the overall context
  • It is certainly small by comparison to the net tax receipts arising from working immigrants, where figures of over £10 billion per annum are being quoted
So what is the overall benefit or cost to the Exchequer of EU membership compared to other likely options?  We need facts please.


(5) "IT'S THE ECONOMY STUPID"

So far so good. On the basis of the issues above people may vote Remain or Leave.  Probably on the basis of their heart and gut feel:
  • Leave if it's more important that the UK regain control and our "rightful place" in the world
  • Remain if feel influence in Europe is more important to our future, and value the rights to travel freely around Europe
  • And in any case Immigration is a red herring, if anything better under Remain
But the economy is usually the deciding factor in an election.  For most people the over-riding factor in the decision will be the effect of Remain or Leave on the economy.  Jobs. My job or business. My children's and grandchildren's jobs and future.
There's lots of claims and counter-claims flying around, and frankly some silly figures.  All I know is:
  • The UK economy won't completely collapse if either Remain or Leave. The dire warnings in the 1990s of not joining the Euro didn't come true then (and thankfully the UK didn't join the Euro). Extreme warnings won't come true now.
  • But if Leave win, there will be the uncertainty of what sort of trade deals will be put in place with the EU and elsewhere, and how long they will take to put in place. This will inevitably result in the cancellation or deferral of investment in the UK, be it internal or inward investment from outside the UK.  The reduction in investment is what happened in 2008/09, and was the real reason we had a recession after the economy started to crumble.  "Batten down the hatches. We're not spending any money."  was what I repeatedly heard. That just creates a massive slowdown.  
  • It would take years to put trade deals in place outside the EU to gain any real advantage economically.  Any such benefit is many years away, whilst the effect of Leave on trade with the EU in the short term would be for trade to suffer. Leave would produce a net negative affect on the economy, even without the investment issue making it worse.
  • As a result it is completely logical that nearly every major economic body is predicting a worse economy under Leave than under Remain for many years. Youc an argue about the specific assumptions each body makes.  But standing aback it would clearly be worse under Leave in the short erm, with a distinct threat of a self-induced recession.
In my view we simply can't take that risk now.  This is why so many Eurosceptics in the Govenemnt, in business and in life generally will vote Remain.

But is this assessment correct? The news and media organsiatsions need to help us with the facts, expert opinion, and a good hard gaze into the crystal ball.


(6) WHAT'S THE LEAVE VISION?

There isn't a clear vision on the Leave side.  Or at least hasn't been. There have been lots of different visions, including:
  • Leaving the Single Market (as well as the EU) until a new agreement is put in place for UK to re-join the Single Market, similar to say Norway or Switzerland. This would have to be within 2 years of pressing the Article 50 exit button, as EU membership (and access to the Single Market) then ceases unless there is an agreement to extend
  • Long term arrangement for Single Market by applying to join EEA along the lines of Norway, or along the lines of Switzerland
  • Short term arrangemet with EEA, pending long-term arrangement with EU along lines of Canada
There's no idea of the terms of any such deal, or even what might reasonably be achieved. This is especially in respect of Free Movement of People (FMOP), where Norway and Switzerland have both accepted different levels of FMOP and therefore gained different levels of access to the Single Market.  Full access will almost certainly mean full FMOP, at least of workers (as discussed above), unless a Canadian-style deal is stuck without FMOP.  But I can't see that  happening given the UK's geographical psoition on the edge of Europe.  Gut feel is once in EEA, that is where the EU will force the UK to stay by the lack of any new arrangement.

What is the Leave viison that a Uk Government wiuld actually implement?

NOTE FOR EDITORS

I can be contacted via Twitter @just4charley.  I'm happy to participate actively in TV, radio, print and internet debates.  Please see my pinned tweet.